Note: This intro is long, even for me. And it's not terribly funny. But I think you'll like it quite a bit. However, if you just want to get to the pickups, click here. Otherwise, read on.
It gets expressed a bunch of different ways, but it's always the same thought ...
Sometimes it's nice, like this:
Nick (Washington, D.C.): Mr. Berry, I understand it's a long shot, but is there any chance you are looking to hire a research intern for the duration of the season? I'm a recent college graduate and sports, professional football in particular, are my true passion. I spend a majority of my free time consuming different football-related media, your column included, and if I could find a way to make a career out of it I'd be thrilled. I'd be happy to send you my résumé, transcript or a writing sample.
Sometimes it's joking but sort of serious:
Frank Monticello (San Diego): I'm a CPA and read more CPA news than I care to admit. Stating obvious here but wish I had your job. Gimme a mention in your column to impress my FFL buddies? ... Love your stuff, best regards, Frank Monticello, CPA
And sometimes it's a bit more pointed:
Cory (Travis AFB, Calif.): (sic) I loved your prediction. "Even though Jamal Lewis is playing J Harrison is going to have a huge game" is 21 yards a F%@&*#% HUGE GAME !!, Yah you f@&%*# suck you should quiet your f'in job and work at Burger King. Maybe u should start writing comic strips instead of football columns. YOU SUCK.
Regardless of the nature of the request, they boil down to, in essence, the same point: They want my job. Because they hate their current job, because they want a career in the thing they love the most or, in the case of Cory, just because if they have this job, it means I don't.
On Twitter (where you can find me at www.twitter.com/ TheRealTMR), in my mailbag, on the ESPN Conversation pages following my articles, on Facebook, when I am out in public, from friends, relatives, old classmates and people who tangentially know my friends, relatives and old classmates ... you name it. I get this question, in one of the forms above, multiple times every single day.
And I want to help. I really do. I used to help all the time. Among the things I am most proud of in my career is that I have started or significantly helped the career of many great folks in the fantasy industry, and not just at ESPN. I did it because I believe in giving folks a chance. I did it because of the many, many people that first took a chance on me, like Matthew Pouliot, who hired me for my very first fantasy job ever, or the many folks here at ESPN who took a shot on me. I wouldn't be here without the help of lots of amazing people.
I did it because, back in my Hollywood days, I helped someone out and as soon as he got where he needed to be, I got stabbed in the back so hard that it sent me into a yearlong depression that ultimately led me to intense therapy, quitting show business and trying my hand at fantasy sports. Which ended up working out. And I refuse to let that make me into someone not willing to help anymore.
I'm bringing all of this up because when the Atlanta chapter of ACCESS invited me to speak at its annual Entrepreneurs' Night this Thursday, I said yes immediately. (If you live in the Atlanta area and want details on the event, you can find them here. Here was a chance to help, to give advice on how to get where you want to go -- just like so many had done for me, and just like I wish I could do more these days, but can't nearly as much as I want to. Because truthfully, anyone could do what I did to get to my current job: I answered a blind ad for a fantasy sports Web site. Wrote for them for almost five years. Developed a big enough following that I could start my own Web site. Did that for three more years and developed a big enough following so that ESPN wanted to buy it. Simple enough, if you call working your butt off for eight years "simple."
Anyways, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to speak about. I'm still sorting through my thoughts, but I know there will be two components. First, my intro will be, by design, ridiculously long and impressive, with as many showoff-type things I can fit in there. It'll discuss the Emmy award we won for Fantasy Football Now, the almost 2 million downloads a month we get for the podcast, all the ESPN TV stuff, commercials I've been in ... just really, really crazy, ego-stroking, bragging-type stuff.
And, during the speech, I will read another bio of mine. Also all true, this bio will read, in some small part, like this:
After being rejected by Northwestern and many other elite schools, Matthew Berry somehow got into Syracuse University and graduated with barely a B average. While there, he was fired as the host of a talk show on his college TV station for being, among other things, uncomfortable on camera. He lost three different elections for various school councils. After college, in his first job he became friendly with the star of a TV sitcom, George Carlin. Despite this, he was not brought back for the second season. He was turned down for writing representation by 14 different agencies, including twice by CAA, which now represents him. He was told by many people, including legendary TV writer Sam Simon ("The Simpsons"), that he sucked and would never write for television.
He got his first professional writing job with an MTV game show and was fired a week later. He once had Ed O'Neill tell him an episode of "Married With Children" that Berry co-wrote was the worst script of the show O'Neill had ever seen and he refused to do it unless there was a massive rewrite. Yeah, Ed was a peach. Berry has had scripts rejected by his own agents as not being any good, has been fired from many different movie projects, pitched and failed to get many more writing jobs and, when he got his dream writing job -- creating a new version of "The Muppet Show" for The Jim Henson Co. and movie producers Team Todd ("Austin Powers") -- he was told he got the job only because everyone they actually wanted to do it turned it down. And that he had a week to write it.
He wrote in the movie industry for a long time, but the only movie he ever co-wrote that got made was "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles," for which he got a Razzie nomination. Upon release of the movie, the star and executive producer, Paul Hogan -- who approved and in some cases dictated everything in the movie -- sued him and his writing partner and gave an interview trashing the pair to every single press outlet he could find.
Before getting his first fantasy writing job, he tried (and failed) to get one at three other sites. After working for his first fantasy Web site for 4½ years, Berry was told he was worth only $25 a week and, upon refusing the amount, was fired. He was rejected two different times by ESPN as he started his own Web site. His Web site offered free content -- FREE -- to many different media outlets and was turned down by many of them, including ESPN's two biggest current competitors. After doing a season with ESPNEWS for football (while still owning his Web site), he was not brought back for baseball.
The first bio is the fun one. But the part no one ever realizes is that the first bio never happens without the second one. That's my advice to all of you trying to pursue a dream, be it that of a fantasy analyst, to make it on Wall Street, in Hollywood, as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader or as a professional poker player. If you are trying to do something and you haven't failed at it yet, you aren't trying hard enough.
As Vince Lombardi said, "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up." That's true for life and fantasy football. Not necessarily in that order. I hear from all of you. You look at your roster and say, "What happened?" I like this team. I have Brady (Tom, not Quinn) and Moss (Randy, not Santana). LaDainian Tomlinson and Calvin Johnson. Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner all were supposed to be money in the bank. How is my second-round Steve Smith not better than the waiver-wire Steve Smith?
You are 2-3. Or 1-4. Or even 0-5. And I am not going to lie to you. The answer is not in this column. In fact, it's a fairly weak week for pickups. But what I can tell you is to not give up. That things can turn around in a hurry in fantasy. That your team has no memory. It has no idea you lost three straight. It can just as easily win three straight. Your studs will awaken from slumber. We saw it Sunday with Roddy White, Michael Turner, Clinton Portis and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, among others. You never know when your desperate waiver-wire pickup will go all Miles Austin on you. And, for the truly frustrated, you can't really play against the league's top scorer every week, can you? I mean, unless you used to kick puppies in a former life and karma has come back to kick you.
The important thing is that you keep fighting. Not just for yourself, but for your leaguemates. Have pride in your team. Nothing sucks worse than teams and owners who bail. You made a commitment. Now honor it. And the results may just surprise you. "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up."
Before we get to the pickups, Nate from Chicago has a request:
Nate White (Chicago): Have you guys ever thought about a weekly "deep league" pickup list, or even a section of deep sleepers in your regular pickup column? I'm in a 12-team league with experienced and active players, and it's very rare that any of your pickup suggestions are available. By the way, your strategy of selecting an elite QB and not carrying a backup in order to have more bench space available has worked for me. I got Peyton in Round 3 and I was able to nab Cadillac before Week 1 and Jerome Harrison two weeks ago because of the extra bench slot. Thanks!
Well, yes and we have that section. It's the Mendoza Line section. I'll try to throw more names in there, but the problem is twofold: One, whether you like it or not, the most popular version of the game here on ESPN.com is our standard league, which is 10 teams. While we recognize and appreciate people play elsewhere and come here for our analysis, my first loyalty is to ESPN's audience. Second, I'm in some of those deep leagues. And frankly, the guys you would be picking up are, well, junk. More often than not, you are better off staying with what you have. But yes, I'll throw a few more names in the "Mendoza" section for deeper-league guys.
Let's get to work. As always, ownership percentages in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues are indicated in parentheses.
Don't look back in anger:
"Right back where we started from"
Here are some guys whom I have previously suggested you pick up and who are still available in way too many leagues. They should be picked up before any of the guys listed below. I've listed them in the order I would claim them.
Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks (51 percent) ; Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks (54 percent) ; Cincinnati Bengals D/ST (37 percent), Lance Moore, WR, Saints (56 percent), Michael Bush, RB, Raiders (31 percent) and Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers (52 percent), who is on a bye this week but now has at least seven points in two straight.
I'll also re-mention Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Browns (10 percent), Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings (19 percent) and Bobby Wade, WR, Chiefs (4 percent). I'd rather have Jeremy Maclin, Miles Austin and Sammy Morris, whom I'll talk about below, than "Chainsaw" Massaquoi or Rice, but I do like both guys going forward.
Pickups of the week
"Hey baby, do you have a map? Because I keep getting lost in your eyes."
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (9 percent): He's one of the three obvious names this week, and I like Maclin the most (barely) because of this simple reason: opportunity. With only a constantly injured Kevin Curtis in front of him, Maclin has a better chance of getting looks and producing than some of the other guys, especially since Miles Austin is on a bye in Week 6. The Eagles get the Raiders, Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and Chargers for their next five and I expect Philly to throw on all of them. Maclin's game was a bit of a fluke and McNabb does spread the ball around, but certainly, he needs to be owned.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys (2 percent): Getting hate mail comes with the gig for fantasy sports analysts, especially when you blow a call like I did with Jerome Harrison last week. But e-mails like this make the nasty ones worth it. Kunle Ola from Dallas says, "I just want to thank you for stating your support for Miles Austin on your program on Sunday. After hearing your comments, I put him back in because you basically stated my thoughts. I rode him to a league-high 143 points in my money league that awards victories based on head-to-head matchups and points average. Thank you! Thank you!"
I don't think you're gonna see that from Austin again, obviously. But while he had 10 receptions, 250 yards and two touchdowns, he actually could have had four scores and he was targeted 15 times. The Cowboys won't always play Kansas City; they have a bye this week; and my guess is Jerry Jones will insist that Roy Williams start to justify that contract when he comes back in Week 7. That said, Austin is a big-play guy on a team that needs them, and if you don't need help immediately, he might be the better long-term pickup.
Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots (38 percent): My guess is he's gone in your league. I mentioned him in last week's column (and in the preseason, as podcast listeners know of the long-running joke) but the Fred Taylor injury news came out later last week, and clearly, there's some leagues that haven't figured out he's the guy you want in New England. He had a score two weeks ago and more than 100 total yards last week, and he's a nice flex play the rest of the year.
Donnie Avery, WR, Rams (52 percent): Also mentioned last week, he has increased his yardage in three straight weeks, and the Rams play at Jacksonville and that horrific pass defense this week. When Marc Bulger came in, he was looking Avery's way, and you know they are gonna throw.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs (4 percent): Based on recent commercials for his movie, Michael Jackson has more life in him these days than Larry Johnson. What? Too soon? Or not soon enough? LJ is done. You know it, I know it and deep down, the Chiefs know it. And sooner rather than later, they will pull the plug on a guy who is currently averaging 2.4 yards per carry. Two-point-four! On 93 attempts! Charles, meanwhile, hasn't gotten a lot of work (only 15 attempts) but what he has gotten, he's done something with. He's averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He also had 54 yards on five receptions Sunday. He's a better pass-catcher than Larry, a better running back these days and, having never met either man, I'll say it: He strikes me as the better human being. Charles will be the guy sooner or later. Why not get him now and beat the rush?
Austin Collie, WR, Colts (2 percent): I have him here because I'm just not sure how much you can trust him week to week. He had a touchdown two weeks ago and was in last week's column in the Mendoza section, and then exploded Sunday night for 97 yards and two scores on eight receptions. But with the Colts on a bye and Anthony Gonzalez coming back, along with all the other weapons Indy has, I feel Collie will have some good games going forward but will also throw up some goose eggs. I like him from a skills standpoint, but I'm just worried there are not enough balls to go around in Indy. If you have the space, great -- grab him. But don't fall all over yourself doing so.
Chansi Stuckey, WR, Browns (9 percent): He did nothing, just like the rest of the Browns. But he was targeted twice and he was whom Eric Mangini wanted for Braylon Edwards. Cleveland will be down and throwing and he's one of the guys who will get a lot of looks.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings (38 percent): I originally had a song quote in here. But it got cut by my editors. It involved someone wanting a table dance and the theme of no respect. I chose it because I feel the same way about Shiancoe, who has now scored in three of his past four games but continues to get no love.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (9 percent): One more guy mentioned in previous columns' Mendoza section, he has now scored in two straight weeks and led the Giants in targets last week, and clearly, the Giants' passing game has a lot of value. Just as with Austin Collie, I'm not convinced he can be trusted week to week. Sunday was an odd game, with Eli banged up and a terrible opponent in the Raiders, but Nicks is slowly becoming a part of this offense.
"We've got tonight. Who needs tomorrow?"
Some one-week fill-ins for you: For quarterback, I like, in order, Jake Delhomme (15 percent) at the Buccaneers; Marc Bulger (1 percent) at the Jaguars; Jason Campbell (40 percent) versus the Chiefs and Mark Sanchez (54 percent) versus the Bills. And if you need a tight end, there may be no better week to play the Broncos' Tony Scheffler (19 percent), who faces the Chargers. Never get into a land war in Asia and always start your tight ends against San Diego.
Just below the Mendoza Line:
"Deeper and deeper ... "
It's a baseball saying, but it's appropriate here as well. Here are some guys who shouldn't be picked up in 10-team leagues, but for those in 12-team or deeper leagues, I like them, and you should keep an eye on them.
I keep mentioning Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers (2 percent). He keeps getting looks and he scored last week. ... Chris Henry, WR, Bengals (9 percent) finally showed off some of that preseason promise with a three-catches-for-92-yards game. ... We know the Jaguars will be throwing a lot this year, which is why it's good to know the name Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars (1 percent). ... Josh Johnson, QB, Buccaneers (1 percent) now has double-digit fantasy points in two straight weeks and gets Carolina in Week 6. ... Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins (2 percent) has a bye and then a brutal schedule the next few weeks, but after that "Monday Night Football" showing, there's something there.
Looks like Calvin Johnson is going to be fine, but the Lions are gonna have to throw to more guys than just him. Dennis Northcutt, WR, Lions (0.2 percent) scored last week and tied for the lead in targets Sunday with Bryant Johnson (1 percent).
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
As always, I am not saying you should dump these players, but rather if you need/want to drop these players, I wouldn't try to talk you out of it. You'll see some repeat names from previous weeks. So, in no particular order, among others ...
Derrick Ward, Lee Evans, Terrell Owens, Jerome Harrison, Darren McFadden, Zach Miller, Patrick Crayton, Fred Taylor, Kevin Curtis, Justin Gage, Kenny Britt, Larry Johnson, Mike Bell, LenDale White, Devery Henderson, and Laveranues Coles.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has his Rally Monkey out. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend