Offseason fantasy mailbag By Dave Richard NFL.com (May 27, 2004) -- It's late May. Training camps open in two months and the start of the season is more than three months away. So of course our fantasy mailbag is bursting at the seams with letters from all over the globe. NFL Network NFL Network Analysis, opinions, features and more! What are Terrell Owens' chances in Philly? With his size, speed and playmaking ability, are we to expect him to put up similar numbers as Randy Moss or will he become just an above-average fantasy player lost in a spreadout offense? -- Curtis Think of how the Eagles wanted to use Todd Pinkston over the past few years, then replace Pinkston with Owens. Sounds pretty good, eh? Owens gives McNabb a fellow playmaker to take the offensive pressure off, and that should really help McNabb out. Now teams have to account for Owens in addition to McNabb and the Eagles' running game. Not an easy task. This should leave McNabb with more chances to run and more chances to find other receivers for easy grabs. Plus, the Eagles will find many ways to get T.O. the ball, so if you draft him (late Round 2) you should be satisfied with his play. We think Owens will do better than he did last year and is still worthy of being a top-tier receiver. I was wondering about the Denver running back situation. Considering all the success Shanahan has had in the past with whomever is in the backfield, when and who should I pick from their trio of runners? -- Kyle When the Broncos traded Clinton Portis to Washington, we got excited because it meant a player we really liked coming out of school was going to get a shot at running back. That would be Quentin Griffin, who torched Indianapolis for 136 yards in Week 16 last season. Griffin is small but he's quick to the hole and he can catch out of the backfield -- all things Portis could do. The problem is that Griffin has company. The Broncos signed veteran back Garrison Hearst and drafted Tatum Bell in Round 2 of the 2004 draft. Hearst's track record is impressive and Bell is a lot like Griffin. This is a tough situation, but if you're drafting now go with Griffin because he's the most likely to get the first chance to start in Shanahan's offense. If you're not drafting now, pay close attention once the preseason starts. Griffin is a safe pick in Round 6 or later, assuming you spend another pick on Hearst and/or Bell later on. I was wondering about Corey Dillon. Now that he is with the Patriots, where do you think he should be drafted in fantasy leagues? -- Stephen While Dillon still has great speed, we're not so sure he will be a great fit for the Patriots offense, especially since the team likes to rotate in different backs for different situations. From New England's point of view, Dillon is a huge upgrade over Antowain Smith because he's faster. But that may not mean he's going to see 20 to 25 touches a game. The other red flag is that he will be 30 years old in October. What is important is that Dillon should contribute enough to warrant him being a fantasy starter; there isn't anyone else in New England who could supplant him as a regular back. We'd wait until Round 3 to take Dillon, but if it's late in Round 2 and you need a running back, it wouldn't be a bad move. I'm Dutch and (of course) I live in the Netherlands, therefore it has been very hard to get proper info on all topics concerning the NFL draft. My question is: Which rookies have fantasy value for the upcoming season and which are less useful for my fantasy team? -- Alexander van Goudswaard, Netherlands The 2004 draft provided a ton of fantasy potential. In fact, this should be a big year for owners in keeper leagues because of the depth at wide receiver and quarterback. Aside from the obvious rookies in Round 1, you can always look to players drafted in Round 2 for some fantasy studs. Remember, it's the guys taken in Round 2 that have surprised us as fantasy sleepers. Just last year Anquan Boldin surprised us all, and he was a second-round pick. So was Portis in 2002. This year the obvious one is Julius Jones (take him in Round 4) in Dallas. With the release of Troy Hambrick, Jones should be the odds-on favorite to run the ball most of the time in Big D. We also think tight end Ben Troupe (late-round fantasy pick) will catch a bunch of passes in Tennessee. As the season gets closer, this picture will clear up for us, and that includes touting which rookies aren't going to be contributing much next year. How will the presence of Steven Jackson affect the fantasy value of Marshall Faulk? Is Jackson there to back Faulk up, or will he be taking carries from the veteran? -- John Binder, Ill. Before the draft, we touted Jackson as the can't-miss rookie to watch. That still holds true, but not for this year since Faulk will still be the featured back in St. Louis. Remember, Faulk has not played a full season yet this century (although his stats in 2000 and 2001 are as if he played 20 games!), and he has not escaped the injury bug in each of the last two seasons. If you draft Faulk (late first or early second), be sure to swipe Jackson (Round 8 or 9) just to make sure you have both Rams backs -- that is, assuming Lamar Gordon doesn't earn the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Would it be wise to choose Carson Palmer to be my fantasy starter? -- Amber, Cincinnati Carson Palmer could be a fantasy starter at some point in 2004. We don't think this is such a far-fetched idea, especially considering where you could draft him in relation to other possible fantasy starters. From what we've seen and heard about Palmer, it appears he will be a strong-armed, strong-minded slinger. Tack on the players around him -- a tremendous offensive line, a stellar set of receivers and a good running game -- and he has everything he needs to be a great quarterback. Just be sure to draft another good quarterback first in case Palmer has some early-season jitters. We asked Rudi Johnson about Palmer, and he said some very good things. "He's going to be special," Johnson said. "The guy has all the tools -- height, arm, size. Everything. He's looking great in practice -- he can get the ball between two defenders. He reminds me of Brett Favre, gunning it exactly where it needs to be. That opened my eyes and made me realize he's the real deal." I need analysts to pick the fringe players -- the second- or third-string guys that could be called up into service and contribute. Who are the Rudi Johnsons, the Anquan Boldins of 2004 that could create some separation from my team and my opponents? Joe Mica, Huntley, Ill. Naturally, everyone wants to know who the next Domanick Davis or Kurt Warner (circa 1999) is going to be. Coming up with names is easy; actually promising they'll make good is hard. Take the case of Rudi Johnson. Corey Dillon hurt his groin in Week 4 and sat out Week 5, giving Johnson a chance to play. Johnson made the most of it and the rest is fantasy football history. Fantasy analysts aren't doctors -- we can never guess when or how badly a player gets hurt. We can, however, judge team depth charts and tell you who the good backups are (we noted Davis was a solid backup last year). Now there's the case of Boldin, who played without an injured player coming into play. Are there players like this out there? Yes, but only a few. Again, you have to look at team depth charts and see if there's a talented player in a system that fits him best. Eventually, the player will get a chance. Of course, we refer to players like these as "sleepers" -- guys you draft late on a whim. If they succeed, you look like a genius; if they don't play well, you waste a late pick and it's no biggie. So far, the only sleepers we've identified are the Falcons D/ST, Bears WR Justin Gage, Chargers TE Antonio Gates, Jets RB Lamont Jordan, Bills RB Willis McGahee, Bengals QB Carson Palmer and 49ers rookie WR Rashaun Woods. Extra snaps From Eric Bregman: What is your opinion on the fantasy value of Jake Delhomme? He has plenty of help around him, including a stellar running game. He's a good quarterback but there are better passers in even better situations around the league, so he's at best a No. 2 fantasy QB. Mark Heller asks: With the emergence of great receivers this year, would it be best to go with receivers early in the draft and go for my No. 2 running back later on? Definitely not. Stick to the top tier RBs in the first two rounds. There will be plenty of receivers out there waiting for you in Round 4. From Eli Porter: Who is your No. 1 overall fantasy pick right now? We think LaDainian Tomlinson is still the top dog. He had well over 40 percent of his team's touches in 2003. You cannot possibly ask for more than that from your No. 1 pick, and the same thing should happen in 2004. Mark Swiderski asks: Does it look like Michael Bennett is going to have the starting job in Minnesota or will it be by committee? We think Minnesota may lean toward a running back by committee, but Bennett should see the majority of the touches. Therefore, he should be the first one drafted.