Engel's Mailbag: Draft decisions
Kyle (Singapore): I can retain three of the following five players: Shaun Alexander, Ronnie Brown, Willis McGahee, Drew Brees and Marques Colston. The league requires one quarterback, two running backs and three receivers as starters, but quarterbacks get six points for a touchdown and there are extra point bonuses for running backs and receivers (100 yards in a game) and quarterbacks (300 yards in a game). I am leaning toward keeping the three running backs, but my heart tells me I will regret losing Brees.
Engel: If you don't have to start three running backs, I wouldn't keep three running backs. Filling out your starting lineup is more important than stacking up depth at a given position. Even if your league used a flex, I'd still recommend keeping only two running backs, as it's more important to get the first player at another key position than to retain the third running back. I would keep McGahee and Brown over Alexander since they are both younger (25 years old each) and at earlier points in their careers. When you actually consider you have to start three wide receivers and only one quarterback, I would actually keep Colston over Brees. Colston will firmly prove he is a top-10 fantasy receiver this year and he'll give you a good amount of 100-yard bonuses. I would keep McGahee, Brown and Colston and you can still surround them with a lesser quarterback than Brees and contend for your league title.
Michael (Woodbridge, Conn.): I am in a 10-team keeper league. I have Alexander and Brian Westbrook as my keepers, but due to trades last year, I have no third- or fifth-round pick. I've been offered Laurence Maroney and a third-round pick for either of my keepers.
Engel: Even though I don't expect Maroney to be consistently outstanding in 2007, I like him a lot as a keeper prospect and think it's a great deal, especially when you can get the extra pick. It's just a matter of deciding who to give up. Alexander is coming off his first injury-marred season and Westbrook gets banged up often. Both are still top-level running backs. In a point-per-reception league it would be Westbrook to keep for sure, but in a standard scoring league, I'd stick with Alexander, who still has at least two good seasons left in him and will score more often over a full schedule. Make the deal, sending Westbrook to the other team for Maroney and the draft choice.
David (Sacramento, Calif.): I have the fourth pick in my draft this year. I know LaDainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson will be gone. The guy before is talking about taking Larry Johnson, so that leaves me with a bunch of question-marked running backs. I am considering taking Peyton Manning, but if I do, I know my No. 1 running back won't be that great. The four running backs I am looking at are Frank Gore, Shaun Alexander, Brian Westbrook (this is a point-per-reception league) and maybe Joseph Addai.
Engel: Don't believe what the guy ahead of you is telling you. He's not going to reveal his true strategy to you and with the Johnson holdout, it's highly likely he'll pass on him. Gore can easily go third, and I have seen him picked instead of Johnson in many drafts. In a PPR league, I wouldn't consider Alexander that early. I see no real reason to doubt Gore, as his hand injury isn't expected to threaten his regular season. Plus, he proved he can catch passes last year, with 61 receptions. I'd take Gore for sure if he falls to you. Otherwise, go for Addai, who is another fine PPR pick in the top five. He'll be very productive as a versatile performer over the full schedule in 2007. I'd take both of them over Westbrook, Johnson and Alexander, in that order of those available options in a PPR league. Fourth is too early to consider Manning when you have a shot at an elite running back. Gore will serve you well, and Addai will be a very safe pick. One of those two will surely slip to your spot.
Mike P. (Philadelphia): I'm in a 10-team keeper league. You can keep two guys. I have Larry Johnson and Joseph Addai. Johnson's holdout, workload from last year and offensive line make me nervous. Another owner offered me Cedric Benson and his third- and fifth-round picks for Johnson.
Engel: I think you have good reasons to be concerned about Johnson, other than the workload one, because he has been a full-time starter for less than two seasons and isn't about to suddenly wear down. Over the longer term, I still like him to be a top fantasy running back, but he will disappoint this year if he misses too much time and plays with an inexperienced quarterback. Benson is ready for a breakthrough year, though, and you get the extra picks. Two extra draft choices might not be approved by your league manager, as that is a little much. I would take Benson and the third-rounder, though, and you'll get good results this year and ease your worries about Johnson's status.
J.B. (Los Angeles): I won my league championship last year, so I have the 12th pick in a 12-team league. The running backs most likely available all have questions marks. I have a good feeling about Thomas Jones this year, and also have a good feeling about Edgerrin James. Would it be crazy to take Jones and James with the 12th and 13th picks? Or should I try to trade the picks and move down a little closer to where Jones and James seem to be going?
Engel: I think you will see better running backs than Jones and James available at 12 and 13. In ESPN live drafts so far, the average draft position of Willis McGahee is 15.5, and Ronnie Brown is 16.2. I have also seen Reggie Bush and Rudi Johnson slip that far in some drafts. I do like Jones to have a very good year with the Jets, but I don't think he will be the best available player when your pick comes up. James will not be very dependable, even if he improves slightly from last year. I believe you will have better available options than Jones and James at 12 and 13. Instead of targeting those two, I would wait and see who slips to your spot. You're going to have better options than you think. The advantage of picking first in the second round is that you have the first shot at getting at the best No. 2 running back available, and neither player fits that description. I'd rather have Jones as a second running back, not a first, so I wouldn't use the No. 12 pick on him, either.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.