NFL fantasy mailbag: Johnson with No. 1 pick a matter of fate, faith

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We made it through another exhibition weekend with no big names lost for any significant amount of time, mainly because most anyone who was nicked up at all sat out. We also got also good news on the Kenny Britt front as Tennessee's stud receiver with questionable off-field judgment will not be facing a league imposed suspension for his trio of arrests during the lockout.

In the meantime, for those of you who already drafted your team, make sure that everyone on your roster is still well and ready to go. Also, peruse the waiver wire and free agent list every couple of days to make sure that there's not someone out there who you'd rather have than someone currently holding a space.

Remember to send your questions to me at @SI_DavidSabino on Twitter or use the email line at the top to have a chance to see your answers here every Monday. Now that the draft season is winding down, I expect to see a lot of questions about free agents, waiver wire pickups, trades, rookies and unknowns during the course of the season. Help me help you!

And be sure to pick up the Sports Illustrated 2011 Fantasy Football Guide (on sale now). It's packed with post-lockout analysis from your favorite SI and football writers including Peter King, Damon Hack, Jim Trotter, Will Carroll, Gene Menez, Eric Mack and Mike Beacom.

And now for this week's questions:

I have the 1st pick in a keeper/PPR league. CJ is available. All the other studs are being kept. Do I take CJ? & Gut feeling Antonio Brown is a sleeper. Your take?--@MattySuzuki

Matty, that's the $64,000 question this year. In your situation with the first pick and no real alternative, I guess you just have to go with fate and faith. Fate in that there's nothing to do about Johnson's holdout which could end tomorrow, or could last well into or through the season. And faith that Johnson is such a great athlete that when he does return the lack of contact and team training time lets him avoid the minor injuries like strains and pulls that regularly plague most other holdouts, especially at running back. So, yes, in your boxed in position the only move to make is to take Johnson and pray for the best.

For your second point, Brown is a classic sleeper in that he's immensely talented but currently buried a little on Pittsburgh's wide receiver depth chart behind Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and possibly Jerricho Cotchery. A few breaks and growing confidence in him by the Steelers staff will translate into more touches, but on a team with so many receivers to feed the ball to (don't forget about Heath Miller too), I doubt he'll warrant more than a look as a flex or bye week replacement without a couple of big breaks. You can certainly do worse with one of your last picks.

I had the 10th pick in a 12 team PPR league. I took A. Johnson and C. Johnson back-to-back, then acquired Mendenhall. I also grabbed Schaub in round 6 and then Freeman in round 7, plus I have J. Best, Crabtree, Jacobs, and TEs M. Lewis and Moeaki. Smart?--@ross_bernhardt

It's always a tough call when you have one of the last picks in the first round since most of the stud running backs and the top couple of quarterbacks are usually gone. However you did very well being able to get the top two receivers in Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson then somehow pulling off getting a first-round running back (Mendenhall) anyway. So you basically got three top-two round picks. I'd look to improve a little Moeaki, especially if you're in a two-tight end eligible league. Tennessee's Jared Cook, St. Louis' Lance Kendricks, Oakland's Kevin Boss and New England's Aaron Hernandez all should have better seasons than Moeaki.

8th pick in a 12 team league.. all the top tier RBs are gone.. do you draft a WR or QB?--RicciServizio

In normal seasons the first seven picks are all going to be running backs so that would be your only choice, but there's a distinct possibility that Michael Vick and/or Aaron Rodgers sneaks into the top of the draft before you select. So if that leaves you the chance of taking Darren McFadden, Michael Turner or Rashard Mendenhall in the slot. If they're gone, Rodgers and his embarrassment of riches at receiver would make the most sense to me at No. 8. Then grab an Ahmad Bradshaw, Shonn Greene, and now possibly Jahvid Best at No. 17.

With the way the Skins running game has looked in preseason, what's the earliest you can take Hightower w/out reaching?--@mjonovis

You have to respect Mike Shanahan's judgment when it comes to running backs and he's on the record raving about how perfect a back Hightower is for his system. After a slow start in Arizona, he raised his per rush average last season to 4.8 yards per carry, which is pretty substantial when you take into account that defenses were stacking the line against the quarterback challenged birds for most of the season. My original thought was to take Hightower in the fifth round, but really, to be sure, I wouldn't let him go past the end of the fourth.

I have pick #3 in PPR league. assume peterson and foster will be gone. who to take? please help--@rogethridge

I'm still on the Jamaal Charles bandwagon after ranking him at the top of the 2011 SI Fantasy Football Post-Lockout Preview cheat sheet, and I'll stick with him, as should you, especially with the Chris Johnson holdout (see above).

Help buddy! Keep 2: Ryan Mathews, Frank Gore, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Ryan Torain, Matt Schaub--@GodDamners

First off eliminate Torain (see Hightower, Tim). I'd also shy away from Ryan Mathews who is staring at a shared situation at best with Mike Tolbert. Bowe also should experience a dropoff in production after having a historic 2010 campaign. And I don't think Schaub is good enough to keep. So by process of elimination that leaves you with the disgruntled (yet in camp therefore motivated) Frank Gore and the always exciting DeSean Jackson who keeps getting better and should see a rise in his numbers while Jeremy Maclin gets back into full form following his mystery illness from the summer.