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Why Branded Fantasy Football Magazines Suck

By Matt Schauf 3:02pm EDT 8/15/13

Everyone loves an enticing brand – especially in the sports world.

ESPN continues to be a huge profit-maker for its parent company, Disney.

Sports Illustrated dishes everything from pics of hot models in body paint bikinis… to fantasy football advice for guys like you.

But we care too much about your time and money to watch you piss it away on marquee brand fantasy football magazines you see at the grocery store.  

Pick one up and browse the mock draft.  You’ll be accosted by part-time fantasy players and talking heads posing as fantasy football “experts.”

File this under “occupational hazard” – but I picked up a few mags on a recent shopping trip in my constant journey to expand my knowledge.  Now I'd like to pass along all the steaming wisdom nuggets I gleaned from those glossy pages.


Sports Illustrated

Let's start with Sports Illustrated's Fantasy Football 2013.  After all, it is "still the No. 1 fantasy guide" and 2-time FF magazine of the year winner.  (Says so right there on the front.)  How could it not be, what with sage advice such as calling Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles the #2 fantasy sleeper.

"He'll be a first-round pick in every draft," the guide concedes.  "But, even by those lights he's underrated and worthy of a top pick."

OK, Charles has been a 1st-rounder all offseason, but I guess you could label him a sleeper if you consider him a candidate for #1 overall.  So where does SI rank him?  Sixth.  Among RBs.  Who's sleeping here?  (By the way, Charles currently sits 4th OVERALL in average draft position.)

Further down the sleeper list sits a more logical selection: Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers.  He makes sense as a sleeper pick.  After all, as the mag states: "There's every reason to believe the explosive Rodgers will be the team's primary back between the 20s."

Most defini ... wait.  Didn't Atlanta dump RB Michael Turner in the offseason and give RB Steven Jackson $4 million guaranteed?  You're right.  They probably did that to give Jackson the ball even less than the 242 times that Turner touched it last year.  Except, nuh uh.

Flip a couple of pages further, and you'll find the counter list of "busts."  Sixth on that list, Packers WR Randall Cobb with this analysis: "Cobb is widely viewed as a lock to be a top 20 receiver, with top 12 potential.  Don't buy in."  OK, that's fine if you don't like him.  So where do you rank last year's breakout Packer?  All the way down at #13 on the WR list.

No way is he getting close to the top 12.

Oh yeah, and in case you planned on drafting a kicker early, Sports Illustrated lets you know that "any kicker selected before the last round is a wasted pick."  OK, we can get on board with that.  Of course, 6 of the 12 staff mock-drafters clearly didn't read that before picking kickers earlier, starting in Round 14.

Finally, if you're playing with IDPs, you're SOL as far as SI is concerned.  The "No. 1 Fantasy Guide" doesn't even bother ranking them.



ESPN

OK, now let's get off SI's back and turn to a little-known Connecticut outfit called ESPN.  (Stands for sports in Spanish or something.)

ESPN Fantasy Football 2013 gets off to a rollicking good start with Matthew Berry telling you that his allotted 300 words don't provide nearly enough space to properly introduce the magazine.  He felt so strongly about that point that he used 136 words to tell you the mag is "so much better than a spouse."  Well, 50% of first marriages do end in divorce, so perhaps he's right.

Nope.

Let's turn to the "Master Strategy Guide," touted on the cover as "11 steps to winning it all."  Step 3: "Get outside your comfort zone and try an auction league."  True, auction leagues are fun.  But how does trying a new format help me win my existing league?

OK, perhaps we can interest you in Step 5: "Take your buddy's challenge and join a PPR league."  I'll refer you to my previous comment.  Also, show of hands among you readers.  How many of you have never tried a new-fangled PPR league but are willing to plunk down $8 for a magazine filled with crap you can get for free online?  You sir, with your hand up.  I'd like to talk with you about a unique investment opportunity...

So the "master strategy" didn't help, but we can probably still find some help with regular old draft strategy.  Or not.

The 10-team expert mock featured the 1st team defense leaving the board in Round 7, another in Round 8 and then a 3rd in Round 9.  The Seattle Seahawks went 1st, 1 pick ahead of Cowboys TE Jason Witten.  Then came Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Packers WR James Jones, Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe, Dolphins RB Lamar Miller, Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell and Packers RB Eddie Lacy.  All of those players look like potential starters in an average-sized fantasy football league (with a flex position) to us.

K.C. Joyner, "The Football Scientist," defended his Round 8 selection of the Denver Broncos D/ST thusly: "I'm always amazed when someone picks a backup running back or wide receiver instead of investing in an every-week starter."  I'd like to think Mr. Joyner learned his lesson when 49ers WR Michael Crabtree -- whom he drafted in Round 5 -- suffered a spring Achilles' tear.  That's why you need backups.  Joyner also drafted Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch and 49ers RB Frank Gore as his only 2 backs before the Seattle pick.  Among 13 combined starting seasons as pros, Lynch and Gore have played all 16 games just 5 times.

Of course, the other point is that team D scoring is wildly volatile and unpredictable.  Mr. Joyner must have seen that when he looked at Denver's weekly breakdown from last season.

On the plus side, the selection of the Niners' D/ST didn't even stand as Round 9's worst pick.  That had to be Dolphins rookie RB Mike Gillislee -- 1 spot ahead of Patriots RB Shane Vereen.

Here's what the dude analyzing the mock draft for the magazine had to say: "You know when someone drafts a guy you've never heard of, only you don't let on because you don't want to look stupid?  That's exactly what happened when Gillislee's name was called.  And this was a room full of experts."  Doesn't speak particularly well of the pick ... or the "experts."

If I learned anything from the ESPN fantasy football mock draft, it's that I'd love to draft against the ESPN guys for real -- and for money.  Lots of it.


The Sporting News

The Sporting News Fantasy Source Football 2013 guide expanded the drafting field to 12 teams, but it still didn't provide the kind of draft that you can learn from. 

None of the drafters there liked young RBs.  Le'Veon Bell went 72nd overall, Lamar Miller 73rd, Broncos RB Montee Ball 76th and Shane Vereen 128th.  Good luck landing any of those guys within 30 picks of their SN draft slot.

Then again, perhaps it's not that the Sporting News crew doesn't like them.  In fact, all 4 of those guys are marked sleepers in the RB rankings -- as part of 7 sleepers among the 13 RBs ranked 20th to 32nd.  Hope they can find enough beds for all those sleepers.

You can read more specifics, of course, about why each back found his specific rank.  But you'll have to put in some work.  SN made the awkward decision to list the player capsules alphabetically, rather than by rank.  That'll come in handy when I'm trying to quickly compare Jamaal Charles and Tashard Choice during my draft.

By the way, if you're a Saints RB Pierre Thomas fan, don't look in this guide.  The underrated runner sits behind free agents Michael Turner and Beanie Wells at the position -- among many others.


Pro Football Weekly

Finally comes Pro Football Weekly. In all seriousness, it feels kinda wrong to rip anything in that magazine after the company went out of business earlier this year. PFW's the Way We Hear It was part of my weekly NFL reading, and that outlet provided quality football content for a long time. So we'll only rip them a little ...

Here's the biggest issue with reaching for any magazine to prepare for your draft: The sheer time it takes to print, ship and sell these things requires them to guess on too many players and situations. RB Willis McGahee, for example, shows up 28th in the PFW rankings.

I won't fault any guide for getting screwed by Aaron Hernandez or Michael Crabtree or any other guy who will get hurt before training camp ends. But that was just some bad foresight on McGahee.

"With the Broncos adding highly regarded RB prospect Montee Ball, McGahee seems destined to end up sharing time in some sort of committee system this season," PFW wrote in his capsule. So, if this old guy coming off a knee injury is bound to share the job with a rookie who set the NCAA record for TD runs ... you want him on your team?

Ball, by the way, ranked 35th. Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall and Le'Veon Bell checked in 33rd and 34th, respectively. Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who could actually find the goal-line vulture role in his timeshare -- fell 36th.

To its credit, though, Pro Football Weekly bravely went against the tide of assuming Seahawks WR Percy Harvin is bound for a fantasy bump with his new team. PFW chose Harvin as a "bust" ... and then ranked him all the way down at #12 among wideouts. (What's bust mean again?) It also presented a mock draft in which Eagles RB LeSean McCoy left the board with the 3rd pick of Round 2, right after Patriots QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski.


Hey, turning to a magazine for fantasy football draft prep might have been good enough for your dad. Maybe it even worked for you 10 years ago. But we care too much about your fantasy football team to watch you blow it on outdated, abbreviated, poorly stated "advice."


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