Ask Your Fantasy Football Coach: Dennis Esser of the Trick Plays Podcast

"Micah and I try not to play the old who can pick a worse sleeper this week game. I promise. "

When I found out that Micah James had found a hetero life partner in Dennis Esser to be his co-host in the Trick Plays podcast, I knew I had to get to the bottom of who this man was who calls himself “Coach”. He’s wrangling a set of triplets when not watching the Michael Strahan A Football Life on repeat.

How did the podcast romance begin between you and the Micah James, and how do you keep the relationship fresh with your weekly Trick Plays podcast? How does any great romance start? I pestered him until he took notice and had no choice but to offer me a spot on his podcast. Being serious, Micah set up a Fantasy Football meet up at Eagles practice this summer and I took the day off from diaper duty to head down and meet some great people in the industry. We did an impromptu podcast from the stadium and when he had some issues with his original podcast The Magic Formula, he reached out to me to jump on a brand new show as a permanent co-host. Micah and I are both very busy with our families and the few hours we spend preparing and recording the podcast is a welcome break during the week. I think we both share a great passion for fantasy football and don’t necessarily look at all the players and match ups the same way. I hope the audience enjoys the fact that we don’t always agree and like to pick on each other when we swing and miss.

What was it like being a high school coach in New Jersey? New Jersey is a great place to be football coach. The players, both in football and wrestling, worked hard and took coaching well. We are not lucky enough to have nice weather year round where players can spend time playing 7 on 7 and practicing continuously, but I think playing other sports in the winter in New Jersey actually helps our football players be well-rounded athletes. Whether they play basketball or wrestle there are import skills that they can use on the football field. The only issues I ever had were with the parents. People talk about the wussification of America, but it’s the wussification of parents that drives good coaches from the profession. Usually it starts out as parents trying use their influence in politics to get their child more playing time, but there are extremes that involve litigation that has a lot of my friends rethinking their future. My old head coach, where I worked, actually was sued and lost his job for not starting a player. The lawsuit actually stated that we as coaches had affected his future earnings as a professional football player by not letting him start in high school. That sentence alone makes me wary of all parents when they want to have a chat about their son or daughter.

When you say triplets in your profile, do you mean three kids at once? What’s it like to be as fertile as Antonio Cromartie? Yep, three kids all at once. I can always count on my friends to have a good time with the fact that I have my hands full. While I was writing this my buddy sent me this YouTube clip (Warning:NSFW). Having fertility issues is always a touchy subject for some people, but not for me and my wife. We are always happy to share our story. My wife had some fertility issues and without going into it all in depth she ended up just having to change her diet, after trying everything under the sun for two long years, to get her hormones working right. We struggled for a long time trying to have children and all the hard work paid off in a big way. My girls are seriously the best thing that has ever happened to me, and all the sleepless nights early on are definitely worth the joy I feel now seeing them learn and grow. The only drawback is you have to be comfortable with people staring at you in public or complete strangers asking you really personal medical questions. [Zach note: As long as it’s not Travis Henry asking you to reveal your secrets.]

Are you happy that your CJ Spiller faith was rewarded last week? You know sometimes a matchup is bust proof. Whether it was Ray Rice facing the Bears run defense a few weeks back or it’s a banged up C. J. Spiller facing the Atlanta Falcons, there was just no way they couldn’t produce. Spiller being cheap in DFS actually help me celebrate my faith in him all the way to the bank. On FanDuel he was over 3000 dollars cheaper than Adrian Peterson yet scored the same amount of points.

It’s so hard to ignore the previous week’s results in daily fantasy football. Did you start Ben Tate in any leagues (week 13)? I didn’t stay away from Tate because of last week’s performance, I simply stayed away because I liked other running backs’ matchups a lot more. Adrian Peterson was a lock for over 150 yards rushing against the Bears and he went for over 200. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were right around the same price, on the cheap side, and had an ideal match up against the Atlanta Falcons so I went with them where I could.

I know most players put the blinders on with one bad performance and don’t give a player a second chance, but that’s not me. I try to find out what went wrong in the bad week and see if it’s an issue that could cause that player to not perform even in a good match up.

This week could see a lot of people lay off Eddie Lacy in DFS because of what happened on Thanksgiving, but he will be in my lineups if his price is right going against the Falcons. [Zach note: It almost seems too good to be true.]

Giants or Jets fan? If Giants, you can be quiet with your two Super Bowls. If Jets, you poor dear. I am lucky enough to be a Giants fan. I actually write fantasy posts for on SB Nation and that may have caused me to overvalue some of their players this off season. It’s hard to explain just how much I loved David Wilson entering the season and just how much I hate myself for it now. [Zach note: Welcome to #teamshowercry.] He looked so good when I went to the practices to cover the Giants that I thought it was going to be his break out campaign. His start to the season was such a nightmare and unfortunately he injured his neck in the one game that he scored a touchdown. Sometimes looking at a team too closely can truly cloud your judgment when looking at the bigger picture in fantasy football.

Which fantasy league do you want to win the most, and are you playoff-bound in that league? I have that home-league that truly makes participating in fantasy football fun. We have been doing this league for 15 years and it really is the only league I care about. Most of us have known each other for over 30 years and there is nothing I enjoy more than beating their brains in. Some of the owners have even married into each other’s families so it makes the jokes on draft day that much more delicate to pull off.

My buddy Q started up the league in 1998 and has been our commissioner ever since. He actually built our very own website from scratch and we used it up until recently. We had to go mainstream because we could no longer get cheap live stats. We miss the site so much because it was like our baby. We even had an Ebay-like free agent system where you could bid against your rivals on free agents and push up the prices. It was so much better than all the current Faab systems.

As for this season and my playoff chances, I am lucky enough to have a first-round bye and my team should be able to compete for a title. The other team with a bye happens to be owned by my best friend and both of us have two titles to our credit so being able to get that third title before him is huge. We also have our lovable loser buddy who happens to have the hottest team ever right now and has a very good chance to finally win money after 15 years of doing this with us. It should be fun to watch play out.

Is it silly to talk about specific fantasy playoff strategy, as in if you made it this far, stick with what works? It’s all about self-scouting and reassessing your roster. You can’t go into the playoffs assuming that Victor Cruz is one of your two best receivers if you have Michael Floyd and Julian Edelman burning up your bench. Josh from recently tweeted out that Cruz has been WR46 since week 5 and anyone who has owned him knows it has been a struggle lately. The problem is you drafted him early and he may have helped you win a title in the past so you may decide to give him one more chance in the playoffs. Well when you are knocked out you will have nobody to blame but yourself, and Kevin Gilbride, Eli Manning and the Giants offensive-line of course. Another example is Jordan Cameron. Does anyone still believe he is a top 6 tight end going into the fantasy playoffs?

Why is it that people get called “coach” even if they are not still a coach? I’m not called “McDonalds Drive-Thru guy” by my friends. It’s a form of respect I think. Most people have participated in sports at some time in their life and had a coach that they hopefully respected and looked up to. I know I will forever refer to my high school football coach as “coach”, because I respect him and he scares the crap out of me to this day. For example my buddy Anthony, who was also my high school quarterback, was the first of my friends to get hired on as coach after college and we all couldn’t wait to buy him a monogramed gift with the word “Coach” on it. He was actually featured as the coach of the week this year in New Jersey and received a gift from the Giants at half time for his accomplishments. [Zach note: All right, you can keep the title “Coach”, but Bill Cowher’s on notice.]

Does your wife have any issues with your football obsession? Luckily my wife has a real love for sports. She was an athlete in high school and pretty much fell for me because I was a football player. She worked for Fox Cable Sports until recently and used to take some of the conversations we had at home to the office to help her fit in with the boy’s club. She has never minded my obsession in the least, but now she appreciates it for a different reason. She works long hours all week long and doesn’t get much time with the girls during the week so on Sundays she has the girls all to herself while I obsess over every NFL game.

Football or sex: which do you think of more? I have THREE kids already so what do you figure I think about more? It’s just as well because all the time it used to take to find a decent porn clip on the internet, that I hadn’t already seen 100 times, is now used for watching Game Replay on I joke with my single friends that they must be watching alien midget porn now with all the hours they probably scour the internet. [Zach note: People reading this are going to have some interesting Google searches.]

Where are you on the usual football Sunday? Sundays I head down to my basement and sit with my dog on my lap and watch over a dozen hours of football. My dog absolutely loves it because he’s attention starved all week and even my kids know what I’m doing on Sundays. If their Aunts ask where Daddy is, they say watching football. It’s his favorite.

Tell me about a hobby/interest outside of football. Besides fantasy sports I don’t have a hobby at the moment because taking care of the girls takes up every single second in my life. My PS3 is collecting dust and my motorcycle has been sold off. My main hobby before having the kids was playing poker. It was more of an obsession/job before internet poker got shut down, but there’s no use crying about it. You have to understand that growing up in New Jersey was a lot like what you would see in the movie Rounders. My friends and I learned how to play poker and even table games at a young age in the basement of a friend whose father used to have “Casino Nights” every weekend. My college, Rowan, was way too close to Atlantic City and my degenerate gambling ways only grew. When I moved in with my wife in North Jersey I realized that there were even bigger degenerates than me. These guys used to rent out little bungalow type houses just to play poker and gamble in. If we weren’t there we were going to a Diner owners’ game in East Hanover or a poker room in Newark or Bloomfield. Then Pokerstars came along and made me a virtual shut-in. I literally cut back to only one or two live tournaments or cash games a year at that point because there was no way to win as much money in live action as there was playing eight tables of no-limit on Pokerstars. The only thing I missed was the free catering.

Which football writers are on your must-read list? I think I could read anything C.D. Carter writes and really like it even if I don’t agree with it. He has a writing style and a way of looking at things that I enjoy. I really like J. J. Zachariason and am really excited for him to be doing his thing at numberFire. There are so many great voices in fantasy football right now that’s hard to narrow it down. I am amazed by the work that Chet Gresham is able to put out on multiple platforms and I am blown away regularly by FantasyDouche and what he is writing at My best friend always swore by and now that I read them regularly I think Josh Moore and John Paulsen do a great job. It’s so hard to just pick out a few because I really do like so many writers. Rich Hribar and Salvatore Stefanile are both great guys who are putting out some great work. Some other guys that I read all the time are T, the guys at (Chad Scott especially), Ray Flowers, and of course everyone at

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to address? I have to say that most of my time now a-days is spent explaining daily fantasy sports to people. I really think the entire industry is just starting to take off and it’s very exciting. I really didn’t get involved until this summer and have been on one of those magical runs of turning a free 5 dollars into a decent bank roll. Which ever site manages to grab the market share will become one of the biggest companies on Wall Street when it goes public. [Zach note: This is serious bidness.] I joke around with some other DFS players that some of the smartest fantasy minds are just realizing that this is the future and a great way to make your favorite past time actually pay your bills. I picture a bunch of big bears (great fantasy minds not playing DFS) in the woods just hearing about a stream that is full of salmon that are literally jumping out of the water into anyone’s mouth that will take them. After the sites fight it out for market share it is going to be up to us as writers to become the go to sources for help in making people money week to week. There will be a Matthew Berry of daily fantasy and right now I’m not sure who that will end up being.

List any plugs/sites/podcasts/writing gigs that you’d like to share. I would like to give a shout out to one of my oldest buddies, Frank Hajdu, who talked me into writing about fantasy sports after I helped introduce him to the hobby. His encouragement has been a huge reason why I am confident in the information that I put out each week.

I would like to give a thank you to Michael Stein at who was the first one to let me write about fantasy sports on his website last year. From there I got hired by to cover the Giants from a fantasy perspective and I have loved getting a closer look at my favorite team. I started my own blog, soon after so that I could consolidate all of my writing and podcasts in one place and joined forces with Micah James to create the podcast Trick Plays. I am having a blast getting to know everyone in the industry and really enjoy interacting with everyone who enjoys fantasy sports.

Thanks to the most fertile fantasy expert that I know. That’s not a challenge, industry. Follow Coach on Twitter.

Want to support the site or just like reading about fantasy football experts? Then buy my book There Still Is No Off Season: Interviews 51-100 of the Ask Your Fantasy Football Expert Series.

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