Early RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 22nd 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information.

Our last volume in the series ends with the wide receiver position.  This group is the deepest in fantasy football, reflecting the emphasis in the NFL on the passing game.  Targets have recently trended away from the primary receiving option for each team and spread out to multiple receivers.  This has resulted in many secondary targets on NFL teams having bigger and more reliable roles creating more fantasy value across the position.  I view some of the best values found throughout early auctions and players you should probably avoid based on market cost.

Top Avoids

Wide receiver production relies heavily on the abilities of the quarterbacks throwing the ball.  It stands to reason that RSO owners should make their large wide receivers investments in those receivers with good quarterback play.  Houston quarterbacks Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson, while likely upgrades over Brock Osweiler, do not exactly qualify.  The Texans are merely hoping for competent quarterback play at this point.  This makes DeAndre Hopkins (WR8) a dangerous investment at his cost.  Hopkins does not possess great size, speed, or athleticism and struggles at times creating separation.  He relies more on body control and great hands to make contested catches.  Hopkins’ RSO cost is largely a relic of his absurd 192 target season.  This is a scenario unlikely to ever happen again.

Jarvis Landry is a very good football player.  Let us get that out of the way.  He is very elusive with the ball in his hands picking up a lot of yards after the catch.  However, Landry’s fantasy value depends on a high target load more than most receivers due to his extremely low average depth of target.  Any slight decrease in volume with new quarterback Jay Cutler could substantially impact Landry’s worth.  There is also a lot of uncertainty in Miami regarding Landry’s future role.  The Dolphins have shown minimal interest in extending his contract and Landry statistical production likely drops significantly if he moves on from Miami as very few teams in the NFL feature the slot wide receiver like Miami has over Landry’s career.  The main problem is that RSO owners are treating Landry (WR14) as a definitive WR1 for the Dolphins and any future team he might move to.  We no longer can take that for granted at this point.  Landry compares favorably to a player like Golden Tate, who had similar production last season and someone you can buy for about half the cost of Landry.

Some things never change as the football season approaches.  Another season, another “This is the year Donte Moncrief breaks out” cry inevitably comes from the fantasy community.  There is no good way to sugarcoat it.  Moncrief (WR24) has been one of the least efficient WR2s in the league over his career on a occasionally prolific Colts offense.  The yardage numbers are ugly no matter whether you look at a per season basis, per game, per target, with or without Luck.  There might not be a single player in fantasy football who receives more hype based on so little production.  Moncrief was one of my favorite rookies typically going in the late 2nd / early 3rd rounds of rookie drafts.  Unfortunately his athleticism has not translated to the NFL game at this point.  Moncrief’s future in Indianapolis is uncertain at best.  The Colts reportedly made a strong push for Alshon Jeffrey this offseason trying to replace Moncrief and the Indy WR2 only has a year left on his contract.  Moncrief is also dealing with another shoulder injury this preseason.  There are far too many cheaper players available with more upside and safer floors to put your RSO cap dollars in Moncrief at his current price.  I am OK giving Moncrief a very cheap long-term speculative contract based on his age and athletic profile but that appears unlikely in the current market.

Best Values

As stated earlier, the wide receiver position boasts value deep into the board.  I would have no issue filling my receiver core in deeper league strictly with players who are priced as WR4s saving big money for other positions.   I do not have the space to detail every good value, but I will highlight a few of the best ones below.

There might not be another wide receiver more underrated in the fantasy community this decade than Jordy Nelson (WR11) as one of the premier big play threats in the league.  He finished as a WR1 every full season played since 2011 in standard leagues and has consistently produced big touchdown numbers.  Nelson finished as the overall WR2 in 2014 and the WR1 in 2016 after returning from an ACL tear prior to the 2015 season.  Nelson clearly did not have the same explosiveness last year that we are used to but should look even better another season removed from his injury (which is downright scary for opposing defenses).  Nelson is surely near the end of his career at the age of 32.  Do not let that worry you.  The Packers top wide receiver could produce enough for most of his contract value in a single season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm of the Green Bay passing attack.

If you are searching for a WR2 at WR3 prices, look no further than Emmanuel Sanders (WR34).  The Denver wide-out ended as the WR20 or better and accumulated at least 137 targets each of the last two seasons.   The key for Sanders is target concentration.  There might not be another team who focuses so much of its receiving work on two players with fellow standout Demaryius Thomas gulfing down the other main share.  The next highest target player in 2016 after Sanders’ 139 targets was running back Devontae Booker with only 46.  There are simply no other significant receiving options in Denver.  The quarterback situation likely limits the upside of Sanders but that situation is also unlikely to get worse than what Sanders dealt with over the last two years.  The Bronco wide receiver is one of the safer bets to beat their auction cost.

The Baltimore Ravens surprisingly led the NFL in pass attempts each of the last two seasons.  This has not been a particular effective NFL strategy with quarterback Joe Flacco.  His yards per attempt, passer rating, and QBR all plummeted below his career averages over that time span.  While not necessarily good for Flacco and Baltimore, this emphasis on the passing game is good news for Ravens wide receivers in the fantasy realm, particularly Mike Wallace (WR43) and new arrival Jeremy Maclin (WR42).  The Ravens lost around 390 targets from last year’s team highlighted by newly retired Steve Smith (103 targets) and injured Dennis Pitta (119 targets).  The Baltimore tight end group has been decimated by injuries and suspension this offseason leaving bottom of the barrel athlete Nick Boyle and 36 year old Ben Watson atop the depth chart.  This will not be a heavily targeted group.  Former first-round pick Breshad Perriman is, once again, dealing with injuries also.  Combine all of this information together and you get a picture where both Wallace and Maclin are in line for a lot of work this season.  Both should easily out-produce their RSO market contract costs and at least one of them likely crushes their value.  This should be one of the top wide receiver combos to target for RSO owners going with a cheaper approach at wide receiver.

 

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

 


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.

Early RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 16th 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information. We move to the tight end position, probably the shallowest group in fantasy football.  There are few teams in the NFL who feature the tight end position in the passing game and many of the top options at the position have struggled staying on the field.  Let us take a deeper look at the position to sort out where we can find value.

When they are Healthy…

Two players stand out from the rest in the tight end fantasy landscape when on the field, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed.   The problem for each player over their career is staying on the field.  Reed has never played a full season and Gronkowski has not played a full season in 6 years.

“Gronk” dominates in a way that is almost indescribable when on the field and he is used in ways unlike other players at the position.  He is a true downfield threat and incredibly difficult to tackle one-on-one by defensive backs.  The New England powerhouse leads active tight ends in yards per reception at 15.0 (the next highest is Travis Kelce at 12.8) and receiving yards per game at 69.3 (the next highest is Travis Kelce at 58.4) while also accumulating 68 touchdowns.  Antonio Gates, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Brandon Marshall are the only active players with more touchdowns and each has played 10+ seasons in the league.  Remarkably, Gronkowski accumulated his touchdown total in only 88 career games or 5.5 full seasons.

Not to be outdone, Jordan Reed firmly placed his name in contention for best at the position with his performance over the last two seasons.  The Washington tight end produces in a different manner than Gronkowski as a classic move tight end relying on beautiful separation skills and tremendous ball skills in the short game.  He owns a high 76% catch rate over his career.  Reed finished as the overall TE1 in fantasy points per game for PPR leagues each of the last two seasons despite being used as a decoy in multiple games last year after separating his shoulder (which he amazingly played with in multiple games).  Taking out those shoulder injury games last year, Reed’s 16-game average in 23 games played over the last two seasons looks like this:

102 receptions / 136 targets / 1101 yards / 11 touchdowns       Those are WR1 numbers in PPR leagues.

While not on the level of Gronkowski and Reed for fantasy purposes, Tyler Eifert is another player worth mentioning in the oft-injured group.  The Cincinnati tight end offers tremendous weekly upside as one of the premier red zone threats in the entire league.  The former first round pick scored 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons in only 21 games.

Even when taking into account the additional injury risk associated with each of these players, they are all well worth their current costs.  Each of these players displayed the ability in past seasons to make up the current average cost in only half a year’s worth of play and each will be a huge value-win if they play close to a full season.

Best of the Rest

Travis Kelce finished as the overall TE1 last season.  His reception and yardage total have increased each season in the league and he is the de facto top receiver in Kansas City with a bunch of unknowns at wide receiver.  The limitations of Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense limit his upside, particularly in the touchdown department, but he is a safe high-end starter for your RSO team.

Greg Olsen remains as one of the only reliable targets in Carolina.  There is a lot of unknown as to what the Panthers’ offense will look like after drafting two offensive weapons in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel.  Similarly to Kelce, Olsen is limited by his quarterback play which caps his upside to a certain degree.

One of the more surprising stories from 2016 was the quick return of Jimmy Graham from a patellar tear, historically one of the worst injuries for NFL players.  Graham faded in the second half of the season and will never see the target load that he saw in New Orleans, but is still a dynamic receiving threat for the Seahawks.  Look for a nice season as he moves farther from his injury and is more incorporated into the Seattle offense.

Expect some Regression

Kyle Rudolf is not what one would call a dynamic receiving weapon.  He is a slow (4.88 forty time) un-athletic tight end who averages just under 10 yards per reception and only 6.3 yards per target for his career.  Rudolf demolished his career highs in yardage (840, previous high: 495) and receptions (83, previous high:  53) thanks to a massive increase in targets (132, previous high:  93) which lead to his overall TE2 finish in PPR leagues.  This big usage increase was largely the result of an awful offensive line which could not pass protect or run block. With limited weapons at both receiver and running back, quarterback Sam Bradford was forced to dink and dunk at Rudolf throughout the year.  The Vikings addressed both deficient areas in the offseason adding offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Mike Renners, running back Latavius Murray, and wide receiver Michael Floyd in free agency.  Minnesota also drafted 2nd round running back Dalvin Cook.  With last year’s first round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell likely seeing more action, look for a significant step back from Rudolf.

The Tennessee massively upgraded the receiving core drafting Corey Davis with the 5th overall pick and taking Taiwan Taylor in the 3rd round, while also adding Eric Decker in free agency thanks to the New York Jets overhaul.  These moves are great for Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense but not so good for Delanie Walker’s fantasy prospects in a run-first scheme.

Streamers and Matchup Plays

There are some names RSO owners should keep in mind for those who like to stream the tight end position in shallow leagues or employ a cheap multi-tight end matchup based system from week to week.  Few players disappointed as much as Coby Fleener last season given his sky-high expectations last season.  He still finished as the TE15 last season.  With Brandin Cooks gone, Fleener could see 100 targets in the high-volume Saints passing attack.  He is a bargain at his TE22 cost as one of the only players in this range with legitimate TE1 upside.  Charles Clay (TE29) performed as a mid range TE2 each of the last two seasons and finished last season on a strong note as the overall TE3 in the last month.  Clay does not possess much upside but he is a useful player on a team without much in receiving weapons.  When you are looking at weekly plays an RSO owner wants touchdown upside and nobody on the low-cost list has as much as Jesse James (TE27).  He is a massive target and could see lots of red-zone looks on a Pittsburg offense which could be among the league’s best.

 

Average RSO Tight End Contracts


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.

Early RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: August 6th 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information. This week I move to one of the most volatile positions in fantasy football, running back, where increased injury rate and player turnover make long-term decisions extremely difficult.

Top of the Market

No shock here.  Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell are the three highest paid running backs in RSO leagues and also atop the overall player salaries.  There is not much of an argument to be made about why they do not belong here.  Each is a proven game changer at the position and potential league winner capable of putting up 2,000 total yards with extraordinary potential touch volume.

The only issue which concerns me is the lengths of contracts where each is averaging nearly four years.  I do not have much of an issue with Zeke given the dominant offensive line mostly locked up with long term deals and a quarterback who was excellent as a rookie, but questions linger about his off-the-field behavior.  I am a little more skeptical of Bell and Johnson though with situations more in flux and extensive workloads which increase injury risk.  Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger could retire any year moving forward with no real alternatives on the rosters leaving a possibly dicey quarterback situation for each.  Bell also has multiple suspensions, major injury issues, and is not signed to a long-term contract with Pittsburg (and will not be until after the season, if at all).

The Rookies

The rookies listed in the table all came from one auction as most rookies will go in rookie drafts instead of auction, so do not put too much stock into the results.  I believe it is a useful reminder, however, of inflated rookie prices which can occur in startup auctions.  Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook all landed maximum term contracts in the auction with average salaries that would place each in the top-14 among running backs without playing a down in the NFL.  This is just a reminder not to go overboard with rookies in your auction.

An Important Tier Break

For those owners who like to invest in two heavy volume running backs for your starters, remember the name Lamar Miller.  He is the last player on the list before a major tier drop, coming off the board as the RB15 in average salary.  The main reason for this big tier break is certainty of volume.  Forgetting the rookies, I have every back priced above Isaiah Crowell projected for 270+ touches over the course of a full season.  I do not have any other back projected for over 250 touches.  The primary problem for these other backs centers around 1) uncertainty of role (example: Spencer Ware) or 2) playing on projected bad teams limiting workload (example: Carlos Hyde).

Top Buys

C.J. Anderson heads my list of top running back buys this season.   The Denver back is virtually assured the the lion’s share of carries with last year’s bust Devontae Booker (already injured), late rounder De’Angelo Henderson, and former superstar Jamaal Charles (still returning from injury and on the roster bubble) as the only competition.  Anderson averaged 18 touches per contest through 7 games last season before injury ended his year and was the RB12 during that time.  The Broncos improved their offensive line in the offseason and will want to rely heavily on the run game no matter who ends up starting at quarterback.  Anderson is a steal as the RB26.

Bilal Powell (RB35), Danny Woodhead (RB37), and Theo Riddick (RB42) provide cheap useful starters, particularly in PPR leagues, for those teams taking a wide receiver-heavy approach.  Each has standalone value and a lot of upside should the other committee back on their respective team go down with injury.

Top Avoids

The narrative surrounding Ty Montgomery (RB22) has amused me to no end this offseason.   Montgomery started 12 games, including three in the playoffs, once bruiser Eddie Lacy went down with injury.  The converted wide receiver rushed for more than 11 times once and accumulated more than 60 rushing yards once in his 12 starts.  Those games were with James Starks (likely done in the league) and Christine Michael (who has been cut more times than we can count) as the only real competition for touches.  Green Bay was even giving Aaron Ripkowski touches.  Now the story is that Montgomery will take over a far bigger role after the Packers drafted multiple running backs with far more talent than last year’s backs? Montgomery is the classic perceived “great situation” case boosted by small sample efficiency stats which were propped up on two games against a Chicago defense decimated by injuries.

I am a big fan of C.J. Prosise and the multi-dimensional skill-set he brings.  I am not paying starter money on a short-term contract for a player likely needing multiple items going his way to take over the primary back role.  Grab Prosise on a cheaper longer-term contract if possible in your league as a nice lottery ticket.

 

Average RSO Running Back Contracts


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.

Early RSO Contracts: QBs

Updated: July 31st 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information.  To that end, I begin a new series examining early RSO auctions starting with a look at quarterbacks.

The Elite

Aaron Rodgers comes in as the most expensive quarterback by more than four million per season for a good reason.  He finished as the QB1 or QB2 every health season except for one (he finished as the QB7) while he was a starter.  There is not a safer player in all of fantasy football in my view. Historically, Rodgers has not been among the league passing attempts leaders, which sometimes limits his yardage totals.  He more than makes up for lack of volume with massive yearly touchdown totals do to extreme efficiency and extensive red-zone usage.  The Packer star also adds nearly mistake-free play, not throwing double-digit interceptions for seven seasons.  With all of the gushing praise just put on Rodgers, I will not own him in many leagues.  The drop-off from Rodgers to more cost-friendly options is not enough for me to justify the enormous premium placed on Rodgers in most instances.

Andrew Luck is the next quarterback at $5.5 million more per season than the third QB.  Luck finished as the QB2 and QB5 in PPG for 2014 and 2016.  The talent and upside are undeniable but his current price does not reflect the risk involved of a quarterback with multiple shoulder injuries who is not throwing the ball yet.  There are others available for a much cheaper cost (Russell Wilson for example) with similar upside and without the injury concerns.

Youth vs Veterans

The youth movement appears to be in full effect for quarterbacks in RSO leagues.  Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, and Dak Prescott come off the board next.  Carr and Winston, in particular, represent purely speculative projections at this point.  Carr paved the way to his best fantasy finish as the QB10 in PPG while Winston has not finished better than the QB19.  Tampa Bay added premier deep-threat DeSean Jackson and the first tight end taken in the NFL draft, O.J. Howard this offseason where Oakland took a more modest approach on the receiving spectrum adding tight end Jared Cook and return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson.  None of these additions warrant the cost of these players.

Moving down our table we find Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan as the QB9 through QB11.  This seems like a bargain for the QB2, QB3, and QB5 from last season even taking into account the expected regression from the group in 2017.  Ryan obliterated his previous career highs in essentially every statistical passing category and the Falcons lost their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan who moved on to coach San Francisco.  Less discussed is Brady’s likely regression coming into his age 40 season.  The Patriots’ quarterback put up his best season since his 50-touchdown performance in 2007 with a campaign that included a crazy 28-2 touchdown to interception ratio.  Brees, on the other hand, had a very normal Brees-type season.  He is among the most consistent quarterbacks in the league.  One must look all the way back to his time in San Diego for a finish outside the top 6.  Expect another one in 2017 with around 5,000 passing yards.

The Bargain Bin

There are many less expensive, quality alternatives to be found for those looking to go cheap at quarterback in either 1-QB 2-QB/Superflex leagues.  Phillip Rivers is a rock solid borderline QB1/QB2 who consistently provides value at his mid-QB2 cost.  Andy Dalton provides a lot of upside at the QB18 position.  He finished as the QB3 in 2013 and was the QB4 through week 13 in 2015 prior to an injury which ended his season.  The Bengals signal-caller carries more volatility than most with a revamped offensive line that struggled in 2016 and arguably lost its two best linemen in free agency.  This is balanced by a loaded skill position group which gets two of Cincinnati’s most dynamic playmakers back from injury, tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver A.J. Green.  The Bengals also added two of the top offensive talents in the draft, wide receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon.  For my money, Tyrod Taylor represents the best value among quarterbacks in 2017.  He finished as as a QB1 in PPG the last two season thanks in large part to his dynamic rushing ability.  His limitations as a pocket passer likely prevent him from being a top end performer, but the ability to get a solid starter at backup money is what makes an RSO team.

Rivers, Dalton, and Taylor all cost less than Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz for some reason.  Wentz predictably struggled mightily as a rookie finishing outside the top-24 quarterbacks in passer rating and QBR.  He was let down by one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL and a coaching staff that asked far too much of a rookie forcing Wentz to throw the fifth most attempts in the league.  Wentz has the physical tools to become a good quarterback, but there is not much reason for an RSO team to gamble with a significant, long-term investment on an unknown when there are plenty of cheap, reliable alternatives.

 

Average RSO Quarterback Contracts

 


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.

Evan Engram: RSO Cheat Code?

Updated: July 24th 2017

This week we examine one of the rookies who I am taking in many rookie drafts, New York Giant tight end Evan Engram. The title of this article really emphasizes the fact that Engram is a receiver but gets the tight end designation in fantasy leagues.  It is a big advantage and the reader might look to last year’s fantasy stats for why that matters.  Last season’s WR32 scored more fantasy points than the TE4 in PPR leagues.  A player must only put up moderate receiving numbers to become a consistent fantasy starter at tight end.  I take a deeper look below as to why Engram could eventually become a monster for your RSO team.

The Player

Engram led all FBS tight ends, by a significant margin, with 926 receiving yards in 2016. The next closest tight end from a power-5 conference was Clemson’s Jordan Leggett with nearly 200 less yards.  Unlike other players taking advantage of small school athletes, Engram routinely beat up on upper-level competition.  His top 6 receiving games, all with 95 yards or better, came against five SEC conference opponents and ACC powerhouse Florida State.  His top receiving performance of 2016 came against national champion runner-up Alabama, whom he dismantled for 138 yards.  Per Pro Football Focus, Engram led all draft eligible tight ends in touchdowns and yards per route run out of the slot.

Put simply, Engram is the best route runner and receiver at tight end in this rookie class by a wide margin. Linebackers looked silly trying to stay with Engram and he routinely defeated defensive backs.  His tape shows a player with the quickness and agility to separate easily for short, easy completions while also displaying blazing straight line speed to win deep as a “seam-buster” or on the boundaries.  The Mississippi standout attacks all levels of the field with success as shown by his target map below.  Another weapon in the Rebel’s arsenal is his ability to win near the endzone where his leaping ability and route running stood out.  If you do not trust my evaluation, just listen to 2016 Giants defensive captain linebacker Jonathan Casillas describing Engram during New York OTAs:  “He is not a small guy. He runs routes just as good as any receiver we have on our team. He creates separation and he has great hands.”

 

Evan Engram Target Map (Pro Football Focus)

 

The Athlete

Engram is a physical marvel. His 4.42 forty yard dash at the NFL combine is among the fastest ever for a tight end.  His size adjusted speed score is the eight best at the position since 2000.  Player Profiler shows a player testing in the top 16% of each workout metric for tight ends.  In fact, Engram is such a high-end athletic outlier that he has no true comparable at tight end in terms of draft position, size, and athleticism.  One must look to big and fast receivers like Terrelle Pryor and Demaryius Thomas for players with athletic traits approaching Engram’s.

But do those traits work at the NFL level? Some people say a “tweener” like Engram rarely succeeds in the NFL.  This is a myth.  There are many recent examples of smaller move tight ends and large wide receivers with similar physical profiles having successful seasons in the NFL.  A few high level examples of these players, all of whom weighed within about 10 pounds of Engram at the combine, include Delanie Walker, Aaron Hernandez, Jordan Reed, Marquise Colston, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans, Calvin Johnson, and the aforementioned Thomas.  Engram is a superior athletic specimen to many on that list.  The main reason that few players with Engram’s size and athleticism have succeeded in the NFL is that there are so few players with Engram’s combination of size and athleticism.

Situation

The community seems somewhat polarized on the situation in New York with many claiming a bad, crowded situation and others seeing a very nice landing spot. I am somewhere in the middle.  Most people agree Engram should see the big majority of tight end targets in short order with only undrafted Will Tye and late rounder Jerell Adams as the primary competition for touches.  The passing game is a mixed bag in New York.  On the plus side, the Giants have finished eighth or better in passing attempts the last two seasons.  The offense should continue emphasizing the pass game with a bad offensive line and running backs who are replacement level type players.  On the down side, those attempts will be made by Eli Manning.  Manning has always been one of the more erratic quarterbacks throughout his career but is nearing the end and looked dreadful in 2016 finishing between Blake Bortles and Carson Wentz in QBR.

The receiving core is also not nearly the obstacle many people claim. Odell Beckham Jr. will continue to dominate targets without much question.  Brandon Marshall, on the other hand, produced one of the worst receiving seasons in recent memory last season and turned 33 this year.  It was not all his fault.   Jets QBs burdened Marshall with one of the worst catchable ball rates in the league.  Marshall’s new contract and interviews make it clear he likely has, at most, two years left in the league.  Sterling Shepard had a decent rookie campaign but his production was over exaggerated by a big target load necessitated by a lack of quality receiving options in New York.  Shepard recorded the third least receiving yards and yards per reception of anyone with his target load. His production per target was more in line with running backs and older tight ends than quality receivers.

Role

Engram will move all over the field in the slot, out wide, attached, and even in the backfield at times. Most importantly, the addition of Engram (and Marshall) brings diversity to a somewhat predictable Giants offense.  New York used more three wide receiver formations than any team in the league last year relying primarily on undersized Beckham, Victor Cruz, and Shepard.  The Giants can now use more 2-WR and multiple tight end sets with Marshall, OBJ, and Engram as the primary receivers.  Perimeter blocking should be improved for the run and shallow passing game with two large receivers matching up against smaller defensive backs at times on the perimeter.  This is done without losing much in the passing game.  At other times, Manning receives isolation opportunities for easy completions when defenses attempt to cover Engram with linebackers.

RSO Outlook

Engram’s distribution of outcomes is wider than most tight ends given his unique skillset and size at the position, meaning he has higher probabilities on both the high side and low-end of production possibilities. This is exactly what you want at tight end where middle of the road starters are both cheap and plentiful through trade or the waiver wire in most leagues. The floor for Engram is a multi-dimensional H-back type of player who the Giants do not figure out how to use consistently.  He does not see the field regularly due to his smaller size and lack of blocking ability leading to fantasy irrelevance.  The fantasy ceiling sees Engram used consistently on the field as a receiver who is a tight end in designation only.  This is where his wide receiver-like attributes give Engram a big leg up on the other rookie tight ends for fantasy purposes.  One might think of a Marques Colston or Jordan Matthews type of role in which Engram eventually sees 100+ targets yearly. This would put him in the conversation as a yearly top 6 option at tight end given the likely efficiency at the NFL level and touchdown potential.

Engram is currently going off the board as the 13th player in rookie drafts and the third tight end behind O.J. Howard and David Njoku.  I am happy to take the discount on the player with the highest fantasy upside at the position and is only a moderate risk at his cost.  The difference between Engram and other tight ends is clear.  One hopes the other rookie tight ends eventually become good tight end options for your RSO team.  You hope Engram evolves into a good receiver who happens to be designated as a tight end which makes for a potential fantasy monster.


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.

Rookie Undervalued/Overvalued

Updated: July 23rd 2017

One of the great things about fantasy football is the wide range of opinions on rookies coming into the NFL. This week I join fellow RSO writers Nick Andrews and Robert Cowper analyzing a few rookies my compatriots feel the fantasy community is too high on or is not getting the attention they deserve. Be sure to read the other great takes from Nick and Robert on Reality Sports Online.

Undervalued

Nick – Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers

During the draft process, I read a one-on-one interview where Williams explained his 1-year leave from BYU as well as his misdemeanor charge. Needless to say, his actions were something that we all did as 19 and 20-year-old males and should not be held against his skillset. In fact, I think they refocused his passion for playing football. He’s ranked as the 29th rookie on DLF, behind players such as Wayne Gallman and D’Onta Foreman. He fits what Eddie Lacy was during his first two seasons as a physical runner that can dominate inside the red zone. Unlike Lacy, he has the ability to play on passing downs depending on what role Ty Montgomery has as the main passing down back. In a format like RSO where rookies are asked to produce more quickly because of the contract limitations, I have Williams ranked as my 11th player (pushing TEs further down). You can likely get him at a discount and wait until the middle of the second and early third. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger at the start of the second though as I am predicting Williams to be this season’s Jordan Howard of value.

My take:  Solid producer at BYU with average NFL size, bottom tier athleticism, and little passing game production.  Williams displays more power than his size and athleticism dictates and very good running instincts on interior lanes.  Opportunity exists with a wide open depth chart containing only former wide receiver Ty Mongomery and two other running backs drafted later than Williams.  The Packer situation premium is overstated a little at this point though.  Green Bay moved to a more Rodgers-centric passing attack trending downward in rushing attempts the last four seasons  finishing 29th last year.  Williams is going off the board as the 21st player in June MFL rookie drafts.  This is about right for a solid but limited player with a good opportunity to assume a two down role on a high powered Green Bay offense.

Robert – Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants

My choice for the player currently being underrated and under drafted is RB Wayne Gallman from the Giants. I became a fan of Gallman’s during Clemson’s championship season last year.  In my National Championship preview, I said that Gallman was a “slasher of a running back who I feel would be at home in a zone-running scheme.” Unfortunately, Gallman didn’t luck out with his destination’s scheme but I still think he can be successful.  Gallman has good size at 6’0″ 215lb but had a disappointing combine which dragged down his real life and fantasy value despite great college production.  He was essentially a three year starter and put up just under 4,000 total yards on 741 touches.  He also stayed healthy and out of the headlines over those three years which is more than you can say about many of the more talented RBs ahead of him. DLF has Gallman ranked as the 22nd best rookie which is actually higher than the 25th that I ranked him.  The surprising part though is his ADP: I had him at 25 in my mock draft but DLF’s ADP has him at 36.0.  The hate has officially gone too far.  That ADP has him behind question marks like Ishmael Zamora, Kenny Golloday and Aaron Jones.  Gallman will start the season on the depth chart behind sophomore Paul Perkins.  Perkins won the job late in the season, ending with four straight double digit carry games.  His production in those games was disappointing though: 62 carries, 271 yards, 2 receptions, 9 yards, 0 TDs.  That’s why the Giants invested a fourth round pick in Gallman, which is actually a higher pick than the fifth rounder used on Perkins in 2016.  To my eye, Perkins is JAG (just a guy) and won’t last as the unquestioned starter in New York.  I’ll be investing in Gallman with the hope that he realizes some value in 2017 and heads into 2018 atop the depth chart.

My take:  Gallman brings virtually identical size and athleticism to Williams but plays with less power and shows more passing game skills.  The Giants are another team with little on the depth chart which is currently fronted by Paul Perkins who did very little to impress last season with his opportunities.  New York provides one of the least friendly running back environments in the league with a bad offensive line and an offense which relies heavily on the short passing game with heavy 3 wide receiver sets resulting in small rushing attempt totals under head coach Ben McAdoo.  The Giants have also routinely used a deep committee under McAdoo which limits the carries for all running backs.  Overall, this is a low-upside player in a low-upside committee situation.  Gallman costs very little at his rookie ADP of 33 and makes for one of the cheaper rookie running gambles with a true opportunity for carries early.

Overvalued

Nick – Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis

I understand the excitement of having a young running back in an offense that has Andrew Luck and has been the hot topic landing spot for any rookie RB the last couple drafts. There are two main problems that I have with acquiring Mack in his current state: lack of draft value and scheme misalignment. Starting with the draft value, before being selected by Indianapolis Mack was ranked in with an ADP in the 30’s. Since then his value has risen to 20th on DLF but has been drafted between 17th and 13th in three of my RSO leagues. Every draft there are players that get pulled up after being selected based on land spot and lose any sleeper value that they had as a late 2nd or 3rd round pick because their acquiring price becomes a high 2nd or maybe even a 1st round pick. I would rather take two or three shots at drafting a valuable RB (such as Jamaal Williams) later in the draft than climbing the board to acquire what was a nice 3rd round pick in March.

The second reason I am avoiding Mack in drafts is that his skillset does not align with how the Colts offense is built right now. Mack was a player that could make big plays when he was able to move downhill and use his elusiveness to make defenders miss. Despite his elusiveness, however, he doesn’t break tackles and only gains minimal yards after contact. This is fine if you play behind Dallas’ or Oakland’s offensive lines that give 3-5 yards before contact. Instead, Mack is playing behind the Colts’ line which is one of the worst in the league and therefore will not be offering consistent holes for Mack to find. Mack also has an awful 54:1 fumble ratio in college that could limit his number of touches and plays until he can be more reliable. Overall I think Mack would be a good pick ONLY IF you can acquire him at the start of the 3rd round, which at this point is highly unlikely. He will become easy enough to acquire 12 months from now when owners are frustrated that he wasn’t able to usurp the ageless wonder, Frank Gore. For these reasons, I’m out.

My take:  Mack displays breakaway speed and plus athleticism at a similar size to Williams and Gallman.   Unfortunately, he also possesses the worst football skills among the group.  He routinely misses rushing lanes forcing runs to the outside.  Mack’s reliance on speed worked against low-level college competition but will find far less success in the NFL against much better athletes.  Mack was not asked to do much pass protection in college.  His small hands combined with atrocious ball security led to an abysmal fumble rate in college.  Mack possesses the widest range of outcomes of any player on this list.  His athletic ability could translate to a dangerous weapon for Indianapolis but his lack of ball security and pass protection skills are the type of deficiencies which lead running backs to short careers in the NFL if they are not corrected early.  An ADP of 19 is on the high side for a player with so many question marks.

Robert – Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins

My choice for the player currently being overrated and over drafted is RB Samaje Perine from Washington. According to DynastyLeagueFootball.com, Perine is the 14th ranked rookie and his rookie ADP is 10.50, meaning he’s a first round pick in most leagues.  Personally, I ranked Perine as my 22nd rookie (10th RB); I did bend to consensus a bit and put him at 15 in my most recent mock draft.  The situation in the Redskins backfield gives me pause.  Last offseason, there were times when we thought Matt Jones, Keith Marshall and Rob Kelley each would start the year as the RB1.  Matt Jones’ struggles with ball security and injuries are well documented but he does have the most draft capital invested in him of all these guys.  A season ending injury was the death blow for 2016 combine workout warrior Keith Marshall but maybe he catches some attention again this training camp, or maybe he gets cut in July, who knows.  “Fat Rob” is probably the least skilled of the bunch but his best ability might be his availability.  None of this is even considering established passing down back Chris Thompson who will likely see about 100 touches of his own.  Given the fact that all of the aforementioned backs are, currently, still on the roster, it makes me hesitant to draft Perine.  I believe Perine is the most talented of the four every-down backs, but at this point they all have some reasonable chance to emerge as the starter so I’m going to stay away.

My take:  It is not surprising that my colleagues selected all running backs for their choices in a deep class at the position.  Each back chosen in this article was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft but their rookie ADP varies from 33 for Gallman all the way up to 8 for Perine.  Perine is easily my favorite back of the group.  He brings true NFL power back size and incredible strength with nice agility for his mass.  Where pass protection is a weakness for most rookies that limits playing time, Perine’s blocking is a strength.   I have little doubt the former Sooner should receive 15 carries a game by the end of year given the Washington depth chart.  As stated by Robert, though, the coaching staff may feel the need to mix in a variety of players.  The problem for Perine is his 8th overall rookie ADP.  This is an extremely hefty price point for a player who will never be even moderately involved in the passing game and will be heavily touchdown dependent in fantasy.


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.