Running back questions, keepers headline this week's mailbag

Hi Michael, I saw your running back rankings for 2010 and noticed that DeAngelo Williams was in the top 10. Do you really think he deserved to be ranked that highly now that Jonathan Stewart will see more carries? I'd rather have Cedric Benson or Rashard Mendenhall. Thoughts? - H. Freel, Houston, Texas

Michael Fabiano: Stewart was a fantasy hero down the stretch, averaging 23 fantasy points in his final three starts while Williams was out with an injured ankle. At season's end, this duo became the sixth to rush for 1,000-plus yards on the same team in a single season, not to mention the first to ever rush for at least 1,100 yards. But I'm not sold that we're going to see a clear 50-50 split in carries, nor do I think Stewart will take over the more prominent role of the two backs. Remember that before Williams went down, he was on pace for 266 carries, 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. At that same time, Stewart was on pace for 187 carries, 853 yards and nine touchdowns. Coach John Fox is also very loyal to his veterans, so I think Williams will retain the top spot on the depth chart and receive more carries than Stewart in 2010. Of course, things could change throughout the offseason. But as it stands, I like Williams ahead of Benson and Mendenhall in standard leagues.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on LeSean McCoy. I was reading a Peter King column online, and he thinks McCoy will be a breakout candidate in 2010. Do you think he can make a similar impact to Brian Westbrook during his career? I need to retain either McCoy or Knowshon Moreno in our 10-team league. What should I do? - S. Phillips, Berea, Ohio

M.F.: In my initial rankings at the running back position, I have McCoy at No. 17 behind Joseph Addai, Matt Forte and Beanie Wells. I also saw Peter's column and respect his views, but I think McCoy has to improve on his pass-blocking skills before he can be a true breakout player. As a rookie, he was taken out of games because coach Andy Reid didn't trust his pass protection. He also needs to become a better short-yardage back. Remember, Westbrook saw goal-line work during his time as an elite fantasy back. McCoy needs to earn at least some of those looks, rather than lose them to Leonard Weaver. Furthermore, Westbrook still hasn't made a decision to retire. If McCoy becomes the unquestioned starter and can improve on the aforementioned skills, then I would agree with Peter's assessment. In any event, I would retain Moreno ahead of him. I see the Broncos running back as a better talent, a more well-rounded player and a more attractive long-term option.

Teams in our fantasy league name two franchise players for next season. We reward running backs and wide receivers with standard non-PPR scoring, but we're getting ready to add points for return yards and touchdowns. Quarterbacks score a lot of points, so I'm keeping Peyton Manning. I'm leaning toward Frank Gore as my second keeper, but I'm also considering DeSean Jackson in light of the scoring system change. I would love your thoughts! - J. Law, Bassett, Va.

M.F.: First off, I love that you're rewarding players, not defense or special teams, for return statistics. All leagues should be run in that fashion. It's great for the value of versatile players like Jackson who can make plays both as an offensive skill player and a return specialist. However, I do think you need to hold onto Gore. It's far more difficult to land a true featured back than a wide receiver like Jackson, despite his added value in this scoring system. In seasonal leagues, I see Gore as a certain first-round selection. Jackson is more of a second- or third-round pick with a bit less value in PPR leagues because of his lack of impressive receptions numbers.

Do you really think Michael Vick would have fantasy value with the Rams? I read your blog last week and had to laugh. He would be terrible behind that offensive line and in that offense! - M. Durante, Pittsburgh, Pa.

M.F.: Do you remember two seasons ago when J.T. O'Sullivan had fantasy value because Mike Martz was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco? If a quarterback like O'Sullivan can have value, there's no reason Vick can't. Do I think he'll morph back to his more productive days? No. But he's still clearly a talented player, and at 29 years old he's not over the hill. If he lands with the Rams, Bills or another team that allows him a chance to start, I think Vick can be a viable No. 2 fantasy quarterback.

I have Sidney Rice in a keeper league, and I'm wondering what you think will happen to his value in 2010 if Brett Favre retires. How low will it drop? If Favre is out of the mix, would you keep Braylon Edwards or Mike Sims-Walker ahead of Rice? - M. Harris, Fayetteville, N.C.

M.F.: Wait, you didn't see that Super Bowl commercial? Didn't you know that a white-haired Favre will win the 2020 MVP? All kidding aside, you should hope and pray that Favre comes back to play in at least another season. As talented a wideout as Rice proved to be in 2009, his pre-Favre numbers were pedestrian. And in my opinion, neither Tarvaris Jackson nor Sage Rosenfels can replace the sort of impact that Favre made on Rice. I'd still keep him ahead of Edwards and Sims-Walker regardless, but I don't think Rice will duplicate the numbers from his breakout season if the old gunslinger trades in his helmet for a tractor on his Mississippi farm.

Hello Michael! I would like your thoughts on quarterbacks who could step it up and have more value next year. I have Philip Rivers in a 12-team, 20-man roster keeper league. I'm looking for a backup to draft somewhere after the 10th round. - P. Weber, Milwaukee, Wis.

M.F.: There are a few quarterback I like for next season who should still be on the board in Round 10 and beyond. First is Jason Campbell, who quietly threw for 20 touchdowns in 2009. If he remains with the Redskins, Campbell will have the advantage of having a new coach and offensive guru in Mike Shanahan and the easiest FPA (fantasy points against) schedule at his position. I also like Matthew Stafford, who showed flashes of potential as a rookie and also has a favorable schedule. Both Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne are viable options as well. If you're looking for a deep sleeper, Matt Moore could be a nice late rounder if he wins the top role in Carolina.

Hi Michael, I checked out your rankings for quarterbacks and was shocked to see Vince Young ranked ahead of Matt Leinart. I know Young had a nice season, but Leinart has far more weapons in that Cardinals offense. I think he'll be one of the biggest sleepers of 2010! - W. Renaldo, Costa Mesa, Calif.

M.F.: I admit it, I'm going to be very slow to rank Leinart in the top 15 among fantasy quarterbacks because he hasn't shown me that he can be a consistently good option at the NFL level. Sure, he does have a ton of talent around him, but Leinart lacks the arm strength and experience of a Kurt Warner. The now retired quarterback threw for 3,753 yards and 26 touchdowns in what was his final season, and that landed him just 13th in fantasy points on NFL.com at his position. Since I don't think Leinart will reach that level of statistical success in what could become a balanced Cardinals offense, I'd rather have Young. Despite not having elite talent (other than Chris Johnson) around him, Young still averaged 15 fantasy points in his 10 starts of 2009.

As much as I hate to admit it, you were right about LaDainian Tomlinson last season. I took him in the first round last season and he wasn't at all the same player he was in the past, and as a die-hard Chargers fan that hurt. Do you really think he has played his last game with the team, and if so, where do you think he'll wind up in 2010? Also, will he have any fantasy value? Thanks for the advice the last few years. I've won two titles in the last four seasons with your help! - L. Dwight, Canada

M.F.: Glad to help, as always! To be honest, I didn't want to be right about Tomlinson. I've always been a fan, and it was a shame to see his role and numbers fall like so many other elite running backs at the age of 30. Now that it appears his time in San Diego is over, Tomlinson could be hard pressed to find a starting role elsewhere. The Texans, who signed an aging Ahman Green in 2007, could show interest. The Browns and Seahawks could also use a running back, but no one is going to pay L.T. like an elite back. My guess is that Tomlinson will sign with a team like the Texans, share carries in a committee and become a low-end No. 2 back or flex starter.

Do you think Clinton Portis can re-gain his previous form under coach Mike Shanahan? I remember Portis being a superstar in the Shanahan system back when the two were in Denver, and I don't think Ladell Betts or Quinton Ganther is good enough to steal carries. What are your thoughts? Where would you take him in fantasy drafts? - M. Brown, Colorado Springs, Colo.

M.F.: When Portis played for Shanahan, he was a young running back fresh out of college. Now he's 28, coming off a serious concussion and at risk to break down after taking quite a physical beating in his eight NFL seasons. Portis is guaranteed $6.4 million in 2010, so it could be tough for the Redskins to release him. However, I also think new general manager Bruce Allen will look to add a running back in April's NFL Draft. That sort of scenario would have Portis remain atop the depth chart, but losing some carries to a younger runner in a potential backfield committee. Much like Tomlinson, Portis won't be more than a low-end No. 2 back in 2010.

Which quarterback do you see as the better long-term keeper: Tom Brady or Matt Schaub? I'm leaning towards Brady, but Schaub was a beast last season. Do you see him as a one-year wonder or can he remain an elite fantasy quarterback? I would lose a second-round pick if I kept Brady but only a seventh rounder for Schaub. Thanks! - T. Jamison, Canada

M.F.: Despite the fact that he thrived in 2009, there's no way I'm keeping Schaub ahead of Brady. The Patriots quarterback has a long and distinguished resume at the NFL level, while Schaub has had just one huge season from a fantasy perspective. The Texans quarterback is a better value based on the round you'd lose to keep him, but he's simply not proven enough to be considered a better keeper quarterback than Tom Terrific.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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