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Who to keep this NFL offseason

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Published December 4, 2011

If you participate in an NFL keeper league, you will arrive at the end of your season with a few difficult decisions. Who do I keep? If you are lucky enough to have some of the top-rated players the decision becomes a little easier. Everybody involved in fantasy is going to keep Aaron Rodgers if they have him, but what do you do if you kept Peyton Manning after the 2010 season? You’ve most likely stuck him on your bench all season, but now you have to decide between a healthy Peyton with a guy that is younger and could be great for years.

It always seems to be a delicate matter of comparing one year’s play with a history and a future. I am going to look at the different positions and try to value these decisions. While making these decisions always look at your own league’s settings. Depending on how your commissioner has set up your league the value of Running Backs, Wide Receivers and usually Quarterbacks are at a premium.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers - As I said above, this is a no-brainer. If you have him, keep him.

Drew Brees - He has benefited enormously from the addition of Darren Sproles. With his WR corps he is an easy choice to keep.

Tom Brady - It doesn’t matter who he has to throw it to. He always gets it there.

Cam Newton - He is a great option if you have him. He has had one of the great Rookie seasons of all time. Be cognizant of sophomore struggles, but he has too much talent to worry too much about it.

Matthew Stafford - His health has always been the biggest concern, but he has avoided injury this year. Upgrades at WR and RB in the offseason will only help him.

Eli Manning - One of the top QBs in the league. The only knock on him is that the team seems to fall apart around him late every season. The Giants probably need to upgrade at WR (again).

Tony Romo - Romo has as much talent as any QB in the game. He needs a good running game to slow things down for him. He can over think when everything is relying on him.

Matt Ryan - While he's still performing well this season, I have not felt as confident about him this year as I have in the past. Is it the line that has not given him the time? I would keep him but might consider other options over him if I only keep a few.

Ben Roethlisberger - It can be ugly at times, but he continues to get it done. If you play fantasy you shouldn’t care how the points come, as long as they add up for you. The continual hits that he takes seem to be starting to take a toll on him, so I would be cautious.

Phillip Rivers - This is one of those cases where you have to consider whether the interceptions this season are just a bad string. I would keep him and expect a rebound.

Andy Dalton - He has the Bengals moving in the right direction. He hasn't put up the numbers that Cam Newton has, but looks like a QB that could be productive for years.

Matt Schaub - He will finish the season on IR but should be healthy next year so he is an excellent option.

Deep or Franchise League Options: Colt McCoy, Tarvaris Jackson, Tim Tebow, Matt Moore, Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert

Running Backs

LeSean McCoy- He's leading the league in Rushing and Touchdowns so his value has to be respected. Will his numbers get cut into if the rest of the offense starts to come around?

Ray Rice - Good all-around back. He's an easy decision to keep.

Matt Forte - Forte is an excellent receiver as well as a great runner. He has an ability to break the big play.

Arian Foster - He's great when healthy. Houston needs to make sure they can keep him on the field. The emergence of Ben Tate could hurt his numbers a little.

Fred Jackson - Jackson was having a great season until the injury. He should come roaring back next season.

Adrian Peterson - You want to have him for when he’s healthy. To be fair, this is his first NFL season that has been plagued with injuries. He did have durability problems in college.

Maurice Jones-Drew - He has kept playing hard in the disaster that has been the Jacksonville season.

Marshawn Lynch - His emergence in the second half has mirrored that of Tarvaris Jackson. It’s impressive how the separate parts can make the whole better.

Michael Turner - He’s doing what he’s done in previous years. He consistently accumulates points.

Frank Gore - Even missing some time with an injury he’s having another fine season.

Ryan Matthews - Injuries and the play of Mike Tolbert seem to prevent Ryan from being a premiere back, but the potential is there.

Steven Jackson - Without Sam Bradford being able to replicate his rookie season, teams are focused on Jackson. He's still performed fairly well.

Michael Bush - Bush always performs when given an opportunity. Still, this is Darren McFadden’s position when healthy. There will be better options.

Beanie Wells - We have been waiting for years it seems for Beanie to be the man. Is he close? I would need more evidence before anointing him.

Chris Johnson - He's starting to come around. With a full offseason to get used to the “system” in Tennessee and to get into game shape, chalk him up as a potential comeback player for 2012.

DeMarco Murray - He's performed when needed. As part of a RB committee with Felix Jones, he will be good for the Cowboys but could hurt for fantasy purposes.

Reggie Bush - Now in Miami, he is starting to emerge as the type of player that he was expected to be coming out of college. I would absolutely keep him to see if this continues.

Willis McGahee - He is still great at times but lacks consistency.

Darren McFadden - Plays at an elite level when healthy and isn’t historically brittle, but he's had trouble staying on the field this year.

Rashard Mendenhall - Mendenhall has been as disappointing this year as he was impressive last year. I look for other options and steel myself in case he comes back to 2010 form.

Ahmad Bradshaw - The Giants are a better team when he’s healthy. Look for him to rebound.

Deep or Franchise League Options: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LaGarrette Blount, Roy Helu, Mark Ingram, Daniel Thomas, Jackie Battle, Felix Jones

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson - He has struggled with the Hamstring but he’s too good not to keep.

Larry Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald is still playing well despite the lack of good QB play.

Calvin Johnson - He's been a major reason for the emergence of the Lions this year.

Roddy White - White will only have an easier time getting open with the emergence of Julio Jones.

Hakeem Nicks - He was supposed to be the main target all year but Victor Cruz’ play can’t be ignored,

Mike Wallace - You can’t teach speed and Wallace is as fast as anyone in the league.

Miles Austin - He's been hurt most of the season with a Hamstring injury. Miles played great when able.

Vincent Jackson - His performance should improve as Phillip Rivers starts to rebound.

Greg Jennings - If you get open Aaron Rodgers seems to be able to find you.

Reggie Wayne - If you believe Peyton Manning is  coming back healthy, go for it. Otherwise, look elsewhere.

Mike Williams - A full offseason should help.

DeSean Jackson - I know that he is unhappy about his contract. That could be resolved by next season, but I have become extremely wary of complainers.

Brandon Lloyd - Lloyd should benefit if/when Sam Bradford is healthy.

Dez Bryant - He isn't always the best route runner in the league, but he does have exceptional talent.

Brandon Marshall - He's playing well in Miami and should do better as Matt Moore matures.

Dwayne Bowe - Bowe has great talent and could play better with a healthy QB. His habit of not trying all of the time hurts him and fantasy owners.

Stevie Johnson - He's very talented, but might need to keep his emotions in check at times. That said, it shouldn’t hurt his fantasy numbers too much.

Wes Welker - Welker should always be one of the first WRs picked in every draft.

Steve Smith - Smith is having a great bounceback season. With Cam Newton’s growth, he could have a good year next year.

Tight Ends

Ron Gronkowski - He scores Touchdowns in bunches. It’s all about the points.

Jimmy Graham - Graham is proving to be a major outlet for Drew Brees.

Tony Gonzalez - Year in and year out  Tony puts up yards and TDs. There’s no reason to believe it wont happen next year too.

Jason Witten - Other teams focus on him in game planning. That's a great and rare compliment for a TE.

Fred Davis - Davis is strong and has good hands.

Jermichael Finley - He's a key part of the dominant offense in Green Bay.

Dustin Keller - He's become a favorite target of Mark Sanchez.

I don’t tend to keep Kickers because you never know who is going to be hot. There is always somebody available to fill into the gap. Keeping a kicker might not give you the flexibility to grab a guy like Dan Bailey, for instance.

Team Defenses are the same. They are mostly similar and you never know who’s going to be great until the season starts.

Tim Noakes

About , Midwest Correspondent

Dallas, TX

Hailing from Cowboys and Ranger country, Tim is one of FIC's longest-tenured correspondents. Has it really been 10 years?!
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