Fantasy Football Writing for Fun and Profit
This is the time of year when the “I want to be a fantasy writer” itch starts, and perhaps you’re wondering how to scratch it. The RotoViz writers took some time out of their busy schedules to give you their thoughts.
Build Your Case Brick by Brick – Fantasy Douche
Probably the biggest thing that we have to address with new writers when they come to the site is that every article needs to be a case built brick by brick from the ground up. Lots of writers want to start with the result and then back-fill the evidence to match what they already think. Getting people to slow down and go through each argument to ensure that it makes sense is critical to becoming a RotoViz writer. I try to get new writers to ask themselves the question – Have I given readers enough evidence to join me in the belief I have?
You Don’t Need to Be a Data Scientist but You Do Need Data – Jason Lewis
On the first day of class, a professor opened with a line I’ll never forget: “An argument without data is just some guy’s opinion, and you know what they say about those.”
He then held his nose.
It’s easy to read some of the work of guys like Josh Hermsmeyer, RotoDoc, Kevin Cole, AJ Bessette, or Fantasy Douche and think you need to have a background in statistics to contribute to RotoViz, but the truth is that you don’t necessarily need advanced technical skills to write. In fact, RotoViz has so many great apps on the site pre-loaded with data that you can probably get away with not even knowing how to use Excel!
That said, a lack of technical skills is no excuse for not having data. Fantasy football articles using qualitative ideas or opinions are almost completely obsolete (“Sell Doug Baldwin because he scored 14 TDs and he obviously cannot do that again;” “Trent Richardson is the new Adrian Peterson because he looked great on tape;” etc.). It’s 2017: data is king. Nobody cares about random hot takes. Support your ideas with facts and logic to get people’s attention.
It’s About the Community – Shawn Siegele
For me, what makes a RotoViz writer is really anyone who approaches the fantasy football project with questions instead of answers. We have an extremely active writing community because of the desire to learn and the willingness to collaborate. I’ve learned so much over the past four years and have a constantly growing appreciation for what I don’t know. Our writing culture fosters this sort of approach with its emphasis on evidence and its distrust of cult-of-personality analysis. When you come to RotoViz with a proposal, you don’t have to have a name, just the willingness to tackle an interesting question.
Carve Your Own Path – RotoDoc
RotoViz is an awesome community site, not only because we have great writers, but also because we have a great audience. They challenge us and are always asking smart questions. I’d encourage readers or listeners to be proactive in writing up their opinions and supporting them with evidence, because that’s pretty much all it takes to be a RotoViz writer!
You really can carve your own path, create your own metrics, pursue your own ideas, and more (hell, we started covering fantasy NASCAR here simply because I wanted to). The best part is there’s a twofold benefit. First, you can get your name out in the fantasy industry. Second, you can get paid…even if it’s a few bucks here and there. However, if you write an awesome article it can net you a healthy chunk of change. And who doesn’t like that? That structure encourages creativity, new insights, and a passion for fantasy analysis. Several RotoViz alums have gone on to full-time fantasy jobs. It all starts by being proactive. Reach out to one of us, pitch us your idea(s), and then put your nose to the grindstone.
Learn what the Viz in RotoViz Means – Neil Dutton
It would be tremendous if everyone had the time to sit down and digest the thousands of words you’ve just scribbled about why this year is definitely going to belong to Andre Roberts, or take in every single sentence of why you think Zero Tight End is the way to go in 2017. But the fact of the matter is they don’t, so grabbing and keeping a reader’s attention is essential. There are so many different apps to use on RotoViz, so many tools to help a writer make a compelling point, it would be foolish not to use them. As the Fantasy Douche once told me “Neil, never name drop”…but he also told me the Viz stands for VISUAL. Let the reader SEE why you believe what you do, don’t expect them to do the work themselves.
And trust me on Andre Roberts. Big breakout coming soon.
It’s Not About You – Charlie Kleinheksel
It’s about the article.
Doesn’t matter if you’ve won a high profile fantasy contest or have a math degree. Doesn’t matter if your take is conventional or contrarian. Doesn’t matter if you’re a new writer or one who’s been around. Your article has to be good enough to get published. And that means it has to pass muster with a team of editors, who will send your article back not just for grammatical errors, but flaws in logic, poorly supported claims, poor timing, lack of interest to our audience, and many other reasons. You have to be willing to work at something after you thought it was already finished. You have to be able to take feedback and criticism. You have to be humble. And if you can be, you’ll be better at writing persuasively, no matter the venue.
Don’t Contribute to the Noise – Ben Gretch
Seek out the most likely objections to your arguments and honestly evaluate if you can refute them. If you can’t — if you’re using arbitrary end points or manipulating data in a way that leaves your argument vulnerable to a well-researched counter — you’re just contributing to the vast sea of empty claims in the fantasy football world. You’re producing something that can’t withstand scrutiny, which is the antithesis of what we try to do here.
Also, use fewer words.
I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. – Blaise Pascal
Take the time to write a short letter.
Your Feelings Suck, Quantify Them – Joshua Lake
If you’ve played fantasy football for more than a week, you have opinions about the game. Your opinions might be good or they might be bad, but let’s be honest, who cares? We’ve all been stuck in conversations where a coworker tells you the hot player of the week or the line to bet on Sunday, and you just don’t care. Instead, prove it to me. Show me something. Start with your opinion if you must, preferably if it goes against the mainstream view, but then look for evidence to back it up. Be willing to change your mind if the evidence requires it. Then show your work when you write. Just like you learned in school, the reasoning is often more important than the conclusion. Show us everything.
Converse Frequently About Sports – Anthony Amico
RotoViz is frequently one of the more contrarian fantasy sites on the market, but it didn’t get to be that way on sheer brainpower alone.1 Often times the best article ideas are spawned by a conversation. Whether it’s in the RotoViz Slack channel, on Twitter, or at the office water cooler, talking about football, or sports in general, can leave you with that “I’m not so sure I agree with that” feeling. Research it, and see if your instinct holds water. Then, create a persuasive piece utilizing the facts that you have found. Just remember that the inception of that article came through simply discussing sports.
Seeing is Believing – Aaron Butler
Sixty-five percent of humans are visual learners. As it’s been said, a picture is worth a thousand words. The “seeing is believing” tagline of RotoViz is what drew me to the site as a subscriber. What prompted me to get involved in writing is the suite of apps. As an engineer by trade, I approach every problem as pragmatically as possible. I find it to be much easier to convey an idea with a picture rather than a carefully crafted word salad. A majority of the charts and graphs we use in our articles are generated from the apps which are also available to our readers. With that level of transparency, I believe we’ve built a sincere level of trust with our subscribers. In my opinion, that sets this site apart from the plethora of other fantasy sites on the internet. RotoViz has provided its writers with a creative outlet to voice evidence-backed opinions in a succinct (and hopefully entertaining) way.
Everyone Knows The Top of The Consensus Ranks — Be Different – Matt Wispe
Too many newer writers fall into the same pitfalls when they begin. It’s easy to write about players at the top of the ADP range. What RotoViz does better than almost anyone is find players who are less celebrated. This allows for greater growth as a writer because it requires a generally deeper thought process. The writing process is more than “Is this player good?” Additionally, we are tasked with asking “Is this player good and what is the argument against him?” With the help of our community of writers and editors, RotoViz writers put out consistently unique content.
Be A Sponge – Tim Talmadge
The best advice I could give to anyone that wants to be a RotoViz writer is to go back and read all the articles from the early years. Think of it like being in the Matrix and receiving the information download but your Kung Fu is understanding the anatomy of a breakout WR. Then I would catch up on what the current group of writers has put out over the last year and see how the site’s beliefs have evolved since then. We are given access to so many awesome tools and we get to pick the brains of some really smart people for free. It would be foolish not to soak up that knowledge.
Find Claims, Then Test Them – Brian Malone
This isn’t the only way to write an article, but it’s the best approach for someone trying to break into the field.
The fantasy football world is littered with claims:
- Todd Gurley is over- (or under-) priced at his current ADP
- Running backs get hurt more than wide receivers
- Mobile quarterbacks don’t throw to their running backs
Spend 10 minutes on Twitter or listening to a podcast, and you’re sure to come across some assertions like these. Most of them haven’t been tested. So pick one that’s interesting to you, think about how you can test it, find the data you need, and get to work.
Be Yourself, Only Better – Curtis Patrick
Anybody can hop on Twitter and drop a flame take rooted in absolutely nothing other than personal opinion.
Becoming a RotoViz writer means that flame take of yours is subjected to evidence-based scrutiny of colleagues and editors. What was the thought process behind your conclusion? What data led you here? Could the data mean something else?
Fantasy football is hardly a science, but the RotoViz team tries its best to take a scientific approach to the content whenever possible. This means being willing to reverse course if further research disproves your original claim.
To be a RotoViz writer, you have to be willing to be yourself, only better.
Be Skeptical – John Solis
Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984)
- So, You Want to be a Writer?
- The Definitive NFL Combine Primer
- WR Size and Survivorship Bias
- The CIA, the NFL, and Using Data Driven Models
- I Don't Care About Drops
- Everyone is For Sale
- Rookie Running Back Lessons
- How to Value Suspensions (via Rotoworld)
- Using the Box Score Scout to Win Friends and Influence People
- Using the Dynasty App for Fun and Profit
- Though I will also attest that my peers are some of the smartest people out there. (back)