I have the fourth overall pick in the re-draft of a 12-team standard keeper league. I have to keep two players and will lose the pick for the specified round for each player. I've decided to keep Andre Johnson for a second-round pick, but I'm still undecided between keeping Pierre Thomas for a third-round pick or Marshawn Lynch for a fourth-round pick. Which of these two running backs do you think is better value based on the round? -- A. Smith, Australia
Michael Fabiano: Honestly, I don't think Thomas or Lynch is a value based on the round you'll lose. Thomas' average draft position (ADP) on NFL.com is 32.32 (Round 3), while Lynch is coming off the board in the fourth round (46.74) on average. Based on the fact that Lynch will be forced to miss the first three games of this season due to a league-imposed suspension, however, I'd prefer to keep Thomas. A major fantasy sleeper last season, Thomas will start for the Saints in 2009 and should see more than his share of carries. Since I subscribe to a "win-now" train of thought, I'd prefer to hold onto Thomas and throw the suspended Lynch back into the pool of available players.
M.F.: In a typical 12-team, 16-round draft, I almost always draft two tight ends, one starter and one reserve. Olsen, who ranks fifth in ADP among tight ends (72.42), is on the verge of his best season at the NFL level. The Miami (Fla.) product could turn into Cutler's top target in the pass attack, so a season with 700-800 yards and five to seven touchdowns is well within reach. Celek, a low-end sleeper candidate, should serve you well in a reserve role. He'll be the top tight end in Philadelphia with L.J. Smith (Ravens) no longer in the mix, and we all know how well tight ends can perform in coach Andy Reid's offense. I think you're in good shape at the position and should retain both Olsen and Celek. If a free agent becomes available and you must release one of them, however, I'd drop Celek and continue to use Olsen as my starter.
Hi Mike, I'd like your opinion on going with Joseph Addai over Ronnie Brown this season. Also, I am really torn between going with Eli Manning or Carson Palmer. Manning doesn't have much of a receiving corps and Palmer is coming off that injured elbow. What are your thoughts? -- J. Acton, Port Charlotte, Fla.
M.F.: The Indianapolis Star is reporting that Addai is in no danger of losing his starting job to Donald Brown, but the rookie will have a chance to earn his share of the workload. Still, fantasy leaguers need to remember that Addai finished in the top 12 in fantasy points among runners on NFL.com in a season (2006) where he saw just over 52 percent of the Colts' total carries. With that said, I still prefer Brown in fantasy drafts. He now has a full season under his belt after reconstructive knee surgery, so I'd expect the Dolphins to lean on him more on offense. Brown is also in a contract year, so he'll be motivated to produce at a high level. Brown (31.71) is also going much higher than Addai (52.18) on average in NFL.com drafts. At quarterback, I'd take Palmer over Manning all day long. He did miss much of last season with an injured elbow, but he's back at 100 percent and has some nice weapons around him. Manning's value dropped when he lost Plaxico Burress, and his numbers always fall down the stretch.
I'm in a standard (non-PPR) 12-man league and feel like I had a solid draft. My quarterbacks are Kurt Warner and Matt Cassel, and I've got Larry Fitzgerald, Braylon Edwards and Calvin Johnson as my top wide receivers with Brian Robiskie as a reserve. However, do you think the duo of Kevin Smith and Jonathan Stewart is good enough to start? I also have Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Wells in my backfield. Should I look to make a trade to improve my running backs? -- J. Golding, Portugal
M.F.: I would definitely be looking to make a trade to improve your backfield. I like Smith to have a strong season for the Lions, but I don't see him as a viable No. 1 fantasy back. Furthermore, I see Stewart as more of a high-end No. 3 fantasy back or flex starter. It's also hard not to be at least a bit concerned about the fact that he's still having soreness in his problematic Achilles. I don't know how many running backs or wide receivers you're required to start, but I would look to deal Edwards and either Mendenhall or Stewart for a better runner. Examine the other teams in your league, see who has backfield depth but could use an upgrade at wideout, and make an offer.
Thanks for all of the great advice! I'm in 10-team league where all touchdowns are worth six points. We start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers and/or tight ends and one flex player (RB/WR/TE). I can keep three of the following players: Tony Romo, Matt Forte, Steve Slaton, Brian Westbrook and Andre Johnson. I'm leaning toward keeping Forte, Slaton and Johnson. What is your opinion? -- C. Richards, Dallas, Texas
M.F.: I'm in total agreement with your thoughts on keeping Forte, Slaton and Johnson. That gives you a solid backfield duo and one of the top three wide receivers in fantasy football. Since this is a smaller league, you should have no problem finding a solid No. 2 wideout to pair with Johnson and a good quarterback in the first two rounds of the re-draft. You might even be able to re-acquire Romo depending on your re-draft position.
M.F.: I'd take a look at which teams in your league lack backfield depth, but have a bulk of wideouts, and make an offer. Any smart fantasy owner wouldn't deal for Addai without also asking you for Brown as a handcuff, so it might be hard to move him. If you can trade Addai alone, however, he's the back I would look to deal. There are pros and cons with Addai, McFadden and Moreno heading into the season, so I wouldn't be against trading any one of the trio if I was getting a good enough receiver in return.
M.F.: I'd retain Forte and Slaton and release Rodgers back into the pool of available players. Rodgers is a top-five fantasy quarterback and a nice keeper in his own right, but it should be much easier to find a productive quarterback in the re-draft. If I had to guess, I'd say at least nine of the 10 owners in your league will keep a running back, so the depth at the position will be decreased. With so many backfield committees around the league, having Forte and Slaton is even more of an advantage.
Hey Mike, I'm a big fan of your columns and heed your advice. I'm in a 12-team keeper league (PPR) and I've retained Ronnie Brown, Maurice Jones-Drew and Andre Johnson. I have the third overall pick in our upcoming re-draft and need to choose one of Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ryan Grant, Clinton Portis, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston. Our league only rewards four points for touchdown passes. Who should I draft? -- C. Scott, Appleton, Wis.
M.F.: With two running backs already on your roster, I'd pass on Grant and Portis and take Bowe to pair with Johnson. The Chiefs wide receiver should find immense success in the offense of coach Todd Haley, who has helped more than his share of wideouts put up huge numbers during his time as a coordinator at the NFL level. The value of a quarterback decreases a bit in leagues that reward just four points for passing touchdowns, so I'd wait until the third or fourth round to fill that position.
M.F.: I think you're right on the mark in keeping Ryan, Barber and White. Ryan is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and could turn into a franchise player in keeper and dynasty leagues. Barber will remain an attractive keeper in the Cowboys' new run-based offense, and White makes sense both because of his own skills and abilities and as a combination option with Ryan. Owens is still a nice fantasy wideout, but he'll be 36 at the end of the year and will see a steady decrease in statistical success over the next few seasons. In fact, T.O. will be a much better option in seasonal leagues for the remainder of his career regardless of where he plays after 2009.
I'm in a 12-team keeper league and can retain up to two players, but they count as my first- and second-round choices in the re-draft. We are required to start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one flex player (RB/WR), one tight end, one kicker and one defense. The top three players on my team are Steven Jackson, Deangelo Williams and Reggie Wayne. Originally, my plan was to keep Jackson and Wayne. Now I am thinking of retaining Jackson and Williams instead. What are your thoughts? -- C. Crosbie, Canada
M.F.: As much as I like Wayne to improve on his 2008 numbers and re-emerge as a No. 1 fantasy wideout, I'd rather keep the two running backs. The value is also much better since Wayne isn't worth a first- or second-round pick. Of course, you'll need to target two wide receivers and a quarterback in the first three rounds of the re-draft. Depending on how many other owners lose their first- and second-round picks and your position in the re-draft, you might be able to re-acquire Wayne with your first pick.