With training camps set to open in a couple weeks, and the preseason about a month away, there still isn’t too much to write about for sports media. Minicamps and OTAs don’t really cut it. So what are the main topics of conversation?
Everything and nothing. And you should ignore the vast majority of it, or your fantasy team will likely suffer.
You’ve probably read or heard it all by now, and it doesn’t even change much over the years. So-and-so has been the most impressive player at camp. This guy has lost weight, while that guy has packed on muscle. And my personal favorite, when a player is “noticeably faster.” What does that even mean? Do guys transition into their 30s and have that one year when they speed up so much, you can’t help but notice it? Is that how biology works?
A rookie has picked up the offense like it’s third-grade math. A guy is so far ahead of his rehab, doctors are stunned. Things have finally clicked for that young player with whom the fans are losing patience. A running back with hands like anvils has really worked on his receiving in the offseason. The coaches confirmed it!
This pablum normally comes from local beat writers, and it’s not totally their fault. Some publications are “official partners” of the team, and the others are really unofficial partners. If they don’t put a positive spin on what’s going on, they might lose access to players or get labeled as being too negative. I’m not saying they’re lying; I’m saying they have incentive to put things in the best possible light.
Coaches have incentive to do the same, but their motivations are different. Sure, they want to keep up the optimism before the season starts. But what better way to motivate a player than to publicly praise his competition? Implying a rookie might be ready for playing time can help light a fire under a veteran. And a late-round “steal” turning heads at camp puts other players on the bubble. Coaches are definitely not above using the media to play mind games to fight complacency.
And all of these tactics benefit the fans. A lot of them know their team isn’t going to be playing in late January. What’s wrong with letting them feel good about their team in July? Imagine being a Lions fan, and seeing Stafford and Golladay on new teams. I’m sure it’s frustrating; those fans deserve better than they’ve gotten over the years. So if reports indicate that Goff is picking up the offense quickly, or is showing good chemistry with rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, maybe they feel a little better about Detroit’s prospects headed into the new season. Maybe they even start to feel good about their team. What’s the harm?
There is no harm to them. But to you, a fantasy player, there’s plenty of danger. You might actually start to believe some of it. Your mind files it away somewhere, and when you’re on the clock on draft day, and looking at potential backups, you blurt out a name that was mentioned positively over the summer. And when you need that player in week 6, he lets you down. And there goes your season.
Of course, there are times when the reports are true, and it turns out that player makes a good addition to your team. If that’s the case, it will become more apparent in the coming weeks. But more times than not, it’s just summertime comfort food for fans who want to read something nice about their team. And the team’s media partners (and networks with contracts with the league) are more than willing to serve it up to them. No matter what team you study, it’s easy to find reports that make them look like sleeper contenders, or finally ready to realize their full potential.
And woe to the fantasy leagues that are drafting around this time. They’re selecting players right when you’re hearing good stuff about everybody. As if you need another reason to draft closer to the regular season, drafting this early (and with a lack of valuable information) could really hurt your team.
Of course, we all want to be the one to call our shot before anyone else. Maybe that’s always been part of the fun. One year, our league champ bragged about how he won the title by seeing something in Terrell Davis that we all missed (hey, I didn’t say it was recent). Thing is, he took him toward the end of the draft. If he saw so much potential, why wait so long? Why risk another team just throwing out a name and taking him?
The answer, of course, is that he was just throwing out a name himself. He’ll never admit it, and he’s got a trophy to back up whatever claim he wants to make. But latching on to a difference-maker based on a media report in July is about as likely as a Fast & Furious movie winning an Oscar. I mean, it could happen, and you’ve got plenty of chances to eventually be right. But I wouldn’t bet on it, so please ignore most of what you read this month.
(Of course, if Amon-Ra catches 100 passes in 2021, I absolutely will point out that I mentioned him in a column way back in July. Never mind the context. The proof is right here!)
Have you read any outlandish claims so far this offseason? Have you decided to buy into a player based on what you’re reading today? What’s your best “I called it” story? Share your thoughts below.