I have Ben Roethlisberger in a 12-team keeper league. Considering the fact that he's been suspended, is it time to cut bait and go in a different direction? Our scoring system favors quarterbacks, but it's also a PPR league so I can retain DeSean Jackson instead. I'm already keeping Steven Jackson and Shonn Greene. Thoughts? - P. Graham, Syracuse, N.Y.
Michael Fabiano: Jackson has a chance to develop into one of the elite wideouts in fantasy football, and I would definitely keep him ahead of Roethlisberger. However, that doesn't mean you have to cut bait on him altogether. Based on the fact that he'll miss significant playing time this season, I wouldn't be shocked if you could re-acquire Big Ben in the re-draft. Remember that this is a keeper league, so you must consider both short- and long-term consequences for your decisions. If the scoring system favors quarterbacks, I'd look to fill the position in one of the first two rounds (likely Round 1) before worrying about a second wideout or a third running back.
M.F.: I didn't like Holt last season with the Jaguars, and I'm still not too keen on him as a member of the Patriots. Sure, the quarterback upgrade from David Garrard to Tom Brady is huge, but Holt will be 34 at the start of the season and is far past his prime. He's lost some of his speed, and playing on grass didn't do him any favors in Jacksonville. That's the same surface he'll play his home games on at Gillette Stadium. Holt could be draftable if Wes Welker is forced to miss significant time as he returns from reconstructive knee surgery, but I'd rather take a chance on Julian Edelman in that scenario. There's just not enough upside for Holt at this stage of his career.
I'm in a 10-team keeper league that rewards points for receptions. I have the 10th overall selection and need to keep two players, but I lose the round I drafted them in. Who would you retain from Maurice Jones-Drew (Round 1), Andre Johnson (Round 2), Reggie Wayne (Round 3), Brandon Marshall (Round 7) or Tony Romo (Round 7)? - N. Archer, Australia
M.F.: I'd keep Jones-Drew, Johnson and Marshall. You're getting fair draft value for the duo of Jones-Drew and Johnson, and keeping Marshall for a seventh-round pick is a serious bargain. I'm not sure he'll surpass 100 receptions as a member of the Dolphins (playing two games against Jets CB Darrelle Revis won't help), but Marshall should still finish with around 90 catches and over 1,000 yards. The fact that he'll be your No. 2 wideout, behind a stud like Johnson, is very favorable in a PPR league. I would also focus on taking a quarterback and a running back in the first two rounds of the re-draft. There's a chance you could even re-acquire Romo if you have a decent draft position.
What is the best advice you can give someone during the fantasy football offseason to help get an edge for next year and to stay sharp for fantasy drafts? - J. Altman, Chippewa Falls, Wis.
M.F.: It's really important to keep tabs on depth chart changes and personnel moves, and I'm not talking about just players. You need to know that the presence of Mike Martz is going to increase the value of Jay Cutler and the Bears wide receivers, but hurts the stock of Greg Olsen. You need to realize that Mike Nolan could turn the Dolphins defense into an attractive sleeper pick. Of course, you also have to keep tabs on free agency and trades. A number of big names have switched teams this offseason, a list that includes Donovan McNabb, LaDainian Tomlinson, Thomas Jones, Anquan Boldin and Marshall, to name a few. If you're behind on your offseason research, you can check out our fantasy blog as well as my archives page.
I've read some very good things about Jay Cutler this offseason. What sort of value will he have in fantasy drafts? Can he duplicate his 2008 totals? - W. Dawkins, East Rutherford, N.J.
M.F.: I'm not sure he'll throw for 4,526 yards like he did in his final season with the Broncos, but Cutler should finish with 4,000-4,200 passing yards and 25-30 total touchdowns. Martz also raved about Cutler in a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, calling him "remarkable" and "intelligent." While the Bears don't have the caliber of wideouts that Martz had in St. Louis, I still think Cutler is in a very good position to re-emerge into a productive and reliable fantasy starter.
What are your thoughts about Steven Jackson for next season? I realize he has a ton of potential, but he still scares me a bit because of injuries and an overall lack of offensive weapons. Is he really worth a first-round selection, or is it better to take a pass on him altogether? - L. Abdul, Irvine, Calif.
M.F.: Jackson does come with a bit of risk based on the factors you mentioned, but it's hard to ignore his upside as a featured back. He also has one of the most favorable schedules at his position, facing attractive matchups against the Seahawks (2), Saints, Panthers, Buccaneers, Lions and the entire AFC West. Since the two western divisions (which typically lack formidable defenses) face each other next season, you're going to notice that players from these divisions have more favorable FPA ratings as a whole. I'll be posting my latest one-man, three-round mock draft after the NFL Draft, and I definitely see Jackson slotting into the middle of the first round.
What do you make of the reports that the Redskins are interested in Terrell Owens? I think his fantasy value could be huge, if he can get along with McNabb. Also, what do you think about McNabb for next season? - F. Andersen, Canada
M.F.: A report out of the Washington Post suggests that McNabb did not push the Redskins to sign Owens. Coach Mike Shanahan also said that the team wasn't going "in that direction," so don't look for T.O. to be playing in our nation's capitol. That's good news for the value of Santana Moss and Devin Thomas, who both figure to see a rise in production with McNabb under center. As for his value, I see McNabb as a low-end fantasy starter and worth a low middle-round pick. The Redskins don't have nearly the same talent he left behind in Philadelphia, and the offensive line is loaded with question marks. On a positive note, McNabb's schedule is extremely favorable.
M.F.: The Colts have one thing that the Lions don't, and that's Peyton Manning. So as nice as it is to hear that the Lions want to use Scheffler like Clark, there's no way he'll ever put up such immense numbers. I'd expect coordinator Scott Linehan to use more two-tight end formations with Scheffler and Pettigrew, while also using the former in the slot at times. Still, I don't think Scheffler will be consistent enough to be more than a reserve in fantasy leagues. The addition of Scheffler and Nate Burleson is great news for the value of Matthew Stafford, who has more weapons at his disposal, and Calvin Johnson, who finally has players to draw some coverage away from him.
M.F.: Having a tough schedule and having an unfavorable fantasy schedule can be two entirely different things. Remember, the FPA rating is built on how defenses fared against the six major fantasy positions (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, defense) based on fantasy points, not yardage. So despite the fact that the Vikings finished eighth in pass defense last season, for example, it's more relevant in fantasy circles that their defense allowed the 11th-most points to quarterbacks. Will Romo's Week 6 game against the Vikings be difficult? Without question. But it isn't necessarily an unfavorable matchup. Romo also faces the Giants (2), Eagles (2), Bears, Lions, Jaguars, Titans and Cardinals in 2010. None of those seven teams finished better than 15th in terms of allowing the least fantasy points to signal-callers.
Is there a player you will absolutely avoid at all costs in your fantasy drafts next season? How many leagues do you play in every year, anyways? - J. Howard, Bradenton, Fla.
M.F.: I never say never, but there are some players I'm very skeptical about heading into next season. Some of the big names include Carson Palmer, Clinton Portis (or any Redskins running back), Brandon Jacobs, Matt Forte, Kevin Smith, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Braylon Edwards (or any Jets wideout) and Greg Olsen. I'm also down on Roethlisberger (for obvious reasons), and aging wideouts like Donald Driver and Derrick Mason. Austin Collie could also lose value with Anthony Gonzalez expected back. To answer your second question, I play in anywhere from 10-12 fantasy football leagues a year. The most I've ever played in at the same time is 18, but that was a major task (as you can imagine!).