The Football Diner Big Interview:
interviewed by Jody Jamieson
WalterFootball.com is one of those website you stumble upon by accident. But when you do, you never leave. It has everything you'd ever want in a football site. Comprehensive draft analysis, betting tips, previews, reviews, and even a parody of a potential Head Coaching job with the New England Patriots for Emmitt Smith. The message board on the site currently has over 9,000 members, and is growing every day. This week I caught up with Walter Cherepinsky, the Godfather of Walterfootball.com.
Walter, a 26 year old Penn State graduate living in Philadelphia, started the site when he was in High School, and now along with Matt McGuire (who is on location at the Senior Bowl right now doing some excellent coverage from Mobile, Alabama) has built a website to rival any other out there on the Internet for all your football needs. The Senior Bowl coverage is definitely worth checking out as Matt has caught up with a lot of interesting prospects, scouts, and even an agent who admitted he likes to check out the website to see which prospects he should try to make contact with.
Walter graduated from Penn State in 2006 with a sports journalism degree, and while working full time on his website, also volunteers as a swimming coach at George Washington High School in Philadelphia. I spoke with him on Thursday about the past, present and future of the site, the upcoming Draft, and of course, Emmitt Smith.
FD: How did your website start, and how has it grown to the size it is today?
Walter: My Web site was actually a project in my high school Internet class. I stuck with it as a hobby after graduating in 2000. After switching my major from computer science to sports journalism in 2004, I used my site as something to put on my resume. It got me part-time jobs at two local newspapers. After I graduated college, I worked in mortgages. I hated it, and the day I planned on quitting was the day I was actually fired. So, being pretty angry about that, I worked on my site more than ever before. I read up on how to generate traffic, and before I knew it, I received some advertising offers. That's when I knew I could do it full-time.
FD: Emmitt Smith takes a beating on your site. While we get ESPN coverage for Monday Night Football, we don't get studio coverage. Why did Emmitt become the source of such hilarity?
Walter: First of all, I'd like to say that I like Emmitt Smith as an analyst. Sometimes he actually says some pretty insightful stuff. But at other times, he's hilarious with his nonsensical and grammatically incorrect remarks. I ran two or three Emmitt quotes each week on my picks page during the 2007 regular season because I thought it was a disgrace that ESPN hired a guy who couldn't even come close to speaking English correctly. I received positive feedback from the quotes, as many people asked for more. So, I really started paying attention to everything Emmitt was saying. I released my Emmitt Anthology back in February 2008, and e-mailers told me they loved it. I then went on to create the Emmitt NFL Mock Draft and the Emmitt on the Brink. I'll have another anthology soon.
FD: Emmitt on the Brink is a popular spoof on your site. Do you have any plans for something similar next year?
Walter: Definitely - the Emmitt on the Brink will be back. Originally, I was deciding whether to make it a weekly feature on the site or a book. A friend of mine suggested that if the feature becomes popular, I could subsequently release a book. I may plan on doing that in the future, but the Emmitt on the Brink feature will return in the fall. If I write a book related to the Emmitt on the Brink feature, I'd like to talk about some of the side material, such as the Eating Cereal With the Stars competition and Tom Cruise's intergalactic peacekeeping.
FD: What else does your website cover in depth that would be of interest to any fan, be they US or UK based?
Walter: Well, the most popular feature on my site are the NFL Mock Drafts. I guess people enjoy mock drafts in general because it combines the NFL and college football, and it gives fans hope for next season. Other popular features include NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, Fantasy Football Rankings and the NFL Picks.
FD: It's Super Bowl time again and the Cardinals will face the Steelers in the big one. Even those who don't follow the NFL like to have a little bet on Super Bowl Sunday. Where should the smart money go and why?
Walter: It seems like bettors have been going against the Cardinals the entire postseason. The Cardinals have greatly benefited from the "Us Against the World" mentality, and I think they'll still have that on their side in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh is favored by a touchdown, even though Arizona's coaching staff is familiar with the Steelers' personnel (Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm used to coach the Steelers). People who have gone against the Cardinals the entire postseason have lost money. It looks like that could happen again.
FD: Not everyone in the UK is clued in on spread betting. Can you explain how it works and what the benefits are?
Walter: Spread betting is very popular in the U.S. Instead of just winning the game, a team has to win by a certain amount. For instance, the Steelers are favored by 7. If you bet the Steelers, they'll have to win by more than seven so you can claim your money. If they win by 1-6 points, you lose. Conversely, if you take the Cardinals, you'll win your bet if they either win or lose by 1-6 points. If Pittsburgh ends up winning by exactly seven (matching the spread), all bets are nullified.
FD: What are the trends you look for when deciding on your picks in the regular season?
Walter: I have a whole list of trends on my site. I'm not a huge trend bettor, but I won't ignore them either. The most important part when it comes to handicapping the NFL, in my opinion, are psychological factors. I try to determine whether a team will be emotionally charged or drained for a game. I make it an effort to predict if a team will overlook an opponent before a difficult game or not. If you look at my NFL Picks page, you'll see that double-star Psychology edges are hitting better than 67 percent against the spread this year. You can live off of that.
FD: The Draft is obviously one of the biggest events on the football calendar, and is heavily covered on your site. Where is the best places to go for Draft coverage and information in the lead up to April 25th?
Walter: Because the NFL Draft gets more popular every year, more and more draft-related Web sites have emerged. In fact, I have a mock draft database on my site that tracks when other sites update their mock drafts.
FD: With the Detroit Lions on the clock, what do you think they should do, and what do you inevitably think they'll end up doing?
Walter: I believe the Lions will take Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford with the top choice. Detroit has a new regime in place, and that usually means a new quarterback as well. In my opinion, Detroit should copy what the Falcons did a year ago - take a quarterback first and then build an offensive line to protect him. The Lions are lucky enough to have two first-round selections like Atlanta in 2008.
FD: And how does that leave the rest of your Draft board at the top at the moment?
Walter: The second pick is Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith going to the Rams. The third choice is USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, going to the Chiefs. The fourth selection is Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree going to the Seahawks. At No. 5, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry to the Browns.
FD: With Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford declaring, while Sam Bradford stayed in school, out of those three who do you think will have success at the next level, and did they make the right decisions?
Walter: I don't think Sam Bradford made the right decision. Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart and Brian Brohm all stayed a year to late, and look what happened to them. They all fell considerably the next year. Out of the three, I feel as though Bradford will have the most success at the next level. He just seems to have "it." The same "it" that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have. Even though Matt Stafford has the strongest arm in the group, if I had to bet on one of those three quarterbacks, I'd go with Bradford.
FD: And of course Tim Tebow is already the big story of the 2010 Draft. How do you see him projecting and working out? I know it's been heavily discussed on your site.
Walter: Many people dislike Tim Tebow, and I have no idea why. He's a great leader and a philanthropist. While some football players rape women, steal valuables and drive drunk, Tebow does all the right things. Yet, he's hated more than some of the scumbags out there. Tebow definitely has his challenges ahead of him - poor mechanics and the transition from the spread option to a pro offense - but I believe he has what it takes to overcome those obstacles and succeed. I'm not going to be ignorant and simply declare that Tebow is a pure H-back in the NFL, and I'm also not saying that he'll be the best quarterback of all-time. But if Tebow is given a fair shot, I think there's a very good chance he could succeed. I'll be pulling for him because he's one of the good guys.
FD: One other player who decided not to declare is Myron Rolle, who accepted a Rhodes Scholarship invitation to study at Oxford. How has that decision been met with football people in America, and how do you see it working out in terms of his 2010 Draft stock?
Walter: Some people applaud Myron Rolle, while others are confused. Rolle was a second-round prospect, so he could have made some money playing in the NFL before studying. But that's what his heart is set on, and it's his life to live. Being out of football for a year will hurt Rolle's draft stock. He'll be taken in the middle rounds.
FD: Do you have any sleepers who may emerge over Senior Bowl week, or even the Combine?
Walter: As for the Senior Bowl, Matt McGuire is doing a great job of covering the practices. Free safety Louis Delmas and receiver Brandon Gibson have really stepped up their game. As for the Combine, a little-known running back from Wyoming named Devin Moore could run a very low 4.3, or possibly a high 4.2. That will catch someone's attention. Also, Phillip Hunt, a defensive end from Houston, is athletic and will put up very good combine numbers.
FD: Who strikes you right now as a potential bust?
Walter: Anyone can bust. I hear some people say, "Oh, he's a safe pick." There's no such thing as a safe pick. A few years ago, there was an offensive tackle from Iowa who was considered the safest pick in the draft. His name was Robert Gallery. If I had to choose someone to be a bust, I'd say Aaron Maybin. It hurts because I'm a Penn State alumnus, but Maybin is undersized and has just one year of productivity. At the same time, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Maybin become a Pro-Bowler. The NFL Draft is that much of a crapshoot. If a genius like Colts GM Bill Polian can't hit on every selection, that should tell you how risky every selection is.
FD: If someone who has never watched Draft weekend unfold decided to check it out for the first time, where should he go. ESPN, or NFL Network?
Walter: The NFL Network will probably give you better analysis, but ESPN has better presentation. I personally stick with ESPN, but that's because I'm used to it. That said, if Emmitt is asked to do the draft coverage, I'd suggest tuning in to ESPN to hear him "debacling" his draft analysis.
FD: Looking to the offseason, the moving and shaking between Head Coaches and General Managers began a long time ago. Wholesale changes rejuvenated the Dolphins. Who do you think has the best chance to do something similar in 2009?
Walter: There's no coaching change here, but a team I'd really look out for is Cincinnati. Most people don't know this, but the Bengals had the 12th-ranked defense in 2008. Their problem was Carson Palmer being out of the lineup. But even with Palmer sidelined, they had a 4-3-1 record in their final eight games. I really look for the Bengals to reemerge as playoff contenders in 2009, barring major injuries.
FD: Speaking off the offseason, what keeps you busy during the long summer with no football?
Walter: Like I always say, football is always going on. After the NFL Draft, I compile my season previews and keep track of free agency. I also start getting my fantasy football rankings together for the following year. Before preseason begins, I do have more free time, however, which allows me to work on some side projects. I run another Web site (http://prosalesguide.com/) with my friend and neighbor, so I'm looking forward to working on that more often. I also mentioned the possible Emmitt on the Brink book, so hopefully I'll have enough time to get into that before August.
FD: Thanks for talking to Football Diner!
Walter: No problem!
Be sure to check out Walter's web site: WalterFootball.com