It’s been hard to figure out how to write a fantasy football column while black people are fighting to have the right to live free from police brutality and systemic racism.
I thought a lot about not writing anything because it feels wrong to talk about what players to draft or to give trade advice when there is such crucial and important work to be done.
But, what I’ve realized is that we need to have these types of conversations in all the areas of our life that we can. That includes fantasy football.
“Sunshine on the Sideline” is meant to be about highlighting the positive work that is happening in our society and the world.
I began this column to share my love of charity work and my love of dynasty fantasy football. I hope to remind people that difficult topics can still bring joy when you can see the efforts being made to improve and fix those things that cause pain and suffering.
Today, in support of the black community, I’ll be highlighting a few places to check out and support.
Campaign Zero is a policy and research organization started by activists associated with Black Lives Matter.
The team there analyzes policing practices across the country to assess their effectiveness. They use this data to help inform the public and to build comprehensive policy recommendations for meaningful police reform. They have tools to help people find ways of getting involved and fighting for reform right in their own communities and states. Supporting them will help to continue this crucial research.
This organization was started by Colin Kaepernick to help further his message.
“Our mission is to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders,” according to their website’s mission statement.
His focus on youth and the future is powerful and will help create change in a meaningful way.
The Legal Defense and Education Fund is one of the best organizations fighting for true racial justice and equality.
The LDF focuses on improving society through litigation, advocacy and public education. They help to defend the gains of the civil rights movement while still training and preparing the next generation to fight for the best and most inclusive version of the future we can have.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been around for 100 years, fighting to protect and expand the constitutionally guaranteed rights of those who have denied those rights on the basis of race. The ACLU continues their incredibly necessary work, trying to fulfill the original dream of America for all to be equal.
Marsha P. Johnson was a black trans woman who was a central figure not only during the Stonewall uprising of 1969 but the gay rights movement as a whole.
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute is an organization supporting the community of black trans women and their work is crucial to helping end the senseless violence and murder that is committed on black trans folks. They help each other share experiences and grow safely and healthily while calling attention to the issue that needs to be addressed.
“Gyrl Wonder is a professional pipeline 501c3 initiative giving rise to ambitious young women of color between the ages of 17 – 22. Our mission is to empower our gyrls through social impact, career exploration and objective alignment. We provide access and resources necessary for them to successfully enter a competitive workforce while teaching them how to leverage these tools to reach their personal and professional goals,” according to their website.
Gyrl Wonder supports black women find success in their careers and helps to give them the tools to get ahead in their lives. Black women are still the lowest paid group in the country and this work will help to change that.
Every group on this list is fighting each and every day to chip away at institutionalized racism and push us toward a more fair and equitable society for all. Any money, time and energy we can give to them will help to advance the cause and create positive change. It is crucial that we show up to support black lives and to help end systemic racism in our lifetime.
I want to quickly highlight one last thing before getting into the dynasty advice. That is Roger Goodell’s apology to black players for being wrong and not listening to their peaceful protests.
Though it is incredibly late to be issuing apologies, it is still good to recognize and appreciate when any amount of growth is achieved. It’s a big step in creating support for future protests by players and vindication of all that the Colin Kaepernick and the original group fought for.
Now, onto the Fantasy Advice.
Today, I want to talk about evaluations of incoming rookies. It’s something on everyone’s mind with rookie drafts happening soon. For that, I’d like to share with you the four main criteria I check for when I’m evaluating a rookie and where to place them for my rankings.
1. College Stats: This is a no brainer and the main thing that you’ll find in player profiles. But, stats are more complicated than just taking the face value of yards per completion or quarterback rating. Stats give a good picture, but they need context to help show a more realistic version of what is happening each week on the field.
A quarterback might be able to rack up huge numbers but if they play against the lackluster Big 12 Conference defenses their entire college career those numbers might not mean quite so much.
Just look at Marcus Mariota and Patrick Mahomes for example. Mariota completed 66.8% of his collegiate passes, threw 9.3 yards per attempt, 105 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and had a passer rating of 171.8.
Mahomes completed 63.5% of his passes, threw 8.3 yards per attempt, threw 93 touchdowns to 29 interceptions, and had a passer rating of 152.
On paper, Mariota is the better QB coming into the league. But, in real life, Mahomes just won his first super bowl and Mariota is Derek Carr’s back up in Las Vegas.
Stats are a baseline indicator of a rookie’s value and should put into the context that helps reveal the strengths and weaknesses you’ll be looking for through the rest of the process.
2. Tape, Lots and Lots of Tape: Watch the players play. It provides the clearest and vivid context to the stats and reveals the in-game mindset of a player.
It’s not the end-all of draft processes, but it is incredibly important. If you’re not sure where to find film on a player try YouTube. Look up specific games of theirs, or try and find someone who reviews film and might have some of their stuff cut up for use. It can be tricky to get your hands on tape, but it’s always worth the effort, and there’s usually enough to piece together the best and worst a player has to offer.
Also, please do not, ever, evaluate a player by highlight reels, it gives you nothing but false hope.
Take your time and comb through the footage you can find. See how your player handles themselves. Are they scared of some routes? Do they hesitate? Do they make careless choices with ball security or try bad throws?
Tape will show it all, the good and the bad. It helps to parse through all the experts who argue over the individual talent of the player vs team talent as the reason for production. You can take a running back and see if they’re running through giant gaps their offensive line made or if they have to create that space for themselves and do so regularly.
It’s a great equalizer I’m cutting through the noise and hype around a player, and it will make you evaluate better.
3. Player Character: Do your due diligence and see what kind of person the rookie is. Watch interviews, read reports on team interactions and see if they have any controversy off the field or attitude problems on the field.
It can mean a lot in translating skills to the NFL to know how a player interacts with management and other team members.
If you watch interviews and they’re always cocky, seem uninterested in the game itself or speak ill of their teammates, it’s possible that the player doesn’t translate to the next level.
I know this part may seem trivial, but if you see a player has an off-field issue with any number of various things that can ruin a career, it may be best to just avoid drafting them.
4. Trust Your Gut: Always and I mean always, trust your gut. You’re the general manager of your team. You likely have to live with your decision for years and you need it to be one that you can support. If you have the 1.01 and your gut says the player expected to go 1.03 is better, then draft them.
You’re taking team needs and your own fully contextualized evaluations into account. Just go for it. I’m a full believer that it’s better to lose on a decision you made yourself than to draft a player you’re lukewarm on only to see them fail while your gut decision flourishes on someone else’s team. It can be crushing and can take some of the fun out of the game.
Read up on rookies, know them, be prepared on draft day with the knowledge you’ve gained from your studies and clean up in your rookie drafts this year.
I promise you taking the time to dig through data and get a more complete picture will save you a lot of heartaches and get you ready to win your league this year and every year after.
Find me on Twitter @ThomasCuda and check out my other columns here on In-Between Media.