one more averaged experts rankings: kickers

gary anderson

I probably won’t draft a kicker unless I’m forced to fill my roster. Maybe, I’ll take one in the last round or two. I know a lot of people feel similarly, so this list is probably not the most useful. However, you can at least use it to grab the best guy available when you finally do take a kicker. There’s so little difference between the kickers that I’m not going to put them in tiers. The tiers are only really useful if you’re trying to decide between positions during the draft. I hope that no one is picking a kicker over a player that might contribute to your team. It’s not that kickers aren’t good point scorers. It’s simply that there is very little difference in the number of points that they score. For the sake of consistency rather than utility, standard deviation follows mean rank follows name. Also, I’m only listing twenty spots. I can’t think of a reason to list more.

stenerud

1. Vinatieri 1.92 1.38
2. Wilkins 3.06 1.43
3. Kaeding 3.12 2.57
4. Gould 5.10 2.38
5. Graham 5.46 2.85
6. Rackers 7.35 2.54
7. Stover 8.08 3.07
8. Elam 8.12 3.01
9. J. Brown 8.91 2.11
10. Akers 11.68 5.42

groza

11. Scobee 11.77 5.42
12. Gostkowski 12.22 4.21
13. Hanson 12.38 4.31
14. Mare 13.58 3.76
15. Nedney 15.04 2.74
16. Kasay 16.45 3.73
17. Nugent 18.27 2.24
18. Lindell 18.55 4.08
19. Reed 19.00 3.05
20. Feely 19.58 4.23

andersen

I have none of my usual erudite comments for this list. I hope that you like the pictures. I will try to provide an update to these lists in a few weeks when we get a bit closer to the start of the season and more people are drafting.

blanda
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Published in: on August 2, 2007 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

still more averaged experts rankings: team defense edition!

lt

Team defenses. This position frustrates me. The scoring systems always seem off, they have a seemingly disproportionate effect on the outcome of your matchups, and a single defense will wildly fluctuate from week to week in points scored with seemingly little change in their play. It’s not impossible to predict some of these factors, but I usually end up picking a solid defense, in reality, that I will have replaced a quarter through the season with the free agency pool. Maybe, I’m just bad at picking. Maybe, there’s a grand conspiracy against me. Then again, perhaps typing this post in a public place is making me a tad paranoid. Sorry, back to football.

I had to replace one of my sources for this list and the upcoming kicker list because the good folks at fantasyfootballxtreme.com apparently only draft players on offense. It’s possible that I just couldn’t find the link. I also added walterfootball.com because it came up on the first page of a google search for fantasy football rankings, which is good enough credentials for my highly scientific study. At any rate, the list follows the same basic guidelines as before: standard deviation follows mean rank follows team name, standard deviation is a measure of how closely the experts agreed, and my qualitative analysis and statistical expertise both come with strong disclaimers. Away we go.

wilcox

1. Chicago 1.37 0.49
2. Baltimore 1.77 0.60

3. San Diego 3.64 0.82
4. New England 4.06 1.86

5. Miami 8.08 5.11
6. Denver 8.35 2.85
7. Dallas 8.95 2.38
8. Philadelphia 9.12 2.33
9. Pittsburgh 9.15 3.29

10. Carolina 10.68 3.45
11. Jacksonville 10.75 6.50

12. Seattle 13.83 2.15
13. Minnesota 14.00 5.40
14. Green Bay 14.23 5.17

bobby bell

15. Oakland 17.14 3.68
16. San Francisco 17.17 4.28
17. Buffalo 18.18 3.60
18. New York Jets 18.98 4.59

19. Arizona 20.04 6.16
20. New York Giants 20.79 4.88
21. Cincinnati 20.83 7.32
22. Indianapolis 20.92 5.05
23. Atlanta 21.61 6.47
24. Kansas City 21.94 4.72

25. St. Louis 23.40 6.46
26. Tampa Bay 23.90 5.70
27. New Orleans 24.21 2.86
28. Tennessee 25.42 6.83
29. Cleveland 26.75 4.67
30. Washington 26.82 4.68

31. Detroit 29.40 2.34
32. Houston 29.90 1.58

lambert

This number one pick is the first out of these lists with which I find flaw. I’m not bashing Chicago. They have a great defense, easily the best in the NFC and San Diego is a distant third overall. However, Baltimore gets the edge from me. My basis for this assessment is not based on any actual analysis on my part. Rather, I think Chicago is getting a boost here from their super bowl run last season and probably inappropriate comparisons with Bears teams of yore. Furthermore, I have little confidence in the ability of their offense to eat up any significant amount of time. Of course, this criticism can be leveled at Baltimore as well. Perhaps, most significantly, Baltimore just seems like a safer choice. The difference is minimal, and I won’t end up drafting either team, as there will be two opposing managers who value defense more than me. I have a nagging feeling that I should be one of those two managers who grabs a defense seemingly far too early, but I must quell these worries and trust in the analysis of others.

singletary

Continuing down the list, Miami is the next pick that makes me uncomfortable. I’ve been burned by Miami’s defense. It’s hard to work up the nerve to trust again. It seems that some experts share my pain as there was marked disagreement in the rankings. On a sidenote, you should mark the huge gap in mean rank between New England and Miami. If ever a clear tier break existed, it’s right there. New England and Miami are not ranked close to each other, despite going four and five.

The rest of the list steadily loses credibility. The experts just didn’t agree. Cincinnati was ranked from 10th to 28th, so use the second half of this list with extreme caution. Hell, you should apply extreme caution to the use of any of these rankings. Most of the websites make no effort to explain their rankings or even scoring systems. I’m attempting to remember enough statistics to come up with some sort of credibility score. Of course, that might also be nonsense.

walsh

R.I.P Bill Walsh

Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

ever more averaged experts rankings: te edition!

ozzie newsome

The averaged experts rankings train chugs on. Today, we bring you the tight end list. I should probably do this one last, as I usually use the te spot as my trash position. There will always be managers who draft the top two or three te’s foolishly high, and the rest of the te’s are just too much of a gamble for me to really care. I like having a middling reliable te, and you can almost always get one just before you start picking bench players. No one in their right mind drafts a backup te outside of late bench rounds, anyway, so there’s no reason that a top ten te won’t be available at an appropriate point in a 8-12 team draft. Maybe, if you’re in a league with a huge bench and few active roster spots or a 16+ team league (if so, please invite me), this list will be helpful. Otherwise, you can probably ignore the post and look forward to team defenses and kickers coming soon, or just use it to pick up a late round bargain backup te. In any event, my methodology is the same here as it was for my previous lists. As always, standard deviation follows mean rank (now in bold!) follows name and dubious tiers are plentiful. And away we go.

winslow

1. Gates 1.00 0.00

2. Gonzalez 2.48 1.16

3. Shockey 3.36 0.81
4. Heap 3.98 1.15

5. Crumpler 5.00 1.21

6. Cooley 6.92 1.16
7. Winslow 7.00 1.65
8. V. Davis 7.36 2.18

9. LJ Smith 9.79 1.27
10. Witten 9.96 1.29
11. B. Watson 10.46 1.23

12. Da. Clark 12.94 1.27
13. McMichael 13.17 4.20
14. H. Miller 13.46 2.13

15. Daniels 16.40 2.85
16. Scheffler 17.78 2.88
17. Graham 18.86 2.82
18. E. Johnson 19.75 4.27
19. Olsen 19.96 4.01

20. De. Clark 21.17 4.57
21. Troupe 21.50 2.84
22. Martin 22.03 3.95
23. Pollard 22.29 3.51
24. Scaife 23.19 4.45
25. Z. Miller 24.59 7.21
26. Baker 25.00 3.26
27. M. Lewis 25.91 8.49

28. J. Stevens 28.00 5.04†
29. A. Smith 28.00 3.37*†
30. Royal 29.20 1.10*

casper

*These last two entries went unranked by too many of my sources for me to give them my full support. If anyone knows enough about statistics to know how to account for partial lists in this sort of averaging, I will bequeath to you a nonessential organ of your choosing in return for some help.
†I should give this tie to Smith based on my earlier risk averse use of the lower standard deviation as a tie breaker, but as you can read just above this, Smith’s rank is too shaky to give it to him.

The early tiers are, admittedly, fairly useless. My only issue the top five picks is Shockey. He’s overrated, doesn’t always play and seems like an ass. I would not pick him over Heap, and I might not pick him over Crumpler. That said, I will never have to make that decision because idiots will grab him far above his deserved place in the draft. I would like to end up with Vernon Davis. He would give me a solid 49er to fulfill the necessary support that comes with fanhood. After these picks, the list got increasingly crazy. A fair number of websites only rank about 30-35 te’s. Luckily, they don’t get too crazy. I thought that the standard deviations were surprisingly low for the upper half of the list. There just wasn’t a lot of disagreement among the experts. Actually, Vernon Davis was the only guy who engendered serious disagreement in the top twelve or so, but even that was probably due to confidence in Alex Smith and the niners offense. It makes sense in that tight ends are generally reliable and get short yardage and some touchdowns.

Unfortunately, the agreement among experts coupled with my overall lack of interest in the position gives way to rather scant comments from yours truly. Of the players who did not make the list, the following list at least made most lists: Shiancoe, Pope, Dan Campbell, Wrighster, Wilcox and Heiden. I can’t really imagine being in a situation where it made sense to draft one of them. Of course, those in very large leagues may feel differently.

brent jones

Draft well and good luck.

Note: I like Brent Jones. I’m not saying he’s as good as Winslow, Casper or Newsome.

Published in: on July 27, 2007 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

even more averaged expert rankings: wr edition!

cat fantasy football

As these averaged expert rankings posts continue, I have less and less to color commentary to provide on the picks. If you read these posts, please, please comment. My own lack of energy for color commentary during the preseason must be made up for somehow. I think we are all looking forward to more in-depth analysis from the good doctor funkypants. This averaged expert rankings list covers wide receivers, although the title may have fooled you. Wide receiver is generally the position that is easiest to exploit in the draft, at least for me. The managers in my leagues tend to throw around wr picks and go for a tight end or a kicker before they’ve secured all of their receivers. Odd, I know. I have no idea if other people have experienced this strange phenomenon. Hopefully, this list will help you get more value out of your wr picks. Without further ado, the list! Ok, a little ado, standard deviation follows mean rank follows name, and my highly suspect tiers once again make an appearance.

1. S. Smith (CAR) 1.92 1.31
2. Ch. Johnson 2.33 1.50
3. Harrison 3.42 1.93
4. Holt 3.75 0.97

5. Owens 4.67 1.30
6. Wayne 5.58 1.24

7. Fitzgerald 7.25 2.60

8. Ro. Williams 9.25 2.18
9. Walker 10.58 1.00

10. Boldin 11.58 4.36
11. Colston 12.67 3.73
12. Houshmandzadeh 12.83 2.92
13. Driver 13.17 3.83
14. Evans 13.58 2.02
15. R. Moss 14.00 4.82
16. A. Johnson 14.33 2.96
17. Burress 15.25 2.05

18. Ward 17.58 1.44

19. S. Moss 21.42 2.87
20. D. Jackson 21.50 4.30
21. Coles 21.75 4.09
22. Brown 22.67 2.46
23. Branch 22.67 5.02

cat ball

24. Edwards 24.17 3.71
25. Chambers 25.17 3.90
26. Galloway 26.00 3.46
27. Glenn 26.75 3.31
28. Ma. Clayton 27.25 5.45
29. Cotchery 28.75 2.56

30. Ca. Johnson 30.58 8.28
31. V. Jackson 31.33 3.55
32. Berrian 31.67 2.61
33. Stallworth 32.42 5.12

34. Jennings 36.42 5.53
35. Curtis 38.17 3.95
36. Porter 38.58 4.64
37. Holmes 38.83 3.83
38. Hackett 38.83 6.21
39. Henderson 40.50 5.25
40. Horn 41.00 7.10
41. Bruce 41.67 7.80
42. M. Jones 41.75 4.81
43. Muhammad 42.00 5.88
44. Kennison 42.58 5.88

45. Mason 45.67 4.54*
46. Bennett 45.67 5.16*
47. Curry 45.82 6.74
48. Furrey 46.36 8.30
49. Marshall 48.67 5.82
50. B. Jones 49.17 8.77

*I give tied mean ranks to the player with the lower standard deviation. I roll risk averse.

cat 4

I really should have cut this list off around 40 as was the original plan, rather than go the full 50. There are a few guys who would have contended in the 40-50 range, such as Welker, who I just left off out of laziness. Some of the receivers in that range dropped out of the top 40 while I was inputing the last two or three sources. I decided to include an extra ten receivers because there were some notables, Bruce, Muhammad, Kennison, Bennett and Furrey, whose placement interested me. Also, it’s pretty clear if you look at the standard deviation numbers that this list is far more contentious than either running backs or quarterbacks. There simply aren’t a lot of receivers, besides Torry Holt, who engender widespread agreement among fantasy experts and players.

My personal feelings on this list are few and far between. I will draft one of the top four receivers, probably Harrison or Holt. In my opinion, Owens isn’t as big of a risk as some people seem to fear. I don’t necessarily trust such concepts as a three year rule for wide receivers. I have trouble believing in rules that are so generalized and based on nebulous concepts like a player’s ability to acclimate to professional football. I don’t doubt that there is some point at which players tend to reach their potential as receivers in professional football, but I’m not sure what that adds to the discussion of draft order. If the experts use it, that’s great, but I’m not going to go through and try to predict something as tenuous as a breakout years. I don’t like longshots. I like a long series of highly probable small gains or for fantasy football a team full of good players with demonstrated skill and steady improvement. I want primary receivers who are going to get yards every single game and are going to get a lot of first looks in the red zone.

packer cat
Published in: on July 24, 2007 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

more averaged expert rankings

I think the title of this post is fairly descriptive. I’m pretty much going to do the same thing for running backs (in this post) and wide receivers (in the next post) that I did for quarterbacks. This is not complex and presents little new information. On the other hand, it’s the best system that I can (or will) come up with to rank players for a fantasy draft. You can click here read my previous post for a bit more explanation if you’re interested. My framework was essentially the same. I restricted the website pool to those that had updated in the past month, which only took out a couple, and I added about.com’s expert’s ranking that I had overlooked previously. Please refer to the good Dr. Funkypants’ posts for his rankings and quite a bit more color commentary. While I will attempt to draft like a good robot, without emotion and personal bias, I do have opinions that I will include in this post.

expert

First, on the topic of my quarterback rankings. I’m not a huge fan of this year’s qb pool. Manning, Palmer, Brees, I’m happy, but the leagues I play in tend to draft quarterbacks about 2 rounds ahead of their proper place, good for getting a top notch wr crew but bad for my satisfaction with my qb. I know that you don’t need one of the big three to get sufficient production out of this roster spot, but having to start McNair last year in my two qb league was just painful. I apologize if these qb reviews sound overly cranky but damnit I just don’t like Tony fucking Romo in my top ten. Away we go. Brady is overhyped, and someone with a New England bias will probably pick him over the much more sensible Brees or Palmer. Bulger is boring to watch even in the Martz holdover system and without said system, would be significantly lower. McNabb screwed me once with his injuries, and I don’t think that anyone is willing to bet on him staying healthy all season long. Young is, well, young and still something of a question mark in my mind. I like Kitna, but shit, are we really already at Jon Kitna? I guess I would pick Hasselbeck if push came to shove, but he just isn’t going to get great numbers on the Seahawks. I’m not saying these guys suck. I just wish that I had some better options in my top ten qb list. I will have less to say about the running backs.

dogs

Here’s my quick breakdown on the top 38 running backs in fantasy football followed by some opinion. I will break it down into highly dubious tiers, as I did for the quarterbacks. Standard deviation follows mean rank follows name. If you missed my previous explanation of standard deviation, it’s best thought of as how closely the experts agreed on a player’s rank in this context.

1. Tomlinson 1.00 0.00

2. S. Jackson 2.25 0.45
3. Johnson 3.00 0.85

4. Gore 4.67 0.89
5. Alexander 4.83 1.64

6. Westbrook 6.67 1.37
7. Parker 7.08 1.51
8. Addai 7.42 1.31
9. Johnson 8.92 1.24

10. Maroney 11.25 2.42
11. Bush 11.83 2.42
12. McGahee 12.92 1.62
13. Henry 13.08 3.18
14. Brown 14.00 2.83

15. Jones-Drew 15.58 1.88
16. Portis 15.67 3.60
17. James 16.08 3.00
18. Benson 17.33 1.78
19. T. Jones 18.83 1.85
20. McAllister 19.83 3.10

fight over ball

21. Lynch 21.92 2.91*
21. Jacobs 21.92 2.91*
23. C. Williams 23.50 2.61
24. Green 25.42 3.70
25. Barber 25.92 3.87
26. Lewis 26.17 3.01

27. Peterson (MIN) 27.42 4.19
28. D. Williams 28.17 3.21
29. J. Jones 29.42 3.42
30. Dunn 29.75 2.01
31. F. Taylor 30.92 2.19

32. C. Taylor 33.25 5.07
33. Jordan 33.75 5.07
34. T. Bell 34.83 4.88
35. Norwood 34.91 2.91
36. K. Jones 35.58 4.62
37. B. Jackson 36.33 5.45
38. Betts 36.58 4.62

39. Morency 39.58 3.12
40. Foster 39.83 2.62

*Weird, a tie.

Generally speaking, the running back pool is fairly pleasing. I really like the top five. I’m a Niners fan and Gore was my sleeper pick, shining star last year, but I would still be a bit nervous about having him on my fantasy team with that high of a pick. Everyone seems to be behind him, but he’s only had one great season. I probably would take him fourth still, but I’d definitely need a few good weeks before I stopped being nervous about it. Westbrook scares me as an injury risk. Also, it’s mildly disconcerting to see his running yards before you do the math and add up his combined yardage. The rest of the top nine is good. I particularly like Rudi Johnson. I would also be quite happy with Reggie Bush in my second quarterback spot, not to say other guys around him aren’t good. He just seems like a guy who has a good chance of improving quickly in the NFL. Moving down the list, I wouldn’t fuck with Portis and I don’t wish that kind of headache on anyone. Constantly worrying whether a guy’s knee is going to blow out is not fun. I imagine it’s even less fun for him. Finally, my favorite running back not on the list is Reuben Droughns.

dog football
Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Second Round: QB Analysis

Last week saw the beginning of Easy Mode’s preseason analysis of fantasy football. My co-author kicked off the first round properly with a look at the running back. And now, we move on to my quarterback rankings.

qb

I’m not going to write nearly as much about my rankings as I don’t have very much faith in my abilities as a football scout. There are experts out there who spend far more time than I pondering the subject of who is the fifteenth best quarterback in the NFL. There is a fairly high bar to becoming an acknowledged fantasy football expert, and while that bar may consist in part of an ability to market yourself as an expert, it is the only workable foundation I can come up with to determine a player ranking system. I would prefer to do an analysis of the past success of each expert’s picks, but that seems like a bit much work and it’s probably far too difficult to find the historical data, anyway. The next best thing to using the best expert (well, I can think of a few different methods if I had reliable data on past success rates) is to use the entire group of experts. Most people probably do something similar by employing a variety of experts’ lists, but I’ve gone ahead and averaged out the picks from a group of experts.

I picked my experts by trying to use the more popular fantasy football websites that already have QB preseason rankings up. It would be nice to employ statistical weights based on site popularity, but my lack of both motivation and knowledge of statistics once again rears its ugly head to foil my plans. So, this is just a simple averaging of eleven experts (technically, I used yahoo’s combined rankings which is the average of four experts plus public voting, I had no real reason not to use all four experts’ picks separately but that seemed like I would be favoring Yahoo unduly, whatever). I realize that a lot of people prefer close examinations of various stats and such, but like I said before I have no confidence in my ability to predict the future. Furthermore, I don’t know of any particular performance prediction method which is superior to others, and I don’t trust my ability to recognize such a method in any event.

magic

Without further ado, here are my rankings of the top 30 quarterbacks as voted by eleven experts from such websites as espn.com, cnnsi.com and sportsline.com. The average ranking is the first number after the player’s name and the standard deviation is the second. I realize this is very much amateur hour at the statistical analysis of fantasy sports table, much less the statistics table.

1. Manning 1.00 0

2. Palmer 2.55 0.82
3. Brees 3.27 1.10
4. Brady 3.82 0.98
5. Bulger 4.82 1.17

6. McNabb 6.82 2.68

7. Young 8.55 2.38
8. Kitna 8.91 2.77
9. Romo 9.64 1.86
10. Hasselbeck 9.73 1.62
11. Vick 10.64 3.20

12. Leinart 12.45 2.66
13. E. Manning 13.73* 2.83
14. Cutler 13.73* 4.43
15. Rivers 13.91 2.39

16. Roethlisberger 15.45 2.11
17. Favre 16.09 1.51

18. Smith 19.73 1.95
19. Losman 19.82 3.16
20. Grossman 20.91 3.88
21. Delhomme 21.00 1.48
22. Pennington 22.00 2.72
23. Schaub 22.09 3.45
24. McNair 22.20 2.49

25. Campbell 24.50 2.22
26. Green 25.80 2.94

27. Leftwich 27.60 2.17
28. Jackson 28.20 2.94
29. Garcia 29.20 3.89
30. Russell 30.78 2.39

*The tie for 13th place went to Eli Manning because his standard deviation was lower. One website (fantasyfootballtoday.com) ranked Cutler at 24th. I try to be risk averse in my draft picks, so I went with the safer of the two. If you don’t know what standard deviation is, my hazy recollection/wikipedia lookup definition is that it’s a measure of how closely the data points are grouped around the mean. So, a lower standard deviation means that the rankings were more closely grouped around the average ranking for that individual player.

The spacing represents some tiers that I think exist in the list, although I’m probably forcing things a bit. One thing that I can say without reservation is that every expert that I’ve come across puts Peyton at number one. The next four picks, tier 1.5, are fairly evenly spaced out. No one in the top five received a lower ranking than six. McNabb (tier 1.75) would continue the trend of evenly spaced out picks, but two websites ranked him at twelve. He’s an injury risk and maybe even a personality risk, what with the dog fighting and whatnot. Seven through eleven, tier 2, have regular spacing and not too many rankings that diverge significantly from the norm. One guy ranked Vince Young low, two guys did the same to Kitna, and Vick has the highest standard deviation of the bunch with experts either loving or hating him, relatively speaking. The next significant jump in rankings comes up number twelve with Matt Leinart. Leinart through Rivers seem to be tier 3, although I could be reading my data incorrectly here. Cutler is the biggest gamble in that group with picks ranging from 9th to 24th. Without that 24th pick, Cutler would move up a pick and be just behind Leinart. Roethlisberger and Favre are probably the entirety of tier 4. You can see the rest of the tiers just as easily as I can write them out here, so I’ll leave that to you, gentle reader. Hopefully, you don’t find yourself trying to decide between Pennington and Schaub in any event.

dog

As the rankings get lower, the list becomes increasingly dodgy. Not every website ranked every player, so I had to finagle things a bit. In fact, I have a total of 47 quarterbacks ranked using this method, but the bottom of the list probably leaves out some players due to my laziness. As a point of interest, Kerry Collins is the worst ranked player for whom I wrote down rankings data. He just barely edged out Trent Dilfer for this honor.

I have a bit more analysis of the less useful variety. Of the websites that I used, fantasyinsights.com probably had the rankings closest to the average. Technically, Yahoo won this award but their rankings were already an average and they only 22 picks, so they got voided. For the most divergent rankings, ESPN tied with fantasyfootballtoday.com for the wackiest/ballsiest quarterback rankings. ESPN apparently has high hopes for Vick and Rivers. Jamarcus Russell easily beat out pretty boy Brady Quinn with Quinn coming in a distant 36 or so to Russell’s 30 spot. With that, my dispassionate look at quarterback rankings is complete. Good luck to you all, unless your in my league.

collins

Edit: Today’s announcement of Vick’s indictment might have some effect on his fantasy ranking.

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 6:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Free Fantasy Football League Roundup

Time for another roundup, and god knows I’m simply twitching with excitement. Ah, July, the sun is shining, I’m unemployed and the football season is a mere 57 or so days away, not that I’m counting. Even more exciting than the beginning of the professional football season is the beginning of the fantasy football season, also coincidentally a mere 57 or so days away. Of course, this number is misleading. It merely marks the first game of the season and not the true beginning of fantasy football for that occurred as soon as they allowed me to sign up to play. I first played fantasy sports about eight or nine years ago (with some intervening breaks). I can’t remember which website hosted the league, possibly Sportsline or AOL, and the various websites have changed and matured as have my own wants and needs in a fantasy sports league website. I’ve been playing on Yahoo! for the past few years in a year round cycle of statistics and roster adjustments. It’s been pretty good to my friends and I, at least those who don’t turn their noses up at the very idea of fantasy sports (a quick note to greaney if he’s reading: every season that i play fantasy sports and you don’t, i count as a victory of my sporting knowledge over your own. i will rename my team in honor of the rams, if you play just one season). However, some members of the league, including myself, are now itching for certain options that are beyond the current setup of Yahoo fantasy sports.

list

Good friend of the blog and rabid fantasy football player, X3D, recently emailed me the following list of qualities that he looks for in a fantasy football league. I’ve summarized his points about each category.

1. Interface – ease of use, clarity

2. Statistics – split stats for both players and competing owners

3. History – stats from previous seasons, split stats for owners over multiple seasons

4. Flexibility – full customization for scoring settings, draft order, trades (allowing draft pick trading, three-way trades), position eligibility

5. Post board – trash talking capabilities

6. Real-time stats

This is a pretty good list. X3D contributions will probably continue as long as my cohort and I write about fantasy football. All I will add are some intangibles that could go in a few different categories, such as website load time and aesthetics, obvious injury updates, links to fantasy analysis and a large, relatively intelligent community.

I collected a list of free fantasy football sites from a not very exhaustive search. If anyone has any further suggestions, please write a quick comment and I’ll check it out. I realize that you can’t really evaluate a site without playing in a league, but that sort of negates the idea of this whole post, so I’m going to ignore it. These evaluations are mostly based on pre-season impressions, so any pros or cons that come out during the season will be missed obviously. While I haven’t spent a lot of time with each site, anything that I missed I’m going to chalk up to faulty site design rather than my own idiocy. Also, CNNSI.com may well have free fantasy football but it doesn’t offer signups yet for next season. Their website is a piece of crap, though, so it’s not a huge loss. Now, let’s jump right to the individual reviews.

yahoo

Yahoo
I’ve been using Yahoo for awhile, so this review will probably be a bit different than the others. I like Yahoo. I read their news sometimes, largely out of habit, and their sports section is user friendly even if it lacks the breadth of ESPN. However, I’ve never been the commissioner, so testing out the league creation tool was a novel experience for me. Yahoo gets its highest marks for its interface and ease of use. The site is nice looking and all of your basic commands are simple to understand and use. The new fancy roster setting is appreciated but kind of a pain in the ass if you ever want to highlight text on your roster. I don’t know why I like doing that, some sort of impulse to doodle probably. Stat collection is only average. Baseball, notably, suffers from a lack of interesting statistical analysis. Football is a little bit simpler but it could still benefit from richer analytical tools. Of course, these tools seem to be offered on the pay side, Fantasy Football Plus, and the free side does get some trickle down every once in awhile, the voting-based keys to success and other tools seem to be a bit better than what’s offered at competing sites. I have no idea if it’s true but Yahoo seems to have more players than other leagues and the tool features are largely supported by this population, through a wisdom of crowds sort of thing. Your Yahoo ID saves your league results and offers some nice trophies and such for past victories. Unfortunately, the comparisons between other player profiles are somewhat strange and it only saves your old league’s schedules without any accompanying stats. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a way to look at cumulative records. The league rules are somewhat flexible. They come in a close fourth, and as much as I enjoy excessive rule tinkering, it tends to turn off more casual players and it sucks to have people leave a league over petty shit like rules. I can rant on either side of this issue but will save it for the future. The message board works and the smack talk is a fun feature, although it really should be a bit more public as in a sidebar that the league always sees. Finally, real time stat updates, via Stattracker, are a pay feature after the first week teaser. Having bought Stattracker, I can attest that it could be better. If I pay for something on the internet, it damn well better work right and Stattracker gets buggy at times. That said, it’s pretty cheap compared to paying for a league. I particularly like the analysis written for the Yahoo fantasy community, although there could be more of it. It’s written to be accessible to the casual user and with the Yahoo scoring system in mind. All in all, Yahoo offers a pretty good fantasy football league with a large community and good analysis that they write themselves. I like Yahoo and think it’s particularly good for the casual user, however there are better things out there.

sportsline

CBS Sportsline/NFL.com
I probably shouldn’t write about this site next, but it left me with the most vivid impression. Let me preface this review by stating that I have heard that CBS Sportsline has a very fine paid section with all sorts of amenities and customization. Unfortunately, these amenities and customization are not available on the free side and the website fails in nearly every category. I believe that Sportsline Fantasy Football is relatively popular. I’ve read people commenting on it. It’s on every list of fantasy football sites that I found. They must have one hell of a paid side because the free side is shit. The interface is mildly intimidating, no friendly team page greets you with nice little tabs as is the standard. The “options” link only goes to the option of changing your team name and personal id. The player stat page is ugly and as basic as possible. I have no idea if there is any league tracking over multiple seasons. I can’t really imagine playing multiple seasons there. There is absolutely no flexibility in rules, which is the part that I find most appalling. You’re stuck with a single rule set. I thought that this couldn’t possibly be the case, as every other website offers some degree of customization, but I confirmed the forced rule set when I looked back at Sportsline Fantasy Football enticement to upgrade. Honestly, I feel like I’m missing something about the website. I couldn’t even find a simple league message board, although there is supposed to be one even on the free side. I assume that they don’t offer real-time stats for free. Unless I’m very mistaken about things, I would consider Sportsline as essentially a pay only site. The general crappiness of the website is surprising as it powers NFL.com’s fantasy football section as well. (Oddly enough, while the Sportsline and NFL.com have identical fantasy football sections and cross-promotions on each site, the actual leagues aren’t linked. I couldn’t find the test league that I created in one when I was using the other. Very odd.) The only positive comment that I can make about Sportsline is that they seem to have some good in-house fantasy analysis, I guess.

aol

AOL
AOL’s offering (and most of the other sites) was a stark contrast from the good reputation/bad reality findings on Sportsline. I went to AOL with very low expectations. The very act of accessing an AOL website gave me fears of software installing itself on my computer and dreams of the ubiquitous cd coasters I once collected for no apparent reason. Much to my surprise, AOL offers a very nice free fantasy football experience and actually has the most original setup. Their website is simple yet useful and isn’t bogged down in the bullshit web 2.0 stuff that is beginning to take over Yahoo and ESPN. The interface is very clear and well laid out. It’s easy to find all of the league tools and player information through a simple expanding sidebar that is actually not flash- or ajax- or whatever-based. The stats page is similarly clear and useful. There isn’t any flashy analysis, but it’s easily readable and lists every player for each position on a single page. Also, you can view all of the teams rosters on one page for easy comparison, which was unique among the websites. Amazingly, the site seems to offer easily viewable league histories back through your previous seasons. I’m not sure how much they record for you, but it seems nice. Unfortunately, their FAQ says that there is no way to import league histories, but at least the topic is addressed and they might actually work on it. Interestingly, you can give out custom awards based on whatever you want. There’s also a section for league finances to allow easy tracking of who’s put money in the pool and who hasn’t. I imagine you can also use this function for pay trade systems. There’s a weekly pick ’em section, which is always fun. Communication is simple with a message board and owner notes. The site also allows for the creation of custom league polls. Apparently, live scoring is free, as well, but I have no idea what it looks like. AOL completely surprised me, and I would be more than happy to bring my league over to their site. Some might dock them points for the spartan design, but I find it highly appealing along with the many other unique, if somewhat small, touches.

espn

ESPN
Clearly, ESPN.com offers the best real sports analysis of any major website. On top of that, ESPN is a very fine network and offers the best sports show on television (if not the best show), PTI. For that alone, I can understand why their fantasy football league is relatively popular. However, before going to their site, I had heard some negative things about fantasy football on ESPN.com. I loathe their website design, so full of flash elements and sliding buttons and bullshit everywhere, so I was prepared to believe the rumors. However, the fantasy football offering actually seems pretty solid. Much like the website, there’s too much web 2.0ish stuff but the content is good and actually the fantasy football site design is a bit more restrained than the general site. I would go so far as to the say that the league and team pages are the nicest looking of the bunch. The interface is easy to use and clear enough. Many of the features listed in the AOL review are also included on ESPN.com. I mostly dock the site because it feels a bit too close to Yahoo. I’m not saying one copied the other or anything, but I wanted something a bit different from what I was used to in a new website. Most of my problems with ESPN.com are faults of the general website and not of the fantasy football area. I just don’t like all of the Insider teasers and video everywhere. I know that ESPN.com has some nice analysis but I don’t want to watch a video of something that I could read in a small fraction of the time. Also, the website tends to do bad things to my browser, crashing and whatnot. The fantasy football area offers some form of league history, again not viewable and likely not importable. Player stats are nice and I appreciate the easy pop-up analysis for each player, but it’s all a bit much ultimately and I would prefer to just read analysis on a separate page. League flexibility is good, rules are customizable and such, but it doesn’t differentiate itself from other sites in this respect. One positive and unique note is the inclusion of league chat in addition to a message board. This function alone does a lot to win me over. When you play in a league where you either don’t know everyone, I can imagine use of hashing out trades and just generally talking shit on the league chat. The other websites should really rip this off. I can’t think of a good reason not to have integrated league chat. Live scoring is advertised as free. All in all, despite some misgivings and an uncertain league history area, I would be happy to move my league over to ESPN.com.

fox sports

FoxSports
Unlike ESPN.com, I’m not a fan of FoxSports.com’s big brother cable station. Sure, it’s fun to watch the occasional MMA bout or whatever, but their schedule seems built around the Best Damn network of shows and I actively dislike all of the hosts of that show, past and present. In addition, FoxSports.com is linked with MSN.com, which is as unholy of a media union as I can imagine. Unlike AOL, FoxSports.com Fantasy Football did not rise above the challenges of their parent company. While the fantasy football offering is nowhere near as bad as Sportsline, it does nothing to stand out from the pack and, in a comparative fantasy football review post, there’s no such thing as good enough. FoxSports is basically Yahoo or ESPN without any of the unique features offered on those sites. The interface is clear and well-designed enough. The player stats page tends to lag a second when you load it but doesn’t commit any grievous sins. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to look at the scoreboard or standings prior to the beginning of the season. The rules have an average level of flexibility. The message board is a message board. Oddly enough, there’s a “stories” board in addition to the message board that lets you post images but is otherwise identical to the message board except it actually restricts message length more. I’m mystified as to why they don’t combine these features. FoxSports does offer small league sizes than some of the other websites allowed, but that made me feel sad more than it shocked me with its utility. I couldn’t find the league history section if there is one. They do seem to offer live scoring. (It’s fairly petty of Yahoo to still charge for this service when most other sites don’t) The site design isn’t too heavy with flash, although where they do use it, it’s mostly just for aesthetics and is not appreciated. FoxSports seems to offer in-house fantasy analysis, but at this point, it’s safe to say that’s fairly standard among the websites. Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend FoxSports.com Fantasy Football. I wouldn’t kick it if I saw it lying in the street, as I would with Sportsline, but I also wouldn’t support moving my league to it. It’s simply a bland offering and isn’t up to the competition.

fleaflicker

FleaFlicker
FleaFlicker is the only small website offering and is the most likely destination for my league. There are probably other good small websites out there. Particularly if you’re willing to pay, I hear very good things about some of the small, unaffiliated with a major media service websites. It might just be my Firefox setup but FleaFlicker seems entirely devoid of advertising or other revenue-generating means, leaving me a little nervous about its stability as a long term fantasy football platform. Those fears aside, the fantasy football experience has won me over, mostly. FleaFlicker imparts a satisfying sense of control through the website design and features. The interface is useful without being overbearing and simple without being spartan. The player stats section offers some fun graphs on each player’s profile, however I would like to see actual stats on the player index rather than just fantasy points and ratings. Of course, the stats are accessible on each player’s page. The website seems to offer the best league history analysis and I heard a rumor of importing histories, that would make at least one member of my league an instant devotee if we can figure it out. The site seems to be run by a small group of people, and the responsiveness of the site management is very good. Questions in the forums are quickly answered and the community is still small enough to be helpful to the confused. I would appreciate a full-fledged message board for the general site forum, but maybe, it’s too expensive or something. The scoring is the most flexible of the bunch and offers some fairly interesting default rule sets to choose from. You can set up bonuses for nearly any stat situation. This flexibility is probably what won me over, even though my stat rule ideas are generally shot down quickly. I dream of a day when my commisionership is absolute and all manner of excessive scoring rule is allowed. The post board is fine, but after seeing ESPN’s chat board, it seems a bit inadequate. Real-time stats are available. Part of me misses locally produced fantasy analysis but I know that I should branch out and stop suckling at the teat of Yahoo’s Big Board. Unlike the other websites, FleaFlicker gives you a sense that the developers will actually take suggestions and try to implement new features. My enjoyment of FleaFlicker probably has something to do with a natural preference for the small-time and independent. So, I’m probably overlooking some cons because FleaFlicker is the little fantasy football website that could, but if I can import my league’s history and see a cumulative breakdown of my matchups with each of my hated rivals, then I don’t really care.

trophy

I’m not going to rank the websites or give them hard and fast scores. Without seeing how each site operates during the season, it really wouldn’t be fair. My preseason impression is that FleaFlicker will probably be my recommendation, Yahoo, ESPN and AOL are on the same level (with a slight knock on Yahoo for feeling a bit stale after a few years), FoxSports is next and Sportsline is dead last. Good luck to everyone on the coming fantasy football season. I encourage comments, particularly if you know how these sites function during the regular season or use a different site altogether.

Published in: on July 12, 2007 at 7:25 pm  Comments (2)  

War Never Changes

fallout 3 poster

The third game in the Fallout series is once again in development and thus I will renew my computer gaming career. Since around the eighth grade, I haven’t played many computer games. Of course, I don’t count diversions like minesweeper and bookworm adventures, love them though I might. I may briefly dabble in illicit new editions of old favorites, like Civilization 4 or something, but probably haven’t bought a computer game since a Playstation arrived in my home I’m not averse to computer gaming. My memories of playing Marathon on my dad’s Quadra 800 are still close to my heart. It’s just that through the years my computers haven’t kept up with the demands of technology, and it’s a bit hard to get excited about a system when you can’t play the newest, shiniest games for it. So, generally speaking, PC gaming news doesn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat. There are exceptions to this rule, however. Fallout 1 and 2 are two of the few games that I bought and played around the time that they came out.

Now, the first two Fallout games are pretty fucking great. If you have played either game and don’t like them, I would probably disagree with you on a variety of things, video games and otherwise.

fallout 2

Although it inexplicably has since fallen out of favor, the post-apocalyptic era once had a firm place in American entertainment. I know the generic reasons (end of the Cold War arms race, etc.) for this change, but I’m surprised that we don’t hang on to more post-apocalyptism in our culture that doesn’t revolve around zombies or natural disasters. Perhaps, these fears already have too explicit of an outlet in the mainstream media these days for a strong demand for fictional works on the issue. I don’t mean to imply that post-apocalyptism is dead. I just miss the more humorous expressions of it of the eighties and early nineties. Maybe, bio-terrorism is a bit too realistic these days. Back to Fallout, new and old.

The intellectual property behind the series is a familiar 1950’s take on the end of the world. Nuclear bombs have fallen throughout the world, the few survivors fight for power with religious, racial or selfish motivations, and you a lone survivor are trying to make things a bit better for yourself and your village. The game is replete with fading atomic age propaganda, decaying technology and irradiated mutants. The protagonist wanders from ruined town to fortified fallout shelter, completing tasks garnered from local crime lords and corrupt mayors, gaining experience and items as he goes. The combat is turn-based and the humor is dark. It’s pretty much awesome.

fallout line art

While I know that the new game is almost certainly going to be a significant departure from the first two games, I hope that new developer, Bethesda, is true to their promise to stay true to the core Fallout experience. I know that the new game utilizes some sort of pauseable active battle system instead of a true turn-based system. As much as I intend to resist this trend at every available opportunity, I accept that game companies have some reason for believing that turn based games don’t sell. That discussion can be left for another day. Bethesda does seem to be getting the stylistic elements right. Familiar Fallout elements, like rotgut, a bluesy opening theme and Ron Perlman’s narration appear in the recently released trailer. So, that’s encouraging. I admit that Bethesda has made some good games that I would definitely play if an xbox 360 magically appeared in my apartment. I, like many Fallout fans, just hope that they do more than make a Fallout version of Oblivion.

Fallout 3 is still a long way from completion; the release is 4th quarter of next year. So, my recent replaying of Fallout 2 is probably a bit premature. Then again, I take these games slowly and there’s never a bad time for wandering through an irradiated wasteland. Anyway, if you’ve never played a Fallout game, you might want to consider checking them out some time in the next 18 or so months.

vault 15

Here are your links.
No Mutants Allowed – The oldest Fallout fansite.
Fallout 3 Official Site – Bethesda’s Fallout 3 site. (actually goes to Fallout 3 teaser, then site)
The Vault – A Fallout wiki.

Published in: on July 2, 2007 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

I See You

private

Google recently introduced two new online products, Google Street View and Google Image Search with Facial Recognition. And I couldn’t be more excited.

I was going to write a post about stalking my friends with these new Google tools, but a more interesting issue has arisen. Just imagine me writing something creepy about watching a friend’s family home and using google faces to identify people in their neighborhood based on the names written on their mailboxes. I’m not really doing this. Google hasn’t photographed the right cities, yet. On to the issue. Google Street View has sparked a debate of sorts with some mainstream media outlets and a minority of internet commenters decrying the new service as an invasion of privacy.

Here’s the NY Times story. In short, some lady got upset because Street View had a shot of her apartment building in which her cat was dimly visible through a large window looking into her living room. The cat was lying on some sort of cat stand. I’m not sure of the names of cat-related paraphernalia, but it’s one of those shag carpet-lined, multi-platform things that look like an altar to catdom. The view into the apartment isn’t so great. There are some dim shapes, but pretty much you just see a cat sunning itself on its cat altar.

cat altar

I don’t know how much of the story has been emphasized by a little creative reporting. Whether we’re dealing with an alarmist, neo-luddite or just a shit disturbing journalist, this story and its tone has been echoed in a variety of publications at this point. The vast majority of these articles fail to mention that Street View isn’t just a fun toy to find blurry photographs of shadowy cats but an insanely useful tool that has far more positives than negatives.

Right now, people are only using Street View to find funny pictures and spend their workday recreating their commute in stop motion. Once the Street View car has photographed a greater portion of the country, the tool will come into its own with a variety of useful applications.

Street View is not those satellite picture overlays on Google and other maps. The satellite images are fun, but unless I’m looking for missile silos or checking how my roof was 10 years ago, it’s not terribly useful. Street View can actually solve problems. You could find nearby stores and restaurants simply by browsing around, a nice alternative or addition to sometimes spotty online yellow pages, quickly research buildings and neighborhoods while looking for a new apartment or house, or find pictures of poorly marked roads to help with navigation.

all seeing eye

I’m not suggesting that one can tell everything from the exterior of a building, but the ability to see where I’m going strikes me as a positive. I just can’t get excited about worries over big brother invasions of privacy when the thing is so damn useful and fun. I like my privacy quite a bit, but that’s why I keep my blinds down and wear elaborate makeup and facial prosthetics when I go out in public.

Anyway, if you want to see some of the fun stuff people have found thus far or check on who’s breaking into your house, here is a website listing their top ten Google Street View websites. LINK And if you fear Google’s new world order or simply don’t want your picture taken while procuring the finest in erotic literature, then here’s the camera van at which to throw your rocks. LINK

ladybugs

Published in: on June 12, 2007 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

No More Exile on Main Street?

sad

Friend of Easy Mode and all-around good guy, TJ Greaney, has announced his departure from the Southeast Missourian. My partner in crime and I were already set on edge after the absence of last week’s EoMS, and his last column confirmed our fears. I have read every single column in his 16 month run. I bookmarked his page within the first five columns written. I have responded to a column at one in the morning in an angry email at one in the morning, accusing him of all sorts of things that later were proven untrue. His columns have touched me and made me laugh. August 2nd’s Praise for the humble porch may be my personal favorite. Happily, Greaney is not walking away from journalism but merely taking a new job at the Columbia Tribune. I can only hope that the powers that be at the Tribune recognize his passion, intellect and courage and assign him a new weekly column forthwith. Luckily, the competition doesn’t appear too stiff.

Good luck, TJ.

Published in: on June 7, 2007 at 4:54 pm  Comments (1)