There is something magical about Opening Day of Major League Baseball (MLB). It’s usually about embracing the warmer weather, blue skies and sunshine. Opening day is a feeling of a fresh start. Every team has the same record, and this is going to be “our year.”
My most memorable Opening Day was way back when Coors Field in Denver was a new stadium. I went with my dad and brother, and we sat in the bleacher section called the Rockpille, the farthest away from the field and the cheapest seats in the house.
Opening Day tickets were tough to get at the time, regardless of the seat. So we happily scooped them up and went to the game. It was forecasted to be cold that day but nothing we couldn’t handle.
I remember being so happy to be in attendance I did not care about the cold or the seats. One thing I was not expecting was when it started snowing. Baseball is a summer game, and snow is not supposed to be part of the equation. Yet there we were, watching the game with the view of looking at a snow globe.
I have seen since that snow on Opening Day at Coors Field is more common than you would think. At the time, it was so much fun watching the game with my dad and brother with no other care in the world.
This season, Opening Day has a whole new meaning, coming off a COVID-19 delayed and shorted 2020 season. There are lots of “cares in the world” and things to consider as we push through a pandemic.
A New Hope
The MLB is moving forward with a regular 162-game regular season this year after last 2020’s 60-game shortened season. Fans will be allowed at the games in a limited number that will vary from team to team.
This season feels like a sign of a return to normalcy. It is a hope that the turmoil from 2020 is beginning to fade into the rearview mirror of life. It parallels the optimistic feeling mentioned earlier about a fresh start in life and that this is going to be “our year.”
That is not to say we do not have a lot of ground to cover until it’s completely back to normal. This is just a glimmer of hope. It reminds me of the scene in “Dumb and Dumber” when Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) is told his odds are one in a million and he says, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance? YEAH!” Optimism reigns.
2021 Draft Class: Top-10 Rookies for Fantasy Football
Nothing screams optimism like a new class of NFL rookies, especially in dynasty fantasy football. Scouting prospects with the hope each draft pick will propel your team to the next championship. Since things change after the NFL draft, I will give you my preliminary top-10 rookies in Points Per Reception (PPR) single-quarterback dynasty leagues, weighing talent over opportunity.
1.01: Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
Najee Harris is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds with good vision and hands. He’s put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and is a better receiver than given credit for, totaling 70 total receptions in the last two seasons combined. He should be the consensus 1.01 in this format.
1.02: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
Standing at 6 feet, 207 pounds, Ja’Marr Chase was statistically better than Justin Jefferson when they both played at Louisiana State University (LSU) during the 2019-2020 season. He’ll likely be a top-1o pick in the NFL draft and has the potential to be an elite fantasy wide receiver for years to come.
1.03: Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
Travis Etienne possesses a solid 5-foot-10, 205-pound frame, met with elite speed and acceleration. This, combined with sound hands that pulled in 48 receptions in 12 games his senior season, puts him at the RB2 in this class.
1.04: Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)
Javonte Williams put the University of North Carolina football back on the map in 2020, scoring 22 total touchdowns and rushing for 1,140 yards. He is stout and physical, yet elusive, and has exceptional footwork and power.
1.05: Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
Florida Gators’ tight end Kyle Pitts is 6-foot-5, 239 pounds with long arms and great hands. He clocked a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at his pro day this week and is a good enough route runner who can be lined up all over the field. He’s one of the highest regarded tight end prospects ever and could be a fantasy difference-maker at the shallowest position in fantasy football.
1.06: Devonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Some are knocking Heisman Trophy winner, Devonta Smith for his size (6-foot-1, 175 pounds). But his record-breaking college production, agility and savvy route running say different.
1.07: Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
Despite playing only five games this season before opting out, Rashod Bateman is an NFL-ready prospect. He’s 6-foot-2, 210 pounds with tremendous route running ability. He led all incoming rookie receivers with a college career dominator rating of 35 percent and could be a real fantasy force in year one.
1.08: Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
Rondale Moore is another rookie receiver with size issues (5-foot-7, 180 pounds), that produced at a high level in college (30 percent college career dominator rating). He has elite speed (4.29-second 40-yard dash), a 42-inch vertical and is an elusive open-field runner. He has the potential to be an NFL slot superstar.
1.09 Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
Jaylen Waddle, who’s struggled to stay healthy in his final season for the Alabama Crimson Tide, has maybe the most dynamic run-after-the-catch ability in the draft. Waddle is a big play waiting to happen. But his ceiling is unknown as his best season was his freshmen year when he secured 45 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns.
1.10 Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
The closest thing to a quarterback prodigy the NFL has seen since Andrew Luck, Trevor Lawrence is the day one starter with some lofty expectations. He is a pillar to build both an NFL and fantasy team around. I’d draft him here in six fantasy points-per-touchdown leagues and drop him a few slots in 4-point leagues.
A little empathy goes a long way. Try to make someone smile every day with an act of kindness. Find me on Twitter @GaryZam01 to chat about football, music or really anything.