Saints RB Thomas could be a draft-day fantasy bargain

How does the loss of Lynell Hamilton affect the fantasy value of Pierre Thomas? Do you see him as a better No. 2 fantasy running back? Will he see more goal-line work in the offense? - L. Parkins, Canada

Michael Fabiano: I was a fan of Thomas before the news of Hamilton's injury, and the fact that he could now see additional carries makes him even more attractive. Aside from Reggie Bush, the Saints have lesser knowns P.J. Hill and Chris Ivory to compete for work. Sure, the team could add a veteran like Ladell Betts, but for now I think Thomas is the favorite for carries near the goal line in addition to his early-down work. I think he's in the same tier of No. 2 fantasy backs as Knowshon Moreno and Beanie Wells, so consider him as a potential third-round pick in most standard and PPR drafts.

I need to retain two players from Drew Brees, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. The league rewards bonus points for longer touchdowns with a base of one point for every 10 yards. Who should I retain? - M. Buller, Sacramento, Calif.

M.F.: Tough choice here, but I'd keep Brees and Jones-Drew and release Rice back into the pool of free agents. I'm basing that on the scoring system, which seems to favor quarterbacks. Obviously, an elite signal-caller like Brees is going to have more than his share of long touchdown passes, which makes him even more of an asset. If all positions, including quarterbacks, receive one point for every 10 yards, then Brees is an absolute no brainer. As much as I like Rice, Jones-Drew is the better fantasy back.

Why are so many people high on DeSean Jackson? He scored just three times in the red zone last season, and his new quarterback, Kevin Kolb, is unproven. Wouldn't it make sense to draft someone like Calvin Johnson, Miles Austin, Roddy White or Marques Colston ahead of Jackson? - M. Halbany, Detroit, Mich.

M.F.: Actually, I have Johnson, Austin and White all ranked ahead of Jackson on my wide receiver board. The Eagles wideout does come in ahead of Colston, though, and he deserves to be a top-10 fantasy wideout. In 2009, he finished fourth in fantasy points at his position on NFL.com - Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Austin were the lone players ahead of him. Two of his best games also came with Kolb, not Donovan McNabb, at the helm. In Week 2, Jackson posted 101 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Saints. One week later, with Kolb still under center, Jackson recorded 149 yards and a score in a win over the Chiefs. The Eagles offense will continue to be a pass-laden attack, meaning Jackson will see more than his share of opportunities regardless of the quarterback. He also has one of the more favorable schedules among wide receivers this season, which just adds to his value. I'd take Jackson in the second or third round with confidence.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and plan to retain Frank Gore (Round 1), Tony Romo (Round 3) and Rashard Mendenhall (Round 13), so my first pick in the re-draft will be in Round 2. Should I take a wide receiver or another running back? My current thinking is that I'll take Ryan Matthews (if available), and grab wide receivers in Rounds 4 and 5. Thoughts? - M. Poulin, Hampden, Maine

M.F.: I highly doubt Mathews will be on the board in the second round of a keeper league that allows owners to retain three players. He simply has too much long-term potential not to have his name called in the first round. I also wouldn't wait until the fourth round to take a wide receiver. Romo, Gore and Mendenhall combined to build a nice foundation for your roster, but you can't neglect wideouts that long. The flow of the re-draft will dictate a lot, but I'd take a receiver in Rounds 2 and 4.

I'm in a keeper league with a standard scoring system and will retain Ray Rice, Shonn Greene, Rashard Mendenhall and Roddy White. I have the No. 4 overall selection in the re-draft. Should I take a fourth running back like Gore or Michael Turner, or is it better to take Andre Johnson or Randy Moss? I'm torn. I'd like to have a pair of top-five backs with favorable schedules come the fantasy postseason. - B. Colbeck, Seattle, Wash.

M.F.: I understand the temptation, but you don't need to use a prominent draft pick on another running back. You're already in very good shape at the position with Rice, Greene and Mendenhall on your roster, so you should either go after an elite wide receiver or quarterback with that first pick. If Johnson is on the board (I'm surprised he isn't a keeper in a leagues that allows you to retain four players), I wouldn't hesitate to take him. He's the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver in fantasy football and is a virtual lock to post 100-plus receptions. If A.J. isn't available, go after Moss instead. You would also have one heck of a pair of wideouts in Johnson or Moss and White.

I have a difficult decision to make in my PPR keeper league. I can retain Steven Jackson or Greg Jennings for one more season, or I can keep Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, or DeSean Jackson for two more seasons. I have the No. 3 overall pick in the re-draft. Thoughts? - J. Imboden, Cleveland, Ohio

M.F.: While I might not be the biggest fan of Jackson for a number of reasons, I still think he's the player to retain. Forte and McCoy have added value due to the PPR format, but Jackson does as well. In fact, he's averaged a very respectable 3.4 catches per game over the last two years. Also, reports on the veteran running back have been positive coming out of camp. He's a real physical specimen with a favorable schedule ahead, and there haven't been any issues in his return from offseason back surgery. The problem, of course, is that he hasn't been very durable in recent seasons. Jackson also lacks a legitimate complement in the Rams offense, so he'll be facing stacked fronts on a pretty regular basis. Still, he's the player I would retain ahead of Forte, McCoy or DeSean Jackson.

I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league and plan to retain Chris Johnson this season. However, I'm not sure who to keep between Matt Schaub and Calvin Johnson. Our scoring system rewards six points for passing touchdowns, so I'm leaning towards Schaub. - G. Pike, Canada

M.F.: Schaub was one of the best quarterbacks in fantasy football last season, and the fact that you receive six points for touchdown passes does make him more attractive. However, I still prefer Megatron over the Texans quarterback in a keeper league. Sure, he's coming off a disappointing season from a fantasy perspective, but keep in mind that he was dealing with a bum knee at times and was seeing double- and triple-coverage on a regular basis. Now that the Lions have added both Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler, opposing defenses won't be able to focus as much attention on Johnson. Furthermore, the continued development of Matthew Stafford is also a positive in terms of his overall value. I'd be shocked if Johnson didn't record 1,000-plus yards and eight to 10 touchdowns in that offense in 2010 and beyond. With the duo of Chris Johnson and Calvin Johnson on the roster, I'd target a quarterback, a running back and a wide receiver (not necessarily in that order) in the first three rounds of the re-draft.

I have Adrian Peterson as my No. 1 running back, and I'm thinking of targeting Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the middle rounds of our re-draft. Based on this strategy, I would focus on a quarterback and wide receivers in the earlier rounds. Do you think the Dolphins running game will be as effective with Brandon Marshall in the offense? - D. Garcia, St. Paul, Minn.

M.F.: I expect the Dolphins to throw the football more with Marshall in the offensive attack, but this team will still run the football a lot. As for Brown, he is the epitome of a risk-reward pick in fantasy drafts. He has the potential to put up first-round numbers, but his proneness to injuries is cause for concern. I would roll the dice on him in the middle rounds as a No. 2 fantasy back, but I'm not sure you'll be able to get both Brown and Williams. The veteran rushed for better than 1,100 yards and scored double-digit touchdowns last season, so he'll be an attractive middle-round option as well. Overall, I do like your strategy of going after a quarterback and wide receivers in the earlier rounds. With so many backfield committees around the league, you can certainly wait until the middle rounds and still get good value at the running back spot.

I'm in a 12-team PPR league with a "sleeper keeper" (a player drafted in Round 4 or later). My two best eligible picks for this spot are Beanie Wells and Dallas Clark. Who should I keep? - M. Stoltzfus, Allentown, Pa.

M.F.: The decision to keep Clark or Wells comes down to two factors. If you're only allowed to retain this "sleeper keeper" and no other players, then I'd side with Wells. He's a young running back with a ton of upside in a Cardinals offense that should run the ball more often. If you have multiple other keepers, two of which are already running backs, then it might be wise to retain Clark. He's coming off a season with 100-receptions and is like having an additional wide receiver in your starting lineup.

I've read you thoughts about drafting defenses too early, but I'm curious to get your opinion on a trend that seems to be happening in mocks drafts. People are drafting the top defenses (Jets, Vikings, Ravens, etc.) fairly early, usually between Rounds 7 and 9, in regular NFL.com fantasy leagues. Should I pick up on this trend and adjust my approach to picking up defenses earlier in my drafts? - A. Clayton, Baltimore, Md.

M.F.: I've seen this trend in our NFL.com mock drafts, and I don't understand it. Did you know that the Saints were the top-ranked fantasy defense on NFL.com last season, and they weren't even drafted in a lot of leagues? The same held true of the Broncos, who went from undrafted to a starting option in countless formats. Obviously the value of defenses can change quite a bit from one season to the next, so you can likely get a pretty good unit on the waiver wire during the course of the regular season. I've never taken a defense before one of the last three rounds on draft day, and I won't start now.

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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