Decisions, Decisions: Seasonal Intelligence

AHHH! No! No! No!

King. Conqueror. Underwear barbarian. Four-year-old Lennox sizes up his brother, Merek (almost 9), and decides the challenge is worth it.

Lennox stomps over to his brother, who just swiped a tiny transparent yellow Lego piece. These are affectionately referred to as “golden” by the mighty warrior, Lennox; and they are as valuable as cigarettes are in prison. Storming Merek and his Lego spaceships, Lennox picks two up and annihilates them into unrecognizable rubble against the ground in one vehement throw.

“LEEEEENNOOOOX!” Merek half whines and half bellows in frustration.

As his brother grasps Lennox’s arm in blinding rage, our pal Lenny squeals in anguish and runs into the kitchen to seek refuge for his tears on the shoulder of his father. Merek pleads his case for his reaction and realizes he needs to apologize after a couple of careful questions from dad about how the previous actions built into the conflict that just occurred. Lennox climbs down and says he is sorry as well and offers to help Merek fix the spaceships.

Peace is restored to the Tulanko household … this time. 

For now, emotional intelligence prevails.

Decisions, Decisions: Seasonal Intelligence

Want to see an intelligent person? Go look in the mirror or use the selfie feature on your camera. But what is intelligence? Why does it matter in fantasy football? Is this a stat-nerd column? Quite the opposite.

While you undoubtedly have a fabulous Intelligence Quotient (IQ), what comes into play in fantasy success during the season is another type of intelligence:  Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI). And you want to employ it from your pre-draft process through the inevitable playoff run you will go on.

Cool … But How Do I Use That?

The three people in the scenario above engaged with emotional intelligence in three different ways. Much like Merek, Lennox and their dad, you can employ EQ in your life, but you can also point it toward your fantasy draft and beyond. 

Lennox realized how upset his actions made Merek and wanted to make him happy again. People snipe your picks. Preseason injuries happen. Players have rough games. These things all are bound to happen at some point. What is important is to find it in yourself to bounce back quickly and realize that these events do not target you. Just like Lennox’s anger was toward the action Merek took, not Merek himself. Take a breath. Take a quick break with a favorite distraction. It will be okay. Remember, we play this game for fun.

Merek was guided by questions to reflect on his actions and how they lead to his anger as well as the idea that anger just wasn’t worth it. If you run into some unexpected scenario in your draft or the season, roll with it.

Sniped again:  Who is the next player that makes the most sense? Your player is injured:  how can you acquire a replacement until they heal? Is this player’s terrible game this week indicative of their talent or potentially an outlier? These types of questions will settle your mind and have you focus on what you can control. Similar to Merek, you can control your solution.

The dad, instead of escalating further by expressing his frustration with the children, calmly rerouted them to a resolution they all know is peaceful. Flexibility is important in life and in fantasy football. You can mock a draft until you fall asleep with your phone in your hand and still have no idea what will happen in your actual draft.

That is OK. That is life. The key to a successful plan or strategy is the pivot. When it all goes sideways, what will you do? Will you get frustrated or will you calmly reroute to a new resolution?

When It All Goes Sideways

Wait for just ooooone moooooore pick. Eyes squint a bit. A finger touches the cold, uncaring screen. Several minutes or hours later … “Damn it!” 

You had planned on getting a top-tier tight end on your fantasy team in your start-up draft or redraft league and waited too long. This is a universal problem. Travis Kelce is gone. Darren Waller is gone. George Kittle is gone. But your composure doesn’t have to vanish.

Before you jump to grab the next best TE with your next pick before he is gone, take a breath. If you play dynasty, you probably have the luxury with your slow drafts to take a walk or drive with some songs you can’t help but sing or at least bob your head to – just another reason dynasty is great. 

OK. Now that you are starting to focus back on the draft, let’s start with some questions.

  • Who are you playing with?
  • What are their typical strategies and habits?
  • Does the next TE give you the best road to success this fantasy season?
  • How about in the long run?
  • Is this TE valued higher than the next swath of fantasy talent you find yourself staring at in other positions?
  • What else should be considered when it comes to this next pick? 

Once you assess these questions with a clear head, you work on the pivot. That pivot is most likely a player from the next tier. Or, in a TE-premium fantasy league, maybe two of them. No one will argue that any of these players (except maybe Kyle Pitts because the hype is real) are going to give you the production that the big three will. In cases like this, look at players and think about what outcome is most likely to happen to each. 

Mark Andrews (TE, Baltimore Ravens)

For Mark Andrews, it is probably closer to last year than his 2019 season. Touchdowns are a shaky stat to depend on, but it is fair to say that the eight touchdowns he had in the red zone seem attainable for this big red-zone target in the future.

It is doubtful that his team switching to an air raid style any time soon, yet Andrews is surely a fixture of the passing game here. What you saw last year is what you get as the floor and anything higher is a bonus.

T.J. Hockenson (TE, Detroit Lions)

We launched into the 2020 season with considerable hype around T.J. Hockenson. Now with Jared Goff at the helm, a receiving corps that is depleted and the Lions seemingly in re-rebuild mode, it is hard to not fade Hockenson to the end of the pack here. His talent is there, and he may be a good player to try to pick up on the cheap after this season in the abyss. This is not a win-now move though.

Kyle Pitts (TE, Atlanta Falcons)

Oh, Pitts. The only reason for hesitation people have here is the fear of a sure thing. Every shiny new rookie is amazing until they are not. However, with Julio Jones now gone, there is a clear lack of a well-defined No. 2 target behind Calvin Ridley. Some would even argue that Pitts could vault into the No. 1 role.

The tale of the tight end is usually one of needing time to mature into the role. Pitts is more of a massive wide receiver though. Overall, tempering expectations for this rookie on an underperforming Falcons team is not crazy. Just look at the others’ current quarterbacks. Woof! That being said, Andrews is the only one to take in front of Pitts.

Noah Fant (TE, Denver Broncos)

The early two-game burst from Noah Fant after teammate Courtland Sutton’s Week 1 season-ending injury was just that – a burst. Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick quickly cut into the workload for Fant. The return of Sutton this season leaves three solid receiving prospects to catch balls from Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock this season. If Aaron Rodgers magically appears in Denver, I’d upgrade all receivers. But he is busy living his best life on the golf course right now. 

Mike Gesicki (TE, Miami Dolphins)

Finally, you have Mike Gesicki. The arrival of Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle, coupled with Miami’s devotion to Devante Parker, casts doubt on how much work Gesicki will get this year. It is honestly disappointing to see two more wide receivers enter the fray after watching Gesicki progress last year. Still, he most likely gets similar red zone work which can give any tight end the weekly boom-bust value many players like.

So What Do You Do?

Flex your emotional intelligence! If you just had the third tier-one tight end fall through your clutches, choose whomever you like above. Maybe two. Caution:  Don’t be like Lennox and smash right away just to regret it instantly. Know that there is probably another positional player to take this round that will give you more solid weekly – and potentially long-term – production. Take them with confidence and continue relaxing. After all, fantasy football, like playing with Legos, is supposed to be fun!


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

@TheThirdMike