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Time to build winners

With another NFL season speeding toward us, it's time to get serious about Fantasy Football.

For my own preparation, I invested in 10 magazines too many, destroyed two computer mice while clicking on too many Web sites to count and inhaled more cups of coffee than any all-night finals cram session I ever pulled during my Fresno State experience.

The result: The creation of a 12-team, 16-round mock draft -- the first 13 picks of which I'll share with you here (check out the entire mock draft at modbee.com) and the reasons behind them.

This isn't intended to be the holy draft template. It's merely another point of view that could help you in preparing for your draft.

1. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers -- Tomlinson, the undisputed fantasy heavyweight champion, will be the first pick in every draft that doesn't include relatives of Steven Jackson or Larry Johnson.

Tomlinson set the bar ridiculously high in 2006 when he scored an NFL-record 31 touchdowns and displayed rare triple-threat ability by rushing for 1,815 yards, catching 56 passes for 508 yards and throwing for two scores.

One might expect a decline, but LT's quest for a Super Bowl ring could drive him to match or even surpass those numbers.

2. RB Steven Jackson, Rams -- Jackson, whose 2,334 yards from scrimmage (1,528 rushing and 806 receiving) led the NFL last season, says he wants to reach 2,500 yards this season. I wouldn't bet against him, nor would I bet against him topping last season's 16 TDs.

3. RB Larry Johnson, Chiefs -- There were more sightings of Elvis than Johnson until Kansas City's All-Pro running back ended his summer-long holdout Tuesday by signing a six-year, $45 million deal.

Phew. Glad that's over with.

It's once again safe to select LJ (1,789 yards and 19 TDs in '06) among the top three picks.

4. RB Shaun Alexander, Seahawks -- Alexander was the toast of the NFL two years ago, when he rushed for 1,880 yards and scored a then-record 28 TDs. A broken left foot cost him six games last season, but with his foot healed and the Madden Curse lifted (good luck, Vince Young), the former MVP is ready to run wild again.

5. RB Joseph Addai, Colts -- Too high you say? Think again. Addai can run (1,081 yards and seven TDs in 226 attempts), he can catch (40 receptions for 325 yards), and he's Indy's featured back now that Dominic Rhodes, with whom he split time as a rookie, has moved to Oakland.

Add another 100 or so carries at 4.8 yards a pop and another 30 to 40 receptions and Addai's stats become Tomlinson-esque.

6. QB Peyton Manning, Colts -- A Super Bowl ring with an MVP award attached to it, lucrative endorsement deals and a memorable host spot on "Saturday Night Live." It's good to be Peyton Manning.

And it's good to have the future Hall of Famer on your side. As certain as death and taxes, draft Manning and say hello to 4,200 yards and 35 TDs.

7. RB Frank Gore, 49ers -- A broken hand has made Gore a preseason spectator, which isn't a bad thing because it will keep the reigning NFC rushing champion's legs fresh for when the games count for real.

Gore set a franchise record by rushing for 1,695 yards and caught 61 passes for another 485 yards in '06. If San Francisco's offense continues to improve, Gore will get his yards and his touchdown total could jump from nine to 19.

8. RB Willie Parker, Steelers -- Parker (1,494 yards rushing, 16 TDs) was the only thing that went right in the Steelers' fall from Super Bowl champion to playoff outsider last season. No reason not to expect those type of numbers again.

9. RB Reggie Bush, Saints -- The former USC star posted modest numbers as a rookie last season with New Orleans, but we haven't see anything yet. He might not rush for 1,000 yards or catch 100 passes, but he could come close and he'll be the Saints' primary red-zone threat. Can you say 20 TDs?

10. RB Rudi Johnson, Bengals -- Solid, consistent and durable, Johnson will do what he always does: Rush for 1,400 yards and score 12 TDs.

11. RB Brian Westbrook, Eagles -- The injury risk is great, but so are the potential rewards a healthy Westbrook (1,217 yards and seven TDs rushing, 77 catches for 699 yards and four TDs) can bring.

Feeling lucky?

12. WR Chad Johnson, Bengals -- Why use your first pick on a second-tier back who offers no guarantees when you can have arguably the game's best receiver, who has averaged 93 catches, 1,359 yards and eight TDs the last three years?

13. QB Carson Palmer, Bengals -- He passed for 4,035 yards and 28 TDs in his first season after having his knee rebuilt. Imagine the possibilities now that his health and confidence no longer are in question. Pairing him with Johnson could be gold.

Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at srosenberg@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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