I get the same email all day, every day.
Oh, it comes from different email addresses and the names are never the same, but it's the same email.
The age of the writer varies, the circumstances are all over the map and the specific request changes, but it's the same email.
Morgan (Georgia): Hey Mr. Berry, I'm a young college guy trying to find my way. I'm passionate about sports, and my major, engineering, just isn't going to happen. For quite some time, I have considered trying to be a sports analyst/writer. I know it's unlikely, but if I ever got the chance to do anything involving fantasy, I would jump on it because I think it would be the life to do it! I think you have the greatest job out there, personally. I'm pretty sure I'm right when I guess that it doesn't start out so glamorous, and I expect to hear that. Anyways, I was wondering if you could give me any quick tips that could put me on such a track to do anything involving sports/fantasy analysis? Would I major in journalism? Would I have to meet the right people? Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated if you are willing to give me any.
Sometimes they are from students, sometimes they are from adults wanting to get out of a job they hate, sometimes they want me to read a blog post, column or hear a podcast they've done, sometimes they just want advice, sometimes they want a job or to intern for me, sometimes they just need a push. But there's a constant stream of them, every day, every week.
They are always polite, they are always heartfelt and they always sit there unanswered. I wish I could answer every one of them. I just don't have the time. That's true for almost all of my email. I read all of them, but I don't have anyone who replies to email for me and it's just too voluminous. I'm not trying to brag, it's just me asking you to not take it personally when I don't respond to your email. The ESPN inbox puts a number next to every email I get. Morgan's email above was No. 108,502.
So, I thought I would answer Morgan's email here. It accomplishes two goals: gives me a column open and also allows me to point to this column when I get this question in the future. That is how you don't hustle, kids.
So here's my advice and it's divided into two sections, skills and advancement. Not interested? I'm not offended, this isn't going to be for everybody, so just skip on down to "Quarterbacks I love for Week 12" for your weekly dose of analysis and puns.
Before you get your dream job, you need to be able to do your dream job. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from the famous sitcom writer Sam Simon. I was asking him how to become a sitcom writer and he told me, in essence, that everyone gets a shot. One shot. Most people are nice and remember what it was like when they were starting out. So they will read one script (or column or whatever). But just one. Because if it's terrible, they're not reading another. Time is too short, there are too many others who want to do the same job. So when you get that shot, you have to make sure you are ready for it. Don't step up to the plate until you are ready to knock it out of the park. Which means before you worry about the job, worry about getting good. If you're good, people will find you, I promise. So here's how to get good.
1. Learn how to communicate. This is the No. 1 piece of advice I can give. You may have the greatest analysis the world has ever seen, but if you can't communicate those thoughts, who cares? You may think my advice is awesome, you may think it's terrible, but I believe one of the advantages I had when I was starting out was that I could communicate those thoughts well, in a variety of ways. Whether I was writing, talking on the radio, appearing on TV, doing a podcast, regardless of medium, you knew where I stood on a player and were reasonably entertained while I did so.
2. Learn how to communicate in a variety of ways. I remember a famous agent once told me when I complained of writer's block that, "Writers write. Period. Writers write." You need to write and you need to hone your craft. The more you do it, the better you'll be at it. You need to learn to be able to be comfortable in front of a microphone and a camera, be it radio, podcasting or video. When I was in Los Angeles, I took classes at the famous Groundlings Improv. Not to help my acting (there's no help for that) but rather to get comfortable speaking and performing in front of an audience where I would have to think on my feet. The more platforms you are comfortable on, the better. Start a podcast. Do YouTube videos. You're not worried about anybody watching or listening at this point, you just want reps.
3. Find your own style. When I started out, I felt like with a lot of the fantasy columns out there, if you removed the byline and website from the article, you couldn't tell one from another. Whether you loved or hated my style, I felt confident that if you took away my name, you could read my column and say, "Oh, that's a Matthew Berry column." So find your own style, what works for you and what makes you different. Because there is a lot of analysis out there and we're all talking about the same players. Why should someone come to you instead of anyone else? That's true not just for style but also for your analysis. What makes your analysis different from anyone else's? Answer that question and you are on your way.
Here are the steps I would take to try to get a full-time job in this industry.
4. There are a ton of fantasy football websites out there. Offer to contribute to one of them for free. Just get your foot in the door. I know some people have started their own blogs and that's certainly a way to go, but I prefer writing for someone else when starting out. Let someone else worry about traffic and the site and everything else. Just focus on honing your craft.
5. Get on Twitter. The most common way I have noticed new people in the industry is through social media, primarily Twitter. It's a crucial key for fantasy analysis, but it's also a way to interact with people, give advice and meet other people in the industry (more on that in a second). I will say, however, the way to do it is not to search "@ mentions" to another fantasy analyst and answer questions unsolicited. People do that on my Twitter feed sometimes and the reaction from users is usually poor, like "Who asked you?" It comes across as spam and I have to block them because they just dominate my feed.
5A. Speaking of social media, be careful what you post. You may not have a large following and think "Ah, who cares, no one is reading" but those things live forever. When you finally do get a shot, you won't want someone looking at your history of pictures and tweets and seeing something negative. About their company, their employees or just something that shows poor judgement. If you're tweeting profanity or explicit pictures, a network is going to think twice about putting you in front of a live microphone, because it shows poor judgment on your part and they have a brand they are concerned with. I know a lot of people who have been considered for a great job and a big company that have not gotten that job because of what they posted on social media.
6. Network. Again, wait until you're good, but at some point, you will need someone to give you a break. Often many people. Matthew Pouliot gave me my first start. Among the things I am most proud of in my career is that I gave the first start or a significant boost to many people who now have full-time jobs giving fantasy advice, both here at ESPN and at our competitors. Try to go to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association conferences, offered twice a year, and meet a number of people in the industry. As with anything else in life, it's often who you know.
7. Make it easy for someone to help you. A friend of the family recently asked me to speak with a young woman and give her advice. I said sure. We scheduled a time for her to call me. Time came and went and no call. She emailed the next day, saying she had forgotten and was sorry, but why hadn't I emailed her to remind her. I said, as gently as I could, it's not my job to try to chase you down to give advice. People's time is valuable and you get only one shot. Make it easy for someone to help you.
8 Read my book. Seriously, that's not a plug, you can check it out from the library or borrow it from a friend if you want, but in addition to great stories from fantasy, the book describes in a lot of detail how I went from a 14-year-old kid playing fantasy baseball in College Station, Texas, to my current job. It was a weird path, but I believe there are a lot of lessons in my story of getting this job that would be helpful to anyone trying for a career in sports or fantasy analysis. And those lessons are way too long to put in this intro.
9. Develop a thick skin. Realize that you will get plenty of tweets, emails and column comments like this one:
Bobby (Minnesota): You totally whiffed on Cordarrelle Patterson. You were so high on him and I blindly followed your advice. What a huge mistake. He's been healthy all season with a more-or-less serviceable QB situation and his productivity has been next to zero. Definitely not the phenom that you advertised. I'm OK with drafting a bust but what really stung was dropping a player like Mike Evans because it seemed like Patterson was due for his breakout anyday now. You've lost all credibility in my eyes. If you were involved in any other speculative venture like a Wall Street investment firm and you made such a blunder you would have probably lost your job. I'm sure ESPN isn't going to fire you but I'm certainly not going to trust anything that comes out of your mouth ever again.
10. Prepare for a long journey. There is a ton of competition. Jobs are few and far between. You will hear no a lot more than you hear yes. I was fired from the first place that ever hired me, I was turned down by more than 20 places, including twice by ESPN, before landing here. It will take time and it will not be easy. But realize you'll also someday get emails like this:
Andrew (Missouri): Mr. Berry, Now I'm sure you receive many of these messages a day, and my reason for sending this is to not get publicity or to even get a response but I just want to you to understand the lives you impact with what you do. I have been an avid fan of yours, read the book cover to cover, read the love/hate every week religiously, and everyday listener of the 06010. I enjoy the personal stories you share and just wanted to share another. My father has been struggling with severe alcoholism for 30-plus years and, to say the least, he hasn't always been available to me. Three years ago I started up an extremely amateur fantasy league among some of my buddies as well as my dad. It wasn't until this year that a very severe episode of health hit my dad. He has a bad case of cirrhosis of the liver and they have given him sixth months to live. It is a tragic thing to have to deal with but bearable because the fact that he hasn't always been emotionally available. Anyway, this year he is currently 8-2 riding a 6 game win streak and calls me every single Sunday to talk fantasy football. Needless to say we talk more now than we ever have our entire life and it means the world to me. I am constantly referencing the stories I read in your book to my other extraordinary amateur fantasy league trying to up the ante and make it more interesting because this could be our last full year together as a league.
Like I said in the beginning of this, this is not for attention and I'm in no way looking for a reply, but I please ask that this finds its way into the hands of the actual Matthew Berry. Please read this and know that your work touches lives all over the place. The work you do is incredible and I'm sure you don't get enough credit along with all the hate mail you get. The stories you share have given me the strength to forgive my dad and let go and bond over something so simple as fantasy football. Keep doing what you do, and I will continue to be a fan of all advice you have to offer.
I don't know what to say except I am touched by it all. Appreciative of the people who want my advice, career or fantasy (or even dating!), touched by you reading, and unbelievably touched by emails like Andrew's. You give me far too much credit, but I love that fantasy football has brought you and your father closer together and if I somehow had even a slight bit to do with that, then I am the one who is truly lucky.
As always, a shoutout to Zach Rodgers from ESPN Stats & Information for his help. Couldn't do it without him. Let's get to it.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 12
Jay Cutler, Chicago: He's up, he's down, he's back up again. Not surprising he's married to someone from "The Hills," but while it's not always pretty -- and that he is a better fantasy quarterback than an NFL one -- the fact remains that the only quarterbacks with more multi-touchdown games than Cutler this year are Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. Despite the way the Bucs were able to thwart the Washington offense this past weekend, it is still a good matchup in that Tampa Bay is 30th against the pass and has allowed the second-highest completion percentage to opponents.
Tony Romo, Dallas: Death, taxes, Tony Romo at the Giants. Averaging over 287 yards and 2.3 touchdowns per game against the G-Men in New Jersey, Romo is healthy off the bye and facing a banged-up Giants secondary that has allowed 19 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in its past five games.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco: I often get accused of being a Washington homer, which I find odd. I actually think I am harder on them (most weeks) than others. But make no mistake, homer or not, Washington is a bad football team, especially on defense. Missed assignments, poor tackling, a toothless pass rush and young corners who are too often out of position ... Kaepernick has been mediocre for a bit but that changes Sunday with a top-10 performance against an undermanned team traveling cross-country.
If you're desperate: On a fantasy points-per-game basis, Ryan Tannehill is a top-10 QB this year, tied with a few others averaging 16 points per game, and the way you attack Denver is by throwing, not running, so expect Tannehill to have a nice day trying to keep up with Manning. ... Josh McCown, seen in this space last week, is back here again against the Bears. Chicago is giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and McCown now has two straight games of 19 points. Throwing to Mike Evans helps. ... The only quarterback with more deep completions (15-plus yards) this year than Brian Hoyer is ... Andrew Luck. Hoyer is getting Josh Gordon back and is facing an Atlanta team that gives up 8.2 yards per attempt this season, the most in the league.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 12
Matthew Stafford, Detroit: Eli Manning. Joe Flacco. Kyle Orton. Sorry, just listing some quarterbacks who are averaging as many or more fantasy points per game this year as Matthew Stafford. Calvin Johnson being hurt certainly hasn't helped, but the fact remains that the man has yet to have a single game with more than two passing touchdowns this season. On the road against New England is probably not going to be the game where that streak ends. Feel he'll be fine in this game, but not great. Outside my top 10, which means not a starter in an ESPN standard league, as that's the general perception on him.
Michael Vick, New York Jets: Vick has looked decent since becoming the starter, but he's also taken a decent amount of sacks. It's a small sample size, sure, but his sack rate is his highest since 2004. He was sacked four times against the Bills earlier this year in relief of Geno Smith and in fact, Buffalo leads the NFL in sacks. Vick will be under pressure a lot against a top-10 pass defense and top-10 scoring defense, so even off the bye, it's hard to like Vick in a standard league.
Robert Griffin III, Washington: I know a lot of people want to put the blame entirely on him, and maybe he could have chosen his news conference words better, but on a per-game basis, only Chad Henne has been sacked more than RG III this year. No Trent Williams in this game and possibly not starting left guard Shawn Lauvao either. So, to recap, a guy who has been sacked the second most per game this year is heading to San Francisco for a date with Aldon Smith with his best blocker and possibly more missing from an offensive line that's been poor to begin with? Yeah. This will not end well.
Running backs I love in Week 12
Denard Robinson, Jacksonville: Since Week 7 (when Robinson took over as the lead back), he ranks second among qualified backs in yards before contact per carry, trailing only Jamaal Charles. If Jonas Gray taught us (or more important, Jacksonville) anything, it's that you can run against the Colts.
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants: Not on the injury report, and he got 22 touches last week. Expect a just as heavy workload if not more against a Cowboys team that has allowed five rushing touchdowns in its past three games. Getting Geoff Schwartz back on the offensive line will help and only five teams allow more than the 4.4 yards per rushing attempt Dallas gives up, and I'm guessing Tom Coughlin is well aware of that.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore: The quietest top-10 fantasy running back season in a long time, Forsett continues to lead the league in yards per carry as his line is playing fantastic football (a league-best 3.9 yards before contact per carry.) Over the past three weeks, the Saints have allowed the third-most rushing yards in the league.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland: Always a little dicey to try to figure out Cleveland's running back situation, but no Ben Tate means this is just a two-headed monster now and I like the Crowell head more than the Terrance West head, if you were the sort to rank heads and not have a way out of this semi-weird joke. When I watch the film, Crowell is the more explosive player to me and it seems the Browns agree. Great matchup with Atlanta, of course, and with Josh Gordon stretching the field, expect Crowell to find lots of running room.
If you're desperate: The Bills have been a bit leaky on run defense recently, giving up the third-most yards after contact per rush the past five weeks and Chris Ivory should get a nice workload if/when/where they end up playing this game. ... At least Charles Sims is getting the touches now, as he got up to 16 touches last week and should get that much work, if not more, against a Bears defense that has seen opposing running backs average 5.4 receptions and 54.8 receiving yards the past five games. ... Trent Richardson appears to be the most obvious beneficiary of Ahmad Bradshaw's injury, but the concern, of course, is that Richardson isn't very good. Enter Dan "Boom" Herron, who had a nice preseason and will get at least half the workload against Jacksonville, which is an improving run defense, but not crazy imposing. ... Definitely risk/reward, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Knile Davis get 10 touches or so in a Kansas City blowout of Oakland.
Running backs I hate in Week 12
Fred Jackson, Buffalo: The craziest part of all the snow in Buffalo is they can't actually practice. Coming off the injury, no practice and facing a Jets team that has allowed the third-fewest yards per carry to opponents this season? Not a recipe for success, and we're not even sure when/where this game gets played. Jackson is outside my top 20. For what it's worth, Jackson has only one rushing touchdown in 11 career games against the Jets.
Andre Ellington, Arizona: You probably don't have better options than him. I own him in two leagues and I am starting him in both, but I don't feel great about it. Among the 15 running backs with at least 125 carries this season, Ellington's 3.4 yards per carry rank last (as well as his 1.2 yards after contact per rush). He's been getting by on volume, on being involved in the passing game and because, oddly, he has stayed healthy. Stepfan Taylor is back to potentially vulture some close-in scores and Seattle is giving up just 73.8 rushing yards per game at home this year. As I said, I can't imagine you have another RB who will get as many touches as him, but I have him well outside of my top 10 and I'm avoiding him in daily leagues.
Alfred Morris, Washington: Like Ellington, you may not have better options but ... See Griffin III, Robert. That banged-up offensive line blocks for Morris too and on the road at San Francisco (second-fewest rushing yards before contact this year), it won't be pretty. Outside my top 15, he's another to avoid in daily leagues.
Jonas Gray, New England: Two hundred yards and four scores later, what's a guy got to do to get some love around here? I hear you, but anyone who has owned a Patriots running back for any amount of time knows you can't count on consistent production. As much if not more than any other team, New England tailors its offense specific to an opponent's weakness, and against a very good Detroit defensive line, I don't see Gray having similar success (or workload) as he did last week. Outside my top 20.
Wide receivers I love in Week 12
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia: Two first names is always a crowd pleaser, especially if your QB is Mark Sanchez. Mark has googly eyes for Matthews, as he leads the Eagles in receiving yards, and deep targets (15-plus yards) with Sanchez under center. The Titans have allowed a deep touchdown in two of their past three road games.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland: Ten receptions, 146 yards and a touchdown. That's what Gordon did in his first game coming off suspension last year. Great matchup, strong run game to set up play-action and Hoyer is playing better than he was last year. If you've stashed him this long, you're starting him.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay: In case you were wondering if this is a fluke, it's not. Now, I don't expect 200 yards and two scores every week, but it's more legit than not and all three of his scores with Josh McCown came on deep passes. The Bears have allowed three deep touchdowns in just their past two games.
If you're desperate: Torrey Smith has three scores in his past four and Joe Flacco is tied for the second-most deep touchdown passes in the NFL. He has a good shot at another one Monday night. Only five teams have allowed more 20-plus-yards completions than the Saints. ... With Zach Mettenberger at quarterback, Kendall Wright leads the Titans in targets, receptions and yards. ... In his past three games, Keenan Allen has averaged 11.3 targets per game after averaging 7.1 per game in the first seven games. Over the past five weeks, the Rams have allowed the most yards to opposing wide receivers. ... I like Marques Colston to benefit the most from the Brandin Cooks injury. ... I have no doubt Indy will be able to score on the Jags, meaning it'll be lots of throwing for Blake Bortles to Cecil Shorts III and Allen Hurns.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 12
DeSean Jackson, Washington: See Griffin III, Robert. Hard to wait for a deep ball to develop when your quarterback is on his back.
Golden Tate, Detroit: You already know I'm not crazy about Stafford in this matchup, and I could easily be dead wrong, but I agree with Boston Herald beat reporter Jeff Howe's thinking that it'll be Tate, not Calvin, who is on Revis Island. For what it's worth, in an interview Wednesday, Belichick would not say whom Revis would cover.
Tight ends I love in Week 12
Larry Donnell, New York Giants: At least 90 yards or a score in three of the past four, he is second on the team in targets and it's clear Eli has trust in him, especially in the red zone. The Cowboys have given up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, including eight touchdowns.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago: I know, I know. He's been pretty bad recently but given the state of the tight end position and the fact that only two teams have given up more receptions than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I like Bennett's chances to turn things around in a game I expect to be fairly high-scoring.
If you're desperate: There is certainly a case to be made against using Mychal Rivera, as the Chiefs have been great against opposing tight ends in terms of receptions and yards, but on the other hand, only three teams have allowed more touchdowns to opposing tight ends. So how lucky do you feel? Do take into consideration that Derek Carr is banged up. ... Marcedes Lewis is back with the Jags just in time for a matchup with a Colts squad coughing up the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Tight ends I hate in Week 12
Vernon Davis, San Francisco: Think I hate this guy? Talk to someone who actually owns him. The first series of the first game, Davis got a target in the red zone and scored. He hasn't gotten one red zone target since. At this point, I'd be OK if he broke out while he's sitting on my bench.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota: The Packers have allowed only two scores to opposing tight ends all year and it was in the same game. Week 6 against New Orleans, as both Jimmy Graham and Josh Hill got one. Need to see him more involved in the offense (just 14 snaps last week) before I'm ready to put him in my lineup.
I know, slim pickings. But the tight end position is so brutal these days it's hard to hate anyone with a pulse.
Defenses I love in Week 12
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are one of three defenses to score at least one fantasy point in every game this season (along with the Lions and Ravens). Over the past five weeks, the Raiders are tied for the third-most fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses. And that's with a healthy Derek Carr. Short week, Carr is on the injury report with a quad ... Go Chiefs, indeed.
Green Bay Packers: Since their 1-2 start, the Packers have forced a league-best 17 turnovers in seven games. Think Teddy Bridgewater may have a turnover or two? Exactly. The Pack had three turnovers in their previous game against Minnesota and I expect more of the same Sunday.
Indianapolis Colts: Still available in 65 percent of leagues, the Colts defense has double-digit fantasy points in each of its past three home games. No defense that has faced the Jaguars this year has scored fewer than eight points.
Buffalo Bills: See Vick, Michael. In their game against the Jets earlier this season, Buffalo scored 16 fantasy points, and they lead the league in sacks.
San Francisco 49ers: See Griffin III, Robert. Gonna get sacked, and sacked a lot, on this trip.
If you're desperate: The San Diego Chargers are averaging over eight fantasy points a game at home this year, so I like the Bolts at home against a St. Louis team that, despite last week, has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. ... The Texans are getting a lot healthier on defense and now get a go at Andy Dalton. Bad Andy showing up is always a very real possibility.
Defenses I hate in Week 12
Detroit Lions: Averaging just 5.5 fantasy points per game in their last four, including no sacks last week for the first time this season, the Lions have hit a bit of a rough patch. Since the Kansas City game, the most fantasy points the Patriots have allowed to an opposing defense -- the most, mind you -- is one. In the six games combined, opposing defenses have scored minus-24 fantasy points.
Miami Dolphins: It's a good defense, but it's also on the road at Denver the week after Peyton got embarrassed. No fantasy defense has scored more than one point against the Broncos at Mile High this season.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- never gets asked for advice on hair care. Strange. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You also may have heard: He has written a book.