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The Taming of the Geek

Last summer, I made my initial contributions to Fantasy Sharks with the article, ‘War and Draft,’ which was followed by an article I called ‘The General Theory of Entertainment, Interest and Funny.’ Times have changed since these pieces. Fantasy sports are headed down a new, digitalized path – a path which I had began to anticipate long over a year ago. In a direction that had been in the making for some time now. A new era has truly come to fruition. Maybe I am being overdramatic, but this new path may make things a lot more difficult for some of us who have been playing this fantasy game for a while, and who have had a long-standing advantage over the casual fan. But we shall march on.

This manifestation has occurred on the computer in front of you and on the television in the living room. With the ever-expanding fantasy universe on the web, the introduction of Twitter and Facebook, and of course the individual blog, every type of fantasy player, whether passionate or not, can call themselves a fantasy “expert” and give advice. More importantly, they also have the information at their disposal to become a league contender year in and out, even with limited research.

Maybe they do not go out of their way and spend hours writing contributions on fantasy websites for no pay (wink, wink) or building excel spreadsheets projecting results for the upcoming season, but the necessary information to win is readily available. The disparity between super geeks (come on, admit it) and the general public is dwindling. It’s easy to notice, and has been talked about by others but basically, fantasy sports have become mainstream.

What an everyday casual fantasy player can learn by doing a couple of hours of research on the internet (decent research in the right places) can put him in a position where a fantasy “fanatic” like myself may not have much of an upper hand. Throw in the usual luck, unpredictability of the game and a few glances at SportsCenter during the day and there you have it. The playing field isn’t necessarily leveled, but the scale is not tipping as largely as it had in the past. Dumb Jimmy Manager doesn’t always exist anymore and if he does, he is no longer picking Adam Vinatieri in the first round.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an advocate of the expansion of the game and the ability of people like me to try and get their names and ideas out to the general public. I am also an advocate of tougher competition and educated leagues which make me a better player. I love this game so much that I endorse the transition. A little more the merrier and survival of the fittest
. I look around and see opinions on my phone and websites like that of FantasySharks and appreciate the new ideas that the mainstream media and its correspondents have never developed or shined light on. All I am saying is that this is just evidence that fantasy is obviously growing and is everywhere. With that, people are exposed to it more.

For example, instead of just buying a magazine and walking in on draft day, Jimmy Manager may be checking his Twitter feed and is introduced to a new article. He’s like screw it; I have a few minutes. He likes the article. He remembers the site and then visits it more often. Jimmy Manager becomes a little more educated. Jimmy Manager begins to remember what worked for him and what doesn’t and evolves as a fantasy owner. He is no longer just mowing through his top 200 list from website A, but now is assessing player values and different strategies.


The interweb, man.

Now we loyalists must look forward. But how do we do that? How do we stay ahead of the pack? Tough question, which I may not have an answer for, but perhaps you have already found it. Let me know.

There are advanced statistics, but in fantasy football, I believe there is only so much room for these. The unpredictability and luck I had mentioned before render some of this analysis moot. There are too many moving parts in football, too many changes from year to year. The sample set is too small for players in situations, unlike baseball.

I would like to point out I am a fan and student of advanced statistics like those provided by Football Outsiders. They have helped my understanding of the game and have helped me in fantasy drafts and also during the season. But if you were to ask me if reading the entire Football Outsiders Almanac would give me a significant advantage, one that could swing a title, over my friend Jimmy Manager in fantasy football who looked around a few good sites for a few hours, then I would call you crazy. Assuming Jimmy did any sort of research on the internet.

I don’t have any definitive advice for us in the old school. No revolutionary tip. Look, put yourself in the best position possible. If you’re a numbers guy, take a weekend and read the almanac. If you’re a feel guy, watch some tape (I mentioned in War and Draft that watching games is extremely important). But also take some time to try and think outside the box. I can tell you one thing. The weapons in the NFL are expanding. Positions are becoming watered down. Taking multiple wide receivers or runningbacks from pass happy or run happy (respectively of course) offenses, I believe is a good idea. It is something that shouldn’t be ignored at all.

In conclusion, I have some insight on players, and how about this for thinking outside the box: no research. No stats. Just a few guys off the top of my head who I feel could be surprising movers and shakers. I admit to doing no significant research on these guys and could definitely be wrong. I tried to go a little under the radar so it wouldn’t be the obvious guys who you already know and love. I have also explained my thinking, so you could apply it elsewhere.

Keep in mind these are just a few guys who I give my vote of confidence in. Remember, it is all relative. I am not saying take the below guys over proven stars or players you like more. I am also not saying these guys will necessarily win you championship if you put them together. I just like the scenarios they are in and their potential. Draft accordingly.

Quarterbacks: Jay Cutler, Kevin Kolb

Wow, it hurts to say Cutler, but the value is there. I think the offensive line can only get better, the defense can only get better, the wide receivers can only get better and, in turn, Cutler can only get better. Johnny Knox looks like a legitimate talent (right?) and Devin Aromashodu showed chemistry with Cutler towards the end of the season. The pressure from last season is off of his shoulders and the expectations have been subdued to an extent. The million interceptions? Yeah, about that …

Kolb, on the other hand, might be in a similar situation to the aforementioned Cutler’s first season in

. That could prove to be a detriment. However, the talent around him is tremendous. The Philadelphia Eagles are in place to win right away and although the fans are ruthless, they know they have a good, young foundation in place. When he replaced the injured Donovan McNabb, Kolb put up huge numbers, all the while displaying great chemistry with

’s other young weapons, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek.

Runningbacks: Shonn Greene, Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells

Both are in similar situations: second-year running backs who are about to take over the reigns. I do feel that the New York Jets will try to get LaDainian Tomlinson some work, especially early in the season. It might be goal line and situational work and it will hurt Greene’s value, but I wouldn’t be too scared. The cream will rise to the top. That offensive line, in a cold weather city, on a team that still has a young quarterback and will like to run the ball all spell a big season for the tailback.

Wells, on the other hand, seems to have full reigns on the job. Tim Hightower is an option, but like Tomlinson, I think

will realize they are best served going with the more talented back. When you throw in an elite wide receiver that safeties need to keep an eye on and impending trouble at quarterback, Wells looks to take on the bulk of the workload. Also, remember that the NFC West is not composed of the strongest defenses in the NFL.

Wide receiver: Steve Breaston, Kenny Britt

Breaston will now be a number two and will try to build on his past success. Breaston will benefit for many of the same reasons that Wells will. Attention on Larry Fitzgerald and the looming hole at quarterback (which looks to be Matt Leinart). It looks to be a good scenario for the type of player Breaston is. And no proven tight end? Sounds like a Wes Welker-esque safety valve situation. He was already a decent option in points-per-reception leagues and I feel those numbers will increase. I could easily see at least 70-plus receptions this season with more touchdowns than his previous two seasons.

Britt also has the benefit of playing with a bonafide megastar. Chris Johnson stretches defenses thin and there needs to be some passing. Britt has a ton of talent and proved it last year. It also seems that Vince Young formed a connection with the former
Rutgers star. However, I do see Britt’s value tied a lot more to Young and Johnson than that of Breaston with Fitzgerald and the


(Wait … did I just talk about two guys whose quarterbacks are probably Young and Leinart? Eww. Well, I like Pierre Garcon a lot too. Does that redeem me?)

Tight End: Dustin Keller, Jermichael Finley

Both of these guys look like prototypical receiving tight ends. They are extremely athletic and a significant threat in their respective offenses. I do think Finley is head and shoulders a better fantasy choice then Keller. The movement of Aaron Rodgers into the elite class and the explosive Green Bay Packer offense ensure that he will put up big numbers. Finley is an absolute beast and can easily move into the upper echelon of NFL tight ends if not all the way to the top.

Keller, on the other hand, has less upside, but I do like his role on the New York Jets. Mark Sanchez and the

New York
offense loves the roll out pass and who better to catch that than the tight end? Bootleg baby! Keller started to get better as the year carried on and Sanchez should get better in his second year. I feel that they may develop a solid connection.


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