Hey Michael, I was in three leagues last season and won all three championships with your help. Someone has offered me a trade and I need your advice. They want to give me Randy Moss and Darren McFadden in exchange for Larry Fitzgerald. Here is the rest of my lineup: Donovan McNabb, Ryan Grant, Willie Parker, Lee Evans and Andre Johnson. My backup running backs and wide receivers are Jonathan Stewart, Percy Harvin and Muhsin Muhammad. Should I accept the trade? Thanks again! -- N. Thornburg, Charlotte, N.C.
Michael Fabiano: This deal makes a lot of sense. Moss' value is on the rise now with Tom Brady back at quarterback, so you won't lose much value and production at wide receiver despite trading Fitzgerald. In fact, Moss could finish next season with more fantasy points in standard leagues. You also upgrade at running back with McFadden, who should be a better fantasy option in 2009. There is some risk involved due to his rookie failures and the potential for a backfield committee with Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, but getting him for what amounts to a throw-in in this trade is a nice value.
M.F.: Reports out of Detroit suggest that Stafford, not Daunte Culpepper, might open next season atop the depth chart. He's outperformed the veteran during offseason workouts and might give the Lions a better chance to win -- something they've done just once since Nov. 2007. That's not to say that Stafford will make the same sort of fantasy impact as Matt Ryan, but the rookie could be worth a late-round flier in larger seasonal formats. Smith, a viable breakout candidate, should put up solid totals in the offense of new coordinator Scott Linehan. He's well worth a second- or third-round selection. Johnson proved last season that he doesn't need an elite quarterback to put up big numbers, so he'll be one of the first three to five wide receivers selected in drafts regardless of if Culpepper or Stafford is the starter.
Hey, Michael, love your work! This might seem like a dumb question, but why is it neccessary to "handcuff" your fantasy studs? I understand the idea if the backup is better than many other backs, but wouldn't it be better to pick up a good player on the waiver wire if something were to happen? One example is to handcuff Clinton Portis with Ladell Betts when there are plenty of other backs to pick up off the waiver wire. I also have one bold prediction: DeAngelo Williams will go down and Jonathan Stewart will finish the season in the top eight running backs. -- B. Kuretich, Ft. Morgan, Colo.
M.F.: Running backs take the most physical punishment of any offensive skill position, so injuries are bound the happen. That's been obvious in recent seasons, as players like Joseph Addai, Steven Jackson, Brandon Jacobs and Brian Westbrook have all missed time due to various ailments. While the handcuff might have less appeal in smaller leagues, I still like the idea of insuring your top backs. If you had Addai last season and didn't also field Dominic Rhodes, you might have left yourself vulnerable. Once a starting running back goes down, his backup is immediately one of the most popular names on the waiver wire. Why risk losing out on that player if your position on the waiver order isn't favorable? Don't take Betts in the middle rounds if you draft Portis, but grab him in the late rounds as a fifth running back.
As for your prediction on Williams, don't be surprised if the gap between their fantasy production were to shrink in 2009. In fact, I expect it. Williams was a fantasy star last season, but it's hard to envision a scenario where he'll score close to 20 total touchdowns again. Stewart, who would be a No. 2 fantasy back on another team if he weren't in a committee situation, will also be one of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy football. Expect him to come off the boards in the middle rounds in most drafts.
I'm from Melbourne, Australia and ever since last season I have become a huge NFL fan. Spending most Sunday and Monday mornings getting up at ridiculous hours to watch not only my favorite team (Panthers) but also any other teams just to absorb the game. Anyways, my friends and I decided to play fantasy football this season. Although I think I have a fair idea on players that will do well, there's a big thing between my mates and I over who's going to win. Where would I find information on players that you think will do well that I might not know about? -- J. Sherman, Australia
M.F.: I'm glad you're getting into the fantasy football craze in the land Down Under! NFL.com has a complete and comprehensive 2009 draft kit that has all the information you need to beat your mates. From projections to breakout candidates to undervalued players and expert league mock drafts, we have all the bases covered. We even break down aging running backs and debate over the 2009 value of LaDainian Tomlinson. And if you're looking for some under-the-radar players to target in your draft, be sure to check out our sleepers and super sleepers.
I have the option to keep DeAngelo Williams or Steve Slaton in our PPR league this season. Who is the better choice? -- D. Terhark, Brandon, S.D.
M.F.: Williams is the better option in standard formats, but I'd have to side with Slaton in a PPR keeper league. Sure, Williams was the top-scoring running back in most fantasy leagues last season. There's little chance Williams will duplicate the 1,515 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns he had in 2008. Williams is also not used much as a receiver out of the backfield, catching just 78 passes in his three NFL seasons. By comparison, Slaton hauled in 50 receptions as a rookie alone and is in no danger of losing carries in Houston. He also has the benefit of learning from offensive and running backs guru Alex Gibbs, so Slaton will only continue to learn and develop at the pro level.
M.F.: I would stick with your initial train of thought and retain Forte ahead of Jones-Drew. While it's true that the man nicknamed "Pocket Hercules" has seen his value rise after the Jaguars released Fred Taylor, Forte has a bigger upside now that Jay Cutler is under center in Chicago. The Bears have a threat at the quarterback spot for the first time in decades, so defenses won't be able to stack the line of scrimmage to stop Forte and the ground attack. What's more, Forte should at least duplicate the 63 receptions he had as a rookie as an outlet for Cutler out of the backfield. It's a close call to be certain, but I'd prefer the Bears running back in this situation.
Hey Mike, I saw NFL.com's recent mock draft and noticed that you took Frank Gore with the 11th pick over DeAngelo Williams. Though I agree with the selection, I'm just curious as to why you passed on Williams since you have him ranked fifth among running backs. I would be stoked to get my fifth-ranked player with the 11th overall selection! What gives? -- A. Richard, Canada
M.F.: Williams is definitely on the minds of fantasy owners this week! I took Gore because of the PPR format -- the veteran has averaged better than 52 receptions a season since 2006 and is a true featured back in San Francisco. The rankings on NFL.com are based on a standard scoring system, which is the reason Williams is ranked fifth. I doubt he would have still been on the board had this mock draft utilized a standard scoring system. That was the case in our previous non-PPR mock draft, where Williams went fifth overall.
I have the second, third and fifth overall picks in our draft. The league uses a standard scoring system. Should I go running back with all three picks? -- J. Miller, Denver, Colo.
M.F.: Wow, three picks in the first five selections is a nice way to start your draft! I wouldn't take three running backs, but I would take two with the first five picks. Assuming that Adrian Peterson will be taken first, I'd pick Matt Forte second overall, Michael Turner third and Larry Fitzgerald with the fifth draft choice.
What's up Mike? I'm in a 10-team league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end and a flex spot that allows you to start a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end. This is a non-PPR league that awards four points for passing touchdowns and six points for all other touchdowns. Is it a no brainer to target a quarterback for this flex spot? What is your take on this flex position quandary? Thanks! -- J. Vorrasi, Florida
M.F.: The fact that you're allowed to start a second quarterback should be seen as a huge advantage, even if passing touchdowns are only worth four points. Because of the nature of the position, most quarterbacks will outscore a No. 3 running back, a No. 4 wide receiver or a No. 2 tight end with relative ease. You're also in a smaller league, so there will be more talent available overall in the middle rounds at most positions. In fact, I'd take two quarterbacks in the first six or seven rounds. You could wind up with a quarterback duo of Peyton Manning and say, Matt Ryan or Jay Cutler, based on the flow of the draft.
I'm in a 10-team non-PPR keeper league and need to retain three players from Kurt Warner, Felix Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Clinton Portis, Jonathan Stewart, Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings and Jason Witten. I finished second last season, so I'll have the ninth overall in the re-draft. Please help! -- F. Drury, Spokane, Wash.
M.F.: Jones-Drew and Fitzgerald are the two locks. While I am a little worried about Portis based on his number of career carries and the multiple injuries he suffered in the second half of last season, it's still hard not to retain a player of his caliber. With Jones-Drew, Portis and Fitzgerald on the roster, target a second wide receiver and a quarterback with your first- and second-round picks. You might even be able to re-acquire Warner and pair him back up with Fitzgerald.