Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sports Illustrated: FREE SITE (Mostly) Articles, General NFL News

sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl

Maybe I was expecting more out of the venerable Sports Illustrated, but from a fantasy football perspective it mostly disappoints. Back in my days living in New Jersy they had this amazing phenomenon called the New Jersey Diner. In every diner you could find a rotating, glass-enclosed case filled with the most amazing desserts ever seen. Glowing lemon meringue pies taller than Kramer's hairdo with chocolate cakes, pies and dishes of mousse that made your mouth water. One highly anticipated fork-full of these insanely gorgeous desserts and...total taste disappointment. Just like these Jersey Diner desserts, Sports Illustrated is all about the show with little fantasy football content to back it up.

LAYOUT: A+
The site is flashy and well laid-out with all of the glorious Sports Illustrated photography we have come to know and love. Advertising exists, but is not intrusive. This is the way sports websites should be organized.

CONTENT: D+
Here's where Sports Illustrated comes up flat. On the plus side, the site has plenty of distinguished writers who come up with insigtful commentary every week. The reporting in this area is very professional and usually is based on original interview content. Great stuff.

The problem with Sports Illustrated content is that you can find these exact articles and comments on news aggrigators throughout the web. There is no reason to come to this website to get the scoop. The number of articles truly unique to the site were limited to four gems covering Laurence Taylor's golf addiction, Hollywood Henderson's addiction to everything else, Gilbert Brown's ownership of a drag racing strip and Vince Papale's crazy stint with the NFL in 1976. Lovely stories all - but NOTHING here for the fantasy footballer.

News, scores, players, teams, standings, schedules, stats, transactions and injuries - all standard stuff pulled directly from NFL.com's archives. There's really nothing else. Even Sports Illustrated's fantasy football league is run by Yahoo! Sports. It's as if they have been living off of their reputation for years and simply gave up on football content.

EXTRAS: C**
**This grade was dragged out of the solid "D-" range by the one-and-only Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Spectacular. One line devoted to fantasy football (c/o Yahoo!) and 12 lines on Body Painting with Heidi Klum. "26 superstar models, 40 exclusive free videos, 600+ breathtaking photos - what are you wating for?" Umm...I think that my eyeballs are sweating.

Yes, Sports Illustrated has become the Poor Man's Playboy.

OVERALL FANTASY FOOTBALL IMPACT: D+/C-
Ooooh - what a pretty site! Unfortunately, it is all form and no fantasy football function. Stop by for a couple of great pictures, but don't spend any time here thinking that it will give you any sort of edge come draft day.

Monday, July 17, 2006

FootballGuys.com: PAY SITE Unique Articles, Reviews, Forecasts, Statistics, Forum

footballguys.com

Good Lord, what DON'T these guys have? I looked at Footballguys.com seven years ago and they were a nice site. Nothing spectacular, just...nice. Visiting Footballguys.com after all this time was like learning that the girl next door grew into a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. This is really a great fantasy football site. For the love of Pete - they even have their own published Strategy Guide magazine!

Enough gushing...on to the review. (Sung to the tune of J. Geils Band's "Centerfold")

LAYOUT: B+
Nothing horrible about it other than the creepy flash-through of all the writing contributors' pictures on the front page. These are faces made for radio...or anonymous internet posts. Ever done time in a Turkish prison, Keith Overton?

The site contains a boatload of information and navigating through this Hairy Buffalo punch bowl of data is a little daunting. Adding the posting date after every link is a good touch. It's nice to see the advertising subdued, too.

I'd give Footballguys.com an A- except for the dramatic yellow theme running through the site:

Founder 1: "We've got one of the toughest, hardcore fantasy football sites on the web! FOOTBALLGUYS.COM!!!"
Founder 2: "Hell yeah!" *Crushes beer can on forehead*
Founder 1: "Let's make it...buttercup yellow! I'll start with a canary yellow motif and then add a mauve font to the front page."
Founder 2: *belch* "Damn straight - let's make it...umm...what did you just say?"

CONTENT: A-
Articles written by Footballguys.com contributors, Recent Interviews, Team Reports, Podcasts, Statistical Tools and a News Aggregator. Footballguys.com is a virtual orgy of fantasy football information. As far as content goes, this is a site that has evolved over the years to match up well with what fantasy football players really need. You really need to check this out to appreciate the volume of stuff here.

The News section is an exceptional collection of rumors, Associated Press articles, reports from NFL team websites, MSNBC, ESPN, Sporting News and more. They include summaries on the Footballguys.com website as well as links to the full articles on the original sites. There's even a sorting feature to gather news by team, position, date, AFC/NFC, et al. Very well done.

The stats section appears to be very thorough and the analysis tool is well engineered. The statistics themselves are backwards-looking and something that you would need to review and analyze yourself, though.

The only knock that I have on the site is that there is no handy explanation as to how Footballguys.com develops forecasted projections. The only note says "these are David Dodd's projections". Nice to meet you, David - why should we be using your stats again? I'm sure that they are fine, but it would be nice to know the methodology and predictive quality. The issue is whether-or-not David bumped Chad Johnson to the top WR position due to statistics or b/c he wears Bengals logo pajamas to bed each night.

These predictive pages are the core of helping site members win championships. Hold them up high and then make it easy for a reviewer to understand the validity of the numbers. The rest of the Footballguys.com social scene should follow.

EXTRAS: A
Posting links to competitive fantasy football sites? No problem. They even throw in a Humor section to go along with a fan / contributor Forum. The forums themselves have almost 20,000 people posting with a total of 1.65 million posts. Need some advice on whether to start Randy Moss or Santana Moss this weekend? Post it and you are guaranteed to get an opinion.

You need drafting tools? No problem - simply download one of the nine (9) drafting, scheduling and rating tools Footballguys.com provides. There are several Podcasts available for download.

OVERALL FANTASY FOOTBALL IMPACT: A- (Almost an "A")
I would give Footballguys.com a solid "A" for having the most b*tichin' fantasy football website I have ever seen except for the lack of detail around their predictive data.

"Dude! They have a funny section and I get to post pictures of cheerleaders once and a while - give them an A!"

Once again, I am sure that the data is good. The issue is that Footballguys.com needs to post something more about the methodology before I can pass out full marks.

4for4.com: PAY SITE Information Source, Statistics, Rankings and More

www.4for4.com
(This site is free until July 23 and $25.95 after that)

Disclosure: I have subscribed to 4for4 over the past 4 years and used this site to lead me to 3 championships and one 2nd place finish in some solid leagues.

This is a pay site that would make statisticians, engineers and actuaries proud. Statistics cut 12 ways and clean, cold facts with very few pictures. The site actually has a lot to offer and even though it is a little lean on the 'fun' factor, it is the type of site that will help you win a fantasy football championship. Winning is my idea of fun.

LAYOUT: B-
The overall feel is slightly disorganized starting with The Latest information on top followed by News, Rookie Reviews (special section), Customized Analysis, Blog (really just a random guy posting semi-coherent thoughts), Schedule Analysis, Team Updates, Classic Draft Info, Auction Leagues, Keeper Leagues, Ranking explanations (details about the 4for4 statistical process), IDP help and Audio. This mish-mash of headers points towards a very rich content site with not much in the way of fluff. The top section covering new posts does tie it all together fairly well.

CONTENT: A
This is where 4for4 earns it's keep since the statistical mojo used in this website is second-to-none. The site uses a statistical analysis process to rate which players match up well against which defenses throughout the season. Forget subjective color commentary - simply follow the math to understand when you should put in which player and when you should make trades in order to gear up for your championship.

One of the best features is the site's ability for you to plug in your own unique league scoring system(s) to set up your league draft. It shows which players you can expect to go at what time, which are real bargains and which are ones you need to pass on. All players are ranked on capability, injury potential, big-play capability and compared to concensus scoring methods. (Consensus is the average opinion of where a player should be drafted.) 4for4 allows a fantasy football coach to turn off the feelings and to get right down to drafting the right player at the right time. After the draft, 4for4 keeps things rolling throughout the season by revamping projections week by week.

EXTRAS: A-
The site's content is wild: it contains tools for drafting in regular, keeper and IDP leagues plus ongoing news and some commentary from no-name industry experts that (just like the big names) you need to take with a grain of salt.

4for4 is a big proponent of drafting and trading players based on productivity and season hot spots. For example, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams is projected to start the year with a bang against fairly weak opponents, but will run into a Carolina / Washington / Pittsburgh / Chicago defensive buzzsaw at the end of the season. Trade Cadillac after Week 9.

The downfall of the site is that it does not have a community section where people can post Q&A to site experts and/or each other. It serves as a good local newspaper aggregator, but does not provide anything from the major journals like Sporting News, Sports Illustrated or ESPN.

OVERALL FANTASY FOOTBALL IMPACT: A-
This is really a gem of a site. 4for4 is not the prettiest fantasy footballer on the block, but as they say in boxing: "Don't bet on the good looking one". The site provides a unique, unbiased statistical look at fantasy football and can give you a strong edge come draft day and beyond. Turn off your home-team emotions, plug in your league rules, click print and watch your competition's jaws drop after Week 4.

YAHOO! SPORTS - NFL: FREE Information Source Review

sports.yahoo.com/nfl

When reviewing ice cream, might as well start off with vanilla before moving down the road to more exotic flavors. It's a safe bet that won't get anyone other than your local accountant excited. Granted, the Yahoo! NFL pages are a pretty damn good flavor of vanilla as far as fantasy football news goes.

I used the Yahoo! NFL pages religiously over the past 5 seasons of fantasy football because it is one of the most unbiased free fantasy football news aggregators out there. Associated Press releases, RotoWire, Sports Illustrated specialist commentaries and their own Yahoo! Sports people add to the mix. News flows relatively quickly and the fact that it comes from different sources means that you have a shot at getting to waiver wire related news faster than the other guys.

LAYOUT: A-
Nothing fancy - just the facts maa'm. This simple format is where Yahoo! NFL's vanilla really shines. Very little clutter and only two sections of advertising (one for the Yahoo! Fantasy Football paid site to be reviewed later). News, commentary and special sections like the results of the 2006 draft are nicely laid out and can be accessed without scrolling throughout the page.

CONTENT: B+
Yahoo! NFL handles mostly straight football news while news while most fantasy football analysis is found only on the Yahoo! Fantasy Football paid site. In my opinion, Yahoo! is missing the ability to seamlessly bring all football news and fantasy football commentary together in one seamless site. That said, all news sites are trustworthy and updated on a real-time basis. This is a site to visit every day during fantasy football season.

EXTRAS: B-
There quite a bit of functionality to personalize this page with photos, news related to your favorite teams, message boards by team and consolidated information like free agent signings. Unfortunately, the quality of these offerings can be poor. Message boards are ruled by team fanatics that often post complete drivel - rendering them useless for gathering real fantasy football information. Consolidated information does not include commentary reflecting the impact of certian players leaving or joining teams.

OVERALL FANTASY FOOTBALL IMPACT: B+
Once again, do not lose sight of the fact that this is a FREE site and that I will compare it to other free sites out there. As a news aggregator, Yahoo! Sports NFL is an excellent resource. Put this website under My Favorites as a place to visit regularly during the season. The downfall of the site is that it shifts most true fantasy football information and commentary over to its paid site - limiting the effectiveness of Yahoo! Sports NFL as a complete fantasy football tool. This split makes most of the extra features a 'visit once and then forget it' option.

Comments?

Friday, July 14, 2006

I'm on a mission to review the best and brightest fantasy football sites on the internet. Over the years I've run into countless pretenders out there who are great at bringing in fantasy football fans via Google searches. Most of these sites are great at flashing ads, but low on the things that count - content, solid advice, well thought-through rankings, updated news and analysis.

My first step will be to collect as many sites as possible by category: league sites, ranking sites, news and information sites, pay sites, free sites, mega-sites and those run by rank amateurs. I will try to make these reviews as objective and quirky as possible - the goal here is to share what I find so anyone who is a big fantasy football fan can use this info to narrow down the field.

Nope - I'm not associated with any web site, the NFL or paid subscription service. I am just a pretty good amateur fantasy football fan who is willing to share his quest for the best sites with anyone who might find this information useful.

Game on!