RBs Brown, Ward could see increased fantasy value in 2009

We might be more than five months away from the start of training camps, but we here at NFL.com feel like it's never too soon to pull out the old crystal ball and make some predictions and prognostications for next season. Senior editor Craig Ellenport (winner of the 2008 NFL.com Magazine league) and I do our best Nostradamus impersonations and look at the 2009 fantasy football season.

What sports fantasy would you most like to come true in 2009?
Fabiano: The New York Yankees win the World Series or the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl. Either will work.
Ellenport: I am crowned champion of the NFL.com Fantasy Magazine league. Oh wait, that came true last year! Second choice: Witnessing the media frenzy of an Eli vs. Peyton Super Bowl.

What is your biggest sleeper prediction for 2009?
Fabiano: Derrick Ward. I think he will sign with the Broncos and become a solid fantasy starter.
Ellenport:Darren McFadden. It's hard to call the fourth overall pick of last year's draft a sleeper, but injuries slowed him as a rookie. He enters 2009 overshadowed by at least five other second-year backs.

Where would you take this player in a fantasy draft?
Fabiano: I'd take Ward (as a member of the Broncos) in the second or third round.
Ellenport: I'd take McFadden in the middle of the second round. I might have him rated as my 15th or 16th runner overall.

Who will be the biggest disappointment in 2009?
Fabiano: Brian Westbrook. He'll be 30 in September, has knee issues and could lose carries to a rookie back.
Ellenport:Matt Forte. Won't sneak up on people, and unless Chicago upgrades at quarterback and wide receiver, teams will gang up on him.

Who will exceed expectations and become a fantasy superstar in 2009?
Fabiano:Ronnie Brown. He has one full season under his belt after an ACL procedure and will see more carries for the Dolphins.
Ellenport:Matt Schaub. He's got the weapons in place, he just needs to stay healthy.

Which player is everyone else high on who will fail to meet expectations?
Fabiano:Matt Cassel. He'll be this season's Derek Anderson if the Patriots trade him and he starts for another team.
Ellenport:Philip Rivers. I still like him, but an improved defense and a bounce-back season from LaDainian Tomlinson mean he won't have to throw as much as he did in 2008.

This one or that one

Tom Brady or Tony Romo?
Fabiano: Right now I'd take Romo. If Brady is expected to come back in time for Week 1 or the Cowboys release Terrell Owens, though, I'd take the Stetson man.
Ellenport: Assuming he's close to 100 percent, Brady will put up better numbers in the AFC East than Romo will in the NFC East.

Philip Rivers or Aaron Rodgers?
Fabiano: Flip a coin. I have Rivers ranked higher but their values are extremely similar. The final decision could come down to their team's strength of schedule.
Ellenport: Rodgers, because of what I said earlier. Rivers will throw less as the Chargers dominate their division.

Michael Turner or DeAngelo Williams?
Fabiano: Turner. I think he has a much better chance to duplicate (or at least come close) to last season's numbers.
Ellenport: Turner. He was no fluke last year, and Williams still has to share time with Jonathan Stewart.

Maurice Jones-Drew or LaDainian Tomlinson?
Fabiano: Jones-Drew. He's in a contract year and will see more work if (and when) the Jaguars release Fred Taylor. Tomlinson will be 30 in June and is clearly on the downside of his career.
Ellenport: Tomlinson. I am not giving up on the best running back of this decade. I think with a healthy toe, he resumes his role as the most productive back in the NFL.

Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson?
Fabiano: Andre, but it's darn close. I give him the edge because of the quarterback situation and the chance to play for a competitive team.
Ellenport: Calvin. Both are great, but Calvin was consistently great last year as the only threat on a winless team. That is very special.

Randy Moss or Terrell Owens?
Fabiano: It all depends. If Brady is back for Week 1, it's Moss. If Brady isn't back and Owens remains in Dallas, then T.O.
Ellenport: Neither. I think both have a chance to be major busts in 2009, and I would try hard to avoid both.

Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez?
Fabiano: Gates. Gonzalez has no chance to duplicate his 2008 totals, while Gates will be back to 100 percent from toe and ankle ailments.
Ellenport: Gonzalez. I never thought he'd do what he did last season. Plus, there's a chance he'll be traded to a contender.

Who's the best

Who will be the first player selected in fantasy drafts?
Fabiano:Adrian Peterson.
Ellenport:Adrian Peterson.

Who will be the first rookie selected in fantasy drafts?
Fabiano: Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State.
Ellenport:Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut.

Who will be the first quarterback selected in fantasy drafts?
Fabiano:Drew Brees.
Ellenport:Drew Brees.

Who will be the first wide receiver selected in fantasy drafts?
Fabiano:Larry Fitzgerald.
Ellenport:Calvin Johnson.

Who will be the first tight end selected in fantasy drafts?
Fabiano:Jason Witten.
Ellenport:Jason Witten.

Who will be the first kicker selected in fantasy drafts?
Fabiano:Stephen Gostkowski.
Ellenport:Rob Bironas.

What will be the first defense selected in fantasy drafts?
Fabiano:Steelers.
Ellenport:Steelers.

Inside the numbers

Drew Brees yards and touchdowns:
Fabiano: 4,750 yards, 31 TDs
Ellenport: 4,500 yards, 33 TDs

Tom Brady yards and touchdowns:
Fabiano: 4,200 yards, 30 TDs
Ellenport: 4,000 yards, 30 TDs

Adrian Peterson yards and touchdowns:
Fabiano: 1,700 yards, 16 TDs
Ellenport: 1,500 yards, 12 TDs

DeAngelo Williams yards and touchdowns:
Fabiano: 1,300 yards, 13 TDs
Ellenport: 1,300 yards, 10 TDs

Larry Fitzgerald yards and touchdowns (with Kurt Warner):
Fabiano: 1,400 yards, 11 TDs
Ellenport: 1,400 yards, 14 TDs

Larry Fitzgerald yards and touchdowns (with Matt Leinart):
Fabiano: 1,250 yards, 9 TDs
Ellenport: 1,400 yards, 14 TDs

Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com, and the best questions will be answered throughout the season right here on NFL.com!

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