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Start, Sit & Driving Stick

by Seth Woolcock

Sliding into second, rolling through the stoplight slowly as it turns green; shifting to third, heading down a hill; or slapping it into fourth on your way back up it – there are many surface reasons why we choose to drive manual transmission vehicles.

Similarly, there are many surface reasons why we play fantasy football. The draft, the trash talk, the celebration of victory and the pure thrill of it all.

Then, there are the less obvious reasons we dare to drive stick: the underlying stress relief that comes coursing through our bodies as we go through the gears, the joy of feeling like we’re Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon or whomever your racing hero was as a kid outside our little towns and the bonds we build with our vehicles.

It’s funny, I never considered myself a grease monkey growing up. My stepfather owned a garage for semi-trucks; yet I would rather be off by myself in the woods, in my own world, pretending I was a Power Ranger or a superhero.

It wasn’t until I was handed down my late great-grandfather’s 1991 Ford F-150 Lariat that I began to appreciate the value of a vehicle. Although I was never able to finish restoring my great-grandad’s truck, the summer I spent trying brought me closer to both his memory and the simplicity of the time when it was made.

I bought my first stick-shift vehicle, a 2007 Scion tC, when I was 19. Although at first glance the decade-old five-speed didn’t look like much, it was. 

It took me to work, to school, to pick up my girl – all without ever asking for much more than routine maintenance from me in return. 

I’ve taken it to cliffs on the coast of Rhode Island, the mountains of the Poconos, the city streets of Pittsburgh and everywhere in between. But more than anything, I grew up in that car – evolving with every shift from a small-town boy with big dreams to a cultured man who is living those dreams.

But you see, to me, fantasy football is just like driving a stick. I grew up while playing it, but even more when I began writing about it and seeing that it is so much more than just a game of points.

Now, as I sit here and pop the hood on the less-than-noticeable reasons why, even in these trying times, I care so deeply about fantasy football, I can tell you this:  The commodity in this game and the community that surrounds it truly is one of a kind. It has led me down new roads I couldn’t have imagined and closed others that probably weren’t the best. 

But above all, I learned from it just like when I hit that awkward hill in one of my cars and stalled out. Not only do I become a better fantasy football manager and analyst, but I also become a more aware individual in general.

This past weekend, I stalled harder than I have while playing fantasy football for quite some time. After waking up late to the news that Melvin Gordon and the Denver Broncos wouldn’t be playing Sunday due to COVID-19 concerns, I slipped Myles Gaskin into my flex position in my most competitive league.

But, after learning that Julio Jones was ruled out, I went with the last-minute decision to bench Gaskin in favor of Russell Gage as I was looking for upside against the best team in the league. I missed badly as Gaskin had over 20 points on my bench and Gage posted a measly 3.6 points for my starting lineup.

I messed up and stalled hard in Week 5. And it was a tough pill to swallow, especially considering how much time I spend writing each week, specifically on making the right start/sit decisions.

But, just like when I do stall in my stick shifts – I pause, restart, learn from my mistake and move forward. The next time, whether you stall out in fantasy sports or just life in general, I hope you do the same.

Now, let’s get to it.

The following start/sit selections are based on stats, trends and film research, reflecting value in Points Per Reception (PPR) Redraft League.

Quarterback I’d Start this Week:

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh):  A new generation of receiving targets for Ben Roethlisberger, has given him fantasy success once again in 2020, as he is in the QB1 mix so far, averaging 20.5 fantasy points per game.

He does indeed have a favorable matchup at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns who are allowing an average of 24.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. But this will also be the first time, maybe in his entire career, that he will need to sling it to keep up with the Browns’ offense, both for the win and control of the AFC North.

Quarterback I’d Sit this Week:

Matt Ryan (Atlanta):  I said it last week, and I’m going to say it again, Matt Ryan without a healthy Julio Jones is not a start-worthy quarterback. His 30.7 total fantasy point output for the past three weeks combined surely justifies that statement.

To make things worse for the Boston College product, his long-time head coach Dan Quinn was just let go and he’ll face an up-and-coming Minnesota defense that just kept MVP-favorite Russel Wilson in check for three quarters.

Running Back I’d Start this Week:

Myles Gaskin (Miami):  One of the buried themes of this column’s introduction is that I fully trust Myles Gaskin moving forward, despite my errand benching of him in a league in Week 5.

He’s in the midst of a breakout season, posing as the PPR RB16 so far. I believe it continues Sunday with a matchup against the 0-5 New York Jets. 

Last Week Adam Gase’s group allowed a combined 33.4 PPR points to Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmunds, as well 25.5 the week prior to Melvin Gordon. To see they’re vulnerable to running backs would be an understatement.

Running Back I’d Sit this Week:

J.D. McKissic (Washington):  I wonder if fantasy owners learned something when starting Peyton Barber became a thing earlier this season. Outside of rookie Antonio Gibson, you shouldn’t be starting any Washington Football Team running back.

That holds true in Week 6 when Washington faces the New York Giants. The Giants’ defense allows only an average of five receptions per game to opposing backs, mostly because the opposing team isn’t trailing often enough to justify throwing to the back much. I see that happening here against Washington, who will want to run more than pass this week to protect whoever is under center, come Sunday.

Wide Receiver I’d Start this Week:

Jamison Crowder (New York Jets):  With every passing day that Gase remains the New York Jets’ head coach, the more awful of a franchise they become and the danker of a meme he becomes. The Jets have been overall poor and are nearly dead last in every passing category.

However, despite his current climate, Jamison Crowder continues to impress once again in the early stages of the season. So far, through three games, Crowder is averaging 22.5 PPR points per game (second-most for WRs) and is on a 16-game pace for 117 receptions, 1,787 yards and 11 touchdowns.

And while I do expect that pace to subside over time, I don’t think it starts this week against Miami, who’s two best cornerbacks, Byron Jones and Xavien Howard should be tied up with whoever is playing on the outside for New York.

Wide Receiver I’d Sit this Week:

Darius Slayton (New York Giants):  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big of a Darius Slayton truther as anyone, and have been a fan of him longer than most. But, the truth is that the second-year pro is a boom-bust player, especially with the inconsistencies of the Giants offense as a whole.

He is the most talented receiver on this team and will have big days. I just don’t think it’s here in Week 6 where he faces Washington, who is the third-best defense against opposing wide receivers and will have Chase Young pressuring Daniel Jones, not allowing him to get it deep to Slayton.

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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