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Countdown to Kickoff

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We're just about two hours away from opening night kickoff between the Vikings and Saints. Lots of fantasy goodness to go around.

One tip: Make sure you know your league rules on Thursday games. Some leagues make you lock rosters before kickoff of the first game. Others will let you change your roster, but not pick up guys after the first game starts. Still others will let you pick up/drop guys up until kickoff of their game that week.

Double check so you know what you're getting into for the first week. You've been warned!

We are just a few hours away from kickoff, and it's hard not to get pumped for the upcoming NFL (and fantasy!) season. Drafts are done, teams are set and now it's time to let the players do what they do: accumulate stats.

But if you're the type of owner who drafts a team and then sits back and hopes for the best, I assume you enjoy last place. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. Sure, we all had bad picks in our draft. But there's plenty you can do to rectify the situation. Here's a list of some guys that may still be available to plug any holes:

The big buzz word in fantasy sports is "sleepers." Everybody's looking for the next unknown player to emerge as a great value and win their league.
But sleepers come in all shapes and sizes ... and rounds of your draft. Here's a look at some of my great value picks, and where I think you should get them in the draft:

Quarterbacks
Tony Romo, Cowboys
He's almost too well known for his own good. When you think of Romo, you think of a guy who dates hot chicks, fumbles a lot and chokes in the clutch. But he's also quietly (kind of) put up some amazing numbers, especially last year. He won't throw more than a handful of interceptions, cut down the fumbles, and now has some great weapons in rookie Dez Bryant and emerging superstar Miles Austin.
Where to pick him: After the top four QBs (Brees, Manning, Brady, Rodgers) there's a glut of second-tier gunslingers. I would be perfectly happy with Romo as the next one off the board, even as high as the third round.

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Jacksonville Jaguars running back and consensus top-five pick Maurice Jones-Drew will miss the rest of the preseason, according to a report from the National Football Post.

According to the report, Jones-Drew has been dealing with meniscus issues in his knee stemming from a recent arthroscopic surgery.

If you've already drafted MJD, don't freak out. He's not expected to miss any regular-season action ... yet. But still, you'd like your top pick to have a clean bill of health heading into the season.

He was the third guy off my board, and clearly in the top tier of running backs (joined by Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice) that you should draft above anybody else. I'll keep him up there for now, but I won't fault you if you want to bump him down a few spots.

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There's an old saying that fantasy leagues are won and lost in the late rounds. While that is somewhat true - and you gain a tremendous advantage by gaining value from players nobody else is counting on - you're still gonna win or lose with your studs.

I am a big proponent of playing it safe in the first round. High risk/high reward wins leagues, but the last thing you want is your top pick sidelined or not producing enough to keep you in games. So, let's break down the probable top picks, at least, the way I see them:

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You think QB Brett Favre is rethinking that decision to come back to Minnesota for one more year? With news that star WR Sidney Rice is out at least half the season with a hip injury, and other WR Percy Harvin suffering from continual migraines, Favre's options just got a whole lot more limited. How limited?

The Vikings actually went out and signed Javon Walker. Hey, the guy had 1,000 receiving yards ... in 2006. Since then, he has amassed 408 yards in three years, including 0 yards in three games for the Raiders last year. So, uh, good luck with that.

What does this mean for fantasy purposes?

Player rankings - Wide Receivers

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One of the most crucial components of making sure your fantasy football draft is as successful as possible is your player rankings.

They'll help you make those tough decisions from the first few rounds up until the very end. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so it's very unlikely you'll find too many rankings on line that are completely the same.

So with that in mind, to make things easier, we've broken them down for you into tiers. The players are separated into groups based upon their overall fantasy production, potential, past performances, injuries and how we think they'll fare in 2008.

Players are listed in alphabetical order

About the bloggers

Matt Wood is a web editor for suntimes.com and editor of CenterstageChicago.com. He is also a contributor for satirical sports publication The Heckler. Have a fantasy question? E-mail him.

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