Letter to the Editor: The Rejection & The Recovery

Dear In-Between Media,

Even writing this is the culmination of small victories. That is the single most crucial factor to recognize. To get to even your current place, you have stacked wins. But around those victories lies defeat. It is much easier to see and feel the failure, eventually getting trapped by it. 

I was in the middle of signing the paperwork on a new minivan (Honda Odyssey, pimp ride all the way) when I received the email. Even being in that place was recognizing a victory, the need to upgrade a vehicle due to growing family capacity requirements. The odds of not receiving the email were infinitely small. Approximately one percent, based upon my rough math, but I am not a math major (accountant dad joke). Still, at that moment, it can be impossible to maintain perspective.

To even hope not to receive the email speaks of the confidence we can grow within ourselves. This specific email was rejection from one of the most notable fantasy football brands after I applied for a writing position. I express sincere gratitude and appreciation for the feedback offered from their hiring process.

In retrospect, it seems trivial to allow one setback to knock us off our feet. Often a severe reaction can be the result of many minor speedbumps building on each other. Steering back on course is not easy. Focus on what makes you, you. Build and improve areas of weakness.

The email was not the first email, and it will not be the last. There was one in November that lingers. And there was the message from 2016. “Why bother? ESPN is not going to hire you; use your time better elsewhere.”

That message cost me five years. Then, I found my why.

This journey is about developing ourselves. I do not pretend to have the answers and am lost. You can roll your eyes; that is fine. I am not a self-help author. I am just a guy who is processing in his way. What works for me will not likely work for you. But we all must find our way to process, regroup, and recover.

Now, for another of my whys.

Sleeper to Watch

Jonnu Smith (TE, New England Patriots)

My Dearest Jonnu,

Yeah, I know, the self-help gobbly gook is what it is. We are here for football. And as such, it’s time to channel #eliTE and shout out Jonnu Smith.

Smith started 2020 on fire, averaging 17.52 Points Per Receptions (PPR) points per game through the first four weeks of the season. For perspective, Darren Waller locked in a TE2 finished averaging 17.5 PPR points per game.

Smith’s early stat accumulation saw A.J. Brown out of the lineup. His return shifted Smith to the background, dropping his targets from 6.8 per game almost in half to 3.5 targets per game, with yards following right in line, 55 per game, down to 20.

The last PPR TE1 Bill Belichick and the Patriots produced was Rob Gronkowski in 2018, who finished as the TE11 in 13 games.

So why Smith? First, follow the money. Bill Belichick struck quickly in free agency to make Smith the third highest-paid tight end in the NFL.

The chase was on as his value rocketed up, but a matching contract to Hunter Henry cooled the collective. For any other coach, questions about the plan are fair. Belichick, however, has given us a blueprint.

2011 was the only year we saw overwhelming playing time for both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. They split 113 and 124 targets, respectively. These targets occurred with Wes Welker leading the league in receptions at 122 on 172 targets. Hernandez missed two games, putting his pace at eight targets per game.

The Patriots used 12-man personnel (two TEs) on just two percent of their snaps, the least of any team in the league last year. Belichick recognized the need to innovate the third-worst passing offense in the league. Absent the ability to add a true #1 WR, he pivoted to an old idea that never got to realize the true potential.

But conceptually, how do these two TEs work together?

Hunter Henry, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews are the only tight ends to repeat PPR TE1 finishes in 2019 and 2020.

First off, to be very clear, Henry is not prime Gronkowski. Obviously, but some people snark. Henry is however an exceptional in-line TE, posting a strong PFF run-block score of 68.8.

Smith is a classic Move TE, a trait we have seen the Titans utilize in the past, lining him up anywhere between fullback and split wide.

These two allow the Patriots to utilize base 12-man personnel while displaying scheme versatility. The advantage is most apparent in no-huddle situations.

The Patriots can catch a team in an advantageous personnel package and pin them with tempo. As defenses continue to transition to base-nickel formations, the Patriots counter their lack of top receiving options with different personnel.

The Patriots are throwing back to 2011 and putting Smith in a role that saw eight targets per game. His talent allowed him to put up top-two TE numbers for the first month of the 2020 season on 6.8 targets per game. Henry is no Gronkowski, and there is no Welker on this roster.

Smith should be the primary receiving option and is still just 25. He has the single-best odds to end up as a top-five TE of any player currently ranked outside of that tier. Get him now.


This column is a letter to the editor, submitted by Jeff Bell. To find more of his content, follow him on Twitter, @4WhomJBellTolls.