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2023 NFL free agents

Start, Sit & The Secrets of Luck

by Seth Woolcock

“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 fifth season. Join him in this edition as shares the secrets of luck and predicts some gems and busts from the 2023 NFL free agents.

Sauerkraut eaten on New Year’s. Green beers drank on Saint Patrick’s Day. Wood knocked on. 

It didn’t matter; luck and I never saw eye-to-eye.

Whether it was picking names out of a hat for bedrooms in college or draft positions in fantasy football leagues, I already knew the outcome. I’d settle for the least desirable bedroom and the most unwanted pick number.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Great in their own respect, moments of my early teen years could be episodes out of a late-’90s sitcom. The one where boy meets girl, just to have it blow up before they ever get serious. Or who could forget the one where a housefire leads to moving to a rival school?

College was the same story, just a different cast and set. The protagonist finally works his way up to editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, just for the paper to cease printing for the first time in over a decade. A simple Friday night serving shift for extra cash turns into finding one of the restaurant’s owners passed away at his house.

And after roughly 17 years of schooling, a full-time job in the field of choice is finally landed – only to be furloughed from it two months in due to an unprecedented virus and pandemic. 

Fast forward to four months later and record-high unemployment numbers. New employment is found at a place many would consider a dream spot. Only it’s anything but that – leading to more self-questioning than ever.

Flip the Script

Between the above plotlines, there have been plenty of wrong drink orders, flat tires and spilled drinks; experiences all largely based on luck. However, most of these unfortunate events led to some inadvertent positive consequences.

Yes, I didn’t meet the right girl in high school. But I would later, after already having an amazing group of friends alongside (pictured above). Moving away only taught me new lessons, gave my life more good humans and strengthened my bonds with the right pre-existing friends.

Having the newspaper go all-digital in college only taught me new skills I regularly use today, like web design and podcasting. It also led me to hire audio editors who helped shape both my life and my future venture, “The In-Between Fantasy Football Podcast.”

While incredibly horrible for everyone it affected, COVID-19 and being furloughed from my job allowed me to create In-Between Media (IBT). And later on, leaving my career in higher education only accelerated IBT’s growth and led me to the right portfolio of clients.

The Secrets of Luck

The pith here isn’t to carry a rabbit’s foot or to give into superstitions to manufacture luck. Instead, it’s to just work your hardest and always find the charmed side of a curveball.

Sometimes what seems unlucky at the moment plays out in your favor.

And if you are trying to get the good juju, karma or whatever you want to call it back in your favor, start by doing what’s right for you. Because it’s a whole lot easier to help others when we are truly sure and happy with ourselves.

As I officially close the door on the 2022 NFL season and the fifth chapter of “Start, Sit & Seth,” I’ll remember this sentiment of fortunes. I will inevitably lose more fantasy football championships and bets due to what feels like flat-out bad luck. Only next time, I won’t blame the curse of my great-great-grandfather for it.

Despite everything – the roadblocks and the detours – I’m among the luckiest unlucky people alive. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alright, and here we go.

The following selections are based on stats, trends and film research, reflecting value in Points Per Reception (PPR) Redraft Leagues. In the spirit of luck, this column’s rising/fading selections will highlight upcoming 2023 NFL free agents and whether or not they can turn around or sustain their fantasy football fortunes with potentially new teams.

2023 NFL Free Agent Quarterback I’m Rising On:

Cooper Rush (Dallas):  A career backup, Cooper Rush might be the perfect budget bridge QB for an organization looking to develop or draft a young signal-caller. He went 4-0 in his first four starts in Dallas in 2022, totaling 775 yards, four TDs and zero interceptions.

2023 NFL free agents, Cooper Rush

Cooper Rush averaged 10.8 fantasy points in his five starts in 2022.

Things went sideways in Week 6 vs. Philadelphia, throwing three INTs. However, considering the Eagles’ defense could potentially break all-time sack records in the Super Bowl, it’s a bit easier to stomach. Especially when you consider he was working with Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz, both not fully healthy.

What I like about Rush is his ability to run an offense and find success on play-action, evident in his 67.4 play-action completion percentage.

I believe run-heavy teams like Tennessee or Carolina see that and his 5-1 career and could be interested in acquiring his service as they develop a future franchise QB.

Rush isn’t the sexiest name amongst 2023 NFL free agents. But he’s someone I’m keeping an eye on and throwing darts at in my early Superflex redraft and bestballs.

2023 NFL Free Agent Quarterback I’m Fading:

Derek Carr (Las Vegas):  Derek Carr is technically a part of this class of 2023 NFL free agents yet but will likely be before or on Feb. 15 if the Raiders don’t find a suitor via trade. The former Fresno State University gunslinger threw darts at the Pro Bowl Games last weekend. But that still doesn’t change his one QB1 finish in his nine-year career.

Who would’ve thought that with Carr would somewhat regress in 2022 with Davante Adams? Well, that’s what happened, as Carr’s yards per game decreased by 47.8 per game. Meanwhile, his interception rate increased to a career-high 2.8 percent. And though his TD rate increased, it was still just 4.8 percent, which is still very average.

Wherever Carr lands, it’s tough to see a comeback. His weapons will likely be a downgrade. Plus, his line could’ve been worse as he had 74 pressure throws (14th most amongst Qbs) and 27 sacks (19th most). In both single QB and Superflex redrafts, I’m likely staying clear, regardless of the landing spot.

2023 NFL Free Agent Running Back I’m Rising On:

Miles Sanders (Philadelphia):  Quietly, Miles Sanders tore it up this season. He finished as the PPR RB15. However, it was a career year, totaling 259 carries – 40 more than his previous season-high – for 1,269 yards and 11 TDs. 

His receiving work did dip to career lows, but that’s expected in somewhat of a committee and playing with a rushing QB in Jalen Hurts. There were some serious question marks about Sanders’ future with Philadelphia coming into the season. But after a stellar season and totaling 132 yards and two TDs in the playoffs so far, they could very well retain him, especially if they win the Super Bowl.

Sanders’ advanced metrics have never been eye-popping, but he has averaged five Yards Per Carry (YPC) throughout his career. Being behind the best offensive line in football on a team that was No. 1 in game script is priceless though. His 49 red zone touches (fourth-most amongst RBs) are a product of that. 

Never totaling fewer than 912 combined yards in a season and posting an 81.3 run block rating in 2023 (seventh best amongst RBs), Sanders will draw suitors. Let’s hope for fantasy’s sake that this RB is amongst the 2023 NFL free agents that stay put. If he does, I’ll be targeting him in all formats. If not, I likely pass on him if he remains at a mid-round Average Draft Position (ADP).

2023 NFL Free Agent Running Back I’m Fading:

Alexander Mattison (Minnesota):  It’s never a good thing when a player’s opportunities dip during a contract year. Well, that’s exactly what happened to Vikings’ RB Alexander Mattison. After averaging 110 rushing attempts and 462.3 rushing attempts through his first three seasons, he set career lows in rushing attempts (74) and rushing yards (283).

For three straight seasons, Mattison has largely been a bench clogger that is far less efficient than Dalvin Cook when called upon. It’s tough to say what market there will be for the Boise State University product after back-to-back seasons of averaging under four YPC.

Clearly, head coach Kevin O’Connell doesn’t like him as much as his predecessor, Mike Zimmer. So he’ll either resign with the Vikings and be a late-round bench clogger again or sign a small deal elsewhere and be over-drafted as a result. It’s a lose-lose. 

2023 NFL Free Agent Receiver I’m Rising On:

Olamide Zaccheaus (Atlanta):  This is admittedly a deep cut. But in a 2023 NFL free agents class shallow as this at the position, Olamide Zaccheaus is an interesting name to watch. He somehow managed more than 500 receiving yards and three touchdowns. This is despite the Falcons averaging 24.4 passing attempts per game (second-least).

2023 NFL free agents, Olamide Zaccheaus

Olamide Zaccheaus had one PPR WR2 finish in 2022.

The now five-year veteran was consistently brilliant against man coverage, averaging 2.2 yards of separation (seventh-best amongst WRs) and 2.1 PPR points per target (eighth-best). Additionally, he was within the top 20 in contested catch rate (50 percent) and QB rating per target (109.5).

Other WR-needy teams are going to notice his efficiency in what was a hard-to-watch designed offense. Houston could bring him over to be a reliable option for Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Or he could find himself playing for the New York Giants or the Green Bay Packers, two offenses with good play-callers and the need for reliable receivers. Just about anywhere would be better than Atlanta.

At worst, Arthur Smith brings in a better veteran than Marcus Mariota, or Desmond Ridder gets a full offseason as the starter. Either way, I’m circling Zaccheaus as a late-round dart throw this year.

2023 NFL Free Agent Receiver I’m Fading:

JuJu Smith-Schuster (Kansas City):  If there was a year for JuJu Smith-Schuster to reclaim his spot as an elite NFL receiver, it was 2022. He played with Patrick Mahomes, who was without Tyreek Hill. Skyy Moore was a rookie, and Mecole Hardman missed nine games.

However, what we got was a fine season of 78 receptions, 933 yards and three TDs. But compared to Smith-Schuster’s three other close-to-fully healthy seasons, it was his worst. He had just three deep targets and a 7.6 Average Depth Of Target (ADOT), 90th amongst WRs. And again, this is with Mahomes – a once feared deep-ball passer.

It’s hard to see the situation getting better for him. If the Chiefs do re-sign him, Moore will have another year of development. Kadarius Toney still has serious upside when healthy. And the Chiefs could always add another rookie in a receiver-rich draft. Other fits could be the Patriots, Colts or Saints – all who have questions on offense.

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 feel-good content, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.

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