What sort of fantasy impact will Darren McFadden have in his rookie season? Can he be the next Adrian Peterson? -- W. Hurley, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Michael Fabiano: McFadden has all the skills and abilities to make a serious impact for fantasy footballers in his rookie season, but at least part of his value will be based on the team that drafts him. Miami and St. Louis have the first two overall selections, but neither team has a need at the running back position. As a result, McFadden could land with Atlanta (No. 3) or Oakland (No. 4). There has also been some speculation that Dallas might trade up to land him, but those rumors have slowed down in the past week.
The bottom line is simple for McFadden, who has some NFL people believing he's the next Peterson. If he lands with a team that plans to utilize him in a featured role, he will be worth a first-round selection in both seasonal and keeper league drafts. In fact, the Arkansas product could move into the top 10 among running backs ahead of Ryan Grant and Clinton Portis with the right team.
Who are some of the big-name running backs that could be released in March? I'm trying to find some sleepers at the position, and I think this is a good way to find them. Thanks! -- S. Evans, Hialeah , Fla.
M.F.: There could be a high number of veteran runners released within the next month, a list that includes Shaun Alexander, Warrick Dunn, DeShaun Foster, Travis Henry, Rudi Johnson and LaMont Jordan. Edgerrin James could also be on this list, but I think Arizona will add another back to complement him rather than release him altogether. Based on the fact that these backs could be handed their pink slips, the value of Justin Fargas, Maurice Morris, DeAngelo Williams, Kenny Watson and Selvin Young could be on the rise.
I'm in a 12-team keeper league and need to retain two players from Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Ronnie Brown, Marshawn Lynch and Anthony Gonzalez. Who should I keep? -- J. Dyson, Buffalo, N.Y.
M.F.: Lynch is without question the most attractive keeper of the players you've listed, so your decision boils down to Palmer, Bush, and Brown (I don't think Gonzalez is an option). Based on his numbers last season and the prospect of a run-based attack under new offensive coordinator Dan Henning, Brown is the best choice. However, it's important to keep tabs on his rehabilitation from a reconstructive procedure on his right knee. Brown, 26, still has a ton of potential and will create a nice backfield with Lynch.
Hey Mike, I need to retain four players in a league that rewards one point per reception. I plan to keep Adrian Peterson and Reggie Wayne, but who else should I retain from Willis McGahee, Jerious Norwood, Willie Parker, DeAngelo Williams, Santonio Holmes and Roddy White? Thanks! -- T. Smith, Emporia, Kan.
M.F.: Backfield depth is still important in fantasy football circles, and the fact that you can field three featured backs makes me side with McGahee and Parker as the final two keepers. I do like Holmes to break out in Pittsburgh, but there will be far more solid wideouts than runners in the re-draft. With such an impressive trio of backs on your roster, you can focus on quarterbacks, wide receivers and a tight end in the first several rounds. You might even be able to re-acquire Holmes or White depending on draft position.
How will Vince Young perform in the 2008 season? Is he worth keeping for an 11th-round selection? -- C. Palmer, N/A
M.F.: Well, I'm not sure Young could do much worse than the 2,546 passing yards, 395 rushing yards, 12 total touchdowns and 20 turnovers he recorded last season. There have been reports that part of his failures came because he didn't mesh well with former coordinator Norm Chow, which is the reason Tennessee hired Mike Heimerdinger to fill the role. Heimerdinger, who coached Steve McNair back in his prime, has some experience with mobile quarterbacks and was brought in with Young in mind. The former Texas standout will not be drafted as a No. 1 fantasy quarterback, but I do think he's worth an 11th-round selection if you're in good shape at both the running back and wide receiver positions.
Will Michael Bush have a chance to start in Oakland after the team re-signed Justin Fargas? Should I retain Bush for next season? -- R. Donek, Minneapolis, Minn.
M.F.: I would have to favor Fargas as the starter after he signed a three-year, $12 million contract to remain in silver and black. However, Bush will no doubt be allowed a chance to at least compete for the role if the team releases LaMont Jordan and/or Dominic Rhodes. There's also a chance that Oakland will draft Darren McFadden, which would make an enormous dent in the value of both Fargas and Bush. The decision to retain or release Bush depends on the league parameters, the number of keepers allowed and what happens over the next two months. But if Fargas and Rhodes remain in the mix (Jordan should be released), Bush's short-term stock could be less attractive.
Michael, I agree with your assessment of Tom Brady and his chances to duplicate his 2007 numbers. But when I look at how much more productive quarterbacks were than running backs last season, I question whether or not I should still take Brady or another quarterback in the first round. I'm in a competitive 12-team, PPR league that rewards six points for all touchdowns, and I have the fifth overall pick in our draft. Help! -- T. Swelter, Annapolis, Md.
M.F.: In my look at some of the reasons to avoid Brady with the No. 1 overall selection, I discussed the decrease in featured backs and the increase in backfield committees. That will make studs like LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook and Steven Jackson more valuable. Since you can still land a solid quarterback like Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer or Ben Roethlisberger in the second or third round, I'd rather have at least one featured back to lean on. Also remember that quarterbacks will produce better numbers than backs based on the nature of the position, so you're drafting a superstar back in the first round because of the lack of depth, not because he will outscore a superstar quarterback. In fact, two backs (Tomlinson and Westbrook) broke the top 10 in fantasy points on NFL.com last season. The other eight players were all quarterbacks.
I would target Westbrook, Jackson or Joseph Addai with the fifth overall selection. I would then watch the flow of the draft and select a quarterback or stud wide receiver in the second round. Of course, if quarterbacks fall for some reason and a back like Ryan Grant or Willis McGahee is still on the board, I might take another runner in Round 2.
What will Cedric Benson's value be for next season? I have him in a keeper league and he was a real disappointment in 2007. Should I release Benson and retain Earnest Graham instead? -- S. Neil, Abilene, Texas
M.F.: The Chicago Sun Times reports that the Bears might use their first-round selection on a running back, but the team has a $35 million investment in Benson. The Bears also have greater needs at other positions, so it would be a surprise to see them focus on a runner. Unless the Bears make a significant move at the position, I would expect Benson to still be the favorite to start in 2008. However, he needs to show more motivation and determination as a runner if he'll find immense success at the NFL level.
It's hard not to love what Graham showed last season, as he found the end zone 10 times in 15 games (10 starts), and he appears to be the favorite to start in Tampa Bay in the 2008 season. The Orlando Sentinel reports Cadillac Williams might not be back from a torn patella tendon until at least midseason, so Graham's stock could be on the rise. Based on the Buccaneers' faith in Graham, and Chicago's apparent lack of confidence in Benson, I would retain Graham if the news on Williams is proven to be accurate and concise.
I'm a huge fan of Michael Turner, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. What teams will target "Turner the Burner," and what round will he be selected in fantasy drafts? -- E. Marren, San Diego, Calif.
M.F.: Turner will have no shortage of suitors in the weeks and months to come, as teams like Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas or Houston could have interest. His true value will be based on what role he earns with his new team, as more and more offenses now utilize backfield committees. He would have tremendous value with the Browns, who would add him and pass on Jamal Lewis, and the spot on the Texans roster would make him attractive as well. However, Turner's stock would be more limited if he landed with a team like the Bears or Cowboys, where he would be used in conjunction with an incumbent runner. In a best-case scenario, I can see Turner selected in the second to fourth rounds of all fantasy drafts.
Who will be the No. 1 quarterback in Atlanta next season? I have Roddy White in a keeper league, and I'm worried that Joey Harrington or Chris Redman will be the starter. That's a unattractive prospect for White! -- V. Gandy, Bartlett, Tenn.
M.F.: I was a little shocked that the Falcons didn't release Harrington, who is one of three quarterbacks (Chris Redman, D.J. Shockley) still on the roster. None of the trio inspires much fanfare in fantasy circles, but White did produce a career season in 2007 (83 receptions, 1,202 yards, six TDs) despite the lack of talent at the quarterback position. I would suspect that the team will look to draft its quarterback of the future in April, possibly Boston College's Matt Ryan, with the third overall selection.