The Brees-Rodgers debate headlines this week's fantasy mailbag

Hey Mike, what's up? I'm sure you're getting asked about why you have Aaron Rodgers ranked higher then Drew Brees at quarterback. I hope my question will help enlighten confused fans. After checking the schedules, the Saints host only one top 10 passing defense (Vikings) and play the Cowboys, Bengals and Ravens on the road. Green Bay, however, plays the Vikings twice, the Cowboys, Patriots and Jets. When you throw in the rest of each team's schedule, it seems to favor Brees. Why do you have the most consistent fantasy quarterback over the last five years ranked below Rodgers? I don't even see how Rodgers can be rated higher than Peyton Manning. It doesn't make sense, and I just want know what the right choice will be on draft day. Thanks! - G. Blincoe, California

Michael Fabiano: Great question. Since we're talking about fantasy football, the best way to gauge strength of schedule isn't in the records of opponents but in how those opponents fared based on fantasy points allowed (FPA). Looking at Rodgers' 2010 opponents, he will have the second easiest schedule next season based on FPA rating. He faces the Lions and Bears twice, the Giants, Dolphins and Falcons. Those five teams finished in the top 10 in terms of allowing fantasy points to quarterbacks. Furthermore, Rodgers also faces the Vikings twice. While it's true that they finished in the top 10 against the pass last season, the Vikings actually allowed the 11th-most points to quarterbacks because they gave up 34 touchdown passes. Remember, defensive ratings are based on yards allowed, not touchdowns. And in fantasy, it's all about the touchdowns. Overall, Rodgers has nine games against defenses that finished in the top 11 in fantasy points allowed to signal-callers. The schedule is much more difficult for Brees, who faces the Panthers twice, the Ravens, Bengals and 49ers. Those four teams were all in the top 10 in terms of allowing the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2009. In fact, Brees' FPA rating is just 15th heading into 2010. Aside from schedule, Rodgers has also been a better fantasy quarterback over the last two seasons. In that time, he has scored 602 fantasy points on NFL.com compared to 574 from Brees. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have Brees as my fantasy field general. But if you look at the overall numbers and the FPA rating, Rodgers is the better bet to score more points for fantasy leaguers in 2010.

Hi Michael, my strategy for next season is to go with three running backs in the first three rounds. My league starts two backs and a flex (RB/WR) player. If my draft position fell right, I thought about targeting both Panthers running backs and starting them each week. I could land DeAngelo Williams in the first round, someone like Ryan Grant or Rashard Mendenhall in the second and Stewart in the third. Last season, Williams and Stewart had a 21.5 fantasy PPG average last season. Thanks for your time and insight! - K. Filoon, Pennsylvania

M.F.: Unless your scoring system heavily favors running backs, I wouldn't be taking three with my first three picks. This was a strategy I actually used to employ years ago, but times they have changed my friend. With the NFL now becoming more of a passing league and more teams using multiple running backs on offense, it makes sense to target a quarterback and a wide receiver before you starting thinking about a third runner. In fact, you're going to see more quarterbacks come off the board in the first three to four rounds next season than ever before. I'm not saying you should pass on running backs altogether, because the first round will be loaded with them. But I think it makes more sense to build a well-balanced team, and that will be difficult if you take three backs in the first three rounds.

Please tell me you think Michael Bush will be traded this offseason! Or at the very least, tell me that Tom Cable will come to his senses and make Bush the No. 1 ball carrier in Oakland. I've had him since his rookie year in a keeper league, and I just keep waiting and waiting for the breakout year. Is it time to cut him loose, or will this finally be the year! - J.S. Rockford, Malibu, Calif.

M.F.: The Raiders have become a black hole for fantasy talent, as the continued struggles of JaMarcus Russell have devalued all of his offensive teammates. While Bush has talent, I can't see him becoming a true featured back with Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas in the mix. If all three remain on the team in 2010, it might be time to throw Bush back into the pool of available players in a standard keeper league.

Mike, I always appreciate your insight, so I was wondering what your thoughts are on Greg Olsen moving to wide receiver in the Bears' offense next season. If that happened, what sort of fantasy value might he have? In your blog you mentioned that Mike Martz envisioned Olsen as a blocker first, and a receiver second. But Martz also said that if a guy was a terrific receiver, why not just put another receiver in there? Not that Olsen has reached "terrific" status, but his receiving ability was why the Bears drafted him high. Desmond Clark is a better blocking tight end anyway, and the Bears are trying to mold Kellen Davis into a blocker, so why not explore Olsen as a wideout? The Bears could certainly use a big body in their thin receiving corps, and he could be a matchup nightmare. Thanks! - J. Busch, Milton, Wis.

M.F.: I'm not sure how realistic it is for the Bears to move Olsen from tight end to wide receiver next season. Remember, Martz runs a downfield, aggressive-style offense that favor fast receivers who can make plays in the vertical pass attack. That's part of the reason Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce found so much success with him while in St. Louis. The players who figure to see the biggest increase in value based on Martz's presence are Devin Aromashodu and Johnny Knox, who have playmaking potential downfield. There could be some times that Olsen lines up as a wideout, but he'll be blocking much more often next season. That is, if he can improve as a blocker. Olsen hasn't been effective in that role, even going back to his collegiate days, so Clark and Davis could wind up on the field more often. I don't see any upside at all for Olsen in the new offense. It's all downside. He'll be on my list of busts for 2010, so avoid him in a prominent spot.

Hi Michael, thanks for many years of great fantasy advice! I'm drafting eighth in a 12-team PPR league and can keep one running back. I can retain Maurice Jones-Drew and lose a first-round pick or Jamaal Charles and lose an eighth rounder? I hate the idea of walking away from MJD, but I think I can get a borderline No. 1 or 2 back if I keep Charles. Thoughts? - P. Wilvers, Burlington, N.C.

M.F.: Always glad to help my friend. I understand your thinking, as Charles would be an absolute steal for an eighth-round pick. He has the best FPA rating of any running back in fantasy football heading into next season. However, I'd hate to lose a proven asset like Jones-Drew, even for the first-round price tag. He's been durable, productive and reliable for fantasy owners, and he's coming off his best season at the NFL level. It's intriguing to keep Charles, but I would continue to retain Jones-Drew.

In a PPR league, do you prefer Steven Jackson or Michael Turner? - T. Nilssen, Norway

M.F.: While I prefer Turner in a standard league based on the talent around him and his nose for the end zone, I think Jackson has a slight advantage in PPR formats. A versatile running back with solid pass-catching abilities, Jackson will virtually open the season about 40 points ahead of Turner based on the points rewarded from receptions alone. Jackson also has a more favorable FPA rating than Turner for 2010, which is another reason to like him. If the Rams upgrade at quarterback, maybe with Michael Vick, and add some weapons around him, Jackson's stock could rise a bit further. Overall, he's still a first-round lock in all fantasy drafts.

Hi Mike, I'm loving your columns as always. Thanks to your tips, I've won back-to-back championships. Now I need to pick three keepers to help me go for the hat trick! In our league, we lose the rounds of the players we retain. I'm keeping Maurice Jones Drew (Round 2) and Jamaal Charles (Round 16), I'm not sure who to retain from Roddy White (Round 1), Brandon Marshall (Round 7), Sidney Rice (Round 15) and Michael Crabtree (Round 15). Please Help! - M. Bareham, United Kingdom

M.F.: Congratulations on the championships. White is the best wideout you've mentioned, but giving up a first-round pick for him is a lot. I'd rather retain Marshall (at least for now). He posted his third consecutive season with 100-plus catches in 2009, and that came in just 15 games (13 starts). The reason I hesitate to give Marshall my full endorsement is that there's a chance he could be traded during the offseason. If that happens, it could alter his value. Rice is also a very good bargain for a 15th-round pick, but I think his value is too closely tied to Brett Favre. Even if Favre returns, it likely would only be for one more season. That to me makes Rice a bit of a risk. Crabtree could be a nice value as well, but Marshall is more proven at this point.

Reading a recent mailbag question about LaDainian Tomlinson got me thinking about the value of Darren Sproles. I love L.T. as much as anyone that owned him during his fantasy glory days, but he has obviously fallen from the top. So instead of thinking of the negative aspect of the situation, I am trying to see the positive. What kind of value will he have if L.T. leaves the Chargers? - J. Altman

M.F.: Remember, Sproles was the Chargers franchise player last season and is not guaranteed to even be back with the team. Right now, he's scheduled to make better than $7 million next season. That's a lot of money for a running back who had just 138 touches in 2009. If he does return to the team, I don't see Sproles as a featured running back. Sure, he's an explosive player. But at just 5-foot-6 and 185 pounds, he doesn't have the size to handle a complete workload. Instead, I would expect the Chargers to pair Sproles with another back off the free-agent market or a rookie from the NFL Draft. At best, I see him as a flex starter if he remains in San Diego.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and someone has offered me Darren McFadden for Donald Brown straight up. I know the Colts have a better team and a solid offensive line, but Brown has a veteran in Joseph Addai ahead of him on depth chart. Of course, the Raiders also use a backfield committee. What are your thoughts on this trade? - K. Titus, Canada

M.F.: I wouldn't want to lean on either of these backs next season, but I'd rather have Brown in the long term. He's in a much better offense with quarterback Peyton Manning at the helm, and Addai's current contract is up after next season. I also don't see much upside in McFadden anymore. While he did show flashes of explosiveness and playmaking ability in the preseason, he wound up in a backfield committee with Bush and Fargas. McFadden also missed more time due to injuries and continued to get no support from a pass attack that's non-existent with Russell at the helm. Since this is a keeper league, I prefer Brown.

Will Cedric Benson's success from last season continue in 2010? Is he worth a first-round pick? - J. Carter, Reading, Mass.

M.F.: Benson was one of the great draft values of 2009, rushing for a career-best 1,251 yards in just 13 games. The Bengals will remain a run-first team next season, so I expect Benson to remain a featured back and receive a large majority of the team's carries. With that said, I can see him coming off the board in the late first round of leagues with 12-plus teams. Otherwise, Benson will be worth a second-round choice.

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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