Once the cream of the crop is gone, who are the best available players?
It’s a perennial question for fantasy owners in 12-team, three-keeper leagues, in which 36 top players are already gone before the draft begins. Assuming your fellow owners made sound keeper decisions (some don’t), second- and third-tier players will top your draft board.
The following running backs and quarterbacks are worthy of early looks in keeper-league drafts.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver
The presence of goal-line hammer Willis McGahee — and run-loving new coach John Fox — should keep Moreno both healthy and offensively versatile.
Joseph Addai, Indiana, and Ryan Grant, Green Bay
Experienced and consistently productive when healthy (neither was last season), Addai and Grant — both 28 — are too good to let them slide very long.
Felix Jones, Dallas
The Cowboys are giving the exuberant, 24-year-old Jones another shot to hold down No. 1 status, which he can accomplish ahead of Tashard Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray. Expect limited touches and big gains.
Shonn Greene, Jets
The third-year Greene produced well behind Thomas Jones and then LaDainian Tomlinson. Now he’s in line for about 200 carries, 1,000 yards rushing and 30 receptions — more than a modest spike.
Daniel Thomas, Miami
The Dolphins traded up to draft their tailback of the future No. 62 overall. His value depends on an expected push ahead of fellow Miami newcomer Reggie Bush.
Matt Schaub, Houston
Closer to the top tier than to the QBs below, Schaub is consistently undervalued. Just look at the Texans’ weapons.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
Moved increasingly into gunslinger territory, Big Ben could be more consistent from game to game.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Pro Football Weekly said it best: Ryan’s “intangible skills don’t always translate to major fantasy juice.” The flipside: Now 26, he’s improved in each of his three years as starter.
Eli Manning, Giants
He may not be in Tom Brady’s class (Eli apparently disagrees), but he is prolific and consistent enough to be the last, best starter you can have in a 12-team league.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
Last season, the 6-foot-6 Freeman avoided mistakes (25 TDs, 5 INTs) and moved his legs (364 yards rushing). And he’s just 23 years old.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis
The prolific passer will need to rebound from a late decline last season. He’ll get plenty of chances to chuck the ball, but few to tuck it.