With Fantasy Football continuing to climb the ranks of America’s favorite pastimes, there is no shortage of data, predictions, projections and analysis available to help us gobble up as much information as possible in order to help us manage our teams.
Much of this content comes from mainstream media outlets like ESPN, Fox and Yahoo and CBS. The people who produce this content for these outlets are paid. Think about that for a moment. These people are paid to make predictions for a game based on realistic outcomes. If they are wrong, it doesn’t matter because you already read their predictions and their employers already cashed in on advertising dollars for you doing so.
As a football fan, a fantasy football player and an aspiring writer, this is frustrating. These guys have what many of us would call “dream jobs.” I want that job. You want that job. We all want that job. But these guys have that job.
How did they get it? I want to know how to work through the journalism ranks to the point where a major media outlet approaches me and says, “Hey, how would you like to make predictions about the National Football League that millions of people are going to read and use to manage their fantasy football teams? Wait, before you answer, just know that we are going to pay you to do this and the best part is that you don’t ever have to be right.”
At some point, CBS approached Jamey Eisenberg and basically said that to him. He obviously said yes, as he is now one of the three Fantasy Football Writers on CBSSports.com. In 2010, he was even honored by Fantasy Pros, an independent website that judges Fantasy analysts throughout the industry. According to Fantasy Pros, he had the most accurate Fantasy Football Draft rankings in the industry that year.
That’s the kind of stuff I’d expect from a writer who gets paid to write about fantasy sports. I want some accuracy in your picks. Otherwise, what makes you better than me? We can all make predictions, but if you are getting paid to make them for a national audience, it would be nice to know that you are more accurate than the average schmo.
Now this is where it get ugly. Recently I was doing research that would hopefully help me write a decent offseason fantasy piece in regard to the fantasy prospects of the New England Patriot skill players. Because I play in a league on the CBSSports.com site, I usually start my research there.
My initial goal was to see who the experts thought were going to make up the production void left by the departure of Wes Welker. Most projections I’ve seen have Tom Brady maintaining the solid numbers he’s had over the past few years, which is understandable. What sparked my curiosity was when I kept reading about how many fewer targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns Danny Amendola was projected to have in 2013 when compared to Welker’s 2012 numbers. I then went in search of the missing numbers between the projected stats of Amendola and Brady.
I began by transferring each and every New England Patriot skill player to a “scout team”, which is a feature that CBS offers where you can list as many players as you want on one page to view and compare their stats. You can also view their projections for the upcoming season. You can sort the projections to read those of each of the three CBSSports.com Fantasy Football writers (Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg and Nathan Zegura) individually as well as the CBSSports.com average of the three.
The CBSSports.com average for projected completions by all New England quarterbacks was 402.3. That number was an accurate reflection of the predictions of Richard (406), Eisenberg (408) and Zegura (393). The next step was to go to the predictions for each individual writer in terms of how many receptions each Patriot player would have. Common sense tells me that when you total the predicted receptions of every Patriot skill player, that number will equal the predicted number of completions for New England’s quarterbacks. That is exactly what I found — for Richard and Zegura. Eisenberg’s numbers, however, were off. They were way off. So I checked again, making sure I didn’t fat finger my calculator. I checked three times.
Despite Jamey Eisenberg’s projection of 408 total completions for all New England quarterbacks, the projected number of receptions for all New England skill players was 529 — a difference of 121. I still didn’t trust that I was calculating correctly, so I decided to start adding up yards. When calculating Jamey Eisenberg’s projected yards for all New England Patriots skill players, I again had to go back and check my work. After doing so, I couldn’t believe what I found. Eisenberg had projected 6,941 receiving yards for New England. Basically, he’s telling me that Tom Brady could put up 5,000 yards on his own and still leave room for Ryan Mallett to creep up on 2000. Seems legit. Oh, and they’ll only catch 41 touchdowns in the process.
Since I already had the numbers up, I wanted to see what Eisenberg had to say about the New England running game in 2013. He has them projected to rack up 2802 yards, which would have led the NFL last season by 93 yards. He’s got them scoring 23 touchdowns on the ground.
So let’s take these numbers and talk about what New England’s season is going to look like according to Jamey Eisenberg’s fantasy projections. The Patriots will put up 9,743 yards of total offense. Despite flirting with ten grand on the yardage front, he only expects them to score 64 total touchdowns. If kicker Stephen Goskowski makes every extra-point and kicks 30 field goals (he made 29 last season), New England will score 538 points in 2013. They scored 557 in 2012 while putting up 6846 yards. In 2013, Jamey Eisenberg says that the New England Patriots will put up over 9,700 yards and put just over 33 points a game on the scoreboard.
In all seriousness, we know this isn’t going to happen. But it does bring up a good question: Who does the quality control on fantasy projections? Is there such a thing? Yes, I understand it’s just a silly game that people play. That said, writers are paid hefty sums of money to put these numbers out there for people to read. The people who read them are often involved in, legal or not, fantasy leagues where they spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars in hopes of winning more. We spend money on magazines and website subscriptions to read this stuff. Legitimate companies spend millions in advertising dollars to put their ads on spaces next to these projections, essentially associating themselves with the content on the page.
Granted, this was only one writer on one site, but how many others are out there? How many other fantasy sports writers are out there making money by tossing out numbers that don’t add up or are just plain outrageous?
Am I mad? No, I’m jealous! I can do that! I can make fantasy projections all day long. I’d publish ten articles a day for the money and benefits I make at my current job — and with mathematical accuracy and realistic projections!
Instead, I have to sit here and squeeze time into my lunch hour to churn out one piece about how guys who get paid to do what I do for free fall short.
To the executives at Fox, CBS, ESPN, NFL, Yahoo or anyone else in the business of publishing fantasy sports content and want to help their bottom line while turning out a high quality product, I say to you: HIRE ME! I’m cheaper than Jamey Eisenberg and apparently more thorough.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 3, 2013