The Hard Bargain: Fantasy Football Dad Life

“The Hard Bargain” is a year-round column by Dave Stewart offering parenting advice and weekly fantasy football advice for deeper (16+ team) leagues. Dave brings over a year of experience writing this column to NFL Week 9 and will be here to help provide lineup recommendations throughout the fantasy football season.


A Week 8 Scoring Bonanza

Week 8 was wild! It felt like everybody was scoring multiple touchdowns. Five different players had three apiece. Fantasy scoring went berserk. It was exciting. We rode a wave on Sunday. Hopefully, you were on the winning side of a high-scoring matchup. If not, you likely spent the day feeling miserable.

Discovering a New Passion

Tom Ward, 43, aka “The Fantasy Football Dad,” remembers a time before the hobby consumed his emotions. 

Admittedly, Tom was late to the game, picking up the fantasy itch in 2010. “I used to try not to [play fantasy football] because I’ve seen how miserable my friends were playing it,” Tom said in an Oct. 25 interview. “Once I was sucked in, it’s been history since then. Watching football has never been the same.”

“I used to love watching football on Sundays,” Tom said, “Now I still love it, but, you know, [with] a little bit of anger each week.”

He sounds like every one of us. Tom hosts a live draft for his home league annually, and it is a party.

“We usually just send the kids to my mother-in-law’s for the night,” Tom said. “We have it here, and everyone is hungover for about two or three days.”

Fantasy Football Dad Life

Being a bit of a fantasy football dad myself, I was eager to hear Tom’s story. Mere moments into our conversation, it became apparent that we have a lot of commonalities. We are both “old dads,” we both have twins and we both have a writing background that we have happily rediscovered in the fantasy football industry.

Tom writes a weekly article called “Dad Moves” for The Fantasy Football Dudes, who asked him to contribute after enjoying his stories about fantasy fatherhood. It’s a bit of fantasy advice coupled with Tom’s wit and dad-joke-based humor. Check it out in their Dudesletter and get it sent straight to your email inbox.

From Twinning to Winning in Fantasy Football

We bonded over our twins.  My daughters, “the Sneaky Girls,” are closing in on their eighth birthday. His boys are the same age. Our wives both seemed to know ahead of the ultrasound that twins were on the way. We commiserated about the chaos that is a twin birth and marveled at our wives for being so strong.

Tom shared a harrowing story: “I felt like I was in an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ They pulled me out of the room. They’re rushing bags of blood in there… The doctor said, ‘I have to save a life right now.’”

Twins fight. They are best friends, they are bitter rivals and it seems the experience is universal. “They’re either best friends in the universe, ganging up on me, or at each other’s throats,” Tom said. 

His twin boys have not entered the fantasy football arena yet, but Tom’s oldest is 16 and holds the championship belt as the reigning champion of their home league.

Tom said, “Sometimes he just leaves it in his room and I’ll just walk in and stare at it and say, ‘You will be mine again.’”

Leaving a Legacy

Attempting to get our children to play fantasy football is not where our similarities end. We both remembered wanting to be fathers when we were growing up. I felt emotionally distant from my father. Tom’s father was not present in his life.

“You grow up always missing something when your father is not part of your life,” he said. “I like being able to be for my kids what I didn’t have.”

Most significantly, we both have similar visions of fatherhood. His advice for fathers-to-be was direct and honest.

“Selflessness is huge [in parenting]. It’s not about you anymore,” Tom said. “If you are there for your kids and they come before you, you’re doing it right.”

Go on and crow about it, Tom. You’re doing it right.

Taking a Victory Lap

Speaking of crowing about it, I killed with my Week 8 deep-league start recommendations. Andy Dalton was QB17, just outside the QB1 range for your 16-teamer. Still, if your quarterback was on a bye, you will take those 229 yards and two passing touchdowns with vigor. D’Onta Foreman was a vision, rushing for 118 yards and three touchdowns. Jerry Jeudy put on his best show since Week 1 with six receptions for 63 yards and a score. Let’s just pretend I didn’t pick a tight end because the one I did pick, Harrison Bryant, did not have a single target on Monday night. All told, a pretty successful week. I cannot promise to duplicate it, but I promise to try.

NFL Week 9 Deep-League Starts

Taylor Heinicke (QB, Washington Commanders)

Taylor Heinicke was thrust into the starting lineup after Carson Wentz fractured his ring finger. He has responded by leading the Commanders to consecutive victories. More importantly for fantasy managers, he has back-to-back top-12 quarterback performances.

Minnesota may be leading the NFC North, but they have not been much of an obstacle for quarterbacks. The Vikings are allowing the ninth-most points to the position. Heinicke has been leaning on the team’s premier receiver, Terry McLaurin. His two starts have coincided with McLaurin’s two highest-scoring fantasy performances this season. 

Deon Jackson (RB, Indianapolis Colts)

To be perfectly honest, running back is rough this week. With six teams on bye, at least seven starting fantasy backs are unavailable. You might be down bad at running back this week. I wish I could tell you I had a sure thing for you, but I don’t. I am swinging for the fences with a player who may have an increased workload this week. Keep your fingers crossed.

Jonathan Taylor missed Wednesday’s practice after injuring his ankle in Week 8. Nyheim Hines was eschewed to Buffalo on the busiest trade deadline day in NFL history. The Colts brought in Zack Moss with the trade with the Bills. It is fair to say there has been some upheaval in the Colts’ backfield.

The matchup with New England is daunting. Still, someone has to carry the ball for Indianapolis. The Colts heavily utilized Jackson, giving him a total of 39 touches during the contests with Taylor inactive. He was productive for fantasy football, scoring double-digit Points Per Reception (PPR) points in both games. He had 10 catches, 121 total yards and a touchdown in Week 6, finishing as the RB1 for the week. If Taylor misses this week, look for Jackson to receive the bulk of the work ahead of the newly acquired Moss. Even if Taylor plays in NFL Week 9, expect Jackson to see some work in rotation.

Josh Palmer (WR, Los Angeles Chargers)

The last time we saw Josh Palmer, he was collecting his season-high in targets with 12. He hauled in nine of them for 57 yards. Justin Herbert has confidence in the second-year man out of Tennessee. 

Palmer has seen his heaviest involvement in the offense when Keenan Allen was sidelined. Now, Mike Williams is expected to miss at least four weeks with an ankle injury as Allen’s hamstring issue continues to linger. In NFL Week 9, Palmer should certainly be in line for a larger role in the offense against the defense that currently allows the most fantasy points to wide receivers. The Falcons have given up four top-five wide receiver performances in the last three weeks.

Isaiah Likely (TE, Baltimore Ravens)

Mark Andrews is clearly one of the best tight ends in fantasy, but the poor guy has been through a lot lately. He is currently dealing with an ankle injury, as well as a shoulder injury. He has been limited in practice over the past two weeks. My recommendation of Isaiah Likely here is largely dependent on Andrews’s status. Should Andrews miss NFL Week 9, fire up the rookie in his place.

Likely led the team in receiving yards last Thursday after Andrews exited in the second quarter. Consequently, Likely caught six passes and scored a touchdown. He saw a very impressive 20.6 percent target share in the game. With the Ravens’ top wide receiver, Rashod Bateman, sidelined this week, Likely could still have a larger role in the offense even if Andrews is active for the game against New Orleans. The bad news is the matchup. The Saints have subsequently allowed the fourth fewest points per game to tight ends this season.


Life is hard, but it gets a little easier when we learn to lean on each other. Find me on Twitter @DaveFantasy for more life and fantasy sports content for NFL Week 9 and beyond.