It’s about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6. I am sitting in my minivan in a far corner of a Quality Food Center (QFC) parking lot. Yet another quick trip to the grocery store to supplement our stock between Costco trips.
We are having friends over for dinner, so some specific items are needed. It’s pouring down rain. The long dry spell of the Seattle summer (which gets longer every year by the way) has given way to our typical wet, rainy and windy November weather.
I park, I turn off the windshield wipers, but I leave the car on. It’s cold outside and I am enjoying the song currently playing. I know it’s bad for the environment, but just a few more minutes before I must brave the crowded grocery store. I am not feeling particularly well at this moment. Physically I’m fine, other than the constant tiredness I’m not sure will ever go away. Mentally, well that’s another story.
I don’t want to be at the store. I didn’t want to leave the cozy bubble of my house. I don’t really want to have dinner guests; all I want to do is crawl under my covers, turn on “Arrested Development” or “30 Rock,” and zone out the entire world.
My kids? Healthy and happy on this day. My wife? Excited to have friends over, tired like me, but relatively good. My family? All good as far as I know.
So then, why am I sitting in my van, listening to a playlist I created called “Pretty Much Everything is Broken,” filled with great but melancholic music, on the verge of tears, dreading the grocery store dance with all the other humans?
Short answer: I don’t know.
Long answer: I still don’t know.
Sometimes the human brain is nothing but a cruel bastard. I have some ideas. The dream I had Friday night in which my wife died. The close family friend who died of a drug overdose a few weeks prior. Residual stuff from my dad’s heart attack. But that is part of the problem. I always feel the need to attribute these moments (or hours, days, sometimes weeks) to some tangible and significant event.
I believe it is a subconscious defense mechanism. If I feel this way because of that thing, I can blame that thing for the way I feel. It can provide an answer to a question, and my brain despises questions without answers. A continuous aspiration from somewhere in my mind to be “normal” (whatever that means), to be 100 percent mentally healthy 100 percent of the time.
Yes, those events I listed are likely playing a role in how I’m feeling on this particular Saturday afternoon. But, more often than not, when I go to this place (and it’s a fairly regular occurrence) I do not have any answers. The hard but freeing truth I have discovered is that it’s OK.
My brain doesn’t seem to function properly at times. Is it some sort of chemical imbalance? Maybe. Is it a result of the massive amount of drugs I put into my body for 20 years? I would not bet against it. Is it a combination of these and many other different things, probably impossible to conceptualize or explain? I think we are getting warmer.
Thing is, some of these mental roadblocks that seem to appear out of nowhere have been there my whole life, long before I took my first pill or smoked my first blunt. If my brain is an apartment building, a mixture of anxiety, depression and future tripping have occupied some of the units since shortly after the building was built.
What I have learned with experience, what works for me in these situations, has evolved into a simple and straightforward strategy. “Weather the storm.”
I literally say those words out loud to myself. This too shall pass. These are clichés, but clichés are clichés for a reason. And a cliché becomes something else when you implement or practice it for real.
I have been in and out of mental storms countless times throughout my life, so I have a mountain of concrete evidence that what goes down will come back up. So now I just try to ride out the storm, and not do anything foolish during the ride. I’ve found there are no magic bullets that instantly fix everything. I thought I had found that in drugs, but after extensive “research” I can tell you it does not work.
My advice to you in this column is not really an answer to a problem. It is not very exciting. There are many ways people can choose to attempt to become more mentally healthy. There are trained professionals for that kind of work. I am speaking about my current mental state, and some of the things I do to manage it, to live with it. For me, weathering the mental storm is tied to the topic of my last column, acceptance. It is not a strategy that makes me feel better, but it is a strategy that gives me confidence that, at some point, I will feel better.
Weathering the Fantasy Football Storm
Another storm for which weathering has been a constant is the 2021 fantasy football season. From the barrage of weekly injuries, to COVID-19 remaining alive and well, mental health issues (I’m rooting for you Calvin Ridley) and lots of drama, it seems this season has required much more flexibility in how we handle our season-long fantasy football teams.
We have options in fantasy football when weathering a storm of injuries or draft day misfires (please come back to us Allen Robinson). The two basic options are working the waiver wire and making trades. The idea is to keep the ship afloat until your players come back from injury
Looking at the trading option, one scenario I look for to weather the injury storm and potentially make the ship even stronger when reinforcements arrive is selling a seemingly elite asset who is not likely to remain or finish as an elite asset. This is a player who has not provided the expected value of where he was drafted but still holds elite name value. Someone to consider trying to move to clear some of the storm clouds and hopefully improve your team.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Arizona Cardinals)
Let me make this clear. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the most talented wide receivers to ever don an NFL helmet, and I feel lucky that his prime has coincided with some of my closest attention paid to the NFL.
He has made catches that don’t seem physically possible and been one of the most consistently elite WRs, finishing as a top-five fantasy WR five out of the last six seasons, with at least 150 targets in all six of those seasons. He joined the Cardinals in 2020 after seven seasons in Houston, and even with a brand-new team put up 115 catches for over 1,400 yards.
But he has underperformed, and I am concerned it may not improve enough to approach his draft price.
Hopkins has not been terrible in 2021, I am not trying to say that at all, and he has not been 100 percent even before the Week 8 hamstring injury against the Packers. He has not been Robinson-level disappointing. In points per reception (PPR) format, he currently sits at WR20 on a points per game basis entering Week 9.
His hamstring injury is concerning. However, my greater concern comes from his overall production so far in 2021, and how it compares to the rest of his career prior to this year.
Starting with where Hopkins has finished amongst fantasy WRs each week. According to FantasyPros, Hopkins has had the following PPR finishes thus far:
- Week 1: WR6
- Week 2: WR30
- Week 3: WR76
- Week 4: WR46
- Week 5: WR15
- Week 6: WR12
- Week 7: WR11
- Week 8: WR53 (injured hamstring in this game)
This is below the expected production of where Hopkins was drafted as a sure-fire WR1, with only three top-12 finishes and finishing outside the top 30 in almost half his games.
Perhaps more concerning is how he’s scoring fantasy points. His PPR WR20 rank through eight weeks is largely on the back of touchdowns. He already has seven TDs on the season, with a TD percentage (TDs/targets) of 14.3 percent, which leads the NFL. For reference, Hopkins’ career TD percentage entering the 2021 season was 5.2 percent.
Even in 2017 when he led the NFL with 13 receiving TDs, his TD percentage was only 7.5 percentage. This current TD rate is likely not sustainable. In the last 10 years, only one WR has hit that TD percentage (exactly 14.3 percentage in fact) over the course of an entire season. That was Tyler Lockett in 2017 on only 70 targets.
Hopkins’ dominance has not historically come from TDs. Huge target shares and buckets of receptions and receiving yards are where Hopkins has excelled. You can see this clearly by looking at how Hopkins scored his fantasy points prior to 2021. These are Hopkins’ career percentages of fantasy points scored (FPTS) by the typical PPR fantasy scoring methods (2013-2020):
- Percentage of PPR points from receptions: 35.4 percent
- Percentage of PPR points from yards: 46.9 percent
- Percentage of PPR points from TDs: 17.7 percent
Here is the same breakdown so far in 2021:
- Percentage of PPR points from receptions: 27.8 percent
- Percentage of PPR points from yards: 38.7 percent
- Percentage of PPR points from TDs: 33.4 percent
So, what about his decrease in targets, receptions and yards?
This is the most alarming aspect of the analysis. Hopkins has feasted on receptions and receiving yards over the years due to him dominating the pass-catching target share, and especially dominating the WR target share. The following are Hopkins’ overall target share and WR target share from 2015-2020 (I am cherry-picking slightly here by omitting 2013 and 2014, but I think it’s a more accurate representation of what has been normal for Hopkins after fellow target hog Andre Johnson was no longer in Houston):
- 2015: Target share: 31.3 percent; WR target share: 49.9 percent
- 2016: Target share: 26.2 percent, WR target share: 51.2 percent
- 2017: Target share: 33.7 percent, WR target share: 56.1 percent
- 2018: Target share: 33.0 percent; WR target share: 49.5 percent
- 2019: Target share: 29.0 percent; WR target share: 46.0 percent
- 2020: Target share: 29.4 percent; WR target share: 42.0 percent
Yes, his WR target share has declined since 2018 and was at its lowest his first year with the Cardinals joining a deeper receiver group than the Texans. But seeing over 40 percent of a team’s WR targets is still in the “target hog” arena.
Here is 2021 through eight weeks:
- 2021: Target share: 20.0 percent; WR target share: 29.0 percent
Those are significant decreases and cause for concern within the context of expecting a WR1 season from Hopkins unless he somehow maintains his outlier TD percentage.
Please do not drop DeAndre Hopkins. I want to be clear that he is still a good fantasy receiver, and, depending on this hamstring injury, I do expect his numbers to improve, just not significantly enough to finish top-12 at the position. And maybe this drop-off in his usage and non-TD production is largely due to him not being fully healthy most of the season. Whatever the reason, it is the reality, and with a hamstring injury, he may not be fully healthy for a while.
DeAndre Hopkins still has elite name value and could fetch you a decent haul. I just don’t see him being the elite, Top-5 WR1 to which we are accustomed when the dust settles and the storm clouds subside at the end of the 2021 season.
Writing new and different editions of “The Mundies” will be 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.