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NFL Fantasy football: Some late draft tips

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Howard Green (95) sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (7) during first half an

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Howard Green (95) sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (7) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

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Updated: November 26, 2011 12:26AM

Everything changes in my fantasy universe tonight.

Since 1992, when I first got hooked, I’ve plied my craft exclusively with other men. Mostly neighborhood guys, church friends, work colleagues and high school and college buddies scattered around the country. Those drafts are distinguished by an abundant supply of trash talking, heavy carbohydrates and foul odors.

Tonight, I’ll attend a draft that includes four women, including (gasp!) my wife. Those who know my lovely spouse might now be checking the ski conditions in hell, or perhaps hunkering down in North Dakota in anticipation of Armageddon. But apparently anything is possible when someone decides to organize a co-ed family league.

Mind you, I have no objection to this development. I’ve been trying to get her to play for years in hopes that she might finally understand, well, you know, The Obsession. And the food is bound to be better.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, roughly 20 percent of all fantasy players are women. That’s about 5.4 million ladies who share a passion for the game. And there’s plenty of room for growth, if you scan the stands at games Sunday. I’d be surprised if women aren’t the fastest-growing segment of the market in the next several years.

We’ll see whether my wife sticks with it. After all, her knowledge of NFL players barely extends beyond a handful of Cowboys and Brett Favre. She owns the second pick and already has settled on Chris Johnson. Perfect. But after that, things get a bit fuzzy. “Either a quarterback or wide receiver.” OK .  .  .

All I know is I’m excited and I’m proud of her. This could be the start of something special. Maybe she’ll join me on the couch for a couple hours Sunday. Maybe she’ll actually start reading my columns after eight years of indifference.

Yeah, right. Who am I kidding?

In the end, I don’t care if she selects an Oompa Loompa in Round 15. She has entered my fantasy world. And after two decades of marriage, that can’t possibly be a bad thing.

Last-minute news

Let’s take a quick look at some developments that could affect late drafters.

◆ The Colts reported that Peyton Manning had a setback in his rehab from neck surgery and “will likely be doubtful” for the opener against the Texans. The team said he’s experiencing back soreness, but unsubstantiated rumors are flying that Manning might require another neck procedure. Regardless, it doesn’t sound good for the fantasy star or his receivers. Manning is officially on my “do not draft” list — unless he falls to the middle rounds — and I am downgrading the Colts’ receivers significantly. Austin Collie (foot) also might miss
Week 1. Kerry Collins conceivably could be directing this offense for a month or more. Yuck.

◆ A cracked rib could keep Matt Cassel out of Week 1, which would put Tyler Palko under center for the Chiefs. You can’t feel real comfortable starting Dwayne Bowe under those circumstances.

◆ You know the Chris Johnson holdout saga is finally over, which means he should be drafted first or second. But worries about last year’s top fantasy back, Arian Foster, were heightened when he tweeted his MRI exam. The image seems to indicate that his hamstring isn’t fully healed, but the Texans said they expect him to play in Week 1. If he slides to the middle of the first round, or later, someone is going to get a bargain.

◆ With Tim Hightower now manning the starting job in Washington, Beanie Wells has the opportunity he craves to become the featured back the Cardinals drafted him to be. He has been a huge disappointment to date, but if Wells can stay healthy, he can far outperform his current draft position. Meanwhile, the team added Chester Taylor, but he won’t get many carries if Wells delivers.

◆ Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings, whom I recommended picking up very late in my Perfect Draft column, was put on injured reserve with a knee injury. I anticipate a great deal of work for Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup this season, but now that Jennings is gone, it’s hard to say who that will be. Deji Karim is the next guy in line, but I believe we’ll see a free-agent runner heading to Jacksonville shortly. Unless Jones-Drew goes down early, there’s no need to waste a roster spot on Karim.

Miles Austin hasn’t suited up all preseason, and he’ll almost certainly draw Darrelle Revis in the Cowboys’ season opener against the Jets. I’m just saying.

◆ It will be interesting to watch how Sam Bradford distributes his passes in the early going. The Rams have an unheralded receiving corps that includes veteran Mike Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, along with rookie tight end Lance Kendricks. Sims-Walker has an excellent chance to return to fantasy relevance, and Gibson is a sleeper with great upside. Amendola has real value in point-per-reception leagues as a strong possession receiver, but he’s unlikely to post many scores. Kendricks probably isn’t ready for prime time yet.

◆ Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki (knee) landed on injured reserve. That’s unfortunate because he flashed potential as a rookie.

Garrett Hartley will miss at least six to eight weeks with a hip flexor, so the Saints’ plum kicking job goes to veteran John Kasay. He should produce well while he’s the man, so don’t hesitate to draft him late. Just understand that you’ll probably need to swap him for Hartley at some point before the Saints’ Week 11 bye.

◆ The Cowboys settled on rookie Dan Bailey as their field-goal kicker, in a modest surprise. David Buehler was retained to handle kickoffs. If you’re going to draft a rookie kicker, you’re much safer with the Eagles’ Alex Henery.

Lawrence Tynes is dealing with a thigh bruise, and he could potentially miss Week 1. Rhys Lloyd would handle the Giants’ kicking duties if Tynes can’t go. Avoid them both for now.

◆ Don’t forget: The season kicks off Thursday. Make certain that you lock your Packers and Saints in your starting lineup in advance. It’s go time!

Ladd Biro was named the 2010 Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice at the Fantasy Fools blog (, on Facebook and via ­Twitter (@ladd_biro). His preseason ­positional rankings are posted here:

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