Like so many people, I really enjoy your columns. I don't always agree, but it gives me something to think about. I'm in a modified PPR league, and your last article said that Adrian Peterson is still the best running back even in a PPR format. Based on our league's stats from last season, Peterson was the 11th-ranked runner. LaDainian Tomlinson, even in a bad season, was fourth. Also, Peterson had four lost fumbles compared to L.T.'s zero (we get negative points for fumbles). How do you balance prior year's stats, league scoring rules, and current year's expectations, when ranking your players? -- J. Clugston, San Diego, Calif.
Michael Fabiano: You have to consider an even mix of a player's past success, offseason movement, changes in offensive personnel and the league's scoring system when determining a player's value. While it's true that Peterson doesn't catch as many passes as Tomlinson, I still like him as the top player in all leagues because of his overall statistical potential. I see Peterson rushing for better than 1,500 yards and finding the end zone 15-18 times next season. One last thought -- unless you play out all 17 weeks of the NFL season, Peterson and Tomlinson were a lot closer in terms of points in 2008. Remember, three of Tomlinson's touchdowns came in the regular-season finale, when most fantasy championships were already decided. If any back deserves to be the top overall pick in a PPR league ahead of Peterson it's Matt Forte, but I'm sticking with "All Day".
M.F.: All the recent reports on Brady's return from reconstructive knee surgery have been positive, so I've moved him into the second spot behind Drew Brees at the quarterback position. While I wouldn't expect him to throw for 4,806 yards and score 52 total touchdowns like he did in 2007, Brady should post around 4,000 yards and 30 total scores. I think he'll come off the board in the second or third round in most fantasy drafts.
Last week you were generous enough to answer three of my questions in your fantasy chat. I consider you a near fantasy football bible (at least an encyclopedia) and I am always looking for new articles from you. Your top 10 fantasy rookies was definitely a good one and I like the idea of drafting LeSean McCoy if I can get him for my keeper league. Do you see this as Brian Westbrook's final season as a viable starter, or will he still be a No. 2 back next season? Also, do you have a direct link to your mailbag? For some reason I always have a hard time finding it. I love your work man! -- L. Karr, Champaign, Ill.
M.F.: Thanks for the kind words. Glad you were able to get a few of your questions answered in the chat! If we assume that his health is fine after this season, I think Westbrook will share the backfield work with McCoy in 2010. McCoy will be used more to spell Westbrook as a rookie, at least until he's able to improve as a blocker. It's important for a younger back to develop into a good blocker, especially in picking up the blitz, if he wants to become a true featured back at the NFL level. Unless he's a complete disappointment, McCoy is without question the Eagles' running back of the future. That makes him more valuable in keeper leagues than seasonal formats. To answer your second question, the Mailbag comes out every Wednesday in most weeks. Check out nfl.com/fantasy for updated daily content.
How will the release of Edgerrin James affect the value of Chris Wells and Tim Hightower? Who do you think will win that battle? Also, where will James end up, and will he have any fantasy value in 2009? Thanks! -- D. Terry, Oklahoma City, Okla.
M.F.: James was destined to be released when the Cardinals added Wells with the 31st overall selection in the draft. The teams that are most likely to show interest in James include the Browns and Saints, but he won't find a starting job wherever he lands. With Edge out of the desert, I'd look for Wells to emerge atop the depth chart with Hightower seeing time on third downs in what will be a backfield committee. Of course, the back that earns goal-line opportunities will have added value. This is without question one of the more important competitions that fantasy leaguers need to monitor in training camp and the preseason.
Larry Fitzgerald is on the cover of the new Madden video game. Is it time to run for the hills because of the dreaded curse? I have to be honest, I've been burned by the curse twice -- Daunte Culpepper and Shaun Alexander -- and I'm thinking about taking Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson ahead of him. -- H. Bennett, Twin Cities, Minn.
M.F.: The Madden curse is a regular conversation piece in the office around this time of the year. I've even written columns about how the players that have donned the cover have seen their fantasy value fall due to either injuries or a decrease in statistical production. Last year's cover athlete, Brett Favre, finished with far worse numbers than his 2007 totals. He also injured his right biceps muscle, but the ailment didn't cause him to miss a start. Were Favre's poor fortunes due in part to the curse? Well, I'll let you decide that. I would still take Fitzgerald in fantasy drafts if I had the chance, but those of you who are superstitious won't lose a ton of value in taking either Andre or Calvin Johnson. I will say this -- if Fitzgerald has a bad season, I'll think twice before ever drafting another Madden cover athlete!
Hey Michael, how much does Cedric Benson's value rise after the draft? The Bengals didn't take a running back until the late rounds, and by what I've read he has a very questionable off-field reputation. Is Benson now a fantasy starter in your opinion? -- M. Colie, Orlando, Fla.
M.F.: The Bengals obviously have confidence in Benson, who is the clear-cut starter for coach Marvin Lewis. The team still has the versatile Kenny Watson in the mix, though, and rookie Bernard Scott could make a push for carries if he's impressive (and stays out of trouble) in training camp. I do see the former Texas standout as a viable No. 3 fantasy back or flex starter regardless, but let's not forget that this is Cedric Benson. Consider him in the middle rounds.
I'm in a 10-team keeper league that has a standard starting lineup plus a flex position, and we're allowed to retain four players. I had planned to keep Marion Barber, Chris Johnson, Marshawn Lynch and Marques Colston and release Jason Witten. Johnson's the one untouchable player, but should I contemplate keeping Witten over Barber, Lynch or Colston? Barber faces the risk of seeing fewer carries in Dallas, Lynch has been suspended and Colston dealt with injuries last season. -- A. McCann, Madison, Wis.
M.F.: I wouldn't be worried about Barber's carries next season. Even if he isn't the starter in Dallas, he'll still see the largest percentage of carries on offense. Most importantly, Barber will receive most of the goal-line looks. That makes him a viable first-round selection across the board and a nice keeper option. While it's true that Lynch has been suspended for the first three games of the season, that's not reason enough to release him in favor of a tight end in a keeper league. Colston is the top wideout in the league's most explosive passing offense, so I wouldn't release him in favor of Witten either. Colston does come with a bit of risk coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, but coach Sean Payton expects him to be available for June minicamps. Overall, I think you're initial feeling about keeping Barber, Lynch and Colston is correct.
M.F.: I do think Sanchez will be the Jets' starting quarterback when next season opens, but I don't see him making an immediate impact in fantasy leagues. Remember, he doesn't have the same sort of experience as someone like Matt Ryan, who was a fifth-year senior when he came out of the collegiate ranks. Sanchez will also be the starter in a run-based offense on a team that lacks serious threats in the pass attack. He'll be asked to avoid mistakes and manage games as a rookie, not to make plays and be some sort of gunslinger like the last quarterback to start for the Men in Green. Honestly, I don't see either Sanchez or Matthew Stafford having any value in seasonal leagues.
I was reading your top 10 rookies column, and it seems like you're a little down on Jeremy Maclin. It seems like he's a perfect fit for the Eagles offense. I see him stepping right in and starting ahead of Kevin Curtis. Why don't you think he won't have fantasy value in 2009? -- P. Hollis, Bay Area, Calif.
M.F.: It's not that I'm down on Maclin -- he has a ton of talent and is a good fit for the Eagles and their pass-laden offense -- I'm just more a believer that rookie wideouts shouldn't be overvalued. Some of the greatest receivers of all time have had a difficult initial transition from college to the pros. Jerry Rice had 927 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. Isaac Bruce, who is second on the all-time list in career receiving yards, had 272 yards and three touchdowns. Other stars like Terrell Owens (520 yards, 4 TDs), Cris Carter (84 yards, 2 TDs), Steve Largent (705 yards, 4 TDs) and Art Monk (797 yards, 3 TDs) also failed to make a significant impact as first-year players. Even Calvin Johnson, who ranks third among fantasy wide receivers on NFL.com for next season, posted just 756 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season. The percentages say that Maclin, who isn't even guaranteed (or likely) to open as a starter for coach Andy Reid, will be worth more than a late-round selection in seasonal formats.
I'm in a newly-formed 12-team, touchdown-only league. We don't keep any players. I've never played in a league that counts only touchdowns, so I was wondering if you would rank the top 10 players to draft. Thanks! -- J. Whitehurst
M.F.: Leagues that reward points for touchdowns and no other categories look a lot different than standard formats, as quarterbacks become the most valuable position (even with passing touchdowns counting for just four points). My top 10 for these leagues is as follows: 1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans; 2. Tom Brady, QB, New England; 3. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis; 4. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego; 5. Aaron Rodgers,QB, Green Bay; 6. Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona; 7. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota; 8. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas; 9. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta; 10. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville.