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Rookie fantasy runners set to make hay in 2013

Which rookie would you draft first -- Montee Ball, Le'Veon Bell or Eddie Lacy? - @ErikDWater (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: As it stands, I'm going with Bell. A perfect fit for the Steelers offense, he's the current favorite to start in a backfield that needed a make over after last season. Assuming he is the main backfield man for coach Mike Tomlin, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Bell record around 30 catches and 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie. I would rank Ball second and Lacy third among first-year fantasy running backs as we inch closer and closer to training camps.

Would you draft a running back in Round 1 and then turn around and take Maurice Jones-Drew in the second round? - V. Catapano (via Facebook)

M.F.: Probably not. Balance is important in building a successful fantasy football squad, and grabbing two runners in the first two rounds could cause you to have a No. 2 fantasy wideout serving as your No. 1. I'd rather land a legitimate No. 1 runner in Round 1 and a top-eight wide receiver in the second stanza. In the recent NFL Fantasy LIVE mock draft, I had the No. 7 overall choice and landed Trent Richardson first and Dez Bryant second. I could have grabbed Jones-Drew in Round 2, but I would rather have that elite wideout. I also landed Stevan Ridley, who slid into the third stanza.

If you had a chance, would you draft Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson on the same fantasy team? - @dubs274 (via Twitter)

M.F.: Let me guess, you're a fan of the Green Bay Packers? I wouldn't do this to be honest, based on the fact that a good portion or your success or failure will depend on one team. You would also be in a major hole when the Packers have a bye. But then again, if having a lot of players from your favorite NFL team makes playing fantasy football more enjoyable, then go for it.

I need to retain two wide receivers from A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas. I'm thinking of Green and Jones. I also have Jamaal Charles and Doug Martin, and I am keeping both of them. Thanks for much for your help and passionate dedication to fantasy football! - K. Fuller (via Facebook)

M.F.: You're welcome and thanks for the kind words. I would agree with your assessment that Green and Jones are the two best keepers. As much as I like Thomas, a whole lot of his fantasy appeal is tied to Peyton Manning. Would you have less confidence in him if Brock Osweiler were throwing him the football? Well, that could happen in a couple of years. Green (Andy Dalton) and Jones (Matt Ryan) have younger quarterbacks throwing them the football, and that's a major factor is determining a players long-term keeper value.

Do you think Steven Jackson will be a top-three running back in PPR leagues? - @AustinATL (via Twitter)

M.F.: I love the fact that Jackson is in Atlanta. Not only will he have a chance to rush for 1,000-plus yards for the ninth straight season, but he'll also be in a position to score more touchdowns than he had in his final few seasons with the St. Louis Rams. With that said, it's hard for me to envision a scenario where Jackson is a top-three runner in either standard or PPR leagues. He'll turn 30 next month, so a return to the sort of numbers it would take to rank that high (see his 2006 season) is unlikely. I would target Jackson as a high-end No. 2 runner in most formats.

As the defending champion of our league, I get to choose which spot I want to draft from this season. Do I just go with the No. 1 overall pick and take Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson, or does it make more sense to pick a spot in the middle? - N. Nowakowski (via Facebook)

M.F.: Personally, I like having a spot somewhere in the middle of the draft. Sure it's nice to have a superstar running back like Foster or Peterson, but waiting 20-plus picks to take your second player isn't at all attractive to me. Call me impatient. Instead, I'll "settle" for a runner like Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, Doug Martin or Jamaal Charles in Round 1 and allow myself a better chance to grab a top-notch wide receiver in Round 2 (based on draft position).

What are your thoughts on Doug Martin this season? Can he make the same kind of impact as he did as a rookie? - @Keady97 (via Twitter)

M.F.: I've done some research on this topic, and the fate of rookie running backs who have rushed for 1,400-plus yards is actually pretty good the following year. In fact, seven of them were very effective in the stat sheets as NFL sophomores. Two other runners (George Rogers - 1982, Curt Warner - 1984) missed significant time due to injuries. Two more, Jerome Bettis (1994) and Mike Anderson (2001) experienced statistical declines. So if you're a fan of NFL history and study trends like I do, the chances of Martin having a solid season are good. It doesn't hurt that he'll continue to be the centerpiece of a run-based offense, and the trade of LeGarrette Blount leaves little competition for carries.

Why do you have Tony Romo ranked so low? I'd take him over Matt Ryan and an injured Robert Griffin III. Come on Fabs, give Romo some love! - M. Sotelo (via Facebook)

M.F.: Romo is one of those quarterbacks like Ryan and Matthew Stafford, who is the perfect target for owners who want to focus on backs and wideouts in the first half of their draft. If this were a different time, Romo would be a top-eight quarterback in fantasy land and worth a pick in one of the first five rounds. But with so many good signal-callers available in what has become a pass-friendly league, he's barely even among the top 12. You should use that depth to your advantage, as the Cowboys signal-caller has finished no worse than eighth in fantasy points at his position in three of the last four years.

What tight end(s) would you target if you waited to draft one until the second or third round? - @WhrsWierzbowski (via Twitter)

M.F.: You should have your choice of either Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski if you "waited" on the position until Round 3. But to be honest, you're not really waiting at all when talking about one of your first two or three overall selections. I'm not big on taking a tight end that soon, but Graham will no doubt be one of the first 25 players picked. The same would hold true of Gronkowski, but his health has become a huge concern. If you do decide to wait on a tight end, I'm sure you'll be able to land a solid option like Jason Witten or Dennis Pitta in the middle rounds.

I can keep one player from Alfred Morris, Brandon Marshall and Jimmy Graham. Thoughts? - M. Craft (via Facebook)

M.F.: Tough call, because all three are solid keepers. However, I would side with Morris because of the position he plays. I'm going to guess that a lot of your fellow owners are going to retain a running back, so you should see plenty of good wideouts and tight ends thrown back into the pool of available players. Morris, who is coming off a monster rookie campaign, has the youth and opportunity to be a staple of your fantasy team for a long time -- as long as we don't see any more Shanahanigans.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to _**@MichaelFabiano**_ or send a question via **Facebook**!

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