Ask Your Fantasy Football Expert: Eric Hardter of Dynasty League Football

"Dion Sims waiver pickup? Meh, why not. Better than keeping Mike “Gunsmoke” Goodson on my roster…"

It’s a deep roster for the Dynasty League Football, and one Eric Hardter is throwing out mailbag advice and old They Might Be Giants lyrics like they’re hot. He refers to himself as the “stat nerd” of DLF, although that’s like finding a nerd in a stack of nerds.

How did you get started in fantasy writing and how did that lead you into the loving arms of DLF?
Conveniently enough for the purpose of answering this question, I accomplished both through DLF’s 2012 writing contest. A little over a year ago I submitted an entry where I detailed and subsequently ranked several of the league’s younger quarterbacks, and utilized everything I’ve learned from HGTV to compare them to different types of real estate. Looking at it with the benefit of hindsight, I’m amazed they still let me write for them, as I took the unfortunate stance of advocating for Jake Locker over Colin Kaepernick, amongst others! In all seriousness though, I couldn’t have asked for a better group to help me transition from schlub with opinions, to schlub with opinions and an audience – team DLF has been great to me.

Your “bio” says that you are a Grad student in Chemistry at Boston College. Can you “cook” as well as Walter White? Though I know this confession will more than likely cause many to immediately cease reading this interview, I need to come clean – I’ve never actually watched an episode of Breaking Bad. I know, I know, that’s probably sacrilegious for a chemist, but I just never got around to it. More than likely I’ll binge watch the entire series some weekend down the line and own up to making the mistake of not getting in on the ground floor, whenever I emerge from my caffeinated stupor. [Zach note: The answer is yes, yes he can. How do you hide the RV on campus?]

Interestingly enough, I think being a chemist has really helped with my fantasy football writing. Grad school is hard work, but the hours are flexible and I don’t feel too bad busting out a few paragraphs of dynasty goodness in my downtime. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been trained to think with an analytical mind, which I believe is where I derived my penchant for statistical analysis.

Do you care more about spreadsheets than having a favorite NFL team? At the risk of sounding like Screech from Saved by the Bell, I think I kinda do. I’ve always been a much bigger fan of college football than the pros (Go Penn State!), and never really warmed up to my “hometown” team, the Eagles. It might sound trite, but I’m truthfully just a fan of the game – exciting football is exciting football to me, regardless of who’s playing. It also makes it easier to divest myself of an emotional response when I draft, make trades, etc. I will say, however, that my girlfriend has been working on me for years to become a Pats fan. While she’s had some degree of success, I’m not ready to go all Tom Brady down a waterslide just yet.

Do you have some favorites among the mass of second-year wide receivers who could break out in 2013? What an opportune time for a shameless self-plug! I recently penned a stat-heavy (shocking!) piece for DLF on the trends produced by mining through many years of rookie WR data in an attempt to discover the next big things at the position. After poring through the numbers, a few of the guys I believe are in for big upticks in production are Josh Gordon, TY Hilton, Chris Givens, Ryan Broyles and Rueben Randle (when Hakeem Nicks inevitably gets hurt, or Victor Cruz tweaks a hammy salsa-dancing). A few other names to monitor are the Vikings’ Jarius Wright and the Raiders’ Rod Streater – both are stuck in poor situations, but I believe they have the talent to surprise some people down the line. [Zach note: The second-year crop seems very strong.]

What do you have on tap for 2013 on DLF, along with the mailbag? The Mailbag is the only weekly feature I have right now, and I also write a semi-regular “Dynasty Purgatory” series for our Premium subscribers. I also enjoy engaging fellow writer Mark Rockwell in a dynasty debate or two (spoiler alert – keep your eyes peeled over the next couple weeks). Other than that, I don’t really have a set pattern with what I put out there. More often than not my work will involve a lot of stats, such that your computer screen looks like Neo’s in The Matrix, but there’s no universal trend.

Is there one league you’re in that you want to win the most? Despite being a fantasy football writer, I partake in a mere four leagues – three dynasties and a re-draft. [Zach note: Mr. Dickens said you were a professional. Just four? Come on, man.] As such they all hold a great deal of importance to me, but I’m going to have to say my first dynasty league is the one I’m itching to win the most. It’s comprised of a group of BC guys who all know one another fairly well, so the competition can get pretty heated, and the smack talk even more so. I’ve come close the past few years, but my team always seems to morph into a bunch of Tony Romos during the playoffs – I’m hoping to buck the trend in 2013 and finish what I started.

Are there players you’re trying to acquire before their value skyrockets this year? In addition to the receivers I mentioned above, there are two guys in particular who I believe offer a ton of potential at a minimal cost: Fred Davis and Vance McDonald. Once you get past the ever-shrinking top tier of tight ends, there’s a gigantic void to be filled. I think Davis can help fill it this year, and McDonald will offer that same type of upside as soon as next year. Other than that, I’m always interested in “reclamation projects,” guys like Santonio Holmes or Knowshon Moreno who might not offer much right now, but could see a value spike in a new locale.

Have you met any of your fellow DLF staff members? Who would you most want to meet for a beer? I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting any of my cohorts in person, but I’m hoping to meet up with Steve Wyremski when he next ventures up to Boston. A few other guys I’d like to meet are Chad Scott, Mark Rockwell and Mr. DLF himself, Eric Dickens. I’ve “known” Chad ever since we both had about 100 followers (as you can tell, he’s much better at the whole Twitter thing than I am), and always enjoy talking with him. Mark and I are both Pennsylvania boys with the same collegiate allegiance, so I’d love to crack open an ice-cold Yuengling while we cheer on the blue and white. Finally, Eric #1 is a Florida guy, so I’m guessing he knows a place or two on the beach where they serve colorful cocktails with little straw hats. How can you beat that?

Do you have a go-to beer for Sunday football watching? Two things define Fall to me: football and seasonal beers. Put the remote in one hand and a Harpoon Oktoberfest in the other, and I’m a happy guy.

Does your wife/girlfriend/sig other have any issues with your football obsession? I’m one of the lucky ones, as my girlfriend is pretty big on football in her own right. In fact, she actually has a t-shirt with the words “bigger fan than my boyfriend” inscribed on it, although that declaration is highly suspect. She still gets a little miffed at the concept of rooting for individual players instead of a solitary team, but she’s nothing but supportive when it comes to my fantasy teams and writing.

Football or sex: which do you think of more? At the end of the day, fantasy is fantasy. In the immortal words of Salt ‘n’ Pepa, “let’s talk about sex, baby!”

Where are you on the usual football Sunday? I assume there’s a man cave. Sadly, until I grow up and land a big-boy job (and more importantly, a real paycheck), we’re stuck with apartment living. Though there’s no man-cave as of yet, we have a nice TV, a comfy couch and a cuddle-loving pug – that’s good enough for me.

Tell me about a hobby/interest outside of football. Wait, there’s room for hobbies outside of fantasy football? My life is a lie! I do enjoy snowboarding in the winter, though I don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like. I’m also a bit of a cigar connoisseur (read: snob) – there’s nothing quite as relaxing as kicking back on a clear summer night with a nice stogie and a good beer. [Zach note: But does he inhale?]

Which football writers are on your must-read list? I’m sure it’ll sound like I’m just towing the company line, but all the DLF guys bring a lot to the table. We put a ton of time and effort into our work, which is a large part of the reason why we’re the best dynasty site out there. A few other guys I’d like to mention are Charles Murphy at razzball/, Ty Miller of Blindside Football, Leo Paciga at DFW, Steve Gallo, and all the guys over at Fake Pigskin. I’ve also had extremely engaging conversations with the “Sports Wunderkins,” Davis Mattek and Coleman Kelly, as well as Russell Clay. We don’t always see eye to eye, but hearing informed, alternative opinions always serves to sharpen one’s fantasy mind. Finally, for all things football and real life, there’s no better Twitter follow than Matt Rittle.

Is there anyone in the industry who you’d like me to interview? A couple of guys come to mind. The first is Rich Hribar of Sports Jerks, who is my co-conductor of the Vance McDonald hype train. I always value his insight, and we seem to agree on a lot of things. Also, his Twitter avatar is Zach Morris. ‘Nuff said.
The second is DLF’s Dynasty Doctor Scott Peak. He’s a huge fantasy football guy, and also brings unparalleled medical expertise to the table – it was an absolute coup for DLF to land him. Moreover, he’s a Chargers’ guy, so the two of you can commiserate with regards to being fans of subpar football teams. [Zach note: If you’re a fan of all 32 teams, I’d say at least 16 are sub-par.]

Is there anything I failed to ask that you’d like to address? My favorite color is red, my favorite food is spaghetti with meat sauce, and if I could be a dinosaur I’d totally be a Spinosaurus.

Tell me about any plugs that you’d like. Sites, podcasts, projects, anything. For all you dynasty lovers out there, if you’re not already signed up for our DLF Premium content, you’re missing out. For pennies a day you get unrivaled dynasty coverage, as well as access to our “Ask DLF” forum, where the staff personally answers any questions you may have. It’s a truly one of a kind resource for the dynasty enthusiast.

Also, make sure you listen to our weekly DLF Podcast. Tim and Jarrett do a great job, and they routinely get some of the best fantasy minds in the business to come aboard as guests to the program. It’s a must-listen.

Finally, if you ever have any burning dynasty questions, go submit ‘em to the DLF Mailbag! I love interacting with our readers, and the DLF fan-base always provides a plethora of thought-provoking questions for me. If I can’t fit you in the Mailbag, hit me up on Twitter anytime!

Thanks Eric #3 for answering my questions. Follow him on Twitter.

Check out my interviews in e-book form. Interviews 1-50 and 51-100 are available for purchase now.

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