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Start, Sit & “A Fantasy Life”

by Seth Woolcock

What is it about fantasy football that draws myself and so many others each year?

For me, it’s that fantasy football is so similar to life.

No matter how much you prepare, plan and adjust, fantasy football, just like life, is unpredictable and full of curveballs. And you just have to keep on moving.

That’s why I have decided to write this column, especially after hearing that longtime ESPN writer and personality Matthew Berry announced he will no longer be writing his famous “Love/Hate” column.

When I was young, Berry, along with so many other sports journalists and columnists, was who made me want to pursue a career in journalism.

So this one goes out to the Talented Mr. Roto, Field Yates, Stuart Scott and so many more writers who have inspired and helped me get to where I am today without even knowing me.

I remember when I was in the 10th grade, and all I wanted for my birthday was a copy of Berry’s best-selling book, “Fantasy Life.”

I wanted the book because if it was anything like “Love/Hate,” it would be the perfect blend of fantasy football and his life experiences.

It was exactly that, and after reading through the book and being content, I put it on my nightstand, where it remained for the next six months.

That is, until Nov. 10, 2014, the day everything changed.

Looking back on my life, there have been only a few dates that resonate in my mind, but none more than that snowy, fall day in my hometown of Kane, Pa.

It was just another day in the 11th grade, trying to stay awake in my business law and ethics class.

I received a text from my older brother, who was attending IUP at the time, that read, “Go to the bathroom.”

After going to the restroom, I entered the farthest stall to the right and dialed his number. After I hung up the phone, it was as if smoke had filled the old green- painted stall.

I exited the stall in tears to see my neighbor and one of my best friends, Davis. He already knew and embraced me.

When I reached the corner of Tionesta Avenue and Cherry Street, my worst nightmare became a reality. Flames filled my family’s home and smoke poured out the bedroom window, where I had just lain the night before.

Following the fire and after the fire department deemed it safe, we were allowed to enter the house. My bedroom, less burnt than the others, still reeked of smoke.

There on my nightstand, just like the day before, laid my copy of “Fantasy Life.” I grabbed the book along with a few other salvageable possessions.

I held onto the book for months after, but I finally decided to part ways with it after the stained smoke smell reminded me too much of that day.

What got me through that time, you ask?

Besides the comfort of my friends and the fact that I knew I had to put a smile on my face for my younger brother and sister, it was sports.

Wrestling season and the NFL became my two biggest time occupants after the disaster.

After the fire, I had to move schools. And the following year, I played in only one fantasy league.

That year, I checked my team far less than ever before. Maybe it was because I had no one to enjoy NFL Sunday with, or maybe it was because it was just painful to think back to when life was simple, and all I cared about was fantasy football and chilling with my best friends.

Well, after basically taking the year off from fantasy, I came back to it as I entered my freshman year here at IUP. I was reunited with my hometown friends, and the passion for the game began to burn inside me once more.

Now, a junior in college, and editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, some of those friends and I officially started the “Bottomline Fantasy Podcast,” a place where we can be ourselves and just talk about the game we love that brings us all together.

Thank you, Matthew Berry, for showing me the similarity between fantasy football and life.

Now let’s get to it.

Quarterback I’d Start this Week:

Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers):  With Philip Rivers now finally having a healthy Mike Williams back in the No. 2 wideout position and facing a depleted Kansas City secondary, I think Rivers is a must-start unless you have one of the elite options available (such as Rodgers, Brady, Newton, Brees, Wilson or Watson).

 In the offseason, Andy Reid’s secondary lost cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Marcus Peters. And with Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry remaining a huge question mark, it’s the perfect time for Rivers and the Chargers to capitalize.

Quarterback I’d Sit this Week:

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh):  Being a “‘Lers” fan, even though they are playing the 2017 0-16 Browns, I would stay away from “Big” Ben Roethlisberger this week. Purely because “Road Ben” is not a good fantasy play. In 2017 alone, Roethlisberger averaged 23.6 fantasy points per game at home and averaged only 15.4 fantasy points per game on the road.

Despite a 22-2 career record against Cleveland, and even with the absence of holdout Le’Veon Bell, there still should be better QB options out there for you.

Running Back I’d Start This week:

James Conner (Pittsburgh):  With Bell “protecting his value” and deciding not to suit up for the Steelers, it will be a full-send for Pittsburgh college legend James Conner. The Steelers have to move the ball somehow, and when coach Mike Tomlin was asked why he is even more optimistic about his team’s run game this season, he answered simply, “James.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Pittsburgh linemen voiced their frustration with Bell. That must mean they are ready to roll with Conner in the backfield. We’ve seen in the past backup Pittsburgh running backs be successful in Bell’s absence (De’Angelo Williams in 2016). I’d expect the same from Conner here in Week 1.

Running Back I’d Sit this Week:  

Jamaal Williams (Green Bay):  With an improved Chicago front seven, I would be wary putting Jamaal Williams into your starting lineup.

If the Packers happen to get down early and are unsuccessful at running the ball, look for freshly paid Aaron Rodgers to do what Aaron Rodgers does: throw the ball, potentially to his new target at tight end, Jimmy Graham.

But with wide receiver Ty Montgomery being preferred in passing situations, I believe Williams’ ceiling could be limited this week unless he happens to fall into the end zone.

Wide Receiver I’d Start this Week:

Emmanuel Sanders (Denver):  With Case Keenum being the best quarterback Emmanuel Sanders has had to work with since Peyton Manning, he should be ready to show off.

Especially against a Seahawks secondary that lost Richard Sherman to free agency, Kam Chancellor to retirement and safety Earl Thomas just reporting to camp yesterday, it could be a big day in Denver. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

Wide Receiver I’d Sit this Week: 

Jordy Nelson (Oakland):  I think Jordy Nelson will eventually prove to be useful in Oakland. But coming off a poor 2017 campaign, and with this being his first career start not in Green Bay, he’s not a good one to start with.

The Rams will likely have newly acquired Marcus Peters matched up on Nelson. Peters is one of the closest things to a shut-down corner the league has. With that being said, if Oakland finds themselves in a hole, Nelson could grab some garbage time points late in the game.

Tight End I’d Start This Week:

Jordan Reed (Washington):  “Start him while you can” is my motto for the injury-prone Jordan Reed. Going up against an Arizona defense that was middle-of-the-road against opposing tight ends, you could do a lot worse, especially with Alex Smith’s history throwing to his tight ends.

Tight End I’d Sit this week:

 Evan Engram (New York Giants):  Just recently clearing the concussion protocol and facing last year’s No. 1 ranked defense, limit expectations of the second-year tight end. The Giants will likely try to get Odell Beckham Jr. involved to fuel the fire with Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They may also try to get the second overall pick Saquon Barkley involved using creative sets.

This column was originally featured at ThePenn.org September 7, 2018.

If you have a feel-good story that you would like to share for an opportunity to be featured in an upcoming edition of “Start, Sit & Seth,” please reach out.

And for more fantasy football and uplifting content, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.

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