Start, Sit & The Good With the Bad
“Start, Sit & Seth” is the original column of In-Between Media, bridging feel-good lifestyle advice with redraft fantasy football analysis. Consistently following Seth Woolcock’s journey as a young creator, this series is now in its sixth season. Join him in this edition as he shares the experience of an East Palestine, Ohio, resident in the aftermath of the February Norfolk Southern trail derailment. He also dives into 2023 best ball fantasy football draft picks as NFL Free Agency unfolds.
Today’s highlight-reel culture can be a tough case to crack.
When times are good, we capture, document and hit “post.” When they’re not, we tend to hide the truth from both ourselves and the outside world.
“Keep the peace.”
“Stick to small talk.”
For most of us, it’s just how we were raised. Share the good news, and bury the bad – to the point that responding “I’m good” is a reflex when asked how you’re doing.
The Fine Line
It’s a line I walk as I now begin the sixth season of penning “Start, Sit & Seth,” this column series offering feel-good lifestyle advice, blended with fantasy football analysis. By sharing my and others’ stories for the past five years, I’ve uncovered silver linings, hope and a whole lot of life lessons.
This series has followed me from my final two years of college, back when I was managing a student newspaper, all while being the key witness in a life-altering arson trial. It saw me navigate an early professional career and create In-Between Media (IBT) amid a global pandemic. And ultimately, it saw me take a job in academia, just to leave to pursue fantasy sports full-time 18 months later.
Throughout it all, I’ve tried to share the highlight moments – like meeting my significant other or attending the NFL Draft. But I’ve also tried to showcase the lows – losing loved ones and, at times, myself.
My journey now leads me to a small Ohio town just across the Pennsylvania border, ready to uncover more of life’s bright sides, even if they’re surrounded by conflict and unfortunate circumstances.
East Palestine, Ohio
Wedged between Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, East Palestine was just like most rural towns in this part of the country; small, uniquely charming and a past home for booming industries.
“It is your quintessential United States small town where everybody knows each other,” Jenna Harris, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mom from East Palestine, said in a March 10 interview. “When I moved here [about five years ago], I didn’t feel out of place. [It’s] very welcoming, very small-town and a very tight-knit, caring community. Most people that have businesses here were born and raised, and this is where their entire lives are.”
While numbers vary, East Palestine’s village is home to roughly 4,700-5,000 people. The town is located within Columbiana and stands as the 299th-most populated city in Ohio. So as Jenna alluded to, it really is small-town USA.
I’ve written a lot about curveballs. And one thing remains consistent across every story: the hardest part about them is that you just never see them coming.
That was the case for the residents of East Palestine the day after Groundhog Day when a Norfolk Southern train transporting hazardous materials derailed on the eastern end of town.
The 150-car-long train was headed from Madison, Ill. to Conway, Pa., when 38 train cars – 11 carrying toxic materials – derailed, starting a massive fire. The city council buckled in for the unprecedented event, declaring a state of emergency and shelter-in-place the next day as the fire raged on.
On Sunday, Feb. 5 – two days after the initial accident – an evacuation was ordered for the citizens living within a one-mile radius of the wreck. What came next that Monday was a governor-ordered “controlled release” of five tanker cars’ vinyl chloride that were feared to explode.
The released chemicals were then ignited, forming a mushroom-like cloud within the town of East Palestine. Debate has since transpired if Ohio Governor Mike DeWin had the town’s best interests in mind when making that decision or if he was prefixed with getting the railroad back operable again.
As for the town’s residents, they were kept informed solely by local media who continued to broadcast press briefings. For Jenna, she was on her way home from dropping her two sons, Gabe and Holden, off with their dad in Pennsylvania when she heard the news.
“It was a lot of sifting what you thought was real on social media and what was scary and fake,” she said. “I will say, our local news stations were really on top of it… But there was never any true information to us as far as ‘you’re in danger, you should probably leave [outside of the one-mile radius].”
On Feb. 8, evacuation orders were lifted, and residents within the one-mile radius were told they could return to their homes.
Experts now believe that some of the synthetic chemicals from the controlled release that weren’t burned spilled onto the ground and into waterways. This led to an estimated 3,500 fish being found dead in the local waterways by Feb. 14.
A week later, it was reported that the events had killed more than 38,000 small fish and “an additional 5,500 species of fish, amphibians and other creatures.”
And unfortunately, it seems that the town’s environment is not the only aspect affected by this incident.
“It’s not only the environmental effects,” Jenna said. “… You’ll see the #EPStrong, and there really is a core group of people that this brings them closer together. But I’ve also seen a big divide, as it’s causing a lot of fighting, especially on social media, about what the truth is… I think it’s driven a wedge between people, as far as the social aspect.”
Even after kids went back to school – a week after the controlled release – things were far from normal. East Palestine’s girls’ basketball team had made the state playoffs but was unable to play as the visiting team didn’t want to travel to their town. The school itself is roughly a mile and a half away from ground zero and has allegedly investigated reports of chemical smells in classrooms.
“There is a lot of sheer panic and anxiety in everyone here because nobody knows if we’re safe,” Jenna said. “I don’t think we’re safe, but there’s nothing tangible. We haven’t experienced any symptoms, other than the top of my tongue has been tingley… And our neighbors have stated the same thing.”
Perhaps the most bizarre happenstance of this situation is that it took national some media weeks to begin covering the event, despite people like Jenna sharing her experiences openly on social media.
While there are an intertwined web of strange circumstances that were met before and after this event and the coverage surrounding it, at least one thing is for certain; the local hospitable response has been overwhelming.
“There has actually been a tremendous outpouring for this town,” Jenna said.
The Way Station, a community resource for family individuals, has stepped up big time, converting a local Presbyterian church into a drive-thru, offering bottled water, electrolyte drinks, cleaning supplies and dog food, among other things. It’s a big help for families like Jenna’s relying on bottled water to drink and cook with.
In addition to providing physical help, various groups are offering emotional support.
“There have been some prayer circles up at the high school, and a lot of people are volunteering, trying to get help for the people that are really down and out,” she said. “Donations have been spectacular, and it has been a really big help.”
Over a month removed from the derailment, it still seems tough for Jenna and other families to return to the way things were, but they’re beginning to see strains of silver linings peeking through.
“I think that the media spotlight will help some of these small businesses down the road,” Jenna said. “It has gotten their name out there… Maybe we will get some help from politicians and bigger groups out there.”
Straight Shooters When Good Goes Bad
While only time and hope can restore life to this Ohio border town, it helps when people like Jenna share the good, the bad and the ugly of the situation.
“I’ve always been a person – and if you know my family – you know that we’re pretty much straight shooters,” she said. “And I really think that that is the most important thing. You’re never going to have anyone trust you if you can’t take the bad with the good, too. That’s real life. Life isn’t just good all the time, and I think that we need to express that.”
That’s the key here. We don’t find true happiness until we can be authentic about who we are and what we’ve been through. It’s these tough moments and how we respond to them that defines us. Having this ability to share both sides of the coin should be celebrated.
There are going to be ups and downs in our lives. There will be forks in the road in everything we do, whether that’s relationships, our careers or just our fantasy football leagues. Coming to terms with that just makes us that much more human.
Alright, and here we go.
The following rising/fading selections are based on stats, trends and film research, reflecting value in early Points Per Reception (PPR) Redraft and Best Ball Fantasy Football Leagues.
Quarterback I’m Targeting in Best Ball Fantasy Football Drafts:
Daniel Jones (New York Giants): It’s almost as if the industry and fantasy managers are already writing off Daniel Jones’ league-winning 2022 season as a fluke. Jones finished as the QB9 in 16 games throwing to the likes of Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James and Darius Slayton for most of the season.
The Giants have already added profound-when-healthy tight end Darren Waller via trade and have good odds of drafting another pass-catcher in a serviceable receiver class. Another year in the Brian Daboll system should do wonders for Jones, who set career highs in completion percentage (67.2), passing yards (3,205, rushing yards (708) and rushing TDs (seven) in his first year in it. Any pass-cathing additions should help increase Jones’ pedestrian 2022 TD rate (3.2 percent).
Jones’ current Underdog Fantasy Average Draft Position (ADP) is 14th among QBs, behind the likes of Trey Lance, Kirk Cousins and Deshaun Watson. With Jones now having a long-term future in New York, I like him to remain in the low-end QB1 conversation and, depending on what the Giants do in April, jump into the top-six conversation. If I miss the run of the top-eight QBs in best-ball fantasy football drafts, I’ll gladly wait until the ninth round to draft Jones.
Quarterback I’m Fading in Best Ball Fantasy Football Drafts:
Lamar Jackson (Baltimore): Things are getting worse in Baltimore before they get better. Contract negotiations seemed to have stalled between Lamar Jackson and the organization. No. 1 receiver Rashod Bateman fired shots at Ravens’ GM Eric DeCosta, and the majority of higher-profile free agent WRs are signed elsewhere by now.
The Ravens pick No. 22 in the draft and likely miss out on the class’s clear-cut No.1 receiving prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Jackson has missed 31.3 percent of the Ravens’ regular season games the past two years, and his 36-passing TD 2019 season is starting to look like an outlier, throwing just 33 the past two seasons (24 games) combined.
The Ravens will install a new offense this season under newly-hired offensive coordinator Todd Monken. With so much in the air with Jackson’s contract, I worry how familiar he’ll become with Monken’s system if he even plays. Sometimes part of drafting successful best ball fantasy football teams this early in the year is avoiding unnecessary risk. And at a QB7 ADP, Jackson is potentially the biggest.
Running Back I’m Targeting in Best Ball Fantasy Football Drafts:
Travis Etienne (Jacksonville): Known more as the revered pass-catching RB prospect, Travis Etienne surprised many in 2022 when he put up 1125 yards rushing yards on 220 carries. That’s a higher total than other dynamic backs Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler have put up in their 18 combined seasons.
Doug Pederson’s hybrid offense predicates on spreading the field, leaving it to a quick and efficient RB to move the chains. This was displayed in the Jaguars’ comeback victory in the NFL Playoffs vs. the Chargers, as Ettienne had 20 carries for 105 yards and a game-winning fourth-down run.
The Jaguars’ offensive line and defense should only improve in the draft, likely leading to a higher volume of efficient carries for Ettiene. A third-round PPR RB11 pricetag on Underdog feels right for a player that has yet to unlock his pass-catching upside and has overall RB1 potential. I’m more than comfortable rostering Ettienne as a low-end RB1 with the potential for more this season.
Running Back I’m Fading in Best Ball Fantasy Football Drafts:
D’Andre Swift (Detroit): A frustrating timeshare between Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift may have just got more frustrating as Williams exits for New Orleans and former Chicago Bear David Montgomery joins the fold in Detroit. With electric RB coach Duce Staley heading home to Carolina, this backfield has more questions than answers.
However, we do know that David Montogomery has been a lock for 200 carries each season, despite missing some games here and there. So he’ll probably take close to Williams’ share on the ground. Where it gets really concerning for Swift is in the passing game.
Williams was a serviceable pass catcher, but never broke 300 receiving yards, averaging 7.4 Yards Per Reception (YPR) throughout his six-year career. Montgomery, on the other hand, has had three straight seasons of 300-plus receiving yards and averages a respectable eight YPR for his career, better than even Swift (7.7).
Swift has yet to total more than 151 carries in his three seasons. No matter how dynamic he is, that matters. I’m passing on his current fifth-round price tag at RB15 for other RB2 candidates for a much cheaper price, possibly even Montgomery.
Receiver I’m Targeting in Best Ball Fantasy Football Drafts:
Allen Lazard (New York Jets): Fresh off a four-year, $44-million contract with the Jets, and confirmation that his former QB Aaron Rodgers intends to play there, vibes are high for former undrafted free agent Allen Lazard.
Lazard is coming off his first PPR WR3 season, totaling 60 receptions, 788 yards and six TDs in 100 targets in 15 games. Lazard isn’t someone who ever has WR1 upside, especially now playing opposite of reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson. But his 21.1 percent target share shouldn’t take too much of a hit in New York and firmly supplants him in the PPR WR3 conversation.
However, a reunion with former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett gives Lazard a higher ceiling. Hackett and Rodgers had great success in the gold zone (five yards and in), resulting in Lazard’s career-high eight TDs in 2019 on just 60 targets. There is a chance Lazard fires off for double-digit TDs with the Jets, making his WR62 best ball fantasy football ADP perhaps the best current value on Underdog.
Receiver I’m Fading in Best Ball Fantasy Football Drafts:
Chris Olave (New Orleans): Let me set the record straight. I love Chris Olave. I just don’t like his current PPR WR14 price tag in best ball fantasy football leagues.
Derek Carr is now the signal caller for New Orleans. Carr’s biggest deterrent for fantasy football leagues has been his mediocre TD rate (4.4 career average). Excuse me for not believing that Pete Carmichael Jr.’s prehistoric defense and Dennis Allen’s questionable coaching decision can help change that.
There was a lot of good for Olave during his rookie season. He paced in the top 15 in target share (26.7 percent), third in air yards share (40.8 percent) and fourth in deep targets (29). But all that got him to just four TDs and a PPR WR25 finish in 15 games. And now you factor in a possibly healthy Michael Thomas?
Drafting Olave in the late-second/early-third round is drafting him at his ceiling. And that’s what you have to do to get him right now.
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 playoff and uplifting content, especially start/sit advice, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.