“The Mundies” is a column series by Scott Rinear, awarding life and fantasy football. Now in its second year of publishing, this column presents an optimistic outlook on life and an analytical approach to the game. Read forward as Scott discusses how to be content amidst disappointment and the 2023 NFL Combine winners.
A Prestigious Nomination
I recently had the honor of being nominated for a writing award for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). Specifically, I was nominated in the category of “Best Fantasy Football Ongoing Series” for an article series I write for FantasyData entitled “Fantasy Football Beneath the Surface.”
I did not win. I wanted to win, but I did not. And that’s fine.
I was shocked to be nominated alongside the other nominees, many of whom I have looked up to in this industry for the past several years. It’s been a little over two years since writing my very first published fantasy football piece, the inaugural installment of this column series. I did not set out in this industry with awards and accolades as my goals. Yes, recognition and kudos feel good. I’d be lying if I said those things don’t matter to me at all, even when my imposter syndrome tries to convince me they are not deserved. And yes, as I said, it was amazing to just be nominated.
I was giddy during the month between the nomination and the awards show. I saved the awards show date, Feb. 22, in my calendar. As the date approached, I was increasingly excited and nervous with each passing day.
Battling Inner Dialogues
My self-confidence issues have improved greatly over the last five years, but it’s still a roller coaster ride. Even now, there are days and spans of days where I fall into the trap of comparing myself and my work to other people. There are moments when the voice telling me I should just bail on all of this gets louder. In light of this, simply seeing my name on that nomination list was a massive deal for me. But I am human. I am a competitive human. Most people who love sports as much as me are competitive. I really wanted to win.
The day of the awards show was nerve-wracking, wondering as the first few awards were revealed if my name would be called. I got caught up in it. Then the category for which I was in the running came, and then it went. I did not win. I’ll admit, I was pretty bummed out, and some of my older and more toxic thinking patterns bubbled to the surface.
“Well, there you have it, Scott. You still suck.”
“Wow, Scott, you thought you had a chance to win.”
“Well, that was fun for a minute. Now back to no one giving a s*** about your work.”
I know this is irrational thinking. Yet, this is a place I go to sometimes when things don’t go my way. I know I don’t suck. I know I did have a chance to win, and there are people out there who are fond of my content. Those inner dialogues still happen. I’ve just gotten better at not listening to that voice.
And in this case, this bummed-out battle with myself was brief. Some good friends who I’ve grown to love dearly reached out to remind me of the accomplishment of receiving a nomination. I quickly replaced the pity party thoughts with something much healthier – motivation.
I started my next article that night. This experience reminded me of the common and important cliché, “winning isn’t everything.”
Winning Isn’t Everything
I’ll admit, choosing to write about this took some self-convincing. I’m careful nowadays not to let my ego drive the bus, and I didn’t want this to come off as humble bragging. But I am proud of the work I have done in this space up until now, and I’ve worked very hard at it. And it’s OK not to win. In most competitive sports, when you don’t win, you lose. That’s a basic structural component of competition. But that’s not the case here. After quieting the voice telling me I’m a loser, I know I didn’t lose anything.
It’s completely normal to have a reaction when you don’t win.
In the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) program, we celebrate clean time milestones with keychains and coins denoting how long one has stayed clean. This recognition is important, but it’s not why I stay clean. Generally speaking, it is the same for me in the fantasy football space and many other areas of my life.
In many ways, I despise being the center of attention, but ironically, I also crave attention to a certain extent. But I think that it is as natural to want to win. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. Where I believe it can become an issue is when it takes over as the primary motivation.
Give It To Lynch
In my younger years, I wrapped too much of my mental and emotional capital into winning and ensuring everyone in my vicinity knew when I did something noteworthy. I still do this and still have to check myself. I’ve said it many times over, but no one, especially me, is perfect. I can know that using a tactic like fishing for compliments is not the way I want to roll. Despite this knowledge, I still do it. But it used to be almost debilitating.
An appropriate example of this was Super Bowl XLIX between the Seahawks and Patriots. That loss sowed seeds of change for me. I am a lifelong Seahawks fan, but something changed for me on that day. The brutal ending destroyed me. Maybe I mentioned this before, but I didn’t allow myself to watch the highlight of Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception until 2021. I did not like how I reacted to that game.
The significance of the mental impact was not healthy, and that is when I began pulling back, bit by bit. Not my general fandom, but rather, my emotional commitment to the results. I worried at first this would lessen the joy of victories.
The harder it rains, the brighter the sun when the rain clears.
And I’d admit that this result has happened, but so be it. As life has gotten busier and more complicated over the years, the amount of available square footage of my mental capacity has shrunk. I simply can’t tie so much into whether my sports teams win or lose.
Instead, I can try to learn and look at the positives. Earlier this year, the Seahawks lost a playoff game to the archrival 49ers. It still stung, but I was fine with it soon after. I see the season as a positive, as they weren’t supposed to even sniff the playoffs. Maybe this is just a defense mechanism to avoid or lessen potential pain, but it’s how I choose to operate now.
When Winning Isn’t Possible
The most crucial area of my life where accepting that “winning isn’t everything” is with addiction and mental health. It goes one step further here because winning isn’t possible. Thinking I could win my battle with addiction was a major problem because it allowed me to throw my struggles in the “I’ll deal with it tomorrow” basket for years. Only once I let go of that notion could I get healthy. Sure, at any given time I can be winning the battle between addiction and crippling anxiety. But, the fight doesn’t end until I die. Hopefully, this will happen while I am clean and at peace.
The British musical artist Ren profoundly summed up these realizations I’ve had in his song “Hi Ren.” At the end of the song, Ren carefully lays his guitar down and bestows a powerful message, including the following:
“As I got older, I realized there were no real winners, and there were no real losers in psychological warfare. But there were victims, and there were students. It wasn’t David versus Goliath. It was a pendulum, eternally between the dark and the light. And the brighter the light shown, the darker the shadow it casts. It was never a battle for me to win; it was an eternal dance. And like a dance, the more rigid I became, the harder it got. The more I cursed my clumsy footsteps, the more I struggled. And so I got older, and I learned to relax. To soften, and that dance got easier.”
In the fantasy football world, it’s easy to forget how rare it is for a human on this planet to be invited to the NFL Combine. I can only imagine participating and receiving that recognition is one of the thrills of each individual’s life. Of the invitees, a smaller group of them make it to the NFL, and only a handful go on to any level of success.
Even though I’m looking at all of it from a fantasy football angle (which inherently focuses my time on a limited set of players), I try to maintain perspective. I am not critical of a player whose 40-time or height/weight are below expectations or not ideal for fantasy success. I still provide analysis factoring in those results, but I refrain from criticism of the player himself because winning isn’t everything.
And now, The Mundie Awards.
The Mundie Awards – 2023 NFL Combine Winners Edition
Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina Tarheels)
Josh Downs is one of my favorite WRs in the 2023 rookie class. I’m not talking about my WR1. For now, that is Jaxon Smith-Njigba (JSN) out of The Ohio State University. I like Downs right now without knowing his draft capital or landing spot because I think he’ll go higher in the 2023 NFL Draft than expected. Starting with his college production profile, Downs checked a lot of boxes heading into the NFL Combine that have been relatively predictive for success at the next level.
Here are some of Downs’ statistics and attributes:
• He’s an early declare, meaning he declared for the NFL before his fourth college season. Not every early declare goes on to a successful fantasy football career. But a significant number of WRs who do show fantasy success in the NFL were early declares.
• Break-Out Age (BOA) of 19.1 (87th percentile). BOA is when a college WR first reaches a 20 percent Dominator Rating (when a WR is responsible for at least 20 percent of his team’s receiving yards and touchdowns).
• Third highest Points Per Reception (PPR) points per game in his college career, behind only JSN and Jalin Hyatt
• 2023 class leader in career target share and routes run per game
• Fourth highest in Yards Per Route Run (YPRR)
• Over his final two college seasons, Downs caught 295 balls for 2,364 yards and 19 TDs.
The knock on Downs and the aspect that might see him fall in the draft is his size. Downs’ official size at the NFL Combine was 5 feet 9 inches, 171 pounds. And that brings with it the typical list of weaknesses, including below-average run blocking and difficulty winning off the line of scrimmage in press coverage. That is why he’s likely not a first-round prospect.
But just like early declare status, you have to look at other metrics beyond size. Downs was very good in the other NFL Combine drills. He ran a solid 4.48 40-yard dash. Downs isn’t a burner like the aforementioned Hyatt. For context, former WR Jordan Addison ran a 4.49 40-yard dash.
Downs also turned in an excellent vertical jump (38.5 inches; 12th highest) and broad jump (10 feet 11 inches, [eighth longest]). This combination is categorized as “Elite” in the Relative Athletic Scoring (RAS) by Kent Lee Platte with Pro Football Network. I’ll be closely tracking Downs’ draft capital and landing spot, as he could be one of the multiple early-to-mid second-round targets in dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts.
Dynasty Superflex (SF) Rookie Picks 1.02-1.07
I am changing things up a bit with this Mundie Award. Plenty of players showed out at the NFL Combine, but this award goes to the domino effect likely in play at the top of rookie draft first rounds. Former University of Florida QB Anthony Richardson showed he is one of the most athletic QB prospects ever during the NFL Combine. Regardless of what any of us think or project with Richardson, he likely secured his place in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Just like the NFL doesn’t care if we want our RB1 to get more carries, the NFL doesn’t care if you think he’ll be a bust because of his college completion percentage.
The market is already shifting quickly following the NFL Combine, with Richardson being discussed as the potential 1.01 over Bijan Robinson (in superflex leagues). This was not the case a short time ago. With Richardson potentially jumping into the top two of superflex rookie drafts, this extends the first-round tier one to Pick 1.07.
Either JSN or University of Alabama dual-threat RB Jahmyr Gibbs could fall to 1.06, which wasn’t a likely outcome without the Richardson ascension. Pick 1.02 is in a great spot now, with fantasy managers having a choice between the best three QBs (Richardson, C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young) or smashing the draft button if Robinson isn’t selected first overall. Pick 1.03 will have two of the top three QBs to choose from. Pick 1.04 will also have a shot at one of them.
Not long ago, the 1.04 was looking at either reaching on the former University of Kentucky QB Will Levis or picking between the WR1 (JSN for me) or the RB2 (Gibbs for me). Now a tier-one QB should be available. The 1.05 now has more options with both the WR1 and RB2 to choose from (and also Levis). The 1.06 will also have the WR1 or RB2 available, and the 1.07 now sits at the end of this first tier instead of the start of the next one.
This is all speculation based on my view of the post-NFL Combine dynasty market. Some will have a different WR1 and RB2 than me. Some will have a different tier break, perhaps including Quentin Johnston, Addison or another RB. I have both of those WRs ahead of Levis. If I’m at the 1.07, my best-case scenario is either JSN or Gibbs.
We still have draft capital and landing spots to come, and rookie drafts play out a thousand different ways. Buts that’s the nature of the NFL offseason. We speculate until the first things happen. Then we analyze the first things and speculate about the second things. Rinse, repeat. Just keep this generalized speculation in mind, especially if you want to move or acquire one of these picks.
Thank you so much for reading! As I have moved toward more analytics-based fantasy football content, my goal is to provide that content in a manner that is as easy to digest as possible.
Advanced analytics are very useful, and I think they can be explained simply and logically. Please feel free to reach out to me to explain more about the analytical concepts I present in these columns. My Direct Messages (DMs) are always open.
And as always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.