- Scott Engel, ESPN Fantasy Games
John G., Washington D.C.: It's a pretty obvious question, but it absolutely has to be answered. With the retirement of Willie Roaf, what happens to Larry Johnson's fantasy value? Is Shaun Alexander the clear number one now? Is it justifiable to take LaDainian Tomlinson before Johnson?
Engel: It appears Kyle Turley, who is returning to the NFL after a two-year absence, will get the first shot to replace Roaf, and that means a certain dropoff in play at the position. Jordan Black, who replaced Roaf when he missed time last year, is now a reserve at right tackle, according to the Kansas City Star. But the numbers reveal that even without Roaf in 2005, the Chiefs were able to roll up fine rushing totals. Black struggled when he tried to replace Roaf, yet the Chiefs still ran the ball very well without their former standout left tackle. Kansas City rushed for over 100 yards as a team in five of the six games Roaf missed. Johnson rushed for over 100 yards in three consecutive games when Roaf sat out at the beginning of November, including a 211-yard outburst. Herm Edwards remains committed to running the ball, LG Brian Waters remains the anchor of a unit that can still block very effectively for the run overall. Alexander remains very close to Johnson in terms of value, but I still think Johnson is the more explosive runner. Also, Tomlinson has the Philip Rivers factor, and an inexperienced QB could hurt a RB more than losing an aging, banged-up lineman. Edwards might have lost Roaf and FB Tony Richardson, but he still has some good blockers left and great backs like Johnson help create much of their own running room. Roaf's retirement could mean another disappointing year for Tony Gonzalez, as he could stay in to block more often as he did at times last year when Roaf was out. But Johnson remains my No. 1, as Alexander could be hurt more by the loss of OG Steve Hutchinson than Johnson will be by Roaf's departure. Yet I still expect both RBs to have fine years, and would take either one over Tomlinson, even though I expect Rivers to keep defenses honest. I think Johnson and Alexander will still outperform Tomlinson in the TD department.
Greg Bucklin, Seattle: We have an eight-team league, starting two RBs and two WRs. I am picking last. Conventional wisdom has me taking the best two RBs available, then the best WRs, then maybe the best QB. All the top seven RBs will be gone by the time I get a crack at picking, so I am considering another strategy and would like your advice. Would I be crazy to pick the top WR (Steve Smith) at No. 9, then maybe get the top TE (Antonio Gates) at 24, then the No 2 or 3 QB at 40 (Tom Brady/Matt Hasselbeck)? My rationale is based on looking at the failure of the generally ranked eighth and ninth RBs last year (Jamal Lewis, Kevin Jones, etc.) and wanting to ensure some solid value with the ninth pick, getting that No. 1 receiver. My thought is that having to wait 15 picks could crush me, if there is a run on any particular position. So maybe I should force the issue and take top talent when I have the chance, and hope to fill in with some upside RBs in later rounds (Joseph Addai, Cedric Benson, etc.) that could operate as my second RB.
Scott Engel tackles tough fantasy football issues in his mailbag.