How to Sift Through Training Camp Headlines, Hype Pieces & Clickbait (Fantasy Football)

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This is your brain…

This is your brain on drugs known as Twitter, camp hype pieces, and media clickbait during NFL training camps. [Hint: it looks like a steaming hot pile of poo.]

You are likely currently experiencing information overload and “paralysis of analysis” a month leading into the NFL season. The convictions you think you’ve acquired over the last few months for fantasy football are actually just a hodgepodge of groupthink, podcasts, random articles you kinda half-read, and tweets jumbled together in your brain, and now with a couple of weeks to go, you are settling in and just hoping the NFL season finally happens.

I get it. We’re all ready for football that fatigue is setting in…

I wrote an article before the NFL draft on How to Sift Through Headlines & Tweets the Week of the NFL Draft  but thought it was time to dust off those mental skills and put them to the test in August.

Here are four simple principles to keep in mind when you see a report over the next month and how to react.

Editor’s Note: For more on our Breakout, Sleepers, Values, and Busts, our comprehensive exclusive content is found only in the Ultimate Draft Kit+.

Go a Step Further

Not trying to lay a burden on you but just a little baby step. Take the headline you see on Twitter and investigate. Take 2-3 minutes and ask these questions.

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  1. Who is reporting this?
  2. What is their source?
  3. Do they have any actual connections with an NFL team?
  4. Have you read the source?

Trey Lance is probably one of the most talked about players this off-season. He’s replacing Jimmy Garoppolo and there is a world of opinions out there about how he will perform in 2022. I’ll admit I’m a Lance truther for fantasy but there are uncertainties of what his fantasy outcome will be. There was a giant narrative about ‘arm fatigue‘ and if the 49ers were having second thoughts and concerned about his progression as a QB. Then you see headlines like this…

This headline is loaded on a number of fronts. But before we respond, let’s dig a little deeper.

  1. Who is reporting thisNBC SportsEdge is relaying what they read from Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus in his mailbag column.  The headline is meant to get you to click on it. Well done NBC Sports EDGE. But if we take this a step further, we can tell
  2. What is their source? Kyed was responding to a question someone on Twitter asked about whether the 49ers are better with Trey Lance. This is the context and the rest of the mailbag is fantasy-related questions. There is no shame in that as I also do that for a living. But the headline (from NBC Sports EDGE once again) sounds like there is actual news being reported.
  3. Do they have any actual connections with an NFL team? Kyed is certainly plugged in and worth a follow on Twitter. But he does not work directly with the 49ers nor does he name any direct sources.
  4. Have you read the sourceThe article begins by stating some generalized thoughts about the 49ers & Lance’s development but quoting anyone in 49ers management or scouting. It ends with “the 49ers believe Lance can be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but they’re entering this season with a degree of uncertainty about how he’ll play“. Those two statements stringed together give you the widest range of possible outcomes. In other words, this is Kyed’s opinion and assessment of Lance’s unknowns.

I know it’s painful in a time when we are inundated with more information than we know what to do with. But going a step further is so valuable to moving from a headline on Twitter to forming an actual opinion that takes root.

What Are They NOT Saying?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask in almost any sphere of life. Call it investigative or just downright skeptical when someone makes a claim but you can flip any bold statement or reporting by teams by pausing and asking the question: what is not currently being said or brought up that would further clarify the situation?

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We only see in part and especially those who make their decisions for fantasy based on the veiled information others are reporting about what they think might happen.

Let’s take this next recent headline which seems pretty cut and dry: your boy James Proche looks like he’ll be the Ravens WR2.

Proche is a former 6th-round draft pick out of SMU and he was a production monster there. At first glance, it seems innocent. Behind Rashod Bateman, how many other WRs are even of note on the roster? Tylan Wallace? Devin Duvernay?

But peel back the curtain and you see that Devin Duvernay was out of practice the entire last week for a thigh bruise.

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You can also ask yourself the question: what does the WR2 for Baltimore actually mean for fantasy? In an offense dominated by an elite TE (Mark Andrews), there has been little room for major WR volume. Marquise Brown saw an insane 146 targets last year but what about behind him? Since Lamar Jackson became the QB in 2018, here is the track record for Baltimore WR2s…

Year WR2 Targets Rec Rec Yards TDs Top-24 Weeks FF
2018 John Brown 97 42 715 5 3 WR43
2019 Willie Snead IV 46 31 339 5 2 WR73
2020 Willie Snead IV 48 33 432 3 3 WR83
2021 Rashod Bateman 68 46 515 1 2 WR73

Not exactly fantasy superstars…

Here’s another recent report you probably saw show up on your timeline. Chris Godwin being back at practice sounds like we’re all systems go! But what are they not saying…

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Godwin dressed in full uniform but worked on the side with trainers. Photos of him wearing pads and a jersey made it seem like he was back in the mix but as plugged-in beat writer Greg Auman shared, it was more of a “first step back”. In our Injury Report section of the Ultimate Draft Kit, Matthew Betz details Godwin’s recovery process and what his actual timeline could look like.

Check Back Later

The hardest part is accountability. Twitter is good at this for cold takes but with such a rush of news, it can be easy to change your opinion based on one Tweet or column. This isn’t a chance to dunk on someone but rather look back and learn so we can move forward.

Tired of negative examples?

Everything coming out of Miami last year was a consistent drumbeat that RB Myles Gaskin was not viewed as “the guy” in the backfield despite how he ended for fantasy. ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe early on declared that Miami was looking for a feature back.

But after the draft, it seemed like he was the only option in town after they failed to spend any significant draft capital on the RB position. As I wrote about in Depth Charts, Rookies & How to Not Overthink Situations After the NFL DraftMyles Gaskin was declared a big winner, and his play in 2020 should’ve given Miami a gentle nudge to not mess with the position too much. Gaskin averaged more touches per game (18.2) than Alvin Kamara and for fantasy, he was one of the steals of 2020 never finishing outside the top-36 in any given week and piling up a monster Week 16 with over 30 fantasy points. But on the other end of the spectrum, the Dolphins didn’t think about Gaskin the same way we do for fantasy.

Head coach Brian Flores shared that the Dolphins would use a three-back rotation and they would be utilized situationally. Even Gaskin himself stated the offense was different:

At the end of the day, there were red flags everywhere for those who wanted Gaskin to be a thing in 2021 and treated like a league winner. This was great reporting that wasn’t speculative but aligned with what the coaching staff was actually saying.

Remember Marquez Callaway SZN? Jeff Duncan of published this piece that declared Callaway was the “breakout star” of Saints camp.

Last off-season he was the hotness because Saints camp was completely devoid of any other meaningful WR with Michael Thomas out. As I detailed last week on the Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast, Callaway was the most popular WR in DFS in Week 1. The excitement bled over from training camp but Callaway was basically irrelevant during the regular season.

Zach Wilson might’ve looked comfortable in this practice as Conner Hughes reports. I recommend Hughes as a Jets insider but make sure you don’t copy and paste his assessment in this team practice in June to mean that Wilson would be comfortable in-season against people who were not his teammates.

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Filter Your Sources

There is no antidote to this disease but the best prescription might be filtering to sources that report actual news and plugged into teams.

  • The Athletic– The journalism is professional but the reporting of what someone else is reporting is where Fantasy Twitter usually gets into trouble.
  • 32BeatWriters– This Twitter account follows everyone so don’t have to go on a wild goose chase.

My personal favorite beat writers to follow during training camp based on giving clear takes without a major agenda (in my opinion)

Keep in mind that fantasy-related spins are speculative in nature. But if they confirm your priors, feel free to send it to your league mate :)

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