numberFire Writers League Results

Updated: August 28th 2015

RSO writer Matt Goodwin hopes that Todd Gurley's dynasty sign pays off for his team vs. fellow writers.

RSO writer Matt Goodwin hopes that Todd Gurley’s dynasty sign pays off for his team vs. fellow writers.

Everyone had so much fun last year that the writers from Reality Sports Online and numberFire returned for year two of their writers league. Along the way, there with a few other new owners (two writers) and a Law Professor from Baylor– the write-in candidate who responded to our tweets and got the final spot. The 10 of us embarked on both a rookie draft and auction recently for their second year in the league. The three-round, three-year contract rookie draft and auction were held on consecutive Sundays.

The participants rookie picks, auction key wins, and strategies are outlined below, along with player contract values to assist those users who have not had their rookie draft yet or auctions. Also do all these hard working writers a solid and follow us on Twitter. We have writers for all kinds of fantasy sports websites who really believe or were interested in kicking the tires on the unique Reality Sports Online format.

Without further ado, the owners and their rosters….

Team: Cleveland’s Award Tour (Matt Goodwin, Reality Sports Online & numberFire) @mattgoody2

Picks:

1.01 Todd Gurley, RB St. Louis Rams (3 years, $19.2M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Going for it all last year, I traded my 2014 first round pick Carlos Hyde to SamHerbie for C.J. Anderson and what turned into pick 1.01. I also traded my other two picks at the deadline as part of a deal to get Marshawn Lynch. A week before the rookie draft, I moved my 1.08 pick to Great Odin’s Raven with Jimmy Graham for Rob Gronkowski who costs about $5.0m a year less than Graham for another 3 years. For me this deal was all about flexibility for the huge free agent pool in 2015 in addition to getting the game’s best tight end on a 4 year, $56 million deal. This trade also enabled me to use the franchise tag on Anderson for $28.1 million knowing that the free agent pool would be shallow in the second year of our league (yes, I actually do follow some of the advice I give in my articles).

With that in mind and given that my top three running backs (Matt Forte, Anderson, and Lynch) will all be free agents following the 2015 season, Todd Gurley was the perfect pick for me for a succession plan at running back. I truly believe he is a faster and younger Lynch and that he will be dominant when the team hands over the reins to him. It was hard to pass up on Amari Cooper’s potential immediate impact, but I generally am not confident in the Raiders offense and figured I could replace Cooper’s production in free agency.

Auction Strategy: I had $27 million of cap space going into the auction, the least of any team. While I believe my starting lineup was fairly stacked, I did have to paint around the edges in the auction and stretch dollars as best I could, noting that I’m not necessarily counting on Gurley to contribute to my team much this season. Overall, having Tom Brady on a 1 year, $3.1 million remaining contract from 2014 meant that I had to find a replacement while Brady likely sits due to Deflategate. So getting a productive quarterback on a multi-year deal was a priority, but ranked second to getting my second starting wide receiver. However, when fellow Miami University alum Ben Roethlisberger had his name called in the auction, I moved quickly and signed him to a 2 year, $8.0 million deal. As I noted in a previous article, I’m very high on Big Ben this year with the weapons he has (with or without Pouncey).

Eric Decker was my top wide receiver target and I used my four year deal to grab the New York Jet wideout for 4 years, $14.0 million. I think Decker will be super productive and love that he ranks highly in the valued yards per route run stat from Pro Football Focus’s premium stats. I also value his production down the stretch last season, capped by a 10 catch, 221 yard, 74 yard TD finale vs. the Dolphins. Otherwise, I grabbed a bunch of cheap wide receivers who may be able to start/flex for me, including Kendall Wright (2 years, $5.0 million), and minimum contract vets like Marques ColstonMichael CrabtreeAntonio Gates.

I also could not resist my Seahawks DST for 1 year, $2.0 million as I like not having to think about a defense when the rest of my lineup is strong.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Roethlisberger, Lynch, Forte, Demaryius Thomas, Decker, Gronkowski, Seahawks DST, Adam Vinatieri, Anderson, Devonta Freeman

Team: Great Odin’s Raven (Dan Pizzuta, numberFire) @DanPizzuta

Picks:

1.02 Amari Cooper, WR Buffalo Bills (3 years, $18.1M)

1.08 T.J. Yeldon, RB Jacksonville Jaguars (3 years, $11.0M)

2.02 David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals (3 years, $4.3M)

3.02 Devin Smith, WR New York Jets (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Knowing Matt was going to take Gurley, I felt like I had three options at 1.02. I entered the draft thin at running back, but decided to go with Amari Cooper. Cooper is pretty clearly the No. 1 option in Oakland and should catch at least 80 passes this season with much higher upside. I didn’t think I’d come as close to Cooper’s production with a wide receiver at 1.08 than I could to come close to someone like Melvin Gordon. Ameer Abdullah was one of the players I briefly considered at 1.02, so my eyes lit up when he was there at 1.07, but he didn’t make it past there. Instead I got T.J. Yeldon at 1.08, who should be a steady contributor and the lead back in Jacksonville by at least next season. I like David Johnson’s skillset at 2.02, and he was a hedge on Andre Ellington, the only running back I had on my roster entering the draft, so now I’m hopefully set however the Arizona backfield plays out. Graham is probably going to talk about how much Phillip Dorsett fell, and I agree with him. I would have taken him over Devin Funchess and Jaelen Strong in the second, but I think Devin Smith is a better version of Dorsett. This is a view I had before the NFL Draft and still hold even though Dorsett is paired with a superior quarterback.

Auction Strategy: I entered the auction with Andre Ellington and T.J. Yeldon as my starting running backs, so that needed to change. With the third most cap space entering the auction, but only a few roster spots, I wasn’t afraid to pay a premium for the top guys, especially considering how few there were. I wanted to come away with at least two of the top three backs. I was outbid after a long back and forth for Lamar Miller, so that made me go harder for Justin Forsett and Chris Ivory. I paid a high price for Forsett on a one-year deal, but it’s still less than had I gotten him on a franchise tag for this year. He’s 30 years old with a short track record of success, so I didn’t want to commit years to him. Ivory, on the other hand, should be the clear No. 1 in New York and is 28, making me feel better about a two-year deal at $19 million.

I also added Shane Vereen for $5 million, should I’ll have some options at running back. From the past two rookie drafts I’m pretty young and deep at wide receiver (Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Cooper, Josh Gordon in a year), so I was able wait and grab John Brown for three-years and $28 million. It’s a high price, but with his age and my lack of big long term commitments, it was a risk I felt I could take.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Cam Newton, Forsett, Ivory, Vincent Jackson, Brown, Graham, Texans DST, Dan Bailey, Vereen, Watkins

Team: Loss aversion (Rory Ryan, Baylor University Law Professor) @RoryRyan

Picks:

1.03 Nelson Agholor, WR Philadelphia Eagles (3 years, $17.6M)

2.03 Jameis Winston, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.03 Matt Jones, RB Washington Redskins (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: I play in a lot of dynasty leagues. And the most important thing for me was realizing this isn’t a dynasty league. These guys get guaranteed money (though modest), and the rookie contract only provides a three-year discount from market for a producing player. Combine that with the unfortunately shallow rosters (considering the deep starting lineups) and the unfortunate state of the team I inherited, it didn’t seem wise to use my first two picks on project players. Instead, I targeted players likely to produce and contribute at a level above their salaries. Nelson Agholor would have been my top pick in this format regardless, as I think he has a high ceiling and fairly low three-year floor in that offense and competing with that depth chart. The same is true of Jameis Winston, as I’m going to carry a backup QB behind Drew Brees in his final contract year. Winston is priced perfectly for that role, and I like his upside as a great backup or potential platooner thereafter. I took my flier in the third round with the near-minimum salary.

Auction Strategy: There was only so much I could do in the auction. When I acquired the team, my best RBs were Gio Bernard and Tre Mason. In a ten-team league.  And Julian Edelman was my WR1. The free-agent pool contained no true stars.  So while, generally, longer-term contracts may be best utilized to discount the per-year impact of the highest salaries, I took  a different approach and looked for long-term contracts that might end up being market-value homeruns and set me up for next year and beyond, where I’ll have cap room and access to stars. The rest of the draft was simply looking for values and arbitrage while compiling a respectable starting lineup. I was able to keep $37 million in cap room, sign solid multi-year contracts, and get on the brink of a respectable starting lineup.  I was thrilled with the Golden Tate price 3yr-14million. I wanted Markus Wheaton for 4 years at near-minimum because I think he is wildly undervalued and a much better football player than Martavis Bryant. My only regret was losing connectivity during the Doug Martin bidding because he was my other 3-year target. Had to settle for Torrey Smith at 3yr-6.5 million.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Brees, Frank Gore, Jonathan StewartT.Y. Hilton, Tate, Martellus Bennett, Jets DSTMatt Prater, Edelman, Agholor

Team: University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) @gdula13

Picks:

1.04 Melvin Gordon, RB San Diego Chargers (3 years, $16.9M)

2.04 Devin Funchess, WR Carolina Panthers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.04 Chris Conley, WR Kansas City Chiefs (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Let’s just say I wasn’t picking from 1.04 because I traded to get there. My team has a ton of holes, and I wanted the best players I could get. I assumed the first three to go would be Gurley, Cooper, and Melvin Gordon, so I was debating between Agholor and Abdullah. Getting Gordon here was easy, even though I’m not totally sold on him and think Danny Woodhead will be a nuisance for him this year.

In round two, it was between Funchess and Strong for me. I have Strong in another dynasty, and diversifying was my goal here. I like both, so I figured why not? In round three, I was absolutely torn between Chris Conley and Dorsett, but given that rookie deals are only three years, I thought that Conley might have the best chance to be a go-to guy in an offense in that span as opposed to Dorsett, who could be a weekly headache despite being in one of the best offenses in the NFL for years to come. Conley has the physical traits to be a huge threat, and I’m hearing good things about him in camp prior to his injury. I’m all in on Conley, which seems a bit of an unpopular position.

Auction Strategy: Going into the draft, I didn’t have too many bench spots open, so I just wanted to wait on things. I didn’t place an actual bid until after my first two nominations. I also wanted to make sure I got a quarterback on a minimum deal so that I could stream quarterbacks, defenses, and kickers without the penalty of cutting a guaranteed deal.

I was aiming hard for Jeremy Maclin, Danny Woodhead, and another running back or receiver I thought was a value. I felt like I was getting bid up on Maclin, so I dropped it on Sam Herbie even though I really expect big things from Maclin. I also got into a bidding war with Leo Howell over Woodhead and wasn’t going to stop until I got him. Charles Johnson at a modest deal is okay with me. I got Colin Kaepernick, whom I’ve been targeting, for the 1-year, $500k minimum, so that was also a win for my strategy.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Kaepernick, Alfred Morris, Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, Johnson, Travis Kelce, Rams DSTMatt Bryant, Woodhead, Ryan Mathews

Team: Discount Double Check (Daniel Lindsey, TBD) @BitterPackerFan

Picks:

1.05 Kevin White, WR Chicago Bears (3 years, $15.9M)

2.05 Jaelen Strong, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $4.1M)

2.08 Jay Ajayi, RB Miami Dolphins (3 years, $4.0M)

3.05 Maxx Williams, TE Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $2.7M)

3.08 Mike Davis, RB San Francisco 49ers (3 years, $2.7M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My draft strategy ended up being like a series of unfortunate events. I had a plan, but the dominoes started to fall the day my star running back Arian Foster hurt his groin. Before Foster got hurt, my plan was to just go BPA in the rookie draft – I figured I would be able to take Agholor and that’s who my initial target was. Once Foster went down, I was hoping for Gordon at 5, but I wasn’t expecting it either – especially when Kevin White got sidelined. But I was hoping a team that is contending for this year would still take him as a flier. That ended up being me as I missed out on both Agholor and Gordon. However, I was still hoping to land either David Johnson or David Cobb. Johnson went a couple picks before me and I thought about Cobb at 2.05, but thought he would still be there at 2.08. Missed out on him too and settled for Jay Ajayi over Buck Allen, someone I thought would last until the third round. Alas, he didn’t either and now I hope to strike gold in the FA Auction draft.

Auction Strategy: One of the biggest regrets I have from the auction draft is not putting Knowshon Moreno on IR to open up one more roster spot. Given that I took over a team from last year and my five draft picks this season, I had a much bigger bench than most teams. After bidding on a bunch of running backs (I only got two of who I wanted) and nabbing Peyton Manning kind of by accident (I was seeing how much I could push his price) I realized I had a shorter bench to fill than just about everyone else.

My strategy was to land Mark Ingram and Forsett to make up for no RB to start the season and my flubs in the rookie draft. Ingram was my top get – didn’t matter how much I had to pay for him. Forsett was getting bid up and I wasn’t wanting to play ball (but I should have). My next targets were Rashad Jennings, Doug Martin and Latavius Murray. I was hoping to land two of them, but ended up with Murray (and Joseph Randle, again by accident).
I then found myself in an odd bidding war for Russell Wilson. With most people set with a quarterback and I only had Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and then Manning with a 1 year contract, I threw out some contracts for Wilson because I still had a 4 year contract left. And then as the bidding started to ramp up, I realized I could use this to my advantage – having Manning and Wilson for one year may seem odd at first (and totally not me) but I can definitely pick my matchups with elite quarterbacks. Then I’d still have Wilson for three more years. I paid a hefty price in the end (and wasn’t pleased with the obvious price gouging, but now I can attempt to compete this year and really start building my wide receivers corps after Odell Beckham Jr. over the next couple years. I’d love to trade Manning, but don’t see that happening after looking at the waiver wire. But who knows – maybe it pays off.
Likely 10 man starting lineup: Manning or Wilson, Ingram, L. Murray, Emmanuel Sanders, Beckham Jr., M. Williams, Bills DSTStephen Gostkowski, Randle, Michael Floyd

Team: Funky Monks (Graham Barfield, Rotoworld, numberFire, & RotoAcademy) @GrahamBarfield

Picks:

1.06 Breshad Perriman, WR Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $14.1M)

2.06 Duke Johnson, RB Cleveland Browns (3 years, $4.1M)

3.06 Phillip Dorsett, WR Indianapolis Colts (3 years, $2.7M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: At 1.06, I got my first dynasty share of Breshad Perriman this offseason. I’ve been trying to buy him everywhere and have had to settle for other options in most drafts (like Agholor and Abdullah). I’m a sucker for his ceiling and available opportunity — plus it definitely doesn’t hurt he’s my WR5 on this squad. At 2.06 I landed Duke Johnson (another guy I have wanted to own in dynasty, but hadn’t landed yet). I loved him coming out of Miami — but just wasn’t thrilled with his landing spot in a muddy backfield. I still think he’s quite possibly the most versatile RB on the Browns with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West not exactly light the world on fire in their rookie seasons. Finally, I was shocked Phillip Dorsett fell to me at 3.06. I legitimately did a little dance in my desk chair when he fell in my lap. He’s been going late-1st/early-2nd all summer, and since TY Hilton re-signed, his dynasty stock has taken a hit. I’ll take a slice of the Colts high-powered offense at a discount where ever I can.

Auction Strategy: My strategy in this auction was to secure one running back and attack a mid-priced option to fill in my No. 2 RB slot. Some of the backs I was expecting to go for cheaper prices went for more than I expected, so I pivoted to spending on veteran depth like Reggie Bush on a mininum deal and buying Tyler Eifert.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Andrew Luck, Lamar Miller, Bush, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Jason Witten, Dolphins DSTMason Crosby, Jordan MatthewsKeenan Allen

Team: Sam Hauss (Sam Hauss, numberFire) @Real_Hauss

Picks:

1.07 Ameer Abdullah, RB Detroit Lions (3 years, $12.4M)

2.07 David Cobb, RB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $4.0M)

3.07 Marcus Mariota, QB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $2.7M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Going into the rookie draft I felt much more comfortable at the wide receiver position than I did at running back with Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Kelvin Benjamin (of course the draft happened before he both Nelson and Benjamin tore their ACLs) locked in as starters even if I was unable to upgrade in the auction. I wanted to target a running back and, honestly, was very surprised to see Abdullah fall as far as he did. He is an explosive back who is a plus in the passing game, is expected to have a major role this season and could be the Lions primary back of the future. I was also thrilled to grab David Cobb since I don’t really trust Bishop Sankey to keep the job in Tennessee and Cobb is an incredibly talented runner who could steal this job sooner rather than later. Once I got my two running backs I was just looking for the most upside left on the board in the third which is why I took Marcus Mariota. If he pans out, I may not have to worry about the quarterback position for years to come, even though I don’t think he’ll be all that valuable this season.

Auction Strategy: With Benjamin and Nelson lost for the year before the season started, I knew I had to go into the draft with the goal of grabbing at least two viable starting wide receivers. However, I felt the remaining wide receiver pool had significantly less value than the pool of running backs who were available to draft. With that in mind, I figured I could snatch up as much running back depth as I could with an eye on making a few mid-season deals to round out my receiving corps. I was able to get two of my favorite running back targets in Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount. If all pans out the way I hope, Martin and/or Abdullah — who I took in the rookie draft — will hit big early and I’ll be able to trade one as Blount gets eased back into the Patriots’ offense following his suspension.

 With all that said, there were two mid-tier starting wide receivers that I wanted to target — Andre Johnson and Anquan Boldin — and I made sure that I paid what I had to in order to grab them both given my lack of depth at the position. I also added Steve Johnson and Brian Quick to add depth at the position. I didn’t plan on spending much if anything on the quarterback or tight end positions given the fact that I already had guys who I felt were viable starters at each position already on my roster, however, I am extremely high on Ryan Tannehill and was able to get him for excellent value to lock him up for several years to come.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Tannehill, Eddie Lacy, Johnson, Boldin, Julius Thomas, Cardinals DSTJustin Tucker, Abdullah, Brandon Marshall

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, RotoGrinders) @LeoHowell8

Picks:

1.09 Tevin Coleman, RB Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $10.8M)

3.09 Sammie Coates, WR Pittsburgh Steelers (3 years, $2.6M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: After a successful draft last year that left me with Mike Evans, Teddy Bridgewater and Allen Robinson as a foundation for the future, I wanted to add a couple of complementary pieces this year. Picking near the end of the first round, I went with Tevin Coleman of the Falcons. I have two older running backs under long-term contracts (DeMarco Murray and Jamaal Charles), but wanted to take a shot on a younger player in a decent situation. Coleman doesn’t have a high bar to clear to become the main ballcarrier in the ATL. I didn’t have a second-round pick, but got a guy I may have taken in the second with my third round selection in Sammie Coates. He’s not as tall as I normally like for a young receiver to be, but he has special athletic ability and time to learn and grow with the Steelers, and I’m hopeful he can become a contributor sooner rather than later.

Auction Strategy: I entered the auction with a pretty stable foundation, with Charles, Murray, Evans, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins already on board. I didn’t need a ton of help at skill positions, and had the quarterbacks I wanted in Matthew Stafford and Bridgewater. But I didn’t have a great tight end, which led to my big acquisition of Greg Olsen. He’s not a long-term asset, but there are few tight ends who will see the volume and consistent production Olsen will this season. I also picked up Knile Davis to “handcuff” to Charles, but also because he’s a terrific athlete who will do well if he gets touches. It just so happens I have the guy he’d take touches from, so it works out to be a positive for me either way. (But please stay healthy, Jamaal.) I took a flier on Percy Harvin, hoping he’d carve out a role and make some big plays with the Bills, and I scooped up Jeff Janis, as I believe he’ll play a role in filling Jordy Nelson’s shoes in Green Bay.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Stafford, D. Murray, Charles, Evans, Brown, Olsen, Patriots DST, Blair Walsh, Hopkins, Allen Robinson

Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire) @gingersauce4u

Picks:

1.10 DeVante Parker, WR Miami Dolphins (3 years, $9.76M)

2.10 Javorius “Buck” Allen, RB Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $10.3M)

3.10 Justin Hardy, WR Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $2.6M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Drafting from the 10-spot, I was pleasantly surprised to see DeVante Parker fall to the end of the first round. Seeing him go as high as #3 overall, the 6′ 3″ Louisville product brings size and some unbelievable college productivity to the table. Javorius Allen has been a post-draft favorite of mine as I loved the fit with him in Baltimore. A productive receiving back at USC, Allen should jive well with Marc Trestman’s offense while spelling the soon to be 30-year old Justin Forsett. If Forsett were to miss any time, I think Allen could jump in immediately and provide fantasy value. At 3.10 and the last pick of the draft, I decided to take the NCAA’s all-time receptions leader in Justin Hardy. The former walk-on only has to beat journeymen Leonard Hankerson and return specialist Devin Hester to see significant playing time as the slot receiver, and Hardy should be able to do that with ease. I’m not expecting immediate results with Hardy, but he’s a stash I’m happy to hold onto and monitor closely as the season progresses. Thankfully my roster doesn’t require any of these players to have significant contributions in their rookie years, but I’m happy with the building blocks I acquired in our league’s second rookie draft.

Auction Strategy: Heading into the auction with an already well-stacked roster at RB (Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy) and WR (Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, and Brandin Cooks), my intentions were to just find some good depth at running back and get a quality starting tight end. I was aggressive in our startup draft last year, and my cap space certainly reflected that as I had the second-lowest amount to start the draft. I was able to land C.J. Spiller (1-year, $8.5 mil) and a cheap Joique Bell (1-year, $1 mil), but the first two weeks may be rough for my team if some of these injured running backs are slow to return. I was continuously in bidding wars trying to land Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, and Tyler Eifert, but was out-muscled due to my cap space. I ended up getting Delanie Walker (1-year, $1.5 mil) and Dwayne Allen (1-year, $1 mil) as two later bargains, but I fell short of my goal trying to land one of my higher ranked tight ends.

The only other big play of the night I made was acquiring DeSean Jackson (2-years, $10 mil) as a fourth wide receiver. Already owning a stable core, DJax could be the one to help give my team some big weeks from the flex position. Heading into the season I’m a lot less confident (thanks Chip for exiling Shady to Buffalo) than last year where I was able to score the most points en route to a championship, but I believe this is still a playoff-worthy team.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Tony Romo, Bell, McCoy, Jones, Cobb, Walker, Colts DST, Connor Barth, Cooks, Jackson

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online) @SamHerbie

Picks:

2.01 Dorial Green-Beckham., WR Tennessee Titans (3 years, $4.3M)

2.09 Cameron Artis-Payne, RB Carolina Panthers (3 years, $3.9M)

3.01 Tyler Lockett, WR Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Having already traded this year’s first round pick for Carlos Hyde, I planned to go receiver at the top of the second round. Abdullah is the only RB I would have considered there had he been available. Comfortable with Dorial Green-Beckham, as he has a lot of upside and came at a cheap price tag as the first pick in round two. The Cameron Artis-Payne pick came down to the names above his on the Panthers RB depth chart. Even if Stewart does stay healthy (…unlikely), this squad is going to have a tough time winning ballgames this year. Its young talent should get some good burn and, more importantly, experience for ’16 and ’17. My last pick came at the top of the 3rd where I strongly considered taking Mariota. Head won over heart in this case, though – Tyler Lockett should get a lot of targets in Seattle’s slot, especially with Graham often demanding two defenders. Lockett is dynamic and has in him a lot of what Randall Cobb brings to the field.

Auction Strategy: My roster is rather top heavy with nearly $71MM tied up in three players (Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson). Luckily my RB core is intact with AP, Hyde and Jeremy Hill, which felt like enough cushion to avoid the gold rush on running backs that came during the first half of the auction. Once I landed Rashad Jennings at $4.5MM, which may go down as a huge bargain, my entire focus shifted to wide receiver. Coming into the auction I definitely had my eye on Maclin and had prepared to pay a premium. But I felt much more comfortable paying $15MM for one year of Maclin after investing just $7.5MM for two years of Jarvis Landry, who is about to break out. My lone regret comes in the form of Brandon LaFell ($1.5MM), as it would’ve been nice to have another minimum contract on the books… Damn New England roots. In all, I executed my auction gameplan far better in 2015 than I did in our league’s inaugural session.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Rodgers, Peterson, Hill, Calvin Johnson, Maclin, Charles Clay, Broncos DST, Cody Parker, Hyde, Landry

Mastering Year 2 On RSO

Updated: August 21st 2015

Chasing Quarterbacks is one strategy not to follow in your second year league.

Chasing Quarterbacks is one strategy not to follow in your second year league.

This article is dedicated to those owners in their second year of their Reality Sports Online leagues. If you are in your first year of your Reality Sports Online league, my high level advice is to not get too caught up in the hype of the auction. Make sure you are spending your big dollar contracts on players as close to birds in the hand as possible. If you ask anyone who plunked 3 years and $85 million on Trent Richardson a few years ago, they’d tell you the biggest objective in year one is basically what I tell my young kids-“don’t wet the bed”. Matt Papson’s  7 Basic Auction Principles and Bo Wulf’s Four Years of Commitment are essential reading for the rookie Reality Sports Online GM.

If you are in your third year, you have things pretty much figured out by now and are looking forward to some of the two-year studs from your rookie season being available in the auction. Teams in rebuild mode are hyped about rookies and sleepers and championship contenders are going all out to win the league for the first (or maybe even second or third) time.

To me, the second year is the most difficult year in terms of team strategy. Several of the top players are still locked into multi-year deals, so there may be slim pickings in your auction. The rookie draft is really the only way to get a player you want without competitive market dynamics but if you’re in the back of the draft that may not even be possible.

So let’s walk through some scenarios of potential challenges a second year owner may face. I won’t go too deep into rookie draft strategy, because let’s face it, I essentially did my best to drop the mic with my What’s A Rookie Draft Pick Worth? article a few weeks ago.

1) Don’t Go Chasing Quarterbacks

The best part of being one of the potential owners who doesn’t have a quarterback locked up long term is that your counterparts do. While some of them may try to price enforce to make sure that you are having to pay fair value for your quarterback, if you get into the scenario where you and maybe two other owners in a 10-12 team league is searching for a signal caller, it doesn’t necessarily matter which one you grab, so long as you get them on a good contract. Those other price enforcer owners know they don’t want to get left holding the bag on two starting quarterbacks, especially if your league doesn’t have many teams that trade often. This strategy landed me Russell Wilson on a 3 year, $26 million deal as I was one of two teams out of twelve needing a quarterback.

Additionally, if you are one of these owners who had a one year contract quarterback last year and there are plenty of suitable starters in the free agent market, franchise tagging a quarterback is essentially bidding against yourself. I don’t care if you can have Drew Brees for another year, don’t bid against yourself when Ben Roethlisberger will be just as good and a fraction of the cost.

So make it one of your top priorities to get a quarterback you are happy with on a term and contract value you are good with. There should be no shortage of those candidates this year as in most leagues, you’ll only need to start one quarterback.

2) If You Didn’t Have a Strategy in Year One, Figure Your Strategy For Year Two Out Quick

You may have taken year one to get acquainted with the platform and didn’t want to wet the bed. Year two is when you start formulating your multi-year plan on how your team can capitalize on its championship window, whenever you see that being. The offseason is the ideal time to do that and you may still have a few days left to shape that strategy with your franchise tag and before your rookie draft.

The type of moves that teams may take depends on where you finished last year and what talent remains on your team. However, there are several tactics that a team can use to rebuild on the fly. The first of which is to trade a high-priced player. Burned by Adrian Peterson last year, turn his big salary into free cap space and a draft pick and use that money to get three guys who can help you over the long term.

3) Don’t Be Afraid Of One Year Contracts

Just because Reality Sports Online leagues are customizable in the number of multi-year deals you may offer in your auction doesn’t mean you need to use them all or every one you use needs to be on a marquee player. Year two may not have that deep of a free agent pool in your auction, but I guarantee you that year three will. My upcoming third year league has 7 of the top 10 ten scoring running backs available heading into the auction. To take advantage of a similar situation next year, second year owners may want to keep their future year cap flexibility open and not overcommit on a second year free agent crop that frankly may not be that appealing.

Basically, most of the players entering free agency are players that other teams weren’t confident enough to sign to multi-year deals in your first year of the auction or guys picked up during the season on free agent deals. While some of those players like Justin Forsett and C.J. Anderson may have been franchise tagged or will be the marquee free agents this year, they do come in with question marks based on not having the proven track record others on multi-year deals may have. So the question, similar to the ABC Show, becomes “What Would You Do?” if you had to choose between signing Forsett to a two year, $30 million deal or grabbing Lamar Miller on a one year deal for $17 million. I’d take Miller (who is a 2016 NFL Free Agent), who will most likely be both more productive and give you a flexible cap for 2016 without batting an eyelash.

Another strategy on the one year players is to follow the “Old Guys Rule” strategy. Other owners may not think much of Frank Gore or Andre Johnson, but the two former teammates from “The U” are perfect one year candidates who buy you a share in the explosive Colts offense. So if you have a solid core that already screams playoff contender, you can paint the edges with older players and contend if you don’t have the budget or inclination to go after the big names in second year free agency.

4) The Franchise Tag May Be Your Friend

If you are in Year Two and the contracts doled out in year one at certain positions isn’t overly ridiculous (or even if they are), if you are one piece away from a championship in your head, go for the gold, especially in a year where the pickings are slim in free agency. I’ve already tackled Franchise Tag strategy deeply in my Giving Up the Franchise? article.

This period may have passed in some of your leagues or is rapidly approaching. Trading for someone else’s franchise tagged player is certainly a possibility as well and those teams looking to rebuild may be able to get something for a player they were planning on not getting anything for by doing this. Just make sure you hammer out your details and look into the website platform timing to execute the trade around the restrictions and trade deadlines between the period three days before the rookie draft and three days before the free agent auction.

5) Use One Multi-Year Deal on a Developmental Player

The tendency in formats like this is to grab studs on long-term deals and combine those with your rookies to have the best chance of winning a championship. However, there are multiple ways to win the championship and one strategy I really like is to use at least one of your multi-year deals (assuming an allotment of 3 two-year deals, 2 three-year deals and 1 four-year deal) on a developmental prospect who either didn’t get picked in your rookie draft or a free agent.

You’ll have to do your homework on who those players are for you. Last year, I used my second year multi-year deals on Lance Dunbar (2 years, $4.5 million), Aaron Dobson (3 year, $8.5 million) and the undrafted in our two-round rookie draft Teddy Bridgewater (2 years, $1.5 million). As I mentioned before I already had Wilson as my starting quarterback and was able to trade Bridgewater and Larry Fitzgerald early last season for a one year Alshon Jeffery rental.

While those players may not jump out at you and other than Bridgewater didn’t really pan out last year, they didn’t cost me much and both Dunbar and Dobson have potential to play significant roles in excellent offenses this year. If I need to drop them, I can do it without much hesitation, but they also offer upside.

Conversely, some of my league mates were getting into long term deals with players like Reuben Randle for 4 years and $25.0 million. While others were successful in nabbing DeAndre Hopkins on a four year deal for $28.5 million (we essentially didn’t have a rookie draft in year one so owners could get a good feel for the league, something I’d actually advise against which made Hopkins available in 2014), those home runs were few and far between in last year’s auction. That’s what happens when guys like Toby Gerhart and Shane Vereen fetch big dollars in free agency as some of the top second-year free agent players available.

These are really just some examples as full disclosure, I did not win my league in my second year as I lost in a playoff game in which Julio Jones destroyed me. I still retain a core that I’m super excited about for the next two years, years which I basically consider my championship window.

Basically, year two is about cementing your strategy and executing on it. Figure out when your championship window is and go get it! Thanks for reading and I’m really appreciative of all those who reach out to me with questions/comments on Twitter @mattgoody2

7 Basic Auction Principles

Updated: August 13th 2015

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Long before Reality Sports Online existed, I was a HUGE proponent of fantasy auction drafts. I have always had an affinity for numbers, but my passion for auctions is simpler than that. Each owner has the opportunity to buy or sign any player. There’s no “luck of the draw” for draft slot, and every owner has the same probability of winning the league entering the auction as any other. I can craft the team I want, and I’m not bound by my slot. Every minute of the “auction draft” is action packed. This is how most snake drafts go for me: Wait a few minutes, try (and fail) to trade back, make a pick that I’m not thrilled with, wait a few minutes…wait a few more minutes, get upset because the player I wanted next was selected in the spot right in front of me, sulk, make an irrational frustration pick, and repeat.  I know for a fact that many fantasy owners are intimidated by auction formats. There’s no shame in admitting it… it’s one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to get fantasy owners to try our fantasy Front Office platform.

For anybody who isn’t familiar with Reality Sports Online, it’s a platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their team like an NFL General Manager. The platform features a Rookie draft, partially guaranteed contracts, real salary cap management, injured reserve, a franchise tag, and more. The platform’s greatest feature is the Free Agency Auction Room, which facilitates as many as 32 fantasy owners to compete against each other to negotiate with and sign athletes to single or multi-year contracts, live-online. If you’re an active fantasy auction advocate, or you’re just somebody looking for a deeper, more engaging fantasy experience, you should try the Reality Sports Online fantasy Front Office platform.

If you find yourself among the people hesitant to embrace auctions…there really is nothing to fear.  Managing a budget isn’t hard…you do it every day in life. Fantasy is a game of statistics. Fantasy owners are an intelligent and generally well-educated breed. Regardless of education, if you’re playing fantasy – you’re smart enough to do an auction. Try it. Once you do, you’ll never go back. Now, let’s get down to business.

Whether you’re building a team for multiple years in the Reality Sports Online Front Office format, or you’re laying it all on the line in a re-draft auction, there are a few guiding auction principles that can help you win your league. Building a great team via auction takes strategy, patience, discipline, and a knack for knowing when to break the rules. You can take some or all of the principles below and incorporate them into your auction strategy.

1.    Set your own pre-auction value for EVERY player (who is going to be purchased/signed for more than the minimum)

You may very well hate (in the fantasy sense) a player, because he’s overrated, injury prone, or because he plays for your team’s archrival. But, every player has some value to you. In an auction, you’re purchasing a player’s statistics. Every player’s value is relative to the cost associated with acquiring him. You might not want LeSean McCoy in 2015 as a Bill, and maybe you don’t expect DeMarco Murray to get enough touches with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles present, but you still need to be prepared to buy/sign them. There’s some price for every player at which you should be thrilled to acquire them. It doesn’t have to be an exact science for every player, but place a number on them where you’ll be happy with the purchase or signing. It’s a little tricky when you’re talking about a multi-year contract for Reality Sports Online, so in that case, just make sure you’re only giving guys that you’re “value-signing” a one-year contract. In 2015, I’m not excited about Matt Forte (or his real-life contract situation), Brandon Marshall (who can still play, but Geno-Fitz doesn’t excite me) or Drew Brees (it’s going to take a lot of C.J. Spiller screens & bubbles for a strong statistical year), but they’re all worth a below-market-price flier.

2.    Be the value enforcer

You’ll see as you read on that these principles are all similar, but while they’re all tied together and build on one another, they’re all distinct. Being the value enforcer is not a popular position in auctions. It’s best when you’ve got genuine multi-owner bidding wars for each player, but it’s not likely to happen for every player.  I generally like to sit back and wait in auctions for as long as possible (I never nominate a player I hope to land) before getting involved, but, in order to get value later in the auction, you have to make sure that owners are paying close to full price for top players. No matter what platform you use, the experts who assign the recommended values put a lot of time and effort into their analysis. Even if the values aren’t perfect, they’re in the right ballpark. Always make sure top players are going for at least 80% of their recommended value, and 90%+ if it’s a player on your fringe list. You can’t predict the order in which players will be nominated, so sometimes you’ll be forced to sign players early, but in general, I try to have more dollars remaining than at least half of the teams for the first half of the auction. In order to be able to get your value signings late, you need other teams to blow their wad early.

3.    Pay attention to other owner’s roster composition

Every auction is a puzzle. As every piece (or player) falls into place, the total picture becomes clearer, and it’s easier to place the remaining pieces. It’s important to take in all the context clues throughout the auction so you can deduct which owners might be genuinely interested in acquiring certain players/positions. Too many times fantasy owners laser-focus on their own team and goals and can’t see what’s unfolding in front of them. It can help to know when someone is just running up the price on you because they know you need a position. And, if you’re paying attention, you can do the same thing when you know other owners are desperate to acquire a certain position or player. Every extra dollar you force another owner to spend is a dollar you’re saving for yourself later.

4.    Let the auction come to you, don’t chase

Whether it’s a draft or an auction, it’s always important to have a strategy in place in advance (if it weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this!). For drafts, some fixate on getting X position in round 1 and Y players at X position by Z round. For auctions, many build positional budgets or allocations, and others say “I’m getting A, B, and C no matter what it costs”. Whatever strategy you enter the auction with, you have to be willing to deviate from it if the situation warrants a change of plans. Be flexible and willing to improvise. One of your top targets may have gone well over your budget, forcing you to bow out unexpectedly, or you may have acquired somebody you didn’t particularly want while enforcing value. Adapt and conquer. You don’t have to abandon your original strategy completely, but the more flexibility you have with your plan the more likely you’ll be able to find value.

5.    Seek & Find Value

In auction formats, particularly on the Reality Sports Online platform with multi-year contracts and guaranteed money, I’ve found that many experts like to employ a studs and duds strategy (most of the budget dedicated to a few “stud” players with the remainder spent filling out the roster with best available). With respect to multi-year contracts, that theory certainly has merit, and even in single-year auctions, many people can still make it work. I like to be contrarian when possible, though some would just call me stubborn. I’m a value guy. I love getting bargains on players. I get about as much joy as you could imagine getting a player for 50% off. Take a look at some of the 4-year contracts (each team gets one each year in standard settings) given out in my favorite fantasy league (the Matt Waldman Reality Sports Online Experts League; platform utilizes NFL Salary Cap):

First Name Last Name Pos Pro Team Age Contract Length Value
Cole Beasley WR DAL 26 4 $2M
Brock Osweiler QB DEN 25 4 $5M
Michael Floyd WR ARI 26 4 $13M
Nick Foles QB STL 26 4 $25M
T.Y. Hilton WR IND 26 4 $26.5M
Rueben Randle WR NYG 24 4 $29M
Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN 28 4 $36.5M

 

Sure, they’re not all major hits, but there are some deals in there that look awfully good heading into 2015. The point is, experts (and these are good ones) are willing to take a shot on value plays knowing they may strike out, and you should be willing to as well. I particularly consider myself a value-seeker when it comes to Quarterbacks. I’d rather sign QBs 12, 14, and 16 for a combined $20M per year hoping one cracks the top 8 rather than invest $25M for a “Top 5” QB and still need to figure out my backup situation. I like building deep rosters and trusting myself with tough start/sit decisions each week rather than having clear-cut starters and bench players, and that’s true across all positions.

6. It’s Okay to Pay a Premium

Even though I just spent the last few paragraphs preaching value, there are also times when it’s okay to pay a premium. At the beginning, I told you to set a value for EVERY player – the amount you’d be willing to acquire the player for and be “happy” with your signing. But, I also told you that you needed to be willing to improvise and adapt. If you get beyond your happy place budget on a player that you really like, spend an extra 5-10% and trust your instincts. Last year for me it was Antonio Brown. There was no expert magazine ranking or online resource assigning a value to him higher than my own – I was getting him no matter what it cost – and owned him in every league I participated in. I “overpaid” versus pre-season values and projections, but it ended up working out okay. I’ll also say, particularly in Reality Sports Online leagues, you can afford to overspend on 1-year deals, especially after the mid-point in the auction. There may not be a better place to put those dollars to use later in the auction, so pick your spot and be aggressive.

7. Don’t click mindlessly

With everything we’ve covered so far, this may seem like a silly principle to close with, but don’t underestimate it. Auctions are fun, action-packed, and making a bid/offer is exhilarating. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Clicking is addicting. Once the bidding starts, I just can’t help myself.” It’s true, it’s always more fun being in on the action, but you know what else is fun? Winning! Be careful quick-clicking, because somebody else may have put in a manual offer/bid, and you may have absentmindedly just blown a quarter of your budget on Trent Richardson. Our auction software has safeguards for protection, like offer-rejection when there are clicks milliseconds apart and your offer would have been $1M higher than you intended, and a rewind for egregious errors, but some Commissioners are ruthless dictators that make you sleep in the bed you’ve made. Once a player gets beyond your value-enforcer level, just stop clicking and let the other owners duke it out. Only harm can come from a meaningless click.

Matt Papson is the creator and co-founder of Reality Sports Online (www.realitysportsonline.com; @RealitySportsOn), an innovative fantasy Front Office platform that lets fantasy owners emulate the experience of an NFL General Manager. Prior to launching Reality Sports Online, Matt was formerly a Junior Salary Cap Analyst and Pro Personnel Intern for an NFL team. He’s passionate about football, entrepreneurship, pivot tables, golf, and the beach. You can follow him on Twitter @RealitySportsMP

Four Years Of Commitment

Updated: August 10th 2015

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Remember when you showed up to campus for your first day of college? Remember how innocent you were? How utterly naïve? And remember how different you were on graduation day? A piece of clay molded by the years, and beers, of the college experience, somehow formed into a worldly and self-assured individual.

Four years is a long time. You weren’t the same person upon entry to college as you were upon exit. You wouldn’t sign a four-year lease for an apartment. Four years is a commitment. That’s why, in the RSO world, four-year contracts are the most dangerous game.

So much can change for a player over four seasons. Four years ago, the three leading rushers in the NFL were Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and Michael Turner. Now, they’re all out of the league. In order to trust a player enough to sign on for a four-year deal, you need to fully trust that despite all the variables – teammates, off-field issues, the slow, crippling grip of father time – your guy will still be performing at a high level in 2018.

The list that follows pertains only to the bigger-ticket long-term contracts. Personally, to alleviate the risk of such a commitment, we might choose to allocate our four-year contract to lock in a cheap deal on an upside play like Packers wide receiver Davante Adams or Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson. Maybe you want to bet on a long-term bounceback from a player like Keenan Allen or maybe you think Tre Mason will end up somewhere else and thrive in a post-Todd Gurley world. If you’re a Travis Kelce truther, maybe he’s your man for the long-term deal.

But if you wait to fish in the deepest waters, here’s one ranking of the safest of the best veteran players in your RSO free agency auction.

10. Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson (29)

As you’ll see, this list is dominated by wide receivers. Running back production is simply too volatile and short-lived to earn a four-year contract. Quarterback production is predictable – and if you want to lock 31-year-old Aaron Rodgers into a long-term deal, there shouldn’t be too much argument – but quarterback production is also easy to find. Elite wide receivers, though, tend to produce consistently over time, and there’s no better example than Johnson, who has topped 1,000 yards receiving each of the last five seasons.

Now, Johnson’s numbers did dip last season, thanks in part to three missed games, but that’s part of the ageing process. His career also serves as a best-case scenario – if you had locked Johnson up to a four-year deal after his third season, a pedestrian 984 yards receiving at 24 years old, you would have reaped the benefits of one of the best four-year stretches for a receiver in league history. At 29, Johnson is probably a little too old for our taste, and if the players listed ahead of him are off the board in your auction room, perhaps the prudent course of action is to use your long-term deal on one of those lower-level upside plays. But compared to the other options, we trust Johnson a little more. Demaryius Thomas (27) is great, but what happens when Peyton Manning retires? Jordy Nelson (30) is older than Johnson. If not for Megatron, this spot probably would have gone to Sammy Watkins, but with such an unsettled quarterback situation, with no end in sight, it’s tough to trust him much either. After all, there’s never been an athlete like Johnson before, who’s to say he can’t still be dominant at age 33?

9. Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver A.J. Green (27)

Perhaps Green is underrated here. After all, he’s topped 1,000 yards receiving in each of his four seasons and has never caught fewer than the six touchdowns he caught last season while playing in only 13 games. But the doubts about Andy Dalton affect our outlook compared to some of the other options.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown (27)

It’s possible that slotting Brown over Green is a benign case of recency bias considering Brown’s league-best 129 catches for 1,698 yards last season. But the two are the same age and Brown has a far superior quarterback throwing him the ball for the foreseeable future. The flipside would be that Brown’s game is more dependent on speed, and if the two both lose a step, Green is better suited to still be successful. A fair argument, and the call is close, but we’ll stick with Brown for now.

7. New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks (21)

This is a leap of faith, to be sure. Cooks only totaled 550 receiving yards in 2014, good for only 10th among all rookies. But with Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills deported this offseason, Cooks is now Drew Brees’ main weapon in the passing game. Brees, though, is a concern. At 36, Brees’ arm showed signs of diminishing strength last season and, with a potentially volatile franchise structure, there’s no guarantee that Brees and Cooks will be together for more than the 2015 season. We’re close to talking ourselves out of this ranking, but the potential rewards of a high-target player in Sean Payton’s offense with this kind of dynamism with the ball in his hands is too good to pass up. That he’s not yet 22 years old makes us feel even better.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wide Receiver Mike Evans (21)

Evans probably won’t be as dominant in the end zone as he was last season for each of the next four years. But for the former Aggie to do what he did last year, as a raw route runner with terrible quarterback play, it would be negligent to rank him any lower. Jameis Winston is not a personal favorite, but even we can acknowledge that he’s an upgrade over what was in place last season. Theoretically, Winston should also provide some semblance of continuity for Evans over the next few years.

5. Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones (26)

Coming off his best season (104 catches for 1,593 yards, both career highs), Jones is already in the prime of his career. We won’t fault you for locking in a second-year receiver like Evans, Cooks or Watkins instead of Jones, but there’s still a small risk in trusting breakout rookie seasons from receivers. Michael Clayton (80 catches for 1,193 yards in 2004), Mike Williams (65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010) and Eddie Royal (91 catches for 980 yards in 2008) all serve as cautionary tales. There’s no such risk of fluke with Jones, who is locked in with a reliable quarterback for the foreseeable future. This one won’t come back to bite you.

4. New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski (26)

Can you believe Gronk is only 26? The real difference-maker at the tight end position, Gronkowski would be ranked even higher if not for the constant fear of injury. But even if you get only two fully healthy years and two partial years over the next four, the case can be made that the difference between Gronkowksi and every other tight end is still worth the value.

3. Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant (26)

The consensus top-ranked receiver heading into 2015, Bryant is as good a bet for dominance over the next four years as anyone. He’s been incredibly consistent over the last three seasons, topping 1,200 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns each year, and, at 26, he’s still very much in his prime. We’re splitting hairs in having Bryant here and not all the way at the top of the list, but if there’s a Cowboys fan in your league who really, really wants to overpay for Dez, there are some other options.

2. New York Giants Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (22)

Concerns about rookie receivers aside, Beckham is a generational talent with little in his way in terms of reasonable skepticism. Will his targets drop a bit with Victor Cruz back? Perhaps. Will Beckham still excel if and when Eli Manning moves on? Probably. But when you lead the league in receiving yards per game (108.8) and top 1,300 yards and catch 12 touchdowns in only 12 games, most doubts can be fairly cast aside. The thought that Beckham did that all as a 22 year old and that his prime is still ahead of him is pretty intimidating and, in your auction room, worth the high price tag.

1. Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck (25)

Yes, this is the safe play. The copout. The “you-have-no-marbles” move. But it’s also the decision that takes away all the risk. Unlike the receivers and tight ends, Luck’s success is not really tied at all to his teammates. The production curve of a quarterback also starts later and lasts longer than other positions. Yes, you can find starting-caliber quarterback play much easier than other positions, but is there any doubt that Luck will be no worse than the third-best fantasy quarterback in each of the next four seasons, when healthy? It’s fathomable, hyperbolic as it may be, that Luck will eventually join the inner circle of the best quarterbacks in league history. There’s no foolproof four-year bet, but Luck is as good as it gets.

Training Camp 2015 Edition

Updated: August 3rd 2015

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It’s hard to believe it, but training camp is upon us. While some of you may have already had your Reality Sports Online rookie drafts, a ton of offseason trades, or both, others may just be picking up serious activity. Either way, we all collectively can’t wait to watch the Houston Texans on Hard Knocks and for kickoff in September. Before that happens, though, there are some major storylines that will unfold in training camp that will help us determine how to tackle our Free Agency Auctions. I’ll skip over Russell Wilson’s contract signing for the most part and similar storylines. Basically the upshot with Wilson is this-now that it is reported he is in Seattle another 4 years, he’ll command big money in leagues where rushing is rewarded heavily and where turnovers are punished significantly (like my main league where turnovers are a negative 5 fantasy points). Moving on, so let’s jump into other topics now.

The Dallas Cowboys Running Back Situation

Demarco Murray made it look easy last season in racking up 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and a career-high 57 receptions behind Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked offensive line. Then the Cowboys decided that Murray was expendable and he went to their division rival Philadelphia Eagles. While many in fantasy circles are holding Joseph Randle in the highest regard based on being the best of a bunch of middling options, only training camp will tell whether Randle can be the bell-cow that Murray was behind that beastly O-Line. Those who want to extrapolate his 6.7 yards per carry on 51 totes for 343 yards and three touchdowns could be left holding the bag on an inflated Reality Sports Online contract if they aren’t careful, especially in PPR leagues. Randle only had 4 catches for 23 yards and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has made a living turning running backs like Moe Williams into serious PPR threats, which seems to indicate that Randle’s ceiling is lower than you’d think. Also take into account that Randle broke more than 10 runs over 10 yards (mostly in games the Cowboys were beating their opponents handily) and had some police blotter last season and you’ll gladly let someone else speculate on him. If you have to have him, keep him under $8.0 million a year annually and avoid a 3-4 year deal at all costs.

However, Randle’s best competition may not even be on the roster yet, especially if the team gives someone like Ray RiceAhmad Bradshaw, or even Chris Johnson (just a saw a rumor that he’s in contact with the team) a chance at winning the job. Based on the injury history of Darren McFadden, your best bet on capitalizing on the high-octane Cowboys offense in the backfield is Lance Dunbar. I know, I know you say, Goodwin you were high on him last year and I listened to you and now am stuck with Dunbar for another two years. Well, your patience may be rewarded this year. It isn’t hard to envision a Darren Sproles type role for Dunbar this year, especially in the passing game . I wouldn’t be betting much on him-a one year deal (Dunbar’s a free agent in 2016) at around $2.0 million feels right.

The Cheap Quarterback Who Will Produce Is…

Well, in terms of guys who may be available who aren’t on multi-year deals, you’ll probably be starting with choosing among the QB Class of 2004-Eli Manning (1.2 years, $2.4 million average), Philip Rivers (1.6 years, $4.4 million average), and Ben Roethlisberger (1.4 year, $2.6 million average). All three play in offenses that are ramping up their weapons and are significant bargains. Keep in mind if most of your league has the quarterback position taken care of, don’t bid against yourself. I personally like Eli the most based on his star wideout Odell Beckham Jr.  and getting Shane Vereen as a legitimate pass catching option out of the backfield, along with the hopeful return of Victor Cruz. Considering he’s in a division with some of the shakiest secondaries in the league, assume Eli will air it out and that he’s a bargain.

If you’re looking for someone not on this list, Ryan Tannehill (1.6 years, $2.2m million average) is on the younger side and someone you may be more willing to sign long-term. His receiving corps had a complete makeover in the 2015 offseason and draft as I alluded to in Marketwatch 2015: Stock Up/Down and the Dolphins signal-caller still remains under the radar as the signal-caller in Bill Lazor’s offense.

The Player Coming Out of Nowhere This Year

Reality Sports Online is every bit the developmental league, especially if your rookie draft goes deeper than two rounds. So players like Jeff Janis may not be under-the-radar. Others may have fallen off your map, but still have a semblance of an opportunity if things go right. I’m not going to pick one guy who may be the guy who comes out of nowhere and becomes the next Marvin Jones from 2013 but definitely look at the requisite prototype for players who can put up stats for you. A few people worth the late-auction flyer (especially if you have a multi-year contract to use late on the cheap) include Aaron Dobson (he’s reportedly finally healthy from various foot injuries and has the frame and speed to be the #3 WR on the Patriots), Marlon BrownTheo Riddick (notice the third down back theme in this article),and Leonard Hankerson are my biggest take a flyer guys. Heck, even Jones himself can be the next Jones (again) if he returns successfully from an injury.

The Tight End Battle in Denver

Peyton Manning has an excellent track record in turning tight ends into touchdown catching machines. Julius Thomas certainly benefitted from this, as did some of Manning’s ex-Colts teammates. The question entering training camp is whether free-agent signing Owen Daniels or young upstart Virgil Green will be the tight end apple of Peyton’s eye. While Green was the recipient of a nice 3 year, $8.4 million contract for his past accolades as a blocker, the team envisioned some upside in the passing game based on Green’s athleticism when the re-inked him. The 6’5, 255 lb Green is a specimen, but beware his 23 career catches, especially with Daniels in town. Daniels was fairly productive and has followed head coach Gary Kubiak twice now (first to Baltimore last season) and now to Denver. Based on his track record, look for Daniels to be the one finding the end zone at least six times, assuming he stays healthy. However, take note of Green’s potential upside and if you can get him on a good deal, take advantage because Green’s been putting in work at Duke with Manning and will be on the field plenty based on his blocking ability on a team that is said to be more run-oriented this year.

The Next Randy Moss?

Dorial Green-Beckham is certainly one of the most polarizing players in your rookie draft. He has boatloads of talent and the size and speed that offensive coordinators salivate over, even if he’s not the best route runner. He was compared to Randy Moss several times in articles such as this one this offseason and much like Moss, he comes into his rookie season with a checkered past and a desire to prove the teams that passed him over wrong.

With an average draft position of the 10.5th pick in the first round of RSO rookie drafts, Green-Beckham represents significant upside and of course downside based on his character. One has to think that early on Green-Beckham will be on his best behavior and quarterback Marcus Mariota will be a positive influence on the wideout as well.

Stay tuned to news out of training camp on how Green-Beckham is coming along from a route running perspective and that he’s overcome his mini-camp hamstring injury. Early word is that the team doesn’t want to “over-rep” him in training camp.

Defense on the Rise in Cleveland

As someone born in Cleveland, it is hard to get too excited about anything Browns related. However, the team invested heavily on the defense in the draft by adding run-stuffer Danny Shelton in the first round and pass-rusher extraordinaire in Nate Orchard, who led the NCAA’s in sacks per game in 2015. Taking into account a very strong secondary already, the team should improve significantly from the worst ranked rush defense last season in a division where teams love to run the rock. While the weak offense may keep putting the defense on the field, expect plenty of impact fantasy plays from Joe Haden and company this season from a fantasy perspective.

The Rookie Most Likely Not to Produce in 2015

New Chicago Bears coach John Fox is notorious for bringing rookie wide receivers along slowly. First round pick Kevin White is coming off RSO draft boards around the 4th pick in the rookie draft. However, when you take into account Cody Latimer’s four-catch 2014 for Fox’s Broncos last season and the fact that in interviews Fox couldn’t even recall whether a rookie wideout has ever started for him, you have to figure that even if White does start, he will be brought along slowly.  It certainly doesn’t help matters than White’s shin injury has landed him on the PUP list for the start of training camp.

Considering that one of the league’s most targeted wide receivers, Alshon Jeffery, starts on one side and that quarterback Jay Cutler typically only has eyes for one or two receivers, the number of targets available for White after Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and even slot receiver Eddie Royal get theirs may amount to crumbs, not a meal.

As a result, my 2015 outlook on White is fairly guarded, especially considering the high draft capital required to nab him in your drafts.

I Put In Work, And Watch My Status Escalate

Obviously last year’s rookie crop of wide receivers was one of the best in NFL history from a production standpoint. That even takes into account the injury to Brandin Cooks and limited production in a non-quarterback friendly environment for Sammy Watkins. That doesn’t mean that the rookie stars from last season are resting on their laurels. Mike Evans has been working in the offseason on his craft with the aforementioned Moss. Evans, who had 12 touchdowns and 1,051 receiving yards as the Z-Receiver with a limited route tree last season, now moves to the X receiver under new offensive guru Dirk Koetter, who groomed Julio Jones into one of the league’s best. The prospect of the kid gloves coming off of Evans, even with a rookie quarterback, is super enticing, especially since he’s still working out with Moss.

From the third year receiver crop and now that all-time leading Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is playing for the division rival Colts, DeAndre Hopkins figures to be the third-year receiver who will fully emerge into an NFL superstar.

Who Starts At Quarterback in Philly?

In one of the more intriguing battles (especially to RSO founders Matt Papson and Stephen Wendell), Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have an interesting quarterback competition. The team paid for a study to see how likely Sam Bradford was to re-injure himself and concluded those chances were low and traded Nick Foles for him. However, last year’s starter at the end of the season, Mark Sanchez, was fairly productive and the team invested a first rounder in rookie wideout Nelson Agholor, who has received rave reviews and figures to start right away, to replace the departed Jeremy Maclin. The team also reinvented their running game with Murray and Ryan Mathews.

It’ll be interesting to see who will win the quarterback battle here, because whoever does has immediately value and when it comes to Reality Sports Online, you’re all about value.

That’ll do it for now and I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing these articles. Feel free to contact me with any questions/feedback you may have on Twitter at @mattgoody2.