Start, Sit & More Than Meets the Eye
You could mistake your car for a time machine traversing through the outskirts of Canton, Ohio.
To some, the rustic skyline and grid streets pattern is just another map dot – one with its best days behind it. But to those who live and breathe America’s game, it’s a landmark.
102 years ago, the NFL was born there. Today, it still lights up this week every year to cherish the game’s greatest and celebrate the beginning of a new chapter of football’s story. The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Enshrinement Week includes a parade, a festival, a gold jacket enshrinement, followed by the official kickoff of the NFL preseason.
However, thanks to one man, the buzz that sweeps the city of roughly 71,000 in late July and early August no longer comes and goes with Enshrinement Week. Instead, it continues through the summertime heat into the following weekend as another herd of football diehards storm the town’s hotels, bars and restaurants.
Meet Canton’s Own Bob Lung
Robert “Bob” Lung, 58, is an accountant born and raised in the Canton area. Growing up in the birthplace of the NFL, Bob made the game a part of his life from an early age.
“I went to games and the enshrinements back in the day when it was on the steps of the Hall of Fame and 200 people sitting in lawn chairs were watching from the grass across the street,” Bob said in a July 25 interview. “Now it’s 23,000 people in a football stadium, live on ESPN with millions across the world watching. So, I kind of watched that grow there.”
In 1985, Bob began playing in a touchdown-only fantasy football league with some local friends. It was 17 years later – when fantasy football became more popularized because of the internet – that Bob would create an algorithm to determine and track the consistency of NFL players from week to week.
After writing for various sites like CBS Sports and Fanball throughout the 2000s, Bob created his own website, Big Guy Fantasy Sports, and began publishing his yearly book, the “Fantasy Football Consistency Guide.”
In addition to his various work, being a husband and being a father of three daughters, Bob has been a volunteer driver for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Enshrinement Weekend for 33 years. This has allowed him to meet the game’s legends such as Al Davis, John Madden and Kurt Warner.
“When Enshrinement Weekend is not happening, we’re just a small town,” Bob Said. “…The one thing I’ve heard in my volunteer driving career is that every one of the enshrinees will say to me, ‘there’s no way you could do what you guys do in a big city with how much pride every vounteer here takes in their city.”’
To Bob, “Canton means all of that.”
The King’s Classic & The Fantasy Football Expo
In 2018, this pride for his city and the fantasy football industry led Bob to reach out to some fantasy football legends with an idea. He contracted Mike Clay, Brad Evans, Andy Behrens and Dave Richard with the concept of “The King’s Classic,” a fantasy football draft for the best of the best live on Sirius XM, hosted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“What I learned over the last four years since we started that is that they’re all just like you and I,” Bob said. “They all had a passion and learned to do something to get where they are. We’ve all had passions, and we’ve all gotten to a certain point in those passions… But what’s amazing is that whatever level you’re at, we’re all the same people.”
The comfort Bob felt – interacting in person with the top names in the industry – is something that he wanted to share. So in 2019, he created “The Fantasy Football Expo,” a weekend for all fantasy football companies, analysts and fans of all levels to meet and interact in Canton.
It’s a year-round effort for Bob, but the result is well worth it, putting a smile on the faces of Canton’s mayor, business owners and the fantasy football community.
Last year’s Expo, specifically, was a special celebration – a time where creators and fans could lay down their takes and come together for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At that moment [last year’s Expo], we were all very happy and excited to be out there and enjoying life again like we should,” Bob said.
More to It
In a world of socially inflated egos and anxieties, Bob’s story reminds us to slow down and appreciate life around us.
It reinforces that whether it’s a map dot on an Ohio state map or someone new you meet, there is often more than what meets the eye.
So, on your next road trip, take a detour in that town you’ve never heard of. During a conversation with someone new, forget the small talk and ask them something about themselves. Sometimes only then can we live a life worth living.
As fantasy football redraft season is officially amongst us, peeling back the curtain is also essential when making league-impacting decisions in each round of our drafts. A player who we once just saw as another name on a list can become a critical component of a championship roster after giving them a closer look.
With NFL Training Camps now in full swing and fantasy projections finishing up, this column’s fantasy analysis will focus on players who have – either positively or negatively – more than meets the eye.
The following rising/fading selections are based on stats, trends and film research, reflecting value in 2022 Points Per Reception (PPR) Redraft Leagues.
Players With More Upside Than Meets the Eye
Najee Harris (Pittsburgh): At first glance, Najee Harris is an inefficient volume-hog RB; at least, that’s what he was in 2021. The University of Alabama product saw 307 carries as a rookie for 1200 yards and seven rushing TDs.
What prevented him from finishing as the overall RB1 last season, despite being No. 1 in the league in weighted opportunities, was his 3.9 Yards Per Carry (YPC) and 49 stuffed runs (third most in the NFL).
However, given the circumstances, it wasn’t a poor effort. PlayerProfiler graded Harris’ Run Block Rating (an offensive line metric) 48.5, giving him the 53rd-best blocking received by an RB.
While the line still has some significant question marks this season, there is no doubt it improved with Pittsburgh adding James Daniels. Playing for Chicago, Daniels was named to ESPN’s 2018 All-Rookie Team and had the 35th-highest grade amongst guards and centers from Pro Football Focus (PFF). This should help Harris and second-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada better establish the outside zone running scheme.
Harris is also shiftier and a better pass-catcher than given credit for. He evaded 106 tackles last season (second most amongst RBs) and led all RBs in routes run, targets and receptions. While Harris might lose some targets due to playing with a more mobile QB, the Steelers will need to win by relying on their stout defense and an efficient run game.
I’m projecting Harris for an increase in efficiency – both on the ground and through the air. In addition, expect some positive touchdown regression, as 10 from 2021 was a low amount for someone with his touch total. With perhaps the highest floor in all of fantasy and the RB1 ceiling within reach, Harris is more than worth his current Average Draft Position (ADP) of 9.4 in ESPN Drafts.
AJ Dillon (Green Bay Packers): The optimism for the Packers’ passing game to remain consistent with the loss of Davante Adams seems to be dwindling. Rookie Christian Watson has no timetable to return to training camp after he revealed he is still recovering from a knee scope. However, this news only lends itself to the narrative that the Packers will need to lean on their running backs, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
Everyone knows what Jones is capable of, and his ESPN ADP of 23.2 overall reflects that. Yet, Dillon’s ADP of 105.2 overall, RB32, does not represent his ceiling or even his floor. Last season, Dillon was top-20 in both rushing attempts (187) and rushing yards (803), despite only being 43 percent of snaps.
I expect the Packers to run more 20 and 21-man personnel, utilizing both Dillon and Jones simultaneously. In addition, we should see more 12-man personnel with two tight ends, opening up more running lanes. Dillon was top 12 amongst RBs in red zone touches, keeping his floor – even with Jones healthy – high.
His career catch rate of 93.2 percent and 9.3 Yards Per Reception (YPR) give him the RB2 floor he hit last season, finishing as the PPR RB23. He’s a player I don’t mind reaching for at current cost.
Jerry Jeudy (Denver): Tim Patrick suffered a season-ending ACL tear in camp yesterday. While Patrick’s injury is a heartbreaker for a self-made player like himself, it means the Broncos will need to lean on both Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton even more.
Jeudy has had a rather disappointing start to his career, posting a 53.3 catch rate and three touchdowns across 26 games played. However, things could turn around with offensive-minded head coach Nathaniel Hackett replacing Vic Fangio and Russell Wilson replacing the tandem of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock.
Jeudy was targeted only three times in the red zone last season – downright criminal for a player of his caliber. Especially true when you consider PlayerProfiler graded him No. 1 in target separation at 2.45 yards per target. Wilson will cook with that cushion, leaving Jeudy to benefit handsomely.
Jeudy has clear WR1 upside this season. At the ESPN ADP of 63.7 overall, I am taking the shot whenever available in the sixth round of drafts.
Players With More Downside Than Meets the Eye
Brandon Aiyuk (San Francisco): Don’t look now, but the Brandon Aiyuk hype train is growing again, just in time for fantasy managers to over-draft him.
After a solid rookie campaign, Aiyuk began 2021 in the dog house, catching one reception through the season’s first two weeks. While Aiyuk improved later on, his ceiling was shot with both Deebo Samuel and George Kittle healthy, eclipsing 20 PPR points in just one game.
49ers beat reporter Jack Hammer reported last month that Aiyuk struggled at OTAs at times, while Ray-Ray McCloud (a former return specialist from Pittsburgh) shined in the absence of Samuel.
This week, beat reporters shared that Aiyuk got into a second altercation during practice with team caption Fred Warner. Some may consider his willingness to challenge the team leader a positive, but I’m not willing to take any chances with Kyle Shanahan.
Unlike Jeudy, Aiyuk doesn’t create separation on his routes but rather creates Yards After Catch (YAC). However, it’s a similar style to how both Samuel and Kittle operate. With Trey Lance officially named the starter, passing attempts will come down even more in San Francisco, giving Aiyuk tough odds to have any type of ceiling. I prefer other higher-upside WRs in his current ADP range, including Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard and Kadarius Toney.
Cam Akers (Las Angeles Rams): Head coach Sean McVay made startling comments over the weekend regarding once-upon-a-time fantasy darling Cam Akers, saying, “I look at it as we’ve got two starting [running] backs.”
Darrell Henderson: 61%
Cam Akers: 39%
— Justin Cohen (@BadBoyOfScoops) August 3, 2022
First-team snap percentages thought training camp this far have seen Darrell Henderson take 61 percent to Akers’ 39 percent. While it could be precautionary, considering Akers tore his Achilles in the offseason last year, it is concerning.
The Rams won the Super Bowl last season, despite Akers’ extreme inefficiency after he miraculously returned from the Achilles tear. During their four-game scamper to the Lombardi, Akers averaged 2.6 YPC and scored zero TDs on 16.8 rushing attempts per game.
With so many questions remaining in the Rams’ backfield, I can’t justify his current ESPN ADP of 31.4, in the same range of Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and rookie Breece Hall whose going 19 picks later.
Dak Prescott (Dallas): Don’t get me wrong, I love Dak Prescott as a talent and NFL quarterback, especially for intangibles. Unfortunately, intangibles don’t always translate to fantasy points, and managers may be caught up in a transitional phase for the Cowboys.
Linebacker Micah Parsons appears to be the best player on the Cowboys roster, only in his second season. He is joined by cornerback Trevon Diggs, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and a duo of quality safeties in Malik Hooker and Jayron Kearse to form one of the better units in the league.
Their offensive line should also return to form with Zack Martin and Tyron Smith back, joined by first-round tackle Tyler Smith from the University of Tulsa. With Amari Cooper traded to the Browns, Michael Gallup still recovering from a torn ACL and James Washington now out six-10 weeks switch a foot fracture, the passing game is no longer the Cowboys’ strength. It is instead their defense and ground game.
I expect Prescott’s 37.2 pass attempts per game to be dialed back some, along with his Yards Per Attempt (YPA). With these drops, I have Prescott projected for closer to 19 fantasy points per game, closer to Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins. The issue becomes that Carr and Cousins can be drafted three and five rounds later, respectively.
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.