A 22-year-old writer in Pennsylvania, working through the ghosts of his past by creating a media company that combines both life and fantasy sports advice.
The south Florida valet driver who won more than $1,000,000 in Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) before his 23rd birthday.
A 19-year-old pharmacist technician in St. Louis, Missouri, striving to be the next go-to dynasty fantasy football analyst.
And the college student from Tampa Bay, Florida, juggling two jobs while trying to find his next step in the fantasy sports industry.
What do these four, completely different young men from contrasting walks of life share? They’re all hungry kids.
In a previous column, I discussed in detail how I somehow found myself in the fantasy football industry at the ripe age of 21. A conversation over breakfast with my mentor, a 2:30 a.m. Reddit search and a few short weeks later, I’m taking the beginning steps into a life-changing venture.
Less than a year later, the pandemic came, furloughing me from my first full-time job after college, giving me a new sense of freedom and a feeling of longing for being something more than just the average fantasy sports analyst.
I sit here today on a March evening in 2021, a handful of weeks away from my 23rd birthday – the “Jordan year” as they call it – penning what will be my 47th “Start, Sit & Seth column. 47 times I’ve laid it all out on the line. My life, others’ stories and some God damn good fantasy football advice along the way.
I now have an entire staff alongside me of like-minded and bright-eyed individuals who do the same and view the world from a similar lens – a lot of whom I call my best friends.
And while this extraordinary journey is something I would never trade for anything, it doesn’t come without costs.
In college, I spent more time working than anybody I knew personally – student or professional. Luckily I had an amazing cast of friends from the student newspaper and the restaurant I worked at, along with my friends from home, that I had a more-than-serviceable social life at the same time.
But back then, during the workweek, I didn’t have the time to do what most college students do on the warm days – live life to its fullest, usually heavily intoxicated while doing so. By my junior year, weeks were spent working from sun up to sun down on a combination of newspaper items, fantasy sports content, a substance-abuse and stigma-prevention marketing campaign and studying – just to finish and then go wait tables at the restaurant on Friday nights.
I’d build up what I call “sleep debt.” I’d crash on late Friday night after shutting down the restaurant and not wake up until mid-day Saturday. Then Saturday was then my one night to have the normal college experience.
Slide into some corner booth with my girl and friends and see where the night took us. No strategizing, no deadlines, just kids in a world of their own – being kids until closing time.
Present day, my work ethic and habits haven’t changed much. I work your usual 8-5 shift at a new university, and then afterward, I create and manage our content. A silver lining is that at least COVID-19 has made this workaholic lifestyle a bit more socially acceptable.
Of course, I still leave time to do the other things I love and to spend time with the ones I love. But it’s f****** hard. Doing that and this, while also trying to master all the fun items that come with being an adult (taxes, budgeting, investing, etc.) is no cakewalk.
Yet, most times I can still see the bigger picture. I believe that all this hard work and time spent perfecting my craft in my late teens and early 20s will be worth it one day.
But there are also those days when I look at my friends and the life they live and how it looks so much easier and more fun. And while I’m lucky I can find relatability from other content creators in this industry, it doesn’t help sometimes that we’re often generations apart.
So, in an effort to find relatability on this journey of being what some call a “wunderkind” in the fantasy sports industry, I sought out others to hear their story, learn about their hurdles and for a chance to get to know them before everyone already does.
And to get the ball rolling, we have to go to the place where it might actually make sense to meet a young gambling tycoon: South Florida.
Jordan Vanek (23, Coconut Creek, Florida)
Jordan Vanek, writer for GridironRatings and host of “Inside the DFS Mind,” had what he described as a fairly average upbringing. He played sports at a young age, quarterbacking at one point for the likes of Calvin Ridley and Riley Ridley. He was raised in a respectful manner, constantly trying to live up to the lofty goals one of his older brother had achieved, while also trying not slip down the rebellious path the other one did.
After high school, Jordan decided to major in engineering, becoming one of some 70,000 students attending the University of Central Florida (UCF).
In 2016, his freshmen year at UCF, he hit on $2 lineup, placing second out of 147,000 entries – netting a $4,125 payday. That Christmas, he hit again, winning $8,700 this time. Over the next four-and-a-half years, Jordan would profit more than $1,000,000 from DFS.
During that time, Jordan also changed his career path. After doing some recruiting for the UCF football team, Jordan left school to attend The Scouting Academy to learn film evaluation from experts like Dan Hatmon and Louis Riddick.
Jordan currently works full-time as a valet driver at near-by condominiums. With his DFS winnings, he was able to pay off his student loans and is working on acquiring a property management degree so he can eventually invest some of his winnings into real estate.
“I just love learning new things,” Jordan said in a March 9 interview. “I think the younger generation, with what we can do on computers and the analytics that we bring to the table, is awesome.”
Jordan’s hard work, crunching numbers and creating spreadsheets has helped get him ahead, but he continues to want to give back – eventually planning to create a tool to help others have similar success in DFS.
Matthew Seward (19, St. Louis, Missouri)
Born and raised in the once-football city of St. Louis, Missouri, Matthew loved the game from an early age thanks to his dad. Growing up, each year Matthew and his dad would come to the table with both their predictions and favorite players for the upcoming season.
He fell in love with roster management the same way probably a lot of our generation did: playing franchise mode on “Madden.” Beginning to manage his own fantasy teams in high school was all he needed to fully immerse himself in the NFL and fantasy football. His world became football – coming home after school and immediately doing research.
After graduation, Matthew attended the Southern University of Illinois. That’s when he got away from football and settled into a depression. He withdrew from school and took a full-job back in St. Louis as a pharmacy technician.
It was there working as a pharmacy technician that Matthew began to find both himself and his way back to football.
“It really changed my life,” Matthew said in a March 9 interview. “I owe a lot to that job. Not only did it teach me a lot of everyday human skills, but it taught me about waking up every day, being responsible and kicking today’s butt. It really opened my eyes and is what made me put my nose to the paper these last few months to grind out this work I’ve put out on League Winners.”
Matthew admits that sometimes balancing his day job, writing, relationship, friendships and family can be difficult. But he keeps the bigger picture in mind and finds value within the journey itself.
Tyler Moss (19, Tampa Bay, Florida)
to fully understand what it means to be a younger person in the fantasy sports industry, we look no further than Tampa Bay, Florida where we find Tyler Moss, in his studio after working two jobs – a clerk and a delivery driver – trying to figure out his next direction in the fantasy football industry.
Tyler’s initial start in the fantasy football industry came in February 2020 when he appeared on an episode of “The Fantasy Flock.” But like many of the younger generation in this industry, Tyler endured more than most just to get there.
After a dismal falling out with his friends, Tyler left high school his junior year to dual enroll at the University of South Florida (USF). He would go on to spend most of 2019, just trying to find himself both mentally and physically. He dieted, exercised for hours a day and maybe most importantly, spent time working on his mental health.
By the beginning of 2020, Tyler, who self admittedly feels like he’s always been the lone-wolf type, finally felt comfortable in his own skin. After spending some time creating YouTube content with the Fantasy Flock, Tyler came in contact with Nick Ercolano, creator of BDGE Fantasy Football, who would put him in touch with LaQuan Jones at RealDealFantasy HQ.
While Tyler was only with RealDeal for a short time, there he met Lukas Kacer, who without knowing it, would soon become one of Tyler’s best friends. Together the two, joined by Daniel McKinnon and Corey Buschlen, went on to create the Fantasy Stock Exchange.
Since then, Tyler has returned to more of his lone-wolf status, freelancing, and at one point running his own site, still with goal of one day making it full-time in the industry.
“I know what it’s like to have someone take a chance on you and believe in you and what you do,” Tyler said in a March 9 interview. “It’s the only reason I’m here.”
The dream of one day profiting from his passion for fantasy football is what continues to motivate him day after day. He is currently working on acquiring his Master of Business Administration (MBA), and hoping to minor in broadcasting or journalism.
When he’s not working, studying or creating content, you can probably find the 19-year-old out exploring his city, taking in the culture that Tampa Bay has to offer, probably making a cameo at his favorite cigar lounge or at a Tampa Bay Lightning game.
Aside from the professionalism and authentic demeanor that Tyler beholds, maybe the most impressive aspect of him is his willingness to admit his mistakes and learn from them – an idea that sometimes other generations struggle with.
“It’s hard for people our age,” Tyler said. “It’s so easy to fail. Really, we should be applauding kids that can do this. I’ve been and managed the hungry kid who just wants a chance and any opportunity possible.”
Tyler’s right. People like himself, Matt, Jordan and even I, have sacrificed so much of what people call their “golden years” to do this. With so much negativity in the world today, just pause for a moment to recognize the commitment these three creators, and all young creators for that matter, have made for the love of the game and to help others.
After meeting these gentlemen and hearing their stories, I’ve found a new perspective about being a younger analyst in the fantasy football space. My fellow young colleagues and I are an outnumbered group in this industry. We’re the few in our age range, as most people our age have no interest in this level of commitment.
We’re willing to go with the flow, but also know when to step outside the box and take a different approach than what’s been done before. We’re self-aware, we’re present and most of all, were hungry kids.
And that’s what makes us and our journeys so damn special.
Now, let’s get to it.
The following rising/fading selections are based on stats, trends and film research, reflecting value in Points Per Reception (PPR) Redraft Leagues. In the spirit of hungry kids, this column’s selections will focus solely on rookie and sophomore players.
Quarterback I’m Rising On:
Trey Lance (North Dakota State): If you’re going to be playing in any 16-team or two-quarterback redraft leagues this year, Trey Lance is a name you’re going to want to target late if drafted to a team where he is the starter from day one.
His junior season was canceled after just one game in 2020, making the North Dakota State quarterback even less well-known than he already was. His sophomore season, Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions with a 66.9 completion percentage. Maybe even more impressive was that he added 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground on 169 carries.
For comparison, Carson Wentz, drafted No. 2 overall from North Dakota State, threw for 3,111 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions with a 63.7 completion percentage, adding another 642 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in his best season.
Seven of last season’s top-10 fantasy quarterbacks had at least rushing for 400 yards. And the other three that didn’t were elite arm talents in Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. If Lance can end up in a friendly destination like Carolina, Washington or Denver, he becomes a sure late-round target for me in deeper leagues.
Quarterbacks I’m Fading:
At the time of this publication, Aaron Jones, who was projected by many to sign in Miami, is staying in Green Bay. And other free-agent receivers are flying off the board. This doesn’t bode well for Tagovailoa who needs more playmakers if he can improve his 6.3 Yards per Pass Thrown (31stin the league).
As for rookie Alabama quarterback, Mac Jones, he may be the toughest prospect to evaluate coming out of college. He had an outstanding cast of weapons, the best coaching in college football and was virtually untouched every play.
However, he also led the country in completion percentage (77.4), yards (4,500) and was second in passing touchdowns (41) to only Florida’s Kyle Trask, so it’s hard to nitpick him too much.
The biggest issue for Jones’ fantasy stock is the sudden lack of teams where he could go to be the starter. The Patriots, who have been tied to Jones, just re-signed Cam Newton. And the Bears, also in desperate need of a quarterback, seem to be going big-game hunting for Russell Wilson.
But wherever Jones lands, even if he starts from day one, it’ll be hard to trust a non-mobile rookie quarterback with any roster space in redraft this season.
Running Back I’m Rising On:
Cam Akers (Los Angeles Rams): Cam Akers was my No. 1 bust candidate coming into last season and for good reason. The offensive line was mostly unchanged from a lackluster 2019 season, and Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown were both still in the conversation.
Although Henderson is still a quality running back, posting 624 yards and five touchdowns on 138 carries in 2020, his lack of game-changing plays and inability to find the end zone in goal-to-go situations, says he’s not the player I thought he was coming into last season. But I believe Cam Akers is that and now ready to produce fantasy numbers at a high clip in 2021.
There isn’t going to be the guessing game this season like there was last year at who is going to get the carries. By taking just the highest-scoring Rams’ running back from each game last season they produced a total of 240.4 PPR points, good enough to finish as the PPR RB8 overall – right behind James Robinson and ahead of players like Josh Jacobs and Ezekiel Elliott.
That production is in the time-share split of 42.2 percent (Brown), 31 percent (Henderson) and 26.5 percent (Akers). With the Rams facing cap issues once again and Brown being an unrestricted free agent, I imagine he walks, and the snap percentages become closer to 55-60 percent (Akers), 25-30 percent (Henderson) and 10-20 percent (Brown’s replacement).
Matthew Stafford threw the ball to the running back position 101 times (19 percent) last season – more than Jared Goff. This new signal caller combined with Sean McVay and the Rams’ stellar defense should make the Rams an elite team again. And in fantasy, you want running backs for elite teams.
If Cam Akers redraft Average Draft Position (ADP) can stay a cool mid-to-late second or early third-round pick, he could be a league-deciding RB1 value.
Running Back I’m Fading:
J.K. Dobbins (Baltimore): J.K. Dobbins finds himself on this list largely due to the capped potential I see him facing in the upcoming campaign. Gus Edwards, who saw 33.5 percent of the snaps in 2020 and has three straight 700-yard rushing seasons while averaging over five Yards Per Carry (YPC), is likely returning to Baltimore after the franchise placed a second-round tender on him.
With Lamar Jackson and Edwards together projecting to account for at least 1,700 rushing yards combined, it would leave just about 45 percent of the rushing usage left from 2020 remaining for Dobbins.
And given that Dobbins saw only 24 targets total in 2020, it’s a fair assumption that Jackson’s rushing ability could again limit both his pass-catching and goal-line upside. And for a player who could be taken in the same round as players like Akers, D’Andre Swift and Antonio Gibson, Dobbins’ upside isn’t as high as the rest, making it unable to justify drafting him in 2021
Wide Receiver I’m Rising On:
Chase Claypool (Pittsburgh): It seems that after restructuring his contract, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be returning to the franchise in 2021. Although No. 1 receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is hitting the free agency market this week and is not projected to return to Pittsburgh.
This will likely leave second-year receiver Chase Claypool (PPR WR24 in 2020), crafty-off-the-line Diontae Johnson (PPR WR21) and the underrated and after-mentioned James Washington (PPR WR77) to lead Pittsburgh’s receiving room (barring any free agency signings or draft picks).
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Claypool, who had six games with nine-plus targets, is the one who should benefit most from Smith-Schuster’s 128 vacated targets. He could leap from receiver who took 62 receptions for 873 yards and 11 total touchdowns on a 16.7 target share his rookie year, to a high-end WR1 this season, commanding a 24+ percent target share. I’m vigorously hunting him this season in the late-fourth and early fifth rounds.
Wide Receiver I’m Fading:
Henry Ruggs III (Las Vegas): Though Henry Ruggs III likely won’t carry an absurd ADP in redrafts this season, he’s a flyer I’d like to avoid. And after free agent Nelson Agholor just signed with New England, Ruggs’ ADP is rising.
It was a disappointing rookie season for Ruggs in 2020, posting 26 receptions for 452 yards and two touchdowns – one of the game-winning fashion against the Jets in Week 13. His 5-foot-11, 188-pound frame didn’t hold up, as he was injured both in an offseason moving incident and then seriously enough to miss Weeks 3 and 4 and not being at 100 percent in an array of other games.
So, this is the part where I’m supposed to tell you Ruggs has the potential to turn things around in a big way in 2021? Not exactly.
While things will get better for Ruggs with another year in the NFL, it’s difficult to project a high or reliable ceiling for him this year. The Raiders’ target share leaders were as follows:
- Darren Waller – 27.9 percent
- Nelson Agholor – 15.7 percent
- Hunter Renfrow – 14.7 percent
- Josh Jacobs – 8.6 percent
- Henry Ruggs – 8.2 percent
Even with Agholor vacating the team, Waller will continue to command the majority of Derek Carr’s targets – leaving Ruggs at best case scenario to max out around a 15-19 percent target share. Without ever being known as a pure Yards After the Catch (YAC) receiver, the upside for much better than a WR3 isn’t there.
Intertwined with his injury history and questionable drop percentage (7.0), Ruggs is a clear second-year fade for me.
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.