Family, Football & Urban Sprawl
“Family, Football & This Adventure We Call Life” is a year-round column by Nate Polvogt that shares a Colorado dad’s outlook on life and his weekly advice for fantasy football waiver wire pickups. Nate enters the Week 6 waiver wire run in his third season of writing and with the pride of being hot on 2021 league-winner Rashaad Penny early.
The modern city is probably the most unlovely and artificial site this planet affords. The ultimate solution is to abandon it. We shall solve the City Problem by leaving the city. – Henry Ford
Growing up in Colorado was amazing. In the 1980s and 90s, Denver was often referred to as “The smallest big city in the west,” and for good reason. While we had a somewhat bustling downtown area with a few skyscrapers, no one was confusing us for New York City. It was low-key, with quaint, mostly family-owned restaurants and music venues, mainly located on the 16th Street Mall – a street that runs through the heart of downtown and was converted to a walking mall in the early ‘80s. It wasn’t yet considered a hub of business or technology. The city’s buildings were mainly populated by banks, financial institutions or real estate firms.
Small Town Feel
Back then, the population was half its current total of just under three million metro-area residents. So it wasn’t unusual to run into someone you knew when out and about running errands. It also wasn’t uncommon for a stranger to wave and say hello or initiate a conversation in line at the grocery store. If you’ve ever played the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” you could probably cut that to three degrees for anyone residing here.
I grew up in the suburb of Wheat Ridge, directly west of Denver. Our house was less than a mile from the city limits and 15 minutes from the heart of Denver. It was an established neighborhood with mostly brick homes built in the 1950s. Instead of the wood slate fences that are common now, we all had short, 4-foot-tall chain link fences that were easy to hop from yard to yard.
It honestly never felt like we lived in a major city when I was young. My recollections of how small it was might be a tad off, but not by much. There was a lot of vacant land and open space, even in and around the city. You could drive north of the metro area and be in the plains in 20 minutes, surrounded by wheat, corn and cows. To the west, you could be in the great Rocky Mountains in 20 minutes and above the timberline in 30.
Times They Are A-Changin’
In general, the pace of life here was slow. Colorado was, at the time, one of the more affordable “big cities” in the country. People tired of the hustle and bustle of the places they called home took notice. Starting in the very late 1990s, the population boom in the Denver area began.
What had been vacant land and open space began to fill with office buildings, apartments and housing developments. Where there were once farms became massive planned communities with homes, businesses, stores and restaurants.
Low corporate tax rates also began drawing in business from outside the state. The Denver city skyline started changing rapidly with the addition of multiple skyscrapers, housing everything from telecommunications and energy companies to luxury apartments. The boom in business drew in even more new residents as many companies relocated corporate offices to the city.
With the boom in population came a massive increase in traffic. It all happened so quickly that it was impossible to keep up. Our infrastructure quickly could not handle the volume it was now tasked with. There wasn’t enough housing to accommodate the influx of people, and housing prices skyrocketed. For those of us who grew up here and have called Colorado home for most of our lives, “the smallest big city in the west” had become unrecognizable.
Not My Colorado
What started just before the turn of the millennium is still rolling today, and our local leaders are still struggling to keep up. Tall buildings and even taller construction cranes now populate the Denver cityscape. Major highways are constantly under construction, and getting anywhere in the city in under 20 minutes requires a hoverboard.
The small talk conversation with a stranger has been replaced by cold silence and the waves in traffic by horns and blank stares. I still see people I know when out and about, but rarely is it acknowledged by either party. I know my neighbors, but we rarely talk and certainly aren’t friends.
The Denver metro area has become so busy and overcrowded that we hate leaving home. When we first moved into this house in 2010, we could drive five minutes to the west and be among open prairie land and horse properties. Now, once you get past the intrusive and irritating construction mess, you’ll find large apartment buildings and more storage unit complexes than any one city should have.
The charm of this now metropolis is all but gone. The quaint brick homes have been torn down and replaced with quickly constructed modern architecture. Old landmarks like the Denver Diner struggled to survive and have been wiped from the cityscape. Family-owned restaurants and shops that once littered the city are now few and far between.
Here & Now
I can’t say all the growth here is bad. We have an amazing craft beer scene here with some of the best options in the country. Denver is also heaven for anyone who loves food. We have more variety than most know what to do with. If you want it, we’ve got it here.
And it’s not like the mountains went away; they’re just harder to get to these days. What was an hour’s drive to get your skiing or snowboarding on is now close to two with traffic. Thank goodness I hate both.
But for all those positives, the biggest negative takes a front seat.
What was one of the most affordable places to live in the country is now one of the least. It’s one of the symptoms of an economic boom. Many who live in the city work in those tall buildings downtown, earning a significant six-figure salary. I’m not hating on them at all, just simply stating the obvious. I understand the why. The problem is the “what now?”
Jen and I have been Colorado residents since 1982. We both loved growing up here and have been the typical proud Coloradoans for most of our lives. I never thought I’d see the day when there was a chance I had been priced out of my hometown. However, that time could be approaching soon.
Regardless of where life leads us, I will always be proud to have come from this beautiful state.
Unexpected pivots are a part of life and fantasy football. It’s how you handle those pivots that sets you apart from the field.
Week 5 was again a brutal week for injuries and fantasy football player values. Nearly every fantasy football manager felt the sting.
• Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to be a mystery, only managing to put up 10.3 fantasy points against the Cowboys. He is the overall QB26.
• Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk did a disappearing act in Week 5, catching one pass for 11 yards.
• After a breakout performance in Week 4, Seattle running back Rashaad Penny suffered a brutal leg injury, ending his season with the Seahawks.
It’s getting tougher and tougher to fill these empty roster slots. The Week 6 waiver wire will be like a Black Friday sale at Walmart. So strap on your helmet, and let’s jump into the mess in this week’s edition of “Hot, Medium & Mild: Week 6 Sneaky Sleepers.”
Hot, Medium & Mild: Week 6 Sneaky Sleepers
It’s a long NFL season; every week is as important as the next in your push to glory. You win and lose seasons in the trenches.
You might be scared heading into Week 6, and I don’t blame you. I have some rosters begging Frank Gore to unretire, and I bet you do too. Lucky for us, we had some players emerge over the weekend that could save our bacon. I’m highlighting two wide receivers and one tight end that people are buzzing over. I have thoughts on what I think the smartest play is for each, so let’s get down to it.
HOT — Charleston Hot Pepper
Darius Slayton (WR, New York Giants)
As we begin the steady march to Week 6 of NFL football, the New York Giants are sitting at 4-1. As shocking as that may be to read on its own, it’s even more so when you consider how beat up this team’s receiving corps is. Quarterback Daniel Jones has had to spread the ball out, targeting 13 different players so far in 2022. This past Sunday, in a big win over the struggling Green Bay Packers, fourth-year wideout Darius Slayton emerged as Jones’ new favorite pass-catcher.
Given how injuries have stacked up in the Giants’ receivers’ room, it’s not surprising a healthy Slayton led the team in targets for Week 5. With all three of Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson inactive, he managed to haul in six of his seven targets for 49 yards. Unfortunately, it appears as though all three are again questionable at best to play this week against a sub-par Ravens secondary.
The Giants have managed to claw their way to the second-best record in the NFL a third of the way through the season. Jones has worked to be serviceable with what he has, and the emergence of Slayton as a reliable target helps this team gain some stability. He could do the same for your fantasy rosters if he stays in good favor with his quarterback and head coach Brian Daboll.
What To Do
He is currently rostered in 0.2 percent of ESPN leagues, and it’s unlikely your league mates have him on their radar. The Baltimore defense is giving up an average of 37.1 fantasy points to wide receivers. With Slayton likely to be the primary target for Jones, he is a reliable FLEX play based on expected volume. Get him rostered for two percent of your Free Agency Acquisition Budget (FAAB) or with a low waiver priority.
MEDIUM — Dundicut Pepper
Cade Otton (TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
One of the keys to being a successful fantasy football manager is flexibility. That has been highlighted this season with the tight end position. Outside of Baltimore’s Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce, you’re lucky to get a consistent output from the position weekly. This has made streaming the position almost a necessity in 2022. Rookie bookend Cade Otton has entered the scene as a viable option.
Otton, a fourth-round pick out of Washington, started the season third in line behind fellow tight ends Cameron Brate and Kyle Rudolph. However, he has slowly climbed the depth chart with both veterans missing time due to injury. The result is him seeing more opportunity than expected at this point in the season. Last week, in the absence of the concussed Brate, Otton saw career-highs in snap percentage (94), targets (seven), catches (four) and yards (43). The most important part is quarterback Tom Brady didn’t shy away from targeting the first-year tight end.
What To Do
Brate is likely back for the team’s Week 6 contest against the limping Pittsburgh Steelers. However, Otton is now slated as the TE2 on the Bucs’ depth chart, and coach Todd Bowles hinted that his role wouldn’t change much last week from this week. If that proves to be the case, he could be in for another solid double-digit fantasy point outing this week. If that happens, he could also be a reliable starting option moving forward.
With him still being behind Brate on the teams’ depth chart, your league mates aren’t paying attention to him. Scoop him up after your Week 6 waiver wire runs if you need a tight end pivot.
MILD — Espelette Pepper
Khalil Shakir (WR, Buffalo Bills)
The Buffalo Bills put on another master class in offensive wizardry last week against a struggling Pittsburgh Steelers squad. Quarterback Josh Allen had 350 passing yards, and the Bills had a commanding lead before halftime. With receivers Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder and Jake Kumerow all out due to injury, rookie pass-catcher Khalil Shakir got an opportunity to showcase his skillset.
Shakir was the Bills’ fifth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. He was a workhorse receiver in college at Boise State, recording 77 catches for 1117 yards and seven touchdowns in his senior season. There was excitement about the electric playmaker coming out of college, and he made the most of his chance at an expanded role. Shakir caught three of his five targets for 75 yards and a touchdown as Allen’s fourth receiving option behind Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins. Unfortunately, while it was nice to see, it’s unlikely to be something you can rely on for your fantasy football rosters.
What To Do
In addition to Mckenzie, Crowder and Kumerow being out last week, tight end Dawson Knox was also on the sideline against Pittsburgh. McKenzie, Knox and possibly Kumerow are all expected back for a Week 6 battle against the Kansas City Chiefs. Shakir will return to his previous spot role, barring injury, zapping all his fantasy value. Should things change later in the week or down the line this season, he could be rosterable and will be available on waivers. Otherwise, steer clear of Shakir for the foreseeable future.
I hope you find my spicy and not-so-spicy Week 6 waiver wire pickups and notes useful. Until next time!
In the spirit of the season, I’m going to throw a spooky Halloween #DadJoke your way. Hopefully, it takes your mind off your fantasy football worries!
What kind of horses do ghosts ride?