It’s time to report to fantasy camp |

It’s time to report to fantasy camp

Steve Yingling

Admit it. You didn’t used to think about the NFL season this far in advance. In a former life, you ran, swam, golfed and rode your mountain bike during these ideal summer months.

Although training camps are just opening and the first kickoff isn’t until Sept. 7, you find yourself poring over last year’s statistics, scouring Internet for reports on players rehabbing offseason surgeries and spending entirely too much time in front of the magazine section in the grocery store.

If you took your notebook outside in the 90-degree heat, you could whine right along with the NFL stars that the season is too long. But if you don’t report to training camp along with the players, you’ll pay in December and January.

In today’s fantasy world, it’s never too early to consider who you’ll choose with your first pick. Should you spend it on a historically high-scoring running back Shaun Alexander, who is part of an offensive juggernaut in Seattle? Or you might follow the majority and select Priest Holmes successor Larry Johnson as your No. 1. The only knock on Johnson is that blocking back Tony Richardson is no longer with the Chiefs.

Then again, how can you forget about some of the monster seasons that “L.T.” has produced in San Diego? LaDainian Tomlinson has bolted to the top of the draft boards with regularity because he catches passes almost as well as he picks holes between the tackles. Remember, though, that Philip Rivers is the new starting QB in San Diego and that may decrease Tomlinson’s effectiveness.

Perhaps you don’t want to designate that first choice on a running back. You think Indy quarterback Peyton Manning will revert back to his record-setting 2004 form now that his team has lost its “Edge.”

You may not make a tougher decision in the coming year than when it’s your turn to pick and that 90-second countdown has started to tick. First-round picks can determine how good Christmas will be for the kids.

But let’s not place too much emphasis on that first pick, not when you have 13 or more other selections to shape your team. No matter where you’re positioned to pick in the first round, you can’t go wrong taking a running back. There aren’t too many quality ones. And by quality, I mean those that remain in the backfield on third down and, more importantly, inside the 10. Grab them while you can.

But don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on Manning with any pick inside the top 10, because on some Sundays he’ll help you win all by himself.

My top 12 are: 1. Shaun Alexander, 2. Larry Johnson, 3. Peyton Manning, 4. LaDainian Tomlinson, 5. Rudi Johnson, 6. Clinton Portis, 7. Ronnie Brown, 8. Tiki Barber, 9. Steven Jackson, 10. Edgerrin James, 11. Domanick Davis, 12. Cadillac Williams.

Don’t stress too long about that No. 1. Before you know it, Lake Tahoe Golf Course will be covered with snow and your kids will be riding your mountain bike.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or

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