BY JAY CLEMONS
Sam Bradford: J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI
We're just 27 days away from the NFL draft, and I'm still waiting for ESPN and/or The NFL Network to show one play -- give me one! -- that clearly justifies Sam Bradford's worth as the No. 1 overall pick, let alone footage that he's a markedly better QB prospect than Jimmy Clausen.
Don't misunderstand the above mini-rant -- I have the highest respect for Bradford's collegiate résumé at Oklahoma, and I'm quite certain he'll find NFL employment for the next 10-12 years, barring calamitous injury. But to deify a spread QB as a lock for stardom at the pro level is equal parts disturbing and laughable (Tim Couch laughable?); and yet, the subliminal wizards at ESPN and NFLN want you to believe the Rams would be foolish to pass on Bradford with the top pick -- even though this draft likely boasts three defensive superstars (Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Eric Berry) and a rival quarterback (Clausen) who, in my opinion, throws a better deep-out and fade than Bradford ... which may not matter against North Texas but certainly has meaning on fall Sundays.
Speaking of Suh and McCoy, they were the Rams' unimpeachable 1 and 1A draft targets back in December and January; and yet, Bradford has somehow passed 'em both in recent months ... without the benefit of live action since last October, or a healthy right shoulder this calendar year OR incontrovertible proof that he can operate a pro-style offense in non-shotgun situations. Yes, the sad-sack Rams desperately need a franchise quarterback; and yes, the club passed on Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez in the last two drafts, but I'm going to need more visual evidence of Bradford's purported greatness than a simple rollout-TD pass from 8 yards to a wide open receiver, ESPN. (I'm silly like that.)
Just to clarify, I like Bradford's tools as an NFL prospect; I'm just a little uncomfortable shelling out $43 million of guaranteed money to a quarterback who's less of a sure thing than Charlie Whitehurst.
(UPDATE: Thanks to the good people at YouTube, I have located a Bradford highlight package that actually has merit, although it's nothing that Tim Couch, Akili Smith or Matt Leinart couldn't have produced in college.)
Obviously, no NFL executive, coach, fan or snarky fantasy blogger can predict the future; but certain gut instincts for the great beyond MUST come into play when investing time, money and emotions into Round 1 quarterbacks. To wit, the Almighty Acid Test for risking life and limb on quarterbacks at the top of the draft:
**Will your Round 1 stud become the starter for at least seven games in Year 1 (like Dan Marino, John Elway, Ben Roethlisberger)?
**Can your Round 1 stud orchestrate a significant win-loss turnaround in Year 2? (a la Peyton Manning in 1999)
**Will your Round 1 stud throw for more than 3,800 yards in Year 2 (Elway, Marino, Manning)?
**Will your Round 1 stud average 65 percent passing from Years 2 through 8 (Troy Aikman)?
**Can your Round 1 stud annually exceed 4,000 yards passing after his 30th birthday -- and for your team (Marino, Manning)?
**Will your Round 1 stud throw for 60 combined TDs in Years 3 and 4 (Marino, Jim Everett)?
**Does your Round 1 stud have the potential for 2,500 yards passing and almost 1,000 rushing yards in the same season (Michael Vick -- during his Falcons heyday, at least)?
**Will your Round 1 stud reach the Super Bowl within his first four seasons (Marino, Elway, Aikman)?
**Does your Round 1 stud possess the greatest arm you've ever seen -- or will ever see (Matthew Stafford, Jeff George)?
**And finally ... would your Round 1 stud have been selected before, between OR after Vince Young (No. 3 overall) and Jay Cutler (No. 11 overall) in the famed 2006 draft?
Verdict: If a GM can honestly say 'Yes' to the Acid Test questions, by all means, go ahead and draft your guy in Round 1 with supreme confidence. Then, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor for the next 10-15 seasons. (Obviously, Jeff George didn't work out for the Colts.)
However, if you answered 'No' to the Acid Test questions, don't fret. Just take a deep breath, consult your larger-than-life draft board and focus on taking a top-rated offensive or defensive lineman in Round 1 or make the bold plunge for a play-making safety (Eric Berry). And if you feel like picking a quarterback in the latter rounds, that's OK, too. After all, neither Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, David Garrard nor Brett Favre were Round 1 selections on draft day ... and they all survived the heartbreak of not being labeled can't-miss kids coming out of college.
The Bradford rant notwithstanding, I'm hardly an expert at forecasting the NFL Draft. Luckily, these Web sites have been busy reading the draft-day tea leaves for us:
**Pat Kirwan's NFL.com mock
**SI.com's Don Banks' Mock 4.0
**Great Blue North Draft Report
**NFL Draft Site
**The New NFL Draft Report
**NFL Draft Blitz
**The Football Expert
**NFL Draft King
Here's our revised post-NFL Combine list of fantasyland's top rookies in 2010:
1. RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson
2. WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame (could have a Maclin-like breakout)
3. RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
4. WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
5. WR Taylor Price, Ohio (looked great in the Indy workouts -- awesome, really)
6. QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame (assuming he's starting for Bills/Rams by Week 6)
7. RB Jahvid Best, California
8. WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
9. QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (assuming he's starting for Rams/Bills by Week 7)
10. TE Aaron Hernandez, Florida
11. WR Brandon LaFell, LSU
12. WR Jacoby Ford, Clemson
13. WR Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas
14. TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
15. RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (a classic workhorse back, in theory)
16. WR Eric Decker, Minnesota (would rank higher if not hindered by Lisfranc injury)
17. TE Ed Dickson, Oregon
18. RB Charles Scott, LSU
19. TE Dorin Dickerson, Pitt (this year's Mike Mamula)
20. WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
Memo to Brian Westbrook, Willie Parker, Darren Sproles, Jason Snelling, Pierre Thomas, Cadillac Williams or any other free agent running back -- unrestricted or restricted -- exploring their options for the 2010 season: Thanks to a substantial, late-season knee injury to Kevin Smith and overall mediocre production of Maurice Morris, the Detroit Lions have a gaping hole at the RB1 and RB2 slots and should be in the market for a big-name stud with plenty of juice left in the proverbial tank.
On the surface, the Lions (3-37 in their last 40 games -- ouch!) seem like the least ideal franchise to play for right now ... but I have compiled seven solid reasons why one of the aforementioned free agents should run -- not walk -- to sign with an up-and-coming club that will see better days sooner than later:
1. With Matthew Stafford's prodigious arm and Calvin Johnson's penchant for drawing double- and triple-teams from defenders, Detroit's lead running back will seldom encounter eight men in the "box" this fall.
2. Given the Lions' prioritized needs at offensive line, defensive line and cornerback, they likely won't draft a running back earlier than Round 4. In other words, "Veteran Running Back A" won't have to pretend he's not bothered by all the attention C.J. Spiller's getting in training camp.
3. Along those lines ... Detroit will most definitely draft a premium offensive lineman (like Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Mike Iupati, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis, Charles Brown, Bruce Campbell) in Rounds 1 or 2. And as we all know, you can never have enough man-mountain linemen.
4. The FieldTurf at Ford Field -- the Lions' home lair since 2002 -- is one of the softest, yet quickest running surfaces in the league and would presumably keep a veteran's legs relatively fresh over four months' time.
5. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan enjoys using running backs in the passing game -- which should particularly appeal to Westbrook, one of the league's most versatile rushers in his heyday (try, 2008).
6. If you play a starring role in a Detroit playoff victory -- keep in mind the club possesses just one playoff win since 1957 -- you'll never have to buy dinner or a drink in the Greater Metro Detroit Area again. (Exhibit A: Former Detroit QB Erik Kramer)
7. Did I mention how Stafford will be a top-5 quarterback by 2012 ... and holds the key to the Lions' futuristic championship hopes? Hmmm, I guess that was implied in bullet #1.
Donovan McNabb: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
So, let's review here: This time last week, the Eagles were considered locks to scuttle all trade talk involving Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick and play the 2010 season out with three potential starting quarterbacks on the depth chart. Soon thereafter, coach Andy Reid publicly acknowledges trade offers including either McNabb/Kolb/Vick for the first time (albeit in the vaguest manner possible). And now, after a Wednesday-Thursday whirlwind of trade speculation -- a strong indication that something is going on at Philly's team headquarters -- we're left to assume that McNabb, a free agent at season's end, will be the moving to an NFL franchise near you sooner than later?
Call me skeptical, but the Eagles don't strike me as an organization that makes moves on a whim. Besides, with 27 days to go until Draft Day, the club has essentially 648 hours to squeeze other teams before pulling the trigger on any deal. After all, Philly doesn't need to rush this process; at the very least, McNabb is the Eagles' No. 1 guy in 2010, and Kolb remains the most intriguing franchise-QB prospect in the marketplace -- even though he'll have to fight tooth and nail to trump Vick as McNabb's primary backup.
That said, here's a look at McNabb's fantasy value for '10 -- depending on which NFL logo adorns his jersey:
Vikings: Word has it (as of Friday, at least) that McNabb would love to be reunited with coach Brad Childress in Minnesota; and while that makes for a warm and fuzzy headline, the Vikings likely have zero interest in another game-changing quarterback ... as long as Brett Favre hasn't retired for a third time. And believe me, folks, Favre is NOT retiring for a third time (at least in 2010)!
Fantasy Value: Nonexistent, as long as Favre's on the roster.
Cardinals: Here's another warm and fuzzy landing spot for McNabb, who maintains a full-time residence in Arizona and would be taking over a team that's ready-made for Super Bowl contention. Oh, and did we forget he'd have Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet as throwing targets? Unfortunately for Donovan, the Cardinals have publicly squashed any interest in acquiring McNabb and have presumably thrown their full support behind Matt Leinart.
Fantasy Value: If Arizona ever took the plunge, he'd be a top-7 QB pick.
Raiders: At first blush, this heavily speculated marriage wouldn't make sense for either party. The Raiders have been a forlorn franchise for nearly a decade, and McNabb might not appreciate playing out his NFL golden years on a club that can hardly police itself -- let alone win consistently on Sundays. However, Oakland's roster is stocked with certifiable talent at every position (except maybe receiver, ironically) and the franchise could easily be one great leader away from competing for the title in the wretched AFC West. One more thing: If any quarterback can tap into the potential brilliance of running back Darren McFadden, it'll be McNabb.
Fantasy Value: Slotted somewhere behind Matt Schaub/Tony Romo and ahead of Carson Palmer/Eli Manning.
Rams: St. Louis could do much, much worse than having Pat Shurmur as an offensive coordinator. In other words, the team's flaws at receiver, tight end and running back (in terms of correctly utilizing Steven Jackson) aren't necessarily a reflection of Shurmur's play-calling talents. And let's not forget the cornerstone of the O-Line, left tackle Jason Smith, who could enjoy Pro Bowl-caliber success protecting McNabb's backside in his second pro season. At receiver, McNabb would have to build an instant rapport with Laurent Robinson and Donnie Avery to maximize their real-world and fantasy capabilities -- but there's also no doubting their in-space speed.
Fantasy Value: McNabb would take a slight hit in Year 1, but could recapture his top-10 standing in 2011.
Eagles: If Philly stands pat on McNabb, there's a temptation to rubber-stamp his for 3,800 passing yards and 23 TDs -- basically his stats from the last two seasons. But a closer look reveals something very interesting: Of the Vikings, Cardinals, Raiders, Rams and Eagles, Philly -- as it stands on March 26 -- has the worst running back situation of the bunch. This isn't a knock on LeSean McCoy's long-term potential (which is excellent) ... but it is a knock on McCoy's maddening pass-catching inconsistencies in the short term. As a result, a marginalized number of McNabb's estimated 485 pass attempts would be earmarked for the backfield (unlike Brian Westbrook in his heyday).
Fantasy Value: Solid. Probably No. 11. But let's be honest: Wouldn't you rather see him start fresh in Arizothan endure Year 12 in Philly?
Here are my way-too-early tight end rankings for standard-scoring leagues:
1. Dallas Clark, Colts
2. Vernon Davis, 49ers
3. Antonio Gates, Chargers
4. Jason Witten, Cowboys
5. Brent Celek, Eagles (moves to No. 2 if Kevin Kolb's the man)
6. Owen Daniels, Texans
7. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
8. Jermichael Finley, Packers
9. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers
10. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
11. John Carlson, Seahawks
12. Zach Miller, Raiders
13. Dustin Keller, Jets
14. Greg Olsen, Bears (this has everything to do with Mike Martz)
15. Fred Davis, Redskins
16. Todd Heap, Ravens
17. Aaron Hernandez, Yet-to-be drafted rookie (Florida)
18. Jeremy Shockey, Saints
19. Heath Miller, Steelers
20. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (would be higher if not for late-season knee injury)
21. Kevin Boss, Giants
22. Chris Cooley, Redskins
23. Jared Clark, Titans
24. David Thomas, Saints
25. Rob Gronkowski, Yet-to-be drafted rookie (Arizona)
Using recent history as our guide, the NFL should be releasing its full 2010 schedule on the second Tuesday of April (the 13th). If the sked becomes public that day, Fantasy Clicks will provide an extensive breakdown of the coming season on April 14 -- including an early look at the Week 1 "locks" for 100 yards rushing/receiving and 300 yards passing. Who knows, perhaps Falcons RB Michael Turner will be a lead-pipe cinch for four rushing TDs ... assuming Atlanta hosts Tampa Bay that weekend (my personal hunch).
Next up, here is the twice-revised top 30 list of fantasy backs:
1. Chris Johnson, Titans
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
4. Ray Rice, Ravens
5. Michael Turner, Falcons
6. Steven Jackson, Rams
7. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
8. Frank Gore, 49ers (subject to change IF C.J. Spiller gets drafted)
9. Cedric Benson, Bengals
10. Ryan Grant, Packers
11. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
12. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
13. Matt Forte, Bears
14. Shonn Greene, Jets (dropped from No. 9 after the LT signing)
15. Joseph Addai, Colts
16. Fred Jackson, Bills
17. Jerome Harrison, Browns
18. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
19. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
20. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
21. Pierre Thomas, Saints
22. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
23. Darren McFadden, Raiders
24. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins (recent DUI arrest doesn't change much -- for now)
25. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
26. Steve Slaton, Texans
27. Marion Barber, Cowboys
28. Darren Sproles, Chargers
29. Justin Forsett, Seahawks
30. Clinton Portis, Redskins
I'm not privy to the details of the NFL's blowout retrospective for the 75th draft anniversary in April. But that doesn't mean I can't stealthily dust off a timely chestnut -- the Top 50 Picks By Draft Slot Since 1980.
The process is pretty simple: Emmitt Smith, drafted by the Cowboys in 1990, trumps O-lineman extraordinaire Steve Hutchinson as the greatest player taken at No. 17 in the last 30 drafts. That was an easy choice. Other selections, however, weren't so elementary. For example, who had the greatest impact at the No. 5 overall slot -- the aforementioned LaDainian Tomlinson OR Deion Sanders and Junior Seau? Or what about the HOF battle at No. 10, between Marcus Allen and Rod Woodson? And then there's pick No. 47 ... the proverbial black-sheep slot of the top 50: Before David Harris had established himself as a top-flight NFL linebacker -- Jerry Porter was inexplicably the leader in the clubhouse. Go figure.
1 -- John Elway (over Peyton Manning, Bruce Smith, Troy Aikman)
2 -- Lawrence Taylor (over Marshall Faulk, Donovan McNabb, Julius Peppers, Eric Dickerson)
3 -- Barry Sanders (over Anthony Munoz, Steve McNair, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson)
4 -- Reggie White (over Kenny Easley, Derrick Thomas, Edgerrin James, Jonathan Ogden)
5 -- LaDainian Tomlinson (over Deion Sanders, Junior Seau, Sean Taylor)
6 -- Walter Jones (over Tim Brown, Torry Holt, Richard Seymour)
7 -- Adrian Peterson (over Terry Glenn, Sterling Sharpe, Troy Vincent, Champ Bailey)
8 -- Ronnie Lott (over Mike Munchak, Willie Roaf, Plaxico Burress, Jordan Gross)
9 -- Bruce Matthews (over Brian Urlacher, Jerome Brown, Richmond Webb)
10 -- Marcus Allen (over Rod Woodson, Herman Moore, Willie Anderson, Levi Jones)
11 -- Michael Irvin (over Wilber Marshall, B. Roethlisberger, Patrick Willis, D. Freeney)
12 -- Warren Sapp (over Shawne Merriman, Jim Lachey, Warrick Dunn, Ryan Clady)
13 -- Tony Gonzalez (over Keith Jackson, Marcus Stroud, Jonathan Stewart)
14 -- Jim Kelly (over Jeremy Shockey, Eddie George)
15 -- Jerome McDougle (over Wayne Gandy, Booger McFarland)
16 -- Jerry Rice (over Troy Polamalu, Julian Peterson, Shawn Andrews, Hugh Douglas)
17 -- Emmitt Smith (over Steve Hutchinson)
18 -- Art Monk (over Alfred Williams, Chad Pennington, Will Smith)
19 -- Marvin Harrison (over Shaun Alexander, Joey Browner, Otis Wilson, Antonio Cromartie)
20 -- Steve Atwater (over Wil Wolford, Mark May, Mike Quick, Dale Carter, Javon Walker)
21 -- Randy Moss (over Johnnie Morton, Nate Clements)
22 -- Andre Rison (over Harris Barton, Lorenzo White)
23 -- Ty Law (over Willis McGahee, Michael Oher, Bruce Armstrong, Deuce McAllister)
24 -- Ed Reed (over Steven Jackson, Rodney Hampton, Eric Moulds, Chris Johnson)
25 -- Ted Washington (over Louis Oliver, Donovin Darius, Charles Grant)
26 -- Ray Lewis (over Robert Porcher, Jim Harbaugh, Don Mosebar, Alan Faneca)
27 -- Dan Marino (over Larry Johnson, Charles White)
28 -- Darrell Green (over Derrick Brooks, William Floyd, Brian Blados, Luis Castillo)
29 -- Steve Wisinewski (over Chris Spielman, Nate Odomes, Marlin Jackson)
30 -- Reggie Wayne (over Patrick Kerney, Keith Bulluck, Eric Allen)
31 -- Nnamdi Asomugha (over Carl Pickens, Al Wilson, Todd Heap)
32 -- Drew Brees (over Logan Mankins, Scott Case, Anthony Gonzalez)
33 -- Brett Favre (over Isaac Bruce, Eric Steinbach, Karlos Dansby)
34 -- Kyle Vanden Bosch (over Kevin Glover, Tim McDonald, Demeco Ryans)
35 -- Mike Alstott (over Jack Squirek, Christian Okoye, Alge Crumpler)
36 -- Tiki Barber (over Chad Johnson, Jimmy Smith, Kevin Mawae)
37 -- Randall Cunningham (over Cris Collinsworth, Darren Woodson, Leonard Marshall)
38 -- Boomer Esiason (over Lewis Billups)
39 -- Mike Singletary (over Darryl Talley, Keith Sims, Kendrell Bell, Darryl Johnston)
40 -- Michael Strahan (over Thurman Thomas, Tim Grunhard, Ken Lucas)
41 -- Andre Tippett (over Ken Norton, Jr., Dre Bly)
42 -- Jake Plummer (over Larry Tripplett, Ken Hamlin)
43 -- Corey Dillon (over Muhsin Muhammad, Julius Jones, Kris Jenkins)
44 -- Matt Millen (over Bob Sanders, Matt Forte, Dermontti Dawson, Chad Brown)
45 -- Ricky Watters (over Mike Gann, Lofa Tatupu, Justin Smiley)
46 -- Larry Allen (over Flipper Anderson, Samari Rolle)
47 -- David Harris (over Mike Nugent, Jerry Porter)
48 -- Howie Long (over LeRoy Butler, Dwight Stephenson, Chris Kelsay)
49 -- Roger Craig (over DeSean Jackson, Barrett Robins, LaMont Jordan)
50 -- Tom Newberry (over Irv Pankey, Michael Dean Perry, Brentson Buckner, Bobby Taylor)
On Wednesday, I attended the Interactive Sports Conference in Las Vegas, acting as a moderator to the Fantasy: What Is Next? roundtable discussion -- featuring Ed Bunnell of FoxSports.com, Warrick Taylor (FanDuel.com), Ryan Berger (HotBoxSports.com), Andrew Won (MogoTxt) and Jason Manasse of the world-famous Accuscore.com -- while also serving as an ambassador to the life-affirming joy that is fantasy sports. Here are the highlights (and lowlights) from my 24-hour trip in Sin City:
**Charlotte, N.C. is apparently the unknown center of the universe ... because I couldn't find a direct flight from Atlanta-to-Vegas, while settling on an airfare package four weeks in advance. By my count, we crossed over nine different states in the 4-hour, 45-minute trek from Charlotte to Vegas.
**I fully understand that Vegas doesn't have clocks in its casinos, but shouldn't my hotel room at The Flamingo have an actual clock on the nightstand? What a cruel trick to play on someone who hasn't worn a working watch in three years.
**This is an actual quote from my cab driver, whose name is being withheld for stupidity sake: "I'm able to drive faster on the freeway than the side streets" (when going from the airport to The Strip) ... "no stoplights on the freeway."
**The Bellagio is one of the most stunning hotels I've ever seen -- even better than anything I encountered on my Costa Rican honeymoon, which is saying a lot.
**Longtime NFL quarterback and current CBS Sports color analyst Steve Beuerlein sat through every panel discussion on Wednesday, but that's not why he's garnering mention here: Do you realize that Beuerlein owns the Panthers' single-season records for passing yards (4,436 in 1999) and TD passes (36, also in '99) ... and yet, Jake Delhomme holds the straw-poll distinction of being the greatest QB in Carolina's 15-year history?
**Yesteryear Fantasy Sports, which allows consumers to utilize NFL legends from the 1960s, 70s and 80s in today's fantasy football marketplace, had a booth at the convention. And just a few feet from Yesteryear's display ... Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett was shaking hands and taking pictures with a steady throng of admirers. Looking at the numbers, Dorsett would have been a Round 2 or higher preseason fantasy pick coming off three superb years (1976: 1,280 total yards, 13 TDs; 1981: 1,971 total yards, 6 TDs; 1985: 1,756 total yards, 10 TDs). Aside from that, he would've been a Round 3 or 4 pick (kind of like Thomas Jones every year).
**The NFL fantasy world, as we know it, could experience a major overhaul in the coming years, thanks to Eric Koivisito and TrenchFantasy.com, which quantifies fantasy football from the perspective of offensive/defensive linemen efficiency, special teams and often-underlooked stats like first downs, third-down conversions, 3-and-outs, etc.
**The geniuses at Big Game Software, specifically Tai Ward and Brett Baker, deserve plenty of credit for reshaping the fantasy industry. Geez, if only I had stuck with computer engineering as a college major (instead of journalism) ... maybe I'd be sleeping on a big bag o' money every night, too!
**As god as my witness, this is the year that I finally plunk down the funds for baseball and football trophies in the famous SI.com & Friends fantasy leagues. For this Wednesday revelation, I credit the design experts at Titlecraft for constructing eye-pleasing trophies ... and the TV geniuses of the F/X hit show, The League, for literally putting a face on their prized trophy -- The Shiva.
**It's quite possible that Fanball czar Ryan Houston has the greatest job in the fantasy industry -- spending at least 10 weeks a year in Vegas, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York overseeing high-stakes fantasy drafts for baseball and football, respectively. And when he's not busy planning these high-profile events ... he happily doubles as Fanball's fierce protector of Just Cheat Sheets ... (and maybe Mike Sheets). Plus, the man is always smiling!
**ESPN's Matthew Berry might be the E.F. Hutton of fantasy sports -- Whenever he talks, people listen -- but there is no more respected fantasy resource than Dan and Kelly Grogan (formerly of Athlon), for whom I dubbed the "godfathers" of fantasy football. The Grogans have been churning out amazing insight for years, and I've always appreciated their generosity when helping others in the industry.
**Speaking of helping others, the list of featured speakers at the convention was long and distinguished; but from where I sit in the industry -- as a writer-first, technological innovator-second -- I am bothered by the fact that a lot of start-up fantasy companies (and even some heavy hitters) have neglected to create a "face" for their respective organizations. Oh sure, it's imperative for companies to stay on the digital edge regarding software and social-media breakthroughs ... but without a skilled writer to insatiably promote products online (via Twitter, Facebook) or through entertaining podcasts, these firms will always be one step behind the competition. There's a reason why guys like myself, Matthew Berry, Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg, Gregg Rosenthal, Brandon Funston, Scott Engel, Eric Karabell, Christopher Harris, Nate Ravitz, Michael Fabiano and Andy Behrens (among others) get plenty of attention in fantasy circles: We're willing to do whatever it takes to build a brand (and without ruining a company's bottom line).
In my case in particular, take the three bookings on Sacramento radio last August (while promoting SI's inaugural Fantasy Football magazine). In the span of 60 minutes, I talked to three different stations in California's capital region ... and it would've been four, if one station's wildly popular pet-psychiatrist program hadn't run so long.