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Mr. Popular
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When did I become Mr. Popular?

I guess if I had to pinpoint it, I'd say about a week ago.

Texts, tweets, emails, Facebook pokes (just kidding, nobody does that anymore).

I've just been inundated with messages.

My rise in popularity has been unbelievable. You'd think I was Johnny Football or something.

But just to be clear, the messages I've been getting aren't of the "Hey, how's it going?" variety. They're all about business.

See this popularity surge has become an annual tradition for me. It's called fantasy football season.

Eleven out of 12 months I get made fun of for being a fantasy expert. Most people don't think it's a real job.

"You went to college for four years so you could watch sports?"

"They really pay you to write about fantasy football?"

"Why didn't you get a degree in something that's, you know, not made up?"

But when August rolls around, I'm their best friend.

I guess none of them could get a hold of Matthew Berry.

Mostly, I'm just kidding. Sure it would be nice to get a little more love in some of the non-fantasy football months (May or June, perhaps) but the truth is, I love answering fantasy football questions any time, any place. Here's a sampling of some of the best questions I've received over the last week.

1. I'm looking to trade for a quarterback. Should I go after Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson?

This one is really tough. These two finished ninth and tenth respectively in fantasy in 2012 and ESPN has Luck and Wilson projected for the same number of points this season (280 each).

Some people are trying to knock Wilson down a peg because of Percy Harvin's injury. That's ridiculous. Harvin didn't even play for the Seahawks last season.

Wilson is a better runner than Luck but not by much. Though Wilson finished with the higher yardage total (489 to 255), Luck ran for more touchdowns (five to four).

I'd give Luck the nod because the Colts rely on the passing game more than Seattle (the Seahawks have Marshawn Lynch) but I don't think you can go wrong with either one.

2. Which QB should I start this season: Peyton Manning or Cam Newton?

First of all, how were you able to get two top-five quarterbacks? Even in an eight-team league that's preposterous.

But since you asked, I think you have to go with Peyton here. Yes, Newton is an athletic freak (22 rushing touchdowns since 2011), but how can you go against a guy who threw for 37 touchdowns last season? Add Wes Welker to the mix and we could be looking at a 50-touchdown season for Manning in 2013.

Sorry, Cam.

3. Keepers lock in less than an hour. I can keep three out of these four players: Drew Brees, Brandon Marshall, C.J. Spiller and Demaryius Thomas. Who should I let go?

Brees and Spiller are a given but with Marshall and Thomas, the answer isn't as clear cut. Both players are hard to contain because of their size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds for Marshall, 6-3, 229 for Thomas) and both are coming off career years (118 receptions, 1,508 yards, 11 TD for Marshall, 94/1,434/10 for Thomas).

Thomas has a better quarterback throwing to him but the Broncos also have more depth at wide receiver (Eric Decker and Wes Welker). That means Thomas won't get as many targets as Marshall.

Both players are going to have monster seasons but I'll give the edge to Marshall, the only Bears wideout to record more than 29 catches last season.

4. Someone offered me Ahmad Bradshaw and Vernon Davis for Antonio Gates and Darren Sproles. Should I accept?

I'll admit, Davis does intrigue me. With Michael Crabtree out for the year (or at least most of it), Davis will get a chance to play more wide receiver than he ever has before.

But Bradshaw is a huge question mark and a player I've never had much faith in. He's basically in a timeshare with Vick Ballard and I can't imagine him playing all 16 games given his history of injuries (six missed games since 2011).

Bradshaw's inclusion alone is enough for me to pass on this trade.

5. I think I'm going to trade one of my running backs. Who should I hold onto: Eddie Lacy or Darren McFadden?

I understand why you'd hesitate to keep Lacy. After all, he's only a rookie and the Packers haven't had much success in the running game recently (3.9 yards per carry last season). But here's why I'd hold onto him.

The Packers have one heck of a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and they're going to be in the red zone a lot this season. Last year they didn't have a playmaker who could punch it in from short range but if Lacy is up to the task, the opportunities will definitely be there. At 230 pounds, Lacy certainly has the build to be a goal line presence.

McFadden has about as good a chance of making it through the season as I do of becoming President. Simply put, he just can't stay healthy. Finding someone to take McFadden off your hands won't be easy but if you can find a willing trade partner, feel free to unload him.

6. Which tight end should I start this season: Jermichael Finley or Greg Olsen?

It's true Finley has underachieved the past few seasons but remember Greg Jennings is gone and Jordy Nelson is still recovering from knee surgery. That means more targets for Finley and more chances for touchdowns. Not to mention that he has the best signal caller in the league throwing him the football (Aaron Rodgers).

Cam Newton had good chemistry with Olsen last season (69 connections for 843 yards) but I think the upside is higher in Green Bay. Slot Finley into your starting lineup.

7. If you had to choose one wide receiver, who would you take: Mike Wallace or Wes Welker?

Another good one. Welker is the better player but that's not the question that's being asked. The question is who will have more fantasy value and I think it's going to be Wallace.

Yes, Welker posted Hall of Fame numbers in New England but that was with very little competition for targets. The Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tandem was really only in effect for two seasons and Randy Moss wasn't much of a factor after his monster 2007 campaign. So, of course, Brady was going to throw the ball to Welker 100 times a year.

Now Welker comes to Denver, where he'll be a part of arguably the deepest receiving corps in the NFL. Welker will still get his 1,000 yards but with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker around, I wouldn't expect much more than that.

Plus Welker, talented as he may be, has never been a fixture when it comes to touchdowns. His career-high is only nine.

Wallace, on the other hand, has been a touchdown machine, scoring at least eight in each of his last three seasons. Miami isn't nearly as deep as Denver in terms of receiving, which means that Wallace is going to be the focal point of the offense.

I've always been a big fan of Welker but if this were my team, I'd play it safe and go with Wallace.

8. Wow, it must be pretty awesome to write about fantasy sports for a living.

Is that a question?




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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