Family, Football & Unexpected Inspiration
“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” – Paulo Coelho
Sometimes in life, you find inspiration in places you never expected. The weekend of the Aug. 13-15 was just that for myself and my wife, Jen. As many know, we attended the Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, Ohio. We had been excited about this opportunity for months. The idea of getting to meet our online friends and colleagues in the fantasy football community in person was exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.
We arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday. We chose there as our destination as the airline tickets were cheaper and the flight was direct. Also, I knew In-Between Media founder and one of my best friends, Seth Woolcock, and his amazing girlfriend, Katie Mest, would have to pick us up and drive us to Canton. Selfishly, we wanted to start the trip off with the people we had grown closest with since this whole journey started.
And so it began. Seth and Katie arrived at the airport in their blue Nissan Xterra with huge smiles on their faces along with a cooler full of drinks and snacks for the 2-hour drive to Canton. As has been documented by Seth on social media, hugs were the first thing on the docket. I almost couldn’t believe I was seeing him in the flesh. We have had so many late-night conversations, not just about football, but about family and life. And there he was. It was a feeling I cannot really describe and also one I won’t ever forget.
The drive to the expo was seamless. You would have thought the four of us had known each other for years. We shared a lot of laughs and great conversations. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was perfect. What was a two-plus-hour drive went by in what seemed like minutes. Before we knew it, we were arriving at the DoubleTree Hotel, which was the site of the expo and the living quarters for a large majority of attendees.
Walking into that lobby was one of the most nervous and exciting moments I’ve ever had. The best way to describe it is that it was like walking into a room full of your oldest friends you’ve never seen in person. Not 5 seconds after walking into that lobby, Stephen Johnson was yelling “NATHANIEL THOMAS” at the top of his lungs, as promised. And so many hugs from the likes of Jay Felicio, James Kriess, Charlie Herrman (Herms), Dan Turner, Robert Johnson (Rumboyz Robbie) and so many more. If I list them all here, this column will turn into a novel. It was an amazing start to what would undoubtedly be an amazing weekend.
Over the next two days and three nights, we got to cut it up with people we knew well and made new friends we didn’t expect. We did karaoke together. Played board games and card games together. I got to hang out with my “Thieves” (a Twitter Group), my “Coming off the Edge” co-hosts and my In-Between Media family.
All of these characters were exactly as we imagined they would be. There were so many interactions over that weekend that it’s impossible to recount them all or do justice to all the people we met, so I won’t even try.
It was inspiring for Jen and me. While we like to travel, we always travel to destinations, not people. We are very much in our own world most of the time. The pandemic just fortified our bubble. Yes, we have made many friends in the fantasy football space over the last year-plus, but there’s a safety to not having to see those people face-to-face. Words and actions are important, but the in-person discomforts like wondering if you’re being judged on appearance, voice, demeanor and countless other things don’t exist. The expo changed our outlook on that.
We are going to make an effort to make our connections more real and face-to-face. We are going to start traveling to people, not just destinations. We are going to say yes to that dinner invitation. We are going to go to the park for a playdate with one of Jackson’s schoolmates. We’re going to get drinks and go camping with our friends. These are all things we have avoided for so long, but the expo reminded us why they are so important. Living outside your bubble is the only way to truly experience life. And life is out here to be experienced.
We don’t just live in bubbles in our personal lives. They exist in fantasy football as well. We are afraid of going outside of our comfort zone and trying something new. Maybe it’s a draft strategy. Maybe it’s the type of format you like to play. Maybe it’s a group of players you draft every single year regardless of value. Whatever the case is, I implore you to branch out and explore. It will make the experience more fun for you and might get someone who has never played before to join in on the fun. Your sibling, that coworker who is always asking questions or maybe even your significant other will play.
And with that, I think it’s time to get into some fantasy football!
Can you believe the season is almost here? I certainly can’t. After my first full off-season as an analyst, I’m ready to see how my predictions, along with everyone else’s, pan out. This week, as we settle into reactions from the second week of preseason games, I’ll outline a few takes I made earlier in the offseason and see how I’m feeling about them now.
Without any further ado, let’s get this thing started!
Nate’s Bold Predictions
Rookie Quarterbacks Will Have Real NFL Value in Year No. 1
“Trevor Lawrence ( QB, Jacksonville Jaguars), Trey Lance (QB, San Francisco 49ers) and Mac Jones (QB, New England Patriots) will all lead their respective teams to the playoffs in their rookie seasons. Lawrence will start all 17 games, Lance and Jones will both be given the reins mid-season and excel.”
This was one of my spicier takes here. I’m about 50 percent confident in this take now. I still believe that all three of these rookie quarterbacks will end up taking over as their respective teams’ starters this season. Lawrence will start all 17 games, if healthy, for the Urban Meyer-led Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones could very well be the starter in New England by Week 6. Lance is the least likely to end up with the starting job in 2021, but with how fragile Jimmy Garoppolo has proven to be, along with how poorly he has looked so far this preseason, anything is possible.
Here is where I think I was wrong. Jacksonville is not a playoff team. Meyer as an NFL head coach terrifies me. He is already seemingly incompetent and the season hasn’t even started yet.
I also don’t believe that San Francisco can make the playoffs. Kyle Shanahan will get that team there eventually, but with how loaded the division and conference is, it won’t be this year.
Jones seems the most likely to get his team out of the regular season and onto the dance floor. When he takes over at quarterback, he will have weapons around him like Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Damien Harris that are undervalued playmakers. Not to mention rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson, should he get more work than expected.
The Rookie vs. The Veteran
“Javonte Williams (RB, Denver Broncos) will end the season as the RB1 ahead of Melvin Gordon (RB, Denver Broncos) for the mile-high city. Williams is far more dynamic than Gordon, and Denver General Manager, George Paton, didn’t trade up in the second round for a running back who won’t have an immediate and significant impact.”
I’m standing by this take. What we have seen so far this pre-season is Williams showing his football acumen and how his skill set fits the Denver offense. In their first preseason game against Minnesota, Williams had five carries for 29 yards and also had a stellar touchdown run called back on a holding penalty.
He didn’t show as well against Seattle this past weekend, having only rushed for 20 yards on seven attempts and one reception for five yards. That said, he looks comfortable and confident in the Denver offense. Like most veteran starters, Gordon has yet to see the field, so there’s a chance we do see him separate himself from Williams. But if last season was any indication, that is unlikely.
And now, my favorite column research, the dad joke!
“Dear Math, grow up and solve your own problems.”
As always, thanks for reading. For more fantasy and life content, find me on Twitter @JeNateJackFF.