Ask Your Fantasy Football Rocket Scientist: Jonathan Vandersluis of Top Team Fantasy

"If you believe that Stacy isn’t going to be the starter I have a Nigerian Prince just for you!"

The Joe Carter gif on his Twitter page may make you think that Jonathan Vandersluis (say that three times fast while drunk) is just a baseball guy who’s living for the past. He’s not, and being a Canadian, he can be an impartial fantasy advisor, because he’s not rooting for the Bills based on two bleeping home games a year. He’s also a rocket scientist, so these will be some Mensa-level answers.

What made you decide to hang your shingle at Top Team Fantasy and have your own fantasy pirate ship? About two years ago, I finally bit the bullet and started a twitter account. After getting followed by all these fantasy football twitter accounts I thought to myself, I could do this a hell of a lot better. So I started up a new twitter called FreeRotoAdvice first just answering questions and then eventually it led to a blog as well. Finally in January 2013, I decided take things to the next level with TopTeamFantasy.com. While I loved just giving advice and writing, it’s awesome to be able to give great young fantasy minds a place to share their knowledge. I don’t get write nearly as much as I used to but it’s completely worth it.

You’re a little bit out there by ranking Aaron Rodgers over Peyton Manning. What’s the thinking? I’m planning to write a detailed article explaining the rationale since I’ve gotten this question a fair bit, but the simple answer is as follows:

2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 22

That’s Aaron Rodgers’ yearly fantasy finishes since he took over as the Packers’ starter in 2007. He’s been the most consistent QB over that span by far.

Peyton on the other hand:

7, 7, 6, 5, INJ, 6, 1

We aren’t ranking (or drafting) based on what happened last year. Peyton had a season for the ages, but frankly, Rodgers has just as talented a group of pass-catchers and runs a little as well, something that Peyton will never contribute. I don’t expect to own either of them because there’s so much value later in drafts, but the odds are that Rodgers will finish as a more valuable QB in 2014. [Zach note: Always a good thing to look at guys who were injured/underperformed in 2013.]

When it comes to QB drafting, are you happy when other owners start going after QBs in the early rounds so you can gobble up the RBs and WRs? I really am shocked year after year that so many people overvalue QBs. The numbers are very clear on this, QB is the most replaceable position in standard fantasy football leagues. In 2013 for example, only two QBs, Peyton and Brees, finished as top 10 starts in at least 8 weeks (half the time). By comparison, 18 RBs finished as top 20 starts in more than 8 weeks. I’d gladly let people overpay for QBs and grab a Jay Cutler or Russell Wilson in Rounds 9-10 while I grab as many RBs and WRs as I can.

What’s your day job? I see rocket scientist by day on your twitter profile, which means you might be too smart for fantasy sports. I joke around about it, but it’s not a lie, I’m actually a rocket scientist. I studied aerospace engineering for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and have been working in the aerospace industry for 4 years now. Being an engineer, I’m naturally drawn to numbers and trends which made fantasy a natural place to combine my love for sports and my analytical skills.

As a Torontonian, would you like the Bills to move there full-time and could you handle the barbarian hordes of Bills fans coming to your door if this happens? It would be great for the city to have an NFL team. You may be surprised to know that Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America behind only Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles. A market that size would sell out a stadium without question every Sunday. Personally, I don’t have any connection to the Bills, but there are already plenty of Bills fans here so I’d gladly accept a few more if it meant getting an NFL franchise in my backyard!

Who’s your NFL team, and do they have a victory that for you was as satisfying as the Dutch pounding on Spain last Friday? So as a Canadian, I didn’t grow up on the NFL. My favorite sports as a kid were basketball and baseball and I only really got super into football when I started playing fantasy about 10 years ago. So as far as an NFL victory definitely not, but the most satisfying victory of my life was Joe Carter’s walk off HR to win the 1993 World Series. [Zach note: Beating my White Sox in the ALCS in the process.]

Do you feel that rookies, especially a hyped WR class, are overrated in redrafts this year? I’ve never been a big rookie guy in fantasy leagues. People always love the hot new guys so I tend to sit back and wait for veterans at a value. Especially with the NFL draft later this year, rookies have even less time to learn the playbook and get up to speed. I’ll completely avoid rookie TEs most of the time as almost never have an impact, but from time to time take a WR if the value is right. I just don’t want to ever be relying on them as a starter until I see them play in the NFL.

Why do you think it’s important to give homage to the fantasy folks that you look up to? We live in a society in which more and more people are out only for themselves. I wasn’t raised like that. I believe that we all have the power to impact someone else’s life so I always try to show my appreciation to those who have helped me out or I respect. A quick two second message can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Being a fantasy analyst can be a thankless job where the trolls seem to breed like rabbits, so a little positivity can go a long way.

How the bleep do you do multiple fantasy sports? I love all three sports we cover at TTF (Football, baseball and basketball) so when I started the site it wasn’t even a question. Honestly, I would be bored focusing only on one sport. However, there’s no way I would be able to do it without such an amazing team of writers. They produce and endless stream of awesome articles so it makes my job very easy.

Do you have a favorite type of fantasy league? We do all our rankings on the site for standard leagues, but I much prefer playing in PPR leagues. I like leagues in which you have to make tough decisions so PPR makes it so that you don’t always start a RB in your flex. Also, the deeper the better. Leagues in which starting RBs are found on the wire are definitely not my cup of tea.

What’s the league that you want to win the most? We run leagues for followers of the site every year. They are extremely competitive, but more importantly everyone has access to my rankings and thoughts and use that against me. Obviously as the fantasy analyst, there’s pressure to do well even despite already being disadvantaged. We’ve already done three 16-team PPR leagues over two years and I’ve won one and made the finals in another, but I imagine my luck will run out soon. [Zach note: Seems like 16-team leagues are an exercise in frustration.]

The spouse question: Does your wife/sig other/girlfriend have any issues with your football obsession? My girlfriend is an amazing person, she is extremely supportive and has put up with countless times in which I have been distracted and needed to work on the site. When I first started writing, she used to read every article even though she knew practically nothing about football just because I was excited about it. She sometimes needs to tell me to put my phone away when we’re out on dates or to leave the articles alone when we’re traveling, but I don’t blame her at all. I can be extremely obsessive and put my heart and soul into everything I do so it’s good to have someone that pulls me back to earth and reminds me to shower and shave every once in a while.

Football or sex: which do you think of more? I’ve never had to research about sex so it’s definitely football. Considering what I just told you guys about not being able to leave the site alone (and showering and shaving) I’m lucky that she hasn’t left me, so I’m just thankful for that. [Zach note: I thought you’d take an audible and say “the theory of gravity”.

What’s your usual Sunday football tradition? Sundays are usually pretty nuts for me. I wake up pretty early, usually have an article to publish first thing in the morning before heading to answer questions, set my lineups, update my rankings for any news in the morning and often run a pregame chat on the site. It’s rare that I eat before the games start at 1 pm. Then I go watch the games, usually having one playing on the TV, and a couple more, in addition to the red zone channel, streaming on my laptop.

Which football writers are on your must-read list? Honestly, I don’t get to read football articles as much as I used to before I started the site, and often prefer to listen to podcasts instead as I can put it on while at work and still get things done. However, writers that come to mind are Matthew Berry, Christopher Harris, Brad Evans and Andy Behrens, as well as John Paulsen and Josh Moore from 4for4, JJ Zachariason from numberFire and Evan Silva from Rotoworld. There’s so many other guys that I really respect their opinions and if I had all the time in the world I would read everything that each one of them writes but only so much time in a day.

Tell me about a hobby/interest outside of football. Considering that I run a site about fantasy football, baseball and basketball, you would be surprised to know that my favorite sport and the one that I play most often is actually volleyball. I played all throughout high school, used to coach and currently play in a league at this awesome beach volleyball complex in Toronto. I love to travel, actually am going for two weeks to Spain and Portugal in about a month so very pumped for that. I’m also pretty involved in the community in Toronto, and for the past 3 years have been running a charity basketball tournament to raise money for underprivileged kids that has raised about $50,000 each year.

Do you have a favorite game-day (or day ending in “y”) beer? As a Canadian, beer here in general is a hell of a lot better of what you guys get in the states, but I have to admit that I’ve never had better beer than during the semester I spent in Munich. Some of favorites include Alexander Keith’s, Rickard’s, Streamwhistle and Mill Street. I wouldn’t call myself a beer connoisseur at all, but there’s nothing better than a cold one on a hot day. [Zach note: Or a cold one on a cold day, seeing as you have those north of the border when walking your polar bear.]

Let me know about any sites/podcasts/contests that you’d like to ‘plug’. There’s awesome new content going up on TopTeamFantasy.com essentially every day. Right now, we’re doing a offseason fantasy football series in which we’re covering hot story lines for each NFL franchise and how they affect your fantasy football teams in 2014. We’re already two divisions in and are essentially covering one division each week.

Thanks for the time, Jonathan. Follow him on Twitter.

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