When a game doesn’t matter

When the couple we had invited to dinner had left, I glanced at my phone to catch a score in the Buffalo-Cincinnati game. It was a highly-anticipated Monday Night Football game. The game didn’t have much significance in the NFL playoff picture because both teams had already clinched a playoff berth. The Bengals needed a win to clinch the AFC North division.

I clicked on the ESPN app and was informed that the game had been delayed. With all of the crazy weather, stranger things have happened than weather delaying a game. In fact, a stranger thing had happened. Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered a terrifying injury and had been rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. He was listed in critical condition.

Hamlin had tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, got to his feet and then fell backward to the ground. A stretcher and ambulance came onto the field. First responders administered CPR. Later, it was confirmed that Hamlin’s heart had stopped. It was most likely caused by blunt force trauma after the defensive player absorbed the impact of Higgins’ helmet to his chest on the play.  

My wife, who knows something about medical events after more than 30 years in the field, said Hamlin was actually fortunate that the injury occurred where it did and his life was probably saved because of the care he was able to receive moments after he collapsed. A automated external defibrillator was used to restore his heartbeat before he was taken to the hospital.

Hamlin’s teammates were clearly in shock as they gathered around and watched him being given oxygen. So were the ESPN announcers and everyone else. Hamlin was loaded into an ambulance and transported to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the region’s only adult level 1 trauma center. Hamlin’s mother was in attendance at the game and rode with her son to the hospital.

Players from both teams surrounded Hamlin. Later, both Bills and Bengals players joined together for prayer. Before the teams gathered, the camera was on Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, who had his hands together and eyes closed. Always in the spotlight, Allen has kept his religious views to himself, maintaining his right to privacy. But this was an unguarded moment. 

I didn’t sleep well, with the image of Hamlin falling to the ground haunting me overnight Monday. I have watched football for sixty years, but I had never seen anything like that. The Darryl Stingley injury in a 1978 that crippled him for life, had also haunted me. Stingley, who died in 2007, said Oakland’s Jack Tatum, who administered the cheap shot, never apologized.

Higgins, who put his helmet into Hamlin’s chest to avoid being tackled, tweeted a message early Tuesday that his thoughts and prayers were with the Hamlin family. “I’m praying that you pull through, bro,” Higgins’ said in the message. I watched the tackle that injured Hamlin over and over again, and I am convinced that Higgins did nothing illegal. Football is a violent game.

“I hate football,” was my wife’s first comment when I told her about the injury the previous night. This was not new information. She had expressed her dismay when our son, Daniel, injured his back playing on a Pop Warner team many years ago. She refused to allow his two younger brothers to play anything except flag football. Neither of them was interested in that.

Football is a collision sport. In collision sports, the person purposely hits or collides with other people or objects with great force. Football isn’t the only collision sport. Other examples are  boxing and ice hockey. In collision sports, you need the proper equipment and safety gear, including a helmet. Football helmets have come a long way since the first helmet in 1869.

Most people may think that helmets are intended to prevent concussions. But this is not actually the case, and is one of many football helmet misconceptions. While helmets can defend against skull fractures and serious brain injuries, they can’t stop the movement of the brain inside the skull that causes concussion. That’s why so many concussions still occur in the NFL.

But the collision that nearly cost Hamlin his life had nothing to do with a head injury. Doctors believe Hamlin may have suffered a one-in-200 million heart injury that shuts off blood to the brain and triggered cardiac arrest. Doctors believe the blow to the chest threw his heart’s pumping mechanism out of rhythm, disrupting blood flow around his body and shutting off his brain.

The impact in Monday night’s game may have happened during a very vulnerable moment in Hamlin’s heart’s electrical cycle, triggering a condition called commotio cordis. This is a sudden arrhythmia caused by chest impact near the heart. Without immediate CPR and defibrillation, the prognosis of commotio cordis is not good.  The condition is very  dangerous with rare survival.

If you believe in luck (I prefer to call it providence) Hamlin was actually very lucky after he was very unlucky. If he had sustained the blow to the chest somewhere else,  medical professionals would not have been there to  perform CPR within seconds after he suffered cardiac arrest during the game Monday night. Experts say quick CPR was key to his survival, and I don’t doubt that.

By midday Tuesday, the NFL had advised that the game had been suspended until further notice. Although no final decision was made on if and when the game would be completed, it would not be resumed this week. Since the playoff picture probably won’t change, it’s possible that this game won’t be made up. However, the fact that it won’t be this week had fantasy implications.  

As a co-commissioner in my fantasy football home league, I had the responsibility of sending out a communication about how this would impact the league. In this league, the championship game was already settled. The matchup to determine third place was impacted, with my sister-in-law projected to win if Allen completed the game. Instead he finished with 2.72 FP and she lost.

“I’m sure you are aware that Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest last night in the MNF game in Cincinnati. Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored on the field and he is in critical condition. At a time when a man’s life hangs in the balance, fantasy football becomes far less important. However, if you’re wondering about the impact in our league, here’s the rule:

“According to the rule I read, if an NFL game is postponed or cancelled, the players on those teams will be treated as injured players and no points will be given to them unless the game is played on the same day. If the game is played the next day or beyond, the players in that game will not get any fantasy points,” I wrote, taking this information directly from the Yahoo website.

“As this was the final week of fantasy football for the 2022-23 season, the final score will remain as is. So, if you had any Bengals or Bills player on your fantasy team this week, the points will remain as they are now.” I must admit being surprised when my email set off a firestorm of text messages. “I think it’s total BS, but I guess we gotta go with it,” my sister-in-law commented.

I’m sure there were more harsh comments from managers in other leagues where losing possible points from Allen, Joe Burrow, Stefon Diggs, Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, or Tee Higgins could have cost championships. Having been eliminated from the playoffs in both of my Yahoo leagues, I am not walking in their shoes. However, I’d like to think I would have felt differently. 

In Buffalo, thousands of fans gathered on Tuesday to hold a prayer vigil for Hamlin and his family outside Highmark Stadium. None of them were worried about how the postponed game might affect the Bills in their quest for a first-round bye in the playoffs. They were praying for a 24-year-old known for organizing Christmas toy drives in his hometown while he was in college.

There’s a time when events on a field of play raise issues far bigger than the outcome of the game in question. There might be issues of player safety in the event of a serious injury. There might be issues of justice in the case of malicious actions by heartless thugs like Tatum, who was never disciplined by the NFL. Or, the issue might be coming together to pray for a human life.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

What price glory?

The late George Steinbrenner is rolling over in his grave. The owner of the “other team” in New York is outspending is son, Hal Steinbrenner. Billionaire owner Steve Cohen is on track to spend almost $500 million on payroll and penalties for his New York Mets. Cohen is thumbing his nose at the $233 million luxury tax threshold for the 2023 MLB season, as the Mets’ payroll is now expected to be roughly $384 million. The Mets’ offseason spending splurge has now exceeded $800 million.

The current collective bargaining agreement discourages profligate spending, but it doesn’t prevent it. The CBA anticipates owners operating franchises as a business. That has not been the case. Cohen’s offseason spending spree, in which the Mets have committed $476.7 million to seven free agents, has forced the hand of the Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been quiet.

No one in the Dodger organization stated that they plan to remain under the competitive balance tax threshold, but it seems to be a consideration. After all the costs have counted, no major league team spent as much as the Dodgers in the ten full seasons of the current ownership group headed up by team president Stan Kasten. They’ve had the top competitive balance tax payroll in six of the 10 seasons, and it’s likely be second to the Mets in 2022 when the final numbers are in.

Heading into 2023, the Yankees are now second in payroll, with third-place Philadelphia closing in on them. San Diego is fourth. The Texas Rangers are sixth but moving up fast with owner Ray Davis opening up the checkbook to sign Jacob deGrom to a five-year, $185 million deal. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t the only one surprised by the Rangers outbidding the Mets to lure deGrom away from the only team he’s ever played for. It’s been that kind of an offseason, and the year isn’t over yet. 

While Cohen, Steinbrenner, Davis, Padres owner Peter Seidler and Phillies owner John Middleton have been willing to pay exorbitant salaries, other teams have taken a different approach, choosing to put money into player development, hiring top scouts and an elite field staff. The idea is to find other ways to stay competitive. “Moneyball” teams like the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays have opened the eyes of other teams with success in their advanced analytics to stay competitive.

The analytics movement that spread across baseball in the early 2000s, inspiring a best-selling book and a hit movie, took a huge leap forward with the introduction of Statcast in major league baseball parks across the country. Statcast is a high-speed, high-accuracy, automated tool developed to analyze player movements and athletic abilities. It was introduced to all thirty MLB stadiums in 2015, a year now considered the beginning of the Statcast era. It revolutionized fantasy baseball. 

The question I’d like to explore in today’s column is whether teams like the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Padres and Rangers will be successful with their attempts to buy their way to a championship? Or, will teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Guardians, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles be able to compete? The Brewers, Guardians, Rays and Orioles all have payrolls under $50 million heading into 2023. Stuart Sternberg’s Rays have an estimated payroll of only $31 million.

Let’s take a look at the six highest-paid players and see where they fall in the all-important wins above replacement (WAR) and fantasy ranking heading into 2023. We’ll look at the 2022 WAR leaders and also see how the fantasy community ranks the highest paid players. Keep in mind, that a baseball player’s perceived value in fantasy is not the same as in reality. This is why I thought it would be useful to add the player’s WAR ranking to keep reality and fantasy in their proper focus.


The Mets signed Verlander to a two-year contract that is worth $86.7 million and includes a $35 million vesting option for 2025. Verlander is coming off arguably his best Major League season at age 39. The three-time Cy Young Award winner had league-best 1.75 ERA over 28 starts for the Astros, leading the Majors with a 0.83 WHIP. Verlander’s WAR was 5.9 and his ADP is currently 45. Verlander reunites with Max Scherzer, who was his teammate from 2010-14 in Detroit.


It was just one year earlier that the Mets announced their three-year, $130 million deal with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. As Scherzer heads into his second year in New York, he will earn the identical salary that Verlander will earn – $43,333,333. A pair of oblique issues limited Scherzer to only 23 starts in 2022. This pair of aces tops the list on payroll. While Verlander’s 5.9 WAR was tied for 18th, Scherzer’s WAR of 5.3 was tied for 31st. His ADP is 56.


Judge picked a good time to have a career year in 2022, with 62 home runs, 131 RBI and 133 runs scored. The slugger, who will turn 31 in April, finished with a .311/.425/.686 slash line. The biggest surprise was that he was a five-category contributor, adding 16 steals. Judge easily led the league with a 10.6 WAR. He endured his share of injury issues in the past but played in a career-high 157 games and has missed only 19 contests across the past two seasons. His ADP is 5.


Three years ago, the Los Angeles Angels made a big mistake. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Signing Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million contract after a career year with Washington in 2019 was the ultimate “buy high.” Rendon will make $38,517, 428 in 2023.He has played in only 157 games in the past three seasons (including the short 2020 campaign). Injuries may be to blame for huge drops in his batting average and slugging percentage. He had a 1.0 WAR and his ADP is 242.


The fact that Trout will make less money than Rendon in 2023 is one of the great injustices. Unlike his teammate, Trout is still an elite player. He has a career .303/.369/.630 across 12 seasons. Despite missing 43 games, Trout hit 40 homers in 2022, tying Pete Alonso for third place. The only thing limiting him injuries, but history shows Trout can produce more in 130 games than most can contribute over a 150-game season. He was tied for 13th with a 6.3 WAR and his ADP is 24.   


Checking in as the sixth highest-paid player in 2023, Cole is coming off a year where he posted his highest ERA (3.50) since leaving Pittsburgh in 2017. There were some real lows for Cole in 2022, including a five-homer, mid-summer blowup outing in Minnesota. But Cole still led the majors in strikeouts with 257. The two-time Cy Young runner up logged 200.2 innings last season, which was sixth. He continues to bring the heat at 97-98 mph. He had a 2.4 WAR and his ADP is 17.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Farewell to fantasy football

One of the first nonfiction books that I ever read was Farewell to Football by Jerry Kramer, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers. When the book was published, I was 14 years old and already a huge fan of professional football. I’ve been an NFL fan for more than five decades, but I’ve concluded that I’m not as big of a fan of the fantasy version.

The main problem with fantasy football is that there is way too much luck involved. Consider the case of Alpha Dog, which is the name of my fantasy team in one of the private leagues I play in. Alpha Dog scored the most fantasy points of any team in its league across the 14-week regular season. Yahoo had Alpha Dog as a 17-point favorite in the first round of the playoffs.

Alpha Dog lost its first-round playoff matchup by 40 points. The team, which had averaged 111.29 points per game during the regular season, scored 80 – the lowest number of points it had scored in the season. Injuries weren’t the problem. The only injured player on my roster was Jeff Wilson, and he was on my bench. The problem was that Lady Luck abandoned me.

“It’s better to be lucky than good,” quipped an opponent of mine in doubles tennis several years ago. His shot had hit the top of the net and fell over, and there was no way to hit a return. A fraction of an inch lower and the tennis ball would have wound up on his side of the net. I’ve heard that expression many times since then in various situations. But is it really true?

I guess “Better to be lucky than good means that to be gifted with good fortune is better than being simply good at something. I searched the internet for the origin of this expression, and the search led me to the story of Lamar Gillett. Gillett, the only P-35 pilot in World War II to shoot down a Japanese Zero fighter, said it was luck, not skill, that allowed him to succeed.

Perhaps, what Mr. Gillett meant to say something like this: “Skill alone would not have enabled me to shoot down that Zero. I needed some luck.” That makes more sense to me since the idea of relying on luck instead of skill seems foolish. I would much rather work to develop my skill at something (e.g. fantasy sports) than to hope that luck will carry me to the winner’s circle.

Anyone involved in medical research knows that statistically, small sample sizes are not as convincing as larger sample sizes in proving or disproving a theory. For instance, a drug study showing a certain “desired” result (e.g. the treatment group had lower cholesterol than the placebo group), is more reliable with a larger sample size. This is common sense, right?

If I flip a coin twice, and it comes up heads both times, can I conclude that the probability of heads is 100 percent? Of course, not. Since Zay Jones scored 31.9 points on Sunday, can I conclude that he’s a much better fantasy wide receiver than Amon-Ra St. Brown? You were wondering how I was going to bring this discussion back to fantasy sports, weren’t you?

St. Brown, my WR1, scored 11.7 points in my half-point PPR league on Sunday, which 20 points less than Jones, my opponent’s WR1. But 18 of those points were a result of three touchdown receptions. St. Brown had seven receptions for 76 yards and no TDs. Jones had six receptions for 109 yards. When you’re wideout catches three TD passes, you’re lucky.

One of the reasons I prefer fantasy baseball to fantasy football is that there are 162 games in a regular season, compared to 18 in an NFL regular season. But remember that when you reach the playoffs, it’s just one game to determine if you will advance to the next round in fantasy football. If I played the same opponent nine more times, I’d probably beat him seven times. So what?

Another problem with fantasy football is that there are far less fantasy-relevant plays in the mix each game than in fantasy baseball. If you have ever prepared for a fantasy baseball draft, you know that you must familiarize yourself with at least 250 players in a shallow league. But if you are preparing to draft in a deep league (15 teams, or more), you must look at twice that many.  

People might argue that fantasy sports are just supposed to be there for fun, and I agree, to a certain extent. After all, almost everyone I know who plays fantasy sports has a day job that pays the bills. But the people that I know who play fantasy sports are competitive (like me). They are not only willing to spend the hours of research, they actually enjoy those hours of research.

As a fantasy managers, do you want to open the draft window and make your selections without any preparation. Do you want to click on the auto-draft setting and sit back? Where is the fun in that? The fun for me in playing fantasy sports is pitting my knowledge against my opponents. That knowledge comes from research. In my case, it’s probably hundreds of hours.

When you have 10 teams or less in a league, the research is helpful but not essential. The reason is that there are enough good players at every position to draft a good lineup. Twelve teams, and each manager still has a good lineup. More than that? Now it’s getting real. When I drafted for the first team in a 15-team league last March, my roster made me sick to my stomach. 

I wrote at length about my TGFBI draft last year, so I don’t want to repeat myself unnecessarily.  By the time the sixth round rolled around, all the stars were gone. But there were 25 more rounds to go. When the draft was over, each manager in my 15-team league had picked 30 players. There were players with an ADP as high as 600 being drafted on some of the teams.

As the later rounds rolled around, I was going nuts. The players that I had identified as targets for the late rounds were all gone. I was literally doing research on the fly, between draft picks. I would add names to my draft board and then cross them off. With the 13th draft pick, sometimes there were 20 picks between my turns, due to snaking. At other times, there were only four.

I have enjoyed playing in smaller leagues where I don’t have to think, but deep down, I just love deep leagues. I can hear the Adele song playing in my head as I write this. “Rolling in the deep. Tears are going to fall. Rolling in the deep.” I may lose my mind in March when I’m drafting my TGFBI team, but I won’t be relying on luck to draft a good team, or have a good season.

It’s time to bid farewell to fantasy football in 2022. I still have a public league team that’s alive and playing in the semifinals, but I’m not going to invest much time in that. There are five hundred player profiles to be compiled as part of my research for the 2023 fantasy baseball season. I will be sharing a great deal of this information with you readers. See you next year.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Hot stove sizzles

I thought I was going to be writing about football this week, but the Hot Stove is still sizzling a week after the Winter Meetings ended, with trades and signings holding too many fantasy implications to ignore. The home run king is staying in New York, three of the top shortstops in the game are moving to new venues and the AL Cy Young is coming to the Big Apple.

If that’s not enough, the Braves, Brewers and Athletics made headlines with a three-team trade that left each team with a new No. 1 catcher, while the A’s continued to stockpile prospects. The most notable names on the move are Sean Murphy, from Oakland to Atlanta, and William Contreras, from Atlanta to Milwaukee. Backup Manny Pina, 35, goes from Atlanta to Oakland.

Yankee fans had a few sleepless nights because it looked like Aaron Judge was heading west, with better offers from both the Giants and Padres on the table. But the Yankees ultimately matched a nine-year, $360 million deal from the Giants and were able to resign Judge. The slugger led the league with 62 home runs, 133 runs and 131 RBI to win his first MVP.

Some analysts are making Judge the No. 1 overall pick for 2023 fantasy baseball drafts, although he’s currently being drafted 5th in NFBC drafts. In Roto, where five-category players are the gold standard, Judge was tied for 36th with 16 stolen bases. Keep in mind that Judge never had a double-digit steal season before 2022. It’s amazing what a contract year does for you motivation.

One other thing to keep in mind with Judge has had a history of injuries. After winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, Judge underwent offseason arthroscopic surgery on a shoulder during the offseason. He spent two months on the IL in 2018 after being struck on the wrist with a pitch, missed two months with an oblique strain in 2019, and then there was 2020.

Judge reported to spring training in 2020 with something wrong and it was finally diagnosed as

a cracked rib and a collapsed lung. He was all set to miss a significant chunk of the season before the season decided to miss itself, postponed until late July due to the pandemic. Judge wound up playing 28 of the 60 games in that season, with a .257 batting average – his lowest of his career.

In spite of missing some games with lower body soreness in 2021, he played 148 games and then appeared in a record 157 games in 2022 (again, it’s amazing what a contract year does not a player’s motivation). Suffice it to say that those with enough faith to draft Judge before the 2022 season at an ADP of 27 got a handsome return on their investment. But what about next year? 

There’s no question that you’re “buying high” on Judge is you draft him No. 5 overall in 2023. Trea Turner, Julio Rodriguez, Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Jose Ramirez are being taken ahead of him in early NFBC drafts, and the reason is clearly the five-category potential for each of them. However, none of these players will come close to a healthy Judge in home runs and RBI.  

The bottom line is that if I was drafting from the fifth position, and Judge was still on the board, I wouldn’t pass him up. In fact, I would surely take him ahead of Seattle’s super rookie Rodriguez. Rodriguez deserved AL Rookie of the Year in 2022. He slashed .284/.345/.509 with 28 home runs, 75 RBI, 25 stolen bases and 84 runs scored. But he’s played only one season.

In addition to Rodriguez, it’s likely that I would take Judge ahead of Acuna. Coming off a gruesome mid-summer 2021 ACL tear, he’s got off to a slow start in 2022. He finished better than he started, but he only clubbed 15 home runs in 533 plate appearances. The 29 stolen bases was great, but keep in mind that it will be easier to get steals in 2023 with the rule change.


I am in complete agreement with the high-stakes fantasy baseball players about Turner being the No. 1 overall player in 5×5 drafts for the second year in a row. Judge’s superior power earned him a better contract with the Yankees than Turner got with the Phillies, but a fantasy player shouldn’t take Judge ahead of Turner unless he or she is playing in a points league.

Turner, who signed a 11-year, $300 million contract last week, will return to the NL East after slashing .298/.343/.466 with 21 home runs, 100 RBI and 27 stolen bases in 2022. The shortstop, who began his big-league career with the Nationals in 2015, spent the past season and a half with the Dodgers. Heading into his age-30 season, Turner should thrive in the City of Brotherly Love.

Only three other parks – Coors Field in Denver, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and Miller Park in Milwaukee – are as friendly to power hitters as Citizens Bank Ballpark. Even with the outfield fences being pushed back in 2007, Citizens Bank Ballpark has more home runs flying over the walls thanks to inviting porches down the line and power alleys that aren’t deep.

This benefits Turner simply because he lacks the power of hitters like Judge, Mike Trout and Pete Alonso. That trio is going to hit 30 plus home runs anywhere, but Turner could hit 30 for the first time in his career in Philadelphia. In fact, I expect him to join the 30-30 club this year. Turner has had 30 plus steals in every full-length season except last year when he fell three short.

The reason Turner was limited to 27 steals (still eighth best) last season in Los Angeles was that he was dropped to third in the lineup after the Dodgers offense struggled to generate consistency. Mookie Betts was moved back into the leadoff spot. Turner is projected to bat leadoff for the Phillies, providing a boost near the top of the order for last season’s World Series runners-up.

Turner, who had a .316/.364/.514 slash line over his last 1,613 plate appearances dating back to the beginning of the 2020 season, has averaged 25 home runs and 37 stolen bases for every 162 games played since the beginning of 2018. With his full five-category fantasy skillset, he’s the closest thing that you can get to a lock for guaranteed monster production in your fantasy league.


It was just two months ago that the Mets were eliminated by the Padres in the first round of the playoffs. Spending more than any other team in baseball, they won 101 regular season games but were unable to hold off Atlanta in the NL East after sitting atop the division for all but six days. Then they were quickly eliminated in the best-of-three National League wild-card series 2-1.

Things got worse eleven days ago when Jacob deGrom signed with the Rangers. Looking to replace the gaping hole in their rotation, New York signed resilient Justin Verlander to a 2-year, $86,666,666 contract. The Mets hope that reuniting Verlander with Max Scherzer will enable the pair to finish what they were unable to accomplish in Detroit – win a World Series title.

The only problem is that General Manager Billy Eppler forgot to check Verlander’s birth certificate. The future Hall of Famer turns 40 in February. Verlander’s remarkable comeback from Tommy John surgery is a feel-good story on every level. The former Astros ace won his third career Cy Young Award this year, becoming the first pitcher to win the award after not throwing a pitch in the previous season. But that doesn’t guarantee the Mets anything in 2023.

Verlander can run but he can’t hide forever from Father Time after pitching MLB 3,163 innings. The Mets might not be worried, buoyed by the fact that Cy Young pitched 7,356 in his career. Perhaps, Verlander skills won’t diminish for a few more years, but counting on a 40-year-old and a 39-year-old (Scherzer turns 39 in July) to lead you to the promised land seems risky to me.

The players at NFBC appear to agree with me. Verlander’s ADP is currently 48, and he’s the 12th starting pitcher coming off the board. Scherzer is the 15th. In terms of his surroundings, Verlander gets a bit of a boost going from Minute Maid Park in Houston to Citi Field in New York. While his age makes him a greater injury risk, he could be a bargain if he stays healthy.


DeGrom’s five-year, $185 million contract with the Texas Rangers could put then in the playoffs or be a bust. It all depends on one key factor – the health of the former Mets superstar and future Hall of Famer. DeGrom made 38 starts over the past three seasons, missing 188-of-384 Mets games. His current ADP at NFBC is 34, which makes him a boom-or-bust pitcher in fantasy.

Keep in mind that the Rangers’ supporting cast is weaker than that of the Mets, plus Texas’ Globe Life Field, while a much more pitching-oriented environment than its predecessor across the street, is still slightly more hitting-friendly than New York’s Citi Field. However, this amounts to only a slight downgrade. A healthy deGrom has been the best pitcher in baseball, period.

From 2020-22, deGrom paced the majors in ERA (2.05) and WHIP (0.73) among pitchers who had at least as many as his 38 starts or 224⅓ innings pitched during that time, leading in ERA by nearly four-tenths of a run and WHIP by nearly one-quarter of a baserunner. DeGrom also had 17 games with double-digit strikeouts during that three-year span, tied for third-most in baseball. 

DeGrom, who will turn 35 in June, dealt with a barrage of injuries over the past three seasons, including back, neck, hamstring, oblique, elbow, forearm and shoulder issues. An optimist would point to the fact that he finished his last season in New Yor with 12 strong starts (including his one postseason turn). He passed a physical with the Rangers that indicates he’s healthy for now.

If deGrom can double last year’s totals – 22 starts and 128⅔ innings – he would likely return value to fantasy managers brave enough to draft him. But keep in mind that he has not pitched more than 100 innings since 2019. Texas is counting on a healthy deGrom, based on the contract he was given. If you can stomach the risk on your fantasy team, deGrom may be worth his ADP.


The Padres were in the bidding war for both Judge and Turner right up until the end but didn’t leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed. San Diego reached an agreement with former Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts on an 11-year, $280 million contract. Rumor has it that Bogaerts preferred to stay in Boston, but the Red Sox weren’t willing to pay up the dismay of their fans.  

Bogaerts will join a Padres team that already includes Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. Boston, meanwhile, was left to pick up the pieces after the loss of a homegrown talent who made his major league debut at 20 years old and leaves at 30 after opting out of the final three years of his contract. With Bogaerts, the Padres may be ready to challenge the Dodgers.

Bogaerts was about as productive as ever last year, but his power decline was evident. Playing half of his games in the friendly confines of Fenway Park, Bogaerts only hit 15 home runs and his slugging percentage dropped to its lowest level since 2017. And now he gets a ballpark downgrade. Still a .456 slug is respectable, and the .307 average was sixth best in the league.   

From a fantasy perspective, Bogaerts is a good value at his ADP of 91. He’s currently being taken as the 10th shortstop off the board, and I’m a buyer at that price. He’s reliable and consistent, and you know he will provide strong statistics year after year. His RBI production has fallen since his salad years in 2018 and 2019, but a .307/.377/.456 slash in 2022 will work.


Correa, 28, got a better deal than Bogaerts, which only proves that he’s a bigger deal in reality than fantasy. The Giants signed Correa to a 13-year contract worth $350 million. His new deal with the Giants is the largest ever for a shortstop and the largest ever for a former No. 1 overall draft pick. Overall, Correa’s $350 million pact is the fourth-largest deal for an MLB player.

The longtime Houston Astros shortstop slashed .291/.366/.467 with 22 home runs in 136 games around a finger contusion (hit by a pitch) and a stint on the COVID list. His defense, which has been historically splendid, took a hit in the eyes of the various stats, but remained above average overall. Correa has averaged 7.2 WAR per 162 games in his career which shows his value.  

Correa is currently the 16th shortstop off the board in early NFBC drafts, with an overall ADP of 125. With a career .279 batting average, his production took a hit after the move from Houston to Minnesota in 2022. Home runs dropped from 26 to 22, runs plummeted from 104 to 70 and RBI dipped from 92 to 64, although he did play 12 less games in his only season with the Twins.   


The Oakland Coliseum is a difficult place to hit. In fact, it rated as the single worst venue for home runs. Consider Murphy, who hit .226, with a .702 OPS there compared to .272 with an .812 OPS on the road. Truist Park is a better hitting environment, and Murphy certainly has a better supporting cast in Atlanta. Expect him to improve on 18 home runs, 67 runs and 66 RBI.

In spite of playing more games than any other catcher in the majors, Murphy’s statistics were depressed last year by batting in the middle of a young, rebuilding Athletics lineup – baseball’s second-worst last season (3.51 runs per game). Now, he’s headed to Atlanta to slot in batting sixth or seventh in the Braves’ potent order (third-best 4.87 runs per game). Holy cow, Batman.

Potent may be an understatement. Ronald Acuna, Jr., Ozzie Albies, Matt Olsen, Austin Riley, Vaughn Grissom and Michael Harris II are reminiscent of the 1927 New York Yankees. That lineup, dubbed  Murders’ Row, included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. By the time a starting pitcher gets to Murphy, he’ll be so shook up that he’ll be in need of therapy session.

Murphy showed signs of a player breaking out in the second half of 2022. From July 1, Murphy hit .278 with an .828 OPS, reaching base at a .366 clip and striking out just 17.4 percent of the time. He finished the season with a .250 batting average and .426 slugging percentage. It’s no surprise that he’s already climbing up the NFBC draft board, currently being taken 136 overall.


By most statistical measures, the younger brother of the Cardinals’ Willson Contreras was better than Murphy last year, but he got only 334 at-bats, compared to Murphy’s 537. Contreras even got fewer plate appearances than teammate Travis d’Arnaud, who will remain in Atlanta and cut into Murphy’s playing time. For Contreras, the move to Milwaukee can only be seen as a plus.

The Brewers are ready to make Contreras their No. 1 option behind the plate, and you won’t find too many venues more hitter-friendly than American Family Field. If you combine the benefits of more playing time and a better park, that may offset a weaker lineup in Milwaukee. Contreras’ percentile rankings on Statcast are almost identical to his older brother, now his division rival.


The Cardinals are not known for making big deals at the Winter Meetings, but they had a big hole to fill and they wasted no time in filling it. After 19 seasons of Yadier Molina carrying the load behind the plate, St. Louis signed Willson Contreras to a five-year, $87.5 million contract. This signing had to anger Cubs fans who hate the team by the river, 300 miles to the south.

Contreras moves on after a seven-year run in Chicago. His defense has declined a bit at age 30, but Contreras does have a big arm and can rotate into DH duties. He’s a considerable offensive upgrade to Molina. Contreras is currently going just outside the top-100 picks overall. Only J.T. Realmuto, Daulton Varsho, Will Smith, Salvador Perez and Adley Rutschman are ranked higher.


There are many more significant moves. The Phillies jumped into the arms race at the Winter Meetings, setting the tone by agreeing to surprising four-year, $72 million contract with Taijuan Walker. Chris Bassitt signed a three-year deal with the Blue Jays. In the last two seasons, Bassitt has compiled 339 innings pitched with a 3.29 ERA and a 23.6 percent strikeout rate.

Rest assured, that millions of words will be written about all of the deals made and still being made in the months to come. It’s been a record-setting offseason, so far, and it’s not over yet. Opening day is March 30, and I’m glad I’ve got time to digest all of it. Please keep reading Doubting Thomas for more updates and insights on the crazy world of fantasy baseball.  

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

A difficult task

The most difficult task that I face every week with each of my fantasy teams is setting my starting lineup. If setting your lineup is easy for you, I can only conclude that you either have a team without much depth – a dangerous situation.

I have a routine that I go through each week. The fantasy football week starts Tuesday morning after the final game of the week is played on Monday. On Tuesday, I review the results from the previous week and decide on waiver claims to make.

Waivers run overnight Tuesday in the leagues I play in, and I’m always excited to see if I got the players I bid on. At this point, my roster should be set for the week. Sometimes, I will add another player, or a defense, or kicker, later in the week.

But the most important thing that I do on Wednesday is begin the arduous task of setting my starting lineup. There is a sense of urgency if a player is scheduled to play on Thursday night, as opposed to those who play on Sunday or Monday.

Let me stop here and share my deepest fear heading into a particular week. My fear is that because of a lack of due diligence, I will leave a player on the bench who goes off for 20 plus points, or start one who gives me single-digit production.

In Week 12, for instance, I almost sat Miles Sanders. The Philadelphia running back had put up two straight games of less than six fantasy points. He was playing on Monday night, and I didn’t put him in until the last minute when I sat Michael Pittman.

Starting Sanders turned out to be a good decision because he rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns on his way to 29.5 fantasy points in my half-point PPR league. As it turned out, I would still have won with Pittman because he scored 15.6 FP.

Heading into Week 13, I was set on only two starters – Austin Ekeler and Amon-Ra St. Brown.  As one of the top running backs in fantasy, Ekeler will start every game he’s healthy. St. Brown is also an automatic since he’s been money for me the entire season.

With only two players on my automatic list, I had five starters to determine – a quarterback, a running back, a wide receiver, a tight end and a flex. Typically, I will put a player with an injury designation in the flex spot so that I can substitute either a running back or wideout.

Unlike my other teams, this particular team had no players with injury designations. Unless something changed later in the week, I didn’t have to worry about “questionable” players and those dreadful game-time decisions on whether a player would be active. 

First, I made a decision on quarterback. The choice was between Tom Brady and Geno Smith. Smith has been my starting quarterback for most of the season, but I picked up Brady when he was dropped during his bye week. I decided to stick with Smith.

Second, I made a decision on tight end. Cole Kmet had been a favorite target for Justin Fields but caught only two balls from Trevor Siemian in Week 12. But with Fields expected to return and Darnell Mooney lost for the season, I chose him over Gerald Everett. 

Next, came the hard part. I had six players being given serious consideration to start and only three spots to fill in my starting lineup. There were three running backs and three wide receivers to choose from, and here is a summary of my analysis:


The Eagles’ opponent in Week 13 was Tennessee, and they have been the third best team against running backs. Sanders has had four single-digit fantasy games this season already. Still, I couldn’t bench him after he scored almost 30 FP last week.


I claimed Wilson in Week 9, and he was good that week and even better in Week 10. But coming off his bye week, he only produced 11.7 FP against Houston – the best matchup for a back in fantasy. The Week 13 matchup against the 49ers scared me.


Pacheco has racked up 258 rushing yards over the last three games as Kansas City’s No. 1 running back. The problem is that he’s only caught one pass in those three weeks and scored one touchdown. He has a nice floor but a relatively low ceiling.   


Olave is an amazing talent, and if he had a good quarterback, he’d be a WR1. Unfortunately, he doesn’t. Andy Dalton targeted him nine times last week against San Francisco, but Olave only caught five. The overturned 30-yard TD catch would have made his day.


Pittman has at least six catches in six of the past seven games, and a favorable game script should help him against Dallas. He was targeted 11 times, but it took a TD catch to give him double-digit fantasy points. He’s only scored twice on the season.


He’s scored 19 plus half-point PPR points the past two week, and none of them have counted since he’s been on my bench. He’s also six trips to the end zone in the past three games, and the rookie has a great matchup against the Bears in Chicago.

I finally decided to start Sanders (RB2), Olave (WR2) and Watson (FLEX). This was a mixed bag with Watson scoring 22.9 FP. Sanders was saved from another subpar, single-digit game by a fourth-quarter touchdown to score 10.8 FP and Olave had 8.5 FP.   

Watson scored 22.9 FP in spite of only catching 3-of-6 passes for 48 yards. One catch was for a touchdown and he rushed 46 yards for another touchdown. The end around, which iced the game for the Packers, was his eighth TD in the last four games.       

My decision to start Smith over Brady was the right one. The Seahawks signal caller had his best game of the year – he completed 28-of-39 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns after Kenneth Walker left the game early with an ankle injury.

It really wouldn’t have mattered who I started at tight end since Kmet and Everett had similar games. Kmet caught 6-of-7 targets for 72 yards and 10.2 FP, while Everett caught 5-of-6 for 80 yards and 10.5 FP. Neither tight end got into the end zone.

Now, the whole process starts all over again in the final week of the fantasy regular season.  To make matters worse, Byemageddon has arrived, with six teams on bye. Olave, Watson, Pittman and Kmet are all on my bench because they have no game.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

QBs matter to WRs

If you are a reader of this column on a regular basis, you know that I don’t value quarterbacks. The reason is because the position has been traditionally deep enough to wait until the late rounds to draft one. The opportunity cost of selecting Josh Allen in the third round, or Patrick Mahomes in the fourth round is too high.

Mahomes might change my mind with his 29 touchdown passes and 3585 passing yards through 11 games. But Mahomes is not the focus of this column. The point I want to make is that quarterbacks matter to wide receivers. Consider Michael Pittman, who was taken in the third round of many fantasy drafts.

Things started out peachy for Pittman in the Colts’ first game. Quarterback Matt Ryan peppered him with 13 targets, and Pittman caught nine of them for 121 yards and a touchdown. That added up to 27.1 PPR points. He was averaging almost 16 PPG until former head coach Frank Reich benched Ryan in late October.

Reich named Sam Ehlinger as the starter for the remainder of the season. Indianapolis was 3-3-1 at the time, and Reich believed the second-year quarterback could give the Colts a boost. Suffice it to say that the Ehlinger experiment did not go well. After a mediocre game against Washington, Ehlinger was a bust against New England.

Ehlinger wasn’t the only one who was awful in the 26-3 loss in Foxboro. Pittman had his worst game of the season, managing to catch only 3-of-6 targets for 22 yards. His 5.2 fantasy points had many of his managers on a suicide watch heading into Week 10. After all, Reich had named Ryan quarterback for life in Indianapolis, and the future was bleak.

The future brightened a bit the next day when Reich was fired, and it got even brighter when interim head coach Jeff Saturday named Ryan the starter against Las Vegas. As soon as that news broke, I proposed a trade to a manager in one of my leagues. I offered him Nick Chubb for Miles Sanders and Pittman. He quickly accepted the trade.

Pittman underwhelmed in the game against the Raiders, although he was targeted nine times.  He caught seven for 53 yards and 12.3 FP. The next week, in a tougher matchup against Philadelphia, Pittman caught 6-of-7 targets for 75 yards but still hadn’t gotten into the end zone since Week 1. Then, on Monday night one of seven catches was for a touchdown.

It should come as no surprise that I’m pretty happy with the trade I made. Sanders, who scored 29.5 FP in my half-point PPR league last week, was the bigger piece. However, Pittman had his best game since Week 6. He was targeted 11 times in the Monday night game against Pittsburgh, and I’m hoping he’s due for more positive touchdown regression.

Pittman is just one of several wide receivers that are either being boosted, or hurt by the performance of their quarterback. D.J. Moore and Garrett Wilson are riding high right now after a quarterback change, but other talented wide receivers have been dragged down by poor quarterback play. Let’s take a look at seven more to see what happened.    


The Moore doubters were crawling out of the woodwork as recently as last week after Carolina’s No. 1 receiver put up his third straight single-digit clunker. The fact that Sam Darnold made Moore look elite on Sunday speaks more to how bad Baker Mayfield is than how good Darnold is. Moore is a must-start WR as long as Mayfield stays on the bench.   


Speaking of a must start, Wilson is just that now that Mike White has replaced Zach Wilson. No doubt, Garrett Wilson was on many fantasy manager benches on Sunday after being limited to just two receptions for 12 yards in Week 11. Wilson showed immediate chemistry with White on his way to five receptions, 95 yards and two touchdowns. Fire him up!


Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, may have come of age in Sunday’s comeback win over Baltimore on Sunday. That bodes well for Zay Jones, who has been targeted 24 times by Lawrence in the past two weeks. Jones had 27.5 FP without getting into the end zone, so check your waiver wire and see if he’s available.


An injured Jameis Winston passed for 353 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. In that game, Olave was targeted 13 times, catching nine for 147 yards. The rookie sensation is 18th in target share (25.8%), 12th in target per route run rate (28.3%), and fourth in air yard share (40.2%). But the play of Saints QB Andy Dalton continues to drag him down.


With Kyle Pitts sidelined, London should have gone off Sunday. Instead, he caught 2-of-4 targets for 29 yards in a loss to Washington. The reason why the Falcons are a run-first offense is because Marcus Mariota can’t hit the broad side of a barn. London ranks 13th in target share (27.1%) and 11th in target per route run rate (11th). It doesn’t matter.


Another talented wideout hurt by poor quarterback play, Johnson has seen his aDOT and target share drop with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett at the helm. Over the last two games without Chase Claypool, Johnson has seen his target share dip to 15.6%, with an average of only 1.05 yards per route run. Johnson still doesn’t have a touchdown this season.


Like Johnson, Cooks was being drafted in the fifth round but has been a bust. He hasn’t finished as a WR3 or better since Week 4. A quarterback change on Sunday helped only slightly, with Cooks catching all five of his targets for 59 yards. Cooks has a 22.1% target share, 28.8% air yard share but only three red zone targets over his last seven games.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Spoiler alert: Team is bust

My hopes were high when I drafted my home league team on September 5, 2022. Drafting ninth in a ten-team league, I took Joe Mixon in the first round. Seventy-five days later, Mixon and fifth-round pick Mike Williams are the only drafted players still on my roster.

The old adage in fantasy football is that you can’t win your league in the first two rounds, but you can lose it. Extend that to the first five rounds, and it’s a lock that your team is going to be circling the drain by the trade deadline. That was certainly the case with mine.

Mixon, Najee Harris, Kyle Pitts, James Conner and Williams were my first five picks. I can declare them all busts, except for Mixon who is currently RB8 in PPR leagues. Of course, Harris started showing signs of life after I traded him, but he’s still only RB22.

Pitts, one of the Big Three tight ends, is TE12 but is averaging less than five points per game. I traded him a month ago in a deal to acquire Jeff Wilson Jr. Of course, I dropped Wilson after the Christian McCaffrey trade and before he was shipped off to Miami.

Conner, a player who was notorious for not being able to stay healthy, had two double-digit fantasy games in his first five before getting injured. When he had 23.6 points in Week 10, I traded him as part of a deal that included Lamar Jackson.

I must confess that I was excited about getting Jackson, the QB5, coming off his bye to play Carolina on Sunday. In the past, and quarterback has been a deep position and I could afford to wait late in the draft to acquire one. But not this year.

Jackson, just like everyone else, proved to be a disappointment. He managed only 15.46 points. What happened to the Jackson that scored 42.62 and 39.42 points in back-to-back weeks earlier in the season. That was the Jackson I traded for.

Another player I was excited about in Week 11 was Williams. Returning after a three-week absence, he had a dream matchup with the Chiefs on Sunday night. He managed one catch and reinjured his ankle on that play early in the first half. Injury bust.

My sixth-round pick on draft day was Diontae Johnson. When I traded him for Eno Benjamin, he was averaging 11.6 points per game. After Week 11, he’s averaging less than 10 points per game and hasn’t caught a touchdown pass. What a bust.

Another player I was high on was Brandin Cooks. Things started out well with my seventh-round pick garnering 22 targets in the first two games. But he hasn’t been targeted more than seven times since then, and he has only four double-digit games. Bust.

My eight-round pick was Marquise Brown, and he was returning tremendous value, averaging more than 20 points per game, until he fractured his foot in Week 6. With a lengthy absence, I finally had to drop him to hold Williams to my only IR spot.

Rounding out my other draft picks, I traded ninth-round pick Antonio Gibson early in the season, dropped Elijah Moore, dropped Matthew Stafford, dropped Drake London and dropped Darrel Williams. I seldom hold on to defenses, or kickers.    

I had my share of bad luck with this team, but I also made some bad draft picks and trades. When things go wrong, you can always blame fate. However, the fantasy managers who takes responsibility for his mistakes can learn from them.

This is my seventh year playing fantasy football, and I’ve never had a losing season. But after Week 11, I’m 3-8 and guaranteed a losing record with this team. I hate losing. I hate missing the playoffs. But I’m not going to quit trying to win.

If you’re wondering why anyone would continue to do their best after they’re eliminated from the playoffs, you have a character flaw. You lack integrity. Other teams in your league are fighting for the playoffs, and you owe them your best.  

So, Doubting Thomas has a new name – at least in this league. My new name is Spoiler Thomas. My job is to beat each of my last three opponents and hurt their playoff chances. That includes my own flesh and blood, Nathan, in the final matchup.

Before you feel too sorry for me, you should know that I have two other teams. One is 5-6 and still has a shot at making the playoffs. The other team is 7-4 and currently in third place. I hope to win at least one league championship before it’s all over.  

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Rookies make impact

Rookies are making an impact in the NFL and in fantasy football this year, and that impact is being felt the most at the wide receiver position. This is actually the continuation of a trend. Over the last decade, 33 rookie receivers (including 15 in the last three seasons) have finished in the top 40 at the position. No other position in fantasy has this kind of an impact by rookies.

After the record-setting rookie seasons of Justin Jefferson and JaMarr Chase the past two seasons, we entered the 2022 season wondering who would be the next wideout to burst on the scene. Entering Week 10, no one had broken out. And then on a cold November night at Lambeau Field, with the temperatures dropping below freezing, Christian Watson happened.

As the sun set around 4:30 p.m., even the hearty Green Bay Packers began to shiver under their winter coats as the cold wind whistling through the stadium. But the rookie wide receiver looked like he was frolicking on a summer day. I guess playing college football in Fargo, North Dakota, had prepared him for the Frozen Tundra games at one of the most famous NFL venues.

In the previous weeks, the Packers faithful had seen their hopes fade with the continued struggles of Aaron Rodgers. Patience was running thin as Green Bay had slipped to 3-6. Fantasy managers had turned on Rodgers. He continued to struggle, his receiving corps wasn’t getting better and they were always hurt. Managers were retreating from the Packers’ passing game.

Then came the Great Christian Watson Emergence. Watson has been banged up much of the season — nursing various injuries and missing three games. There was no signal foretelling of the Great Emergence. Watson had managed six single-digit fantasy games, and his roster percentage in fantasy leagues had dropped to single digits to match his dismal PPG average.

Then in one scorching game on a chilly night in Green Bay, Watson emerged. As the Packer faithful cheered, fantasy managers took note. But, wait. As the coaches would say, “let’s review the film.” Watson had three touchdowns (and 32.7 PPR points). He had 107 receiving yards. That’s outstanding, but he did it on just four catches. We all know this TD rate is unsustainable.

 Watson’s four catches on eight targets is a 50 percent catch rate, which isn’t great. It makes you wonder if Watson is a one-week wonder instead of the 2022 breakout. Well, not so fast. Though it is important to acknowledge these troubling points, please consider that he got eight targets from the future Hall of Famer. That is twice as much as he had in any game this year.

Whether Watson a flash in the pan or breakout remains to be seen. But I can tell you that I am heading to the waiver wire tonight, prepared to spend up to $25 of FAAB on Watson. Unless you’re in a shallow league or loaded at WR, I’d recommend you do the same because there won’t be many players with this kind of upside in the last weeks of the regular fantasy season.

If you don’t have enough FAAB money available and miss out on Watson, there are other rookie wide receivers that you might obtain. Some of these you will need to trade for, and you should be aware of the approaching trade deadline in your leagues. Others, will be available on the waiver wire and could be obtained for little or no FAAB dollars. Here are five names to consider.  


When Michael Thomas went down with a toe injury in Week 3, Olave stepped up to be the Saints’ No. 1 receiver. I picked him up with a few FAAB dollars after he was targeted 13 times in Week 2 by quarterback Jameis Winston. He only caught five of those targets, but his average depth of target (aDOT) was off the charts. ADOT is a representation of his air yards per target.

 Olave led the league in this category until Winston lost the starting job to Andy Dalton.  He posted seven straight double-digit games, averaging 14.6 fantasy PPG in his first eight games. Olave was WR16 in fantasy with a 27.0% target share (15th) and 41.4% air yard share (fourth) through Sunday. He’s been held back by Dalton, and might be acquired in a trade on the cheap.


Wilson was selected by the New York Jets No. 10 overall pick right ahead of Olave. Like his former Buckeyes teammate, he’s also been held back by inferior quarterback play.  Wilson did catch a career-high eight passes from Zach Wilson in Week 9 and has growing chemistry with him as the pair as hooked up for 14 catches on 16 targets for 207 yards the past two weeks.

The fact that Wilson still has not connected on a touchdown with his quarterback puts him in line for positive regression. He has not scored since his two-touchdown performance in Week 2 with Joe Flacco under center. Wilson has become the only viable fantasy option in the Jets’ receiving corps and is certainly worth acquiring. If you could trade Ezekiel Elliott for him, do it.


How about a third quarterback held back by a lousy quarterback? London, drafted No. 8 overall by a Falcons team totally bereft of wide receiver talent, seemed to be a lock for stardom. But Marcus Mariota is so bad that even Thursday Night Football analyst Richard Sherman called for Mariota to get benched after the atrocious showcase against Carolina last Thursday night.   

While teammate Kyle Pitts was getting the worst that Mariota had to offer, London was running numerous shallow routes. He caught five balls for 38 yards and only a touchdown saved him from his seventh straight single-digit game in a row. Rostered in 75 percent of ESPN leagues and 62 percent of Yahoo leagues, and I wouldn’t trade for him but would pick him up off waivers. 


When Pickens scored a rushing touchdown on Sunday, he saved the day for fantasy managers who started him. Pittsburgh has had a good track record drafting wide receivers, so hopes were high for Pickens heading into his rookie season. After a slow start he was targeted eight times in Week 4, catching six balls for 102 yards. That was good for 16.2 FP without even scoring a TD.

Pickens followed the Week 4 game with an even more impressive performance against at Buffalo. Again, he caught six of eight balls for 83 yards against an elite defense. By that time, he was widely owned across all leagues. But then there was the Philadelphia game where he had no catches on only three targets. Pickens has talent, but the Steeler offense isn’t trustworthy.


Another first-round draft pick, Burks was taken No. 18 overall by Tennessee with the pick the Titans obtained when they traded away A.J. Brown. Some analysts expected Burks to step into Brown’s shoes as his 6-foot-2, 225-pound physique reminded them of the superstar wideout. But the rookie receiver had just 16 targets through the first four games before getting injured.

Suiting up for the first time since a Week 4 injury, Burks caught 3-of-six targets for 24 yards against a tough Denver defense on Sunday. He only had 3.9 FP but had a 16.6% target share and 75% route participation. The Titans’ passing offense has struggled and could rely on Burks’ big-play capabilities with his return. Consider adding this high-ceiling wideout from waivers.     

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Not so offensive lines

The rapid decline of the Super Champion Los Angeles Rams has taken fantasy football managers by surprise. After their bye week, the Rams suffered their fifth loss at Tampa Bay Sunday to fall to 3-5. Wasn’t it just nine months ago that this team was on the top of the world after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Inglewood?

The fall of the Rams has precipitated the fall from grace of the entire backfield, with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. reduced to fantasy irrelevancy. Akers, drafted in the fourth round in most drafts, made his first appearance in Sunday’s game since Week 5 and produced 0.3 fantasy points. He has only one double-digit game in six outings.

The running backs aren’t the only Rams players impacted. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was averaging only 11.9 fantasy points per game heading into the Sunday’s game and got 10.5. Allen Robinson, a popular mid-round draft pick, is averaging 8. Cooper Kupp is the lone player who has risen above the chaos as an elite fantasy receiver.

If you want to know what/s wrong with the Rams, you need look no further than the beleaguered offensive line.  They have battled a significant number of injuries. With the seemingly endless rotational changes up front, Stafford is the third-most sacked quarterback in the NFL with 28. Justin Fields has been sacked 31 times and Joe Burrow 30.  

With the difficulties in pass protection plus ranking 31st in rushing offense, the Rams have looked like a shell of their old selves. The offensive line is the heartbeat of an offense. If your line is good, your offense is good. A good line opens up holes for running backs and gives the quarterback the time he needs to find open receivers downfield.

As bad as the Rams have been, they aren’t the worst, ranking 29th, in offensive line efficiency. The Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins are the bottom three. Undoubtedly, the weak lines have had the most impact on the effectiveness of running backs on all of these team, especially No. 1 overall fantasy draft pick Jonathan Taylor.

Fantasy managers who drafted Taylor got 27.5 fantasy points in the opening game. Since then, Taylor has only averaged 8.8 PPG in the five games he played. I traded for Taylor in one of my leagues last week, hoping to buy low. However, he was on the sidelines Sunday with an ankle injury, watching the Colts humiliated 26-3 by the New England Patriots.

After Matt Ryan ran for his life for seven games, he was benched for Sam Ehlinger, who fared no better in losses to the Commanders and the Patriots. Poor Sam was sacked nine times in Foxboro on Sunday. A day after that debacle, the Colts fired head coach Frank Reich. The firing followed on the heels of the firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady.    

In Chicago, the emergence of Fields as one of the top running quarterbacks in the league has mitigated some of the harm done by the Bears weak offensive line. Fields ran for 178 yards on 15 carries in Sunday’s loss to Miami and scored 42.7 FP. But Fields is still getting pressured on 50% of his drop backs. That’s the most in the NFL among quarterbacks.

David Montgomery, drafted in the fourth round in many drafts, has disappointed his managers with only three double-digit fantasy games this season. He is averaging less than 10 PPG. Khalil Herbert, one of the most powerful runners in the game, has fared somewhat better but managed only 23 yards in seven carries against Miami on Sunday.

Miami, betting that Tua Tagovailoa is their franchise quarterback for the next decade or more, gave Tyreek Hill a record contract and sent a bunch of draft picks to Kansas City. Hill and Jaylen Waddle have produced for fantasy managers, but Tagovailoa has suffered a couple of highly publicized concussions behind the Dolphins weak line.

The Dolphins had also signed Chase Edmonds to a two-year contract, believing he would be the lead running back. But a week ago, they traded the ineffective Edmonds to Denver. Raheem Mostert, a superior runner, has produced three single-digit clunkers in his last four games. Jeff Wilson, acquired at the trade deadline, performed well on Sunday.  

If you’re stuck with a back behind these four offensive lines, good luck. If you can trade someone like Taylor, Montgomery, or Mostert and get something good in return, you should do it. But who should you be trading for? Let’s look at the five best offensive lines in the NFL and see who might be worth acquiring before your fantasy trade deadline.


The Eagles’ offensive line is the gold standard in professional football. Philadelphia has built a dominating unit over the years through the draft, combining high-value assets early in the draft with project players the team has developed into some of the best in the NFL. Is it any wonder that Philadelphia is the only undefeated team in the NFL?  

The best way to buy into this offensive line is to acquire Miles Sanders. Sanders doesn’t catch very many passes, so he’s more valuable in a standard league than a PPR league. I traded recently for Sanders, offering his manager Nick Chubb, who also doesn’t catch passes. In addition to Sanders, I am getting Michael Pittman in this deal.


While the Dolphins only gave lip service to protecting their franchise quarterback, the Chiefs put their money where their mouth was following a Super Bowl LV loss. They spent free agency dollars on left guard Joe Thuney, traded draft picks to acquire left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., then selected center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith in the 2021 draft.

Figuring out how to cash in on this great OL is tricky. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was expected to be the lead back on perhaps the most potent offense in the league, but he’s now in a committee with Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon. The latter, the only one to score double-digit points Sunday night, was targeted eight times and caught six from the Chiefs backfield.  


Rarely does a team without an elite quarterback hover near the top of all the offensive efficiency rankings. But the Lions have done just that. Investments with first-round picks at both tackle positions (LT Taylor Decker and RT Penei Sewell) and at center (Frank Ragnow) has paid off. The offensive line continues to open up huge rushing lanes for Lions backs.

D’Andre Swift was drafted as an RB1 and performed at that level until he was injured in the third week. He returned in Week 8 but still played second fiddle to Jamaal Williams. I’m kicking myself for trading away Williams after picking him up from the waiver wire several weeks ago. If you can trade Ezekiel Elliott or James Conner for him, do so.


It’s no surprise the Browns are on this list. They’ve had a top-five offensive line for years. Once again, investment in the unit alongside one of the best offensive line coaches in the game equals continued success, even with injuries at center and right tackle. The Browns have excellent guards in Wyatt Teller and Joe Bitonio, anchor this solid unit.

Nick Chubb is averaging more than 20 FP points per game behind this offensive line. If you play in a standard league, this guy is worth a king’s ransom. Even in a PPR league, he’s extremely valuable and you’re not going to get him without paying a high price. I chose to trade him away for Sanders and Pittman, and we’ll see how that turns out.   


Dallas has overcome the loss of Tyron Smith, as rookie left tackle Tyler Smith has proven to be an excellent run blocker. Right tackle Terence Steele has also played very well. Center Tyler Biadasz has demonstrated the ability to move defenders off the ball in the run game. And then there’s right guard Zack Martin, who is the best player at that position. 

We saw what Tony Pollard could do in Week 8, with Ezekiel Elliott out. Pollard rushed for 131 yards on 14 carries, scoring three touchdowns. However, Elliott is expected to return this week, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones still calls Elliott the lead back. My advice would be to make a low-ball trade offer for Pollard, hoping the Cowboys come to their senses.     

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Trading day fallout

If I was convinced of anything, it was that Green Bay wasn’t going to let the 2022 NFL trade deadline pass without making a move at wide receiver. Reeling as a team, the Packers ha lost four consecutive games to slip to 3-5. Trailing Minnesota by 3 ½ games, it’s fair to say that their playoff chances were slipping away. They had to do something.

But then the deadline passed Tuesday evening, and Green Bay did nothing – much to the chagrin of their fans. The silence was deafening on a record-breaking trade deadline day that saw teams across the league agree to a total of 10 trades. In the NFC North, the Vikings acquired tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Lions, while the Bears got WR Chase Claypool. 

The Packers could have used either of those players. It seems they are in greater need of help at the receiver position. Allen Lazard missed last week’s game against Buffalo with a shoulder injury and is questionable this week. Randall Cobb is on IR, and Romeo Doubs, Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson have been inconsistent when on the field.

Meanwhile, the Bears, who are tied for second in the NFC North with Green Bay, swapped a second-round pick for Claypool. The former Steelers wide receiver was one of several wideouts linked to the Packers in various trade rumors swirling around in the days before the deadline. Brandin Cooks and Jerry Jeudy were also believed to be of interest. 

The Vikings, 6-1, running away with the NFC North, made a big addition with Hockenson. The Bears, 3-5, now have Claypool to start across the field from Darnell Mooney. The Packers, 3-5, with the window slamming shut on Aaron Rodgers’ window of opportunity to win a second Super Bowl, didn’t make a move as the NFL trade deadline came and went.

After the offseason trade of Davante Adams, it was a given that the offense was going to be a work in progress. But the progress has been minimal. Imperceptible. Through eight games, the Packers are 26th in scoring, 26th in passing yards per play, 22nd on third down and 32nd on fourth down. Rodgers is next-to-last in air yards per completion.

It’s really puzzling to me that Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur and General Manager Brian Gutekunst were reluctant to give up a second-round pick for Claypool. I wonder what they weren’t willing to give up to land Cooks, or Jeudy? Okay, let’s look at five of the biggest trades and the ramifications of these from a fantasy perspective.


With all of the trade rumors out there, this one caught me by surprise. There was little to no buzz about Hockenson being on the block. Not only did the Lions deal him, but they dealt him within the division. There was once an unwritten rule that you don’t trade within your division, but that’s apparently out the window now with this deal.

The Vikings, who just lost Irv Smith to a significant ankle injury, made a bold move. They get an A-plus for landing one of the best tight ends in football. Minnesota receives Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick. In return, Detroit receives a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.

The move probably does little to change Hockenson’s fantasy value. He has averaged 6.1 targets a game this season in Detroit. Smith has averaged 4.7 targets a game for the Vikings this year. Hockenson is the better player, so it’s unlikely he’ll see fewer targets with his new team, but it’s also improbable that he’ll get a significant boost in target volume.

The trade shouldn’t alter the fantasy value of Vikings WRs Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen or K.J. Osborn in any significant way either. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins gets a value bump because Hockenson is a clear upgrade over Smith. I have Cousins rostered on one of my teams, and I may try and trade him on the perception that he’s now a top-five QB.

The biggest winners in Detroit are probably the Lions’ wideouts and backs. Tight end Brock Wright may get a slight bump but the rest of Hockenson’s vacated 6.1 targets per game should be divided up between Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, Josh Reynolds and others. It won’t be a huge target windfall, but there will at least be residual fantasy benefits.


Bears GM Ryan Poles made an aggressive move to provide Justin Fields with another pass catcher across the field from Darnell Mooney. Claypool is still playing on his rookie deal, so the Bears have him signed through 2023. To acquire Claypool, the Bears sacrificed the second-round pick they got from the Ravens for LB Roquan Smith.

This trade may be a slight boost to Claypool’s fantasy value. He goes from sharing targets with Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris to being a No. 2 receiver in Chicago — or perhaps a co-No. 1 with Darnell Mooney. But keep in mind the Bears have passed on only 40.1% of their offensive snaps, the lowest in the league.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers have passed on 62.5% of their offensive snaps, the 11th-highest rate in the league. The departure of Claypool means more opportunities for all of the pass-catchers since Claypool had been targeted on 50 throws in eight games. There is no reason to think that the Steelers will be passing any less in the second half of the season.

The big gainer in Pittsburgh could be Pickens, a second-round rookie who’s looked like a future star at times this season. Pickens, who has 43 targets this season, may be in line to get most of Claypool’s vacated targets. He could become an every-week fantasy starter — and potentially a very valuable one – if targeted more by QB Kenny Pickett.


I seem to believe that this trade was a bigger deal than most analysts. Wilson had been the primary backup to opening day starter Elijah Mitchell and had ascended to a lead role after Mitchell went down with a knee injury. But then the 49ers swung the blockbuster deal for Christian McCaffrey and Wilson was dropped in many leagues.

I claimed Wilson in a 12-team league because I believe his fantasy value got a bump. He was going to be third in line behind McCaffrey and Mitchell in San Francisco. In Miami, he is almost certain to be the primary backup to injury-prone Raheem Mostert. Miami’s willingness to give up a fifth-rounder for Wilson isn’t a vote of confidence in Myles Gaskin.

The Miami Dolphins did some RB shuffling, sending Chase Edmonds to the Broncos as part of the deal to acquire edge rusher Bradley Chubb. Edmonds opened the season as Miami’s starting RB but was quickly supplanted by Raheem Mostert. He joins a crowded backfield in Denver that includes Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray and the injured Mike Boone.

It’s worth noting that Wilson and Mostert have reunited with Mike McDaniel. Before becoming the Dolphins’ head coach this year, Mike McDaniel was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator in 2021 and the team’s run game coordinator from 2017-2020. In other words, McDaniel was directly coaching Wilson for much of his early career beginning in 2018.


The Bills, Super Bowl favorites, proved they’re in it to win it by acquiring Nyheim Hines from the Colts in exchange for RB Zack Moss and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2023. This was a good deal for Buffalo as Hines will immediately slot in as the Bills’ passing-down back. The deal boosts Hines’ value simply because the Bills have such a potent offense.

Josh Allen is arguably the best quarterback in the league. On a far superior offense, Hines should score more touchdowns and more fantasy points. Buffalo RBs have accounted for 21.2% of team targets this season, the 13th-highest percentage in the league. Hines has RB3 value in full-point PPR leagues and is at least a flex, or good bye-week replacement.

The trade could pump a small bit of life into the fantasy value of Moss in Indianapolis. He had fallen out of favor in Buffalo in the past year. Moss and Deon Jackson are now backups to Jonathan Taylor, who’s been dealing with an ankle problem. If Taylor were to miss time, Moss would likely get a healthy share of early-down work for the Colts.

There could be some residual value gainers in Indianapolis. Deon Jackson could get more passing-down snaps with Hines out of the picture. Some of Hines’ vacated targets will go elsewhere, and short-area WR Parris Campbell might be the biggest beneficiary. But that’s probably the wishful thinking of someone who has Campbell rostered. 


Okay, this one happened last week after I had posted my column about the McCaffrey trade. But it’s significant in that the Chiefs’ paid up to acquire the second-year WR who has spent more time injured than not. The New York Giants traded the speedy wide receiver to Kansas City in exchange for a 2023 third-round compensatory pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick.

It was more than a year ago when Toney exploded on the scene with a 6-78-0 game vs. the Saints and 10-189-0 game vs. the Cowboys. In those two games, he flashing athleticism and after-the-catch explosiveness. Those qualities were evident at the University of Florida, prompting the Giants to take him with the 20th overall pick in last year’s draft.

But then all of the injuries started, and Toney’s fantasy value plummeted with his football fortunes. Still, the Chiefs must believe Toney can still turn his special athleticism into consistent NFL production. Toney, who’s been sidelined all season with hamstring injuries, currently is scheduled to play in Sunday night’s game against the Titans. 

How much Toney plays remains to be seen. JuJu Smith-Schuster is entrenched as the Chiefs’ primary slot receiver, and Toney is not likely to take snaps from Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal in the offseason. If Toney stays healthy, Mecole Hardman might be squeezed out as the No. 3 receiver for Patrick Mahomes.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.