Analyzing the experts

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Baseball has Tout and LABR as the pre-eminent experts fantasy leagues. But historically, football hasn't had a pre-eminent experts league. Probably the closest thing to it is Yahoo!'s Friends and Family League, but that league includes so many Yahoo! guys it can't get in the guys form the other major media networks (noticeably absent this year were some of the big wigs from the four letter network)

So this year as we launched Fantasy Football 2008 on Facebook, I decided to call in all my personal favors and create a top-flight fantasy football experts league. In addition I invited one random fan to play against the experts.

What is the prize for first place, you ask? Well since it's on Facebook, I thought it only appropriate to make it something centered around the most important Facebook commodity -- the profile picture. Yes that's right the winner of the Fantasy Football 2008 Experts League will get to have their profile picture as my profile picture for one month with the heading underneath that says, "X is king" (or the best fantasy football expert in the world, whatever I feel like at that time")

You can see the full rosters here and follow the league all season at Fantasy Football 2008 Experts League.

As for my team, I'm happy that Brandon Funston and Aaron Schatz both like it and I'm very happy with my RBs and QB situation. I need a few things to break right for me in the WR department, but in a league with so many knowledgeable people I was happy to come out with what I consider to be one of the top four teams post-draft. Sixteen weeks left to go.

Let's see what the experts have to say for themselves.

Brandon Funston, Funny Face, Yahoo! Fantasy Sports

You are heavily invested in the K.C. offense. Does this represent optimism? Or value based on talent?

Optimism for the Chiefs offense? Hardly. I'm not thrilled with owning two Chiefs that will start regularly for me, but Larry Johnson couldn't be ignored with pick No. 17 overall. He's one of very who could notch 300 carries. I'm looking for yards and touchdowns here, not yards per carry. And Dwayne Bowe, at No. 65, was a pick that filled a need at the time. He's my 22nd-ranked WR, and I made him the 25th receiver picked in this draft, so I liked the value.

During the draft you remarked after you took Ray Rice that you made a decision to reach and take the guy you wanted. Do you really think this was a reach? What kind of season would Rice have to have for you to be happy with this pick?

No, I copped that "reach" excuse at the time, but I'm really an unabashed Rice supporter. And at pick No. 80, I could afford to role the dice on his upside. I've had bad vibes for Willis McGahee for a long time and I suspect that now that Rice has his foot in the door with the first team offense (because of McGahee's knee surgery), it's the first step toward McGahee finding a new home in '09.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

My least favorite draft would be the Peach Pits. He had to pay a buzz-inflated price for Jerricho Cotchery (No. 42), the multi-question-marked Willis McGahee is his No. 2 back and his RB backups (Julius Jones, Chester Taylor and Kolby Smith) either lack upside or playing time, or both. BP's Funny Shaped Balls also looks a bit shaky. Felix Jones at No. 35 overall might have been the biggest reach I've seen in all my drafts. And he paid too steep a price for his three Colts (Peyton Manning No. 11, Marvin Harrison No. 38 and Dallas Clark No. 62)

It felt like Asians Against Ted Jones was drafting with my cheat sheet in hand. He ended up with the best QB (Tom Brady), a fine stable of RBs -- four starters in MoJo, Graham, Kevin Smith and Chris Perry -- a upper class TE (Tony Gonzalez) and a serviceable receiving corps. This, along with and Ickey Shuffle, was one of my favorite teams from the draft.

Aaron Schatz, Disgruntled Kenneth,

You have a lot of question marks at what many consider to be the most important fantasy position of running back? Which two of your five do you think will end up as your starters?

I hate being the last pick in a standard "snake" draft. In fact, I just dislike standard "snake" drafts in general. There's no doubt the last person on the list gets worse talent. When that first round came to me, it just made sense to take wide receivers as the best value.

You are always going to end up with more wide receivers as strong value in a league that starts three wide receivers. At a certain point, I kept taking the guys who were the best value and there just weren't starting running backs left. I'm guessing I'll be starting Fred Taylor and Ronnie Brown most of the year; I just can't believe that the Dolphins are seriously going to start Ricky Williams over Brown all season. Williams has never been as good as Brown was over the past couple years.

You are known as one of the leaders in statistical analysis in football. Which of your picks are supported by strong analytical indicators?

All of them, I suppose. I basically used our KUBIAK fantasy football projections. I'm particularly proud of the defense and kicker picks, which were our highest ranked kicker and defense. I believe these positions can be projected with some accuracy, contrary to popular belief, and that we have the best projections out there at these positions.

Excluding your team which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

Actually, Jeff, I think that giving it a very quick once over I like your team the best. I love every team out there that takes Peyton Manning this year; I can't believe how undervalued he seems to be, but the rest of Will's team doesn't seem quite as strong as the rest of your team after Brady. We're higher on Graham than most people, because I don't think people understand just how bad Warrick Dunn was last year and how little he seems to have left. Perry now becomes a great backup. The one question I think is the wide reecivers. Lee Evans is one of those guys who comes out with good numbers at the end but has lots of great and bad games in between, and you have a lot counting on Santana Moss bouncing back a bit.

I really don't like Liss' team. The situation around Jay Cutler is terrible -- he's talented, sure, but their offensive line is far less experienced than at any time in recent Broncos history, and there's basically one quality receiver, Brandon Marshall, and that's it. Michael Turner is another overrated player who is going from a great situation to an awful situation with no offensive line on a bad team that will never be running out the clock. Reggie Williams' 10 touchdowns last year were a colossal, colossal fluke. Rudi Johnson, of course, got released.

Matthew Berry, Peach Pits,

Cotchery seems to be the expert's pick this season. How much is his value tied to Favre's arrival in NY?

It's tied to Brett Favre in the sense that any WR's value is tied to a QB, but Cotchery has had over 80 receptions for two straight years and has increased his yardage every year he has been in the league. Now an improved offensive line will help the running game which will help loosen defense on the passing game. I was high on Cotchery before the Favre signing for these reasons -- getting an upgrade at QB (sorry, Chad) only helps matters. Absolutely love him this season.

McGahee has been an interesting guy in many drafts as concerns about his injury, and Rice's talent has caused him to slip lower and lower in drafts. What kind of performance would justify your third round selection and what round would you advise owners of Willis to draft Ray Rice in?

Yeah, I took him with the plan on grabbing Rice as a handcuff but Funston took him about five rounds too early. So I grabbed Kolby Smith just because Brandon has Larry Johnson. I took McGahee there for a few reasons. One, we only play two running backs in this league, so you can take a few more chances. If McGahee puts up the numbers he did last year, when he was the 8th best fantasy running back, despite basically missing the last two games ... then this is a steal. If not ... then I can find a No. 2 running back during the year or in one of my high upside guys I grabbed later. I just felt the potential upside was too great to pass on in the third round. To answer your questions directly, McGahee needs to be a top 30 player for me this year overall to justify his draft round. Last year, that was 187 fantasy points. Which means I need 1,400 total yards and 7 touchdowns. Which is what he did last year except he had eight touchdowns. As for what round to grab Rice, I would say you need him by the 7th to be safe. Not everyone is as nuts as Funston.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

Thought Karabell had the best draft, Will Carroll the worst.

Jeff Erickson, Ickey Shuffle,

You have two clear starters at WR but three question marks (with tremendous upside after that). Which of the three to you have the highest hopes for? Why?

I'm not especially happy with my receiving corps. I tried something different in this draft than I usually do, and I've left myself exposed at that third spot. Between Patrick Crayton, Sidney Rice and Robert Meachem, Crayton is probably the safest of the three, but Meachem has the highest upside if he can secure the No. 2 job in the Saints' prolific passing game. Don't be surprised if I'm aggressive early and often on the waiver for another receiver.

You took the Kellen Winslow off the board before Antonio Gates but after Witten had already been taken. Where do you rank these three? And how much better is Winslow than Gates?

Witten is my top tight end, but Winslow and Gates are both in that same quadrant. I chose Winslow over Gates because I'm less concerned about Winslow missing an early game or two. Overall, tight end is deeper than it has appeared in the past -- I'm happy taking Winslow in the fifth, but I would have been nearly equally happy to wait on the likes of Owen Daniels if there was another receiver I liked just as much.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

I hate slagging another team, especially in an experts league. But I'll say that Will Carroll has the riskiest team, with only four running backs, and only two of those that are starting. In his shoes, I would have eschewed a backup QB for Manning, and a backup TE, in lieu of adding two more RBs.

Funston's team looks really dangerous. McFadden is his third RB, yet he somehow managed to get three great receivers (Houshmandzadeh, Burress, Bowe) and a tolerable tight end in Daniels. Hell, his fourth receiver (Hines Ward) probably is better than my third.

Chris Liss, Defenestrators,

You have taken Alge Crumpler in just about every draft I've seen you in. This draft was no different. Why do you like Crumpler so much this season and what do you expect out of him.

Crumpler was a perennial top-7 TE until last season when he was hurt. And he's healthy now. Moreover, he's in Tennessee, where coach Jeff Fisher and new/former offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger love to use the tight end (Think McNair to Wycheck). Vince Young has terrible receivers, and he's been leaning heavily on Crumpler this preseason. Considering that Crumpler was the 10th TE off the board (Round 10), he's a good value. (And that's about where he's gone in most of my leagues).

After doing the obvious and taking LT with No. 1, what is your thought process when coming back with your 2nd and 3rd picks there? Did you get the guys you wanted or were there others that you targeted that were unavailable?

I wanted to get Adrian Peterson and Joseph Addai on the way back, but they were gone. I had to settle for Michael Turner (with whom I'm pretty happy) and then it was either Steve Smith or Brandon Marshall, both of whom are suspended. I think it's important to have a criminal element on a fantasy team, and Smith was exactly the type of sociopath I was looking for. Also, knowing he's out two games makes it easy to plan -- it's not like he's questionable for Week 1 and then does nothing -- I'll get two weeks of production from a sub -- in this case, it turns out, Smith's replacement Muhsin Muhammad, who will be Carolina's de facto No. 1 while Smith is out. I would have liked to get Colston or Fitzgerald also, but they were gone.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

Will Carroll should probably just use the RotoWire rankings and stop taking fantasy advice from Peter King. Funston and Erickson both drafted pretty well I thought.

David Sabino, I'm Here for Brett,

You don't have what many would consider to be a No. 1 receiver? Was this by design? If so which three of your guys do you think will end up being the starters?

The chance to get two every-down running backs (AP, Ryan Grant) plus my second-rated quarterback (Tony Romo) was just too tempting with my first three picks, and then by the time the fourth round got back to me, the receivers who had fallen that far were all similar risk/reward plays. Since both of my backs have the same bye week (slight mistake) I decided to make a play for Ricky Williams in the fifth. He'll see lots of run for the new regime in Miami (my favorite team) and provides both depth and insurance. So yes, it was by design but decided on the fly.

My top three guys are Chris Chambers, who should provide 8-10 TDs for the Chargers, Nate Burleson, who's the only healthy long threat in a pass-oriented offense, and Jabar Gaffney, who lines up opposite Randy Moss (with Wes Welker in the slot) for the NFL's best offense. Also, receivers are usually the easiest players to pick up during the season so I'm not too worried. And I have the top tight end (Jason Witten) who puts up the same numbers as a leading wideout.

Obviously taking AP with the No. 2 pick is a no brainer to most. Was it to you? Was there anyone else you would consider there?

With the kind of year he had, Tom Brady was certainly a consideration. So was Joseph Addai, who just might end up being the top fantasy player this year. I feat Bryant McKinnie's suspension and Peterson's durability, but it wasn't much of a risk on my part.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

It's usually impossible to tell who'll be successful, especially in head-to-head leagues, but I like Eric Karabell and John Hansen's teams a lot. I'm not so high on Ickey Shuffle but you never know.

Will Carroll, BP's Funny Shaped Balls,

You are known as the injury expert and picked a lot of guys with questionable health -- Manning, Harrison, Curtis, just to name a few -- do you know something we don't know?

I think I'm willing to take on more risk than most. I admittedly went very high risk, high reward mostly because that's what fell to me. I do feel good about Harrison. He's looked very good in camp and getting him in the fourth, even at his age, should be good value assuming he's healthy. Sadly, knowing injuries is not like counting cards.

You took Felix Jones earlier than most would have expected him to go. What do you expect out of him this season? And is this an indication of your feelings about Marion Barber?

No, I love Barber, but I never had a shot at him with 11. When I got Jamal Lewis, I knew I had to go high risk with RB2 to try and get a payoff. That's Jones, who Peter King raved about to me. If Peter didn't draft him in the celebrity league, I'm going to be bitter. I think Jones should be a solid value at that pick, but I don't expect him to put up first round numbers.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

Well, I'm bitter that I didn't realize we didn't have to draft a complete roster, as Jeff Ma did. I'm curious about the one-QB strategy that a couple teams went with, but there's probably decent out on the waiver wire.

I thought that came away weak in many spots, but they're not bad. I like Funston and Erickson's team for their very solid set.

Eric Karabell, Philly Papales,

"I can't believe I picked Drew Brees in the third round, but I do have him ranked right after Brady, Manning and Romo, and basically Manning, Romo and Brees are my second tier. I like Brees, of course, but I can't remember ever having only one RB after three rounds. I ended up getting RBs I liked later anyway, so it worked out because Brees should another monster season, but it's unlike me to draft this way."

"I can't say I really wanted either Coles or Jennings, but at the spots I picked each guy they seemed like they should have been off the board. I don't assume Favre falls in love with Cotchery, and Coles becomes a guy who catches 80 passes but rarely scores, like Driver in '07. I think the attention from Favre will be more balanced. Jennings won't be scoring in double digits, but I do think Aaron Rodgers will be fine, and Jennings will be a productive 70-catch, 1,000-yard guy who scores five times.

"I like Liss' team. I love having the first pick, then going back-to-back thereafter. He got nice value with most offensive players. I never say someone had a bad draft, because you never really know until about Week 10, but my pal Will Carroll certainly took chances with injury concerns and rookies. Hey, might as well shoot for the stars.

Gregg Rosenthal, Jewish Quarterbacks,

You handcuffed Marshawn Lynch with Fred Jackson. What do you think of the practice of handcuffing in general? Would you always handcuff your top RB regardless of who they are?

I think handcuffing is less necessary than most. In this case, Jackson is a quality running back because he has stand-alone value, whether you own Lynch or not. I only draft a handcuff if I believe they will get all the carries when the starter is hurt and that they can perform well. That's the case with Jackson. It doesn't help you that much to draft Antonio Pittman if you own Steven Jackson, because Pittman will split carries and struggle even if he plays.

You own two out of four of the NO RBs. Are you worried at all about the production of guys like Aaron Stecker or Deuce McCallister? Do you think Reggie Bush can be labeled as a bust at this point in his career?

I'm not worried about McAllister. He would be defying all historical precedent by recovering from his second ACL surgery and a microfracture surgery on his knees in the same offseason. I used to live in New Orleans and have a soft spot for Deuce, but I doubt he makes any impact. He has looked like he was running in quicksand during the preseason and could put the Saints in a tough spot if he doesn't pick it up. Stecker is solid, but the Saints swould prefer to use him as a third-down and special teams guy. Thomas is versatile and has a much higher ceiling.

You can't call Bush a bust, at least in fantasy leagues. He puts up decent enough numbers. He looks surprisingly ordinary on the field, but they will get him the ball a ton. I loved his value late in the fifth round considering he's a safe bet for 175 carries and 75 catches.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

Best Draft: FantasyGuru/Brandon Funston

Worst Draft: BP's Funny Balls, I'm here for Brett

John Hansen,,

You have cornered the market on Bay Area tight ends. Which of the two do you think has more promise this year?

I really like Zach Miller, especially in a PPR league (which this is not). I didn't think he was all that athletic coming out of college -- and he's not a stud talent -- but I do like what he's shown this year. And it's very obvious he's going to be a huge factor in their offense, if not the go-to guy in the passing game. That said, I also like Vernon Davis and feel he has more upside.

In one season we have seen Willie Parker slip up to four rounds in some drafts. Obviously you have high hopes for him this season? What do you see him doing this year and where do you think he should be drafted?

I keep taking Parker in the 4th because he's too good of a value to pass up. I spoke with Santonio Holmes last week and asked him about Rashard Mendenhall's role, and he said it's very much up in the air still, which is what I expected. Parker isn't a perfect pick, but he's definitely the lead back, and this will be a damn good offense.

Excluding your team, which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts?

Ickey Shuffle probably had the best draft other than myself. The worst draft has to be BP's Funny Shaped Balls. Felix Jones in the 3rd round was one of the biggest reaches I've seen in a long, long time. Even if you love a player like Jones, there's no reason to take him that early when he usually goes in the 8th or 10th round (or later).

Chad Eckert, CheChe23, Random Facebook User

Your decision to take both Maroney and Torry Holt have been criticized by the PROTRADE community. What were you thinking with those picks, and if you had a chance to go back would you have changed your choices?

Maroney is my BOY, and I have always had love for Holt. Personal bias toward each of them made me jump ... I probably wouldn't have gotten them in the next round. I usually try to draft a round ahead ... Like taking the Vikings early, which was probably a mistake.

This year the first two picks of the draft have been easy for most but three is where we have seen some disagreement. How did you decide on Addai and who else did you consider there?

I wouldn't change those picks, don't care what people say. I took Addai over Brian Westbrook and Jackson because I'm worried about Westbrook's injury-prone body and Jackson hasn't proved it to me like Addai has. Maybe I took Addai over Jackson because I've seen Addai more (thanks to post-season success of Indy over STL).

Which teams do you think had the best and worst drafts? Why?

I really liked the facebook users starters, I liked Eric Karabell's draft. Matthew Berry surprised me with some of his picks and I really like Funston's running backs.