The Talented Mr. Roto: Ten lists of 10
1. Among writers of any quality, it is a commonly held belief that "lists" are lazy writing. I generally happen to agree with this. It's certainly a lot easier.
2. That said people really like the lists. We often get the most feedback on ESPN.com (not just in Fantasy) when we do lists. They're easy and quick to read, they are a quick reference guide and they spark debate, which is always healthy.
3. Pleasing people and doing less work than is necessary are two things I am in favor of.
4. Pete Becker came up with (and has used) the concept of lists of lists, and if there's anything I like more than pleasing people and doing less work than necessary, it's not having to come up with an original idea for a column since my co-worker already did.
5. I did this a few times during the baseball season and it was always well received, including one that I did about George Carlin. The George Carlin column might be my favorite thing I've written for ESPN. It's certainly the saddest.
6. Rankings are a type of list. They are both the easiest to "write" and hardest column to do.
7. They are easy because they're just names in order. Doesn't have to be funny or interesting or original, three things that, if you hadn't gotten the point yet, I strive hard for.
8. They are hard, at least for me, because every single name needs to be researched and I need to be able to defend it if asked about it in a chat, on the podcast or in ESPN Conversation (beta!).
9. No one is ever happy with rankings of any sort.
10. That said, I will have an updated rankings piece, updated for probably the last time, before the season starts. And during the season, I will do weekly rankings, including rankings for the flex spot. Last year, I pitched that I would rank just 51 players and call it "My board is bigger." I thought that was hilarious. I was alone.
- Frank Gore
- Laurence Maroney
- Derek Anderson
- Ronnie Brown
- Vernon Davis
- Philip Rivers
- Eli Manning
- Vince Young
- Reggie Brown
- Lee Evans
List 2: Ten guys who always seem to wind up on my teams this year
- Darren McFadden
- Ryan Grant
- Calvin Johnson
- Torry Holt
- Chris Johnson
- Drew Brees
- Jerricho Cotchery
- Kenny Watson
- Ted Ginn Jr.
- Whatever tight end is left at the end after everyone else has his or hers.
List 3: Ten funniest status updates on my friends' homepages
- Joe rejoices at every failure Matt Leinart experiences. His life has become irrelevant, and his tears are sweet, sweet nectar.
- Robert watched Brad Aumsus and Darin Erstad hit home runs?
- Chris caught his hot neighbor/actress passing gas while walking her dog. Okay, it might've been the dog. Okay, it was me.
- Erin was tired until now IT'S MASCOT DAY guarding my loins.
- Eric wants to state for the record that Joe Biden owes him twenty three dollars. A bar bet is still a bet.
- Scott is listening to a guy murder an already dead backstreet boys' song.
- Justin is meeting someone who may have mob connections for an early drink.
- Bill kissed a girl and he liked it.
- Jason is going to start a book club. But instead of discussing books, we will discuss "The Hills". I will be the only over-14 joining said group.
- Jay is thinking now that he needs a kidney, he'll find out just how many of his Facebook Friends are really friends.
Addendum to list three: The most unoriginal Facebook status update is "is." As in ... "Matthew is." We get it. The word "is" is the default. You can erase it, you know. Or add to it. But just leaving it like that is played out.
- Adrian Peterson (Pick 2): I've been on record saying he should be fourth overall.
- Frank Gore (Pick 8): Get Frank in the second round? I'm fine with it. Just not in the first round. When you give Mike Martz superior talent, you get the Rams. When you give him inferior talent, you get the Lions. Or this year's 49ers.
- Peyton Manning (Pick 10): I have him ranked 30th overall. Even if you feel that's too low, he's not a first-round pick. Except he keeps getting drafted like he is. Seven games last year with only one or zero touchdowns.
- Larry Johnson (Pick 14, Pick 10 among running backs). I explained my thoughts on LJ in the same article I discussed Peterson. Suffice it to say I don't feel he's a No. 1 running back this year.
- Reggie Bush (Pick 30, Pick 18 among running backs): Single-digit fantasy points in his final three games. Yards per catch dropped from 8.4 to 5.7 in his second year. Had five more fumbles (and lost one more) despite playing in four fewer games. Where he is being drafted, he's a No. 2 running back for someone. Which is unfortunate because he is a No. 3 back.
- Edgerrin James (Pick 45, Pick 23 among running backs). A little nitpicky since he's fine as a No. 3 running back, which is where he's being drafted. But he's going before a lot of guys I'd rather have, such as Thomas Jones. Throw out Week 17, when most folks don't play, and he had single-digit fantasy points in seven of his final nine games. Seven of 10 wouldn't be much better either, for those of you who don't buy into the "throw-away" argument. Oh, and Tim Hightower looks awesome.
- Steve Smith (pick 31 ; pick 9 among wide receivers.) Smith being top-10 among wideouts means someone in almost every league is counting on a guy who will not only miss at least two games (the suspension at first, and then, he's not the healthiest cat around, you dig?) but who has scored double-digit touchdowns only once in a seven-year career.
- Antonio Gates (Pick 40, Pick 1 among tight ends). Okay, we all know about the toe, right? Apparently, we don't because to waste a fourth-round pick on a player who just came off the physically unable to perform list and who scored single-digit fantasy points in four of his final five games is not a good use of an important pick. Tight end is deep this year.
- Greg Jennings (Pick 57, Pick 17 among wide receivers). I like Jennings, I really do. Just not as much as I like Donald Driver, who is going 20 picks later. Jennings doesn't get a ton of receptions and will be hard pressed to repeat last year's 12 touchdowns, which he'll need to do to justify this spot.
- Nick Folk (Pick 105). Every time I say "Don't draft kickers until the last round" someone says "Berry only gives obvious advice." And then I see that people are wasting a 10th-round pick on a kicker and, clearly, my job on this Earth is not done.
List 5: Ten guys I really like this year who are going in rounds 13-15
- Jason Campbell (Pick 121)
- Devin Hester (Pick 126)
- Chris Johnson (Pick 129)
- Reggie Williams (Pick 130)
- Owen Daniels (Pick 133)
- JaMarcus Russell (Pick 134)
- Sidney Rice (Pick 140)
- Antwaan Randle El (Pick 141)
- Ben Utecht (Pick 143)
- Ronald Curry (Pick 146)
List 6: Ten things I am still on the fence about
- Whether I should like the Kid Rock song "All Summer Long." It's catchy but it sooo rip-offy, which is sort of a word.
- Whether the Americans won the gold medal because of Coach K or despite him.
- Whether I should get angry about the fact that my colleague Scott Van Pelt was quoted on his radio show saying something to the effect of "If you play fantasy sports, you should wear a Darth Vader helmet and go to your Mom's basement. You. Are. A. Dork." Or just ignore it and let him stew in his own cluelessness.
- Whether I should do some sort of Rogaine/plugs/horrible thing with my hair or just accept nature's course.
- Whether I liked the movie "Hancock" or not. I'm leaning towards no.
- Whether I should freak out about my Redskins getting rolled by Carolina in the preseason.
- Whether this 1050 ESPN radio event I am going to be at Wednesday night is going to be as well attended as all the others.
- Whether I really want to try online dating. I'm thinking no but I keep getting pressure from friends to try it.
- Whether I should go back to last year's "Love/Hate" and point out how I did. Dead wrong on Peterson but overall pretty good, including hating on Travis Henry (everyone loved him in Denver!) and the loving Brandon Marshall call. It's also a lot of work and will prove nothing (the haters will still hate; the fans will still believe, whatever the outcome), and I really don't have a lot of time these days.
- Whether I should shave today. I am attending my brother's engagement party and I haven't shaved since Thursday. It's not a great look, but I have sensitive skin and I try not to shave on days I don't do TV because the shaving and makeup always irritate it. When I am not thinking about my hair, I am thinking about my problem skin.
- Chris Taylor, RB, Texans
- DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
- James Jones, WR, Packers (seriously love him)
- Anthony Alridge, RB, Broncos
- Jacob Hester, RB, Chargers
- Domenik Hixon, WR, Giants
- David Patten, WR, Saints (not buying Robert Meachem)
- Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers
- Ben Obomanu, WR, Seahawks
- DeShaun Foster, RB, 49ers
List 8: Ten more bold predictions ("You Heard Me!") as published in ESPN the Magazine's most recent issue (on newsstands now!)
- Jerious Norwood will get more than 1,000 total yards and at least five touchdowns.
- Neither D.J. Hackett nor Muhsin Muhammed will get to 850 receiving yards.
- Andre Johnson will play all 16 games this year.
- So will Matt Schaub.
- Jeremy Shockey will end the year as a top-five tight end.
- Ricky Williams will finish with better fantasy numbers than Ronnie Brown.
- James Jones will get 800 yards and six touchdowns.
- Fifty percent of Adrian Peterson's total fantasy points will come from three games. The other 50 percent will be spread out over nine games, and he'll miss at least three.
- Tom Cruise will show up at three different football games this year. He'll look spectacular, as will his wife, in the owner's box. At no point will the camera catch him actually watching the game.
- Peyton Manning will miss at least two games and finish outside the top three fantasy quarterbacks.
List 9: Ten bribes Nate Ravitz and I were offered by listeners to get them into "The Man's League," our listener league on our Fantasy Focus: Football podcast. If you don't listen, you should. You're missing some funny and informative stuff.
- Someone offered to dress as me for Halloween and to put a "Fantasy Focus" banner outside his apartment for the entire football season.
- Someone made a Wikipedia page for Nate. (Here's mine, by the way. Someone feel free to update it. It's missing a lot of stuff. I'd do it, but somehow it feels wrong.)
- Someone who is a distributor for one of the largest liquor companies in North America offered us all the refreshments we want.
- A guy offered to come to Bristol, dressed as a monkey. (Clearly he reads my column often to know my favorite animal.)
- A couple offered Nate and I to be honorary mohels at their sons' bris.
- A couple who named their baby after one of us. ("Baby Natalie," named for Nate, was the winner)
- A guy who offered to put a picture of Jay, our producer (aka "Podvader"), in his bedroom if he lost to Jay, assuring him he and his wife would never play Madden again.
- A guy who offered to send his hot, 22-year-old sister to Bristol to deliver Nate and I fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.
- A senior at Stanford offered to put a picture of me on his mortarboard and bow as he crossed the stage.
- A guy is registering me as an officiant and flying me out to his wedding next June to marry him and his wife. Listen to the podcast where we talk to bride-to-be about this.
We've also been named in PhD thesis, promised to be cited in a judge's written opinion and raised more than $5,000 for the V Foundation.
1. Nathan (San Diego, Calif.): What do you think about taking Randy Moss and T.O. in the first two rounds if you have a late first-round pick?
TMR: Got no issue with it. I've said that it's "best available" this year, and there's a very good chance that those two will be the best available players when you draft. Go for it. It'll also make others in your draft have to adjust and start a wide receiver run.
2. Ben (Baltimore, Md.): What are your thoughts on having your No. 1 running back and No. 1 wide receiver from the same NFL team? Should I stay away from this? For example, Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne?
TMR: No, not if you're getting Addai and Wayne. It's not something I seek out, because you have a lot of eggs in one basket, but it's also not something I avoid. When I do get something like that, however, I make sure that my other players are more of the steady point-producer types rather than the "feast or famine" types. You want to make sure you're getting production even if your two teammates wash out.
3. Marc (Parts unknown): You continue to talk about how Michael Turner only has 11 career receptions. Have you ever looked at how many passes were thrown to him? Here in Los Angeles we get to watch every Charger game, and as you know Turner was only inserted when the game was in hand. So why would you expect him to have more than 11 catches? That being said, I think he's still overrated going into this draft, but I just found a flaw in your 11-catch logic. Does Maurice Jones-Drew qualify as two first names and a crowd pleaser? I think it should.
TMR: I agree, it's a bit skewed. But pass-catching is not something he's known for. In his senior year in college, when he had 17 touchdowns and almost 2,000 all-purpose yards, he had only 19 receptions in 12 games, you know? And while you can argue the stat needs to be given some background, when I am on TV or radio or what have you, I just don't have time to say all that. So I say the stat and hope people take away the larger point, which is that he's overvalued this year.
4. Mike B. (Fairfax, Va.): Hi Matt. I have the 8th pick in my draft, and am thinking I will pick between Clinton Portis and Marion Barber. As much as I love someone not afraid to dress up in goofy outfits for media interviews, I am leaning towards Barber. I remember at one point hearing you say that the first few rounds are about minimizing risk. Portis has more injury history, is older, has a new offense and coach, and a more proven backup (proven in the NFL). Isn't Barber a better first-round pick for my team? Thanks.
TMR: All fair points and you are correct, I do say that. I guess the argument I could make back is that Portis is by far the more proven fantasy producer and we know for sure what his role is going to be whereas we don't know what the time split between Barber and Felix Jones will be. For me, this one is a personal choice. I have Portis slightly ahead, but if you want to go with Barber, I'm fine with it. I have both guys in my top eight.
5. Jon (Bethlehem): Why on earth would you write an article with 50 random predictions while giving absolutely no supporting information? Any trained monkey could write 50 meaningless sentences.
TMR: Because I'm cheaper. Do you have any idea what it costs to train a monkey these days? If you read my "Love/Hate," my "Draft Day Manifesto," my "50 Facts you need to know" and my "Top 250 and Updated Love/Hate" you'll see the analysis for all of my predictions.
6. Jay (Millbrae, CA): I know you're taking a lot of flack for the 90210 Man's League requirement. Just tell people to look at the size of your feet in the video frame. (Big feet, Big Shoes, you subtly remind them.) Seriously, I'm guessing 13's, right?
TMR: (awkward silence)
7. Mike (Denver): You have Larry Johnson ranked ahead of Darren McFadden. Then you state in "You heard me" that Kolby Smith will be the leading rusher for the Chiefs, and you predict that Mcfadden will put up great numbers. I am confused.
TMR: Yeah, I got a lot of this kind of thing about various players. My rankings and then subsequent "You Heard Me" article don't match up in a lot of areas and there's a reason why. As I have said, especially at the beginning, I am about minimizing risk. I say that LT will finish outside the top five of Fantasy players but I have him ranked No. 1. That's because he's the safest bet fantasy-wise, even if he finishes at six. The rankings are the "safe" version, if you will. But if you feel daring, then that's what the bold-prediction article is about. Both pieces are designed for different purposes.
8. Packman (unknown): Matt, you suck. No sense writing any longer, unless you care to really hear why I think you suck. Send me a note and I'll send you my thoughts. 'Nuff said?
TMR: I'm tempted, but if you tell me why I suck, won't that take all the fun out of me guessing?
TMR: I get this question a lot. The "Where do you take Brady?" And yes, in a eight-team league, I absolutely would take him there. It's so shallow that you want as many of the elite guys as possible. But I have to say, I got tons of "I have the No. 3 pick but I really want Brady. Is that too early?" questions. And my answer is no. People get way too hung up on where to draft someone. Look, I have Brady at six. But if you have the third pick and want him, draft him. He won't come back to you in the second round so this is your only chance to get him. It's not like he's bad or anything.
It's your team, these are the guys you're rooting for this year, so dude, just take him. The rankings are just a listing of players in order and no matter whose rankings you choose to follow, the final rankings will be very different at the end of the year. Nature of the beast. The ranking are there to just help you gauge value, nothing more. So grab who you want, when you want, as long as you can't be reasonably certain he won't still be there next time it's your turn. Or if he's a kicker. (See List 4., Item 10.)
10. Nick (Omaha, Neb.): Alright Berry, here's the deal. I got the No.1 pick this year. First time I have ever had the first overall pick in the draft (for 5 years with the same "posse"). Now I've done my research and I've mock drafted and I've spent countless hours changing my mind about who to pick first, AP or LT. LT is the most consistent back in the league hands down. But on the other hand, AP is the greater home run threat, in my opinion. So what do you think AP or LT? Get back to me if you have time.
TMR: You've really never read me before, have you?
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is an Emmy Award winner for his work on Fantasy Football Now, which debuts Sept 7th, noon ET, on ESPN.com. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price.
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