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Chat: Mike Tanier

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday July 10, 2008 11:30 AM ET chat session with Mike Tanier.


Mike Tanier is an author of \"Pro Football Prospectus 2008,\" available now!

Mike Tanier: "My, she was yar...It means, uh...easy to handle, quick to the helm, fast, right. Everything a boat should be, until she develops dry rot." Tracy Lord, The Philadelphia Story. Hey readers, Mike Tanier here to talk about Pro Football Prospectus 2008 (in bookstores everywhere) and about Football Outsiders' new statistic: DYAR, or defense-adjusted yards above replacement level. DYAR replaces DPAR, making our stats more accessible and easier to talk casually about. In short, we think that DYAR will be yar: everything a stat should be, without the dry rot.

dwiest12 (NoVa): Does Andy Reid ride McNabb until the bitter end, or start slowly working Kolb in this year?

Mike Tanier: I see your question is tinged with Philly bitterness. "Ride to the bitter end" doesn't leave much room for "Bounce back, stay healthy, and return to the Super Bowl triumphantly" does it?

Even a McNabb apologist like me can see that his skills have slipped and that the injuries are a concern that won't go away. But I also see a team that, thanks to a better defense and Brian Westbrook, can win 11 games with a healthy McNabb playing like he did at the end of 2007. They are a team that would win the NFC South or West going away. And I'm old enough to remember what happens when you turn the reins over to the next guy (Bobby Hoying) before he's ready or able.

In other words: McNabb starts as long as he's healthy in 2008, and that's the right call. I understand the "Stubborn Andy" complaints, too, but I don't think his decision to stay with McNabb is a good example of it.

Tom (Matawan,NJ): Just received PFP 08 and without a doubt the best yet . Question : why aren't the Giants getting any respect from any of the preseason " experts " . Even the fantasy league publications are ignoring their best players. What gives ?

Mike Tanier: Most people see the Super Bowl upset as just that: an upset. The Giants haven't made many improvements, and most experts see a 10-11 win team in a brutal division. Preseason publications have to look ahead, not back, and even if you think the team suddenly got better in January and February, you have to look ahead to a Cowboys team that looks improved, scrappy Eagles and Redskins, the Packers or some other power in the postseason, and the realization that the best teams really are in the other conference.

akachazz (DC): Are the 2008 predictions for teams' records on the website or in the book?

Mike Tanier: We do something called a "mean projection" in the book. We plug our offensive and defensive projections into a complex computer model and simulate 10,000 seasons. We also create a probability spread which gives the percentage chance that a team will win 0-3 games, 4-6 games, and so on. The spread often gives more information than the mean projection.

Matu99 (California): Which teams do you think will positively and negatively surprise people this year? Are their any projections in the book that you disagree with?

Mike Tanier: We have the Panthers coming in with a winning record, making some Wild Card noise. That's based on some good young players and additions on offense, the concept that the QB situation just has to get better than last season, and the defense's good first and second down performance last season. We have the Texans as a .500 or better team, maybe a team that does what the Titans usually do: feed on the scraps that the Colts and Jaguars left behind, sneak into the Wild Card race.

Negatively, the system dislikes the Browns for a few reasons. You have a QB who came from nowhere and a lot of injury-prone skill position players who suddenly stayed healthy at the same time last year.

I'm not allowed to disagree with the predictions! Seriously, the Cowboys always look too low to me. I hate them, but they always look strong, and this year is no exception. Particularly after last year, the NFC East projections make me nervous.

PaulH (NOLA): Regarding a theoretical question about the Lewin projection system: Last year, JaMarcus Russell had a relatively poor Lewin projection as a result of only 29 career starts combined with a career completion percentage of 61.8%. Obviously, Russell declared for the draft as a junior. Now, let's say that Russell had returned to college for his senior year at LSU. Had he put up numbers on par with what his track record at LSU would have indicated, he would have ended up with 43 starts and a career completion percentage of around 62 or 63%. If that happened, suddenly Russell's projection would have from relatively poor to future Mr. Everything. If I remember correctly, even Peyton Manning didn't have that good of a projection. Now, I understand that you can say, "Yes, but perhaps if Russell would have returned scouts would have seen his flaws and would not have been picked in the first two rounds," but given his once-in-a-generation physical tools, I think you'll agree that would not have happened. My question is this: Assuming the Lewin projection system holds true, does merely coming back for your senior season as a college quarterback takes you from being a fairly mediocre player to being a legendary player? The Lewin projection system, if it holds true, certainly seems to indicate that. By the way, picked up my copy of PFP 2008 yesterday, and I have barely been able to put it down since.

Mike Tanier: Let's turn that question around. Say Russell played another year at LSU, went 12-1, lit up the stat sheet. Wouldn't you consider him a much better prospect after that? Wouldn't most experts? Why should the Lewin Forecast be any different? Any projection system will work on the principal that better information yields more accurate results. Even our gut reactions work that way. Derek Anderson: right now, we look at a very good 2007 season and say it could be a fluke, so we downgrade his projection for 2008 or at least reserve judgment. If he throws 29 TD passes next season, we'll just say he's a 29-TD quarterback.

The assumption that Russell stays in school another year, dominates, and comes out a better prospect is a big one. Just as Brian Brohm. Or Dan Marino. It's perfectly legit for the Lewin Forecast to say, "OMG, OMG, 43 starts at that level of production!" because that level is very rarely sustained.

tiptonhr (Knoxville, TN): My book hasn't arrived yet, but I purchased KUBIAK this week and was curious about a couple of things I noticed and wondered if you might be able to enlighten me. 1) Can you explain the risk color system in detail, specifically regarding giving a player like Tom Brady a "RED" label? 2) KUBIAK seems really high on Earnest Graham and Bobby Engram while their own teams don't even seem high on them right now - what is the thinking there? and 3) Ben Roethlisberger seems to be projected a lot lower than I would expect, considering his situation and the year he had last year. Is that all due to regression to the mean and losing Faneca, or are there other factors at play? Thanks for all your hard work. I'll hang up and listen.

Mike Tanier: Here's Aaron's verbatim response on Brady:

1) Because his season last year is so out of whack with his past.
2) Because his high numbers are more dependent on schedule (Pats have
easiest schedule in league)
3) Because half the starters in the league (and almost all backups)
get red tags, so the odds were 50-50 anyway.

It works out to Manning above Brady if you use Risk, and Brady above
Manning if you don't, which I think makes complete sense.

Graham ... we have him rated higher than most sites I think. He's the starting RB on a team that made the playoffs last year and should compete for them this year. The offensive line is improving. He just signed a 4-year contract, so I think the team is committed to him. Are Michael Bennett, Warrick Dunn, and Cadillac Williams going to eat into his carries? I doubt all three will make the team. One of them becomes the change-up guy, and that still leaves room for 1,200 yards. If Cadillac really is healthy enough to come back and play, then the projection might go down.

We have Big Ben down for something like 3,800 yards and a lot of TDs. Seems like a good figure.

In general, we are still talking about projections on July 10. Sometimes, what KUBIAK is saying is "Tampa's lead RB will be good" or "Seattle's #2 WR will put up good numbers if he is decent." When the hitting starts and depth charts change, download some fresh KUBIAK.

PaulH (NOLA): How did that high-end hooch you scored go down?

Mike Tanier: The Stagg? Like lemonade after mowing the back nine. You have to cut Stagg with a lot of ice if you want to be awake for kickoff the next day, though.

Mike W (Chicago): As a Packer fan, can I just say that someone needs to take Brett Favre out back, tie him up and gag him, and forget about him? And don't tell Peter King where he is.

Mike Tanier: Now there's a story with legs. And a sphincter. My FO PFP answer is that subbing Favre for Rogers doesn't change the team's very good projection by much. Of course, I don't have a "What if Favre lingers on the periphery for 2 months, causes the team to break into camps, etc. etc) projection handy.

PaulH (NOLA): I understand the point you are making with the Lewin projection system, and I'm not arguing with it, but that's not really what I'm getting at. My underlying point is basically this: Considering Russell would have likely put up the numbers I mentioned and his projection would have then went through the roof, can the mere fact that you come back for your senior year effectively turn you from being the next Jeff George to the next Peyton Manning? I mean do you think you can really improve that much as an NFL prospect simply by returning for your senior year of college? I have a lot of respect for the Lewin forecast system, and I would expect it to hold valid, and if so that is certainly what it would indicate.

Mike Tanier: I am not sure why you think Russell is likely to put up identical numbers in his second season. I will say that nearly all scouts want to see quarterbacks come back for that senior season. It's critical to their development in most instances. Coming out early often leads to career complications, like playing too soon for a bad team. So I don't see anything unusual about awarding a QB extra credit for extra starts.

perforatededge54 (NY): Say something nice about the Jets. Please.

Mike Tanier: The offensive line moves made sense. Kellen Clemens could still be good. 7-9 isn't that bad of a record. Their uniforms are kinda cool.

Corkedbat (Dallas): Last year there was a good discussion in the Miami chapter of PFP 2007 concerning Cam Cameron and calculating an impact a coach can have on new team. After observing last year's Miami team, do you think similar results will occur in Baltimore? I'm thinking specifically of the running game.

Mike Tanier: It will be nice to see the Ravens running some sweeps with McGahee and more screens. Cameron's teams are usually great screen teams, and Billick's teams weren't. Cameron's big problems in Miami were discipline and player communication. Give him x's and o's and he's a different guy.

DaveB (Reading PA): Tarvaris Jackson: 3,376 yards and 21 TDs? Really?

Mike Tanier: And 18 interceptions and a lot of frustration. That's 16 games with a great rushing attack at work. And he is red tagged of course

Matu99 (California): I agree with you on the Cowboys part Mike. The last few years when I read the book, I always felt that the they would do better than what the projections would say and then they would do better. Do you know a reason why the numbers seemingly under rate them?

Mike Tanier: Two years ago, the lukewarm Cowboys projection turned out to be correct. Last year it wasn't. I know that despite Glenn's injury last season, the Cowboys were a very healthy team, and that probably won't repeat. They also always get a wide split from our projections, which will happen when you have TO and now Adam Jones around.

Wendy (Madrid): If the Packers don't want Favre, can the Bears have him? Seriously, if the Packers don't want him and Favre wants to play, shouldn't they cut him loose? Don't they owe it to him?

Mike Tanier: Yeah, they probably owe him a chance to latch on elsewhere. Let's wait until there is actual news before we leap to conclusions about everyone's motivation. You know, you can also say that Favre owes it to the Packers to stay quiet for at least a season. But of course he has stayed quiet. We're the ones talking about text messages.

Corkedbat (Dallas): Will there be an update of the Lewin Forecast results for previous draft picks and this year's draft? I really enjoyed the article in last year's PFP (2007) and would love to see that continue forth. Same goes for research in other positions. Any chance this will continue in PFP 2008 and beyond?

Mike Tanier: We did a thing called Speed Scores in this year's book that looks at running backs and shows that you can make some basic conclusions based on 40-times. I know we plan to keep the Lewin Forecast in the arsenal for future drafts. Mr Lewin wrote a quarterback article for us pre-draft this year. I think.

Or (Dallas): Hey, Mike. I just received my PFP in the mail yesterday and have to give you boys a proverbial hearty round of applause. Outstanding work, all you do is appreciated. It's sincerely refreshing to see football looked at from a point of view this rational. Incidentally, EAGLES SUCK!

Mike Tanier: You are an honoraty Eagles fan now. I am glad you like the book.

Chip (Chicago): What's your take on the Bears this year in particular and the NFC North in general? The division should be much stronger and more competitive this year, no?

Mike Tanier: We have the Packers at the top of the heap, the Vikings competitive, the Bears battling along at 7-9. I wrote a bit on the Bears about a month ago on the site. I think their offense will be bad again, but not some historically bad joke like some think it will be. But yes, they need a QB.

Steve (Georgia): In the comment for Steven Jackson, it was implied that he's on Marshall Faulk's level as a dual threat RB. If he (and Bulger, and that OL) stays healthy, do the Rams surprise everyone this year?

Mike Tanier: That defense still has so many questions. If anything, they go back to the days of 35-31 losses. But I think that is charitable. Jackson is great, and the line looks steadier now, but Bruce is gone, Bulger is starting to wear down. The Rams remain a great team to look at for fantasy talent that can't win eight games.

Corkedbat (Dallas [transplant...not a Cow Fan]): I remember how ridiculously good the Cowboys offense played on third down last year. Is that even remotely sustainable or repeatable this season? How will they improve that?

Mike Tanier: Glad you brought that up because third down performance is a big part of our projection system. The Cowboys were great on 3rd downs, 6th in the NFL, but it wasn't that much different from their first and second round rankings. They were a very strong overall offense, not an offense that happened to convert a lot of third downs. That's not a heavy negative indicator for them.

Vik (Chicago): Do you see the Bears defense and special teams being able to turn the team around this year, or do you really think they are one of the worst Football teams in the game? I'm dying to know, thanks!

Mike Tanier: A few Bears questions in the pipeline. As I said, the projection is in the 6.9 wins, and I am on board with that.

Ronnie Woo Woo (Chicago): Nobody wants to hear about the Cowboys. Let's talk about the Bears. I'm not saying he's a star or even that good, but Forte has to be an upgrade over Benson. Even if he's average, how much will that improve the Bears' offense? Plus with Olsen going into his second year, Hester getting more time at WR and the OL they just drafted, the offense should be better and the defense can't be as bad as it was last year. Is it possible that the Bears are now underrated?

Mike Tanier: Let me just say that Eagles fans don't think this way. We would say "crap, we have a concerted CB playing wide receiver and a rookie at running back. We are going 0-20, counting the preseason." Bears fans must be a more hopeful bunch. Let's be straight here: Forte is an upgrade, but swapping two OL positions for a rookie and an unknown isn't an upgrade, and it takes some optimism to say that Hetser is an immediate step up from an experienced deep threat like Berrian. Every offensive drive is going to be a battle. The offense is going to be a lot of 3-and-outs, waiting for the bomb. I think the people who are calling for a 4-12 season are underrating them, but we aren't.

docksquad (chicago): I have not received my copy of the PFP yet, so forgive me for this question because I am sure you cover it in the book. But, if you had to choose, who are the Bears better off with at QB, Orton or Wrex? And yes, those are your only two choices! Thanks.

Mike Tanier: My choice would have been Brian Brohm or Chad Henne or Joe Flacco. Oh, you said I couldn't do something sensible like get another quarterback. Can't go single wing with Hester at QB? Okay, then I will take BiPolar Bear because I am a little more comfortable with what he can do, and if Hester and Brandon Lloyd are my two WRs I want deep passes up the sidelines, which Grossman throws better than Whiskey Kid, I think.

Sank (Chicago, IL): What do you think about the Lions this year?

Mike Tanier: Same thing I think every year Pinky: they're trying to take over the bottom of the NFC North.

I go off on the Lions in PFP 08. The main thing ... which it's hard to state in writing in a book like PFP ... is that the team runs on Millen's personality, and they really believe all the swagger/tough guy/my way or the highway rhetoric. But that's all they have, the rhetoric. Tough talk is useless without actual planning and insight. Millen doesn't do that stuff.

tphoskin (phoenix, az): the cards addressed their biggest need in drafting cromartie in the 1st round, is their problem just a lack of depth or is it still talent?

Mike Tanier: Every piece is in place, at least to be a wild card team. The RB situation isn't bad. Great WRs. The line has fallen into place. There's enough talent on defense now, and even the depth isn't bad. QB is still an issue, but there are worse situations than having Warner riding to Lefty's rescue every other week. The biggest problem now is that they are the Cardinals and something bad is just bound to happen.

mattymatty (Philly): Hey Mike. We met after Will Leitch's talk in Philly. I'm still kicking myself for not going out for beers afterwards. Anyway, the way I see it, the Redskins season is going to hinge not on Jason Campbell and not on their new head coach, but on the health of their O-line. Do they have much of a chance of staying healthy this season? If they don't, I see a top 10 pick in their future. Thanks and keep up the great work.

Mike Tanier: We have a nice article about training staffs and injury trends in PFP 08, thanks to our friend Will Carroll. The Redskins rate out as a neutral team, injury wise, and Will and Bill Barnwell note that some players have become chronic injury cases, like jan Jansen. Also, a new coach can lead to more injuries, because guys can get hurt in camp/preseason by lining up in the wrong place, running the wrong route, etc.

As for beers, a bunch of guys went out and it was like a blogger jamboree. If someone blew up the bar, Matt Leinart could have dressed in Amy Winehouse clothes and drank peyote and red bull for a month and no one would have posted a photo.

tfierst (MN): Over/under on the number of defensive TDs the Vikings score this year? 8?

Mike Tanier: That's a little high. One thing about the Lions, they shouldnt be a turnover factory this year. They will be more of a 3-and-out factory.

Scrapper (Illinois): Name one thing that you learned while researching for this year's book that you did not know before. Thanks for the great work.

Mike Tanier: I didn't really follow the Ted Thompson era in Green Bay carefully before I was assigned the Packers. He really chopped away all the non Favre remnants of that 1990s-early 2000s team and replaced it with younger talent quickly and methodically. It was a sign of a GM with good cap sense and great draft acumen. I got a new appreciation for what he did.

Snoopy (Chicago): You mentioned Brian Brohm in a prior response. Was that a smart pick by the Packers and how do you see him against Aaron Rodgers in three years (assuming old number 4 is not back in the picture)?

Mike Tanier: He's a fine developmental pick, and the Packers are wise to work on a Plan B. There's no way to project them three years down the road. I think Rodgers can be a very good starter, and Brohm might have to wait a while.

Sanket (Detroit, MI): Ok enough of the Millen bashing!! Haha. Can you please let me know how the team on the field is going to look. Sorry, haven't gotten the book yet, how many wins do you project for the Lions?

Mike Tanier: On the field: lots of handoffs, lots of effort to look like the Broncos of yesteryear even though the personnel is all wrong. Somewhat better defense. I think the Lions will be bad and blah. They used to be bad and interesting.

Corkedbat (Dallas): My wife is holding PFP2008 hostage for my birthday in 9 days... Any ideas on how I might be able to obtain it from her earlier?

Mike Tanier: Put up shelves. Women love shelves.

JWR (Midwest): Obviously, many of your readers focus at this time of year primarily on you team predictions. Is predicting football teams easier or harder than predicting baseball, hockey and basketball teams? Why?

Mike Tanier: I can't speak for other sports, though I know the whole projection game is brutal. Football is doubel brutal. 16 games is a tiny sample! The difference between 7-9 and 10-6 can be small statistically but have a huge impact on the perception of how a team performed.

Matu99 (California): So which teams besides the Pats and Colts look like Super Bowl contenders to you?

Mike Tanier: Jaguars and Chargers. Sorry if that is dull. Packers. Any of the NFC East Big 3 (non Redskins). I don't see anyone in the NFC West or South being that good at this point: I will know more when I see some preseason action, but they look like fodder again.

Ken (Rhode Island): Some people have been making this comparison, so what are the chances that the 2008 Patriots go '02 Rams on everybody? Or does their weak schedule basically keep that from happening?

Mike Tanier: The weak schedule should help keep the Patriots in top. But there are lots of other factors. The QB and coaching situations are totally different, and that's a gaping difference.

Just a few more questions

Grasspike (NC): Which front offices are the top 5 in the draft? Baltimore and who else? The Texans maybe? Pats?

Mike Tanier: All 3 of your choices are good. I think the Giants personnel acquisition in the last few years has been great. I mentioned the Packers earlier. I think Bill Parcells will put together a top notch organization in Miami that will produce a lot of solid drafts.

Todd S. (Indianapolis): I have WR Reggie Brown in a keeper fantasy league. Do you see him ever developing into a #1 fantasy option, or is his "upside" #2 territory? (Or, since you're a Philly fan, is his ceiling even lower than #2?)

Mike Tanier: I think Brown has a ceiling as a #2 guy in the NFL, maybe lower in fantasy. Andy Reid WRs just never reach a certain level. Even Pinkston, who is thought of as some joke, reached a level where he was a decent #2 guy and just stopped. Brown seems to be the same way.

Hater (NYC): Why are you such a Packer lover?

Mike Tanier: I just took a Peter King pill. It's like green and yellow acid.

roguerouge (jp, ma): What's the best raiderjoe comment, in your opinion? And any comment on his actual identity being Al Davis? (c.f. the wikipedia entry on Football Outsiders)

Mike Tanier: A week of so ago he called Brian Brohm "broom," then "vroom". I think he is really some beat poet or misunderstood folk genius in the Harvey Pekar mode.

roguerouge (jp, ma): Best comment on the irrational spygate thread?

Mike Tanier: I don't read that. It angries up the blood. I am the one who talked Spygate in the book, so you can read some of my thoughts there.

mattymatty (Philly): Impact rookies: who ya got?!?!

Mike Tanier: I don't have a huge list. I think the Cardinals got some good guys in Cormartie and Campbell, plus Doucet. I think Ryan will do very well over time in Atlanta. The first rookie I take in my fantasy draft will probably be Jon Stewart, who will get a lot of carries and is a good fit in a rotation with DAngelo Williams

Mike Tanier: Sorry I couldn't get to everyone, but it is time to go. Check FootballOutsiders.com for book tour dates, watch me on NFLs Top 10 on the NFL Network, and drop me an email if you want to find out more about how swell the Packers are!

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