fantasy football buy low

Trash Talk: Playing Tourist at Home

“Trash Talk” is a monthly column about life, the lessons learned along the way and some goofy connections between that and fantasy football. Now in her second season of fantasy football writing, Trash Sandwiches talks about hidden gems in her home state and early fantasy football buy lows.

Real Talk

Playing Tourist at Home

It’s easy to take the place you live for granted. I’m a Vermonter. I was born and raised here, and it’s where I live now. Sure, some of the old-timers would say that you have to be seventh generation to call yourself a Vermonter, but they’re wrong.

fantasy football buy low
My last Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour in 2014.

Vermont is a great state, with beautiful mountains and waters, friendly people and a strong sense of place. It’s not big, ranking 49th by population and 45th by size. And one would think that after all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen it all.

But when you live somewhere, it’s easy to get stuck in a routine. There’s always a reason, whether it’s trying to avoid the crowds at popular places, schedules or just saying, “I’ll do it another time.” I know I’m guilty of this; I’ve lived mere minutes away from the Ben & Jerry’s Factory for over four years, but I think it’s been about a decade since I took the tour.

Exploring where you live requires effort and intention. It can feel weird playing tourist, but I’ve been doing just that and have had so much fun discovering more of my home state.

A Mission to Do a Thing

To make it easy for intrepid explorers, both Vermonters and visitors, the state has the 251 Club. Their mission summarizes it best:

“Since 1954, an organization of Vermont enthusiasts whose objective is to visit all of the state’s towns and cities” (Side note: 251 originally comes from the number of towns, but the actual number counted today varies).

How you go about doing this is up to you. Some people stop at a post office in each place. Others look for a hiking trail. A recent newspaper article talked about a dog who peed in all the towns.

For myself and Abbie, the friend with whom I’m completing the challenge, our mission is to do a thing. That thing could be anything from food to recreation or a general store. One very tiny town was even checked off with a stop for snacks and a portapotty.

Inspiration Over Brunch

As of publication, our town count is 47 plus, with the plus accounting for a few places that we’ve probably been to but need to confirm by searching our photos and racking our brains. One town was actually checked off just hours before I began writing while at brunch, although it was on that “yes, but when” list. 

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Even back in 2015, before the official start, food was a crucial part of exploring a town.

And while out to brunch, discussing our upcoming adventures and sharing our assorted stresses, I mentioned that I was struggling with an idea for my next column. Naturally, that’s when the idea hit to talk about our 251 Club travels.

Abbie and I are both originally from Vermont and met while at college in Burlington, Vt. We’ve lived together in various dorms, apartments and other places, and I even spent a summer living with her family. After graduation, we both moved away for a few years, then returned around the same time.

Starting during our time in college and continuing ever since, we’ve always enjoyed a good day of touristing and exploring a new place. The first towns consciously checked off the list happened in late March of last year (three towns, which included two sugarhouses during Maple Open House Weekend and a friend’s hobby farm), but our 251 quest has really been going on for over a decade.

How to 251

Now with my topic in mind, I asked Abbie to name some of her favorite places, whether from our early days or the more intentional efforts of late.

And unsurprisingly, the first place she mentioned was a delicious hole-in-the-wall barbeque restaurant that even a meat-loving friend who used to live in that town had never heard of. This obviously began a conversation around our favorite foods from different towns (I should mention that at least 15 towns on the list have something food or beverage-related listed as our thing).

And because the 251 Club doesn’t really have any rules beyond “visit all the towns,” I’m going to make some of my own.

251 Club Rule No. 1: Eat

This kind of goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. Food is wonderful. Go to restaurants in new towns. Take a farm tour (there are usually samples). Sometimes the food will end up being your favorite thing about a town, and your town memories read, “incredible chicken sandwich, yummy chocolate mousse cake.” Other times you get a grilled cheese with soggy bread and unmelted cheese, but it’s still a memory and a good laugh.

251 Club Rule No. 2: Do the Big-Name & No-Name Stuff

This one could also be called “A Tale of Two Cemeteries.” Now I realize that a cemetery visit isn’t for everyone, but we both love them. Hence why another highlight that Abbie was quick to mention was “that cemetery.”

Elia Corti was fatally shot following a political dispute, and this memorial was carved by his brother.

No, not the famous Hope Cemetery, which is also called “the museum of granite sculptures,” where many granite stonecutters and artisans created their own elaborate tombstones.

The massive 65-acre cemetery has over 10,000 memorials, ranging from musical instruments and airplanes to portraits and a replica of Michelangelo’s “La Pieta.” It’s easy to understand why it would be a favorite, and it’s one of mine.

But that’s not the one she meant. She was referring to a small, unassuming one tucked away in a tiny town. It was nice, with your typical turn-of-the-century headstones carved with weeping willows and doves. Nothing extraordinary, but a very pretty spot to wander around and ponder the past together.

All of this is to say that the big, well-known places are great, but so are the little spots off the beaten path.

251 Club Rule No. 3: It’s the journey.

Many of our trips follow a similar structure: start with a place, whether that’s a town from the randomizer or an interesting spot from your adventure to-do list. Then look up the surrounding towns and what’s in them. Maybe the randomized town doesn’t have a lot going on, but it has a hiking trail with a nice lookout. Find a nearby town with a good place to eat (see Rule No. 1). Check if there’s a museum or interesting shop in the area. Take the scenic route. And always keep an eye out for roadside attractions!

A Westford, VT resident erected the middle finger sculpture following a local zoning dispute.

Enter the middle finger. Abbie found a list online that included a massive middle finger statue located right along the route for our next 251 trip. So we plugged the location into Google maps, arrived at our destination and… it was not there. The pin had led us to a farm with a farmer out front on his tractor, who then proceeded to give us the most quintessential small-town directions:

“Head back that way a few miles. When you go down a hill, there’s a blue place on the left, and it’s just past that on the right.”

Back the way we came. After six miles and several “this is a hill! And there’s a blue house!” false alarms, we finally found it, an enormous middle finger sculpture that doubles as a weathervane. Sure, many would have given up before reaching it or considered the 12-mile backtrack a waste of time. However, it’s all about the journey and the many shared laughs along the way, looking for hills and blue houses.

Even if you don’t come to Vermont and take on the 251 Challenge, you can use the model as inspiration to explore where you live. Make it a point to play tourist, visit new places and stop for the cheesy things that you’ve driven past a million times. It’ll give you a greater appreciation for where you live, and it’s a fun (and potentially free) way to enjoy your home.

Now I suppose I should take my own advice and get on the Ben & Jerry’s tour…

Fantasy Talk

Hidden Gems and Fantasy Football Buy Lows

Like finding the middle finger or other quirky hidden gems around your home, it’s important to find the gems in early redrafts and best ball leagues. The offseason is just beginning, and many player situations will change as soon as free agency opens up next month, making this a good time to look for value.

Identifying some players to buy low on in fantasy football can give you an early edge in drafts, and these are a few players who I believe are likely to outperform their current Average Draft Position (ADP).

Jamaal Williams (RB, Detroit Lions)

If you want to talk about early draft value, Jamaal Williams might be the ultimate fantasy football buy low at the moment. He’s currently going in the Points Per Reception (PPR) RB33-38 range, which feels like a steal for a player coming off a borderline-RB1 performance in which he finished as the RB13.

Jamaal Williams was fined $31,827 throughout the 2022 season for his hip-thrusting touchdown dance.

Yes, overall scoring is a bit of a misleading metric, and his impressive 17 touchdowns certainly padded that stat, second to only Austin Ekeler, who finished as the PPR RB1 with 18 TDs. But Williams also racked up the seventh-most rush attempts (262) and 10th-most rushing yards (1,066) in the league, giving him a healthy 4.1 Yards Per Carry (YPC). He was a monster in the red zone, taking 84 percent of the team’s rush attempts inside the five-yard line and also leading the NFL with carries inside the 20 and 10.

Touchdowns aren’t a sticky stat from year to year, and regression is likely due, but usage is stickier. In addition to having almost half the team’s rushing yards, he also had nearly a 50 percent opportunity share, which includes rush attempts and RB targets.

Even with D’Andre Swift returning healthy in 2023 and taking a chunk of Williams’ work, there’s plenty of value in snagging an RB2 with high upside later in the draft, which is where Williams is going. While he hasn’t re-signed with Detroit yet, he has said he wants to stay there, and that little bit of uncertainty could make this buy-low even cheaper.

Tyler Lockett (WR, Seattle Seahawks)

Another player going at what is likely to be a steep discount is Tyler Lockett. He finished the season as the PPR WR13 overall and WR18 on a points-per-game basis. This is above fellow Seahawk D.K. Metcalf, who ended as the WR16 overall and WR26 on a points-per-game basis. While Metcalf edged out Lockett a bit in overall receptions, targets and yards (90 receptions on 141 targets for 1,048 yards, as compared to 84 receptions on 117 targets for 1,033 yards), Lockett was more efficient.

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Tyler Lockett has finished as a PPR WR2 or better in five straight seasons.

He had a higher catch rate (71.8 percent) and racked up more Yards Per Reception (YPR) at 12.3 yards. Lockett also scored three more touchdowns than Metcalf (nine versus six), which is not something we can rely on going from one year to another, but good to know they gave him scoring opportunities.

I believe that we can rely, however, on Lockett outperforming his ADP again this year. He was drafted last year as the WR37 and finished about 20 spots above that. He’s currently going in the WR32 range, while Metcalf is being drafted as the WR15, despite only finishing above that mark by points per game once since entering the league.

Meanwhile, Lockett hasn’t finished outside the top-24 at the position in points per game since 2018 and the Seahawks are unlikely to make major changes heading into the 2023 season, meaning his role is secure. Waiting a few rounds in fantasy football drafts to buy low on Lockett is a smart way to get solid production at wide receiver and save earlier picks for players with more upside.

Although the offseason is only just beginning, it’s a great time to look for hidden value in drafts or even make some trades based on current market value. Both Jamaal Williams and Tyler Lockett are players I’, eyeing as a fantasy football buy low, with later-round draft capital and a good chance that they’ll outperform expectations.

Thanks for reading my fantasy football buy low candidates for early 2023 redrafts + best balls! If you like my kind of trash, you can read more here and follow me on Twitter @trashsandwiches.