Your last minute draft checklist

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The fourth season of FX's sitcom "The League" begins on October 11 and I couldn't be more excited about it.

One of my favorite lines from the show came in Season 2 when Pete suggested that a trophy be given out to whoever finishes the season in last place.

"Do you have anything to fill your sad existence of a life besides fantasy football?" Ruxin asked in response to Pete's proposal.

"Absolutely not," Pete answered with confidence.

I'm right there with you, Pete.

Tom Cruise chose to accept scientology as his way of life. My religion is fantasy football.

With two drafts coming up in the next 48 hours, it's officially crunch time for me and the rest of the fantasy football universe.

Thousands of drafts will be happening between now and kickoff Wednesday night at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey when the New York Giants take on the Dallas Cowboys in the 2012 season opener. In case you're not up to speed on all of this year's fantasy happenings, here are a few quick hits you can take with you to the draft:

1. Maurice Jones-Drew is in play again: MJD's holdout has given fantasy owners plenty of sleepless nights the past couple of weeks. "What if he's not back for Week 1?" we wondered nervously as the calendar inched closer to September 9. Thankfully, Jones-Drew's status is no longer in question. The 27-year-old reported to Jaguars camp on Sunday and now that he's back, the three-time Pro Bowler should be a first round pick in all fantasy formats.

2. Think sophomore slump: Andy Dalton and Cam Newton both had phenomenal rookie seasons but I'm not as high on them heading into this year's campaign. Dalton faded down the stretch last season (75.8 QB rating, 54.8 completion percentage in the second half) and Newton is always an injury risk with his Michael Vick-esque scrambling tendencies. Newton still has plenty to offer in the way of fantasy. I just don't think he'll be able to repeat last season's statistical masterpiece.

3. If you're going to draft a defense early: Make it San Francisco. The 49ers were relentless when it came to forcing turnovers last season (league- best 38 TO) and nobody was stingier against the run (1,236 rushing yards allowed). Only the Pittsburgh Steelers surrendered fewer points than the 229 San Francisco allowed in 2011.

4. Eli is the better Manning: I never thought I'd be saying this but it's finally true. Peyton looked shaky during the preseason (two TD passes, three INT) and it's clear that his recent injury history has sapped him of some of his arm strength. Meanwhile, Eli threw for 4,933 yards last season, a feat Peyton has never accomplished. Eli will also benefit from playing with a much stronger receiving corps (Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks) than the one Peyton will be playing with in Denver this season. I'm going baby bro all the way.

5. Philip Rivers is bound for a bounceback year: Rivers saw his QB rating fall from 101.8 in 2010 to just 88.7 last year after tallying a career-high 20 interceptions (third-most in the NFL). Even during an off-year, the 30-year- old Rivers still managed to throw for 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns. I find it hard to believe that a player with as much talent as Rivers could have two bad seasons in a row. Mark him down for 30 TD in 2012.

6. Don't draft Jets: No good can come from this horrible system. Tim Tebow looked as lost as ever this preseason and Mark Sanchez sure didn't wow anybody with his terrible 59.6 QB rating in three exhibition appearances (all losses for the Jets). Wide receiver Santonio Holmes is coming off of his worst season (career-low 654 receiving yards in 16 games) and bulky halfback Shonn Greene seemed to be stuck in neutral for much of the 2011 campaign (just 4.2 yards per carry). There's just nobody you can count on in this offense. Heck, even the defense underachieved last season (13th in rushing defense after finishing 3rd in 2010). Stay far far away from gang green in this year's draft.

7.Darren McFadden is money: It's true that the former Arkansas star has never played more than 13 games in a season and has only cracked the 1,000 yard plateau on one occasion. But let's look at the positives. His 5.4 yards per carry last season was the NFL's fourth-highest and had he played all 16 games, McFadden would have been on pace to reach 1,403 rushing yards, which would have been the second-most in the league. With Michael Bush on the Bears now, the Raiders will need McFadden more than ever this season. Expect the 25-year- old to produce a monster season for the silver and black.

8. Julio Jones is the real deal: The Atlanta receiver emerged as one of Matt Ryan's top targets during his memorable rookie season in 2011 (eight TD, 959 receiving yards). The former Alabama star should be equally filthy in 2012. In fact, we're so high on Jones that we tabbed him as the NFL's third-best wideout in this year's fantasy rankings. Sure it's a bold prediction but bold is what wins championships. If you're brave enough to hitch your wagon to Jones this season, you won't be disappointed.

9. Arian Foster is the best fantasy player in the game: He essentially missed four games last season (he missed three but only carried the rock 10 times after re-injuring his hamstring in Week 2) and still finished with the fourth- most rushing yards in the league. Only Jones-Drew had a higher yards per game average in 2012 and no player in football has run for as many rushing touchdowns as Foster since 2010 (26 scores in 29 games). Foster is this year's "sure thing."

As Vince Vaughn said in the timeless comedy "Wedding Crashers," now it's time to "grab that net and catch that beautiful butterfly." Good luck fantasy owners.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at

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