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Family, Football & Rafting 

by Nate Polvogt

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the times you spent in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac

Why we even decided to accompany our friends on a river rafting adventure is beyond me.

It was unusual for them to suggest something like this, and it was rare for us to have accepted. We love the outdoors, but the thought of flying down a mountain river on a chintzy raft doesn’t excite me as much as it terrifies me. Yet there we were, on our way up into the mountains to ride the whitewater of Clear Creek, Colo.

Clear Creek is a well know waterway in the Denver metro area. It runs down from the mountains along Interstate 70 through Idaho Springs, Colo., and down into the plains. If you see it from the highway, it doesn’t look navigable, which isn’t comforting for someone wondering why they’re even doing this.

On the drive up, I kept telling myself, “tons of people do this, and no one ever seems to get hurt. I’ll be fine. Everything is fine.”

Six to 10 fatalities occur yearly on guided whitewater rafting tours.

We arrived at the rafting guide company headquartered in an abandoned gold mine. It’s become a mountain attraction and is visible from the highway. We parked and walked up to the large red building. Inside, guides were fitting all of us brave souls for wet suits. 

This part grossed me out. How thoroughly could the wet suits have possibly been cleaned between uses? I’m sure they were hosed off, but also, yuck. Once we were suited up, they packed us onto old school buses, and up the mountain we went to drop into the river. 

We hit our launch point after a 15-minute drive west. There was one guide and six thrill seekers per raft. My first impression of the rafts was that they seemed far too light. But what do I know? The guides split us up into groups. I was with Chris and his sister; my wife, Jen, was in the other raft. We loaded up into our rafts, and off we went. 

It was a calm start with lots of instruction on how to use our oars to push around rocks to guide us safely downstream. Then, as the speed picked up and we started to hit some rougher waters, I became more confident. Dare I say I was having fun. Navigation wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined, and I felt pretty accomplished. I enjoyed myself more with every rapid we got through, feeling the fear melt away. 

Our guide seemed impressed as we worked together to get through it all. He said so as he prepared to announce that we were approaching one of the creek’s most dangerous rapids: “Deliverance.”

My brain went straight back into panic mode. 

This was supposed to be a beginner-level trip. Yet, we were supposed to navigate this? Then, I remembered that he was the guide and had watched us get through other rapids. “We’ve got this.”

We fast approached the rapid, and it looked every bit as intimidating as the name would suggest. My adrenaline kicked in as we hit the top of the descent. I clearly remember getting through the first half, hitting a calm spot, and being immensely proud of ourselves.

Just one more drop to get through, and we’ve defeated “Deliverance.” 

The next thing I remember, I was in the water flailing, trying to find the shore or a raft. I was disoriented and confused as the water moved me downstream. Then, finally, I saw our raft and was able to get up to the side and was pulled on board. Three of the six people on our raft had been tossed out – Chris, his sister, Miranda, and myself. 

The raft had wrapped around a rock, and we were thrown out. Fortunately, Chris found shore quickly, and Miranda was pulled out of the water behind me.  We pulled the raft off to the shore, collected ourselves, and carried on back down the creek to the mine building. The worst injury anyone sustained was a huge bump and bruise on Chris’ tailbone.

I’m not usually adventurous, but after getting tossed from a raft and surviving, I’ve come around to taking more chances. Not just with physical activities and sports, but in life in general. I’ve found myself more willing to put myself out into the world, talking to people I usually wouldn’t and taking on projects I don’t know if I can do successfully. Being tossed into a river changed my outlook and allowed me to break out of my shell.  

Taking chances is something that can help you improve at fantasy football, as well. Sure, it’s easy and safe to stick to the same players everyone else is drafting or using the same strategy year after year. But if you want to win, you must put yourself out there.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Life without failure would be boring. It makes success that much sweeter. 

Now, let’s get to some football!

Hot, Medium & Mild: Take A Chance On Me

It’s not a secret that running back is the most critical position in fantasy football. Yes, the quarterback is essential too, but finding that player who is not only electric in the backfield, but also in passing situations can be a boon.

You’re essentially doubling up on points, like a one-player stack. In this edition of “Hot, Medium & Mild,” I have two under-the-radar running backs with pass-catching upside you should take a chance on acquiring in dynasty fantasy football leagues, and one I would be trying to trade as soon as possible.   

HOT — Thai pepper

Khalil Herbert (RB, Chicago Bears)

David Montgomery is the clear RB1 for the Chicago Bears in 2022. Let’s get that out of the way. Despite missing four games last season, he still finished as the overall Points Per Reception (PPR) RB19. Barring injury, he has top-10 potential. However, just because Montgomery will be the lead back doesn’t mean Khalil Herbert isn’t a valuable asset in dynasty formats. 

Khalil Herbert finished as the PPR RB62 as a rookie.

With head coach Matt Nagy out, the Bears’ offense figures to be much more dynamic in 2022. Justin Fields should be improved heading into his second season, and part of keeping him comfortable in his sophomore campaign will be short route receiving options, something Herbert was used often for in 2021. While he was targeted only 16 times due to limited opportunity last season, he caught 14 of those targets for 96 yards. 

Additionally, when spelling Montgomery or filling in due to injury, Herbert looked poised and effective in the backfield, rushing for 433 yards and two touchdowns on 103 carries, with an average of 4.2 Yards Per Carry (YPC). For comparison, Montgomery only averaged 3.8 YPC. 

Unless something unforeseen happens, Herbert will remain the No. 2 back on this team in 2022. However, given what we saw out of him last season and knowing what we know about this team, he stands to be considerably more involved moving forward.

Montgomery will be a free agent after this season unless the team works out an extension. This could give Herbert a chance to take the lead in 2023 when Fields should be hitting his stride. His current value would dictate giving up a mid-2nd round rookie pick in 2023. It’s risky if you’re leaning on him to take over. But there is no risk or reward.

MEDIUM — Serrano Pepper

J.D. McKissic (RB, Washington Commanders)

The NFL Draft may not have muddied a running back situation more than the Washington Commanders. This may be a make-or-break year for 2020 third-round pick Antonio Gibson. The team drafted running back Brain Robinson out of Alabama in April and aggressively re-signed J.D. McKissic, even though he had agreed in principle on contract terms with the Buffalo Bills. Head coach Ron Rivera has also stated he will be using a committee approach for the position in 2022. 

J.D. McKissic has had over a 75 percent catch rate in Washington.

McKissic is my bet to be the lone relevant player to come out of this backfield this season. The Commanders ripped him from the grasp of the Bills in March, which is undoubtedly a sign this team likes him and his skill set. In 2020, he had 110 targets that turned into 80 catches for 589 yards and two touchdowns.

In an injury-shortened 2021 season, he still managed 43 catches for 397 yards and two touchdowns. While his actual rushing stats aren’t anything to write home about, he is still a threat to break off the occasional 10-plus yard run and will get some opportunity in the red zone in 2022. McKissic is a riskier proposition than Herbert. I don’t doubt Rivera’s statement that he will use a committee approach. McKissic will have to have significant pass-catching usage to be relevant. Robinson is also an adept pass-catcher, and Gibson was a wide receiver in college, though he has yet to show much of that skill at the NFL level.

Acquiring McKissic will cost you a mid-to-late-3rd-round pick in 2023, a reasonable cost for potential RB2-tier upside in 2022 and beyond.  

MILD — Red Bell Pepper

Michael Carter (RB, New York Jets)  

While the Washington Commanders’ running back room is a messy situation after the draft, The New York Jets is not. When they selected Iowa State running back Breece Hall with the 36th overall pick in the NFL Draft, it was clear that the team was not content to stick with running backs Michael Carter and Ty Johnson moving forward.

While Johnson could not solidify any significant role, Carter had shown an ability to be effective and dynamic when given an opportunity. Carter will still have some fantasy value this upcoming season. He will likely continue to see a decent amount of targets in the passing game, but the high-value touches and targets are Hall’s to lose. Hall was widely considered the best running back in this 2022 class and will be the Jets’ workhorse.

If you have Carter rostered, find league-mates who have rostered Hall and reach out to them about moving Carter. He could be a valuable handcuff for those managers, but his stand-alone value could be almost nil. You should be able to get a 2023 second-round rookie pick for him. I’d take that before his value falls as we head into training camp.

That’s all for me, folks! I hope you find my spicy and not-so-spicy advice and notes useful. Until next time!

Who’s got #dadjokes? I’ve got #dadjokes!

What vegetable is cool, but not that cool?

A Radish.

As always, thanks for reading. For more fantasy and life content, find me on Twitter @NatePolvogt.

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