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Warner's status for next season will affect Fitzgerald's draft value

I was just watching some of your fantasy videos and saw that you had Larry Fitzgerald ranked as the top wide receiver for 2009. But what happens if Kurt Warner retires or leaves the Cardinals as a free agent? Will Fitzgerald remain No. 1 with Matt Leinart at quarterback? Thanks! -- K. Crotty

Michael Fabiano: I would be shocked if the Cardinals didn't retain Warner if he decides to return in 2009. Of course, he could pull a John Elway and ride off into the sunset if the team wins Super Bowl XLIII. If he's not in the mix next season, then I'd move Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson (and maybe a few more receivers) ahead of Fitzgerald. Leinart is no Warner, but he's still a talented quarterback with potential at the NFL level.

What does bother me a bit is that Fitzgerald's numbers weren't nearly as attractive when Leinart was the top quarterback in Arizona. In the nine games that Leinart started (and Warner did not see a single snap) between 2006-2007, Fitzgerald averaged a mediocre five receptions for 67 yards and scored a total of three touchdowns.

2008 statistics:
Completions: 75

Attempts: 129

Yards: 731

TDs/INTs: 3/4

I'm a Bengals fan from Ohio (I know, a dying breed) and was wondering what you thought about Carson Palmer's fantasy value for next season. Do you still see him as a No. 1 quarterback? Thanks! M. White, Bellevue, Ohio

M.F.: Palmer's 2009 value will be a huge point of contention. It appears that he'll avoid Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, which is of course a real positive. In fact, the Bengals official website reports Palmer is on course to be cleared March 1. He's still in a rehabilitation program that includes a "pitch count" of sorts, but there is no limitations on what kind of passes he can throw.

I see Palmer as a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy quarterback and worth a middle-round selection in most drafts. There is some risk involved based on his elbow and the current start of the team's offensive stars (Cedric Benson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are slated to become free agents, and Chad Johnson is, well, Chad Johnson). But based on the fact that he's averaged 4,000 yards and 29 touchdown passes over his last three full seasons, Palmer could turn into a nice value.

I was shocked to see that Brandon Marshall didn't make your list of the top five fantasy wide receivers for next season. Josh McDaniels is a passing genius! -- A. Endres

M.F.: While Marshall wasn't in my top five at the wide receiver position, he isn't far behind. I'm working on my complete 2009 rankings as we speak, and Marshall is in the sixth spot behind Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Greg Jennings. Based on the addition of McDaniels, I have Marshall ahead of stars like Randy Moss, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne. Of course, certain scenarios could cause Marshall to be moved up or down throughout the offseason, but he'll be an elite fantasy wideout regardless. I'd expect him to come off the board in the third round.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and need to retain three players from Marion Barber, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Michael Turner and Jason Witten. I'm leaning toward Barber and Turner, but the third one is a coin toss. Help! -- A. Holtz, Eau Claire, Wis.

M.F.: I think you're right to retain Barber and Turner, and I'd keep Cutler as well. While it's hard to let players like Marshall and Witten back into the pool of available players, Cutler is too valuable to release in this case. He's a talented, young quarterback coming off a season with 4,526 yards and 27 total touchdowns, and there's no reason to believe he can't duplicate those totals going forward under McDaniels. With Barber, Cutler and Turner as your keepers, I'd focus on the wide receiver spot in the first two rounds of the re-draft. Who knows, you might be able to re-acquire Marshall if your draft position is favorable.

I'm in a standard keeper league and need to retain three players from Marshawn Lynch (Round 1), Andre Johnson (Round 3), Matt Forte (Round 8), Chris Johnson (Round 11) and Aaron Rodgers (undrafted). I lose the round the players I retain were picked in the previous draft. I'm leaning toward Chris Johnson and Forte, but the third keeper is tough. Should I retain Andre Johnson or Rodgers (and not lose a draft pick)? Thanks for your help! -- R. Lerma, Fremont, Calif.

M.F.: You're on the right track in keeping Forte and Johnson. Based on the rounds you lose, both of these backs will be tremendous values. However, keeping Rodgers for nothing would be an even better bargain. The final decision should be based on a few factors, none more important than your draft position and the league's scoring system. If you receive points for catches or touchdown passes are worth only four points, then Andre Johnson makes more sense. But if you have a prominent spot in the first round and can re-acquire Johnson, then keeping Rodgers for nothing is an attractive proposition. Either way, you'll have the foundation of a solid team for 2009.

I loved your column on Michael Turner. It really put me at ease because he's my best player in our 12-team keeper league. But now I have a different dilemma. I have been offered Clinton Portis and Andre Johnson for Turner and Terrell Owens. I'm a huge fan of Andre Johnson. If I made the deal I would retain Portis and Johnson. Otherwise I would keep Philip Rivers and Turner. Should I make this deal? -- S. Walcott, Chattanooga, Tenn.

M.F.: I am down on Portis after a season with 342 carries and a multitude of injuries, so I would pass on this deal and keep Rivers and Turner. While you would see an increase in value with Johnson over T.O., I just think the downside on Portis is too much of a gamble when you have a star like Turner signed, sealed and secured.

I really look forward to your fantasy advice all season, but now I need some for 2009. I need to retain five players from Reggie Bush, Larry Fitzgerald, Ryan Grant, Chris Johnson, Larry Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Darren McFadden, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Reggie Wayne and Jason Witten. I was thinking Bush (if fit), Fitzgerald, Chris Johnson, Lynch and Romo. Thoughts? -- E. Dizak, England

M.F.: Unless you receive points for catches or return yards and touchdowns, I'm not so sure Bush would be one of the more attractive options. He's had knee issues in each of the last two seasons, not to mention both arthroscopic and microfracture procedures in 2008. He'll also have to contend with Pierre Thomas, who seems like the favorite to start in New Orleans. Since you have several attractive keepers, I would look to make a trade that includes Rodgers and one of either Grant, Larry Johnson, McFadden or Wayne. An example would be dealing Rodgers and Wayne for a lesser quarterback and a stud wideout like Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson. Since you already have Romo, you'd be safe at quarterback. As it stands, I'd retain Fitzgerald, Chris Johnson, Lynch, Romo and Wayne.

I'm in a PPR keeper league and need to retain four players from Marques Colston, Steven Jackson, Calvin Johnson, Darren McFadden and Brian Westbrook. I'm thinking of keeping Colston and Johnson, but I'm not sure of the other two. I might be able to trade Westbrook, but I'd hate to lose his receiving stats. Can you help? -- S. Byers, Canada

M.F.: Barring a trade, I'd retain Colston, Jackson, Johnson and Westbrook and throw McFadden back into the pool of available players. While I do think he'll be a popular keeper, McFadden is coming off a disappointing rookie season and still appears to be stuck in a committee with Justin Fargas and maybe Michael Bush.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and can retain up to two players. However, we forfeit the round before the players we retain were drafted. So if I selected Brandon Jacobs in the fifth round and wish to retain him, I must give up a fourth-round pick next season. My choices are Jacobs (4th), Dwayne Bowe (6th), Lee Evans (6th, acquired in a trade), Donovan McNabb (7th) and DeAngelo Williams (9th). Of course I plan to keep Williams, but who else should I retain? I was thinking I would keep McNabb and try to get Brian Westbrook. I had them this season (had to release Westbrook), and I killed the opposition when they went off. Your help is appreciated! -- C. Harper

M.F.: I wouldn't retain a player, in this case McNabb, based on the hope that you'll be able to re-acquire Westbrook and use them together in a rare quarterback-running back combination. I also think Jacobs is a better keeper option regardless of the scenario, so retain him with Williams.

Thanks to some of your waiver-wire gems like Steve Slaton and Pierre Thomas, I finally won my league after eight years! Now I need to decide on four keepers from Marion Barber, Larry Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson, Andre Johnson and Peyton Manning. I was thinking of letting Manning go and picking up a younger quarterback like Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan. I'm stressed out already and the season just ended! -- D. Soto, Lincoln, Neb.

M.F.: First off, congratulations on your first league championship! It's always nice to take home the league title! This is a tough call because all five of these players are tremendous keepers. The first thing I'd do is look to make a trade. Maybe package Jackson and Manning in a deal for Adrian Peterson and a lesser quarterback. Since you can't retain all five, it doesn't hurt to take a hit in a trade if you upgrade a position. In this example, you would retain Barber, Peterson, Fitzgerald and Johnson. If you can't consummate a deal, however, I'd release Manning and retain Barber, Fitzgerald, Jackson and Johnson and target a quarterback in the first round.

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