As a boy, I grew into a love of sports at a relatively young age. The youngest of three boys, I was always striving to keep up with my older brothers who were bigger, stronger and faster than me.
There was a certain expectation of sports involvement in my family home. My dad coached my brothers in baseball, and he would later go on to coach them both in soccer. He was knowledgeable about a lot of sports, having competed in boxing, baseball and basketball. He was even a referee in soccer. Sports was not a nondescript side dish in my household – it was the main course.
My familiarity with sports began when my brothers pressured me to choose a favorite football team. I opted for the Pittsburgh Steelers at age 4, and I soon began to feel that my personal fortunes rose and fell with the success of the team.
I played soccer, not because I loved it, but because it was what we did in my family. I was not good and I quit a few times. I rejoined soccer at age 12 because it was finally my turn to have my dad as a coach. He played me at forward. He wanted me to score goals. Not having the skill of my brothers, I struggled. There were rumblings amongst my teammates. I did not crave the spotlight. I asked to be moved to a different position. I felt like I had failed him.
I learned to read a box score around age 10 in order to have conversations with my dad. I didn’t know how to be close to him, but sports gave us an opening. It was our way to connect. Despite being a subpar athlete, I was born to be a sports fan. I obsessed over minutiae. I memorized stats, jersey numbers, personal details and anything I could learn about my favorite athletes. The love of sports created a joyful feeling in me. It provided me with suspense and drama. It was always the thread that held our family together.
As I contemplated the idea of becoming a father, I knew that I wanted to be able to share my passion for sports with my children. After seven years of trying with many painful failures and difficulties, my wife was pregnant. It was early 2014, and we knew nearly right away that she was carrying twins. I felt like I wanted a boy. I knew the father-son relationship, entangled in mutual enjoyment of sport, that I shared with my dad, and that was something I wanted to be able to share with my son. As it happened, we had two beautiful baby girls. I might have thought I would be disappointed without a boy, but it was never the case.
From the beginning, those girls had my heart, and I wanted to share my life with them. They identified my sports obsession when they were quite young, and they would even “watch” games with me. During the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, we would often forego a bedtime movie in favor of “night-night hockey.” My daughters were absorbing my passion for sports, and it was creating a unique bond between us.
Preceding the 2019 NFL season, I was preparing for fantasy, as always, and had numerous drafts over a few weeks’ time. The girls, only 4 at that time, seemed interested in my drafts and started asking questions.
Internally, I was bursting with excitement merely thinking my girls had some level of interest in my favorite game. I asked them if they wanted to do their own draft, and they responded with a resounding “yes.”
I set them up in a Yahoo! public league and helped them with their draft. I never made suggestions about who they should pick, we simply read names from the default rankings, and they chose among players. This led to fun interactions every week, setting lineups, discussing matchups and explaining what bye weeks are. By the end of the year, they had won their first fantasy football championship. They had been bitten by the bug.
After I shared the story of their championship run on Twitter, they were invited to appear on their first live show, joining Faith Enes and Lauren Carpenter on “Women of Fantasy Football” presented by Club Fantasy FFL.
While on the show, they took to the spotlight well. After naming their favorite players, they introduced their new personas as the “Sneaky Girls.” They describe Sneaky Girls as “like ninjas, but they’re all girls.” To date, that moniker has taken on a life of its own, and the Sneaky Girls have carved out their own little niche in the fantasy Twitterverse. Just as sports helped me connect with my father, it is helping me connect with my kids.
Everything has an origin, whether it be my love of sports or my daughters’ appreciation of fantasy football. Fantasy value has an origin, too, and savvy managers find a way to sniff it out before the competition. With the NFL Draft behind us, dynasty rookie drafts are in full swing, but for redraft formats, those early rankings are still being formulated.
While names like Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are among the first selected in a dynasty rookie league, what can they do for you this upcoming season in redraft? Who has the right situation to have an impact in year one?
As an avid redraft manager, I continually find myself gravitating toward deeper leagues. Sixteen-team and larger redraft leagues are an underrepresented format. As such, I will be making that type of league my focus throughout the life of this column.
So, let’s get down to it it.
As a rule, I proceed with caution when it comes to drafting rookies in a redraft format. There tends to be too much unknown and, as such, a greater variance when it comes to anticipated outcomes.
Trevor Lawrence (QB, Jacksonville)
Trevor Lawrence was the top pick in the NFL Draft, and in leagues that allow a super flex, he was likely the top pick in dynasty rookie drafts. That certainly is not without reason. Few prospects enter the league with higher expectations than Lawrence.
He has been destined for this role since he set foot on campus in Clemson. He threw for more than 10,000 yards and 90 touchdowns in three years of college, never mind that the third was abbreviated due to the pandemic. If somehow, he is not the starter for a decade or more in Jacksonville, it will be seen as a withering failure.
One thing we can count on is that he will be given every opportunity to guide this Jaguars team from day one. New head coach Urban Meyer brings his success at the collegiate level to the NFL, and he has made no secret that he expects Lawrence to be the centerpiece of this new offense.
What kind of offense it will be certainly hinges on how well Lawrence plays, but it is a unit replete with weapons. Wide receivers DJ Chark, Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault, along with running back James Robinson and first-round selection Travis Etienne, should help offload some of the pressure on Lawrence.
I expect Lawrence to throw the ball a lot, and he has under-appreciated rushing upside, which should result in at least a handful of rushing touchdowns on the year. This is definitely one rookie I recommend taking a chance on. According to FantasyPros, his current Average Draft Position (ADP) is 120 overall, as the QB15. In a 16-team league, that places him as a mid-eighth-round selection. At that cost, he is a steal. A recent 16-team mock I participated in had him going in the sixth.
Javonte Williams (RB, Denver)
John Elway has stepped aside as GM for the Broncos and new man, George Paton, wants to put his mark on this team as quickly as possible. Moving up to take Javonte Williams in the second round of the draft may be a way to do just that. Phillip Lindsay has departed and Melvin Gordon was not brought in by Paton, therefore we should assume no loyalty shown to Gordon. This camp battle should come down simply to who plays better.
While it is likely that both players have a significant role in the offense, Williams should have a chance to separate himself and earn the larger share in the backfield, should he live up to expectation. Splitting touches equally with Michael Carter at North Carolina, Williams compiled 1,445 scrimmage yards and 22 total touchdowns in 2020.
Currently at an ADP of 108, or the RB39, I’m in on Williams. That equates to a late seventh-round pick to select your third running back in a 16-team league. I would do that any day. However, his ADP may be on the rise, as well. The aforementioned mock had him going in the early fifth round ahead of some backs that feel safer to me, like Mike Davis and David Johnson.
Jaylen Waddle (WR, Miami)
This one feels a little more like guesswork at this point than the previous two. In Miami, Jaylen Waddle joins DeVante Parker and Will Fuller in an offense clearly designed to exploit the big play. Waddle may be the premier big-play threat among them. During his college career, he averaged over 40 yards per touchdown, which is just absurd.
He will instantly become one of the most dangerous players with the ball in his hand upon entering the NFL. The only question that remains is how often he will get the ball in his hands. With his speed and game-breaking ability, Waddle is a lock to begin as a returner and potentially a third receiver.
Both Fuller and Parker have struggled with injuries throughout their professional careers. While projecting injury is not a good fantasy strategy, were either player to miss time, Waddle would certainly gain additional snaps in their absence.
He also possesses sufficient talent to force his way onto the field. It seems likely there is a future where Waddle is the WR1 in Miami, but no indication that he will even flirt with such a role in 2021. Waddle is another player I am curious to track throughout offseason workouts and training camp. His current ADP has him at 136, the 56th wide receiver taken. If he is on the board in the middle of the ninth round, I’d take him. The upside is simply too good.
Kyle Pitts (TE, Atlanta)
I am sold on Kyle Pitts. The most highly touted tight end prospect in recent memory, Pitts finds his way to Atlanta to begin his NFL journey. There, he will be catching passes from Matt Ryan, one of the NFL’s all-time good quarterbacks. I am bullish about Pitts’ potential. I will not bat an eye if he exceeds 70 receptions, 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns as a rookie. He just put up 770 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games at Florida in 2020.
I regularly have to restrain myself. In redraft format, it gives me pause when it comes to envisioning how new head coach Arthur Smith plans to deploy this offense. Coming from Tennessee, where he served as offensive coordinator, Smith oversaw one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses. In Atlanta, without a dominant run game, the offense is likely to look much different.
Smith has hired Dave Ragone, most recently the passing-game coordinator for the Chicago Bears, to handle the offense. Ragone is expected to cater the offense to the strengths in the passing game. Smith has indicated as much in his early press conferences.
Julio Jones appears to be forcing his way out of town. In fact, the only thing that might scare me off Pitts is his ADP. On FantasyPros, he is sitting at 80th overall, as the TE8. However, mocks look very different. In a way-too-early redraft mock I participated in, he was a fourth-round selection and the fourth tight end taken. In the 16-team mock I spoke about, he went in the second round! George Kittle was still on the board. While I would take him in the sixth, or even the late fifth round, any higher is perhaps too big of a bite for me to take.
In any case, I am longing to witness the beginnings of fantasy production for these incoming rookies. We are only scratching the surface, but throughout this offseason, I will be digging deep to help uncover the hidden value for your 16-team redraft leagues. So, please join me on this journey if deep redraft is in your interest.
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.