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Decisions, Decisions: A Quest for Certainty

by Mike Tulanko

Let’s choose our own adventure! I used to love those books as a kid. I dreaded the first couple of pages and then decided to make a choice and move to the page the book told me to go to based on that choice. Then I read a few more pages and made another choice. I was certain that I made the best choices each time, but the same thing would happen as I read on. 

The Choose Your Own Adventure Series sold over 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998.

Soon I would start leaving a finger on the last page because they always had a fiendish mummy, a perilous jungle temple, or some other ominous, wild animal on the cover that would surely maim you in one of the many variable endings. I promise this column will be much safer. If you don’t believe me, you can always leave your finger on the last page you read. 

OK! It’s adventure time! Just let me grab my keys and we will go.

“Wait! Where in the hell are my keys? Shit! I’m gonna be late. Ugh! Where Are they?”

I’m standing in front of a small chalkboard in my dining area that says “119 days till Florida.” The message taunts me as I stare at the empty key hooks below it. Deep breath.

I head out into the front room to check the desk. I toss them there often after returning home because my work phone and headphones are usually there too. As I breeze into the room, the keys are nowhere to be found. Where to next?

I whip around to look at the coat rack. I am lazy sometimes and toss them right on top of that thing when I walk into the house. I figure “Oh, I’ll see them as I leave.” Just dust up there. Damn.

Back to the dining area. Are they on top of the wine rack? Hmmm … No!

I race up the stairs, almost tripping on the first couple, and my shin blasts my bedpost. I grimace and grunt in anguish, yet the frantic search continues. They aren’t in the master bathroom, on my nightstand or on the dresser. 

Ah Ha! I remember having them yesterday. Check the jeans I wore. Empty, empty, empty, EMPTY! Not in those pockets.

“Arrgh! Where are they?” 

I feel the heat of the blood coursing in my veins. I practically slide down the steps as I retrace all the previous spots I had checked. Stomp my way to the front door. Fling it open in a desperate rage. And there they are. In the door.

Cue facepalm.

Certainly, I’m Not Alone, Am I?

OK, time to dissect the Choose Your Own Adventure book! Buckle up!

Have you ever asked yourself, “Where are my keys?” (If yes, proceed to the next paragraph. If not, continue reading this paragraph.) Have you ripped up your house looking for your wallet/purse/whatever? (If yes, proceed to the next paragraph. If not, continue reading this paragraph.) OK, have you ever freaked out because you couldn’t find your phone? (If yes, proceed to the next paragraph. If not, you are awesome and I need you to teach me your secrets after you proceed to the next paragraph and imagine what it must be like to lose things.)

A tiger sprung out of the jungle and mauled you it’s the circle of life. 

Column over. 

Just kidding!

While going through the list of places where your lost item might be, chances are you started with the location you felt most certain you’d find that item. You were “sure” that you left it there! Then, you progressed through the places you were less likely to find them. Inevitably, the missing item was found. Sweet relief.

The idea of certainty is fascinating. I was certain my keys were in the dining room … until they weren’t. Certainty seems so fixed, dependable, or even inevitable. 

It is a truth of which you are self-assured. But what is truly certain in life? I’m about 90 percent certain your list of answers to that last question is short.

Percentage of Certainty

I don’t have to scroll far on my timeline at any point in time to find people operating in the language of total certainty. It is highly reassuring … until you think about it. How can I trust someone who is 100 percent certain about the uncertain? If they can’t be honest with themselves, how are they being honest with me?

Before you read into this any further, this is not an attack on anyone. The things this kind of brash certainty does very well are catching the eye, getting the comment, and ruffling some feathers. Many of us are out here in the fantasy football space just trying to get you, the reader, to engage with us. This is true of folks outside of this space as well. In a world of constant stimulation and information, the language of absolute consistently reassures or challenges audiences and their perceptions. This can be a good thing or bad.

What is even better is to shift the way we engage. Ask for the level of certainty. I’m curious what kind of answers (on non-answers) you get. Tag me!

Now that you are all fired up, realize this next fact is true as well. In a world where so much is left to chance and in a game where there is so much uncertainty, it’s OK to have 90, 80, 70, heck even 50 percent confidence or certainty in one’s analysis. Injuries, coaching changes, unforeseen talent and chemistry, a pandemic, weather, scheme changes on either side of the ball and so much more affect every precious fraction of a fantasy point. The only thing one can be certain of is that these chance events will affect projections and insights.

If someone doubles down on the 100 percent, ask them to bet you. I would. But the reasonable analysts will have a level of confidence in their analysis that they will share.

Now, I’m not on the hunt to expose anyone, pull receipts, point fingers, etc. to me, that isn’t productive or kind. But I have made some observations from trends that I see and I would like to bet in relation to them.

If you are familiar with my board bet work with the peeps at Fantasy Football Breakdown (@FF_Breakdown), you know I love a good bet … and sometimes a silly one. You can find further evidence of my history of paying them off here.

Here are a couple of bets I’m making in regard to trendy pre-NFL Draft prospects this year.

Decisions, Decisions

Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)

While Najee Harris is the No. 1 RB rightfully so and Travis Etienne is right behind him for most, I find myself intrigued with Javonte Williams. Given the way the NFL values running backs, I see him slipping to a team with a need that is elated to grab him up in the second round. 

Javonte Williams had the sixth-most rushing yards (1,140) and third-most rushing touchdowns (19) in college football during the 2020 season.

Is he a punishing runner with good size and balance? Totally! However, the most consistent thing I read, hear and see for myself that jumps out is his vision and patience.

Why vision and patience? One of the knocks I’ve seen consistently is his speed. However, if you are patient, can see holes in the defense and don’t shy away from contact because you know you can stay up and running, do you need to be the fastest running back? I don’t think so. 

He may not be the lead rusher on whatever team drafts him out of the gate, but I see an 80 percent chance of Williams putting up the most Points Per Reception (PPR) fantasy points of any running back on the team that drafts him. 

In the NFL and fantasy, talent just needs to meet opportunity to make magic happen. This score takes injury possibilities and a committee approach into effect. He has three-down back chops and I can’t wait to see them.

If Williams is not the highest-scoring back on his team, I will run 5 kilometers in those jorts you got to see earlier. Please don’t let the Ravens draft William (refer back to wanting to save your spot in the book in case of imminent doom) Yikes!

Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)

Look, I am bought in on the idea that a top-three tight end can make a massive impact on the outcome of a fantasy season. It took me a while to get here, but I’ve jumped on the caboose of this train. I know Kyle Pitts is a phenomenal talent and has the track record as well as what feels like universal buy-in. 

He is #undeniable. But I don’t think the value is there in dynasty rookie drafts. The first-year success rate for highly-touted TE prospect production is historically, not great. They typically end up on teams that are, let’s say, rough around the edges.

Kyle Pitts is projected to be the eighth tight end drafted in the first round since 2015.

Since the 2015 NFL draft, Eric Ebron, O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, David Njoku, Hayden Hurst, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were the only first-round tight ends. I remember us salivating over more than a couple of them in a similar manner as we are now during peak rookie fever season.

Only one of these paths played out in a way you weren’t strangled by the mummy on page 76 in the first season of the fantasy football adventure. In defense of the trend, Engram was the leading target on the Giants in 2017 because pretty much every other noteworthy receiver on the team was wrecked for the better part of the season. Eli Manning’s most consistent options that season were Engram, Sterling Shepard, Engram and also Engram.

Is Kyle Pitts different than all these guys? Sure. 

Just as there is no such thing as a “sure thing” in life, there is no such thing as a “sure thing” in fantasy football either. One thing I know to be true though is that I play in a lot of superflex leagues, and there is no way I will get him in most because he will be over-drafted in a fair amount of them. At the end of the day, he is a tight end. Not only that, but he is most likely going to be a tight end that will probably be stuck on a rebuilding team or one with other mouths to feed. 

I have 75 percent confidence that he will not be a top-seven tight end in year one. It just doesn’t typically happen that way for tight ends. I’d rather take my chances on a QB early in my rookie drafts and try to pluck Pitts from someone who is worried after year one should he not live up to the hype. I chose the top seven because the top two or three tight ends are the real difference makers in fantasy. Around seven is where the points drop off into TE no-man’s-land. If he is a top seven PPR tight end in 2021, I will livestream my sons as they pie me in the face on Superbowl Sunday. I’ll even let Nate Polvogt (@JeNateJackFF) choose the pie flavor.

Make today a great day! And don’t forget to be awesome (DFTBA)!


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