Posted: Monday August 15, 2011 1:29PM ; Updated: Monday August 15, 2011 1:29PM
David Sabino
David Sabino>FANTASY INSIDER NFL

NFL fantasy mailbag: Charles has potential worthy of top draft pick

Story Highlights

Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson could see production hurt if QBs injured

With surplus of running backs, Patriots offer little but flex options in fantasy

Despite clearance to play, Maurice Jones-Drew's knee injuries are a concern

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With a settled quarterback situation around him, Jamaal Charles could improve on a year that saw him finish second in rushing yards.
With a settled quarterback situation around him, Jamaal Charles could improve on a year that saw him finish second in rushing yards.
AP

The NFL season kicks off in less than a month and personnel directors and coaching staffs still have just as many unanswered questions as you do. Let's get right to trying to find some answers in this week's mailbag. Remember, to send me a message on Twitter @SI_DavidSabino and you can have your question answered here every Monday.

If you had a No.1 overall fantasy pick, who would you be taking?
-- @ wilkentj Tommy

Funny you should ask. I had the top overall pick in the SI Fantasy Football Preview (on sale now) mock draft and I stuck with my rankings and took Kansas City's Jamaal Charles. It was no easy decision with Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Chris Johnson all there, but I believe Charles is ready to take that next step (albeit a small one after placing second in the NFL in rushing yards last season) to fantasy superstardom. To me he was also the safest pick. Peterson and Johnson share the same drawback, an aging, injury-prone quarterback backed up by a green rookie (Christian Ponder and Jake Locker, respectively) who, if forced to play would enable entire defensive gameplans to be drawn up to stop the run. Foster can't possibly keep up the pace he set last season, and from what I know of the situation, the Texans staff wants to use Ben Tate (when he's not hobbled, this time it's a hamstring) more. Tate was in the running to be the lead back last preseason before being knocked out by a broken ankle. He's not going to severely hurt Foster's value, but will eat into it just enough to make Charles the better pick.

Why aren't fantasy experts more concerned about Arian Foster? I still have nightmares about Steve Slaton and Dom Davis ...
-- rkwittem

A perfect segue and a valid point, Ryan. The one thing that both Davis (who later changed his name to Williams) and Slaton shared in their ultimate downfall was a severe injury. Davis had a knee that wouldn't heal and Slaton had a neck that landed him on the injured reserve and jeopardized his career. Until his recent hamstring pull, Foster has been relatively healthy as a pro and there's little reason to believe that the circumstances that led to the demise of his predecessors will also befall him. Unless there's some curse on the Texans, it's safe to draft Foster as one of the top fantasy players.

Stevan Ridley on the Pats. True, he scored 3 TDs in preseason, but the kid has a hard nose for the endzone.
-- @DannyCarew

That he does, Danny, having finished fourth in the SEC in rushing touchdowns last season with 15, two more than Alabama's (and now New Orleans') Mark Ingram. However the Pats' backfield is as crowded as it's ever been during the Belichick era with rookies Ridley and Shane Vereen joining BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Sammy Morris and potentially Kevin Faulk. That group will allow Belichick to keep opponents and fantasy owners alike guessing as to what his next move will be. That's great for the Pats but pretty bad for fantasy owners who look for consistency from those who they insert into their weekly lineup. I like Ridley as a reach late in the draft, but it's unwise to take any of New England's committee members as more than a flex option.

Aaron Brown in Detroit. Can see him being this year's Goodson with Leshoure out.
-- SPAtheGOD

Remember that the only reason Mike Goodson was able to make significant contributions in fantasy last season was because for two games in November both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were scratches. The only way for Brown, who incidentally is in a fight for a roster spot along with newly acquired Jerome Harrison, Mike Bell and Ian Johnson, to even get the opportunity would be for Jahvid Best to be knocked out for a significant amount of time. I'm not banking on Brown, but you're not crazy to stash him as a sixth or seventh back in deeper leagues.

And finally, the three quick hits of the week:

I have the 5th pick, should I go MJD, Rice or take a chance with Vick? Thanks.
-- @mjonovis

Given those choices I'd go with Rice, but when faced with the same choice in the NFL.com Experts League run by Michael Fabiano, I went with Darren McFadden. Vick is a little riskier and should go anywhere from eighth to 14th. Despite being cleared for practice, Jones-Drew's knee is too much of a concern to take him this high.

T..E. passes are prominent in Panthers camp (so I hear). Does that factor into your ranking of Olson's draft value? Sleeper?
-- @David84Tigers

Absolutely. Olsen and Jeremy Shockey are part of an offense run by fellow Miami Hurricane Rob Chudzinski, who favors the tight end. I expect a huge season out of Olsen, who was much better than expected last season while buried in Mike Martz's tight end purgatory of an offense. I have him ranked in the Top 10.

What are your thoughts on Miles Austin vs. Vincent Jackson this year?
-- @browntown85

I think both are going to have huge seasons. Jackson is back full-time after sitting out for the first part of last season with a contract dispute. Austin is also back among the elites at the position as Tony Romo returns with a vengeance following an injury-plagued and all-around disappointing 2010. I have Austin ranked as the 10th best receiver and Jackson as the 15th, which means you really can't go wrong with either.

ON SALE: Sports Illustrated's Fantasy Football 2011 issue tells you where all the free agents landed and what their fantasy impact will be, along with the critical draft strategy and stats analysis you need to win your league. Order one now.

 
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