NFL fantasy football: Colin Kaepernick edges RG3

Michael Fabiano decided he was too busy to write this week's Fantasy Mailbag. Actually, he was in Las Vegas for his induction into the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. (Congrats, Fabs!) So fantasy editor Marcas Grant steps in to take over. Hopefully he's more Kirk Cousins than Ryan Lindley.

I have heard some talk about drafting Colin Kaepernick over Robert Griffin III. I know injury has something to do with it. What say you? - @Zae_Speaks

I say...I agree. It's probably not the most popular opinion -- especially in the D.C. area -- but with Griffin coming off a second major reconstructive surgery on the same knee, I'm more than a little hesitant. If RG3 can't run nearly as effectively, his ability to freeze defenses on the read option isn't nearly as devastating and will impact his entire game. Meanwhile, Kaepernick possesses the same skill set, has equally an competent supporting cast in Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore. I like what a healthy Griffin can do, I'm just worried about whether he'll be completely healthy in 2013.

Is Joe Flacco an elite QB now? Can we trust him in the regular season to be what he is in the playoffs? - @petscheaZy07

Pardon me if I shy away from the topic of "elite QBs". That question presents more problems than a tenth-grade geometry book. However, it's easy to see how Flacco creates a quandary for fantasy owners. He spent most of the season being a hero at home, but a zero on the road. Yet in the playoffs, he's been a revelation. Still, his final numbers in 2012 weren't much better than his first four seasons in the NFL. There are plenty of better, more consistent options available at quarterback that should go ahead of Flacco in 2013 fantasy drafts. Say what you like (and judging from Twitter, many of you do), but I'm not going to let this recent run of success distract me from his five seasons of solid mediocrity.

Will Julio Jones be better than Calvin Johnson next year? - @armylarry

The short answer is no. The long answer is no...because. This certainly isn't a knock on Julio Jones -- my fantasy man crush began with him last offseason and really hasn't waned -- but it's more of a commentary on the guys around him. While Johnson is the undisputed go-to receiver for Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Jones has to contend with another No. 1-type wideout in Roddy White. Furthermore, if Tony Gonzalez returns for another season, it's one more option for Matt Ryan to throw the ball to. Taken singularly, Julio Jones is just as good as any receiver in the league, it's just that the number of weapons around him in Atlanta will necessarily keep his numbers down somewhat. Still, Jones has top five fantasy potential next season.

Are RG3 and Rob Gronkowski guys you'd draft in the first three rounds? - @SonicNBS

I can't see taking either of these guys that early next season. Look above to see the reasons I'd avoid drafting Griffin before the middle of the fourth round -- especially with so many other equally productive, less concerning QB options available. As for Gronk, I can envision him going that soon in a number of drafts, but I'd prefer to spend my first three picks focusing on a pair of quality running backs and a top-line quarterback starter. Plus, after 2011's Year of the Tight End, the position might have been a touch overvalued in 2012. Expect to see that value come back to earth in 2013 fantasy drafts.

Stevan Ridley was a great sleeper this year. Who will be next year's New England RB to target (if any)? - @jacobpackrulzz

With apologies to Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey -- meet the new target, same as the old target. There's little reason to think Ridley won't be New England's primary back again in 2013. Keep in mind that you'll always have to deal with some measure of #Belitricks, most likely in the form of Shane Vereen. But Ridley proved he can be a workhorse, logging nearly 300 attempts while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Bill Belichick might like to keep opposing defenses (and fantasy owners) guessing, but he also knows a quality back when he sees one and Ridley is falling into that category. Consider him a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 for next season.

Who's a better keeper? Trent Richardson or Alfred Morris? - @IngramCory

I've gone back and forth on this one for awhile. Until recently I would have immediately landed on the side of Morris. After all, the rookie successfully slayed #Shanahanigans in 2012, which was no easy task. But the addition of Norv Turner as the Browns' offensive coordinator (and his track record with developing running backs) makes Richardson an intriguing prospect. Still, when it's all said and done, Morris' success in 2012 and a more well-rounded Redskins offense makes him my keeper choice.

Is Shady McCoy a top 3 RB now with Chip Kelly? - @SanDerrek

It's a stretch to think that he's going to vault into the top three next season simply because Kelly has taken over, but fantasy owners should expect him to be better than he was in 2012. McCoy's fantasy potential in a read option offense will depend on who Philadelphia tabs as its next quarterback. If Kelly can't find someone to lead the attack efficiently, it could be tough sledding. Still, it's a run-based offense and there's no doubt that McCoy can carry a heavy load if asked...and I'm certain Chip Kelly is going to ask.

In a four-keeper league, who would you retain: Andre Johnson or Frank Gore? I have Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Brandon Marshall. - @Rmassri

I feel obligated to answer your question with a question: are you in a four-team league? All jokes aside, Gore is the guy you want to keep. Simply because you can't have enough high-quality running backs. Think of them as the must-have accessory no fantasy owner should be without. Use one as a flex option, keep him as a bye-week replacement or dangle him as trade bait to strengthen other parts of your roster. Either way, with featured running backs coming back into fashion around the NFL, having three of them will make you the envy of every owner in your league.

In a keeper league would you keep Wes Welker if he signs with another NFL team? - @kenlindahl13

It would strongly depend on where Welker ends up. Obviously the best landing spot would be New England, but if he could find a similar situation, he's worth considering as a keeper. The problem is, there aren't many situations that match the Patriots. Welker's success with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady feels like the perfect marriage of player and system...and I don't mean that as a diss. Every player in the NFL would love to find an offense or defense that best displays his strengths. Can Welker find that sort of synergy outside of Foxborough? It remains to be seen. He's definitely still a quality fantasy option, but it doesn't mean you necessarily use a keeper slot on him.

Better to start a high-rank player with a bad matchup or low-rank player with a good matchup? Example: Marshawn Lynch vs. SF or Knowshon Moreno vs. NO

This is sometimes where fantasy football gets tricky and owners have a tendency to out-think themselves. But many times, it's as simple as Adam Rank's "always start your studs" theory. If you're drafting a guy like Lynch or Ray Rice, it's because you expect them to perform like No. 1 backs. In which case, you should treat them like No. 1 every situation. Inevitably, even the best RBs have subpar games (Adrian Peterson was held below 12 fantasy points five times in 2012), but the cream usually rises to the top. Keep in mind that Lynch scored 25 fantasy points against the Niners in Week 16. If you drafted well, you'll get far more good peformances than bad -- even against quality competition.

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