2017 RSO Writer’s League Reviews and Lessons

Updated: February 18th 2018

The contributors to Reality Sports Online finished our second season of the RSO Writer’s League recently.  The 10-team league features PPR scoring and each team rosters 20 players with 1QB/ 2RBs/ 2WRs/ 1TE/1 Open Flex/1 Flex starting requirements.  One of the goals for this league was providing the readers content and insight into the ways writers view their own team situations.  This article focuses on a couple of team reviews and lessons learned from some of the RSO staff.  Special thanks to Matt Goodwin (@mattgoody2) for his significant contribution.

Team Reviews

Matt Goodwin (5th Place Regular Season)

Another year, another earlier exit than I hoped for in the playoffs. Unlike last year where I was Le’Veoned in the playoffs, this year I created my own demise by starting Tom Savage as QB2 at the last minute over DeShone Kizer who had a solid game against the Packers. Had I made that move the playoff landscape could have changed as I would’ve knocked Bernard and his Todd Gurley hot streak out of the playoffs.  Anyways, I could make all sorts of excuses for my team underperforming this year such as OBJ’s season-ending injury, Hunter Henry’s role in the Chargers offense, and Jay Ajayi’s trade to the Eagles mid-season, but in the end through building a deep team and some trades I had a decent shot to go far in the playoffs.

Year 3 presents significant challenges for me. While I have a very nice core coming back (an extended Tom Brady, OBJ, Kareem Hunt on a 1.08 rookie deal, Ajayi in his first year as starter in a nice Philly offense, Henry with no Gates (if he ever retires), I will need Corey Davis to step up and be my WR2 to have a legitimate shot to win this league in 2018. I traded my 2018 first along with Melvin Gordon and AP post-auction for Ajayi and Davis with the thought that Davis could contribute as a rookie and if not, I had a high-priced top WR (Beckham) and a likely stud WR (Davis) on a reasonable rookie deal to basically settle my WR corps at a solid average price. That remains a decent possibility. If not, I still have a good bit of faith in Jamison Crowder who is going to cost me $4.2 million next year. If Davis produces, I can slide Crowder to the flex and my starting lineup is basically done save for a QB2.

I swung and missed on a few guys this year on smaller multiyear deals and jettisoned a few already by cutting Paxton Lynch and trading Samaje Perine. My biggest miss was my two year deal for Isaiah Crowell figuring the Browns invested enough in their line to commit to the run game while being more competitive. Well, Hue Jackson foiled that plan with his stubborn play-calling (as a Browns fan I’m pleading for the team to fire Jackson and pick up anyone but Jeff Fisher). So Crowell heads into real-life free-agency and I’m saddled with a $19.1 million salary for him in 2018, which may be somewhat paralyzing given that my 2018 cap commits are already $139.3 million.

So I’m somewhat cap constrained and down a 2018 first rounder, but optimistic I can fill my needs well and fairly cheaply other than potentially the QB2 position in our Superflex league. The available QB Free Agents in our league have potential (Cousins, Rivers, Bortles, Tyrod, A. Smith), but we’ll see what happens.

Bernard Faller (3rd Place Regular Season, League Champion)

Nothing is quite as good in fantasy as unexpectedly winning a championship which occurred for my team this season.  Like many other teams, Todd Gurley almost singlehandedly bullied my squad to the league title.  I viewed my team as an above average group with three pieces (Gurley, Evans, and Reed) capable of producing near the very top of their position and solid starters elsewhere.  My expected typical weekly starting lineup going into the season was:

QB1 – Stafford, Open Flex- Rivers, RB1 – Gurley, RB2 -Miller, WR1 – Evans, WR2 – Jeffrey, TE – Reed, Flex – C.J. Anderson/Emmanuel Sanders.

What went wrong: My biggest fail starts with Jordan Reed.  Reed played hurt most of the season when he was available and split time with Vernon Davis throughout the year.  Reed did not play after week 8 and Washington put him on I.R. late in the year.  I counted on Reed as an elite option at tight end but instead he wasted a roster spot on my bench most of the year on the hope he would come back by the end of season.  Mike Evans hugely underperformed this season due in part to erratic quarterback play as Jameis Winston played with a shoulder injury for stretches.  Evans also suffered bad luck in the touchdown department.  My flex spot was a mess for much of the season forcing me to use the waiver wire extensively.  While Anderson played well this season, Denver went to a more committee approach at running back after the first month and negative game script adversely affected him.  Sanders suffered from nagging injuries and ugly QB play all year.

What went right:  The biggest winning move before the season undoubtedly was trading my 2018 1st and a year of Brandon Marshall for Gurley and his large contract ($23M this season) mid-season in 2016 after a bad start to the year for Gurley.   It was a bet on Gurley’s talent and against Jeff Fisher being the coach going forward.  New coach Sean McVay fully exploited Gurley’s explosiveness with the ball in his hands both as a runner and receiver.  I was not planning on using my 2nd round rookie pick, Evan Engram, extensively going into the season as rookie tight ends rarely produce.  Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury really opened the door for Engram to have a big role and allowed him to showcase his skill-set producing one of the better rookie tight end seasons in recent memory.  He was not a game-changer this year but hitting on what looks like a reliable starter moving forward is definitely a win from a 2nd round pick.  I played the value game at quarterback, spending less than $15M combined salary for my two quarterbacks.  The move played out well with Stafford and Rivers ending as the QB7 and QB8 in our league.

Looking forward:  Most of my starters return on contract except for Rivers and Reed.  The hope is that Jimmy Garoppolo, who has looked great in his brief career so far (and whom I have signed to a very cheap deal in our last free agent auction), will be a solid replacement for Rivers on my team.  Gurley and Evans form a nice young core with each showing the ability to vie for top scorer at their respective position.  I accumulated another late 1st in addition to my normal rookie picks and will have about $50M to spend in the free agent auction to help my team.  With reliable starters largely in place, the main offseason goal is adding as many high upside players as possible in free agency and the draft.  My free agency strategy typically revolves around using long-term contracts on safer options and cheaper high-upside gambles while using shorter-term contracts on expensive starters.  While potentially missing out on some star players, this strategy allows fielding a competitive team year after year with costly mistakes easily rectified in short order.

Lessons Learned

Stephen Wendell – “I must value draft picks now”.

This will be a popular sentiment after last year’s rookie class success.  Draft picks generally rise in value for superflex leagues.  The additional starting spot means quarterbacks, who usually are not drafted until the late 2nd round, will routinely be taken starting in the 1st round of rookie drafts.

Robert F. Cowper – “Trust the process”.

The key here is do not panic if things go wrong in a single season.  Remain committed to a rebuild if that is the path you chose or you could end up with a mediocre team for a long time.  Do not change your valuations of rookie picks just because some did not pan out.

Matt Goodwin – In looking at our league, it seems that the frequent trading teams seem to do well and those that have two solid QBs in their starting lineup, with few exceptions. I think my decision to trade down in the second round and free myself from Sterling Shepard’s contract cost me Deshaun Watson who will be a significant force in this league for years to come. Getting a QB in the rookie draft in Round 2 and hitting on it is the best potential value you can extract in this league and I missed with Kizer who will surely be replaced by the Browns first overall pick this offseason. It’ll definitely be another fun ride (and hopefully every team in the league has less injuries next season).

Bernard Faller – 1. Doubling down on Matt’s point about having two reliable quarterbacks (or more) because it is so important.  You are putting yourself at a big disadvantage forcing positional players in your superflex spot.  An owner typically must pay a premium salary for a positional player to score an equivalent level of points.  2.  In a shallow league like this, there will almost always be quality players left on the waiver wire.  Make sure you keep some salary available to reinforce weak spots on your team or grab that great player who shows up out of nowhere.  3.  Do not bail on the season too early.  The rewards of winning a championship dictate you should try as hard as possible to make the playoffs.  Make a realistic assessment of your team but anything can happen if you get in the playoffs.

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.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller