Michael Fabiano: Peterson's injured knee will clearly affect his keeper value, as he's expected to be out eight to nine months and could be in danger of missing the start of the 2012 season. But in this particular situation, I would be keeping McCoy even if Peterson were 100 percent. Firstly, the Pittsburgh product is younger than A.D. and has far less wear and tear on his body. He's also proven that he belongs among the elite fantasy running backs, as he's found the end zone a combined 29 times in his last 28 regular-season games. So despite the fact that you're a Vikings fan, it's better to go with your head, not your heart, and drop Peterson.
M.F.: There is no way I'm drafting a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick -- even Rodgers. Instead, I will stick with a running back, and the runner I'd take first is Arian Foster. He's become an absolute stud over the last two seasons, utilizing a combination of running and receiving skills that have made him a lethal weapon in the Texans offense. In 2010, he led all players in fantasy points with 326. This season, Foster has recorded 250.10 points despite missing two-plus games. And if you project the numbers he's posted in his full 12 games over a full year, well, Foster would be projected to lead all runners in points in 2011. Yes, I know that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and that Rodgers is a star. But do you really think he's going to post another season with over 4,600 passing yards and close to 50 total touchdowns? What's more, the fact that the league has become pass-laden means there are more good signal-callers to choose from in drafts. I had eight different leagues in 2011 and made the postseason in all of them, despite having an "elite" quarterback in two. Furthermore, I didn't even win the league in which I had Rodgers (I took home one title with Cam Newton, however). One last point -- with Peterson's status a bit of a question due to what was a serious knee injury, the number of reliable featured backs around the league will be at an all-time low in 2012. That makes star runners like Foster, McCoy, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew that much more valuable from a fantasy football perspective.
What is the status of Chris Johnson for Week 17? I play in a total points league and have little depth behind him. Also, where do you see him being drafted in 2012? -- @DanOnofrio (via Twitter)
M.F.:Titans coach Mike Munchak said at his Monday press conference that Johnson's ankle could limit his practice time this week. However, he does expect his star running back to be active against the Texans. Johnson is a mere 14 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth straight season -- an accomplishment he should reach -- but I don't have a lot of faith in him to post a monster stat line against a tough Houston defense. Back in Week 7, he mustered a mere 18 yards on the ground in what was a 41-7 loss. If you can add someone like Kahlil Bell or Toby Gerhart, I would consider it. As for 2012, I see Johnson as a borderline first- or second- round selection. He should benefit from offseason workouts, a full training camp and preseason (which he missed during his holdout), but the bloom has come off Johnson's fantasy rose after a very disappointing campaign.
M.F.: Cruz has turned into this year's version of Brandon Lloyd -- he wasn't drafted in most fantasy leagues, but came on to finish among the top five players at his position based on points. However, I'm not sure I would be taking him among the top 10 wideouts in 2012. That's not to say he can't duplicate his impressive totals from this season, but I'd feel safer about taking him as a high-end No. 2 receiver -- what's more, I would take Cruz's teammate, Hakeem Nicks, ahead of him in drafts. I also prefer Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker, Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Wallace, Roddy White, A.J. Green (to name a few players) ahead of the UMass product. While a lot of things can change between now and the start of 2012 fantasy drafts, at this point I see Cruz coming off the board somewhere between the fourth and fifth round in the majority of standard formats.
Tim Tebow almost ended my championship hopes last week, but I still pulled out a win thanks for Rashard Mendenhall and the Bills defense. Should I now bench Tebow in favor of Joe Webb, who faces the Bears? He's been solid when given a chance over the last few weeks. Thoughts? -- @mariah10412 (via Twitter)
M.F.:Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said at his Monday press conference that Christian Ponder, who suffered a concussion against the Redskins, will remain his No. 1 quarterback. So as long as he passes all of his baseline tests, it will be Ponder, not Webb, under center against the Bears in Week 17. Regardless, I would have stuck with Tebow against the Chiefs. Back in Week 10, the Florida product scored a solid 17.06 fantasy points against this AFC West rival -- and that was in a game in which he completed two passes! Kansas City has also struggled against the run, which you have to factor into the equation when it comes to Tebow's matchups.
M.F.: That's definitely the right strategy to utilize, as Rodgers and members of the Packers were superstars in the NFL Fantasy Playoff Challenge last season. The same held true of Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals, who went from the Wild Card round all the way to the Super Bowl in 2008. While we don't know all of the teams in the Wild Card round, it's hard not to like Drew Brees and prominent members of the Saints if that team ends up with the No. 3 seed in the NFC. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson could be a surprise team as well. Keep in mind, though, that you can start someone like Rodgers in the Wild Card round despite his team's bye. While you won't receive points from him that week, you will be rewarded double points for Rodgers' totals in the Divisional Round, triple points in the Conference Round and so forth, if you continue to start him each round. As for Foster, he's definitely a fantasy beast but I worry about the Texans in the postseason with T.J. Yates under center. Buyer beware, because Foster could be one and done.
M.F.: The Lions can't do better than the No. 5 seed in the NFC, so there is no urgency to start their studs against the Packers. At his Monday press conference, coach Jim Schwartz did tell reporters that his team will "play the game to win" in Week 17. That doesn't mean Stafford, Kevin Smith, Megatron or Detroit's other prominent players are locks to be on the field for all four quarters. In fact, I'd be surprised if a player like Smith, who has been dealing with ankle trouble, sees more than limited work or is held out altogether. So what does this mean for your fantasy league? Well, it means there are no guarantees in starting these players. It's also the reason most fantasy championships are determined in Week 16, when this is a far less pressing issue. We learned that on Sunday night, as the Packers played their stars long enough to lead countless owners to a title.
Would you draft a quarterback or a running back in the first round in 2012? -- P. Stephan (via Facebook)
M.F.: As I mentioned in an earlier question concerning Rodgers or Foster, I will take a running back and not think twice about it. There are so few featured backs left in the league, and the NFL rules have made it much easier for even mediocre quarterbacks to produce nice totals. Case in point: I started Matt Moore in one of my fantasy league championships, and he scored almost 20 fantasy points against the Patriots. That shows how you can play the matchups with players off the waiver wire at the quarterback position. That's not possible in most leagues with running backs, who are few and far between on the waiver wire due to the nature of the position. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to draft someone like Darren McFadden over a stud quarterback like Rodgers or Brees, but I'll be looking to fill out the running back spot first next season if at all possible.
M.F.:Eagles coach Andy Reid told reporters at his Monday press conference that LeSean McCoy's ankle sprain was "slight," and that the running back should be fine to start against the Redskins in Week 17. I'd still keep tabs on McCoy's practice status throughout the week, but if he's active and starts for the Eagles, he should be active in fantasy leagues. I would also start McCoy over Jackson, who faces a brutal game against the 49ers. Other than Marshawn Lynch's touchdown run last week, no other back has rushed for a score against the Niners. What's more, Jackson scored just three fantasy points (30 total yards) against them back in Week 13.
M.F.: Kahlil Bell has been impressive over the last two weeks, scoring a combined 32.70 fantasy points. However, there's no chance I'm starting him over Mathews. First off, the Fresno State product has put up 14-plus fantasy points in four of his last five games. Second, this week's matchup against the Raiders is favorable. In fact, the Silver & Black have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2011. That's not to say that Bell isn't an attractive option against the Vikings, but I see Mathews as the more attractive of the two runners. Consider Mathews a No. 1 option, while Bell is more of a No. 2 or flex position choice.