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Riley Martin knows Fantasy Football.

O Qua Tangin Wann,
Qua Umpsa Langin Wann

If you listen to even just a little sports radio, or spent time on the internet, you understand how many prognosticators there are out there.

Everyone and their brother has picks or predictions about who to start and who to sit. Sean Salisbury says that Phillip Rivers is going to be a fantasy stud this year. Colin Cowherd says that Atlanta won't miss Vick. My friend says that Daunte Culpepper is going to have a career year once he starts.

Socrates' once said, "The only thing that I know, is that I don't know anything." I'm paraphrasing of course. But the man had a point.

But there is one man who does know something. He knows that that when the earth explodes, you'd better have a damn symbol. He knows about electro-bio-interface-osmosis. He knows about the mother ship over the Saint Francis river in 1953. He knows about Targzisians, and Skreed, and Biiavians. That man is Riley Martin.

That's some DEEP SHIT right there!

I'm going to seek him out, and get him to answer some fantasy football owners questions. So if you have a fantasy football question that you'd like Riley Martin to ask, send me an email and let me know. I'm going to try to get all of your fantasy football questions answered.


REVIEW: Fandraft.com's Fantasy Draft Board Software

For a while now, I've wanted to have an electronic draft board for my leagues fantasy football draft. I wanted to get some great fantasy draft board software to help me run my draft like a true NFL style draft.

I did some... ok, quite a bit or research on the web and found what appeared to be, for all
intents and purposes, the best draft software on the web. I found it from the folks over at Fandraft.com. I will say this now in full disclosure... this is NOT a paid advertisement, I received NO compensation for this post (despite all my best efforts), and paid the full retail price ($29.95) to order the draft board software. What follows here is a honest assessment of the software and its impact on the draft.

The ordering was easy, and the software was simple to install. It required nothing more than a
download after purchase. There is an option to add a CD backup of the software, but I personally decided it was not needed. After downloading the software and putting in all my information, I gave it a couple of run-through's to get comfortable with it. This didn't seem too hard. A few hours before the draft, I hooked my laptop up to a digital projector and put it up on a screen. The projector and screen (as well as venue for the draft) came at the courtesy of my brother-in-law and draftmaster. Now, I have a 50' Plasma TV which would have worked just as well, but I choose the projector based on ease of set up and portability. SETUP - This was a very easy interface. Someone with little computer experience would not have a difficult time setting up a draft. It gave you all the standard set up you need for a fantasy draft such as league name, owner names, roster size and requirements, draft order and type. Very simple, very standard.

- This was one feature that I truly enjoyed. In addition to
giving a team a name, it allowed you to upload a custom logo. Before the draft, I asked each owner to send me what they wanted their logo to look like. I spent the night designing each owners logo in PhotoShop, and then uploaded the photos to the owners profile. This was a little bit cumbersome, as the draft software only recognized certain file extensions and sizes. It took a little while to get the hang of, but after the first couple of logos, it became a cinch. The teams logo appeared before and during the draft. There was also a section for Team Notes which turned out to be a riot. The software has a pre-draft option, where you can show team logo and information on the board as kind of a presentation. If you know your owners well, this is a great place to insert some good jokes and facts. I ran the pre-draft directly before the draft itself, and it was well received. It gave everyone a real sense of the other teams, and brought bunch of solid laughs. The pre-draft wasn't a feature that I was looking for prior to purchase, but it turned out to be one of the best parts of the draft. I had wanted to use powerpoint for this, but this feature did just fine by itself.

- Similar to the setup, this feature allowed you full
control over the draft settings. Some of the features included:

  • Selecting the number of available players visible by position. There was no need to show 100 QB's, as no more than 25 or so would likely be drafted. Likewise, it allowed you to expand other positions such as RB and WR due to the depth of the player fields, and likelihood of a large number of draft choices.
  • Setting up the draft clock. I set mine at 4 minutes per round, including a pause at the end of each round. The designers of the software also included an option to make a change to the time per pick at any point of the draft. This was a smart feature which we utilized after the 6th round. After a quick vote, we changed the time to 2 minutes to speed up the draft. After another 2 rounds, we changed it again to 60 seconds. This helped set a good pace for the draft, making sure that owners didn't get too tired or worn out in the later rounds.
  • Ticker Settings. The draft software came with a very cool little feature which showed a ticker at the bottom of the board showing the recent picks. It was very much like ESPN's coverage of the actual NFL draft. The setting allows you to stream the entire draft, just the current round, or tailor it however you'd like. I don't know if this feature really added anything to the draft, other than to the "cool" factor. But it most certainly was cool.

- One of the unheralded, albeit coolest, features of the draft was the music upload option. This allowed you to upload any music that you wanted, and allowed you to chose if you wanted it to play during the pre-draft, or during the draft itself. I chose to play music through the draft itself, and it was a great choice. Throughout the draft there was a steady soundtrack which, again, helped to set the mood for the football environment. I uploaded the theme from "Monday Night Football" as well as some selections from "
Autumn Thunder: 40 Years of NFL Films Music" The songs reset after each pick in the draft and continued throughout. I can't tell you how cool it was to hear "Ramblin' Man From Gramblin" througout the draft. It was one of the most talked about parts of the night.


With everything settled, the draft began. It was evident from the very beginning that the draft software was an instant success. The main screen was a standard draft board. It showed the picks made, broken down by team and position. It was exactly what you'd expect from a draft board. Not much different from a old fashioned cardboard draft board, except for the bright movie theater quality. But when you coupled in the ticker, the clock, the logos and the music it made for the best draft board that I've seen.

But that particular screen was only one of the many available displays, which included best players available (by position), display by round, display by team position breakdown, and display by team. To be honest, while these were all good to have, we only really used two. The standard draft board display, and best players available by position. This latter display proved to be a nifty tool. Countless times throughout the night owners would call out to the draftmaster, "Hey, can you show me the QB's that are left?" With a quick click of the mouse, the draft board would show the best QB's left on the board. Players who had already been selected were dimmed in view. This was the single most important and useful feature of the software. It was like having an electronic magazine at your finger tips. The players were pre ranked by the software, but were editable before the draft. For the most part, the rankings were pretty much representative of what you'd see in a magazine or on the web. There were some reaches and misses, but most owners had their own rankings figured out.

The only drawback that I saw to this software, came in the later rounds, when you were reaching for a supersleeper. At times, it was hard to find some names on the board, that weren't obvious picks. For instance, I was looking for Eric Johnson (TE, New Orleans) in the second to last round of the draft. It took an eagle eyed owner to find his name amidst the sea of leftover tight ends. All in all though, this was a very small issue, and could be avoided by updating the preset rankings of players that comes with the software.
The designers of the software also thought ahead, and created an option for "on the fly" selections. If you wanted to add a player that was not already on the list (very unlikely, as the list was quite exhaustive) you could do so simply and quickly. It also allowed you to enter a team on the fly, but I can think of no reason why this would be necessary.

There is also a very helpful and interesting feature on the board. One that we never got around to using. Assuming that your draft computer is connected to the internet, if decided that you wanted to know information about any player on the board, you simply had to right click on the players name. You would be brought to the corresponding fact page of that player on NFL.com. I didn't realize that this was an option until after the draft. Had I known it, I would have let the owners know. I just don't know that it would have been used considering all the magazines and cheat sheets available at the draft. A very helpful feature nonetheless.


Once the draft is over, the software continues to earn its keep. With a simple click of the mouse, you can immediately view and print a break down of the draft. Owners no longer have to hand fill their teams and submit them to the owner. Instead, everything is already supplied. You can chose Summary by Picks, or Summary by Team (among other options) and export draft results to file, or for print. This is a great option, that allows each owner to have a full draft report before they walk out the door so they can analyze their team, or any opponent's team. I found that it also came in very handy when I entered the results of my offline draft, to my online fantasy football league.


Graphics - 4.0
The Interface was large, bold, and easy to read. Both on the computer for the draftmaster, and on the board for the owners. Most of the colors and fonts were pretty standard. In future editions, I'd like to see a more stylish and refined look. The logos were nice, but they could have been more prevalently featured during the draft.

Sound - 4.5
The music feature was perfect, and worked flawlessly. There were no lags or skips. Played over a small amp, the music came off with CD quality. The only change that I would suggest is that the bell which sounds signaling less than 15 seconds be changed to something less effeminate... like a bullhorn.

Usability - 4.5

Simple, ergonmic, and very very user friendly. Anyone with a passing knowlege of computers can easily run this software. The changes on the fly features and editable content makes for flawless execution.
I would have liked to see an auto-save feature to prevent loss of info during the setup phase. I happened to lose power during the initial setup, and had to re-enter the info. My fault for not backing it up, but an auto-save would be nice 'dumbass' protection.

Features - 5.0
They really covered everything here. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the features. They thought of things that I wouldn't have, and I'm a pretty imaginative guy. The little extras like the music and the ticker make it heads and shoulders better than any draft board I've ever used.

Cost - 5.0

I'll be honest, at first, I had a tough time shelling out $29.95 for something that I could have done with some poster board and a couple of markers. But hindsight is 20/20 and with the draft long since over, not only am I glad that I shelled out the cash, but I believe that its a fair value for all that you get in return


I took the leap of faith and ordered this software two days before my draft. I had no problems downloading it, setting it up, and testing it out. When it came time for the actual draft, all my fears of a crashing board, or software glitches flew out the window as the draft went off without a hitch. The bugs in the software (such as the display jumping down to the bottom of available players) were very small and easy to fix immediately.

I spent the weeks before the draft telling all the owners how cool the board would be. Neither the owners, nor myself, were disappointed.

And while I expected it to be fun and exciting, I did not expect it to be as helpful as it was. It really made the draft ergonomic and helped give an edge to smart owners.
It bears repeating that this is NOT AN ENDORSEMENT. I recieved nothing in return for this review. This is an honest and true assessment of a draft software that I recently used, a draft software that I will use again, and a draft software that I'm amazed I've ever lived without!!!


The Draft Part II: New School

"The Draft" is a 5 part series on this years Fantasy Football Draft by acclaimed Fantasy Journalist and author, A. Joseph

You can't get much more old school draft than picking your draft order from a bunch of pieces of paper in a hat, thats for damned sure. And I've found that I, much like the owners in my league, like it that way. There's a certain comfort to it, like a pair of sweatpants on a cool Sunday morning in the Fall. I've done my best to keep my leagues continuity as flowing as possible. But this year I decided to ratchet the draft up a notch. I went 21st century for the first time, and I updated my draft board. In my post "5 Things To Make Your Draft Better", number 5 was to get some draft software... this year I decided to take my own advice. I can't speak for all commissioners out there, but I know that I like to really put some thought into my draft board. I like to really pump up the draft day experience as best I can for the owners... and I think that it starts with the draft board.

Through the years, my draft board has seen a number of changes and updates. But last year, I made an awful and unforgivable mistake. I held the draft in a posh hotel conference room, and decided to forgo the typical draft board. I ditched the board in lieu of 4 smaller draft boards at the table of each conference. I put a couple of colored sharpee markers at each table, and asked the owners to fill the boards in as the draft progressed. I even went so far as to color code the picks based on position. To say that this was a disaster would be an understatement. As the draft went on, owners seemed to be perturbed (ok, they were pissed off) that they had to take the time to fill out the picks. After the draft had finished, I looked at the boards. Most tables just decided to quit at about round 8 or 9. And on the boards that were complete, the effects of too many beers seemed to become evident in the rapidly increasing childlike nature of the handwriting. People seemed to lose track of needed picks, and couldn't properly forecast the needs of the owners picking around them.
It was this abysmal failure that lead me to make the choice to move to an electronic draft board... and this decision seemed to be universally accepted among the owners in my league. If not at first, then certainly after the draft had commenced.

I'm not going to bore you with all the details and information about the draft software itself. I'll save that for a later post. But what I will do is tell you how the software fared during the draft. I can sum it up in one word... success. One of the owners in my league said that it was "the best draft I've ever been to" and that it "spoiled" her for her other drafts. Now, I'd like to think that the 5 star wings and pizza, bottomless beer selections and exquisite company had something to do with it, but I knew that it was the draft board that sold it for her. I expected that having a electronic draft board would be cool, and it was, but I what I did not expect was how effective it helped make the owners. Sure there are other cardboard draft boards out there that color code picks, so you can plainly see that the guy with the pick right before you already has two running backs, so it's a sure bet that he's gonna' snatch your top rated wideout before you get the chance. But the electronic board took it a step further.

Switching from the over all 'selection board' to the remaining available players (sorted by position OR overall rank) was a snap. It was as simple as asking the draftmaster to switch the view. This helped alleviate the need for the douche next to you asking to borrow your magazine because he forgot to bring his own. We've all been there before. You're two picks away, and you're flipping through your magazine to remind you of who you tagged as a solid sleeper when the guy next to you says "Hey... let me see that." You just know in the pit of your stomach that hes gonna see the note next to Vincent Jackson that you wrote three weeks ago that says "Great sleeper, take him in round 10 if he's still there." This was replaced with that same guy, bugging the draft master to change view on the board over and over again.

Another thing that was noticeably missing was the smattering of the same comment, "Hey, how much time to I have left?" throughout the night. Instead, there was a giant clock in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, announcing to EVERYONE how much time they had left. I called this "Asshole Insurance" because every owner knew clear as day who was taking their sweet time making picks. Along with the draft clock was a "ESPN" style ticker, just like the one you'd see on a Saturday in April during the NFL draft. It was a neat little trick that didn't really help anything out, so much as it just lent to the atmosphere of the draft.

Yet another neat feature was the music that played through the draft. The draft software I purchased had a nifty feature that allowed you to put in your own music, which could be played before or during the draft. You could put whatever you wanted in to the library. For some, this might mean "Alice in Chains" all night. But for me, it meant selections from "Autumn Thunder: The NFL Films Soundtrack." I can't tell you how cool it was to have real NFL music going throughout the night. Sure, the 5 songs that I uploaded tended to get a little repetitive after 3 plus hours, but no one seemed to mind.

As each pick went by, each owner had their team name and logo displayed on the top of the screen. This was cool in that you didn't have to ask who had the next pick. You simply had to look up. As the commissioner, I took great pride in asking the owners to tell me what they wanted in their logos, and then designing them myself. If nothing else, the first appearance of the logos drew a solid laugh from the owners. My team is "The Commissioners" and I had a great time superimposing my head onto Paul Tagilbue's body. Check it out.

At the end of the day, did the electronic draft board change the world or reinvent the wheel? Probably not. But I would say that it was a change that was well received for this years draft. I don't think that it lead anyone to draft a team that they normally wouldn't have, or make a champion out of a chump. But it certainly made the one day on the fantasy calendar, which is already the sweetest day of the year, just that much sweeter.

Stay tuned for "The Draft Part III: Buyers Remorse"


The Draft Part I: Old School

"The Draft" is a 5 part series on this years Fantasy Football Draft by acclaimed Fantasy Journalist and author, A. Joseph

I sit here at my laptop on Sunday night watching a taped pre-season NFL Game, and the greatest night on the fantasy calendar is now over. All the planning and preparation, all the studying and thought, is now nothing more than a vivid memory. Like a kid on Christmas night, after the presents have long since been opened, I find myself filled with a deep melancholy. I can believe that its really, really over.

The good news, however, is that the NFL season has yet to begin. There is an entire season of fantasy football to be played. But I believe that if you ask any fantasy owner, they'll tell you that its really all about the draft. At the risk of tooting my own horn as commissioner, I think that this years draft was an unconditional success.

It began with the first round of e-mails a few weeks ago, a small teaser to the owners in my league to whet their collective appetites. I sent a custom invite with the first e-mail, designed to get em' excited. I probably spent a little too much time in photoshop working on it, but I was happy with the outcome.

Fantasy Draft Invite
And though the e-mails and invite were a quality touch, the true anticipation began last Thursday evening with an age old tradition.

My wife lay on the couch, battling sleep as best she could, whereas I was glued to my laptop toiling away tirelessly as I finished up the final touches of my pre-draft regiment. I realized that I had yet to address perhaps the most crucial component of of the pre-draft ritual... the draft order. I rushed to my feet and got all the essential tools. A pen, a notebook, and a hat.

draft pick squaresAnd with that, I began the draft order. It is a process both simple and effective. It is time tested and proven. And in a world with internet drafts, complex software, and wireless networks, it is also a welcome respite. I wrote the names of each team on a piece of paper, ripped the paper into tiny squares, and then threw them into the hat. As always, I did my absolute best to ensure the legitimacy of the picks. I was careful to size each pick equally, to make folds inward so names were not visible, and I called a local Accounting Firm to audit the selections. Ok that last part was bullshit, but you get the idea.

picks out of my hatI woke my wife out of her slumber so that she could ensure the accuracy. I subscribe to the "frozen envelope" theory as to how Patrick Ewing ended up as a Knick, so I figured having my wife make the picks would ensure accuracy. After all, she could give a shit who gets what pick. As pissed off as she was for being awoke, presumably from a dream involving Brad Pitt and a Beverly Hills shopping spree, she dutifully picked each name out of the hat one by one. The order was written on a sheet of paper and, viola', we were ready for the draft.

It wasn't 10 minutes later when I pissed her off for the second time that night. I dialed the number of my friend, who won the first pick, and I handed her the phone. Per my instructions, she pretended to be the secretary from the office of the Commissioner. She placed him on hold and passed me the phone calling me a "big dork" under her breath. I grabbed the phone and told my friend, "You sir, are officially on the clock." After yelling like a girl for about 30 seconds he asked me who I thought he should draft, at which point I called him a big dork under my breath. I was pretty sure that he was joking about the advice, but I was certain that he was not joking about the excitement. And the excitement was contagious. I found myself doing the math to figure out exactly how many hours, minutes and seconds were left before I would be making my own pick.

It's funny how a couple of tiny strips of paper, a grungy Red Sox hat, and a sleepy and angry wife could get the ball rolling so quickly. In the two days that followed, I found that I could think of nothing else. It was like Christmas Eve for a child. The air was thick with anticipation. Instead of thinking "I wonder what that big present is in the corner," I was thinking "I wonder who I'm going to get with the 5th pick."

The draft had unofficially, officially begun.

Stay tuned for "The Draft Part II: New School".


Get out the draft.

What's the Boy Scout's motto? Be prepared. And that holds true for your fantasy football team as well. I know that this post probably should go without saying, but I just want to hit the point home.

Every fantasy owner has their favorite magazine that they pick up every year. Some follow take their suggestions too literally, some don't follow them enough. But everyone reads the papers, listens to sport talk radio, and takes their markers and highlighters and picks their favorite players.

But all that studying might not help you when you're under the gun and the clock for your draft pick is bearing down on you. This is why is suggest that you try ESPN's Fantasy Football Mock Draft. It's a neat little tool that they've developed to help you prepare for your true draft. In previous years, if you wanted to try an online draft to prepare for your real draft, it meant that you would have to start a team in a league with 11 other dorks from around the country. With the new mock draft, ESPN has given owners an opportunity to bone up for the draft without having to field a new team.

It's interesting what you can learn if you do enough of these drafts. About where is Randy Moss going to go? How quickly are the top tier quarterbacks disappearing? All these little questions can be answered before your actual draft. Trying this out a time or two can help you get ready for how your own draft will play out.

I've done my fair share this year, and will probably do one the night before my draft. Its given me a real opportunity to review my own style. What I've found is quite interesting to me, and it surprised me. I've found that, duh, running backs go quick. If you don't pay attention, before you know it your choosing between Leon Washington and Kevin Barlow. Some of my mock drafts, I have picked up three backs with my first three picks. In other drafts, I tend to lean too much on potential,while passing on good consistency.

Having the opportunity to evaluate these drafts are a real help to my draft day strategy. I can come to grips with what prices I'm willing to pay, and I've identified what players I am truly after.

So, if you have the opportunity, take a look at a mock draft. You might be surprised with what you learn.


Fantasy Rule #19

Its funny because it's true. Unfortunately, I won't be having "ballet" parking. But I won't be having absentee owners drafting either.


THE LIST: 5 things to make your draft better.

My draft is coming up on Saturday. Now, I don't have kids yet, but I when I imagine the anticipation that I'll feel when my wife is about to give birth, I just picture draft day. I love it. I truly do. It's quite possibly my favorite day of the year that's not Thanksgiving. I've been running this same league, in various forms, for about 8 years. I enjoy being the commissioner, and I think that the owners in my league like the draft I put on. I've put together a small list of things that you, as a commissioner, should aim to do for your fantasy draft. Its just a little list which you can take or leave.

5. GET SOME DRAFT SOFTWARE - I know, I know. Leagues cost enough as is, and you're fine with your big bulky draft board. But why not think about moving into the 21st century? Chances are, you have a 50' Plasma HDTV, why not get some real use out of the thing, and make it the showcase of your draft. This year I'm using fantasy draft software from the folks over at www.fandraft.com. That's not a shameless plug, it's just the best that I've seen. I like that it adds a real "ESPN" feel to the draft. It's got a ticker and supports music. This will be the first year that I'm running it, and I'll let you know how it goes.

4. ADD SOME MUSIC - Last year, I spent tireless hours scouring ITunes trying to find the best music for my draft. A little bit gay? Perhaps. But it would have been awesome, had my draftmaster not forgotten the cord to hook my iPod into the laptop. When you're sitting around, opening the first beers, and eating the wings and pizza, why not have some NFL Films soundtracks playing in the background. It gets the mood set, and gets everyone pumped and ready to draft. Who doesn't get psyched with a little "Ramblin' Man from Gramblin", it makes me think of The Burger King returning a pick against the Bills every time.

8. GO SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT - Every year its the same thing. 12 guys cramped into someones living room, while his wife vacuum's under the feet of 4 fat guys stuffed onto a loveseat. Last year I asked owners to chip in an extra $20 a head, and we rented out the conference room of a posh hotel. I had each conference seated at their own tables, and it gave it a real "war room" feel. I'm not saying do this every year, but change it up now and then.

3. GO THE EXTRA MILE - One thing I do every year as the commissioner, is to make sure that I've printed out a complete draft-day packet for every owner. This ensures that you don't have to have your latest Rotowire magazine or Pro Football Weekly to have a good draft. I fill the packet with cheat sheets, roster requirements, notes about owners, etc. My goal is that every owner there has a real feel that I put a lot of effort into making the draft as exceptional as possible. Last year, I printed out one of a kind t-shirts for each owner, with the league logo and team name. This year I'm going with pint glasses with each team logo.

2. DRESS UP - Each year, I make sure to have each owner wear a shirt and tie to the draft. I myself usually wear a suit. As I've said, its one of my favorite days of the year, so why not get dressed for the occasion? I'll bet that half of my league hates it, but I think that the other half actually likes it. I always take a league picture to look back at. I was at one of my owners houses the other night, and he broke out the picture, and said that it had been hanging on his fridge' for the past year. In addition to everything else, most wives are more understanding about the draft if their husband is wearing a shirt and tie while leaving the house. There's an air of respectability to it.

1. HANG OUT A BIT - This is a tough one, because most people are ready to finish the last beer and make it home to their wives or girlfriends before it gets too late. But some of my favorite time is the immediate aftermath of the draft. Some people get buyers remorse. Some people keep drinking. But everyone judges. I recall last year, my brother and his brother in law going back and forth about who had the better team. My brothers pronounced his team, predctibly stacked with Dallas Cowboys, as the greatest team ever assembled, while his brother in law tauted the greatness of his own team. I laughed my ass off as these two dogmatic a-holes went back and forth for an hour. It might have been my favorite part of the draft.

First Post from the Commish...

Alright, I've finally done it. I own a blog. In my job, I come across probably 20-30 blogs a day. I've said time and again that bloggers annoy me with their "modest" views of the world from their own opinion, to their inevitably pithy titles. But I've been thinking about this for some time, and I think that I might actually have something to say when it comes to fantasy football. I hope that you agree. And if you don't, you can go F*** yourself!