Fantasy

One Veteran's Story

It was 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night in 1992. I was five years old, had just started kindergarten, and was attending the first Texas high school football game that I can remember. During those years, it happened every year in Liberty County, Texas: the Dayton Broncos versus the Liberty Panthers. Only six miles separated these two deep-in-football-tradition towns. Back then there wasn’t a rivalry in this small county that could evoke so much emotion out of its players and fans alike. It was at War Memorial Stadium, where the X’s and O’s of football started to be ingrained in me by my grandfather, Harvey Charles Williams.

Harvey Charles was unlike anyone I’ve ever known. Those that knew him constantly talked about his smile, radiant personality, and love of all things black and gold. After deeper conversations with him over the last 30 years, I saw the scars he cared not to discuss. You see, my grandpa was drafted into military service for the Vietnam War. Like many other drafted young men, they put their hopes and dreams on hold for one of our most controversial wars. Papa never complained, though. He was proud of his military service. There were things about that time in battle that he wouldn’t speak about. I’ve learned that that is quite normal for veterans of war. He lost comrades and friends. Even though he came home, a part of him died in Vietnam.

He was a big dreamer. Once he told me that he dreamed of playing baseball professionally. He was an awesome pitcher with a fastball that was virtually unstoppable. Being in the still-segregated South, the opportunities were few. West Liberty High School is where he thrived in sports excellence. The old black high school still stands today, albeit unused. Riding by that building in Liberty, Texas, still reminds me how fortunate I was to be able to go to college and follow my dreams.

Harvey Charles was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I know from many conversations that his bleeding of black and gold didn’t stop with the Liberty Panthers; it dictated his favorite pro team. Much like the local high school team, the Steelers gave my grandpa his weekly dose of pride in the fall.

I always carry at least one Steelers player on my fantasy team. This strategy was solely for my weekly football conversation with Papa. He didn’t care about about my love for all things fantasy; only how Antonio Brown was the reason I won the championship. I can hear him now: “Suga, you only win because you have them Steelers on your team.” I’d laugh while saying, “I know, Papa, but it’s all those Houston Texans too.” He supported my love for the Houston Texans; as long as it wasn’t the Dallas Cowboys, I was still deeply loved.

This football season is my first in my life without him. He passed away on January 31. Often brokenheartedly, I watch the Steelers highlights because, like him, I bleed black and gold to a certain extent. As I sit here on this Veterans Day, I am reminded that my favorite veteran is celebrating the festivities from a seat high above. There aren’t enough words to thank him for his service or for cultivating my love for sports. Today is somber in a lot of ways. It is a reminder that life is bigger than sports, but sports can also be the needed medicine for life.

Mistakes Were Made

“Yes, we are so blessed to have not one, but two teams in the playoffs. Most families don’t have any.” – Kevin (The League)

I have been playing fantasy football for something like 25 years. I drafted Brett Favre when he was a rookie. When we used pen and paper, and by paper I mean that thing that had Houston Post written on top of it (Old School Houston reference.) I have also been a father now for 15 fantasy football seasons. There have been great days as a father (when I taught my kids to wipe their own asses), and there have been days that can only be described as a struggle (all days before I taught them to wipe their asses.) But all in all, it has been a good run as both father and fantasy football team owner.

We all had the friends in the league that could never quite make it to the draft in person. And they struggled with technology, and it was a headache to try to make it work. I was the guy who had the kids first, and so I would bring my kid along as a proxy and he would draft for one of the teams, for like 3 years in a row at a BW3 in Midtown. He did well, and was encouraged by the other owners and the guy he picked for. I felt like a dumbass, but I had to bring him for this event; I didn’t want to be that guy. And this was his first exposure to the world of fantasy football.

A few years went by, he got older. And started to dabble in the waters on his own. Nothing major, some quick Yahoo or ESPN drafts with anonymous people. It was like a gateway drug, though. This year he took the full steps into the deep end of the pool. With his major $20 dollar-a-team league (eyes roll.) And thus begins this article.

Do you remember when the kids were 2-4 years old? And they kept saying the same things. And kept playing the same movies. I got so tired of the crap he was watching when he was 4 years old, that I removed that particular terrible kid movie DVD and put in Smokey and Bandit. I thought this was genius, a movie I love; I should be able to handle this being on. Let me tell you, after 300 viewings, you will eventually get tired of Burt Reynold’s laugh and Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Granted it took like 200 viewings, before I started to hate it, but it happened: the kid broke me. Fast forward to ten years later, and following his first independent pay league, the questions started.

“Dad, what do you think of my Running Backs?”

“Dad, check out these QBs that are available?”

“Dad, what kicker should I use this week?” (Yes, he had multiple kickers.)

It was early in September, and I played along, because hey, my kid and I have an interest together. He started planning his weekends around the game schedules.

“Dad, Jets and Browns are on Thursday Night Football tonight: I am pumped, my kicker is in this game!”

I smiled, and looked around at what I had created. My wife had a different look on her face. October began, and questions never stopped. It was like he was 5 again, constant questions, and I started to crack.

“Dad, why do they call them the Browns?”

“Dad, why can’t they see the yellow line?”

“Dad, would you start Trubisky or Flacco, or should I pick up FitzMagic?”

“Dad…”

“Dad…”

“Dad…”

I went numb, and played deaf.

Don’t get me wrong, it is great that he found this form of crack rock. But I am the guy that has seen it for 20+ years. The guy that has made fun of people talking about how good their team is in meetings at work. Guys who drafted a kicker in the 10th round, because it was just “too hard to pass up on Gostkowski.” Now this madness has infected my home life, my sanctuary.

He now stays home on Sundays. As we leave for his brother’s baseball games. He gets his favorite snacks lined up and his go-to soda, sometimes he showers. He says crazy shit like, “Dad, I can’t wait to see this game from London, at 9:30 AM.” Not a day goes by that we don’t talk fantasy football. It is a blessing and a curse. And man do I hope he wins, but when he loses, hell hath no fury like a 15-year-old who didn’t get Zeke Elliot his touches, and loses because he didn’t start the correct kicker. But as a father, it’s not more you can ask for; at least I know where he is every Sunday morning. And that’s more than my mom could have hoped for.

Finally Julio!

Touchdown, Julio Jones! A drought that began 343 days ago, spanning 12 games, while racking up 115 Fantasy Points, is how long it took Jones to find the end zone for six. Toward the end of the fourth quarter Sunday, Jones took a bubble screen and cut up field for a 35-yard touchdown. As stated by ESPN Fantasy, since the start of the 2017 season, Jones leads wide receivers with over 2,000 yards. This season he has had five 100-yard games, but struggled in the red zone. This discrepancy mystifies fantasy owners everywhere concerning Jones’s lack of touchdown receptions during that time span. 

According to CBS Sports, Jones is the highest priced wide receiver in football averaging a cost of $8,000 on Draft Kings and FanDuel respectively. This outrageous purchase price finally paid dividends on Sunday as Jones caught his first touchdown since Rockstar by Post Malone was the #1 song on the Billboard charts. 

The question most owners are asking themselves is: “Is this the start of a trend or is it an anomaly?” Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons quarterback, conveniently forgets that he has a top five wide receiver In the red zone thus giving fantasy owners around the world anxiety about trusting his memory. For his career, Jones averages 96.2 receiving yards per game which is tops in the league since 2014, as stated by Pro Football Focus.

Heading into Cleveland this weekend, against a team that is struggling to find its identity, Jones and the Falcons offense should be feasting on the Dog Pound. However, Cleveland’s defense has shown flashes of competence. In 8 out of 9 games they have picked off the quarterback. Meanwhile, Ryan is doing an outstanding job protecting the ball this season. NFL.com highlights Ryan’s nineteen touchdowns to three interceptions. Those statistics reflect remarkable ball security. Pro Football Focus shows the Browns allow offenses to score an average of twenty eight points. Therefore, this game  should be another one where the Falcons pile on the points and Jones is able to cash checks in the end zone. 

For much of the last year, Jones has been a great option at WR1 or WR2. He amasses the yards that consistently rank him in the top ten of the position weekly. If Jones can manage to string together multiple games down the stretch with touchdowns, we could possibly be seeing another All-Pro season from the receiver. In fantasy terms that means wins, and we all know what wins mean... bragging rights and financial dividends. Cha-Ching! 

Draft Kings Week 10 Main Slate Report

Draft Kings Week 10 Main Slate Report

Last week I advised you to fade just about every member of the Chiefs, except for Kareem Hunt. I told you to fade James Conner. Well, I was wrong, and I apologize. With that said, I do hope you played some of my lock and value plays, as they would have helped you to win some money. It’s a new week, and with a new week comes new hope!

QB:

Philip Rivers - $6,000 (LOCK): Rivers is having one of the best seasons of all NFL QBs, and nobody is talking about it. He’s on pace to reach 4,000 passing yards for the sixth straight year, a career-high 38 passing touchdowns, and a career-low six interceptions.z This week he plays the Oakland Raiders, who are allowing 20 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs.w Rivers CAY (completed air yards) is third best among the main slate QBs, at 6.9.y Football Outsiders has Oakland’s pass defense ranked dead last this season. In a game that has an over-under of 50.5, and the Chargers implied total at 30, look for Rivers to have a big game.

Alex Smith - $5,300 (VALUE): Now, I normally wouldn’t recommend that you play Alex Smith in DFS, but this isn’t just any normal week. This week, Smith goes against the J.V. team of the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are the worst in the league in opponent completion percentage (74), opponent touchdown rate (7.56), and fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs (23).z With Jamison Crowder’s status uncertain for Sunday, look for Josh Doctson to continue to see an uptick in targets.

Jared Goff - $6,100 (FADE): I loved Goff last week, but this week against Seattle I’m looking elsewhere. The Seahawks are ranked in the top give in both pass defense and weighted defense (higher emphasis on games played later in the season), according to Football Outsiders. Seattle also ranks fourth best in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs.w

RB:

Alvin Kamara - $8,700 (LOCK): Kamara will be going against a Bengals defense that has been allowing an average of 106 rushing yards, 53 receiving yards, and 31 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this year.z Karama doesn’t need to worry about Mark Ingram, as he has out-touched Ingram 62 to 40 over the last four weeks.w One stat that I love is: Kamara’s usage in the red zone. He leads all RBs with 20 targets in the red zone this season.z This game has the highest over-under of the week (54), with the Saints being just a four-point favorite. Kamara will EAT!

Duke Johnson Jr - $4,700 (VALUE): I’m a big fan of Nick Chubb, but this week it’s all about Duke. The Browns are road underdogs to the Falcons, so expect Baker Mayfield to throw a lot. Chubb is not known for his receiving ability. Atlanta gives up a league-high 82 receiving yards to opposing RBs.z Atlanta’s defensive scheme is built around dump offs and check downs to the RB, because they’re so afraid of getting beat deep with their injured secondary. Much like last week, the game script should favor Duke Johnson on Sunday.

Joe Mixon - $7,700 (FADE): Last week we saw Mixon have his first 100-yard rushing game, and we’ll have to wait another week before we see it again. This week he will go up against the New Orleans Saints, who give up just 52 rushing yards and 42 receiving yards per game to opposing RBs.z With the Saints having the best run defense in the league, I won’t have any exposure to Mixon in my lineups this week.

WR:

A.J. Green - $7,600 (LOCK): While I’m fading Green’s teammate, Mixon, this week; there’s not a chance in hell that I’m passing on this matchup. Not only do the Saints give up the most receiving yards, TDs, and fantasy points to opposing WRs this year,z but they also allow the third most receiving yards to WR1.v Green has had just one game this year with multiple receiving TDs, and I do believe he gets another one this weekend. He commands 40 percent of the targeted air yards, which is the third highest among the main slate WRs.y So, with the Bengals being an underdog in the highest projected game of the week, look for Green to be targeted early and often.

Josh Doctson - $4,300 (VALUE): Again, I’m sticking with the underdog at WR. Why? The team that’s the underdog is most likely going to be playing from behind, which means they will need to throw more. Targeting the WR1 or WR2 from the underdog is a great way to leverage your lineups. Even if Jamison Crowder comes back this week, I still love Doctson in this spot. It doesn’t matter if he’s the WR1 or WR2, the Bucs are in the bottom three in the league when it comes to covering both positions.v

Julio Jones - $8,300 (FADE): After Julio catching his first touchdown in 12 games last week, I think many people will be on him this week. The problem is that this week he goes up against Denzel Ward of the Browns. Ward has been one of the best corners in the league this year, as he allows opposing WRs to catch just 55 percent of targets against him.x I love Julio, just not this week.

TE:

Zach Ertz - $6,300 (LOCK): No TE in the league has more targets and red zone targets than Ertz this season. That will certainly help as he faces off against the Cowboys on Sunday, who allow just over 13 fantasy points per game to opposing TEs.w With Sean Lee likely to miss this week, Ertz shouldn’t have any trouble finding space to work with. Ertz should be matched up against Jeff Heath, who has been anything but impressive this year.

Trey Burton - $3,900 (VALUE): Allen Robinson is still battling a groin injury, and even if he does suit up, I don’t expect him to be extremely productive until he’s healthy. That means Burton should have a bigger role in the offense this week. This week’s game against the Lions should be a bit closer than last week’s shellacking over the Bills; so I can see Trubisky airing it out more. The Lions have allowed four receiving TDs to opposing TEs, which is the third most in the league.z

Rob Gronkowski - $5,600 (FADE): Gronk didn’t play last week due to a back injury, and even if he’s active this week, I’m going to look elsewhere for TE. When Gronk is injured and plays, he’s usually out on the field as a decoy and that’s it. Also, he’s going up against a Titans defense that is one of the top five teams in the league against TEs.v

*Stat Source Key (v = Football Outsiders, w = 4for4, x = Pro Football Focus, y = NextGenStats, z = Pro Football Reference)

Fantasy Tidbits: 11/3/18

We have now found ourselves in the part of the season where multiple teams are on their byes and it is necessary to start your 3rd or 4th most ideal lineups. These are what I call the dog days of Fantasy. Here are some tidbits for Week 9.

Around the League

Lesean ‘Shady’ McCoy

Shady McCoy is not a good play against the Bears today. The Bears are the #3 rushing defense. They haven’t given up a rushing TD all season. The Bears are going to make Peterman beat them, and he won’t. At most I’d put McCoy in the Flex. If you have better options, bench him.

Phillip Rivers

Rivers is often forgotten about in fantasy leagues. It seems player fatigue is attached to him. Hasn’t he been playing for 20 years already? Rivers is only owned in 80% of leagues. If he is available in your league and you need a QB, he is a fantastic pick up. Today against the Seahawks should be a shoot out. Opposing QB’s are completing 66% of their passes against the former Legion of Boom. Rivers has 17 TD’s to 3 INT’s this season. The Seahawks have picked off 10 passes this season, but I don’t see Rivers turning the ball over for that to make a difference.

Hometown Fantasy Texans Versus Broncos

Phillip Lindsey

With Royce Freeman down, Phillip Lindsey will get all of the RB snaps against the Texans. All season, the Broncos have used a dual RB system with the two rookies. In limited time, with 50% of the offensive snaps or fewer, Lindsay has taken advantage of his opportunities. He is projected to rush for around 70 yards. The Texans do give up chunk running plays, but have only given up two rushing TD’s all season. That’s #2 in the league. I’d put Freeman on the bench or a Flex position. Personally, I’d stay away from the Bronco offense in fantasy today.

#4 (Watson) versus #4 (Keenum)

The battle of the #4’s isn’t really a battle at all. Watson is owned in 95% of leagues to Keenum’s 11%. Watson, in his de facto rookie season, is continuing to be a fantasy owner’s dream. Watson is completing 65% of his passes this season. In the first six games of the season, Watson was good for one interception every game. The last 2 games, Watson hasn’t turned the ball over to 6 TD’s.

When it comes to rushing, Watson averaged 40 yards per game the first 5 weeks. Since then, he has rushed for 29 yards in three games total. Watson has rushed 50% less the last two games. Billy O called a masterful game last Thursday. We will see if Watson stays in the pocket more. It will also be predicated on the OL. Chubb is hampered, but Miller is coming to feast. Watson is definitely a start in the QB1 position.

Keenum can only dream of Watson-type production. Despite having one of the best offensive lines in football, Keenum is playing very subpar. In three games this season, the Broncos don’t have a passing TD. Keenum has thrown an interception in every game this season. Expect the Texans safeties to be able to get a few INT’s. The Broncos traded one of their best and most durable offensive weapons this week, so expect lower production with the Broncos offense. The Texans have a weakness at corner due to injuries; if this offensive line can protect Keenum against the bull rush of the Texans star-studded defensive line, Keenum can go down field for some chunk plays. Keenum is not a good start in your league unless you have no other options. He is a bottom third QB this season.

Check back next Sunday morning for more Fantasy Tidbits. If you have any questions, find me on Twitter @MrsStephanieTA.

Week 8 Draft Kings NFL Showdown (Sunday Night) - Saints @ Vikings

A look at who to pick in the NFL Showdown primetime matchups.

I give much love to the NFL main slate, and probably a bit too much love. So, I want to start providing you with some insight into the prime time matchups on Sunday and Monday nights. DFS sites have started offering “Showdown” contests this season. What is a showdown? It’s a salary based contest, much like your standard classic contests, except it’s focused on just a single game. Where in a classic contest, you pick a QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/FLEX/DST, a showdown allows you to pick six FLEX (including kickers) positions. The other twist of a showdown is the Captain position (represented by a crown).

 The Captain of your lineup will cost 1.5x more than their standard salary, but will also reward you with 1.5x their standard score. For example, Drew Brees is priced at $15,900 as a Captain, but $10,600 as a standard FLEX player.

That also means if he scores 20 points in the FLEX, he would score 30 points as your Captain. Got it? Good. The key to selecting your Captain is to figure out whom you feel will have the most upside, without blowing your budget on one player.

 The last thing I want to mention is ownership. Since it’s just a single game, you’re going to have the same players as almost everyone else in the contest so you want to diversify your picks by selecting players that not many others might, and then mixing those guys in with more popular/predictable options. Now that I’ve gone over the general basis for a Showdown let’s pick out some contrarian plays that should help you to gain an edge over the field.

Disclaimer: Do not fill up your entire roster with these players, but sprinkle them throughout your lineups for diversification.

Mark Ingram - $7,200: Over the last two games, Ingram has out-touched Kamara, 33 to 29.x Now, Kamara is still the guy in New Orleans, but I like Ingram as a pivot off of Kamara. Ingram has also been used in the red zone, with five carries inside the ten, which he has converted two of those carries into scores.y

Roc Thomas - $400: Who? Exactly! Houston, meet Roc Thomas. A UDFA (undrafted free agent) out of Jacksonville State, Thomas is a compact RB that can make plays happen in the passing game out of the backfield. With Dalvin Cook out this week, Thomas should see some opportunities behind Latavius Murray. He only has eight touches this season, but he has seen two targets in the red zone.y

Tre’Quan Smith - $5,400: Smith hasn’t seen a lot of targets (13), as he’s been fighting for playing time with Cameron Meredith.y With Ted Ginn Jr on IR, Smith should see more opportunities. The last two games that Smith has played with Ginn out, he’s been second on the team in targets and had a 111 yard/2TD performance against the Redskins in Week 5.y With Xavier Rhodes out this week, that potentially leaves Mackensie Alexander or Marcus Sherels with the task of covering Smith. I’ll take Smith every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

Laquon Treadwell - $2,600: Laquon Treadwell, the man that caused me so much pain in Dynasty Football drafts in 2016, has now started to show signs of life. He has already met or exceeded almost every stat this season than he had all of last year. Treadwell has a 76 percent catch rate and is averaging about five targets per game.z With Thielen, Diggs, and Rudolph occupying most of the attention, give Treadwell a look in what should be a high scoring game.

Will Lutz - $3,200/Dan Bailey - $3,400: Yeah, I’m throwing kickers into the mix. So what if I kind of wants to throw up a little. Lutz and Bailey both average as many or more Draft Kings points per game than both of their team’s TEs. Lutz is in the top ten in XP made, and just outside of the top ten (11th) in FG made.w Bailey, since he joined the Vikings in Week 4, has averaged 2.75 XP and FG per game.y Need to save $1,000 or so? Grab a kicker and ditch the TE.

Stat Source Reference: w = ESPN,x = 4for4, y = Pro Football Reference, z = Pro Football Focus

PGA: The CJ Cup Draft Kings Report

This week we’re off to The Club at Nine Bridges, in South Korea. Only the second year of this tournament, it was considered by many as one of the top five most difficult courses on tour. Justin Thomas beat out Marc Leishman last year in a playoff. Leishman is coming off a victory at last week’s CIMB Classic.

The Club is a par 72 that runs just under 7,200 yards. The weather can play a factor, as last year they saw high winds. This course will require golfers to be accurate in their approach shots, along with solid putting. Only 78 golfers will be playing this week, and with no cut, all of your players have a chance. Here are the categories that I’m focusing on this week:

Prox (Proximity)

SG: T2G (Tee to Green)

BoB Gained (Birdies or Better)

Bogeys Avoided

SG: P (Putting, with an emphasis on Bentwood greens)

The fairways aren’t very narrow, so I’m not too concerned with driving accuracy.

$10k+:

Hideki Matsuyama - $10,400: When it comes to recent form, you won’t find many better than Matsuyama. Over his last 12 rounds, Hideki ranks in the top five in the field in all key stats, with the exception of Bogeys Avoided (21st). Matsuyama has finished in the top 15 over his last four events, which include two top five finishes. A lot of people are going to be on JT and for good reason, myself included. Matsuyama is as good of a pivot as there is.

Justin Thomas - $11,600: The defending champion from last year’s inaugural CJ Cup. JT has been playing out of his mind recently, ranking sixth in T2G, second in Birdies or Better, and sixth in Bogeys Avoided. His putting hasn’t been bad either, as he ranks 24th in the field over his last 12 rounds. Thomas’ last five tournaments have produced four finishes in the top 24, and three of those were in the top 10.

$8k-$9.9k:

Billy Horschel - $9,700: I’m going back to the well with Horschel! He didn’t have a great showing at the CIMB Classic, and I’m hoping that drops his ownership for this week. He is still top 10 in T2G and BoB Gained, and not counting last week he has three top five finishes over his last four tournaments. I like Horschel to bounce back this week for a top 10 finish.

Tyrrell Hatton - $9,500: At 27 years old, Hatton has been a force on the European Tour. He has taken off the last few PGA events, and I can see him up near the top of the leaderboard by the end of this tournament. Hatton is top 10 in Prox, T2G and Bogeys Avoided. If Hatton can avoid the three putts, he’ll be in great shape.

$7k-$7.9k:

Si Woo Kim - $7,400: This price range was the toughest because there are so many golfers that are very close, and I could have gone with a dozen of them. I wanted someone who has good recent form with Putting and BoB Gained, and Kim fits the bill as he’s in the top 20 for both key stats. Kim was also a top 10 finisher in last week’s event.

Charles Howell III - $7,700: CH3 is one of my favorite golfers, and from the interviews I’ve heard him do, he seems like a great guy. Over his last 12 rounds, Howell III ranks in the top 20 in BoB Gained, Bogeys Avoided, and Putting. He also finished 20th in this event last year, and had a top 25 showing in the BMW Championship last month.

$6.9k and under:

Jason Kokrak - $6,800: At this price it’s hard to find a golfer who is in the top 20 in most key stats, and Kokrak checks the boxes in four of my five categories. BoB Gained has been a bit of an opportunity for him, but I’m not going to be too picky.  

Hyun-woo Ryu - $6,500: Sixth in BoB Gained and seventh in Bogeys Avoided, Ryu is a guy that can shoot for par without gaining too many bogeys. That skill will be key this weekend, as this course will frustrate a lot of golfers. I’m not super excited by anyone $6.9k and under, but these are a couple to look at if you’re trying to save some money.

  *All statistics courtesy of Fantasy National Golf Club