How To Not Lose Your Mind: Training Camp News & Fluff Pieces (Fantasy Football)
“This is Your Brain on Drugs” was one of the largest anti-narcotics campaigns launched in U.S. History.
The ad was simple: a frying pan and a cooked egg gave the visual representation of what can occur in the brain on drugs. It was quite effective in terms of its national reach and my health teacher hammering home the lures of drugs to a 90s public school kid. Scare tactics man!
However, one of the drugs my health teacher never prepared me for the drug of choice these days now known as X (or back in my day “Twitter”). Filled with camp hype pieces and media clickbait during NFL training camps, the fantasy manager’s pea-sized brain* is now rendered useless to their friends and family in the month of August. (*Some days I feel like this, truly.)
You (like me) are 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 “It’s Football Time!” on the Fantasy Footballers Podcast.
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.
- Who is reporting this?
- What is their source?
- Do they have any actual connections with an NFL team?
- Have you read the source?
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. Here is an example fo something that might’ve come across your timeline or a notification from ole Sleeper.
“(D’Andre) Swift has been lining up all over the field and has been used primarily in the passing game…”
— SleeperNFL (@SleeperNFL) July 30, 2023
“Oh! The Eagles are finally realizing this guy’s potential! He is a pass-catching machine in an offense that is once again going to be a juggernaut!” -your league mate exclaims.
This headline is loaded on a number of fronts. But before we respond, let’s dig a little deeper.
- Who is reporting this? Sleeper… which obviously has a fantasy bend alerting users to any information that stimulates fantasy interest.
- What is their source? Tim McManus of ESPN
- Do they have any actual connections with an NFL team? McManus is an ESPN Eagles reporter who regularly contributes to their NFL Nation team.
- Have you read the source? Here is the actual tweet that McManus sent out that Sleeper repurposed.
Eagles observations from Day 1 of camp:
D'Andre Swift was deployed in a variety of ways, from lining up outside to motioning into the slot out of the backfield. He was primarily a pass catcher today.
Swift, Penny, Gainwell, Scott and Sermon all split time at RB.
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) July 26, 2023
Do you see that last part? That conveniently was left out of Sleeper alert.
Before you start going all-in on one comment, couple that piece of information with what we already know about the Eagles’ passing offenses from 2022.
- Jalen Hurts was dead last in check down rate last year tied with Trevor Lawrence.
- The RBs had a 12 % target market share in the offense and ranked 31st in RB receptions.
The offense can certainly morph so this isn’t a completely anti-Swift response. However, looking at offenses that had an RB target market share of 14 % or below since 2014, only TWO saw an RB see more than 55 targets the next year: two 1st round rookies named Christian McCaffrey (2017) and Najee Harris (2021).
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?
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: Jalen Nailor was the Vikings’ No. 3 WR.
Lots of training camp thoughts coming, but we’ll start here: Jalen Nailor looks goooooood.
— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) July 26, 2023
“When the Vikings were in 11 personnel, [Jalen] Nailor was often the No. 3 receiver. He looked confident in that spot, which is quickly becoming a theme.” https://t.co/cpS9FdT4ze
— NFL Beat Writers (@32BeatWriters) July 27, 2023
Who? Nailor is a former 6th-round draft pick out of Michigan State and gaining some buzz this off-season. At first glance, it seems innocent. Behind Justin Jefferson, could Nailor break through for this team and maybe you’re holding onto him in a deep dynasty league. Maybe you think you’ve spotted the next sleeper. Maybe…
Peel back the curtain and you see that 1st round rookie WR Jordan Addison was out of practice the entire last week. Fast forward a hot second and you realize that snippet about Nailor running with the 1s is almost irrelevant a week later.
Back inside after a steamy Day 2 of Vikings camp. Saw a lot of WR Jordan Addison with the first team, as Jalen Nailor was not on the field, and even an amateur like me can see Addison's high-end route-running and ball skills. Long way to go, but some things stand out.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) July 27, 2023
Here’s another recent report you probably saw show up on your timeline.
Seahawks’ HC Pete Carroll told reporters that rookie RB Zach Charbonnet has a shoulder injury and is out indefinitely.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 30, 2023
At first glance, this seems terrifying. Indefinitely is a scary word because it initially feels like forever. Is it time to abandon all Charbonnet hopes?
The exact quote “We’ll take some time figure it out. It just kind of crept up on him, really,” Carroll said. “He didn’t get hit or anything like that. Just all the sudden, he started to feel something, so we’re just checking him out and being really cautious right now.“
Establish the Run’s Adam Levitan does a great job diving into the actual presser rather than mere speculation.
On the Kenneth Walker (groin) and Zach Charbonnet (shoulder) injuries:
It's a bit scary because Pete Carroll always has rose-colored glasses on when talking injuries. But if you listen to Carroll's actual presser, neither injury sounds overly severe. And still have six full…
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) July 31, 2023
For more on player injuries and updates, Matthew Betz updates our Injury Report section of the Ultimate Draft Kit detailing the recovery process and what someone’s actual timeline could look like when we get real intel, not just tweets (or posts if that’s what we call them now).
Slow Down & Reflect
The hardest part is accountability. Twitter (or X) 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.
Here are some tweets from last year around this time just to jog your memory how much we don’t know
Per league source, Broncos are activating WR KJ Hamler off PUP today. Hamler has rebounded from ACL/hip surgeries better than expected. Speed returns. #9sports
— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) August 1, 2022
Narrator: But his speed did not return.
Tomlin: Najee got foot stepped on and couldn’t finish.
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) August 1, 2022
Narrator: But it was a big deal for the 1st half of the season.
Sean McVay was asked about improving the run game's efficiency & specifically asked about Cam Akers by @alexmarvez on @SiriusXMNFL. McVay barely mentioned Akers, and when he did he lumped in Darrell Henderson with him ("Feel really good about those guys"), then …
— #AskFFT (@daverichard) August 2, 2022
Narrator: But Sean McVay was a liar.
As I wrote about in Slow Down Buddy: Navigating Winners & Losers After the NFL Draft, we don’t know what we don’t know. Comforting, yes I know. But admitting that on the front end is helpful in a number of ways. Having strong convictions about player projections is part of the puzzle. But on the other end, “staying water” is an old Footballers adage that is essential in having a clearer end in mind for players and their situations. Be open to the fact that we don’t know everything.
The problem with sorting out depth charts and draft picks is that this isn’t a linear process. There are so many ebbs and flows to sort out. I offer these five principles as starting places for figuring out how to forecast offenses. For more on that topic, I wrote Forecasting 101: How to Project Offenses Knowing You Could Be Wrong a couple of years ago as a primer.
Who Are You Listening To?
There is no antidote to this disease but the best prescription might be filtering to sources that report actual news and plugged into teams. I try to stay away from accounts that use “quotations” more than two times in a tweet.
- 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 you don’t have to go on a wild goose chase. You get a ton but keep in mind you still have to sift through what is news and what is not.
My personal favorite beat writers to follow during training camp based on giving clear takes without a major agenda (in my opinion)
- Jeff Zrebiec (Baltimore Ravens)
- Jake Trotter (Cleveland Browns)
- Kelsey Conway (Cincinnati Bengals)
- Nick Underhill (New Orleans Saints)
- Jordan Raanan (New York Giants)
I reached out on Twitter and will be compiling a master list of NFL Beat Writers if a database like that would be helpful.
Who are your favorite non-fantasy NFL beat writers for your hometown NFL team? Compiling an updated list.
i.e. not looking for radio/media personalities but local plugged-in journalists
— Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) July 28, 2023
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 :)