rookie running backs fantasy outlook

The Mundies: Rewarding the Scenic Route & Fantasy Football

Hey, everybody. 

The “scenic route” means different things to me. There is the more literal and intended meaning, an alternate route with more desirable scenery that likely takes more time than the more efficient-but-less-aesthetically-pleasing route. 

Recently our family took a road trip from Seattle to Crescent City, California, then into Redwoods National Park. Some of you may already know this. I wouldn’t shut up about it on Twitter (sorry, not sorry). 

For this southbound journey, there are basically two different route options. 

  1. Simply merging onto southbound Interstate 5 (I-5) in Seattle and staying on it until reaching southern Oregon, then cutting southwest to the Redwoods. This is the fastest route and also the more boring route.
  2. Near the Washington-Oregon border, driving southwest to Astoria, Oregon, jump onto Highway 101, then due south for the entire Oregon Coast. This adds hours to the trip, but you hug the Pacific Ocean Coast the entire way. The 101 continues into California and is one of the most beautiful drives in the country.

Obviously, this second option is the scenic route in the traditional sense and was my family’s chosen road trip path without hesitation. At some point, I intend to try out my storytelling chops and write a column about our Redwoods trip. 

Along with this more literal meaning, I also use the phrase “scenic route” in a metaphorical sense. 

Optimism

At heart, I am an optimist, which may not surprise you. Someone once warned me that maintaining an optimistic lean becomes more of a chore as you age. At 41-years-old, I find this to be true. Partly due to having a human brain, and partly due to this particular world I am blessed to be a part of, a lot is happening both internally and externally that can be trying for an optimist. The laziness of unconditional cynicism can be appealing.

To borrow a line from rapper NF’s song “The Search”:

My 2017 Toyota Sienna parked at Arizona Beach in southern Oregon on April 12.

“Cold world out there, kids, grab your coats.”

At the core of optimism for me is the attempt to decipher the positive in everything. “Everything” in this sense is somewhat vague and hyperbolic but involves trying to find the positive in something most would see as negative.

And let me be perfectly clear, this is not the same as “puppies and rainbows.” Optimism and positivity are not inherently disingenuous. That may seem like it goes without saying, but far too many people go there immediately.

Looking for the positive in things that happen to me and things that happen in the world is not to say that nothing is wrong. It is not to say nothing sucks. Quite the contrary. For me at least, it is looking at a situation, experience, result, etc., especially when it is negative, accepting (not denying) the parts that suck to the best of my ability, but not stopping there.

What role, if any, did I or am I playing in this? Can I learn something from this to minimize the chances of it happening again and also to improve myself or help someone else? 

Addiction

Take my drug addiction as an example. Drug addicts, whether in recovery like me or not, are not viewed in a very positive light. Believe me, I know addicts do some awful things. I am not here to say the larger societal viewpoint on addicts is without justification.

I believe addiction to be a disease. I know this is a controversial topic, but that is what I believe to be true. I am not interested in debating it, especially with anyone who has not experienced it. The “medicine” and “treatment” I choose to utilize for this disease is regular participation in a recovery program (Narcotics Anonymous for me).

I am not using the disease aspect of addiction as an excuse. “The disease made me do it so I am not responsible” is not a phrase I have ever uttered or even thought. Whether or not you think addiction is a disease (it is), I think this is where some of the sensitivity of the “disease versus not a disease” debate comes in, with the assumption that addicts use it as an excuse for their actions and to alleviate responsibility.

Maybe some do, but none of the addicts I know. There is the cliched phrase “if you know you know.” 

Well in this case, “if you don’t know you don’t know.” What I have found with my chosen form of treatment is many, many other addicts in recovery, who have done awful things like I have. But the past mistakes and abhorrent choices are owned, not ignored, not excused, no bullshit.

I’ve been in meetings with people about to start their prison sentence the next day, and even then, it was gratitude for being clean, not a hint of “it wasn’t my fault.” I know I am always only a millisecond away from a relapse, so I have to be vigilant. It’s a 24/7/365 treatment plan.

In an anonymous and very general nutshell:

“I f*#ked up. I suffered and accepted or am ready to suffer the consequences. Would I have done that thing if I had not been loaded? I have no idea. Probably not, but that doesn’t really matter. All I can do is try to improve myself to where I won’t do that thing again.”

And here is where positivity and optimism are allowed in for me. In going through this process of honest self-reflection, as long as I can at least turn the volume down on the shame and guilt, I can expand this self-improvement effort beyond simply not ingesting drugs.

I say it all the time now. I am grateful I am an addict in recovery. For one, there is no other option, that’s who I am. But I also realized I may never have learned certain things about myself or met certain people now in my life without this part of my story. That is looking through a tangible “positive lens.”

So you see, not “puppies and rainbows.” Not “nothing is ever wrong ever.” I am not denying the existence of a more “tunnel vision” form of positivity and optimism, but denying the icky things and only seeing the pretty things may be how some people cope with this world, and I am certainly not going to judge anyone for that.

The Scenic Route

The optimist in me views this checkered past of my life as having taken the scenic route to the current moment. In this case, it is not about aesthetically pleasing scenery (the polar opposite in some cases, yikes), but a route that ended up being more enlightening and leads to me being a better person than a more traditional route would have resulted in.

I have no proof of this, but this is not something I need to prove to anyone. This is what I believe about the evolution of me. And believe me, I’ve tried the route where it just seemed easier to wallow in negativity and self-pity while calling out anyone who seemed happier than me. I just like this version of me much better, and it’s not particularly close.

Speaking of something being more enlightening, this was my first offseason covering the NFL Draft beyond just paying attention to who the Seahawks reached on, er, I mean selected. And, much like my life before, I found honesty and recovery, and I never realized how awesome it could be.

And now, “The Mundie Awards.”

THE OPTIMISM AWARD

Kenneth Gainwell (RB, Philadelphia Eagles)

This one is kind of fun. The two themes I’ve discussed in this column are scenic routes and optimism, and the way Kenneth Gainwell’s draft played out, to me, hits on both.

This may seem like an odd take on the surface. After all the pre-draft rookie speculation, rankings, mock drafts and general rookie discussions, Gainwell, the University of Memphis product, ended up being selected 150th overall in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Eagles. This was later than most in the fantasy football industry had predicted. Fifth-round draft capital is not ideal for anything close to guaranteed touches in the NFL, let alone a lead-running back role.

But whether this result is, in very simple terms, good or bad also depends on expectations. I am a novice when it comes to watching rookie film, but I did watch some tape on Gainwell. He is a talented and versatile running back and looks like an above-average pass catcher. Personally, I never really saw him as a primary or lead running back. 

Kenneth Gainwell rushed for 1459 yards while adding 610 receiving yards and 16 total touchdowns in 2019. He opted out for the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.

So then comes the landing spot with the Philadelphia Eagles. A team with an established starter in Miles Sanders, who also has gotten a healthy amount of targets (when healthy), a change of pace back in Boston Scott and a short-yardage/goal-line back in Jordan Howard. Fifth-round draft capital, landing spot with a pecking order, I can see how this result was not matching some of the pre-draft hype for Gainwell, ranked as high as the rookie RB4 across multiple boards.

Gainwell gets the Optimism Award based on how I defined optimism earlier in this column. Deciphering the positive in something that initially seems negative. Gainwell is better than Boston Scott. It is difficult to predict levels of playing time early in a running back’s rookie season, especially when clearly not drafted to be the lead dog, like Najee Harris in Pittsburgh.

But I think Gainwell will see the field as the pass-catching RB option early and often. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gainwell lining up in the slot here and there or seeing him and Miles Sanders on the field together more often than one might think.

Also, the new Eagles’ head coach (and offensive play-caller) Nick Sirianni has a history of successfully utilizing a Sanders/Gainwell-type backfield his last two years with the Indianapolis Colts, with running backs Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor paired with Nyheim Hines.

In fact, I wrote a thread on Miles Sanders in which one of my pro-Sanders takes was the fact that Sirianni would be calling the plays and the Eagles did not have a Nyheim Hines. Well, now they do.

From pre-draft hype to a frustrating waiting game during the draft for Gainwell fans, then the initial disappointment of him falling to the fifth round and finally to the optimism I have for him now  a very scenic route indeed.

THE PLETHORA AWARD

San Francisco 49ers

El Guapo: “Many piñatas?”

Jefe: “Oh yes, many!”

El Guapo: “Would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?”

Jefe: “A what?”

El Guapo: “A plethora.”

Jefe: “Oh yes, you have a plethora.”

El Guapo: “Jefe, what is a plethora?”

Jefe: “Why El Guapo?”

El Guapo: “Well you told me I have a plethora, and I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora and find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.”

Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short starred in the 1986 comedy, “Three Amigos.”

This excerpt from the movie “Three Amigos” is one of my all-time favorite pieces of comedy-movie dialogue. A plethora means an excessive amount of something, and in this context with the San Francisco 49ers, the “piñatas” are running backs. And yes this movie quote works on two fronts due to the recent injury history with 49er running backs.

Running back Tevin Coleman is gone (was he ever really there?) and fellow RB Jerick McKinnon is now a Kansas City Chief. But the 49ers did sign free agent RB Wayne Gallman this offseason. Heading into the draft their running back room included Raheem Mostert (fastest RB in the league), Jeff Wilson Jr. (I so want him to happen, #NotFetch), Wayne Gallman and 2020 undrafted free agent Jamycal Hasty.

San Francisco proceeded to select two more running backs in the draft, taking Trey Sermon from Ohio State at 88th overall and rookie RB sleeper, Elijah Mitchell of Louisiana-Lafayette, in Round six at 194th overall. This caused some entertaining initial reactions during the draft, and my mind went straight to the “plethora exchange” in “Three Amigos” (not a bad fantasy team name now that I type it out). And fullback Kyle Juszczyk is also technically a running back. It’s a plethora of running backs. 

It should be noted I am just being silly. I am not criticizing these decisions. Mostert was an undrafted journeyman until finding success in Kyle Shanahan’s system but is 29-years-old, and while extremely explosive, seems to be made out of gingerbread. I am a Wilson Jr. fan but he’s also struggled with injuries and I am objective enough to accept that he may be “Just a Guy” (JAG). Gallman is a backup running back, and Hasty likely is not the answer more than a depth piece (sorry, @HermsNFL).

Sermon has the build for a more primary-back role, but this is the 49ers, this is Shanahan, whose style of unleashing his running backs is just … different. Mitchell comes in with sixth-round draft capital, but the 49ers have emphatically proven that draft capital does not factor into their running back decisions AT ALL.

Three of their four incumbent running backs are undrafted free agents (Mostert, Wilson Jr. and Hasty), and the free agent they brought in (Gallman) was a fourth-rounder. In fact, of their 2020 running back room, the two players with the highest draft capital were not re-signed (Coleman and McKinnon, both third-rounders). 

It’s borderline bizarre but the 49ers tear it up on the ground. The 49ers had a plethora of running backs last year. They now have a plethora of running backs again, with the difference being the infusion of some youth.

I think the two picks were great based on how the 49ers operate. And that, combined with my outlook on Trey Lance, has me quite worried as a Seahawks fan.

Side note: This is my fourth Mundies column, and Raheem Mostert has been brought up in three of them. I do not know what this means, but when I find out I’ll let all of you know.


Writing new and different editions of “The Mundies” is a lot of fun, but I’d love some help. If you have ideas, hit me up, and I’ll include a shout-out for any suggestions used.

And as always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.