Engel's Mailbag: Keeper questions

Nate, Chicago: With the two-running back systems out there now, does the rule of taking two running backs first in the draft still apply? With a solid No. 1 in Frank Gore, would you retain Deuce McAllister with the second keeper choice or someone like Terrell Owens, knowing you could draft a solid No. 2 running back in the third or fourth rounds?

Engel: While you have a unique and interesting way of looking at running back situations and are keen enough to realize the changing trends, not everyone else will fall in line with you. You'll have the same old types of early runs on running backs next year in both yearly and keeper leagues. With more teams using two running backs, clearly featured guys like Shaun Alexander and Steven Jackson will be perceived as being even more valuable than before, and from a fantasy perspective, the No. 1 running backs on some teams for statistical production should be identifiable. Maurice Jones-Drew and Marion Barber III are the definite top guys to be drafted from their teams. In the case of the Saints, they will actually give McAllister and Reggie Bush enough touches for both of them to post fine numbers, which is rare, and this also gives them very high appeal. In many cases, the certain No. 1 running back on a fantasy roster will still be easily pinpointed, such as Cedric Benson, Laurence Maroney and Chester Taylor. Those guys will be in high demand early in any type of league draft because they will be featured running backs. More teams will start to employ time-shares, but that will only make the top players at the position more sought after. Having fewer heavy workload guys means the top running backs will be in ever higher demand early. Savvy owners don't want to wait longer and lean on Tatum Bell. In keeper leagues, protect top guys like McAllister. They will now be more important than they were in the past. That solid second running back might be gone by the third or fourth round, especially in a keeper league.