You’ve been studying all summer long in anticipation for you fantasy draft, and the big day is almost here. But some unsettled situations remain on the NFL scene. Here are five burning questions heading into 2009, and the answers that may help clarify things before it’s your time to pick.

You’ve been studying all summer long in anticipation for you fantasy draft, and the big day is almost here. But some unsettled situations remain on the NFL scene. Here are five burning questions heading into 2009, and the answers that may help clarify things before it’s your time to pick.

Will Tom Brady be as dominant after reconstructive knee surgery?

Anyone who owned Tom Brady last season experienced a fantasy nightmare when he tore two knee ligaments in Week One and missed the remainder of the season. Following multiple surgeries, he has been practicing and is expected to be at full strength for the Sept. 14 opener, but there are some concerns about how effective he’ll truly be. Since QBs have returned from this injury before, there’s no reason to think Brady won’t be a premier fantasy player in ’09.

Does Adrian Peterson have competition to be the No. 1 overall pick?

Most would say that Adrian Peterson deserves to be the top fantasy selection, but it won’t be unanimous, as he only finished third among RBs in fantasy scoring last season. Michael Turner’s monstrous workload (NFL-high 376 carries) and dominance at the goal line (17 TDs) will earn him a look at No. 1, and TD machine Maurice Jones-Drew has received his share of preseason hype, as well. At the end of the day, though, the top spot is still Peterson’s to lose.

What will be the fantasy fallout of the Jay Cutler saga?

The Broncos’ offseason trade of Jay Cutler will have ripple effects all across fantasy football. Kyle Orton is now the guy Denver is left with, but he enters an appealing situation and could surprise. There’s the supremely talented Cutler, of course, who takes over a run-first Bears offense lacking quality receivers, making it very unlikely he’ll match his ’08 stats. Finally, there’s Matt Cassel, the QB Denver wanted who wound up in K.C. Joining a pass-heavy system, he should produce quite well.

How will the RB class of 2008 follow up its rookie explosion?

The ’08 rushing class took the fantasy world by storm, and now some — like Matt Forté, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton — will be among the more coveted players in drafts. After all, each one rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored double-digit TDs last year. Not far behind are Kevin Smith, Jonathan Stewart, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, guys who will see increased action and have considerable upside. And don’t forget about RB sleepers like Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall, just to name two.

How will numerous star receivers adjust to life in new cities?

It was a busy offseason for some of today’s best pass catchers, as Terrell Owens, Tony Gonzalez and T.J. Houshmandzadeh all found themselves with new homes. Few players will get more attention than Owens, who’ll have to adjust to a more conservative offense and city in Buffalo. Gonzalez, meanwhile, gives Falcons QB Matt Ryan a prime red-zone target. And Housh moves to Seattle to become the No. 1 option in a deep receiving corps. Other proven commodities on new clubs include Torry Holt, Laveranues Coles and Kellen Winslow.

 

Fantasy football player rankings

Quarterbacks

1. Drew Brees / Saints
Best fantasy QB should again assault record books.

2. Tom Brady / Patriots
Missed ’08, but in store for huge rebound.

3. Peyton Manning / Colts
Most consistent fantasy passer in the game today.

4. Kurt Warner / Cardinals
Accurate arm and premier WRs make him a star.

5. Aaron Rodgers / Packers
Not only passes for yards and TDs, runs for them, too.

6. Philip Rivers / Chargers
Efficient with great weapons in a high-powered offense.

7. Tony Romo / Cowboys
No T.O., but prolific gunslinger shouldn’t suffer much.

8. Matt Schaub / Texans
Fantasy stud when he plays, but often injured.

9. Donovan McNabb / Eagles
Offensive upgrades have him set for another impact season.

10. Matt Ryan / Falcons
Impressed as a rookie; should really break out in Year Two.

11. Jay Cutler / Bears
Supreme talent, but move to Chicago will hurt his stats.

12. Carson Palmer / Bengals
After losing most of ’08 to injured elbow, should regain old form.

13. Matt Cassel / Chiefs
Will struggle at times, but system should fit him well.

14. Ben Roethlisberger / Steelers
Came back to earth last season; a nice fantasy backup.

15. Eli Manning / Giants
Ultraconsistent, but doesn’t throw enough to be a big-time producer.

16. Matt Hasselbeck / Seahawks
Adds Housh to a quality WR corps; a prime bounce-back candidate.

17. David Garrard / Jaguars
Quietly productive in ’08; getting Holt should only help.

18. Kyle Orton / Broncos
Finally gets a chance to let loose in Denver’s pass-happy offense.

19. Trent Edwards / Bills
Very accurate; a true fantasy sleeper with T.O. aboard.

20. Jake Delhomme / Panthers
Has stud WR in Smith, but declining and has little upside.


Running backs

1. Adrian Peterson / Vikings
Huge workload, huge production; the No. 1 fantasy player.

2. Michael Turner / Falcons
Extremely reliable source of yards, TDs on a weekly basis.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew / Jaguars
Scoring machine should explode as the Jags’ featured back.

4. Matt Forté / Bears
Terrific dual threat; Cutler’s presence will open more running lanes.

5. LaDainian Tomlinson / Chargers
Lackluster ’08, but now healthy and poised to come back strong.

6. DeAngelo Williams / Panthers
2008 NFL TD leader consistently busts off big runs and finds paydirt.

7. Steven Jackson / Rams
Versatile with enormous upside, but last two seasons have been injury-riddled.

8. Chris Johnson / Titans
Powerful and fast, his legend should only grow with added carries.

9. Brandon Jacobs / Giants
Unlikely to play all 16 games, but will be TD beast when healthy.

10. Frank Gore / 49ers
Hasn’t met expectations lately, but new scheme will feed him the ball.

11. Steve Slaton / Texans
Home-run threat both running and catching; a rapidly rising fantasy star.

12. Brian Westbrook / Eagles
A yearly top performer, but is coming off offseason ankle surgery.

13. Clinton Portis / Redskins
Consistently productive, but workload could decrease after late-season flameout.

14. Marion Barber / Cowboys
Hard runner with nose for the goal-line; has trouble staying healthy.

15. Ronnie Brown / Dolphins
Larger role in ’09 could lead to career-best numbers.

16. Pierre Thomas / Saints
Now the Saints’ lead back, arguably the most appealing RB sleeper.

17. Ryan Grant / Packers
Stats dipped while playing hurt in ’08; a strong chance to rebound.

18. Kevin Smith / Lions
Proved to be a legit workhorse down the stretch; should see plenty of action.

19. Thomas Jones / Jets
Coming off career-best season, outlook isn’t as bright in ’09.

20. Marshawn Lynch / Bills
Suspended for first three games, but still deserves to be a high pick.


Wide receivers

1. Larry Fitzgerald / Cardinals
Consistency, playoff dominance solidify him as top fantasy WR.

2. Andre Johnson / Texans
Solid bet to lead NFL in catches, yards once again.

3. Randy Moss / Patriots
With Brady back, numbers should look more like they did in ’07 than in ’08.

4. Steve Smith / Panthers
Mighty mite should continue to pile up yardage at alarming rate.

5. Calvin Johnson / Lions
Phenomenal athlete gets it done even without proficient QB play.

6. Greg Jennings / Packers
Lightning fast and strong to boot; an elite fantasy target.

7. Roddy White / Falcons
He and Ryan form one of the top WR-QB connections today.

8. Reggie Wayne / Colts
Now Colts’ No. 1 WR, he could have career-best stats.

9. Anquan Boldin / Cardinals
Unhappy in ’Zona, but remains a TD juggernaut.

10. Marques Colston / Saints
Brees loves throwing his way, which means huge productivity.

11. Dwayne Bowe / Chiefs
K.C.’s offseason changes could make him league’s most targeted WR.

12. Brandon Marshall / Broncos
Cutler’s loss hurts, but should still be a reception machine.

13. Wes Welker / Patriots
Prolific pass catcher only benefits from Brady’s return.

14. Terrell Owens / Bills
Numbers likely will take a hit in Buffalo, but TDs should be there.

15. Braylon Edwards / Browns
Dropped way off in ’08; better focus and QB consistency would help.

16. Roy Williams / Cowboys
Figures to see across-the-board improvements as ’Boys’ No. 1 WR.

17. T.J. Houshmandzadeh / Seahawks
Will have to share the wealth in Seattle; still likely to be effective.

18. Vincent Jackson / Chargers
Emerging star has rare combo of size, speed and hands.

19. Antonio Bryant / Buccaneers
An ’08 revelation, but QB questions make a drop-off probable.

20. Chad Ochocinco / Bengals
Enters ’09 with Palmer back and a more positive attitude.


Tight ends

1. Jason Witten / Cowboys
Tough, durable, productive fantasy force is a Romo favorite.

2. Antonio Gates / Chargers
Monster numbers should return with bad toe behind him.

3. Tony Gonzalez / Falcons
Move to Atlanta puts him in the middle of emerging offense.

4. Dallas Clark / Colts
Became complete TE in ’08; should see spike in targets.

5. Owen Daniels / Texans
Yardage machine only needs scoring bump to join elite.

6. Chris Cooley / Redskins
Coaches vow his TD total will go way up in ’09.

7. Greg Olsen / Bears
Ready for fantasy explosion with Cutler throwing his way.

8. Kellen Winslow / Buccaneers
QB questions loom in Tampa, but change of scenery should help.

9. Zach Miller / Raiders
Vertical threat will be Russell’s primary pass catcher.

10. John Carlson / Seahawks
Rookie revelation should again see plenty of red-zone looks.

11. Dustin Keller / Jets
Will be main safety valve for Jets’ untested QB.

12. Jeremy Shockey / Saints
Should bounce back to respectability after awful ’08.

13. Visanthe Shiancoe / Vikings
Coming off breakout year; a home-run threat who can score.

14. Heath Miller / Steelers
Unexciting but consistent; a solid No. 2 fantasy tight end.

15. Anthony Fasano / Dolphins
Very up-and-down, but should snag his fair share of TDs.

16. Vernon Davis / 49ers
Annual disappointment might finally perform in new scheme.

17. Tony Scheffler / Broncos
Not a favorite of new regime; downfield ability gives him value.

18. Brent Celek / Eagles
A prime fantasy sleeper as Philly’s new starter.

19. Kevin Boss / Giants
Could see more targets with Giants short on WRs.

20. Brandon Pettigrew / Lions
Skilled blocker has some fantasy potential as a rookie.




Placekickers

1. Stephen Gostkowski / Patriots
NFL’s reigning scoring leader kicks for its most prolific offense.

2. Rob Bironas / Titans
Possesses deadly accuracy and the ability to hit from distance.

3. Kris Brown / Texans
Great combination of pinpoint control and high-octane offense.

4. David Akers / Eagles
After recent struggles, bounced back with career-best production in ’08.

5. Josh Brown / Rams
A long-distance machine; benefits from kicking mostly indoors.

6. Ryan Longwell / Vikings
Has long track record of success; offense should be improved.

7. Mason Crosby / Packers
Has accuracy issues, but a big leg and ample opportunities.

8. John Kasay / Panthers
Ancient PK doesn’t have deep range, but very rarely misses a FG.

9. Jason Elam / Falcons
Didn’t miss a beat in Year One in Atlanta; offense is quickly emerging.

10. Nick Folk / Cowboys
Extremely accurate with adequate range and a high-scoring attack.

11. Rian Lindell / Bills
Won’t hit much from deep, but consistently overcomes Buffalo’s offensive woes.

12. Nate Kaeding / Chargers
Bolts give him so many chances, he’s bound to post solid point totals.

13. Jason Hanson / Lions
Went an incredible 8-for-8 from 50-plus yards last season.

14. Shayne Graham / Bengals
Hurt in ’08, but a FG machine when offense is clicking.

15. Neil Rackers / Cardinals
Cards always have him in position to score; accuracy has been a problem.

16. Joe Nedney / 49ers
Dull but reliable kicker who doesn’t miss often.

17. Matt Prater / Broncos
Has no trouble hitting from 50-plus, but shorter kicks give him difficulty.

18. Jeff Reed / Steelers
Kicks in tough city to succeed; usually accurate but not prolific.

19. Robbie Gould / Bears
Has tamed the winds of Chicago; should get more chances with Cutler around.

20. Phil Dawson / Browns
Browns often stall in the red zone, and he’s the beneficiary.