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Start, Sit & the Right Combinations

by Seth Woolcock

It’s a Friday afternoon, just one day before college football game day at the University of Southern California (USC).

Michael Edge, a 6’2’’ white man in his late 30s with a long beard and Notre Dame Fighting Irish Leprechaun tattoo on his arm, finds himself in a smoke circle with some members of the USC football team, chiefing on a freshly rolled blunt in an off-campus alley behind his house.

Fifteen minutes later, after cutting out of the circle early and heading to class, Michael, known now on Twitter as the Fantasy Stoner (@FantasyFBStoner), grins ear-to-ear as he sees the same players on campus heading to their bus to the hotel the night before game day. 

Although it wasn’t until after he graduated from USC in 2018 with a communications degree that emphasized in marketing and branding that Michael would begin his infamous Twitter account and his journey into the fantasy sports media world – it’s a better origin story to say the concept of the Fantasy Stoner was born that day in the alley.

Michael poses for a photo with Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger, who inspired the 1993 film, “Rudy,” after he signed his Notre Dame Fighting Irish Leprechaun tattoo.

Since beginning his brand in 2018, Michael has quickly become one of the top voices in the fantasy community. Yes, he’s proven to be great at marketing, branding and sports media – which is to be expected considering he studied it all at one of the U.S.’s most prestigious colleges. But, I believe there are other key components that have contributed to the Fantasy Stoner’s success. 

First and foremost, and considering this column’s title, Michael seemed to find and capitalize on a different, but right, combination – fantasy football and cannabis.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I started,” Michael said in a June 15 phone interview. “But I looked and didn’t see anybody pushing being a pothead fantasy player. I didn’t know where I was going to go with it. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just wanted to do something.”

Michael, who doesn’t believe in pharmaceutical drugs, largely recommends to others who are dealing with issues like stomach or back pain to “just smoke some weed.” 

“Also, if you’re overanalyzing your lineups and you’re suffering from paralysis by analysis – you know what? Smoke some weed. Because now you’re not going to overthink it. Now you’re going to be able to make a decision,” he said.

Similar to most of us fantasy players, Michael was someone who historically suffered from making the wrong last-minute start/sit decisions on Sundays. But now, because of his smoking tendencies, he feels confident in his decisions going into Sunday games.

“At the end of the day, drafting, making trades, setting your lineups, waivers or whatever it is, if you can slow your mind down and stop yourself from overthinking it, you’ll make better decisions,” he said.

As of June 27, Michael’s Fantasy Stoner Twitter account has over 6,300 followers. He’s also slated to face off in the same division as one of fantasy football’s original and most legendary personalities, Matthew Berry, in this year’s Scott Fish Bowl (SFBX), a competition of 1,200 fellow analysts and fans, including myself.

However, Michael’s journey to discovering his “right combination” and finding success was one filled with more twists and turns than most. 

Born and raised in Delran, N.J., Michael, like many kids, was unfortunately born into a broken home. After his parents split, he and his brother were raised by two aunts and a grandmother.

However, he was fortunate to have a “crew” when he was growing up that was always down to do something – whether it was playing football, basketball or just causing trouble.

“Sports are your constant, he said. “When you’re a kid and things aren’t normal… sports were always there.”  

After putting on pads and a helmet for the first time in high school, Michael played four years of football. This is also when Michael began diving into fantasy football. Of course back then the scoring was all done by hand after reading the box scores.

At the conclusion of his varsity years, Michael attended Seton Hall University. But, after living up to his “Fighting Irish spirit” and occasionally drinking too much whiskey, he was thrown out of school.

He lingered around New Jersey for a while, eventually returning to Delran where he would meet his future and now ex-wife. They had two kids and eventually decided to switch coasts – moving from two blocks off the Jersey Shore in Brigantine to Orange County, Calif.

The West Coast wasn’t exactly what Michael had envisioned, though.

“[Some people in California] care more about your bank account or what kind of car you’re driving rather than who the [expletive] you are,” he said.

That was until he “started smoking the really good weed.”

In 2008, Michael quit drinking as he upped his cannabis intake and discovered what it had to offer – all while playing fantasy football, of course.

Roughly five years later Michael decided to enroll at a local community college in the hopes of joining his then-wife as she went back to school at USC.

After spending three semesters working and attending the community college, Michael was accepted and awarded numerous scholarships to attend USC.

Though it was a different and more slow-burning path than most, let Michael’s story serve as a reminder to never give up on your dreams, go with the flow and don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Michael poses for a picture at his USC graduation with his friend, Jenny D, in 2018.

“You don’t know who someone is, or what they’ve been through or why they are who they are,” he said. “If you learn a little something about them, maybe you’ll understand their responses a little more or understand why certain things piss them off or certain things make them laugh.”

Today, Michael works remotely in Huntington Beach for a digital marketing company and continues to his after-hours work as a fantasy-loving alter-ego.

He’s currently with The Undroppables (@TheUndroppables) as a “big picture kind of guy” in marketing, including managing the company’s YouTube channel.

He’s also found a passion in activism, particularly the Black Lives Movement, both digitally and in-person, as he recently attended a rally in his town.

“It takes all of us to say that’s enough,” he said. “I didn’t want to get political with [Fantasy Stoner], but… I do have a voice, and a following, and it would be unfair to everyone who I support and love in this Black Lives Matter movement for me not to say something about it.”

He has also been a key figure in helping make the fantasy football community a more fun and accepting place for everyone with his constant support and sharing of others’ work while helping weed out those who are only there to be jerks.

“When it comes to making sure there aren’t assholes in the fantasy community, I think that that’s our job now,” he said. “And at the end of the day, if you don’t agree with something somebody says on Twitter, just scroll past it. There are far too many people who spend their days making other people miserable because they’re miserable.”

While the Fantasy Stoner’s discovery and execution of his right combination – fantasy football and cannabis – has helped him succeed in such a short time, it’s Michael’s authentic personality, great sense of humor and willingness to help others that have truly made him one of our industries greatest analysts and voices.

And now, here are Michael’s and my “Right and Wrong Combinations” or stacks for the upcoming fantasy football season in Points Per Reception (PPR) Redraft Leagues based on not only stat, trends and film research, but also their current Average Draft Positions (ADP).

Let’s get to it.

Right Combinations Michael Would Start this Season With:

Adam Thielen & Kirk Cousins (Minnesota):  Before getting banged up last year, Adam Thielen had two monster seasons where he averaged over 100 receptions and 1,300 yards per season. 

With Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell departing, vacating 110 targets, Adam Theilen could return to fantasy dominance as rookie receiver Justin Jefferson and second-year tight end Irv Smith Jr continue to develop alongside. His ADP seems to vary right now, but if things shake out well come August, Thielen could come at a fair price for a potential WR1.

His quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is practically free in one-quarterback leagues right now and should take another step forward in what will be his third season in Minnesota. With a potential Dalvin Cook holdout looming and run-heavy offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski now in Cleveland, Cousins, who was QB18 in 15 games last season, could see more volume.

Brandin Cooks & Deshaun Watson (Houston):  “I’m going to call last year for Brandin Cooks an anomaly,” Michael said.

Considering that Cooks was a top-15 wide receiver for four straight seasons before he was concussion-plagued last year, it’s a fair assumption. There aren’t too many teams’ likely number one receiver being drafted in the seventh or eighth round. If you assume Deshaun Watson is still a top-10 quarterback, it makes a compelling case for Cooks to be a value.

But, after such a horrid concussion history, highlighted in a recent article by Adam Hutchison of The Undroppables, bake that injury risk in come draft day and don’t reach too high for him.

And since the trading of DeAndre Hopkins, Watson, himself, could go cheaper than he has in previous years. Although Hopkins was a huge help for a developing Watson, he still had the talent to be a QB5 or better in his first-two full NFL seasons.

If you do take the Watson-Cooks stack, you’re certainly buckling in for the Bill O’Brien Express. But, for the right price, it might not be a bad investment.

Right Combinations Seth Would Start this Season With:

Marvin Jones & Matthew Stafford (Detroit):  It seems like all of the Lions’ skill-position players are being undervalued this season.

Marvin Jones though, who’s held a 14.3 percent touchdown rate or better over his last three seasons, is specifically going at a discount, somewhere usually in the ninth round. 

Look, I get it. He’s not a young and sexy pick, but his 16-game pace last season would’ve been good enough for WR-12, his second WR1 finish in the last three seasons. And that was with multiple games of Jeff Driskel and David Blough under center.

The secret is slowly getting out about the potential value of Matthew Stafford, his quarterback, as his ADP continues to rise. But, Stafford’s 16-game pace would’ve been enough to make him QB5 on the season. 

And I get that nobody wants to take a quarterback a year removed from fractured backbones. But, keep in mind that before that injury Stafford had played 128 consecutive games without missing a start, the sixth most all-time.

Mike Evans & Tom Brady (Tampa Bay):  Honestly, how cool is it that you can stack Mike Evans, one of the best receivers over the last half-decade and Tom Brady, the G.O.A.T. of quarterbacks this year?

Aside from the sheer awesomeness that you’ll feel when you look at your team if you have this stack, it could be a league-winning one as well. 

In every PPR redraft mock I’ve done it seems that Evans falls out of the top-25 picks – which is mind boggling. If that’s the case in your draft and you’re sitting there in the early-to-mid third round without a wide receiver after taking two backs early, consider yourself lucky. 

He’s been as close to a sure thing in fantasy in his career as anybody – eclipsing a thousand yards every season while averaging eight touchdowns along the way.

Brady, another quarterback whose ADP I hope stays modest, has something to prove this season and is really what could make this stack special this season.

Over the last ten years when he’s played a full sixteen games, Brady has never thrown for less than 3,900 yards or finished worse than QB14. So, the safe floor is there. But his upside, maybe similar to Peyton Manning’s his first two seasons in Denver, is what could be a difference-maker. 

The Buccaneers are likely to finally be in the playoff hunt, in addition to there now only being one first-round bye in the playoffs, you shouldn’t worry about either one of these future NFL Hall-of-Famers sitting out in the fantasy playoffs

Wrong Combination Michael Wouldn’t Start this Season With:

Miles Sanders & Carson Wentz (Philadelphia):  Despite there not being a fantasy RB1 in Philadelphia since 2014 when LeSean McCoy was RB12, Miles Sanders ADP is still in the top-15 overall picks.

Yes, Philadelphia’s offensive line has been great. But they let Jason Peters walk and Brandon Brooks, their three-time Pro bowl guard, has also already been lost for the entirety of the season to a torn Achilles. 

With Alshon Jeffery still possibly sidelined to start the season, there won’t be too many targets aside from an aging DeSean Jackson, a rookie Jaelen Reager and a duo of tight ends to keep opposing defenses away from keying in on Sanders.

His quarterback, Carson Wentz, also looks like he’ll be fighting an uphill battle off the bat after finishing what was only his second full-season playing 16 games. And is that really what you want from your starting fantasy quarterback, especially if you’re probably going to have to take him in the top-10 at the position?

I’m with Michael on this one and waiting for a higher upside signal-caller deeper in the draft.

Wrong Combination Seth Wouldn’t Start this Season With:

Cam Akers & Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams):  Although I want to believe in Sean McVay and the current regime in Los Angeles, the lack of an offensive line for the Rams is concerning for both rookie running back Cam Akers and his quarterback Jared Goff as he enters his fifth season in the league.

The Rams offensive line ranked 31 following last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Yet, they didn’t address it until their final pick of the draft.

Goff regressed last season, throwing almost as many interceptions as he had in the two previous seasons combined. Playing without Todd Gurley alongside for the first time in his career and Cooks now gone, it’s hard to want to invest in Goff, even if he is going cheaper.

Akers should be the lead back come Week 1. But, with his ADP slowly creeping into the fifth round, there are backs in less of a committee for a better price later on and more attractive players around where he’s being drafted.

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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