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Fantasy football help desk: FAQs for 2012

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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All eyes on Trent Richardson (US Presswire)

One of the many benefits you'll receive for selecting Yahoo! as your fantasy provider is round-the-clock access to the Roto Arcade Customer Care team. If you have any issues at all, day or night, just hit us up. We're here for you.

All you need to do is navigate the drop-down menus, pose your questions, wait a few seconds, and ... bam. Deadly accurate answers in your inbox.

It's really that easy.*

As is the case with all high-volume customer service operations, Roto Arcade strives to respond to users as quickly as possible. With this goal in mind, today we're rolling out a list of FAQs for Fantasy Football 2012. If you can't find your answer below, please don't hesitate to contact a team member. (Note: The live Brad Evans webcam is for platinum subscribers only).

Let's begin with a common early-round dilemma...

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Here's the thing with Trent Richardson: He projects as a true workhorse running back in his rookie season, and there just aren't many guys like that in the player pool. It would be a huge surprise if a healthy Richardson failed to finish with 300-plus touches. Yes, he's tied to an underwhelming offense — his team averaged just 13.6 points per game last year — but he's such a massive upgrade for Cleveland. Just two years ago, Peyton Hillis topped 1600 scrimmage yards for the Browns, crossing the goal line 13 times. Richardson is a more talented runner, by orders of magnitude. Check the tape, and then tell me you don't want to own a few shares of this player.

[Fantasy Football '12: Sign up now and get an early jump on your friends]

If you won't allow yourself to select a rookie back near the top of a draft, then you've got no realistic chance to own Richardson. This is a player with a chance to be great early in his career. We're not looking at another Mark Ingram situation. For me, Richardson is clearly worth a look in the top-10. I won't hammer you for making the early reach.

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OK, that's not actually a question, but I'll address it anyway. You need to be careful not to allow a negative experience with one specific player to scare you away from all future players who may share a few traits. Plenty of rookie running backs have been busts, sure, but many others have been success stories. The NFL is a league that we need to constantly re-learn, where no rule is timeless or absolute. I won't hold up Mathews or Ingram or Darren McFadden or anyone else as a cautionary tale for Richardson enthusiasts. The fact is, every player in every round of your football draft presents some level of risk. There have been plenty of outstanding rookie running back seasons in the fantasy era — think Jamal Lewis, Clinton Portis, Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, et al.

While we're thinking about Ryan Mathews, please take note of the off-season propaganda attached to this player. The buzz in his case is coming from teammates and coaches, not simply from the fantasy community. Here's San Diego head coach Norv Turner, via the Union-Tribune:

"I personally think he's ready to take that next step," said Turner, who added he thinks Mathews has what it takes to someday lead the league in rushing. "That means, to me, the production goes way up, and he's more of the guy that is on the field most of the time. I think he's grown a lot in terms of understanding his responsibility when the ball is in his hand."

Remember, Mike Tolbert has taken his peculiar talents to Carolina, which leaves 175 touches up for grabs. Mathews won't take 'em all, but he'll surely pick up a share.

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If we're just talking fantasy value, does he actually need to bounce back? In a year that disappointed everyone, Philip Rivers still finished with 4624 yards — the 20th best yardage season in NFL history — and 27 TD passes. Obviously the career-high 20 interceptions were a problem, leading to injury rumors, but Rivers has repeatedly insisted that health wasn't a concern. It seems entirely possible that the biggest issue he faced last season was actually the lack of health in his receiving corps, which resulted in a lack of practice time with his primary targets. Every Chargers receiver seemed to be hobbled, all year. The mid-week practice reports were brutal.

Thus far in 2012, there's a much better story being told in San Diego. Antonio Gates is fully operational after struggling with plantar fascia troubles for two seasons — "He's back," says Turner — and Mathews, Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown are currently undamaged. Rivers' setup seems promising. If there's a discount, take it.

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Philip Rivers, still in the circle of trust (US Presswire)

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What's not to like?

OK, well, Jay Cutler's O-line is easy to dislike. An optimist might say there's a level of uncertainty with the group that's supposed to protect him — perhaps Gabe Carimi will be healthy and productive, maybe J'Marcus Webb will be not-terrible. However, a realist might simply call the O-line a team weakness. Pass protection is definitely a worry.

But for the first time in Cutler's career with the Bears, his receiving corps does not lack talent. During the off-season, there's been a mini-reunion of the 2008 Broncos in Chicago. Brandon Marshall was acquired from Miami via trade, and Cutler's old position coach Jeremy Bates has signed on, too. The Bears are taking steps to recreate the conditions that led to a 4526-yard campaign for Jay (and a 104-catch season for Marshall). Earl Bennett returns in a supporting role, as does Devin Hester. Plus Chicago used a second-round draft pick on South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, a 6-foot-3 wideout with excellent hands and serious upside. Cutler should finish as a top-10 quarterback with relative ease, and his ceiling is much higher.

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Sure, as a Bears fan I'm concerned about Matt Forte. As a Cutler investor, however, it's not an overwhelming worry. You'll recall that Chicago signed Michael Bush back in March, and he's a solid replacement option, a nice all-purpose back with skills similar to Forte's. If the contract stare-down between player and team somehow spills over into the regular season, Bush will be a valuable asset, both in real-life and in fantasy.

But I'd be surprised if a Forte holdout goes too deep into training camp. The Bush acquisition clearly took away some of his leverage, and, well ... the franchise tag ain't exactly pocket change. As the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs has pointed out, Forte has 7.7 million reasons to join the Bears for the regular season. I'm still drafting Forte as an upper-tier back, with confidence.

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It's clearly not unreasonable to fret about a team that will be without its head coach for an entire season. Sean Payton's year-long absence is a worry, but we should note that the Saints actually had a fire drill in 2011 that covered this situation. Payton fractured his leg in Week 6 last season during a disastrous sideline collision, so OC Pete Carmichael Jr. took on additional play-calling and game-planning duties. Carmichael has been a member of Payton's staff in New Orleans since 2006, and he's been coaching Drew Brees since 2002. There's no need for a getting-to-know-you period this year. Expect business as usual from the Saints, statistically speaking.

And yes, I'm assuming a Brees contract will be worked out.

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Sean Payton, sidelined (US Presswire)

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There was nothing fluky about Jimmy Graham's season, nor is there anything fluky about the explosion in tight end stats we've seen in recent years.

If you're at all worried about Graham's usage in the year ahead, here are a few numbers to reassure you: In 2010, three different New Orleans tight ends — Graham, Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas — combined for 149 targets and 102 receptions. The position workload didn't really change for the Saints in 2011, but all the stats went to one guy. Graham finished with 149 targets and 99 catches, including 11 TDs. It's not as if New Orleans just realized they could throw to the tight end; they simply recognized that they have an unstoppable athlete at their disposal. Graham is a great bet to repeat.

In fact, the league-wide TE boom is real and it's sustainable. Draft Graham and Rob Gronkowski wherever you're taking the elite wide receivers, because they're likely to deliver similar stats.

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Oh, good question. Most fantasy owners probably think of Todd Haley as the guy who stubbornly insisted on giving the ball to Thomas Jones approximately 9,000,000 times in 2010, when Jamaal Charles was plainly the superior back. But before Haley was the head coach in Kansas City, he was the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals back in 2007 and 2008, when all they ever did was throw. Arizona ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in rushing when Haley and Kurt Warner were in town, and the team was second only to New Orleans in pass attempts.

Now in Pittsburgh, Haley is again presented with an offense that features dynamic receivers and a stellar QB. The early reports suggest we're going to see gameplans that tilt toward the pass, with plenty of play-action, plenty of no-huddle. Ben Roethlisberger seems well-positioned to return a profit. We aren't likely to see Rashard Mendenhall (ACL) in the early weeks, so he can't interfere. Let's also remember that this team used it's first and second round draft picks on offensive linemen, improving a clear area of need. There's a lot to like in Pittsburgh, gamers. Don't fear the OC.

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Well, you have to consider each case separately. Jamaal Charles' situation is different from Rashard Mendenhall's, which is different from Adrian Peterson's (because that dude is some sort of mutant super-healer). We actually have more than three months remaining before the 2012 opener, so there's no need to make any firm value decisions on any player who's recovering from anything. However, it's important to recall that Charles was injured in Week 2 last season; he'll be operating on something close to a normal rehabilitation timeline, assuming he's on the field in September. He's probably the safest back currently in rehab club.

The big thing to remember with every fantasy asset coming back from injury — and this includes players like Hakeem Nicks and Peyton Manning — is that you really need them at the end of the season more than at the beginning. No league settles its championship in the opening weeks. There are reasonable arguments for and against drafting Peterson with an early pick, but no fantasy manager should be panicked about his availability in Weeks 1-3. The easiest time to manage around an injury is in September, before the byes begin.

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Hold up. I actually said everything I have to say (for now) on Peyton Manning in this Spin Doctors post. If you disagree with me ... well, you're wrong.  But you're free to publicly display your wrongheadedness in comments.

Also included in that Spin Doctors are a few thoughts on first-year quarterbacks, with expectations for their performance. The short version is this: It's OK to be excited about RGIII and Andrew Luck without drafting your way into a position where you need either player to do unprecedented things in their rookie seasons.

Since we briefly discussed the new Denver QB, we should probably say a few words about last year's model...

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That may just seem like a joke of a question, but let's first consider the Jets' schedule. New York opens against Buffalo's upgraded defense, then the team travels to Pittsburgh and Miami. In Weeks 4 and 5, the Jets are at home against San Francisco and Houston.

So in the first five weeks of the 2012 season, New York will face defenses that ranked first (PIT), second (SF), fourth (HOU) and sixth (MIA) in terms of fewest points allowed last year. It's a brutal stretch, and Mark Sanchez is no lock to emerge with the starting gig. Just try to imagine the mood among Jets fans if their team is, say, 1-4 or 2-3 in October. If we aren't already on Tim Tebow Watch, give it a few months.

For now, think of him as a Wildcat specialist with benefits.

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Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez, stretching buddies (US Presswire)

* OK, no, it's not actually that easy. The introduction here is full of lies. I was just looking for a gimmick. Apologies. But if you have an urgent question, please try us on Twitter at any hour of the day: @andybehrens, @YahooNoise, @scott_pianowski.

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