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It's time for fantasy football: Tools to help

If you're a fantasy football player, you're probably wondering what kind of tools will help you start the league and beat your friends. We have you covered on both counts.

After several months of waiting, fantasy football is finally back. Football fans all over the U.S. are gearing up to take on friends as they compete to find out who has what it takes to capture this year's crown.

To achieve that goal, you'll need the right tools. That's where we come in. Check out these tools for the fantasy football player.

Get your fantasy on

League creation

CBS Fantasy Football If you're looking for a full-featured fantasy product, check out CBS Fantasy Football.

After you sign up for CBS Fantasy Football, you can either join a public league or create your own private league for free. The app makes it easy to find players, you have the option of online and offline drafting, and customizing your league takes just seconds. When you finally create your league, you'll find everything from expert advice to draft kits. The service has some really nice features. (Disclosure: CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)

CBS Fantasy Football is a great fantasy game option. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

ESPN Fantasy Football ESPN Fantasy Football features everything you'd want from a fantasy service.

After you sign up for the free Fantasy Football on ESPN, you can opt to join a public or private game. From there, you can rank you players, research those that will provide the best chances of helping your team, and more. Thanks to ESPN's wealth of information, you can research any stat you want. Playing in the ESPN league is simple and fun. But I had one issue with ESPN's service: the company's "Insider" offering, which provides the best information on players, will cost you $3.33 per month for access to it. That's a bummer.

ESPN Fantasy Football provides information on every player. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Fox Sports Fantasy Football Fox Sports has a fine fantasy football service with all the basics. But unfortunately, it can't quite stack up to the competition.

Fox Sports Fantasy Football service features private leagues, online drafts, and player research. But where it lacks is in the relatively little amount of information you can gather about players. It has expert advice and some stat information, but those stats aren't nearly as detailed as they should be. It was a glaring omission that would make me think twice about Fox's service.

Fox Sports
Fox Sports' stats information isn't as nice as it could be. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

NFL Fantasy Football The National Football League's Fantasy Football game isn't the best service in this roundup, but if you want the authentic game, is the place to be.

NFL Fantasy Football's greatest benefit is its expert advice. You'll find important information on every player on your team, the likelihood of them playing in the coming weeks, and more. NFL Fantasy Football's design is quite nice too. All in all, it's a fine service for the fantasy football player.

NFL Fantasy Football tells you which players to gun for. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Yahoo Fantasy Football Yahoo's Fantasy Football game is one of the most highly respected services in the space for good reason.

When you create your own fantasy league, you'll see the real value of Yahoo's Fantasy Football. You can choose to play in a "head-to-head" league or play a points game where the only thing that matters is how well your team performs collectively. The games are free, but the better you do, the greater your chances of earning prizes in the public leagues. Researching players is quick and easy. Adjusting your team is a cinch. I could go on, but suffice it to say that Yahoo Fantasy Football is one of the services to beat this year.

Yahoo's Fantasy Service gives you several league-creation options. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Tools to improve your team

FantasyFootball If you're looking for a wealth of stats and information about all your players, FantasyFootball is for you.

Unlike so many other services, FantasyFootball doesn't just cater to those looking for the big names. Sure, it has those big names, but if you're playing in a large league with some no-names on your team, FantasyFootball will tell you everything you need to know about those players. The site's articles are also worth checking out.

FantasyFootball has some great depth charts. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Fantasy Football Champs Fantasy Football Champs is one of my favorite resources when I get ready for the season. It features a slew of statistical tools that will help you find the right players before the draft.

Fantasy Football Champs features two main attractions: Cheatsheet and Team Analyzer. Cheatsheet tells you which players to start each week, based on a series of matchups the site calculates to help you out. Team Analyzer runs similar calculations, but directs those at the different teams in the league. Trying to find the best team defense this week? Want to know which team will likely win? Want to know which players on those teams will perform well? Team Analyzer will let you know. In my experience, those predictions are quite accurate. But before you start heading to Fantasy Football Champs, be aware that access to all that content will cost you $16.95 annually.

Fantasy Football
Fantasy Football Champs has some great statistical content. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Fantasy Football Sharks While many of its competitors are offering outstanding services for a fee, Fantasy Football Sharks doesn't do anything of the sort. In fact, you can pick up some great information from the service for free.

Fantasy Football Sharks features articles from fantasy football experts. They're informative, but the best part of the site is its player-projections page, which features a searchable "cheatsheet" to give you help drafting players, as well as player projections and analysis. I found the most use in the site's player projections. There, you can search through the different players you're interested in to see how Fantasy Football Sharks believes they will perform. Those calculations are based on past performance, the player's schedule difficulty this year, and other factors. It's an extremely handy tool. I like Fantasy Football Sharks. And since it's free, it might be one of the better options in this roundup.

Fantasy Sharks
Fantasy Football Sharks has some outstanding analysis tools. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Fantasy Football Xtreme If you're looking for some draft help, Fantasy Football Xtreme is definitely worth checking out. It features everything from rookie listings to its own draft picks, based on expert opinions.

When you first get to Fantasy Football Xtreme, you might be a little overwhelmed by the amount of information it packs onto the screen. Once you get used to it, you'll find that it's filled with information you'll definitely want with you when you draft players. The site includes rankings, rookie evaluations, and some of the most informative stat-tracking tools I've ever used. The site's Mock Draft feature is another handy tool for helping you determine who to pick up for your team. But like many of the services in this roundup, you'll be forced to pay for some of the better information. Fantasy Football Xtreme will set you back $19.95 annually for access to everything on the site.

Fantasy Football Xtreme
Fantasy Football Xtreme sports some great analysis tools. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

1. FantasyFootball: With so many great features and in-depth content, FantasyFootball is a fine site for any fantasy football player.

2. Fantasy Football Sharks: It has all the content you'll find elsewhere, but it's free. Nice.

3. Fantasy Football Champs: Fantasy Football Champs distinguishes itself with such great content.