Start, Sit & Making the Most of It
I’ve spent the last 3 years steadfast in drawing comparisons between fantasy football and life. My goal has always been simple: help readers make the most out of everything they do, whether that’s playing in their fantasy football league with their best friends or just trying to “do the damn thing” we call life.
The one caveat I didn’t consider is that for some people, one (playing fantasy football) leads directly to the other (living life to its fullest).
That was until I met Dr. Kevin J. Murray, 43, the creator of Fantasy Football Unlimited and the 2017 Fantasy Football Commissioner of the Year by ESPN and Pizza Hut, in a downtown dive bar in Canton, Ohio, in the early hours of Aug. 14.
It was roughly 26 years prior, in 1995, across the country in Seattle, that a young Kevin entered his first fantasy football league after seeing an advertisement in his Sporting News subscription. At the ripe age of 17, Kevin took on the responsibility of calling in his lineup and getting the results back mid-week of his 25-man league comprised of total strangers.
“I won my 25-man league,” he said in a Sept. 14 interview. “It was just me. I wasn’t playing with friends or family, I didn’t actually know anybody in the world, personally, that played fantasy football. From that point, I just fell in love with it.”
The same year, while he was stocking shelves at a Napa Auto Parts Distribution Center, he overheard some of the full-time employees discussing a fantasy football league they were in. Late at night when working, Kevin would strategically place notes around the facility with lineups on them, hoping they’d notice that the young guy in the also into fantasy too.
He was successful, as the notes began a dialogue, which eventually scored Kevin an invite to the league the following season. While this was still in the renaissance days of fantasy football, the league held live drafts and did weekly lineup transactions that included calling the commissioner to set lineups.
5 years later, Kevin relocated to Hayward, California, to attend Life Chiropractic College West. Soon after he arrived at chiropractic school, Kevin officially took the title of commissioner when he started a new league with his classmates, using it as a way to bring everybody together. Throughout the 2000s Kevin continued to commission this league, while also joining another league, a big-money one with a group of high-profile chiropractors from the area.
Eventually, the commissioner of the big-money league ran off with the big-money, leaving a sour taste in Kevin’s mouth. Especially since his original Napa league fizzled out over some trash talk taken wrong, leading to someone dropping all of their rostered players.
In 2011, these bad experiences, mixed with the opportunity of moving back home to Seattle, inspired Kevin to create and commission a new league – The Murray Fantasy Football League. Only this time, Kevin wanted to do it his way.
“I had what I wanted. I wanted a great league. And I could’ve done it myself this whole time. I have the resources to make this happen. I have people around me that I know love fantasy… But from 2001-2009, I had never thought about diving in and just making the greatest league ever.”
After assembling people from different periods of his life – elementary school, junior high, high school and college – Kevin was determined to shock his new league mates with a cool draft experience.
For the first live draft, Kevin transformed his office’s rehab room into a war room, tied together with a podium dedicated to speeches and a few championship banners from the years prior before the league was reworked. His brother, a graphic designer, also helped him create logos for each team.
During the season, Kevin would do written power ranks to help keep everyone as competitive as possible. And of course, the winner took home a custom Murray Fantasy Football League trophy.
Every year from then on, Kevin continued to add more elements to the league and draft, going above and beyond the call of duty for his fantasy football league. Whether it was a championship belt, a toilet trophy, a draft-day throne for the defending champion, huge vinyl banners, mini helmets with teams’ logos, making a league YouTube channel or even creating a cast of characters that would deliver the power rankings and videos.
Eventually, ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, caught wind of Kevin’s unique approach to commissioning – the most thankless job in fantasy sports. In 2017, Kevin was named the Fantasy Football Commissioner of the Year by ESPN and Pizza Hut in the “Commissioner of the Week” contest.
From there, Kevin was honored with a famous red blazer, custom ring, an Amazon gift card and free Pizza Hut pizza for the next several years. To top it off, they flew Kevin, his wife and his daughter out to New York where he met his friend John Lansangan. From there, Kevin and John traveled to ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut, for their annual fantasy football rankings summit.
There they met the likes of Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Stephania Bell and many other great ESPN personalities and producers. They also toured various parts of the ESPN Campus, including the set of “SportsCenter.”
“Being in Bristol and looking around was very surreal,” he said. “That was definitely a time where I was like, ‘wow, how did we go from 5 years ago thinking about making a great, amazing, fun league, to sitting here?’”
Since then, Kevin has continued improving his league each year, while also managing Fantasy Football Unlimited, a brand and website dedicated to sharing fantasy football industry resources, recommendations and insight.
“A passion of mine is this industry,” Kevin said. “I love fantasy football the game. But I love the experience. The biggest thing to me is the league experience and the passion behind a good league in the way that it brings people together. There are also so many content creators in the industry I’ve met that bust their tails. I’ve always admired that as I’ve been a consumer, so I wanted to create something that would help bring exposure for people like that.”
Though Kevin has dedicated so much to the game and fantasy football industry as a whole, it is only one aspect of his life, with the other aspects like his family and being a licensed and board-certified chiropractic physician helping to keep him balanced.
“The foundation of fantasy [football] has to be the fun experience for and within the league,” he said. “Obviously 90 percent or more percent of people are going to lose. It’s likely not going to end well for you. So you might as well have fun.”
The depth of wisdom within Kevin’s story is uncanny. It can remind some of us of what really made us fall in love with fantasy football: playing the game with our best friends as we grew from middle schoolers to college students – trash-talking and attempt trades during the week, just to watch games together all day Sunday.
It can also make us reevaluate how we chose to play the game.“Do we really need to be in dozens of leagues, rather than just a few great ones?” “How can we, too, play fantasy football and have it help us live our lives to the fullest?”
Though I hope to find these answers with time, one thing I do know today as I am writing this– 2:42 A.M., Thursday, Sept. 16 – is that we can all take some action from Kevin’s story.
I began by releasing my first set of power rankings for my home league, Kane’s Extraordinary Gentlemen (KEG). What are you going to do?
For more tips on how you can improve your fantasy football league experience, check out Kevin’s column, “21 Ways to Make Your Fantasy Draft an Unforgettable Experience in 2021!”
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 Leagues.
Quarterback I’d Start this Week:
Joe Burrow (Cincinnati): Welcome back to the kid, Joe Burrow. In his first appearance after recovering from the torn ACL he suffered last season, Burrow completed 20 of 27 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns and came up with the overtime upset against the Minnesota Vikings.
Yes, the offensive line will likely still be a bit shaky at times. But the early rapport we’re seeing with the offensive weapons of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, projects for good things to come.
In what feels like a grudge match between the Chicago Bears and Andy Dalton, Cincinnati’s all-time leader in completions and passing touchdowns, I’m rolling Burrow out there. If Week 1 is any indication, this isn’t the Chicago defense of the past as they allowed Matthew Stafford to finish with 23.4 fantasy points, good enough for QB9 on the week, in his Rams debut.
Quarterback I’d Sit this Week:
Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee): It seems that some fantasy analysts, myself included, underestimated the impact that offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s departure would have on Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans as a whole.
In Week 1, against an Arizona defense that was not feared, Tannehill produced his worst fantasy football output since becoming the Titans’ starter in Week 7 of 2019.
Though I’m not bailing on Tannehill completely yet, I’m trying to sit this week out if I roster him. Seattle’s defense sacked Carson Wentz three times last week, despite his elite offensive line. Pete Caroll’s new-look front seven, matched with safety Jamal Adams and Seattle’s 12th man, has me doubting that the Tennessee faithful can reach QB1 status here in Week 2.
Running Back I’d Start this Week:
Jamaal Williams (Detroit): I’m a sucker for a good revenge game. And when the revenger is coming off a 25-point RB3-overall performance, just tell me where to sign.
In his Detroit debut, Williams took nine carries for 54 yards and a rushing score. Even more impressive, Williams caught eight of his nine targets for an additional 56 yards. If Williams continues to see this ratio of work – 18 touches to teammate D’Andre Swift’s 22 – He’s at minimum a flex play and maybe even an RB2 for your lineup.
Last week Green Bay allowed more than 4.2 Yards Per Carry (YPC) to both Alvin Kamara and undrafted second-year running back Tony Jones Jr.. Expect at least double-digit Points Per Reception (PPR) fantasy points from Williams this week, and let the good times roll.
Running Back I’d Sit this Week:
Ronald Jones (Tampa Bay): After fumbling in the season opener, finishing with -.06 PPR points and making his way into the dog house, things looked grim for Ronald Jones and his fantasy managers. That was until Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians announced that Jones will start here in Week 2.
Sometimes, like in the previous case of Williams, coach speak can tell us a lot about how a team wants to utilize a player. In the case of Arians’s statement on Jones, it means nothing. Arians is known by now to straight-up lie to the media when asked about players and specific roles. So, I’m not putting any stock into this.
Throughout the playoff last season, we saw Jones be less efficient, averaging fewer than four YPC. This mixed with the fact that Leonard Fournette will still likely have the goal-line work and more receiving work than Jones, it makes him hard to trust this week, despite the likely positive game script against an inferior defense.
Wide Receiver I’d Start this Week:
Nelson Agholor (New England): The one-time University of Southern California (USC) Trojan, was a favorite sleeper of mine this offseason.
His league-leading 18.7 Yards Per Reception (YPR), last season, had me excited then and does this week specifically in a matchup against the New York Jets. The Jets’ young secondary was serviceable to both D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson last week as they scored 15.4 and 13.2 PPR points, respectively.
With Agholor pulling in five receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown on seven targets in his New England debut, showing good rapport with rookie Mac Jones, I’m more confident that a solid floor is there to back the favorable ceiling this week.
Wide Receiver I’d Sit this Week:
Courtland Sutton (Denver): This sit selection may come as a surprise to some as there are probably few analysts who have been more bullish on Courland Sutton than I’ve been in recent years.
Sutton is being thrown in a majority of lineups this week, primarily because of the golden matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the injury to Jerry Jeudy, leaving an absence in Denver’s passing game. But, I think that starting him might be a trap.
Sutton did not look like the same player Sunday that we saw finish as the PPR WR19 in 2019. Coming off the ACL tear, he lacked burst and struggled to get separation at times. Both Tim Patrick (13.9) and K.J. Hamler (7.1 PPR points) outscored Sutton, despite playing fewer snaps.
With Jacksonville being as inexperienced and weak on defense as they are, I expect Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio to dial-up a more conservative game plan and get back to Denver with a 2-0 team and a healthy Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. You have to hold Sutton if you have him. But at the moment, I rather do the holding on my bench than in my lineup.
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.