"I will not be THAT guy to take the first QB no matter how far they fall. Will you?"
Before my epic Northwestern trip, Scott Atkins was nice enough to invite me into a FFToolbox mock draft, and I promised to comment on my picks. That never happened, but I made amends by inviting him in for an interview. Of course I’m going to ask him about that Mark Sanchez jersey.
How did you get started in the fantasy football industry? Short answer, I started playing high stakes fantasy football year one, went to Vegas, drafted live and fell in love with the whole experience. A few years later, on our way up to Chicago for a Live NFFC Draft, my buddy Mike Trent said he’d like to get back into sports broadcasting. We then decided to form the Red vs Blue podcast, covering all of the high stakes fantasy football contests out there. From a little podcast every Friday night, turned into forming the Fantasy Players Association, and now a leadership position at FFToolbox.com which hosts the Fantasy Football World Championships and Rotobowl. I still can’t believe it.
What exactly is in a fantasy toolbox, and can the non-handy fantasy players learn how to use them? Ha! FFToolbox has so much content, I’m still uncovering useful tools everyday. Here’s a testimonial I received on facebook just yesterday that sums it up:
I’ll be honest, my first impression of your site was overwhelming. So much information everywhere, not very aesthetically pleasing, just tons, and tons, and tons of info. After spending a little time though, I found the value of that information was worth much more than a prettier site could ever offer. I’ll be spending some serious time on fftoolbox.com this fantasy season!
We’re most known for our Cheatsheets, which are customizable to your league scoring system. They must be pretty good because we won the Fantasy Pros most Accuracy Contest for 2012. There’s a thousand other tools on the site that players can’t live without, NFL Mock Drafts are very popular in the off-season. Strength of Schedule, Team Outlooks, Sleepers, bust, gambles, safe picks, contract year players, free agents etc… the list goes on and on.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve been compiling data on the best fantasy players on the planet, so now we’re giving these same players a platform to help all fantasy players make their difficult draft day decisions and weekly lineup advice. As high stakes players ourselves, I think we take for granted being able to call up the #5 player on the planet and ask him who to start. Now, we’ve brought that ability to the masses, and we’re pretty stoked about it.
Do you regret the Sanchez jersey, or do you still wear it with pride? (It’s no Neil O’Donnell) I haven’t worn it since the butt fumble to be honest. [Zach note: How long ago does that completion to Santonio Holmes to get them in field-goal range to beat the Colts feel?]
Do you still love Darrelle Revis, or have you shunned him now that he’s a Buc? Once a Jet always a Jet right, even you Pete Carroll! I am actually rooting for Revis, I really am. He gave me something to get excited about the last few seasons. I hope Milliner becomes that guy because we’re devoid of big time talent. I’m running out of jersey options. Maybe Geno? Sheesh…
We did an official “Expert” mock on FF Toolbox. I’m not at all familiar with the Fantasy Football World Championship scoring. How does that change your draft strategy (seeing as you took Calvin Johnson 1.01)? Wide Receivers are at a premium in the Fantasy Football World Championship, but I must admit, I went out on a limb because our rankings told me to. Based on a complex formula we call “The BoxScore” , it states that Calvin Johnson will outperform the 2nd flex position required in the weekly lineup, more than the lack of having Adrian Peterson would. In addition, I’m pretty high on a few of the backs going later in the draft. For one, David Wilson, who even with all the Andre Brown chatter is a guy that I’m predicting a Top 15 finish. Another guy I’m targeting is Shane Vereen who I landed in the 7th. It’s hard not to like his value in a PPR format.
The live real FFWC “qualifier” draft on the Red/Blue podcast this week was a first for me. Are you going to do anymore of these live drafts fot the 2014 FFWC? Absolutely! The qualifier drafts are a lot of fun because for most players, they’re not going to play in the Main Event unless they win their way in. The Qualifier league is just that. If you win your league of 12, you win a seat at next year’s event, either online from home or in Vegas, your choice. Of course, there’s always a cash option but if it were me, I wouldn’t turn down the chance to sit at that table. (in my best Michael McDermott voice)
Will you end up in a 12-step program for Spree chews? Ha! They’re a good sponsor of the RvB show.
Will you have to buy Mike a new phone before the next podcast? I didn’t have to. The listeners sent us like 5 phones that were better than the piece of junk he had. Thankfully I can report, he’s actually using a Galaxy. I can’t believe he’s using a smart phone now.
What kind of draft prep are you doing for the 2013 FFWC event in Vegas next month? Typically the most valuable thing I do is talking to the high stakes players about the guys that they love and where they’re getting them in drafts. On my show, we really focus on Team Construction, so it goes well beyond just the player analysis. Sometimes you have to turn down the “best player” because its not the best player for your team as a whole.
Now that I’m Fulltime Fantasy, I’m watching / observing every draft that comes through so I’m seeing risers and fallers from players who are spending big money to draft now. They think they know who to draft and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is. More often than not, I’ve found the players at the top of our rankings and the high stakes community at large to be right. There’s a reason they’re winning their league and making the playoffs every year. It’s no coincidence.
What spurred you to start the FPA and how has it been a force for good in the industry? On our weekly podcast, I would invite these big contest operators on my show. One of them was the AFFL. The previous owner had defaulted on the players. The new owners stepped up and said they were going to make things right, so I had them on my show. Some of my listeners even played in the event. One of my good friends even won their contest. Damn if they didn’t turn around and not have the funds to pay. That put me over the edge and myself along with a board of 12 volunteer high stakes players formed the first ever advocacy organization for fantasy players. Not one company was standing up saying anything about contests that were seemingly disappearing overnight without a word. We decided not on our watch. Never again will message board posts be deleted or payments arrive late or not at all, without a sounding board for the players. Power to the Players is our mantra.
Almost overnight, the organization turned into a real “watchdog” of the industry when the WCOFF defaulted. We kept pressing them for answers and to open their books, and reported on every minute detail that came from that on behalf the players. We even appeared on Outside the Lines:
We eventually will open a few cool features. A formal dispute resolution service where complaints can be reviewed on all contests, a contest review section highlighting the best and worst parts of each contest and a legal fund in case we ever need representation or just advice on where the industry is going. The site is getting an upgrade this month because I’ve been so busy at Toolbox, but the players know that if another red flag moment hits the industry, the FPA shield and board of players will be there sounding the alarm.
Does your wife have any issues with your football obsession? No, not really. She’s a big Colts fan, so it made for a few interesting seasons there when the Jets played the Colts in the playoffs. She is involved out in Vegas too. For years, she’s assisted in registration and even facilitating drafts which she actually enjoys. It’s pretty hard work actually, but she makes sure for some r-n-r at the spa, the pool and some shopping while she’s there.
Football or sex: which do you think of more? Depends on the month. We’re seasonal like that.
Where are you on the usual football Sunday? I assume there’s a man cave. I start in the morning back up in the office, flip on the tube and hit all the lineups. Start chatting with the high stakes guys and this year, surely answering emails from players. I cram every single bit of info I can until the 1:00 siren sounds, then I’m downstairs in my chair with the big screen. My neighbors are usually all glued to the Colts game, but some of them from our local league have been coming over for the RedZone experience at my house. We always have a combination of RedZone and a couple of games on at the same time on the laptops.
Tell me about a hobby/interest outside of football. We love to travel. This past Christmas we spent a few weeks in Maui and I just returned home from spending five weeks down in Florida in time for the kids to start school. I enjoy target shooting when I have the time and my good friend has finally convinced me to start powered paragliding. I’m excited for that. On the weekend, I do enjoy our neighborhood nightclub, “Club Veneer” for EDM, occasional beer pong and brews. Yes, we never grew up.
Which football writers are on your must-read list? That’s a great question. Honestly, I’m more apt to listen to somebody who cashes checks rather than writes articles. I know that might sound a little brash, but it’s just how I’m wired after the years. Guys like Matt Berry (great book btw) or anybody on ESPN or even CBS, they’re not playing in our contests. They have too much to lose and nothing to gain. [Zach note: High stakes is kind of a sub-culture of fantasy football.] People listen to their advice right now. It doesn’t mean they know how to build a winning fantasy team. I’d pay for their entry to play just to see how our pros stack up against them.
Is there anyone in the industry that you’d like me to interview? I can think of a couple:
• Matt Bayley, he won the World Championship last season. We did an interview, but honestly he deserves a hundred interviews for winning $200,000. [Zach note: Question one would be "spot me a tenner?"]
• Emil Kadlec of Football Diehards and FSWA Hall of Fame Inductee. He’s the Godfather of the industry after starting the World Championship.
• Ian Ritchie, founder of Fulltime Fantasy and the #4 ranked fantasy player. There’s nobody that cares more about the fantasy football industry than Ian, I truly believe that.
• Marc Edleman @MarcEdelman – www.marcedelman.com He’s a law professor and sports business scholar. I think the masses would be quite surprised how he feels about some of the contests operating out there and their business practices and how it puts the players and our whole industry at risk.
Tell me about any plugs that you’d like. Sites, podcasts, projects, anything. Cool. They can find everything at FFToolbox.com.
The Mock Draft World Championship will be live today! Everybody loves to mock draft. Our software powered by FantasyPros, allows you to mock against 11 computer opponents, so you literally draft in minutes! Play before you pay and Draft til you’re happy! If you like your team, enter it in the contest for $5. Simple as that.
Let’s try to put the rest of his links in a sentence. Scott Atkins is on Facebook and Twitter and you should listen to Red vs Blue radio with Mike’s new phone that won’t make you deaf. FFToolbox also has a Facebook, Google +, and Twitter page. For the Fantasy Players Association, you can head to Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks Scott, for the interview and the carpal tunnel from copying and pasting so many links.
Ask Your Fantasy Fooball Expert: Interviews 51-100, The Book is coming soon, with perhaps a better (and shorter) title.