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Start, Sit & What Ifs

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 Woolcocks’s journey as a young creator, this series is now in its fifth season. Join him this week as he shares the story of Joe Pepe and his Week 1 start/sit selections.

As the clock strikes 8:20 PM ET tonight, a new chapter of the NFL’s story begins. 

Perhaps even more anxious than the players taking battle at So-Fi Stadium in Los Angeles are fantasy managers and football content creators across the globe. New narratives are cast each year following the Super Bowl, consistently shifting with each hour of research and news update.

Before you know it, summer camping trips turn into late nights, trying to prepare for the season.

For this writer, the journey of creating fantasy content enters its fifth season. As for this company, it marks our third – a pivotal moment dictating our future success. I expect the next 18 weeks to be nothing short of a rollercoaster.

Fantasy football managers across the board may also be feeling similar. To remedy any pre-game jitters, we go to South Philadelphia. 

Meet Joe Pepe

“The ‘Rocky’ movies actually hit it pretty well,” said Joseph ‘Joe’ Pepe in a Sept. 6 interview. “We’re all hardworking-type people with loud mouths, and we’re passionate – we’re a passionate place.” 

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Joe teaches a soccer class in 2021 with Heyday Athletic.

Now a 33-year-old Philadelphia native, Joe grew up doing one thing – competing. Whether it was pickup games, grades or organized sports, Joe and his friends fought for bragging rights. However, perhaps unlike the typical Philadelphia Italian, Joe found what he refers to as “part of his family” outside his blood in these friends.

This competitiveness eventually landed Joe a contract with the United Soccer League (USL) after his freshman year of college at Temple University. During his run, Joe spent time with Ocean City Barons, Reading United AC and Harrisburg City Islanders.

Eventually, Joe tried out the Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer (MLS) club, earning a temporary contract.

Sometimes You Gotta Get Lost to Find Yourself

As life often does, it knocked Joe down – literally. Not long after joining the Union, Joe suffered a concussion. At this point, Joe had suffered six career concussions, a kidney tear and had been flown off the field. 

Ultimately, Joe walked away from the game to preserve his long-term health.

“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, dealing with the concussions and the end of my dream for 20-something years,” he said. “All I wanted was to play professional sports. That was my chance, that was my try, and I lost it.”

It was 2012, and for almost the first time in his life, Joe was mortal – a bit lost like most early to mid-20-year-olds. He spent more time partying than usual, “getting drunk and being hungover.”

“I didn’t have a reason,” Joe said. “Before, I was always a do-better-than-yesterday type of person. So I kinda lost myself, and it sucked. It was one of the tougher moments.”

As they always were when he needed them most, Joe’s friends were there to pick him up after opening up about how he was feeling. Knowing that he had collected fitness reading material and that he continued to work out despite being depressed, Joe’s sister nudged him in the direction of a profession in fitness.

This led to Joe applying for a job as a trainer at the Comcast Center. He did this while returning to school, this time to Concordia University, St. Paul, for kinesiology. 

Writer, Warrior – One in the Same

As Joe began to rediscover himself through his work and education, he began writing various fitness articles, which were published in Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness.

While working at the Comcast Center, one of Joe’s clients took an interest in his love life – or, therefore – lack of one. The client eventually nominated him to be on “The Bachelorette.” Suddenly, Joe was doing several interviews for the show – even flying out to Los Angeles to meet with show producers.

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Joe and friends Leonard, Joe Sindoni, Joe Rota, Kevin and Krystin having a good time at Paddy’s Pub in 2019.

Though he didn’t appear on “The Bachelorette,” it created a snowball effect that led to several interviews for reality shows, including “American Ninja Warrior” and “Big Brother.” The downside is that Joe spent time interviewing and flying across the country, only to usually get ghosted in the final stages of the process.

In 2018, a week following the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, Joe was about to throw in the towel of being on TV. However, his friend convinced him to apply once more for a new show, “TKO: Total Knockout.” “TKO” is best described as a show that combines a “Wipeout” style obstacle course with elements of “American Ninja Warrior” and “American Gladiators.”

Just hours later, Joe receives a call with a Los Angeles area code. Next thing you know, he’s meeting the show’s producers and host, Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart. Thankfully, things worked out this time. Before long, Joe was a contestant on CBS’s newest obstacle course competition TV series.

“TKO: Total Knockout”

Finally, with $50,000 on the line, the Philadelphia kid has a chance to make a name for himself. Following an ambush by Swoop, the Eagles’ mascot that he had actually named as a kid in a contest, Joe was ready to do what he does best against the four other contestants, compete.

“I honestly don’t care about the fame of it all,” Joe said. “Sure, I would love to win a bunch of money and set my friends and family up for life. That’s all well and good. It is unfortunate how competitive I am that I think I can win all of the [reality competition] shows.”

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“TKO” debuted July 11, 2018.

Joe remembers the first section of the obstacle course when he was running along ledges, dodging dodgeballs launched from NFL-style jug machines. After a ball hit the glass for the first time, Joe blacked out. 

“I don’t remember the rest of it. All I knew was that I didn’t want to get hit, and I was going to speed as fast as I possibly could.”

Joe’s time was not only the best of the group so far, but he was the only contestant to finish the course’s fourth zone in six episodes.

“I hit the buzzer, and I instantly collapse,” he said. “… left it all out on the course. I had nothing left.”

After taking the lead, Joe still had to play defense, knocking the remaining contestants off as they made their run. He successfully hit both of them off the course and made true on his word that he would win.

Claim to Fame

The night the episode aired, Joe and his friends watched the episode together. Once they announced his won, the group celebrated. The following morning, Joe was back up at 5:00 AM, doing an interview on the news.

Beginning with the subway ride home, Joe became a local celebrity, recognized at Philadelphia restaurants and his work.

His national-TV victory and persistence in sending query letters to editors eventually helped Joe land in the fantasy football industry. He’s since written for Bleacher Report and Fantasy Data, amongst others.

September 2022

Today Joe is hot off his debut victory on “Celebrity Boxing,” writing for FantasyPros, managing multiple gyms and living in a house he bought just down the street from his parents.

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Joe and Danielle pose for a picture at the Victoria in Philadelphia earlier this year.

When Joe isn’t busy perfecting his craft(s), he can be found spending time with his girlfriend of six months, Danielle Chiaro, or his five-year-old nephew. If he’s out with his friends at a local pub, expect a lot of that same goofiness you see from him online, along with plenty of laughs. 

From an outsider’s point of view, Joe’s life seems pretty good now. But make no mistake. This didn’t come without long hours, heartbreak and leaving it all out there.

“If you get the opportunity for something, or you’re just playing your weekly baseball game for your high school, leave it all out there,” Joe said. “I can at least go on with the rest of my life never having to say, ‘what if I ran a little faster, what I held on a little longer.” 

At the end of the day, whether it was soccer, “TKO,” fantasy football content or his relationships, Joe eliminated his  “what ifs.” As fantasy football managers and humans we must be willing to do the same if we want to be successful.

Take chances this NFL season – both in life and fantasy football. Say yes to new opportunities, embrace new challenges and don’t live in fear when making a transaction or start/sit decision.

Alright, and for the first official time of the 2022 regular season, here we go.

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 in Week 1:

Trey Lance (San Francisco):  I usually elect to take the wait-and-see approach with young quarterbacks. However, Trey Lance has two things going for him in Week 1: his rushing upside, and he’s playing the Chicago Bears.

The Bears enter the season with a largely unproven rookie head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. They also lost four starters on defense, including Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. Even worse than the Bears’ defense might be their offense with a lack of proven receiving options and what my colleague, Nate Polvogt, ranks as the league’s worst offensive line.

The 49ers’ defense should give Lance more than enough looks to find Deebo Samuel and George Kittle (if active) while extending plays with his legs – catapulting him to a top-12 QB finish in Week 1.

Quarterback I’d Sit in Week 1:

Kirk Cousins (Minnesota):  I’ve been on the record for buying into Kirk Cousins once again coming into the 2022 season. He has elite weapons and newly-found upside with rookie head coach Kevin O’Connell now calling the shots.

However, I’m looking for another option here in Week 1 as the Vikings take on the Packers, home to perhaps the NFL’s best cornerback trio in Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas. With Allen Lazard also not 100 percent for the Packers, I expect a heavy dose of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon – likely leading to less-than-usual possession time and plays for Minnesota.

Running Back I’d Start in Week 1:

AJ Dillon (Green Bay):  I’m starting to sound like a broken record, and it’s only Week 1. But until fantasy managers and rankers adjust, I will keep saying it: trust Dillon.

Dillon outrushed Jones last season and caught 91 percent of his 37 targets. As mentioned, Lazard may not be 100 percent, and the remainder of the receiving room remains a question mark. 

This is a new Vikings team. Yet, it still sacrificed 103 rushing yards per game to opposing backs last season (the eighth most). Dillon averages 4.5 Yards Per Carry (YPC) for his career. So if he sees 15+ touches, he’ll capitalize and offer high-end RB2 upside.

Running Back I’d Sit in Week 1:

Michael Carter (New York Jets):  Second-year man Michael Carter is listed as the Jets’ starting RB heading into their home opener against the Ravens. But things are about to change in New York, and it’s because of Breece Hall.

While Carter is an allusive and shifty back, Hall is a game-breaker. He rushed for more than 3,000 yards and had 46 combined TDs in his last two seasons at Iowa State. Additionally, Hall sports 94+ percentile metrics in the 40-yard dash, speed and burst scores.

This is also likely not the greatest matchup for RBs in general. The Ravens’ defense remained mostly intact and added standout rookie safety, Kyle Hamilton. As a team, they limited backs to the third-least rushing yards (1,215) and the sixth-least targets (96) last season. 

Wide Receiver I’d Start in Week 1:

JuJu Smith-Schuster (Kansas City):  If there’s a game I want to be a part of on Sunday, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Arizona Cardinals, as Vegas has marked it with the highest over/under of the weekend. 

This includes JuJu Smith-Schuster as he enters the season as the Chiefs’ No. 1 WR, likely behind only Travis Kelce in target share. In his last fully healthy season (2020), Smith-Schuster hit double-digit fantasy points in 75 percent of games. 

The Cardinals are littered with injuries on both sides of the ball, including starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. If Zach Ertz or Rondale Moore can’t go for the Cardinals, Patrick Mahomes could see an increase in possession time, equally raising my confidence in Smith-Schuster.

Wide Receiver I’d Sit in Week 1:

Drake London (Atlanta):  Questions remain of who will be the rookie WR1. While Drake London is a popular choice, it’s unlikely his campaign begins with a bang here in Week 1.

London has a lot working against him, including a matchup against a tough New Orleans Saints defense that features lock-down cornerback Marshon Lattimore and newly-acquired safety Tyrann Mathieu. In his first start since 2019, I don’t expect QB Marcus Mariota to push the ball down the field too much with the Saints’ secondary prowess. 

Additionally, London was injured in the Falcons’ first preseason game and remained limited at Wednesday’s practice. The last time London saw live action in a meaningful game was Oct. 30. I’m out on the rookie this week and perhaps next week too with a matchup against the Rams looming.

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, especially start sit advice, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.

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