Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Picks 13-24

Updated: April 28th 2016

In my previous article I put together a list of the top 12 rookie that could come off your board starting next week. If you didn’t read the first part I am looking at Chad Reuter’s 7 round mock that he put together and from this I am making my own rookie mock draft of the first two rounds for a 12 team league. The first 12 selection are here for you to read. Let’s move on to the second round now.

Paul Perkins, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 13         Proj: R4 Pick 114, Oakland Raiders

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Perkins has all the traits you want to see out of a RB. He’s quick and agile, has good vision, isn’t afraid of contact and runs to the whistle. Watch his first half against Stanford last year to see each of these traits. In Oakland he would fit perfectly with a young budding offense and would be able to compete with Latty Murray for the starting role. At worst he’s a solid change of pace RB who excels in the passing game.

Pharoh Cooper, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 14         Proj: R5 Pick 140, Tennessee Titans

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper is a great Swiss Army knife player. He can run and catch the ball as well as return punts. He will likely need to start training camp as a WR4/Special Teams returner but we’ve seen that pay off for rookies before (hello Tyler Lockett). With Tennessee already having Kendall Wright, DGB and signing Rishard Matthews in free agency it would not be an ideal situation for him to ascent to the top of the depth chart but I am a believer that talent usually trumps situation. His time would come.

Tajae Sharpe, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 15         Proj: Undrafted

Tajae Sharpe, WR, UMASS

Tajae Sharpe, WR, UMASS

It’s hard to get excited about picking a guy that is likely a late day three or undrafted prospect. However, once you get past this fact you can see the kind of athlete that Sharpe is. His hand size (8 ⅜ inch) has left many to think that he will have a hard time holding onto the ball at the next level. If you watch his tape though you will see he must be sweating “Stick-Um” because he just doesn’t drop the ball, EVER! For those who follow RotoViz you will also know that he is one of their lovable sleepers in terms of his metric’s scores.

Jonathan Williams, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 16         Proj: R4 Pick 134, Baltimore Ravens

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Another powerful runner, I like Williams here more than fellow RB Devontae Parker by the slimmest of margins. With the expectation that Justin Forsett is in his last year with the team and Javorius “Buck” Allen is a good but not great RB I believe there would be a clearer path to the starting role. While OC Marc Tresman may favor backs that can catch passes Williams would fit the tough, grind it out running style of the AFC North.

Devontae Booker, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 17         Proj: R2 Pick 63, Denver Broncos

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Age has been a big knock on Booker (23) at a position that seems to expire faster than fruit on the counter. But with age comes wisdom and Booker has shown he has the vision and patience to be a successful back in the NFL. To land in Denver would be a question mark with the resigning of both Anderson and Hillman but stranger things have happened. If he landed with a team that had a more direct route to being the starting RB, I could see Booker moving closer to the top of the second or even back of first rounds.

Mike Thomas, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 18         Proj: R7 Pick 233, Philadelphia Eagles

Mike Thomas, WR, SMU

Mike Thomas, WR, SMU

With another Mike Thomas in the draft, there is sure to be some confusion come draft time as to which is being selected. I really like this Mike Thomas as an under the radar player that could compete for a WR2 or WR3 spot despite being a day three selection. Going to the Eagles would dump a cold bucket of water on his upside as the Eagles already have a large collection of WRs and new head coach Doug Pederson comes from KC where other than Maclin, usable fantasy WRs were scarce.

Braxton Miller, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 19         Proj: R3 Pick 70, Baltimore Ravens

Braxton Miller, WR, OSU

Braxton Miller, WR, OSU

The converted QB showed flashes with his one year at WR in 2015. It will be interesting to see which team can mold his raw athletic skills at WR. Because of this he might be limited in his role his rookie season. With Baltimore having Steve Smith coming back for one more year and Perriman healthy and ready to go this season this could be a perfect situation for Miller to learn the position before stepping into a starting role in 2017.

Jordan Howard, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 20         Proj: R4 Pick 120, Washington Redskins

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

Call me a skeptic but I’m not sold on Matt Jones as a starting RB in the NFL. His fumble issues should open the door for another back to come in and share the load in 2016. Enter Howard, who follows the theme of this round by being another big (6’0” 230lbs) runner that can push through the middle. Ironically this is the same style of runner that they let walk this offseason, Alfred Morris.

Rashad Higgins, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 21         Proj: R5 Pick149, New York Giants

Rashad Higgins, WR, Colorado St.

Rashad Higgins, WR, Colorado St.

An easy way to hide your flaws is to be part of a great system. Getting to play next to one of the elite young WRs in Odell Beckham Jr. would definitely take some of that pressure off. While he under performed at the combine, there’s no doubt watching Higgins that he can be a great complimentary WR in a pass first offense. With strong hands, he knows how to trap the ball in his 9 ¾ inch mitts.

Tyler Ervin, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 22         Proj: R3 Pick 90, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose St.

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose St.

My same logic applies here that it did with Matt Jones and Washington. While I believe Thomas Rawls is a better and more rounded back than Jones, his short resume and the ankle injury that ended his year will always leave a concern with fantasy owners. Whichever team Ervin ends up with he showed that he can explode out of the backfield with a 4.32 40 time and 130” broad jump, which tested in the 89th and 96th percentile respectively.

Jared Goff or Carson Wentz

Mock: R2 Pick 23

Proj: R1 Picks 1&2, Los Angeles Rams/Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz, QB,NDSU

Carson Wentz, QB,NDSU

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

I know this seems like a cop out picking both but at the end of the second round seems like the place for owners to select the first QB in rookie drafts. Depending on who goes to the Rams first will likely dictate the value of these two players also. Neither is likely to be QB1s in their first season, and whichever goes to Philly may sit part or all of their rookie season out. Wentz will offer more running upside but temper your expectations as you should expect more Winston/Luck in terms of rushing attempts than a Newton or Wilson.

Daniel Lasco, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 24         Proj: R3 Pick79, Philadelphia Eagles

Daniel Lasco, RB, Cal

Daniel Lasco, RB, Cal

The last pick of the second round might be a reach for some but for the reasons I wouldn’t like a WR to Philly I would LOVE a RB to fall there. Ryan Matthews is on the training table more than the field and Darren Sproles is well into his 30’s and more of a specialty player at this point. Pederson used the run game heavily in KC and made fantasy relevancy of both Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware last year. Lasco has the same explosiveness that Ervin possesses and would thrive in a similar role as Jamaal Charles was for Pederson’s system.

That’s it for the first two rounds of my pre-draft mock. Other players that missed the cut are Alex Collins to Detroit, Hunter Henry to Chicago and Kenyan Drake to Dallas. It will be exciting to see where the chips actually fall over the weekend. Watch for Dave Sanders and his official rankings once the draft is completed. Look for me @naandrews19 to suggest who you think has the best value in rookie drafts. Happy Drafting!

Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Picks 1-12

Updated: April 28th 2016

The NFL draft is nearing and everyone is getting anxious about which players will end up with which teams. There are always a couple of players that rise, or fall down, fantasy draft boards based on their landing spot over the weekend. As a “what if” scenario I have taken the latest 7 round mock from NFL writer Chad Reuter and created a two round rookie mock draft based on the landing spots laid out in his article. This hypothetical draft will consist of the standard PPR, 1QB league. Let us begin!

Ezekiel Elliot, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 1            Proj: R1 Pick 13, Miami Dolphins

Ezekiel Elliot, RB, OSU

Elliot will likely be the first player off every board this offseason regardless of team need. With the ability to be a three down back that already has arguably the best pass blocking skills in this year’s class it won’t be hard for him to find the field as a rookie. Adding him to Adam Gase’s Dolphin offense would only strengthen his case for going #1.

Laquon Treadwell, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 2            Proj: R1 Pick 23, Minnesota Vikings

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

After Elliot there is a clear tier gap that features 3-4 WRs. The order of their selections in the real draft may also affect their selections in fantasy drafts. While many may be quick to judge the slow 40 time Treadwell posted during his pro day, I am sticking with the player that this time last year was considered the locked in first pick.

Josh Doctson, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 3            Proj: R1 Pick 22, Houston Texans

Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Doctson did nothing to hurt his chances of being the first selected WR off the board this year by showing off at the combine in February. At worst Brock Osweiler offers the same level of quarterback play as Teddy Bridgewater would to Treadwell in Minnesota.  If he landed with Houston however, Doctson’s target numbers would be capped being opposite Hopkins as the WR2, whereas Treadwell would likely step in as Minnesota’s week 1 starter.

Leonte Carroo, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 4            Proj: R2 Pick 61, New England

Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers

Here’s where things get spicy. Many have Carroo projected as mid to late first round selection in rookie mocks. With off field issues being as taboo as they are right now it’s likely that some will drop him down even further. But should he land in New England with a coach who’s known for polishing up troubled players, Carroo could offer the Patriots an outside, sure handed WR that the likes of LaFell, Lloyd, and Dobson never could live up to.

Corey Coleman, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 5            Proj. R2 Pick 34, Dallas Cowboys

Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

The Coleman hype train has been gaining steam since the end of the college season when the Baylor product put up a mind boggling 20TDs! When your comparisons are to that of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., you immediately draw the eyes of readers as well. In Dallas he would likely be the WR2 behind Dez Bryant and play a majority of his snaps out of the slot. In a scheme that values a strong running game and already has a slot receiver in Cole Beasley it would be interesting to see how Coleman would fit in big D’s playbook.

Derrik Henry, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 6            Proj: R1 Pick 30, Carolina Panthers

Derrik Henry, RB, Alabama

Skeptics have pointed to two holes that suggest Henry is one of the most overvalued players in this year’s rookie draft: his size and the school he attended. While some may be able to argue that Alabama has dangled some rotten carrots over the NFL’s head in recent years (*cough* Richardson *cough*), Henry showed at the combine that despite being a freakish 6’3” 247lbs he could still run a respectable 4.54 40 time. Rumors have suggested that he could go anywhere from Seattle at 26 to Dallas at 34 in the second round. Henry would bring a familiar smash mouth running style that has been a staple to these franchises in recent years.

Kenneth Dixon, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 7            Proj: R3 Pick 96, New England Patriots

Kenneth Dixon, RB, LA Tech

While Belitricks has left a bad taste with fantasy owners in the last half decade, Dixon would present a nice ying to Dion Lewis’ yang. His ability to both hit the hole and go, while also catching passes out of the backfield make him a late day two, early day three option for any team that needs an RB.  After abandoning the running game altogether during the playoffs last year, it seems apparent that the Patriots will address the running game in this year’s draft to better balance their offense in 2016.

Tyler Boyd, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 8            Proj: R3 Pick 65, Cleveland Browns

Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

I like to think of Corey Coleman as the MonStars from Space Jam with Tyler Boyd playing the role of Charles Barkley and friends. When the offseason started Boyd was being talked about with Treadwell in the WR1 conversation. Since his poor showing at the combine however, his upside has been zapped out of him by the likes of combine stars Coleman and Doctson. This has resulted in him falling out of the first round in several rookie mocks recently. While being mocked to the Browns wouldn’t add any incentive to reaching for Boyd in drafts, it wouldn’t be the first time that a star player who under performed at the combine turned out to be a draft day steal.

C.J. Prosise, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 9            Proj: R3 Pick 72, Chicago Bears

C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

For converting from a WR to RB, Prosise had a pretty spectacular year. While it will be interesting to see how his skill set translates to the NFL level his value will ultimately come down to which team he falls to. If he can play the Danny Woodhead role on a pass oriented offense he could easily see 50 to 60 catches out of the backfield.

Michael Thomas OSU, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 10         Proj: R1 Pick 28, Kansas City Chiefs

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas, WR, OSU

It would fit perfectly that Michael Thomas, who is criticized for being simply a piece of a great Ohio State team would be lining up opposite to Jeremy Maclin who was one of 2015’s most underappreciated WRs. While Thomas didn’t have the typical offensive market share that many fantasy analysts look for in a top-tier pick, it would have been hard to fault him when your team’s first, second and third options are hand the ball off to Ezekiel Elliot. You just can’t know exactly what his ceiling will be and therefore he offers those at the end of the first round a serious risk-reward option.

Sterling Shepard, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 11         Proj: R2 Pick 49, Buffalo Bills

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

Fantasy enthusiasts have a serious love-hate relationship with Shepard. His 5’10” 197lbs frame makes him an ideal candidate for becoming a slot receiver in the NFL. The problem is that there haven’t been many elite slot WR seasons since Wes Welker in 2013. That was on the most productive passing offense in NFL history and he still finished third on his team! Shepard may become another PPR targets hog, but we will need to see how he can separate with agility and strong route running before he can be compared to a Cobb, Landry or Edelman in terms of superstars in the slot.

Will Fuller, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 12         Proj: R1 Pick 24, Cincinnati Bengals

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Unlike Shepard, Fuller can and will take the top off a defense with his blazing 4.32 in the 40 time. Still, his small frame (6’0” 186lbs) will make it hard for him to break the stigma of being just another speed dependent DeSean Jackson receiver type. Going to a team like Cincinnati would definitely keep opposition safeties and corners honest by having to additionally cover the likes of Green and Eifert on any given play. Much of Fuller’s value will be determined by the receiving core around him.

That’s the first 12 picks for my pre-draft RSO rookie mock. Look for part two that will include picks 13 through 24 before Thursday’s NFL Draft.

2016 NFL Mock Draft

Updated: April 27th 2016

Is there any singular event in sports that excites fan bases of all teams as much as the NFL Draft? It’s inclusive of all teams unlike post-season tournaments or playoffs. Fans of losing teams are provided with hope that they’ll land players that will change the direction of their franchise. Fans of successful teams that came up just short have an opportunity to add that missing piece.  Even the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos can build on a championship team and replace several players lost in free agency.

Mock drafts encapsulate this energy and manufacture even more buzz for the last weekend in April. When a new mock is posted, fans quickly scroll through to see who their team is projected to take and often immediately react by loving or hating the pick.

At Reality Sports Online, we’re anxiously awaiting the NFL Draft ourselves and have put together a mock of the first round!

#1 Los Angeles Rams – QB Jared Goff (California)

After moving up from pick #15, the Rams land Jared Goff who they hope will be their franchise quarterback.  HBO’s Hard Knocks, featuring the Los Angeles Rams, just got a bit more interesting.

#2 Philadelphia Eagles – QB Carson Wentz (North Dakota State)

Similar to the Rams, the Eagles set their sights on landing a potential franchise quarterback and moved up to grab Carson Wentz.  The transition from FCS to the NFL will be made easier by the pro-style scheme Wentz executed for the Bison.

#3 San Diego Chargers – CB Jalen Ramsey (Florida State)

Sitting comfortably at pick #3, the Chargers have their choice among the non-QBs and will select a CB to pair with Pro Bowler Jason Varrett.

#4 Dallas Cowboys – RB Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State)

This selection may cause the most buzz around the dynasty football community.  After helping revive Darren McFadden’s career, the sky’s the limit for Elliott behind the Dallas offensive line.

#5 Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Joey Bosa is an excellent fit for Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme and should provide nice production alongside free agent signing Malik Jackson.

#6 Baltimore Ravens – OT Laremy Tunsil (Mississippi)

Prior to the Titans and Rams trade, Tunsil was widely expected to be the #1 pick in the draft.  

#7 San Francisco 49ers – OT Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)

The 49ers have plenty of needs and take the best player available in tackle Ronnie Stanley.

#8 Cleveland Browns – DE DeForest Buckner (Oregon)

Buckner, the best player available with this pick, is a perfect fit for the Browns’ 3-4 defense.

#9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB William Jackson III (Houston)

Even after signing Brent Grimes, Jackson’s playmaking abilities can fit nicely in Tampa Bay’s secondary.

#10 New York Giants – WR Corey Coleman (Baylor)

Corey Coleman’s ability to create plays after the catch is the perfect complement to Odell Beckham in the Giants’ West Coast offense.

#11 Chicago Bears – OLB Leonard Floyd (Georgia)

Floyd is quickly rising up draft boards as a high-upside edge rusher.

#12 New Orleans Saints – DT Sheldon Rankins (Louisville)

The Saints have to prioritize defense in this year’s draft and Rankins should help bolster their front four.

#13 Miami Dolphins – CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida)

Miami would love to land Zeke Elliott at pick #13, but I don’t see that happening. Weak at CB, Hargreaves III is the best available.

#14 Oakland Raiders – ILB Reggie Ragland (Alabama)

By selecting one of the biggest hitters in this draft, Oakland keeps building on their improving defense.

#15 Tennessee Titans – OT Jack Conklin (Michigan State)

Desperate to land a tackle in this draft, Tennessee will possibly explore a trade to make sure they land Tunsil, Stanley, or Conklin.

#16 Detroit Lions – DT Chris Jones (Mississippi State)

The Lions fill a hole and find a defensive tackle to pair with pass rusher Ziggy Ansah.

#17 Atlanta Falcons – DE Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

Atlanta can never have too many pass rushers for Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme.

#18 Indianapolis Colts – OT Taylor Decker (Ohio State)

Taylor Decker will help solidify the right side of the Colts’ offensive line to protect franchise QB Andrew Luck.

#19 Buffalo Bills – OLB Daron Lee (Ohio State)

I could see the Bills going in a variety of directions with this pick, but ultimately I see them drafting the speedy linebacker out of Ohio State.

#20 New York Jets – CB Mackensie Alexander (Clemson)

The Jets land possibly the best man coverage corner in the draft to pair with Darrelle Revis.

#21 Washington Redskins – DT Jarran Reed (Alabama)

Reed is a natural fit with Washington, needing help on their defensive line.

#22 Houston Texans – WR Josh Doctson (TCU)

Last season, Houston struggled to find a productive #2 WR opposite DeAndre Hopkins. By selecting Doctson, the Texans have a formidable duo for newly acquired QB Brock Osweiler.

#23 Minnesota Vikings – WR Laquon Treadwell (Mississippi)

Treadwell’s stock has fallen greatly over the past few months, but the Vikings land a quality possession receiver to help developing QB Teddy Bridgewater.

#24 Cincinnati Bengals – WR Michael Thomas (Ohio State)

Thomas can help fill the void left by departed free agents Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

#25 Pittsburgh Steelers – S Karl Joseph (West Virginia)

A big hitter with improving ball skills, Joseph rates as the premiere safety in the draft even while recovering from a torn ACL.

#26 Seattle Seahawks – C Ryan Kelly (Alabama)

The Seahawks need to improve what was arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL last season. Kelly, the best center in the draft, is a nice addition.

#27 Green Bay Packers – DT Andrew Billings (Baylor)

If Billings is available, I have no doubt that the Packers will select him to replace the departed BJ Raji.

#28 Kansas City Chiefs – CB Eli Apple (Ohio State)

The Chiefs fill a pressing need at CB with this pick by grabbing the rising Eli Apple.

#29 Arizona Cardinals – OLB Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State)

Arizona lands one of the best pass rushers in the draft, even after trading for Chandler Jones earlier this off-season.

#30 Carolina Panthers – DE Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

Carolina believes in building around their front seven. With many of the top CB prospects gone, I expect them to grab another disruptive player for that defensive line.

#31 Denver Broncos – TE Henry Hunter (Arkansas)

Denver was so desperate to find a TE for Kubiak’s scheme that they traded for Vernon Davis last season. Hunter Henry immediately becomes the best TE on the roster and will help whoever ends up as Denver’s starting QB.

Thanks for reading!  We’d love to hear your thoughts – reply in the comments section or tweet me @DaveSanders_RSO!


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

Dollars and Sense: Rookie QB Value

Updated: April 18th 2016

I believe that rookie QBs are an undervalued commodity on Reality Sports Online.  However, I am a man on an island because most of my colleagues disagree.  In Dave Sanders’ piece titled “Maximizing Quarterback Value”, he suggests skipping rookie quarterbacks completely.  In Bernard Faller’s piece titled “Value Town: QBs”, he suggests that since the difference between QB2 and QB16 was just 4 ppg that owners could plug-n-play at the position which could lead to you avoid drafting the top rookie QBs.  I disagree with my colleagues on this, in fact I have been a big proponent in my first two articles of reaching for a quarterback in the early second round of your RSO rookie draft.  Ultimately, our differences of opinion come down to one thing: position scarcity.  

The first thing we need to keep in mind about RSO is it’s unique contract driven dynasty format.  Since there are salary cap ramifications for every add/drop, it’s not quite as simple as other formats to rely on the waiver wire to fill your quarterback position.  Furthermore, because of the rookie draft that kicks off each season, younger quarterbacks are more highly owned than in other formats which further complicates the plug-n-play strategy.  Lastly, because RSO owners are more likely to hoard their quarterbacks, it’s important to keep this in mind when looking at metrics such as VBD and others that compare the “replacement level” of a position.

In Bernard’s piece he presents Tyrod Taylor as a good value, which I agree with, but the problem is that in most RSO leagues Taylor was not available once he was a viable fantasy starter and you needed him.  Sure, you could have grabbed him after the Bills’ announcement since he was only owned in about 20% of leagues originally, but if you doubted him and waited to grab Taylor mid-season as a bye week or injury fill-in he was likely already gone.  Ultimately, Taylor finished as QB17 based on the average number of points scored across all RSO leagues and was 81% owned. For comparison, Taylor was only 56% owned on Yahoo and 35% on NFL.com at the end of the season.  On those sites/formats, relying on Taylor to give you some good plug-n-play value at quarterback was a viable strategy, even late into the season, but I don’t believe it could have been on RSO.

Blake Bortles was also a good value but I think the reality of the ownership percentage paints a bleak picture for those who use Dave’s strategy of skipping quarterbacks in RSO rookie drafts.  Before the start of the 2015 season, Bortles was approximately 17% owned on RSO, presumably most of those being owners who drafted Bortles in their 2014 rookie draft.  Compare that to the data compiled by NFL.com leagues in which Bortles was just 2.8% owned in Week 1 of 2015.  By the Jags Week 8 bye, Bortles was up to 40% on NFL.com and by the end of the season he was up to 71.6%; comparatively he skyrocketed to 90.74% in RSO leagues by the end of the season (mid-season ownership percentages are tough to pinpoint on RSO but I would estimate that by Week 8 it would be at least 70%).  To quote Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly.”  The owners who had the foresight to draft Bortles in 2014 are paying him rookie money for QB1 production and that’s worth the gamble of drafting a rookie QB rather than battling on the waiver wire once they “pop.”

The next veteran QB we’ll look at to illustrate my rookie QB feelings is the guy everybody loves to hate: Andy Dalton.  Coincidentally, Dalton finished 2015 as QB16 in both average points and ownership on RSO.  In “Value Town: QBs,” Bernard points out that the difference between QB16 and QB2 was just 4 points per game to illustrate his replacement-level strategy.  Based on my research, I think RSO owners need to dig deeper to find the true replacement level at QB.  For most redraft and keeper leagues, I agree with Bernard that QB16 would be the right place to look but for RSO, I would posit you need to go down to at least QB20, if not further, to realistically expect a player to be available.  Before the 2015 season, Andy Dalton was available in just 25% of RSO leagues (17th most owned QB) and that fell to just 8% by the end of the season.  In order to find somebody who was available in at least 40% of leagues at the start of the season, you would have to look to Sam Bradford, Colin Kaepernick or Teddy Bridgewater (the 20th-22nd most owned respectively).  If you were banking on picking up QB16 as a bye week fill-in during your RSO season you were probably out of luck.

As a counterpoint I looked at Ryan Fitzpatrick, the true embodiment of replacement level QBs.  He was just 19% owned before the season began and ultimately finished as QB11 in average scoring so I would admit that he was the rare case of a viable fantasy starter being widely available on RSO.  The interesting thing though lies in Fitzpatrick’s RSO contracts.  A measly 1% of RSO owners have Fitzpatrick locked up for another year.  So while you can find somebody like Fitzpatrick to help you through a few games this season, you can bet that somebody in your league will overpay for him in the subsequent free agent auction.  Instead, you could be content to have a young, potential stud like Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota under contract for rookie money for another 2-3 years.

In summary, I believe these numbers perfectly illustrate the different dynamic of an RSO league and why you need to value young QBs more highly.  You may think that that a value quarterback will be available for you mid-season but chances are they’re already owned by the time you get to the waiver wire.  The best way for you to ensure that you own that QB before they “pop” is to grab them in your rookie draft.  If you get lucky, and I do admit that this is a crapshoot, you could find yourself paying little salary for much production.  After all, the beauty of RSO is it’s similarity to the real NFL, so why would the value of rookie QBs be any different?  Remember what happened when Russell Wilson’s cap-friendly rookie contract allowed the Seahawks to spend their money elsewhere?  Championship.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Cashing Out – Players to Sell

Updated: April 18th 2016

In dynasty and RSO leagues, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying active year round in trade talks.  Player values fluctuate more than ever during this time of year.  If you’re willing to stomach some risk, there’s an opportunity for profit.  When discussing trades, I often hear that owners are afraid making a move and having it backfire in the long term.  My strategy is a bit different as I’m unafraid to make an aggressive move if I believe I’m getting more value at the time of the trade.  If you accept that you will lose in some trades but believe you will win out more than 50% of the time, be as aggressive as possible.  Right or wrong, I do not just consider deals made to be potential wins or losses.  I also think this way about trade talks that were close, but never materialized for whatever reason.  For example, trades I’ve declined have potential to be wins or losses as well though my roster has remained intact.

In this off-season edition of Cashing Out, I’ll explain which players I’m actively looking to sell before the 2016 season.  

JordanMatthews

Jordan Matthews finished with 997 yards and 8 TDs in 2015

Jordan Matthews WR PHI – One of the most polarizing players in dynasty leagues, Jordan Matthews has an ADP of 26 in Dynasty League Football’s April 2016 mock drafts.  Personally, I wouldn’t draft him within the first four rounds.  Philadelphia figures to run a more conservative offense under Doug Pederson as Kansas City ranked 24th in passing yards in 2015.  Jeremy Maclin managed to have a very strong first season with the Chiefs, but I see him as a far superior talent to Matthews.  When exploring trades for Matthews, I’d attempt to package a 2016 pick with him to land Sammy Watkins, Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Alshon Jeffery, Brandin Cooks, Jarvis Landry, or Kevin White.

Marvin Jones WR DET – After signing a 5 year, $40 million dollar deal with the Detroit Lions, Jones is now viewed as the 1a or 1b option in a Lions offense that will have to find ways to replace Calvin Johnson’s production.  Jones’ inclusion on this list has more to do with a lack of confidence in Matthew Stafford than anything.  Fantasy owners have spent the past few years chasing Stafford’s 2011 season in which he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TDs to be largely disappointed with Stafford’s fantasy scoring.  According to Pro Football Focus’ end of 2015 quarterback rankings, Stafford ranked as the 23rd best quarterback.  While there’s an opportunity for Jones to absorb many of Johnson’s 150 targets in 2015, I don’t have confidence that he’ll be a top 25 WR on a weekly basis.  I’m looking to sell as I believe there will be quite a few owners in my leagues who like him more than I do.

Jay Ajayi RB MIA – While Miami has not be quiet in their attempts to land a running back this off-season, April may be the perfect time to sell Ajayi.  If I owned Ajayi, I’d email every owner and attempt to sell the fact that he’s currently in line to be the lead back.  After the trade with Philadelphia, Miami may have moved back too far to land Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott at pick 13 in the upcoming NFL Draft.  I’d certainly bring this up in trade talks and sell the fact that at worst he will likely split carries with the drafted running back.  I’m also very worried about his ability to hold up and have a long career as his knees caused him to fall to the 5th round of the NFL Draft.  Even with the uncertainty of the NFL Draft a few weeks away, his value is likely higher today than it may ever be.

Alfred Morris rushed for only 751 yards in 2015, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.

Alfred Morris rushed for only 751 yards in 2015, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.

Alfred Morris RB DAL – We’ve all heard the popular narrative that anyone can succeed running behind the Dallas offensive line.  Left for dead, Darren McFadden may have proved this to be correct in 2015 by revitalizing his fantasy value with 1,089 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry.  My concern with Alfred Morris is due to his lack of versatility.  Never an option in the passing game, Morris may only see the field on obvious running downs.  I don’t see him getting more than 10 rushes per game and don’t view his as a top 25 RB option to open the 2016 season.  Lance Dunbar, Darren McFadden, and potentially a RB acquired in the draft make the Dallas backfield crowded enough for me to avoid at this point.

Martavis Bryant WR PIT – Bryant’s inclusion strictly has to do with the structure of RSO leagues.  I’m cautiously buying Bryant in standard dynasty leagues where you keep your entire roster from year to year, but I cannot justify rostering Bryant long-term in RSO.  If his contract is for anything more than league minimum, he’s hurting your roster with his cap hit.  As a fan of his immense talent, I own Martavis Bryant in my RSO league.  In that league, he’s entering the 2nd year of a 3 year deal worth approximately $6 million per season.  Not too long ago I considered him to be a huge asset at that price.  Now, I’d be willing to do anything possible to move him since there’s no guarantee he’s reinstated for the 2017 season.  If the history of Josh Gordon and others suspended players teaches us anything, it’s not to assume reinstatement is automatic.  Not only will I be actively looking to move Bryant for nearly anything, I might be willing to move back a few spots in the draft just to unload that contract.  If I can find a buyer, the increased cap space is worth enough to move back a few spots and run the risk Bryant returns and is successful in 2017.  This strategy may prove to be difficult for me after writing this article, which I’m hoping my leaguemates don’t see.

Stay tuned later this month as I’ll explore players that I’m actively trying to acquire in the off-season addition of Open the Wallet – Players to Buy.


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

Understanding Free Agency

Updated: April 17th 2016

2016 has seen a splurge of free agency spending by NFL teams in a year without top tier talent in the pool.  The total value of contracts given to free agents by NFL teams has topped the $2 billion mark already.  A number of large contracts were given to NFL free agents, many of whom are considered marginal talents by some analysts or playing at a non-premium position like running back.  Are these contracts really as bad as some suggest?  This article provides some context into reasons for the league free agency spending splurge in 2016 and why this might not happen again for a few years.

A few key provisions of the 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement contributed to this year’s free agency spending splurge by NFL teams.

Salary Cap Rollover

NFL teams may carry over unused salary cap space, with year-end adjustments, each year by submitting notice to the league office.  The Jacksonville Jaguars team gives us a great example of how this can be used by NFL teams as they have had the most cap space of any team each year from 2013 onward with 78 million in 2016.  Table 1 details the Jaguars adjusted salary cap in relation to the league wide salary cap number.  We should also note that the league salary cap has increased more than 25% from 2013 to 2016.

2013 2014 2015 2016
Jaguars 146.2 151.8 168.5 190.3
NFL 123.6 133.0 143.0 155.3

Table 1. NFL Salary Cap vs Jacksonville Jaguars Adjusted Salary Cap (in $ Millions)

Minimum Team Cash Spending

The “89 percent” rule specifies each team must spend, in cash, 89% of the total NFL Salary Cap for each of two 4-year League periods including 2013-2016 and 2017-2020. This means NFL teams must spend about $494 Million from 2013 to 2016. This minimum spending requirement is not an issue for the large majority of teams in the NFL with the average amount of cash needed to be spent to meet the minimum at about $103 million for 2016.  This number is well below what most teams will spend in 2016.  A few teams will have to spend significant dollars to meet the minimum spending threshold, however.  There is not really much of a penalty for not spending the minimum cash amount.  A team must pay any shortfall to players on the roster during the time period, allocated according to rules setup by the NFLPA.  In reality, a team will not purposely miss the minimum threshold as no reason exists for the team to pay money for past performances when it can allocate cash to players who will help the team in the future.  Table 2 lists salary cap space, minimum amounts of total cash spending needed to meet the minimum threshold, and total free agency spending for the four largest free agency spenders in 2016.

Team Salary Cap Space Min. Cash Spending FA Spending
Jacksonville 78 158 222
Oakland 74 144 169
Houston 40 132 139
NY Giants 59 98 202

Table 2. Team Cap Space and Minimum Cash Spending (in $ Millions)

The median amount of total free agent spending per team is about $49 million in 2016 at this point. Our top four spenders averaged $183 million.  It is fairly evident that those teams who needed to meet the minimum threshold and had large amounts of cap space tended to spend big in free agency.  Cleveland and San Francisco, two teams with plenty of cap space, conversely spent very little in the free agent market.  Neither team needed to spend money in free agency to meet the minimum cash spending limit.  There is also the question of where each team is in the development cycle.  Neither the 49ers nor the Browns will likely compete for a division championship for a couple of years at least.  Both teams are beginning the rebuilding process accumulating many draft picks this year.  Our four highest spenders are each expected to challenge for playoff spots soon.

You might also ask why each team did not use their cap space to lock up their own players for the long term, particularly Jacksonville and Oakland with lots of cap space and many young emerging stars. I believe Oakland would have loved to sign Mack and Carr while Jacksonville could have locked up Bortles and Robinson for years to come.  The CBA limited each club in this case.  Contracts may only be renegotiated after three years for drafted players and two years for undrafted players.  The young players mentioned above have only in been in the league for two years and were high draft picks.  Allen Hurns, however, is a prime candidate to receive an extension with the amount of cap space Jacksonville has and 2016 being the last year of Hurns’ undrafted rookie deal.  It is also possible each club would have chosen not to extend their young players given that the teams have control of each player for two more years on cheap rookie contracts.

Cash Spending vs. Salary Cap Hit

The difference between cash spending and salary cap hit also needs to be addressed before we look at individual contracts. Table 3 details a hypothetical 4-year $60 million dollar contract with a $16 million dollar signing bonus and progressive salary increases each year.  The signing bonus is prorated to each contract year for salary cap purposes resulting in a $4 million cap hit each year from the bonus.  The entire signing bonus is applied in the year given producing a large cash charge in the first year.  Giving large signing bonuses to free agents or converting future salary to signing bonus on existing contracts is an effective means of meeting the minimum cash spending limit.  Conversely, many teams with cap struggles restructure contracts by converting a portion of the current salary to a signing bonus.  The current cap hit is reduced while increasing in future years.

Year Bonus Salary Salary Cap Cash
1 16 8 12 24
2 10 14 10
3 12 16 12
4 14 18 14

Table 3. Cash Spending vs Salary Cap Charge (in $ Millions)

Overspending?

The casual NFL fan may not have heard of Malik Jackson (5 years – $85.5M), Olivier Vernon (5 years – $85M), and Kelechi Osemele (5 years – $58.5M), but NFL teams have paid handsomely for their future services as a few of the highest paid free agents from 2016. However, these deals are not quite what the big numbers would suggest when we examine the contracts closely.

Let us look at the Malik Jackson deal for example. Jacksonville may cut Jackson after the 2017 season with only $6 million in signing bonus left to count against the cap.  A portion of that cap hit may be moved further in the future with a June 1st designation.  This is an overriding theme for most of the large contracts signed this year.  In reality, the contracts are four or five year contracts in name only.  Most are more accurately described as two year contracts with team options for two or three additional years and a minimal cap hit relative to the projected cap if the player is released.   This is further demonstrated by the fact that only $863 million is guaranteed out of the $2 billion in contracts signed in free agency.  Expect release or renegotiation of contracts in the future for many of the players signed this year.

Conclusion

The 2016 free agency spending extravaganza is an event we likely won’t see for another four years. The end of the first four year minimum cash spending period and multiple teams with accumulated excess cap space likely contributed to teams spending more on free agents this year.  Teams will always spend big money on premium free agents, but premium players hitting the free agency pool is becoming very rare given cost controlled rookie contracts and the leverage teams have with the franchise tag.

References: The data used in writing this article came from Spotrac and Matt Papson’s Salary Cap Analysis Series on Reality Sports Online.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.