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Decisions, Decisions: Falling & Climbing

by Mike Tulanko

Four big brown eyes were fixed on my every word. It was the quietest it had been in weeks in the middle of the playground – I was telling a story.

Storytelling is a big way that we humans share, learn and gather information. It runs through the history of our species as far back as you can go. 

Parables, fables, tales, biographies and even what analysts “see on the tape.” Many of our experiences, warnings and encouragement live in the stories we hear, and likely the ones that are repeated to us over and over again. And whether it is the favorite story your grandmother tells about you every time she sees you or the one an analyst tells about the amazing feats a player is capable of (think Odell Beckham Jr. catch – I likely don’t even have to say more than his name and “catch,” and you know what I’m talking about), these stories shape the way we see ourselves and the world.

I was at the playground with my sons, and as their playtime hit a lull, I did something I realized that I had never really done: tell them a story about myself at their age. It went something like this:

When I was about Merek’s age (he is 8, I was a little younger), my grandma and grandpa took me to a park in their town. There were lots of swings and a jungle gym and all that other stuff, but there was also a big, steep hill that was covered in jagged rocks and slippery mud.

We went to that park many times, but I remember staring at that hill one day and thinking to myself, “I want to climb to the top of that hill.”

So, I went up to the hill, and I started to climb. About halfway up, I was slipping and unable to hold on. I went tumbling down the hill.

At the bottom of the hill, I took a deep breath, looked at it as if it were making fun of me and started to climb again. When I got to the same spot I was at before, I had the same problem: slippery feet and unfriendly rocks. This time I worked my way down to the bottom and stared at the hill again.

Somewhere in the distance, I heard my grandpa call “Chicken!” and my grandma quickly reprimand him with a “Shut up, Carl.”

Merek can’t contain himself and interrupted at this point to ask “Why did he call you a chicken, Dad?”

“Well, my grandpa probably thought it would motivate me. He had a different way of ‘inspiring’ people. But what really motivated me was hearing my grandma say, ‘You can do it, Michael. I know you can.’”

“So do you know what I did?”

They leaned in as I paused before continuing:

I climbed allllll the waaaay to the top. And do you know what I saw? There was a river on the other side of the hill and bright green grass as far as I could see. I remember staring at the river and thinking how beautiful it looked while flowing gently and quietly between the hills.

Then, I turned around to see my grandma smiling at me. I smiled back.

What do you think I learned that day?

As I finished the story, I became aware of how quiet they had been the whole time and how their wide eyes were fixed upon me as they listened to the story. They were entertained. They were analyzing the information. They were learning. 

Merek replied that I learned to keep trying. Lennox, who is 3, said that I got up the big hill just like him. Atop his bike, I had nudged his little legs up a hill on the way to the park we were at.

“That’s right, I made it up like a big boy. Just like you.”

Ultimately, this story could be a drop in the ocean of knowledge they will gain. Yet, it has been several days since the first time I told it, and I’ve either been asked to tell it or heard Lennox’s version of it almost every day since. His version usually involves him, dinosaurs,  a grandpa yelling “chicken,” a nice grandma and making it up a hill.

What I remembered in this moment is that the need for storytelling is in our bones, whether that means we are telling or hearing the stories. I reflected on how my childhood was full of stories about my family members when they were young, and how I have robbed my kids of this sort of experience so far. I haven’t stopped telling them stories since.

Decisions, Decisions: The Funny Thing About Stories

While being a vessel for knowledge or experience gained, stories usually only include one perspective. Retold by my grandma, it sounds a bit different. And, if my grandpa were here, I’m sure we’d get some clarity on the “chicken” comment. All three of us brought different perspectives to the events of the story and certainly do the same in the telling of the story. All three of us held different values and experiences which drove the narrative.

Such is life. Such is fantasy football advice. I’m going to tell you some stories about football players from my perspective. See if you can guess who they are. #ScrollingIsCheating

Player A

In his five-year pro career, this QB has only dipped under 60 percent in completions once, which was last year at 57.4 percent. This dip is no surprise to me because he was sacked 50 times (most in the league), which is 13 times more than in any other season.

This quarterback had 15 interceptions (30 percent of his career interceptions) which was also the most in the league. Most of those sacks and interceptions were given up on non-blitz plays and in only 12 games. This makes me think that this player wasn’t the most protected QB in the league by a long shot. I saw some of his games and can confirm this via the “eye test” as well.

Considering that his career completion percentage high is 69.7 percent and his TD/INT ratio high is 33/seven, there is hope that, behind a line that gave up less than a third of the sacks of his old team, this player can find his “true” form. He is a buy-low-where-possible candidate for me.

Player B

Three seasons have passed since this player dipped under a 67.3 percent completion percentage. This is more impressive considering that he has been throwing to career JAGs (just a guy – I hate the term, but it applies), rookies and a player the league had all but given up on.

Somehow, with an injured line and subpar receiving corps, he was still a borderline QB1/QB2 last year depending on your scoring. In 2021, he already has one receiver upgrade, and we are expecting the two rookie wide receiver prospects from last year to step up and mature into the game as well. There was also an upgrade at the running back position which will give him a more heralded talent to throw to, and this QB likes to throw to his backs. In superflex formats, he is a much-overlooked QB2, and I’m all about him.

Player C

From 2010-2018 this quarterback had a knack for torching the scoreboards every even year. In 2020, that streak was broken, yet he still finished in the low-end QB1/high-end QB2. This past season this QB had 407 completions on 626 attempts, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. By all measurements a relatively middle-of-the-road season for him. His wide receiver core is pretty sweet, but the running back room and line leave something to be desired for sure.

The new head coach also has spent the last two seasons running a ground-and-pound offense. The tea leaves are looking like you have seen the best of this quarterback, and while he has the talent, his upside will be limited going forward. Oh yeah, and he will be 36 at the start of the season. There are certain types of players that I don’t mind retiring on my roster. He isn’t one of them. Get what you can for him after a big game or two this season, especially if it’s close to the playoffs and you aren’t contending.

Player D

His team/organization is garbage, and, OK, let’s say injury-riddled at best. His stats are unimpressive, not a 4,000-yard season yet in two years of league play. He wouldn’t even project over 4,000 if we adjusted for injury. He did have 423 yards rushing in 2020, which is two more than fantasy darling, Josh Allen in two fewer games. Then again, 80 of that is on a play in which this quarterback notoriously fell down before hitting the end zone. For all those yards, he only has one rushing touchdown. Compared to Allen’s eight rushing touchdowns, it feels like this quarterback is less Konami Code and more running for his life.

That being said, he has had some amazing throws, but we can say this about most starting NFL quarterbacks. This player is also going to be only 24 entering this season. Assuming his team doesn’t draft another quarterback, post-draft will be the time to trade him and a piece to an owner who is down on either Player A or Player B. Good luck!

The Reveal

So who are these players? You probably already know, but just in case you don’t, I’ll tell you:  Player A is Carson Wentz. Player B is Derek Carr. Player C is Matt Ryan. Player D is Daniel Jones. They are all very close in value according to the Dynasty Trade Calculator – the spread is fewer than two points in 12-team super-flex leagues. However, they should be valued very differently in your heart and your mind.

So, what do you do after learning about these quarterbacks trying to climb up that fantasy hill? Look for a lesson that applies to you, much like Merek and Lennox did, and use it to shape your perspective. You get to choose between your roster’s story of “falling and climbing” or “climbing and falling.”

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


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