Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
17 Jul 2008
by Mike Tanier
True story: There's a guy in one of my fantasy leagues who has picked a backup quarterback in the eighth round every year for the past five years.
He doesn't know he's doing it, but our commissioner keeps the old draft sheets. The guy usually grabs a starter in the third or fourth round, but is known to grab a Peyton Manning-type earlier every once in a while. But while you can't predict when he will pick his starter, you can set your watch by the backup.
Such predictable behavior got me wondering: What does your fantasy draft style say about your personality? Many of us have been playing fantasy football for almost 20 years, and we've fallen into patterns. Maybe you always lead off with two running backs, even if it isn't the best strategy for your league rules or spot in the draft order. Or maybe you refuse to draft a kicker until the final two rounds, even if you're down to drafting Jerome Harrison to fill the critical RB6 slot on your roster and Neil Rackers is your brother-in-law. Heck, some guys draft Mack Strong every year and won't accept logical counterarguments like "he's a fullback" or "he's retired."
With the help of the six credits of psychology I earned in 1988, I was able to identify common drafting patterns and match them with the personality traits they typify. Find your favorite fantasy philosophy on the list below, then read what it says about you. I warn you: It's like a probe thermometer into the fleshy part of your soul, so the experience may be unsettling.
Style: The stone tablets of fantasy tactics were carried down from Mount Sinai, and you follow them with fundamentalist zeal. Get those two backs, then a top wideout, then settle the quarterback situation, then the next receiver, then patiently fill out your bench and periphery. No matter how the draft shakes out ("Oops, we all somehow forgot Steven Jackson, and the sixth round has started. Damn tequila shooters!"), stay the course, stay the course.
Personality: You are precise. For you, Everything in its Right Place isn't just the first track on Kid A. Setting your watch to Greenwich time isn't enough; sometimes, you just have to get some caesium-133 and measure a few billion periods for yourself to make sure the seconds are right. You label your underwear by days of the week, smoke alarm batteries by months of the year, and condoms by decade of the millennia.
Other Traits: Your satisfaction with the same strategy year after year reveals that you are a risk-averse conformist. You have a taste for the tepid: weak tea, bland food, CBS television. You still vote for the Whig party, and your flag lapel pin has only 48 stars because you can't think of Oklahoma and Arizona as anything other than Indian territories. You completely didn't get that Radiohead reference a paragraph ago.
Style: Got Joseph Addai in the first round? Super! Ryan Grant in the second? Why stop there? Nab Selvin Young in the third, and after making a concession to sanity by picking up a quarterback, start stockpiling the Garrett Wolfes.
Personality: You are a world-champion hoarder. Buying toilet paper by the palette at the wholesale club isn't enough for you. You steal copper pipes from demolition sites and stash them in your shed until the price reaches $5 per pound. You have enough canned tuna in your fallout shelter to stock Lake Baikal, and you plan to emerge from the apocalypse not just well fed and chipper, but ready to gouge your desperate neighbors with one-sided trades. "Sure, I have a pint of gasoline and two spoonfuls of peanut butter I can trade you ... for your daughter's virtue."
Other Traits: You think subtlety is for wimps and never met a problem that couldn't be solved by a bazooka blast. Your fear that all of the running backs in the NFL will get injured simultaneously, forcing you to start three tight ends and Reno Mahe, makes you only slightly less paranoid than the guy who writes the Ancient Aztec Aliens Altered My DNA in My Sleep blog.
Style: Always the iconoclast, you buck convention and load up on receiving divas in the first two rounds. Your little run 'n' shoot offense will need some run, though, so you find yourself saturation-drafting bargain basement committee backs in the final rounds.
Personality: You are as supple as the reed that bends, yet breaks not, in the typhoon's gale. You use your enemy's force against him and know that it's impossible to squeeze the ocean within your fist, yadda, yadda, fortune cookie logic, yadda. You believe you have mastered the Tao of fantasy football, and you have as much chance of winning your league as you do of sprouting two more heads and singing "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" in full harmony.
Other Traits: You consider yourself a "free thinker," which somehow involves lots of henna tattoos, energizing crystals, and angry phone calls from creditors. You look down on the uncommitted vegans who can eat seed-bearing fruits without lamenting the unborn tree. You are proud of your hybrid's fuel cell, built from tofu sprouts and unicorn farts. Your need for late-round running backs has left you with a taste for the macabre, which causes conflict within you. You want to be a positive person, but you secretly wish that LaDainian Tomlinson would tear his ACL because you need Darren Sproles to start during a bye.
Strategy: RB-RB-TE (The Gates Guy)
Style: You are always the first guy to grab a tight end. You also pick a kicker around Round 8 and a defense in Round 9 or so, two healthy steps ahead of the curve. This year, it's Antonio Gates, Stephen Gostkowski, and the Bears. Ten years ago, it was Shannon Sharpe, Jason Elam, and the Panthers. Your quarterbacks often stink and your top wide receiver for five years was O.J. McDuffie, but you are always strong where you think it counts: the peripherals.
Personality: You're the guy who outsmarts the system, and you consider yourself a master of market inefficiencies. You dabbled as a day trader in the 1990s and a real estate speculator five years ago. You now own 20,000 shares of Boo.com and a $300,000 duplex in the Heroinville neighborhood of Addictowne, but that doesn't dissuade you of your genius.
Other Traits: You like to collect curios and oddities. You prefer vinyl to iPods, and you'll argue to the death that it's better to have slightly improved equalization and stereo separation than the ability to walk down the street listening to music. You enjoy fads that involve over-complicating things that should be easy, like soap making. You still brew your own beer, even though it went out of style a decade ago, and your friends politely swill the latest batch of J.W. Wittenlover Select even though it tastes like a blend of Guinness, WD-40, and rotting grass.
Didn't find yourself on the list? That's because, as a Football Outsiders reader, you transcend predictable strategies in favor of a more enlightened fantasy experience. The ultimate path to enlightenment is, of course, the KUBIAK projection system, plus the wisdom contained in Pro Football Prospectus. So get downloading. It's not just informative. It's self-actualizing.
When I first met A.J., he was following Will Leitch around like a timid little cockapoo during the God Save the Fan book signing in Philly. Little did I know that this shrinking violet would soon ascend to throne of all sports blogdom: the editor-in-chief position at Deadspin. It turns out that A.J. and I are both La Salle University graduates, so I asked him to offer Walkthrough some inside Deadspin info, talk a little 20th-and-Olney trivia, and help me fill space in July.
FO: How does the transfer or power at Deadspin take place? Is there a parade and inauguration, or executions and the smashing of statues?
A.J.: Little bit of both. Statues were smashed, but the parade was a very small one held inside my apartment with the tuba player from St. Maria Goretti High School and me beating on an empty tin of oatmeal. It was poignantly sad.
FO: How many staffers are still hoarse from shouting "sellout" at Leitch for the past month?
A.J.: Just Rick (Chandler). He hasn't taken the news well at all and is prone to violent outbursts when nudged too hard. I'll ask him to take a look at a story and he'll e-mail me back some intense, cryptic message about a dream he had the other night in which he choked me with oily rags. It's a little unnerving.
FO: The Brett Favre story has been your first real challenge as EIC. How does Deadspin handle a story that becomes a parody of the typical media orgy the moment it hits the news?
A.J.: It's a testament to how slow the sports news is this time of the year. It was amazing how quickly NFL Live just fire-bombed that story. I do think it's a good story -- not from the angle of him coming back, but for the absolute PR nightmare Packers' ownership was handed once that thing hit the mainstream. It was a predictable twist, but you could tell the Packers are ready and comfortable to begin moving away from the Favre era and ushering in the Aaron Rodgers one. This immensely complicates that unraveling process for them.
FO: What's better in Deadspin terms: a sport that is in season and has dozens of news stories breaking every day, or a sport out-of-season which only produces one trumped-up or utterly ludicrous story every few days?
A.J.: Good stories are good stories, but it obviously helps if one has an ongoing narrative that we can follow. If there's a story about a minor league mascot riot or a deadly accident during a bocce tournament, well that's over and done with pretty quickly. But anytime there's a compelling storyline that we can latch onto, the readers usually do the same -- and that usually happens when a sport is in season. Thankfully, the NFL is always in season.
FO: Deadspin has a lot of competitors/imitators. How do you plan to stay at the forefront of the sports humor blog market?
A.J.: I don't know if it's worth worrying about what other blogs are up to at this point since I'm still trying to get a handle on how to keep Deadspin successful with a semi-new regime. There will always be competition -- via mainstream media or blogs -- and Deadspin, right now, has the distinct advantage of being one of the more popular sports blogs out there. But it does have to keep up and that'll happen by making subtle changes here and there when necessary. I don't think we need to completely tear everything down and start over. Yet.
FO: Did you take over my corner desk at the La Salle Collegian offices in the basement of the student union building? Because things ... happened in that desk.
A.J.: Unfortunately, I don't think I've ever seen the La Salle Collegian offices. I only did a couple of movie reviews for them during the time I was at La Salle. I wish I did more when I was there because that paper turned out some quality people. Not you, though. You're disgusting.
FO: Chimay on tap at Monk's Tavern. Does it get any better than that?
A.J.: I'm actually a big fan of Dirty Frank's kamikaze specials and then grabbing some cream-dried beef on an English Muffin at Little Pete's. Chimay is for pu----s. But I do love Monk's burgers -- I just hate the inevitable 40 minute f-----g wait to get a table.
Note: A.J.'s views are completely his own and should not be considered the editorial opinion of Football Outsiders or of Chimay-swilling table hogs like yours truly.
Did you know that William Shakespeare coined as many as 10,000 new words in his plays and sonnets? It's true. Without Shakespeare, we wouldn't have such everyday words as blushing, rant, Olympian, zany, parsimonious, ostrich, kettle corn, simonize, toolbox (as a pejorative; see Sonnet 49, Line 4), tramp stamp, Wobbuffet, or the all-important credendus.
My point is that Shakespeare coined thousands of new words while I have coined exactly zero. I have some catching up to do.
It's not that I haven't been trying. I'm a world-champion verber (the precise word for verbing is anthimeria) who always tried to turn player names into verbs in NFL Rundown. You know: "Byron Leftwich has a tendency to bledsoe in the pocket too long." Most of the new coinages were removed in editing, probably because they stunk. Still, in the fertile field of Internet football journalism, where the English language takes a daily curb-stomping, a prolific go-getter like me has to strike linguistic gold eventually. Here are some of the things I have been working on to make my mark upon the language:
I haven't even coined an acronym here at Football Outsiders, which is sad because the bar is set so low. Let's face it: DVOA doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. I clearly lack initial skill. My suggestion for DYAR was AYATDSOF, which I think sounds like a Tolstoy character when spoken. But I know it was a bad choice, because I don't even remember what it stands for.
I have some better candidates. You know those committee running backs who usually fill the third down receiver/kick returner/special teams contributor role? Let's call them THIRST backs: THIRd downs and Special Teamers. Catchy, right? It's even better than Baseball Prospectus' handy-if-gross LOOGY, IMHO (IMHO is a crappy acronym that caught on).
Well, I got approval to use THIRST in Pro Football Prospectus 2008, attached the label to Vernand Morency, and then forgot about it. When it came time to write about Kevin Faulk, I referred to him as a running back who usually fills the third down receiver/kick returner/special teams contributor role. We eventually edited THIRST out of the Morency comment because it was so lonely. The world doesn't need an adjective that only describes Vernand Morency, whose last name already sounds like an adjective. Of course, there are dozens of THIRST backs out there just waiting to be labeled. I think it's a great word, and maybe it will catch on in 2009 after I beat it into the ground this season.
My other BP-inspired creation is GURT, the Glorified, Undersized Right Tackle, an honest name for the backup tight end who never catches a pass. Like THIRST, GURT arose from PFP desperation. If you really want to break into this business, here's an exercise. Try to write something entertaining, informative, and unique about the following players: Billy Bajema, Dwayne Blakely, Joel Dreesen, Tim Massoquoi, Mike Merritt, Jerame Tuman, and Todd Yoder. You can only say so many times that the guy's role is to ride the bench until it's third-and-1, block for short running plays, and maybe catch one touchdown per year as the uncovered tight end on a goal-line play-action fake. If I had my way, I would just write GURT next to all of these guys and spend more of the book making fun of the Lions.
I did coin the word Favrocentric in PFP 2008. Sports Illustrated writer Drew Lawrence liked it enough to offer me a definition:
Favrocentrism (n) the regarding of or matters relating to Brett Favre as preeminent. This is not to be confused with 'Favreaucentrism,' which is more like the pervasive overlionizing of the movie Swingers.
Even when I win, I lose. In one Facebook blurb, Lawrence coined both Favreaucentrism and overlionizing.
I Googled (by the way, they hate that word at Google) Favrocentric and found zero matches, so it's mine. Next week, I will Google it again and find one match, this article. I fear that in a year I will repeat the process and find one lonely match, reading these very words for their frightful prescience. You can help by dropping the word regularly in weeks to come on Web sites and in casual conversation. There's plenty of Favrocentricism out there waiting to be labeled as such, and you get to be the cool kid using the hip new lingo before it goes out of style.
Coinages like Favrocentric or Favraphilia are too easy. Language experts have noted for years that bloggers toss suffixes around like ping pong balls, hoping to create funny phrasings that fall into the beer cups of our collective consciousness. Anyone can stick â€“esque, â€“ism, or â€“centric on the end of a name and create a new word of the moment. Favre's name is ubiquitous and easy to pronounce, so it lends itself to word creation; I might write that something is Houshmanzadah-esque, but I wouldn't say it aloud, and few people would understand what it means.
One word that I'm trying to nurture is fawnfavre: a sportswriter who makes a habit of gushing over one particular athlete. We all know Peter King is a fawnfavre, but he has plenty of peers throughout the industry. Steven A. Smith got as far as he could fawnfavring Allen Iverson, and top athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods inspire whole generations of fawnfavres.
A new word can only survive if it fills a linguistic necessity. THIRST does that: It replaces a common concept that requires six to ten words to describe with one catchy word. It's better than change-up back, which can mean different things in different situations (Correll Buckhalter is a change-up back but not a THIRST back). I think fawnfavre does the same thing: it replaces "syncophatic journalist" with a more evocative word, and it has less unpalatable connotations to the accurate-but-messy "fluffer."
Somehow, as I wrap up for this week, I feel that the best thing I can do for the planet isn't to add Favre's name to the lexicon, but to do some small part to remove it.
You don't have to follow the story.
You don't have to take the bait. You don't have to take sides. You don't have to get caught up in the reality television -- The Legend, The Team, The Retirement, The Trade Rumors. You can still be a fan, still love football, while ignoring the breathless updates, the interpretations, the text messages, the unpublished interviews that are somehow published.
You don't have to take the bait. This isn't the Biggest Story Ever. It doesn't affect anyone's legacy. Johnny Unitas on the Chargers. Babe Ruth on the Braves. We get it. This stuff happens. It doesn't change the balance of power in the NFL. The Legend can't take any team to the playoffs that isn't already 90 percent there, because he's a legend, not a player in his prime. The Team can go very far without him, just as they were prepared to do before The Retirement.
You don't have to take sides. You can love The Legend, appreciate his accomplishments, and still hate how he handled the last six months. You can root for The Team and still recognize their mixed feelings as they try to move on. You can respect The Team's management while still realizing that they are making a difficult call that could go either way. You don't have to call The Legend selfish or The Team arrogant or stupid. You can watch with detached interest, or bemusement, or not watch at all.
You can still be a fan without following the soap opera. The Trade Rumors and the soap opera are front-page news. You can read the bold type and then move on. Find the little stories. Get caught up with your season previews. Read Pro Football Prospectus 2008. Read the good annual magazines, like Pro Football Weekly's annual. Get reacquainted with the top colleges. Brush up on your football history. The ESPN crawl will prepare you for water cooler conversation. Spend the rest of your time nurturing your football soul. When The Legend is traded or released or punched in the face and sent to the broadcast booth, the mass media howl will inform you. We promise to do our part with a link in Extra Points.
You can still love football without this story. You may love it more. You can look upon The Legend, The Team, and this whole situation with greater perspective. We live on this planet. We know how these things go. Egos get damaged, long-range plans go awry, people have changes of heart. Grown men (or women), no different or better than us despite their athletic prowess or managerial wisdom, muddle toward a solution. All the while, a nation of sports fans jeer and chant. The whole experience can only end up bittersweet for everyone involved, including us.
You don't have to follow the story. Follow your love of football instead. It will lead you someplace better.
76 comments, Last at 15 Aug 2008, 5:57pm by RB #25, Tulane