Hi Mike, love your tips and I can't wait for the new season to start! Anyway, what are the chances that Marshawn Lynch and Brandon Marshall will be suspended? I have the rights to both of these players in our keeper league. Should I look to deal Lynch for a first- or second-round pick? Also, what is the word on Plaxico Burress? Thanks! -- C. Hees, Canada
Michael Fabiano: Thanks, I'm right there with you about next season! To answer your first question, I think Lynch is guaranteed to be suspended. He met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday to discuss his recent off-the-field issues. While no deadline has been set for a suspension to be handed down, reports indicate Lynch will be forced to miss at least one or two games. That would hurt his draft value, but not enough to keep him from being taken in the second or third round. Regardless, it would be hard to deal Lynch for either a first- or second-round selection based on his current situation. Of course, it doesn't hurt to put him on the block and see what offers come your way, either.
Marshall's outlook is far more grim. In fact, some reports suggest he could be suspended for as many as eight games. While talk of the length of Marshall's suspension is all speculative at this point, I'd guess it will be at least four games. Remember, he was suspended three games at the start of last season for run-ins with the law, a punishment that was ultimately reduced to one game. However, the NFL reportedly warned Marshall that further off-the-field transgressions would lead to a lengthier suspension. Depending on the final decision, Marshall's seasonal fantasy stock could be on the verge of a major collapse in 2009.
There hasn't been much talk about Burress's status in recent weeks, but Giants general manager Jerry Reese confirmed at the NFL Combine that the team is not counting on him for 2009. The troubled wideout could be facing a league-imposed suspension -- or even worse, jail time -- after shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub last November. If Burress isn't available to the Giants next season, Mario Manningham could become a nice low-end sleeper candidate in fantasy leagues.
How does the addition of Bobby Engram affect the value of Matt Cassel? It seems like he has a ton of weapons in Kansas City. Is he a viable fantasy starter or just a one-season wonder? Thanks! -- A. Ellison, Dayton, Ohio
M.F.: You're right in that the Chiefs are setting Cassel up to succeed, and the addition of Engram gives him another reliable weapon in the pass attack. Coach Todd Haley will throw the football a ton, and the quartet of Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley, Engram and Tony Gonzalez makes Cassel more attractive in 2009. I'm not sold on him as the next Tom Brady, but Cassel does warrant a starting role in most fantasy leagues. He comes it at No. 12 at the quarterback position on our current player rankings.
M.F.: I love the fact that your scoring system rewards points to individual players for return yards -- every fantasy football league should -- but I'm not sure that's enough reason to retain Bush ahead of Lynch. Bush has been prone to knee injuries in recent seasons, and that makes him a risk in both seasonal and keeper leagues. What's more, there has been talk that the Saints want to add a power running back to share the workload with Bush and Thomas. In fact, NFL Network's Charles Davis predicts that the Saints will take Ohio State's Chris Wells in his most recent mock draft. Despite the fact that he's facing a suspension, I would still side with Lynch over Bush, Grant and Thomas as the best keeper option.
Hi Michael, big fan of your advice. I'm in a 16-team standard scoring league and need to retain four players from Donovan McNabb, Larry Johnson, Thomas Jones, Clinton Portis and Kevin Smith. Also, what is the best week to start the fantasy postseason in your opinion? -- G. Carter, Canada
M.F.: McNabb, Portis and Smith are the best three keepers, so your final decision comes down to Johnson and Jones. It's a tough call based on what each player did last season, but I'd stick with L.J. based on the offseason movement of their respective teams. Jones has no chance to duplicate the number of fantasy points he scored last season now that Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff will be under center, but Johnson should see an increase in production in an offense that should have a strong pass attack. Yes, the Chiefs will throw the ball a lot, but remember that Cardinals running backs scored a combined 14 rushing touchdowns in Haley's offense last season. Tim Hightower had 10 rushing scores alone. Johnson is also more than a year younger than Jones, and he's seen 249 fewer carries over the last two seasons. As for your second question, I think the current standard postseason format, which starts in Week 14 (six teams qualified, division winners receive a bye) and ends in Week 16, is the best option.
M.F.: Jones-Drew is a must-keep player, especially for a second-round selection. Both Andre Johnson and Chris Johnson are solid values based on the rounds you would lose and should be retained ahead of Jennings. I would be sure to target a quarterback and another wide receiver to pair with Andre Johnson in the first or third rounds of the re-draft.
What are your thoughts on all this Jay Cutler drama? I have him in our 12-team keeper league, and talk of him being traded has me a bit worried. Thanks! -- C. Jeremy, Pittsburgh, Pa.
M.F.: Honestly, I'm hoping Cutler remains in Denver so my quarterback rankings for our 2009 ,i>Fantasy Football Preview Guide>/i> don't totally blow up in my face! In all seriousness, this soap opera looks like it could drag on all the way to the NFL Draft. The Broncos aren't entertaining offers for Cutler right now, but reports suggest the relationship between the quarterback and coach Josh McDaniels can't be repaired. If he's traded anywhere, I think the best fit would be Detroit. Imagine what Cutler and Calvin Johnson could do on the same field, both for the Lions and your fantasy team? Whatever the final scenario, this is a situation that needs to be monitored. If Cutler is dealt in the weeks to come, it would have a domino effect on the value of countless players, none more than Chris Simms, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.
M.F.: Along with Jones, the Jaguars have also released fellow wideouts Reggie Williams and Jerry Porter this offseason. That leaves the team with Dennis Northcutt, Mike Walker and Troy Williamson as their top receivers. Unless the Jaguars add a veteran like Marvin Harrison, I would expect them to target Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree or Missouri's Jeremy Maclin with the No. 8 overall selection in the NFL Draft. As it stands, Northcutt would be worth a middle- to late-round pick in fantasy drafts. Walker, who missed time last season with knee problems, would become a viable low-end sleeper in leagues with 12-plus teams. The Jaguars haven't had a legitimate threat in the pass attack since the days of Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, so I wouldn't expect that the release of Jones, Porter and Williams will hurt the value of Jones-Drew in 2009.
I know it's only March, but I'd love to know which wide receivers you think could develop into sleepers for next season. Also, are there any tight ends out there that could surprise us in 2009? -- L. Flaherty, St. Paul, Minn.
M.F.: If you're looking for sleeper wideouts, keep these names in mind on Draft Day: Miles Austin, Donnie Avery, Earl Bennett, Mario Manningham, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Josh Morgan and Mike Walker. The most obvious sleeper at the position is Anthony Gonzalez, who has 1,000-yard potential as a starter in Indianapolis now that Marvin Harrison is out of the mix. At the tight end position, I'd expect improved numbers from Zach Miller, Greg Olsen, Dustin Keller, Kevin Boss and Vernon Davis in 2009.
M.F.: Congrats on reaching the championship! I think Forte and Johnson are locks, and the third keeper depends on your position in the re-draft. Based on the fact that you made it the title game, I'd have to assume that you'll have the next-to-last spot in the first round. If running backs will come at a premium, which is likely, Lynch would be the best option. However, if you feel like good runners will be available in the first and second round, then retain Cutler (barring a trade out of Denver).
First off, love the column! I look forward to it each week. As for my question, I'm in a 12-team keeper league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defensive tackle. The scoring system is unique in that it rewards 1.5 points per completion, five points per reception and six points for all touchdowns. I have to retain three players from Kurt Warner, Reggie Bush, Ryan Grant, Larry Johnson, Pierre Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White and Antonio Gates. I think Fitzgerald is a lock, but I'm not sure about the other two -- maybe Bush and White? I can only keep two players per position, and most other teams will retain two running backs. Drew Brees will be the lone quarterback kept. I can also deal Bush for Darren McFadden. What are your thoughts? -- J. Berlinski, Michigan
M.F.: Thanks for the kind words. The fact that you receive five points for receptions makes versatile, pass-catching running backs and receivers much more valuable. I would also agree that White is a better option than Marshall because of a pending suspension and his history of off-the-field issues. While none of your running backs jump off the page, Bush seems like the best bet because of his skills as a receiver. However, a deal for McFadden makes sense, especially if the Saints add another running back to what could become a crowded backfield. McFadden was a colossal fantasy failure last season, but he has a ton of potential and is a decent pass-catcher for the Silver and Black.