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Pierre Thomas' value rising in seasonal and keeper leagues

I'm in a 12-team dynasty league, and I love young running backs. Can you please give me your thoughts on Michael Bush, Chris Henry, Pierre Thomas and Ryan Torain? Do you like Thomas in 2009? -- J. Phelps

Michael Fabiano: Henry has little value even in dynasty leagues these days. With Chris Johnson and LenDale White ahead of him on the Titans' depth chart, Henry won't make an impact in Tennessee. Unless he's released and lands on a team that allows him a chance to revive his career, Henry will be going nowhere fast.

Torain has potential, but the man is made of glass. He has spent more time in the trainer's room than on the football field for the better part of the last two seasons, and I don't see him as a featured back. Instead, he'll fight for a role in what I see as a backfield committee under new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels.

2008 statistics:
Attempts: 316

Yards: 1,238

Total TDs: 12

Bush has terrific skills, as he proved in Week 17 with a 177-yard, two-touchdown effort against the Buccaneers, but he's destined to remain in a Raiders backfield committee with Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden. Bush is someone to watch, but there's not enough footballs and too many runners in Oakland to expect a breakout season in 2009.

Thomas is the best of this quartet, as he's the current favorite to start in the Saints' backfield. Much depends on what happens with Reggie Bush's knee and Deuce McAllister's status (he could be released during the offseason), but Thomas can still be a 1,000-yard rusher if he's in a shared situation with Bush alone.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and can retain up to four players, but I lose the round of the players I retain. My choices are Steven Jackson (2nd), Andre Johnson (3rd), Calvin Johnson (4th), Matt Forte (6th), Aaron Rodgers (11th) and Steve Slaton (13th). Help! -- J. Katcher, Canada

M.F.: You have quite a few attractive options and potential steals across the board. I think a big part of your decision is your first-round position in the re-draft. Are you high enough to re-acquire Jackson, for example? If that's the case, then I would keep Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Forte and Slaton, pick Jackson back up in Round 1 and target a quarterback in Round 2. However, if you have a less-prominent pick in the first round, it makes more sense to keep Jackson, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Forte and release Slaton. In that case, I'd look to either re-acquire Slaton or add a quarterback (if the position is thin after keepers are announced) in the first round.

I've heard reports that Brett Favre is more likely to retire than return to the Jets next season. What would the absence of Favre do to that offense and the value of Thomas Jones? -- K. Anthony, Huntsville, Ala.

M.F.: If Favre does in fact decide to retire, the entire landscape of the Jets' offense and the value of their prominent players would be altered. With no surefire free agents at quarterback (unless you want Rex Grossman), Kellen Clemens would become the favorite to start next season. I've seen nothing from him at the NFL level that suggests he'll have much value. If Clemens can't make opposing defenses respect him, then Jones would see countless stacked fronts and have no chance to duplicate his solid 2008 totals. The Jets could also allow Brett Ratliff a chance to start, but he also is a huge downgrade from Favre. Overall, losing Favre will hurt the value of almost every offensive player.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and have been offered Peyton Manning and Brian Westbrook for Drew Brees and Maurice Jones-Drew. What are your thoughts on this trade? -- K. Renhart

M.F.: I would pass on this deal. Manning and Brees could be seen as a wash (though the latter has more value right now), but Westbrook actually is more of a downgrade from Jones-Drew in a keeper league. Westbrook, who turns 30 this September, already has started to show the wear and tear of being a featured back at the NFL level. He has missed time with knee problems in recent seasons, and I wouldn't be at all shocked if the Eagles use a first-round draft pick this year to select Westbrook's eventual replacement. On the other hand, Jones-Drew, 25, is entering a contract year and could see a greater role for the Jaguars if the team decides to release veteran Fred Taylor this offseason.

What sort of value will Plaxico Burress have if the Giants decide to retain him for 2009? -- D. Schafer, San Francisco, Calif.

M.F.: If we assume that Burress will return to the Giants and won't face further discipline for his off-field incidents, I see him as a No. 2 fantasy wideout with the potential to be a decent draft value. His problematic past could scare some fantasy owners, but Burress would have to be on his best behavior in order to remain in the league. That makes him worth the risk. What's more, Burress, 31, still has plenty of gas left in the tank. I see him coming off the board somewhere in the middle rounds.

I've been seeing a lot of NFL mock drafts that have the Chargers taking a running back in the first round. I have LaDainian Tomlinson in a 12-team keeper league and have no idea if I should keep him or release him in favor of someone like Ryan Grant or Kevin Smith? If I keep LT, I have to retain him for two years or attempt to trade him. The same scenario is in affect for Grant and Smith. Thanks! -- A. Hayes, Mexico City

M.F.: As it stands, it seems the Chargers will ask Tomlinson to restructure his current contract (he's scheduled to make close to $7 million in 2009). Even if he remains with the Bolts, I still think Tomlinson's time as a true featured back are all but over. Like the Eagles and Westbrook, I can see the Chargers using their first-round draft pick on their running back of the future. Because you would need to keep Tomlinson for the next two seasons, rather than just one and potentially cut him, I'd release him back into the pool of available players and retain Smith. He showed a ton of potential as a rookie, and I see him as a breakout back under new Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in 2009.

I saw you have Tony Romo listed second at the quarterback position ahead of Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers. I don't understand how Romo could be ranked that high, especially with all the drama in Dallas. Explain? -- P. Thurman, Edmonds, Wash.

M.F.: Honestly, I think people forget that Romo was dealing with finger, back and rib injuries and saw little support from his offensive line down the stretch. He also had to face the Steelers, Giants, Ravens and Eagles in his final four starts -- that difficult stretch is enough to make any quarterback quiver in his shoes.

When Romo was at 100 percent, he threw for 1,689 yards with 14 touchdowns in six starts. Project those numbers over a full season, and he would have finished with better than 4,500 yards and 37 scores. I also think the talent around him, not to mention the motivation to prove that he's an elite NFL quarterback, makes Romo fantasy's second-best option at this position.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and need to retain three players but only one per position. I have the Patriots as a team quarterback, but I have to choose from Matt Forte, LenDale White and DeAngelo Williams at running back and Vincent Jackson, Lance Moore and Kevin Walter at wide receiver. What should I do? -- D. Stiff, Alburtis, Pa.

M.F.: Williams is coming off an enormous season, but the chances that he'll duplicate his 1,515 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns are slim. Based on the fact that Williams also will lose carries to Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, I would side with Forte. Even if the Bears add another running back into the mix (as reported), Forte still would see a greater percentage of his team's carries than Williams. I also see Forte as a safer long-term option based on his age (23) and the fact that he's a more versatile player. At wide receiver, I would retain Jackson ahead of Moore and Walter. He's coming off a career season and has emerged as a favorite target of QB Philip Rivers in the Chargers' pass attack.

What do you think about the value of Tyler Thigpen for next season and into the future? Will he remain the Chiefs' top quarterback? I'm in a 16-team keeper league, and I need to figure out if I should retain him ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, who was awful this season. Thanks! -- H. Watson, Brooklyn, N.Y.

M.F.: Based on the fact that there are no marquee free-agent quarterbacks (I think Kurt Warner will retire or remain in Arizona), I expect Thigpen to be the Chiefs' starter in 2009. So unless the team drafts a prominent quarterback, maybe USC's Mark Sanchez, and allows him a chance to compete, Thigpen looks like a safe short-term bet. However, I still think Roethlisberger, despite his struggles, is a better bet in keeper leagues. My opinion might change if the Chiefs don't draft or add a relevant quarterback during the offseason, but for now, I'd retain Big Ben. Look at it this way -- his numbers can do nothing but improve over his mediocre 2008 totals.

I took home my first-ever fantasy championship this season, so now I'll have the No. 10 and 11 overall picks in our 2009 draft. What players should I target in that area of the draft? I know it's January, but I'm already looking ahead! -- A. Hollonds, England

M.F.: First off, congratulations on the championship! I think you have to target running backs with both selections, and players such as Marion Barber, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson and Steve Slaton likely will be the best available options. Once your picks come back around in Rounds 3 and 4, go after two wide receivers or a wide receiver and a quarterback, depending on the flow of the draft.

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