RBs Johnson, Thomas on the minds of fantasy owners this week

Hi Mike, love your enthusiasm and the insight you bring each week. If I were logging on for the first time, I'd think we were heading for the fantasy playoffs! Thanks for the help. Here's my question -- I'm in a PPR/IDP keeper league and need to retain three players from each side of the ball. Who would you retain on offense from Tony Romo, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch, Antonio Bryant, Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne and Antonio Gates? What about on defense from Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, James Farrior, James Harrison, Antoine Winfield and Nick Harper? -- D. Shapiro, Great Neck, N.Y.

Michael Fabiano: Thanks for the kind words. On offense, I would definitely retain Jones-Drew and Lynch. I realize that this is a PPR league, which favors wideouts, but both Jones-Drew and Lynch are terrific receivers out of the backfield. In fact, you could see 80-90 receptions between the two of them next season. I would also retain Jennings, who has proven to be a consistent and productive option for fantasy leaguers. However, Romo should also warrant consideration if good quarterbacks are expected to come at a premium in the re-draft. Despite the loss of Terrell Owens, I can still see Romo throwing for close to 4,000 yards with 25-30 total touchdowns.

2008 Statistics
Attempts: 193

Yards: 874

TDs: 5

On the defensive side of the football, I'd retain Briggs, Harrison and Winfield. Briggs and Harrison were both strong among defenders on NFL.com last season, and IDP owners know how important it is to have productive linebackers. Winfield, a top-five defensive back in 2008, is also a nice option.

What do you think will happen with Larry Johnson? I have him in a keeper league, and it looks like I'm going to retain him ahead of Earnest Graham and Jamal Lewis. Will he remain with the Chiefs? -- A. Minardo, Pensacola, Fla.

M.F.:Chiefs coach Todd Haley told the Kansas City Star that he won't make a judgement on Johnson until he meets with him next week, so we should know more about his status with the team soon. He wouldn't post huge yardage totals in Haley's pass-laden offense, but Johnson is a candidate to score seven to nine touchdowns as long as he retains the goal-line duties. Based on the fact that there will be a number of good runners in April's Draft, L.J. might not have a ton of suitors if the Chiefs release him or put him on the trade block. Overall, he won't be much more than a low-end No. 2 fantasy runner in most formats.

Hi Mike, what's the deal with the Broncos backfield? I know they've signed a ton of veterans, and Peyton Hillis, Ryan Torain and Selvin Young are also on the roster. Do any of these players have potential fantasy value in 2009? -- D.J. White, Alpharetta, Ga.

M.F.: The Broncos have added Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan and J.J. Arrington to what was already a crowded backfield, so a committee scenario seems imminent. Hillis could see more work at fullback and in short-yardage situations, but he won't compete for the top spot on the depth chart. Torain, who's recovering from knee surgery, has talent but seems too brittle to handle a prominent role at the NFL level. In fact, he could be on the roster bubble under new coach Josh McDaniels. As it stands, I would project Buckhalter as the starter with Jordan second on the depth chart and Arrington seeing time as the third-down and change-of-pace back. However, I wouldn't expect any of this trio to be consistent enough to warrant a prominent role on fantasy teams.

Hi Mike, I'm in a 12-team PPR league that requires each owner to retain two players. Our scoring system is quarterback friendly, so Tom Brady will be one of our keepers. We also have Michael Turner, Brandon Marshall and Roddy White, but we might be able to deal Turner for Matt Forte. Who should we retain with Brady, and does this trade make sense in a PPR format? Also, can you rank your top-five running backs and wide receivers in PPR leagues? Many thanks! -- M. Omohundro, Bloomington, Ind.

M.F.: I think Forte is the real deal, both for the Bears and fantasy owners, so I like the trade. Turner was a touchdown machine last season and should be solid in 2009, but he could rack up the carries fast in coordinator Mike Mularkey's offensive system. What's more, he won't come close to posting the same number of receptions and receiving yardage as Forte. There's also more than a four-year difference in age between the two backs, making Forte a better choice in a keeper league. Overall I would retain Brady, Turner or Forte and White. Marshall's questionable attitude and off-the-field issues are the deciding factor between the two wideouts.

In terms of PPR rankings at the running back position for next season, my top five would be as follows: 1. Adrian Peterson, 2. Maurice Jones-Drew, 3. Matt Forte, 4. Michael Turner, 5. Chris Johnson. At wide receiver, my top five looks like this: 1. Larry Fitzgerald, 2. Andre Johnson, 3. Calvin Johnson, 4. Randy Moss, 5. Anquan Boldin.

I've already started mock-drafting (pre-NFL draft, I know), but I've noticed a number of prospects at the wide receiver position like Donnie Avery, Patrick Crayton, Anthony Gonzalez, Lance Moore and Nate Washington (to name a few). What's your take? Also, do you think a team can wait until late in the draft to take a No. 3 wide receiver? -- R. Mooring, England

M.F.: Mock drafts in March -- I love it! You're 100 percent right, there are a lot of wide receiver prospects heading into the 2009 season. Aside from the players you've already listed, other wideouts like Miles Austin, Earl Bennett, Josh Morgan and Mike Walker have seen there value rise during the offseason. I really like Gonzalez, who seems destined to post around 1,000 yards and five to seven touchdowns for the Colts in the absence of Marvin Harrison. As for your second question, I'd be targeting my third wideout in the middle to late rounds, depending on the scoring system and the flow of the draft. However, I wouldn't wait until the last few rounds to fill that spot.

Pierre Thomas has been an effective running back for the Saints, both in short- and long-yardage situations. He also has a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. What's more, Reggie Bush offers a quick, pass-catching change-of-pace back. So why would the Saints waste a first-round pick on a running back? -- K. Iosso, St. Paul, Minn.

M.F.: That's a good question. But according to coach Sean Payton, the Saints want to land a power runner before the start of training camp. I can't see them taking someone like Chris "Beanie" Wells in the first round (the team has greater needs at other positions), but the Ohio State product has been projected as a possible option for the team. That sort of scenario would decimate Thomas' value in fantasy drafts. The Saints could also wait and take a player like Iowa's Shonn Greene, who is a LenDale White-type runner that could fit the mold of what Payton is looking to add to his backfield. This is certainly a situation that fantasy leaguers need to watch, especially those high on Thomas for next season.

Hey Mike, I read your column every week to see what advice you're offering, so I thought I'd ask for a little myself. I joined a keeper league last season after playing on NFL.com for six years. It's a 16-team PPR keeper league, and you can only keep one running back. Also, first-round selections are not allowed to be retained. I landed Michael Turner in the second round, so he will be my running back keeper. I will also retain Anquan Boldin, who I drafted in the third round. During the offseason, I traded my fifth-round pick for Roy E. Williams and a sixth-round pick for Anthony Gonzalez. I will retain both of these players as well. What do you think of these trades? Also, what position should I target in the first round next season, a quarterback or a running back? I have the No. 14 overall selection. -- M. Holmes, England

M.F.: I like the move to add Williams, who will likely come off the board in the earlier rounds in most re-drafts. If he can avoid injuries, which have limited him in the past, Williams is a virtual lock to post 70-plus receptions, 1,100-1,200 yards and seven to nine touchdowns as the No. 1 wideout in Dallas. I mentioned earlier that I do like Gonzalez, and dealing a sixth-round pick makes sense in a larger keeper league. In the first round, I would certainly look to add a running back to pair with Turner. With two runners and three wide receivers on your roster heading into the second round, targeting a quarterback with your next selection makes a lot of sense.

I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league and need to retain two players from Marshawn Lynch, Darren McFadden, DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith. The league is competitive, so good running backs will be hard to find in the re-draft. I'm having a hard time deciding on either Lynch or McFadden, and Smith is solid in PPR leagues. What would you do? -- V. Brink

M.F.: Despite the fact that he'll likely face at least a one- or two-game suspension to start this season, I'd still retain Lynch with Williams ahead of McFadden and Smith. With Terrell Owens in the pass attack, Lynch should find more room to roam as opposing defenses can't stack the box as often to stop the run. McFadden has all the talent in the world, but the fact remains that he's stuck in a backfield committee with Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. He also dealt with injuries throughout his rookie season, so you have to wonder about his durability at the NFL level. Based on the fact that running backs will be hard to find, Lynch and Williams are the best options.

I'm in an eight-team keeper league and need to retain three players from Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Chris Johnson, Brian Westbrook, Reggie Wayne and Jason Witten. I have the No. 8 overall selection in the re-draft. Thanks and greetings from Spain! -- J.M. Ramos, Spain

M.F.: The first thing I would do is look to make a trade. Offer Barber and Wayne, for example, in an effort to land an elite runner like Adrian Peterson. Since you can only keep three players, making a 2-for-1 deal (even if it seems lopsided) is worthwhile. If a deal can't be consummated, I would then retain the three running backs -- Barber, Johnson and Westbrook. Based on the small size of the league, you should be able to land a productive quarterback and a solid No. 1 wide receiver in the first and second round of the re-draft.

Where do you think Torry Holt and Marvin Harrison will land this offseason? Does either of these veteran wideouts offer any value? -- R. Franklin, San Diego, Calif.

M.F.: The two teams that seem most interested in Holt are the Jaguars and Titans, but neither situation would make the veteran more valuable in fantasy drafts. In fact, it's hard to envision a scenario where Holt would be more than a No. 3 option next season. As for Harrison, there has been little chatter about possible destinations. That could be an indication that the veteran wideout will retire rather than return for his 15th NFL season. Even if he does return, Harrison, like Holt, would be seen as little more than a third wideout or reserve in most formats.

Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section below or 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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