10 Questions with Walter Football: NFL Draft Expert And Penn State Alumnus
We recently caught up with Penn State alumnus Walter Cherepinsky (@walterfootball), who runs a popular mock draft and fantasy football site WalterFootball.com. Cherepinsky started the site in October 1999 and has seen it expand tremendously since then. The site currently works with Yardbarker, a subsidiary of FOX Sports. The website features NFL Draft analysis, fantasy football advice, and a whole lot more, including humorous sections like Jerks of the Week.
Onward State: What made you want to start a website devoted to mock drafts and fantasy football when there are hundreds of them on the Internet, and how has it grown since you first started it?
Walter Cherepinsky: I actually started the Web site as a high school senior in my Internet class back in the fall of 1999. We were asked to make a site about something we liked, and I love football. But I don’t think the thought process of “there are hundreds of something, so I shouldn’t do it” should deter anyone from doing what they love or really want to do. Think about Google and Facebook; they came out when Yahoo and Myspace existed. That didn’t stop them.
OS: By the time the draft rolls around, you have a complete seven round draft. With how much parity there is during the draft, how accurate are your predictions every year?
WC: Drafts are difficult to predict because of trades, but I think I do a good job of making accurate selections. I spend a lot of time studying the teams and I have some sources that come through, so that really helped me this past April. I think outside of Mike Mayock’s, my mock was the most accurate out of all the major publications.
OS: How do you go about scouting/evaluating players, and what do you usually look for when you do that?
WC: I wouldn’t say I’m a scout. I watch all of the games and have sources that my NFL Draft writer Charlie Campbell and I talk to in order to allow me to make projections on my site. I see what I see by watching games, and then I hear what some actual scouts say about players. Charlie also has great write-ups on all of the players. So I basically consolidate all of the information.
OS: What do you think about Allen Robinson’s draft prospects this year? Could he possibly be a first or second rounder if he declares?
WC: I have Allen Robinson atop Round 3 right now to the Jets, but I’ve been trying to slot him in the second round. He has a chance to be a late first-rounder, but he’ll probably be chosen in the second.
OS: It’s a few years away, but have you started evaluating Christian Hackenberg as a prospect? What do you see in him, and how high in the draft do you think he can go?
WC: I normally wouldn’t look at freshmen, but I’ve been able to watch him as a Penn State alum. It’s obviously way too early, and a lot can happen over the next three years, but right now, I’d be willing to predict that Christian Hackenberg will be a first-round pick.
OS: As a graduate, how closely do you follow Penn State football when your job is to look at football games objectively?
WC: I don’t watch as many Penn State games as I’d like to because I have to keep track of everything else, but I’ll always try to catch parts of Penn State games I don’t have to cover. I’ll obviously watch all of the big games because they’ll include multiple draft prospects.
OS: What is your favorite Penn State football memory from your time here?
WC: Without a doubt, it was Penn State’s victory over Ohio State in 2005. The Nittany Lions were undefeated then, but they were underdogs against the Buckeyes. It was a “White Out” game, and it was the first big matchup Penn State had when I was a student because the team wasn’t very good from 2000-2004. It was cold, dark and rainy, but everyone was going nuts after a big victory. That was definitely a magical fall. That team was fun to root for. Not only were they great, but they had so many good guys like Michael Robinson and Tamba Hali.
OS: Was there anything from your time at Penn State that made you want to get into the fantasy football/NFL mock draft world?
WC: I changed my major after my eighth semester at Penn State. It’s rare to switch majors that late, but I struggled with computer science and I really wanted to do something I liked. I always loved writing about football, so I figured it would be a good idea to do that. However, I wasn’t sure if I could cut it as a full-time football writer. Some of the journalism professors here were great, including Mike Poorman and Bill Reed, and they helped me immeasurably.
OS: You also do a ton of stuff with fantasy football. How much work goes into analyzing/predicting/ranking how players will do every week?
WC: It’s a ton of work. During the season, I say I work about 80 hours per week. I watch all the games and try to read all of the news clippings. I can’t complain though because I used to do this for fun.
OS: If you could be a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would you be and why?
WC: I’d say a Brontosaurus. Everyone says I wasn’t real, so I’d love to prove everyone wrong.