Several years ago I began working remotely for a startup non-profit after spending most of my career in retail and corporate offices. As any quality researcher would do, I immediately began looking into tips and tricks of how to be successful working remotely. I stumbled across an article series by Lifehacker, called “How I Work,” which essentially was a collection of interviews, focusing on best practices, workflows, workspaces, and gadgets used by successful business people.
This article series is a nod, or rather a direct copy of their idea, from a fantasy football perspective. I’ll seek to interview the most interesting minds in fantasy football, procuring their secrets, routines, bookmarks, and more in an effort to pull back the curtains and provide you with resources and information. I hope you enjoy!
Your Twitter handle
Your location (city/state)
MW: Atlanta, Ga.
Current day job
MW: Publisher of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio and Staff Writer at Footballguys.com.
Current fantasy job(s)
MW: RB for the Seahawks or WR for the Browns or Oceanographer…oh you mean my current “fantasy jobs”? My Footballguys gig is my fantasy job and the RSP is my full-time business catering to an audience that includes fantasy players and writers.
One word that best describes how you play fantasy football
Who is your favorite (non-current) NFL player? Why?
MW: Steve McNair because he was an underrated passer with great pocket awareness, he was a great athlete, and the word “tough” isn’t tough enough to describe his game either physically or mentally.
Current mobile device
MW: iPhone6. I only recently got my first smartphone.
MW: PC desktop and laptop.
First of all, tell us a little about how you got your start in fantasy football. How did that evolve to what you’re doing now?
MW: I joined my first fantasy football league 25 years ago. It was a local league filled with friends and co-workers. For a few years, we tallied the weekly games using the box scores from the morning sports page at a bar while watching Monday night football. As Internet became affordable to the masses, we bought software to run the numbers each week. When online leagues became a thing, a childhood friend invited me to join a dynasty IDP league. This was 2003. One of the owners was Mike MacGregor of DraftBuddy and FFToday. Few people realize that Mike is one of the most innovative people in this industry. He’s like fantasy football’s Tesla when all most people in the industry heard about were the Edisons. I’m not kidding. He created the first spreadsheet that guided people through drafts and processed projections. He was the first to create the My(Insert site name) application that customizes a site’s content and data to individual league settings. He was also the first person to create a daily online fantasy game. Mike and I were always negotiating trades for this league. He liked how I communicated my knowledge of the game and asked me if I ever thought about getting into the industry.
At the time, I was developing my own fantasy website, a mock draft application that is a lot like what you can find at Fantasy Football Calculator, but the development of the application wasn’t working out. While working on the idea with a developer, the website also needed written content. With hope of publishing the site in the Spring of 2004, I was writing a fantasy column for the site that I called The Gut Check. When Mike asked me that question, I shared with him the first three Gut Checks I had written about Brian Westbrook, Larry Fitzgerald, and Brandon Lloyd. FFToday asked if I could make this a regular column and I worked there from 2004-2008. My interest in Westbrook’s draft status was also the spark for developing the Rookie Scouting Portfolio.
At the time, I was a director of quality with a decade of experience in operations management. I had taught myself to create databases used for tracking, evaluating, and reporting employee performance at a company with 60 sites and over 5,000 employees. When reading Gil Brandt’s blurb about Westbrook’s draft status, I thought it would be cool to apply what I had learned about technology, management, quality initiatives, and process-oriented best practices to draft prospects. During the summer of 2005, I began working on the first Rookie Scouting Portfolio. I published the first edition on April 1, 2006. Six months later, I left my career, took a job managing a bulk mail facility at the University of Georgia so I could spend more time building the RSP and a burgeoning freelance writing career. In 2007, a year to the day that I started at the bulk mail facility, I became the associate editor at the Terry Magazine, UGA’s College of Business publication. I held that job for 9 years while also growing the RSP. I began working at Footballguys in 2009, started the RSP blog in 2011, and developed the RSP Film Room on YouTube in 2014. I am now writing about football full-time.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or fantasy hack?
MW: My wife Alicia and no, I don’t share. While I could talk about databases I’ve developed for stats and the RSP or the value of Instagram, and video production software, the fact that I have a partner in life who has always believed in me is the most important. While what she does isn’t time-saving, it is time-buying. Her efforts and understanding bought me time to do what I need to get done to have success with my business and career.
In order to be successful in fantasy football, you have to do at least one thing better than the average owner. What’s your secret?
MW: What has helped me earn success is the combination of the work that I do year-round to understand the nuts and bolts of the game, a knack I’ve always had for identifying talent before they break out, and that I’m willing to fail miserably with decisions that I believe in.
How many fantasy football leagues do you currently play in? What is your favorite league and why?
MW: I used to be in 14-16 leagues but I cut it down to 8 a few years ago. My favorite league is the Footballguys IDP Dynasty staff league. It has the IOP scoring philosophy that puts defensive players on equal footing with the offense.
How would you describe your fantasy football philosophy?
MW: Aggressive, experimental, and often contrarian.
What’s your greatest strength in fantasy football? Startup drafts, mining the waiver wire, making trades, lineup decisions? Weakest?
MW: Drafting was the bully pulpit I leaned on for years. Now that I have more time to sleep, lineup decisions are becoming a greater strength. Trading is the weakest link of my game. I’m better at writing about it than taking the time to network and cultivate relationships to do it the right way!
Walk us through what your week looks like during the season as a fantasy owner. When do you watch games, process waivers, propose trades, etc?
MW: Every day of the week, I organize and post content on the @FBGNews twitter feed. I do this at various times of the day, every day. That’s a constant part of my week. So let’s start with Sunday. I binge-watch and take copious notes and Instagram shots of games from 1pm Sunday until 2:30 pm on Monday. I try to watch 7-8 games on Sunday and 3-4 games on Monday morning. I use this information for my Top 10 column that I write on Monday afternoon and the Gut Check that I write on Wednesday morning for afternoon publication.
On Monday nights, I pose questions to our Footballguys Roundtable panelists and then edit the document on Wednesday nights for Thursday publication. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, study college tape for the RSP publication and write RSP blog posts or make videos for the RSP Film Room on YouTube. After doing the Thursday Night Audible Live podcast with Cecil Lammey, Sigmund Bloom, and Jene Bramel, I sometimes stay up late and write The Best Of feature for Friday publication. Or, I’ll get some sleep and write in the next morning.
I sometimes watch tape on Friday but generally take some time off to relax with my wife. Saturday’s I’ll alternate between a heavy day of tape watching (8-16 hours) and taking the entire day off. It depends what my schedule has been like and how I’m feeling. All of this informs my decision-making as a fantasy owner. As managing my teams, waivers tend happen on Wednesday evenings in all but one of my leagues. I’ll often set my lineups on Monday nights and then double-check the news on Thursday afternoons before the first game of that week to make sure I don’t need to alter a lineup. I’ll stay up a little later on Wednesday nights to comb waiver wires or formulate trades. I’ll give my lineups one last look on Sunday mornings after I do the Audible Sunday morning show with Sig and Jene. Then it starts all over again.
What’s your favorite article you’ve ever written? Why?
MW: My first Gut Check on Brian Westbrook. The reasons have nothing to do with the quality of the writing (definitely not) or the fact that I correctly identified his talent and value. It was the fact that I realized that football was a direction I wanted to take in life and I was making the first step.
Who is the best fantasy football owner you’ve ever played with and why?
MW: This is a supremely difficult question because I’m playing in a lot of leagues with writers these days and many of them are good. Sigmund Bloom and Jeff Haseley are consistently good. So are Mike MacGregor and Bob Henry. The guy who I’ve been in several leagues with and always seems to have a team that goes deep into the playoffs is Footballguy Clayton Gray. He’s a quiet assassin.
What’s your current workspace (for fantasy football) like? Coffee shop with laptop and headphones? Home office with a standing desk?
MW: I have an 11×17 office these days. Until two years ago, I worked from a converted one-car garage. I work mostly from my desk at my desktop. I turn off my computer on Sundays and Monday mornings and watch games on my couch or my chair. I take notes longhand in a notebook and use Instagram on my phone. I record games with Direct TV. When I’m studying film for the RSP, I work at my desktop and take notes in my database. I watch tape from the TV, Draftbreakdown, or a game from my library.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
MW: I can live without my phone, although some of the apps are helpful. I’d say external hard drives are a significant aid for my line of work because having a library of games matters.
What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?
MW: Drop Box gives me a lot of flexibility. Especially when I was working at UGA and I needed to stay late to work on something after hours or when I’m working away from my office when I was on the road for assignments.
Microsoft Access is what I use for my databases that generate the RSP.
Camtasia is good video production software.
What is your go-to site for your tough start/sit decisions?
MW: I tend to look at what Sigmund Bloom, David Dodds, and Maurile Tremblay think if I’m not sure. Since one of my features is to read as much of the Footballguys content that I can each week, I generally get a good feel for what people think there and their frame of reference. Most of the time, I try not to overthink it. If I’m really conflicted, I try to stick with my original view point because I know myself well enough by now that overthinking it leads me down the wrong path.
If you could only read one website (other than those you contribute at) for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
MW: Colossal. It’s a visual art site and I if I’m stuck with only one choice, I’d like to see the beauty of the human imagination every day.
Take a quick peek at your bookmarked sites. What are the top 3-4 sites on the list?
MW: Pro Football Reference. Draft History. Coach Huey. FishDuck
What podcast is currently queued up on your phone?
MW: I don’t have any in queue and I rarely listen to podcasts. I don’t have much time. If I do, it’s usually and NPR produced jazz concert.
What are you currently reading? A novel, comic book, website, magazine?
MW: Dalva by Jim Harrison. Scott Bischoff sent it to me. It’s a novel about a family from Nebraska. For the second time, I’m reading Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I am also devoting time every day to diagramming and memorizing content on my blackboard from the book From Headset to Helmet by Dub Maddox and Darin Slack. It’s coaching system recommended to me by a quarterback consultant to several NCAA and professional passers.
What do you listen to while you play? Got a favorite playlist? Maybe a podcast? Or do you prefer silence?
MW: The band Lettuce has probably been the audio fuel for 2.5 editions of the RSP. I like instrumental soul and funk with sophisticated jazz harmony and rhythm to energize me. This includes bands like Snarky Puppy, Galactic, Tower of Power, and the Headhunters. Snarky Puppy was fuel for last year’s RSP. I also like a lot of forms of jazz, including all eras of John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Bird, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, and hundreds more. While I like rock, R&B, and some metal, I don’t listen to it while working. Sometimes I’ll listen to orchestral music (Shostakovich, Bruckner, or Respighi) or a podcast featuring a colleague to switch things up. Silence is also a common option. It all depends on the mood, my energy level, and the type of thing I’m writing.
Do you have any superstitions on game day? Wear the same lucky T-Shirt? Always make homemade chili before the games?
MW: I used to cook a lot before games and chili was definitely one of those common dishes on the menu. I think my wife and daughter miss that part of it. I don’t have time lately. I was a far more superstitious fan when I was a teenager following Marty Schottenheimer’s Browns. Not any more.
How do you recharge?
MW: Music helps. I used to do a lot of Yoga in my 20s and 30s. I’m working back towards it. I loved exercise and I’m trying to slowly get back into it after too much time away. I used to play basketball and racquetball all the time in my 20s and 30s when tackle football was no longer an option. I’m an extreme introvert (near the off-the-charts spectrum) who does extroversion well enough that no one would really know this about me on the surface. Still, I try to get out of the office in the middle of the day a few times a week for an hour or two. I’ll get lunch at one of my favorite spots. Movies are also a big part of recharging. Getting out of my head is important. My favorite vice these days is Madden after several years away from it.
What’s your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early-riser?
MW: Naturally I’m a night owl. If I don’t go to sleep by 2 am, I get a boost of energy and I’ll be up until 8 am. But until recently, I essentially had 3 full-time jobs I was trying to balance. It meant I often had to rise at 4:30 am to work from 5 am to 8 am before working at the magazine and then work from 8 or 9pm to 1am when I got home.
Now, I try to get 6-7 hours. Most days I do. Some days I’ll get 8, others I’ll get 5. If I feel especially run-down and worry I might get ill, I stop what I’m doing as soon as possible and go to sleep. If it means 8-10 hours and no work, I’d rather get well immediately than work sick.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
MW: Bob Harris
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
MW: Don’t you quit. It might be hokey, but I carried a small copy of that poem in my wallet around from age 14 to whenever I lost it in my mid-30s.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
MW: I’ve said way too much. Thank you for having interest in what I do. Those of you who read my work regularly make this possible.
The How I Play series asks writers, developers, editors, and fantasy football degenerates to share their secrets, bookmarks, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Eric Dickens or start a conversation with him on Twitter.
Love, love, love the work Matt! Also, always appreciate your opinions!