Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Walt's Premier League of Pundits: Champions League Contenders/Cream of the Crop

Oh my, we've come a long way together.  After first coming up with the idea of a Premier League of Pundits (all credit to @fplhints for the idea of this article series), we have made our way through 3 segments in the series and have now reached the final installment of Walt's Top 20 FPL Websites/Blogs.

Most of you, if you've followed through the previous 3 articles, could probably rattle off most if not all of the remaining 8 at the drop of a hat. They are the Big Guns, the mother lode of FPL knowledge, insight and management tutelage. They form the pool of knowledge and information that most of us point to when either deciding what to do with our teams or explaining to other FPL managers WHY we've decided to do what we've done with our teams.

These are not small sites that dabble in bits and pieces of Fantasy Premier League.  These are the "Everything FPL" sites; where you will find high-quality, useful information regarding virtually any and every aspect of FPL management that you and one of your other FPL addicted friends could ever come up with.  It is impossible to keep these sites a secret so that your mini-league rival doesn't know about them, but it IS possible to comb through their vast databases of articles, community forums, player projection charts, etc. to find both little nuggets and huge boulders of invaluable FPL wisdom tucked far away from the prying eyes of your rival who may have been distracted by the 10 other important and equally noteworthy sections of the site.

You've been teased long enough...are you ready?  Let's check them out one by one and explain why they may be the 8 websites you will visit and rely upon most often during your 2013-2014 FPL journey.

#8:  Inside Fantasy Premier League

This site perfectly illustrates the beauty of doing an article like this. If you've not been around during the "off-season" this site may have recently taken you by surprise.  I have been addicted to this site for awhile now and literally couldn't believe my eyes when I realized it has only been around for a few months.

This is the Swansea of our countdown; the team that came out of nowhere and is taking the Premier League by storm, causing the top level teams to look over their shoulder and wonder just how good this new juggernaut will end up being.  The graphics and design are in my opinion second to none; and they back it up with absolute top quality content.

The articles they pump out are of a quality and eye-pleasing design that continually leave me wanting more.  They post top quality Tweets, often with links to articles that are 100% FPL relevant.  By far one of my favorite features of this site is their weekly Friday Fantasy Round-Up; a newsletter that you can subscribe to and that reviews all of the notable FPL articles from around the web over the past week, complete with direct links to the content referenced.  I look forward to it every Friday, and it recently included an excellent article describing the new FPL bonus system that I recommend you finding and reading tonight.

They soon (tomorrow I believe) will be releasing a comprehensive FPL management guide that has teasingly been described on their site and sounds like it will be awesome.

Check this site out if you haven't yet and make sure you follow the top-notch Twitter feed at @insidefantasypl

Quality FPL sites start with respectability, and they don't get much better than Fantasy Premier League Hints.  Let me start by saying that there are TONS of pundits out there, as you have seen if you've followed this series. People are always drawn to FPL accounts who appear to know what they're doing, and behind every site, whether it's a giganto endeavor with bells, whistles and more square footage than a sprawling airport or a tiny little disorganized blog with seemingly random, disconnected content, is the person or people who drive the site and their FPL knowledge and skill.

@FPLhints has finished in the top 0.2% of the entire FPL game in the last two seasons, including a 2011-2012 finish of 110th in the world.  In addition to his excellent FPL performance, Hints has developed an extremely simple, easy to follow and effective format.

Every single gameweek of the season Hints will give you a screenshot of the team he's selected for the week, including the rationale behind his transfers.  He will also explain to you how his transfers from the previous week panned out.  Next he will spotlight a recommended player to consider for the upcoming gameweek, explaining why he thinks the person has the potential to light it up, and will top it off with a YouTube video showing jaw-dropping highlights of the recommended player scoring goals, creating assists, and giving you a mouth-watering visual of what the player is capable of.  He then follows that up with the FPLH's Hot Picks XI; a suggested Team of the Week showing recommendations at each position.

This straightforward, consistent approach gives you top quality advice to look forward to every week, and has resulted in Hints having a rock solid reputation for FPL smarts that he is very willing to share with rookies and novices alike. I can attest to that, as a long time ago he was one of the very first people to comment/respond to a Tweet from some idiot in America who didn't know his ass from his elbow when it came to FPL. That idiot was me; and as I received his comment/welcome and realized that the 110th best performing person in the entire FPL world took the time to "speak" to me, I became an instant fan.

Follow him on Twitter at @fplhints

#6:  FPL Dugout

The creator of FPL Dugout finished 344th globally in the 2011/12 season and 67th in the 2012/13 season.  I don't need to type another word, do I?  These types of numbers are enough to make my ears perk up, immediately grab my attention, and make me want to hear more of what this guy has to say.

FPL Dugout was started in August 2010 at the beginning of the 2010/11 season by a genius named Aaron and they have been pumping out articles galore ever since.  It is really cool to take a dig into their archives and check out articles from that far back; I recommend a quick jaunt down memory lane if you have some extra time.

FPL Dugout has grown a strong, loyal following over the past 3  years and the strong following is there for a reason.  The site last year featured a weekly series titled Punt of the Week that "puts forward a player with potential for big points but also represents an element of risk. Players who aren't obvious picks." In addition to their weeky Punt series they have articles featuring every category of FPL you could think of, and they have been very busy this pre-season putting together a string of quality forward-thinking posts that will not only be well received by their loyal throngs of followers, but will also gain them some well-earned new regulars (and you can count me as one of them).

Just looking at their list of Recent Articles you will find pre-season titles such as "A Guide to Bargain Buys", "Punting Your Way to Glory", "Different Strategies to Building a Fantasy Defence", "Perfect Home and Away Fixture Rotations", and "Guide to the 4.0 Defenders".  This kind of article roster is enough to make me ready to go over there and read them the minute I'm done writing this article.

As usual, it's not all though.  They also have a resident Matt-istician who every now and then throws together an excellent article in their Features and Opinions section of general FPL management tactics and strategies. One of the most informative articles I've read in a while is authored by Matt and is titled "FPL 2012/13 in stats and lessons learnt". You can read it right here

Follow FPLDugout's Twitter feed at @FPLDugout and tell another 1,000 people why they should be following him too.

I'm not positive, but I think FPL Addicts has won the "Most Appropriate Blog Name" award since they started their site the day that the FPL prices were released on July 19, 2012.  These guys are absolutely nuts about Fantasy Premier League and it shows.  They are prolific, completely focused on the FPL game, and they are also funny as hell.

If you're looking for articles that pick apart virtually every player at every position on every team in the Premier League, this is your spot.   These guys literally have posted 392 articles (and there are only 3 or 4 of them primarily contributing) over the past year.  It's like they get done with one article and need to move onto the next to satisfy some deep, innate insatiable need to be constantly thinking and writing about FPL.  

They have a very interactive group of followers who contribute strings of comments to their articles, and they have a great pre-season hub focusing on players to watch, team outlooks, focus on promoted clubs and a cool section called "Fresh Blood", where they discuss incoming position players to consider.

In addition to an extremely ambitious weekly rundown of scheduled articles, these guys have it all covered and seem to go with the "I saw or heard something pertinent about FPL that my readers can benefit from, and I want to write an article about it" approach.  There are so many good articles on so many topics that it's hard to keep track of all of the content.  This truly is a site by FPL Addicts for FPL addicts.

Follow them on Twitter at @FPLaddicts and prepare to enjoy yourself.

The great team at Fantasy Yirma have put together one of the best FPL blogs out there.  They have somehow (and this is an achievement more rare than you might think) managed to strike the perfect balance between top quality blog content and equally popular Twitter presence and personality.  With Ryan handling all things Twitter (and general brand management) and Mark handling chief writing responsibilities, they are the dynamic duo of FPL.  Both pieces of their brand complement one another perfectly and come together to create an FPL brand that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The setup is a work of genius pulled off brilliantly.  These guys do great things and it is obvious that not only do they enjoy it every step of the way, but they also enjoy nothing more than spreading the popularity of FPL and working with others who share this passion that we all feel for the game.  They put their full support behind so many worthwhile pursuits and collaborations that they really set a perfect example for what the FPL community can look like when people of like minds and interests put the betterment of the game and the fans before their own selfish pursuits.

I cannot think of another site that appears to have as much fun doing what they're doing as Ryan and Mark do over there at FY.  Mark is a writer with a special talent, and the extremely popular gameweek previews are popular for a reason. They are often highlighting trends and giving a scout's eye view of options to consider as you put together your strategy for the current gameweek, and their equally popular Nothing But Bonus Points series is the most aesthetically pleasing presentation of the weekly bonus points that I have seen. It's published in quick fashion as well; oftentimes before the oft-repeated cry of "Bonus points are out!" has reached my anxious ears.

When Mark and a special contingent of guest writers are not posting a myriad of excellent, must-read articles (24 of them in November 2012 alone), Ryan is organizing and coordinating excellent FPL tournaments, such as last year's hugely popular Fantasy Yirma Cup, as well as putting together games and competitions such as Grounded by Yirma. Oh, and did I mention that their mini-league finished as the 3rd highest scoring league in the FPL world last season?

I will stop now before getting carried away, but I could not say enough good things about the things that the guys at FY are up to and the effort they put into making the FPL community a fun, cohesive group of top accounts all looking to help one another enjoy our favorite fantasy game.
Please join the 10,000+ of us who already follow them on Twitter at @FantasyYirma and also please check out information related to their support of the 92 Plus 1 Charity Challenge

Fantasy Football Pundits is the shiny new Ferrari on the block that everybody knew was coming and couldn't wait to get a glimpse of. The parts are shiny and new, the paint job is fabulous, and it is the talk of the town.  The anticipation was well and duly warranted, as the popular @FPL_Advice_Tips Twitter account attracted followers (and sponsors) last year faster than RVP picked up bonus points.

Everybody wanted in on the action, and Leon at times must have been overwhelmed by how quickly his popularity grew. It was so much fun to watch.  I remember first getting active on Twitter around October of last year and congratulating him on his 12,000th follower.  A couple of weeks later I was congratulating him on his 14,000th.  The growth became as reliable as the rising of the sun and new milestones continued to be ticked off one by one.  Last week, as a matter of fact, he reached 50,000 followers.  FIF-TY THOU-SAND.  That's a five with four zeros after it.

The build up in anticipation reached its peak in the beginning of July, as Leon had put his team of FPL All-Stars together and put feelers out, including getting input from the FPL community as to what they wanted to see in a site.  We knew that another FPL favorite, @FPL_Mentor, aka Andy Bell, would be the Chief Editor and the thought of the two of them working together was enough to kick the anticipation up another notch.

The site has been everything we've expected and more. With crisp branding and a vibrant display, the site is a joy to become familiar with. As is always the case with this group, you can expect a HUGELY interactive community and fabulous, comprehensive content.  During the opening week we got a good feel for the quality of content that we could come to expect, including main sections for Rate My Team (which has already become a huge hit), Set Piece Takers (the most visually appealing layout I've seen), affiliation with PhysioRoom for injuries, and a link to downloading the wildly popular FFMiphone app for FPL management.

Like last year, they have a great fantasy league to join and have upped the ante with a Santa sized bag of giveaways, including a 16GB Ipad to the winner and great monthly prizes for top performing managers.  Along with the other 50,000+ people already with an idea of what these guys are capable of, I cannot wait to see what else this site has in store for us, and here's a little clue. Within three weeks of launch, Fantasy Football Pundits have already found themselves among the top 64,000 websites in all of Great Britain.  Enough said.

If you're one of the 25-30 people on Twitter who doesn't follow them yet, please point your browser to @FFPundits now.

Fantasy Football Cheat started in the 2008/2009 season. Since then, the FFC public FPL team, one of the site's staples since their inception, has finished no lower than 44,630th and as high as 551st.  As you can tell, it is run by dedicated FPL experts with a successful track record and is IMMENSELY popular among its followers, for reasons that are readily apparent once you spend any time on the site whatsoever.

The cult following has grown over time, partially due to a weekly series of themed articles published in consistent succession. They include a look at the upcoming gameweek fixtures, followed by Suspensions, Tips, Latest News from Around the Grounds, The Commentary Box, Bonus Points, and Weekend Wrap.

The Commentary Box stands out as an awesome feature.  It is a section of their site dedicated to providing a chat-like environment where people can gather online while watching the EPL games and essentially "watch the games together" while discussing how their FPL team is faring; screaming in delight at a goal scored by a differential, and groaning in unison as yet another clean sheet is lost in the dying moments of extra time. The concept is an excellent one and one that I'm sure increases its growing group of dedicated fans.

To give you an idea of how strong the FFC community is, I scanned the site for a few moments and rarely saw an article with fewer than 400 comments; with many of them eclipsing the 1,000 comment mark.  To further increase and promote active participation, FFC regularly conducts User Polls that help FPL managers see what other FPL managers are thinking/considering on a range of topics and questions.  They then post the results for everyone to see.

In years past one of the go-to features of the site was the fact that they published their FFC FPL team before the season started, then posted all of their moves throughout the season and the reasoning behind them. Thousands and thousands of FPL managers could literally watch an FPL team created by dedicated FPL experts and follow their moves and rationale. They have decided to scrap that feature this year, to the understood disappointment of many; but will use the extra time that is freed up to get out on the boards more themselves to interact with their followers and provide advice, suggestions, answers to user questions, etc.

With many articles having 1,000 comments or more, you may not recognize me on the boards this year, but I can guarantee you that I will be there, most likely shaking my head in disbelief at all of the great stuff I've missed since being introduced to the site only recently.

FFC can also be followed on Twitter at @FFCheat

Well, little did I know that the journey through my Top 20 FPL Websites/Blogs would take me back to where my FPL journey first started. Funny, I remember the day I stumbled upon the Fantasy Football Scout site two years ago thinking to myself "What a great secret I just found; I wonder how many people know about it?". 

As a beginner, I remember clicking on tab after tab, focused intently on the Scout Picks for the week, the Next Six Ticker, and the Captain's Poll. I felt like a kid in a candy store, so glad that on a whim I decided to type "fantasy football tips" into Google. Yes, that's how ignorant I was when I started. But that was cool, because finding this site was like finding a bag full of money on the side of the road. No one needed to know, and I would get as much mileage as I could out of my little secret.

Put most simply, I can't think of anything about FPL that you can't find here. You could take a week's vacation from work, spend every waking moment on this site, and still not have touched it all.  And that's without even paying for access to the special Members Section, where you can find all kinds of goodies like Player Projection models for every player at every position, a Rate My Team tool that shows you how your team is likely to perform, and more specially developed tools that are too numerous to remember or count (my subscription lapsed in June so it's time to renew;))

In my experience with this site, it seems to have the biggest pool of quality writers out there, and the community forums are filled with knowledgeable FPL minds that will teach you as much as the articles will.  I can't think of the last time I visited the site without finding something that I was glad I found; and as usually happens with me, it often is not the thing I went there to look for.

If there is one area of this site that I have any issue with whatsoever, it is the Predicted Lineup section. It is the only section of the site where I found myself wanting to check out other sources of information due to posted lineup predictions that did not pan out and left me staring at a clean sheet on my bench after playing someone FFS predicted would start but who ended up with a 1-minute cameo.

Despite that one little hiccup, I will proudly pay my annual subscription fee again this year. And if God forbid someone ever told me that there was only one FPL website in the entire world that I could ever look at regularly again, it would be this little gem with the famous green and black silhouette icon.

And yes, you can follow FFS on Twitter at @FFScout


Well, there you have it; the final piece of the Top 20 FPL Websites/Blogs puzzle.  Thanks for taking this journey with me. I hope you've found some useful information here and decide to both bookmark these sites and follow their Twitter feeds. I have had a blast and am looking forward to visiting these sites again over the coming days as I get back to tinkering with my FPL squad.

I would really like to know what you thought of this series. It is a list put together from my unique experience and browsing patterns and I would love to hear about FPL sites that you visit that I may have missed.

I am going to follow up shortly with a summary of the series and a complete listing of Walt's Premier League of Pundits.  It will include links to all of the sites as well as mention a few additional FPL related websites that I stumbled upon while doing research for this article and that I would also wholeheartedly recommend.

In the meantime, please let me know what you think.

The previous articles in the series can be found by clicking on the following links:

My Twitter feed is always welcoming of new followers and you can find me easily at @EPLFanForLife

Cheers everyone, and happy tinkering.