Engel's Mailbag: Keeper Questions

Harry, Ephrata, Pa.: My league is going to start using a flex player this season. I'm keeping Steven Jackson, and I have the last pick in the first round (10th) and the first pick in round two. With the possibility of starting three running backs, do I "reach" for a third starter with the 11th pick or am I better off drafting a top-shelf wide receiver and hope a player such as Brandon Jacobs or even Tatum Bell is available at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth round?

Engel: It is never a "reach" to fill out a starting slot early, especially when you will have a chance to take an outstanding running back as your flex player, which can give you a regular advantage over many of your opponents. Running backs are always in high demand, even in 10-team leagues, so if you can stock up on three early and start all of them, you'll be looking good. Of course, you will have to pass on the very best wide receivers early and will simply have to take the two best available guys with your third and fourth choices. With three above-average running backs in your starting lineup, your team should be formidable from the very start of the 2007 season. For depth and better chances of success from sleepers, though, I would load up on a few reserve wide receivers in the middle rounds after you have addressed your starting needs at the major skill positions.

Nathan, Vancouver: I'm in a 12-man standard ESPN league. We are allowed two keepers. Shaun Alexander is a sure thing as my first keeper, but I have a choice between Donovan McNabb or Jay Cutler for my second keeper. McNabb will cost me a third rounder in this year's draft, whereas Cutler was a free agent pickup last year and will cost me only a final-rounder.