A Comprehensive Guide to Extension Decisions

Updated: September 27th 2017

With a ground-breaking extension feature getting rolled out next week (for more details from the league office, take a look here) Reality Sports Online GMs have been scurrying around for inside information like the Duke brothers seeking out the Frozen Concentrated O.J. insider crop harvest report in Trading Places. While this article may not have much about the “secret sauce” that factors into what offer your expiring players are receiving from Weeks 5 to 13 this season, treat this as a comprehensive strategic approach to making contract extension decisions.

These are my opinions and advice based on the information I have about extensions. Just like you, I’m not swimming in insider information. I have, however, put a lot of thought into devising the methodology to approach this decision with. Feel free to use these thoughts, critique them, ignore them and question them on Twitter . Either way, remember that the RSO guys have created something innovative based on the Moneyball mindset that may require a few kinks to be worked out early on. So if you encounter any type of issues, please be kind and patient (and refrain from social media negging) because this platform is infinitely better than what you were playing before and I’m saying that as a customer.

As a disclaimer, I’m not certain I’ll be using my one league voted in-season extension this season as I tend to be a free-market guy who would prefer to see what is going on in the auction. Being somewhat conservative, I haven’t yet been saddled with many “bad contracts” in my leagues that I haven’t been able to get out of, and ultimately that’s the biggest risk an owner faces with these extensions. The biggest risk the RSO guys face with extensions is actually the polar opposite-having the algorithm spit out too kind of a deal for extensions. Remember that when you see your initial offers.

  1. The Airline Ticket Purchase Analogy– When you are looking at taking a trip and booking flights, you don’t keep searching prices after you’ve already purchased the ticket. Likewise, you don’t get on the plane and ask the person sitting next to you how much they paid for their ticket.

So, in similar fashion, if you have extensions enabled in your league and you like the price/years offered for an expiring player the first week it is offered (note that only your team can see the offers your player is getting on your team page) and have the requisite cap space in future years to do it, pull the trigger and don’t look back.

Also, with the “everything is an asset” in an RSO league caveat-if you as an owner are transparent about what your player offers are to other owners, you may be able to work out a favorable trade with them.

  1. What’s Your Benchmark?- Since the only other viable extension opportunity for you is the franchise tag, that is a number you are now forced to know like the back of your hand for every position you have on your roster. If you haven’t calculated the Top 5 positional average for players in your league under contract for 2018 yet, you are already behind. If you are behind, don’t worry, it is not hard to calculate that average by position.

Remember, that the franchise tag for your player by position is the HIGHER of the Top 5 positional average or 120% of your current year salary for that player. The franchise tag does have a term limit of being used twice and obviously has a multiplier effect of 120% if you’ve used it once already.

That said, you should always be comparing your annual average value of your extension offer to your franchise tag cost for the upcoming year. If the extension offer is cheaper for the player of need, that may be an indication that you want to extend that player.

I’ll predict that with potentially high extension price tags and future increases to auction prices (see #3) that the franchise tag will be a more strategically used asset across leagues in the future.

  1. Predicting Future Auction Prices- I’m saying this for those who have been on the RSO platform for a short period of time where the talent in free agency hasn’t turned over much in leagues due to rookie contracts not expiring, etc. Just like you have certain expectations of what someone should cost prior to the auction via your prep, the real auction takes twists and turns and gets more unpredictable as players like Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski become free agents for the first time in your leagues. Add that into a dynamic market where several teams are coming into the auction with significant ($100m +) cap space and you get scenarios like my main league where Brown went on a huge contract for 4 years, $243.5m.

Then, when a few players trickle back into the auction and teams have bountiful cap space, you see overpayments being made for players who don’t deserve as much as they are getting. That’s where your perception of where future auction prices are headed can benefit you in looking at extending players. I’ll talk about this more in a bit, but it really is about getting over the initial “sticker shock” of the extension offers.

  1. Sticker Shock and What To Do With It- When you’ve paid a rookie that you sneakily drafted early in Round 2 of your 2014 rookie draft like I did with Devonta Freeman around $1.5m a year for four years, any contract extension offer is going to seem astronomical. Don’t let it be. Of course, Freeman’s rookie contract is well under market value and his extension offer may be more than what you perceive market value to be. Likely, it will fall somewhere in between.

So you’ll likely need to “check down” against what someone like Freeman’s franchise tag # would be in 2018 (of course that’s the summer vs. an in season extension). This is exactly what I’m going to do in Week 5 when the initial offers come out.

Here is an inside look at a spreadsheet I use in my main league to look into future use of franchise tags and extensions. If you don’t have a template like this, you don’t have to be an Excel whiz to set one up. Note that my calculation for Freeman’s tag is based on the Top 5 positional average for running backs. I’ll try to explain more about Allen Robinson later as I’ve already been approached by one owner who is trying to figure out what to do with him this season (NOTE: I have not seen any offers for Robinson and just put these salaries in as a placeholder that may not be realistic).

  1. Players with Small Sample Size (Rookies and Breakouts)

For current rookies or players without much history on their side that have performed well thus far this season, the algorithm has a very small sample size and the offers are likely to be outside of your comfort zone. If you think that someone like Tarik Cohen has league star written all over him, feel free to accept the offer coming his way. I personally would lean on a larger sample size and take my chances in an auction, but one thing you have that the others in your league don’t is current control over that player.

  1. Age Matters

From what I gather, age of player is a definite component of the algorithm that determines extension values and contract lengths being offered. If you’ve seen players like Brandon Marshall fail to separate from DB’s lately, you’ll know that you don’t want to give too many years or dollars to someone on the backside of their career.

At the same time, consider some pivotal ages for your wide receivers and running backs. I typically would view 33 year-old receivers as one year guys with few exceptions (this is when a player like Andre Johnson experienced his decline). In terms of running backs, I’m not giving any running back over the age of 27 more than two years. If you’ve noticed the running back leaders this season in fantasy points, you’ll see that rookie running backs and guys like Todd Gurley and Freeman sit atop the board and they are all 25 and under.

I know there are exceptions to every rule/player, but remember you are in essence via the extension bidding against yourself here and not the market.

  1. I’m All About Value

With likely high prices across the board for extension players, to hit a home run on one, you’re likely to be taking on significant risk or finding value in the marketplace. With that, I think creativity is important and that would include taking a look at players who were already injured this season and are out for the season. Guys like Cam Meredith and the aforementioned Robinson. Let’s dig deeper on Robinson since I’m facing this very decision.

The good: he doesn’t turn 25 until next August, has a monster season under his belt that was two years ago (80-1,400-14), already had surgery a day after his ACL injury with no other structural damage and is a potential real-life NFL free agent this offseason.  He also has no other NFL injury history. His 2017 stats were 1 catch for 17 yards before his unfortunate injury.

The negatives other than the fact that he was injured include his quarterback Blake Bortles not being able to optimize his talents, his 2016 stats being a down year (73-883-6), his Jacksonville Jaguars head coach being uber-focused on the running game, and this injury.

However, from an extension standpoint, there may be an opportunity to arbitrage here as most of Robinson’s negatives can be viewed as positives from an extension standpoint.

Taking into account that Robinson hasn’t produced at an elite level in two years would seem to mean that you could be getting him at an extension number that shows there’s future uncertainty in his outcomes. Yet, Robinson figures to be back playing for the start of the 2018 season and potentially on a new team (or with a new QB other than Bortles). He could be on a “one year prove it deal” with Jacksonville or elsewhere and based on his size, speed and skills, should be able to get back to being a top 20 wide receiver.

So taking into account the likely lack of fluctuation in his weekly offers due to his 2017 being over, his subpar 2016, and some future uncertainty, you may be able to get Robinson for way less than if he was coming off of an all-pro season. Additionally, since you can extend players who occupy your injured reserve space, you can get the benefit of not having to occupy a valuable 2017 roster spot with Robinson.

Not sure what the offers will be for Robinson, but I think anything over $20m a year starts to get me out of my comfort zone based on the fact that much of his uncertainty won’t clear up until the offseason and you have to decide by Week 13 what you are doing with him.

Other than injured players, you may want to look a mid-tier tight ends for potential extension value as well as the position is typically viewed as having less skill.

OK, folks, hopefully this methodology guide on how to approach extension decisions will be helpful to you this season and down the line. Remember, you don’t have to use the extension, so make the decision that best works for your team’s current and future success.


Matt Goodwin is in his fourth season as senior writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributed for numberFire for several years. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (3 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles and take his side when he’s debating player value with @RobertFCowper.

League Contract Settings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

As we round the final turn heading into training camp, let’s get into the final segment of the League Settings article series.  If case you’ve missed them, the first two articles focused on League Scoring Settings and League Configuration and Settings. As Alec Baldwin emphatically states in my favorite movie, Glengarry Glen Ross in reference to executing contracts, “there’s only one thing that matters: get them to sign on the line that is DOTTED!”.

The Reality Sports Online platform is unlike any other with respect to contracts. The Free Agent Auction Room and the online rookie draft allow for all sorts of both fixed priced contracts (rookie wage scale) and dynamic market-priced deals (free agent auction). Therefore, when a commissioner is creating or tweaking contract settings in their league, there are a myriad of things to consider so let’s dive in head-first.

1) Don’t Go Too Crazy With Long Term Contracts

I know, I know. You joined this platform because you actually wanted to use your brain. All the other keeper leagues feature roster keeper decisions that anyone can make. Keep Mike Evans for another year? Sure, can I have more steak with that? The RSO element of a league or commissioner-elected quantity of multi-year contracts enables maximum strategy on how you prioritize who gets long-term deals and manage yearly salary cap space.

Each year, you get the same allotment of contracts elected by your league (I know this is a question I get from newbies all the time so I wanted to address this). However, post-auction you can make any type of roster moves and trades to acquire whatever long-term or short-term talent you want as long as you have the cap space and roster slots to do it. If you want your team to consist of all four-year contract players, it may be difficult to amass, but it can happen.

When folks join a league like this, the inkling is to keep your studs in perpetuity. Talent and value constantly change, and making a multi-year contract mistake in your first year is crippling. My inaugural year had teams splurge on Trent Richardson and C.J. Spiller. It took a lot to get out from under those deals.

As a result, my recommendation is to start your league with the following contract allotment: 4 year contracts: one, 3 year contracts: two, 2 year contracts: three. The good part of this approach is it focuses your four year deal on someone you really value or the possibility of hitting a developmental home run at a cheaper price.

One year deals can be incredibly value in RSO leagues, assuming you strategize them well. For instance, in last year’s RSO Superflex writers league, I picked up Melvin Gordon on a one year, $8.0 million deal coming off an injury. I loved his talent and figured that his zero touchdowns scored in his rookie season was an anomaly. I was right, and now I have used my franchise tag on Gordon for the upcoming season for one year, $20.3 million.

I personally like using at least one of my two year deals on a quarterback and tend to like wide receivers for long term deals. It is rare for me to give a running back more than two years, based on how frequently that position changes and the short life span of most high-end backs.

2) Have A Two or Three Round Rookie Draft; Have Them Offline

If you’ve read some of our offseason pieces, the rookie draft has been a huge focus. I love the fixed price of rookies, especially at the top of the second round where the contract costs drop precipitously. To keep the rookie pool from getting diluted (like in a five round rookie draft), I recommend having two to three rounds of rookie drafts for most leagues that have 10 to 12 teams. That way there are a few coveted rookies who spill into the auction (think Jay Ajayi two years ago), but enough talent to not have rookies get dropped from rosters for weekly moves.

In terms of having the rookie draft offline, this is a mindset shift for me after having our writers league draft over email this year. I was astonished by how many trades occurred and how efficiently we could still pick rookies. I adhere to the more strategy the better, so I loved all the trade activity that occurred in the rookie draft.

Rookies remain incredibly valuable, especially if you can hit on your draft picks. Those who don’t like rookies can maximize their value by trading these picks for prime assets either at the trade deadline, throughout the offseason, etc.

3) The New Normal: In-season Contract Extensions

In April, Reality Sports Online released details on in-season contract extensions here. In general, I’m a fan of this as it adds another element of strategy to the league. However, I would recommend that owners proceed with caution on banking on in-season extensions or making trades with limited knowledge of how this will work in practice (it is all theory now) this offseason.

For starters, I would recommend that all leagues vote on how many in-season extensions they want to adopt each season (and potentially revisit this decision after the first year of this feature). My main league voted on one extension for transparency purposes with the thought being that we love the auction and want the player pool to be as deep as possible in the auction, but still allowing the opportunity to exercise the in-season extension for one key player per team.

One thing is obvious from all the guidance in Kyle’s release and my interactions with Stephen and Matt on the in-season extension. Players will not be taking pay cuts. So if you franchised tagged a player last season and the breakout season never came, that salary still serves as the base for a potential extension in season. These will be difficult decisions to make.

Further, until you see what the algorithm spits out in Weeks 4 through 13 of the 2017 season, it is a totally crapshoot. Especially with the famed rookie class featuring Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, and Sammy Watkins. Those rookies have a low base salary by virtue of the rookie wage scale but figure to jump to what they’d command in the auction if they were free agents on the in-season extension market. For instance, I paid 4 years, $169 million for OBJ in an auction last summer.

Both historic player performance and current year performance will factor into player salaries as well, so you really would be making a decision with imperfect information if you were basing 2017 offseason moves (including franchise tagging a player in hopes of extending them next summer) or trading for a player who could be extended.

4) An Outside-the-Box Thought

As you all know, I’m a huge fan of RSO and it is currently the only league platform I play on. That said, there are inherent limitations of any start-up which has to weigh the costs and benefits of making platform changes. For me, one sticking point is the fact that any player thrown out by an owner in an auction has to be thrown out at a minimum bid. Often towards the end of the auction, there’s a developmental type player I have my eye on and unless someone else throws that player out or I do and ensure that someone else bids on that player, the player I’m targeting may end up on my team as a one-year guy, which wasn’t my intent.

As a result and based on a conversation I had with Stephen this offseason, our league has adopted an off-platform workaround to that issue. Basically, every team in our league has the ability to convert a 1 year, $500k minimum contract to a multi-year contract of the length of their choice (two, three, or four years) within 24 hours of the auction by notifying the commissioner in writing. The commissioner would then have to use the edit contracts feature to alter the contract length. The intent would be for this player to be of the devy type, so ideally defenses and kickers would be excluded but your league could decide on that as you see fit.

By implementing this option, your league would be adding another layer of strategy without impacting the overall contract allotment that you have elected for your auctions.

5) Franchise Tags

The franchise tag is a super-valuable strategic piece that has been in RSO leagues since inception. Basically any expiring player can be extended for the higher of 120% of current year salary or the Top 5 positional average of your league for players under contract.

Since the salary of these players can get fairly high, I recommend that each league allows one franchise tag per team. A player can be franchise tagged and traded if the “Finalize Franchise Tag” button is selected in the offseason.

I personally have used my tag before and it typically pays off if you signed an oft-injured player who produced on his deal. For instance, I turned a two year, $26 million deal for Rob Gronkowski from our inaugural year into to franchise tags at 120% raises. Gronk is now out of franchise tags and will return to the player pool this offseason.

Positionally, depending on your league, there are some leagues where significant value can be found in using the franchise tag for positions like quarterbacks (those late round QB types), tight ends and DSTs. Wide receivers and running backs typically command a prettier penny.

6) Trades/Waivers

I think trades and waivers are fairly standard in RSO leagues. For trades, we let our commissioner review and make the decision. In a format like this, almost every deal has some form of long-term strategy, so something would have to be egregious or somehow demonstrate collusion (which frankly is super rare) for a deal to get rejected. To ensure that teams that are trading draft picks are invested long-term in our league, we make teams trading future year picks kick in at least 50% of next year’s league dues upon trade execution.

In terms of waivers, the FAAB system prevails for one year players. It is fairly standard.

 


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributed for numberFire for several years. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

League Configuration and Settings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Hopefully all of you are enjoying the NFL offseason. Now that you’ve read my article on proposed league scoring settings, let’s get into Part 2 of the Reality Sports Online strategy series on League Configuration and Settings. This article will not address contract settings, as I’ll save that for the last article in the series.

Whether you’re a new owner or a commissioner trying to make your league better, there are some subtle and not so subtle changes you can make to improve your league. So take advantage of all the customization that Reality Sports Online offers.

Here are my five commandments of Reality Sports Online league config and settings:

1) Flex Your Muscles

Regardless of whether you play in a Superflex league (with option to start two quarterbacks), a more traditional league, a PPR one or one with individual defensive players, you want the starting lineup configuration to be as flexible as possible. Keep the strategy flowing by having multiple flex roster spots in your starting lineup. I’d advocate for having at least two flex positions in a starting lineup and even a third if you have ten starters (I’m assuming a league where you start a team DST and not individual players).

Basically, the thought is that by offering multiple flex roster spots in your starting lineup, you can focus your auction and rookie draft strategy on the best available player as opposed to boxing yourself into certain positions. As I mentioned before in the scoring settings article, since the NFL is a passing league, you’ll want players to fill these flex spots that are basically like Swiss Army Knives, who do it all.

My main league has 10 starters-three flex spots (RB/WR/TE) paired with a QB, RB, two WRs, a TE, a K, and a DST. My Superflex league starts 8 players a QB, two RBs, two WRs, a TE, a flex, and a superflex (which is typically a quarterback based on league scoring settings; however there are times where a flex player with a good matchup can outperform the quarterback).

2) Have a Deep Bench

You don’t join a league like this to not have players on your team for a decent period of time. So build a bench that capitalizes on that premise and for roster flexibility. I’d advocate that your bench is somewhat proportional to the number of contracts you can add each season between the rookie draft and free agency. To that end, I recommend that total rosters in non-IDP leagues are between 20 and 24 players in a two-round rookie draft league. Of course if you have 5 rounds of rookie drafts, most leagues would have deeper benches.

You want to have a league that does have something to offer on the waiver wire so as not ever quarterback is on a team at the start of the season, so having the right size bench would account for that. Additionally, you want to have a deep enough roster size wise that you can actively participate in the Free Agency Auction annually whether it be for a handful of players or many.

3) Don’t Base All Playoff Spots on Win/Loss Record

On a platform like this, you want your scouting and preparation to be rewarded. Sometimes that doesn’t always happen in terms of wins and losses on the fake gridiron as weekly variation and luck play into fantasy outcomes.  There is also schedule randomness. Therefore, this is the recommendation I feel most strongly about: have a few wild card spots based on some clear indicator of a really good fantasy team. I most prefer total points scored for the regular season as that really eliminates the head-to-head luck factor. RSO has power rankings which are a hybrid of what your record would be against all opponents in a given week for the season, as well as total points.

Specifically, what I’m recommending is that in a 12 team league that your top four seeds get in on record and the two wild cards get in on total points scored. This keeps virtually every team in the playoff hunt and incentivized strategically through the end of the regular season. It also makes the trade deadline super interesting on whether you as a GM are a buyer or a seller.

It gets trickier for 10 team leagues, because I’m of the opinion that 50% of teams or less should make the playoffs and the odd number makes it hard to do that bracket-wise.

4) No Divisions

In lockstep with #3, I’m a huge proponent against having divisions in fantasy football. You want the schedule to be as random as possible and for everyone to play each other at least once if the league size permits. While you may have a best friend who is your fantasy football “rival”, having divisions and playoff spots for a division winner potentially allows mediocrity to be rewarded via automatic playoff berths for division winners. I’d rather have the playoff teams be the best in the league and not just the luckiest.

5) Say Yes to Injured Reserve

In a platform like RSO, putting a player on IR for the season is a big decision choosing cap space over player availability in most cases due to injury, suspension, or whatever your league rules stipulate. I advocate for having two Injured Reserve spots to manage for all types of scenarios with players, including deferring decisions on whether or not that player is in your future plans.

Remember, unless you have manual changes through your league commissioner on IR-Designated for Return most players that go on IR in RSO are irreversible decisions for the year.


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

League Scoring Settings

Updated: July 16th 2017

As part of my fourth season writing, Matt and Stephen have asked me to write a series of Reality Sports Online strategy articles, sharing what makes the platform so unique and next level. To those who have been participating in Reality Sports Online leagues for at least one year now, some of my strategy series may simply be suggestions to augment or tweak your leagues. Of course any league not in its first year making seismic strategic shifts should let owners participate in a vote to make scoring changes. For you rookie GMs kicking the tires on the only fantasy football platform I use anymore, welcome.

What you’ll get from these articles, aside from hip-hop and pop culture references are ideas on how to optimize the strategy dynamic in your league. What you won’t get right away is too much player commentary, rookie draft analysis (we have plenty of good articles on both by talented writers). Feel free to reach out to me or the Reality Sports Online guys with any questions, knowing that you are part of something special and unique that also has amazing and prompt customer service.

My first article is going to focus on scoring settings. Other articles in the series will include roster and league configuration and contracts. Don’t worry, I will get to the newly introduced in-season contract extensions as well.

So, like Andy Dufresne said to his letter to Red in Shawshank Redemption, if you’ve come this far, come a little further. I can’t promise pristine ocean water on a Mexican beach, but you can potentially take that vacation after you win your coveted league championship.

Here are my five commandments of Reality Sports Online league scoring settings:

1) The Higher Scoring, the Better

You didn’t come to Reality Sports Online to play in some fantasy clunker with a score of 57.02 to 55.61 with limited scoring options. You came to be a year-round General Manager, to make frequent trades and roster moves, and to figure out how to gain your competitive advantage. With that said, make the scoring dynamic and high as the platform offers customized scoring for yards, touchdowns, etc.

As a rule of thumb, depending on how many starting roster spots you have, I personally like the potential for a good game to crack 200 and an epic performance to crack 300 (think about it like bowling in that regard).

You’re long removed from just rewarding players who score touchdowns from a fantasy perspective and the platform allows lots of creativity and categories for different fantasy scoring than your standard, vanilla fantasy platform. So reward yardage and big plays with bonuses wherever possible.

2) The NFL is a Passing League, so…

The key to RSO is that it turns fantasy into reality. The reality is that all but a few running backs are in timeshares, any quarterback who has half a good season is never a real NFL free agent, and that most successful NFL teams feature dynamic passing offenses.

As a result, you’ll want to turn fantasy football historic groupthink on league scoring settings on its head. With that, I highly advocate being very creative when scoring the quarterback position. For instance, the main league I’m in rewards quarterbacks with the same amount of points for a passing touchdown (7-again dynamic, high scoring with distance bonuses) that another player would score rushing or receiving. The quarterback is super valuable as a franchise builder in NFL drafts and in team success, so don’t diminish the position in your RSO dynasty league just because Emmitt Smith ran for 21 touchdowns in 1994.

Additionally, I’m all in favor of rewarding passing completions and penalizing passing incompletions. This just adds another layer of strategy in a manner similar to quarterbacks who are successful at running the football does. For starters, it makes almost every offensive play relevant from a fantasy perspective for quarterbacks. The NFL values accuracy from a passer, so why shouldn’t your league? My league currently rewards completions with +0.5 fantasy points and incompletions with -0.5. This really aids passers like Philip Rivers who don’t rely on the deep ball to be fantasy relevant. If you are in a league where you start two quarterbacks, this small change from typical leagues will make the values of quarterbacks more important.

Those of you who fall into the “Late Round QB” camp don’t have to be adversely impacted by dynamic quarterback scoring because you still have the freedom to choose how much you want to spend/prioritize on your quarterbacks in the Free Agency Auction Room and scoring against the position or other positions is still relative. All this does is adds another strategic element to your league.

3) PPR is the way to go

With the NFL being a passing league, of course I’m down with “PPR” scoring in my leagues. This aids in dynamic scoring. Naysayers will say that a player should not be rewarded in fantasy football for not garnering a lot of yards after the catch. However, if that play results in a first down to sustain the drive or contributes to the drive in a positive manner, I’m of the school of thought to reward it. Players like James White, who produced 14 receptions for 110 yards in the Super Bowl certainly exemplify the value of how accretive an NFL reception can be.

If you want the scoring tempered on receptions slightly, 0.5PPR can work. I know some leagues are even moving to rewarding Tight End receptions differently to 1.5PPR to put those players on a more level scoring field with their wide receiver brethren. My personal preference is to not give Tight Ends an extra 0.5PPR because they end up getting targeted more in the red zone anyways, which helps the middle-of-the-pack Tight End derive their middling fantasy value while being touchdown dependent.

I also don’t diminish the full PPR for pass-catching running backs because I think these plays are valuable in a passing league.

Changing direction for a second-I personally don’t like rewarding running backs with points for carries. I, along with my league commissioner, feel like the act of catching a ball (even if for zero yards) requires an act or skill that adds more value than simply carrying the ball for no gain.

4) Punish Mistakes Heavily

If quarterback is such a valuable position, then an elite quarterback should not make many mistakes in a game. So, if a quarterback throws an interception, -2 is not a sufficient punishment if you are doing dynamic scoring where touchdowns are worth considerably more. I’m in a league where all offensive player turnovers (interceptions, fumbles lost) are worth -5 points. It seems drastic, but it will change your league dynamic and add an interesting wrinkle to things. New this year: RSO has added a “pick six” category if you want to punish your quarterback for throwing interceptions that result in touchdowns for the opposing team.

Furthermore, quarterbacks who take sacks by holding onto the ball and making poor decisions should also not be exempt from negative points. RSO has a unique feature to deduct points for sacks taken and I recommend -1 fantasy pts for taking a sack. I highly advocate for these simple, small changes to make your league more exciting.

5) Special Teams/Defenses

For those of you not in IDP leagues, make sure you differentiate in your league scoring what is a dominant defensive effort from a middling one. The Reality Sports Online settings allow customized positive and negative scoring for points and yards allowed. Defenses in my league tend to fluctuate a lot in terms of week-to-week fantasy points where a dominant effort can be worth as much as a wide receiver catching 10 for 150 with two TDs. Our league collectively voted to move in this direction after our first year.

As a guideline, we value shutouts worth 12 fantasy points and then scale down by -2 fantasy points based on tranches of points allowed. Same deal with yards allowed where under 250 yards is worth 10 fantasy points. The key is in a strategic league like this, owners should have to think about not only which team DST they pay for in the auction (and how much), but which they start on a week-to-week basis without simply thinking of whether or not the team may score a touchdown on the defensive end.

If you want to go super dynamic, you will reward return touchdowns by distance as there are bonuses for yardage.

Additionally, in the vein of punishing mistakes, any kicker who misses PATs or short field goals has customized options for negative scoring.

The point is on Reality Sports Online’s innovative platform, with options such as scoring fantasy points for blocked punts, the only limitation to how your league scores fantasy points is your own imagination.


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

Can the Seahawks Make a Run?

Updated: July 23rd 2017

As someone living in Seattle who closely monitors the Seahawks every season, this season feels very different. There is no consistent, dominant defense, no running game, and the team has committed very little financially to the offensive line. Yet as of right now, Las Vegas is still giving the Seahawks 12-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, which is the exact same as the Atlanta Falcons. Here’s three reasons why it won’t happen.

1) The Void of Earl Thomas

While Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett may be the most vocal on the Seahawks defense, Earl Thomas is their clear defensive leader. The defense clearly hasn’t been the same since Thomas sustained his broken leg in Week 13 vs. Carolina. To wit, they’ve given up an average of 24.5 points a game in the four games since Thomas got hurt and that total would be considerably higher if they didn’t happen upon the anemic Rams offense in one of those weeks. You can beat this team through the air of late as Steven Terrell does not hit like Thomas, nor have the awareness to provide the right help as evident in this Davante Adams 66 yard touchdown and this 80 yard touchdown bomb to J.J. Nelson.

Additionally, the leadership qualities that Thomas brings in the huddle and on the sidelines are clearly missing and now distractions like Richard Sherman’s supposed media boycott are interfering with the play on the field. This is the type of situation that doesn’t get questioned when teams are winning handily and humming along, but when teams start to show cracks, issues like this become common. To me, this is one sign that the writing is on the wall for the Seahawks.

2) The Running Game

By now you have probably seen this Beast Mode video, but if you haven’t yet thank me later. Aside from a 72 yard touchdown run by C.J. Prosise earlier in the year, there haven’t been many highlights in the run game of late for the Seahawks. In fact, the team finished the season with three straight games rushing for under 100 yards.

The problem here is twofold: first, injuries have hampered Russell Wilson’s ability to run the read option which had previously produced success for both Wilson getting yardage in chunks as well as running backs like Thomas Rawls. Second, the offensive line has been abysmal from a blocking perspective, as noted in this Football Outsiders table which shows the Seahawks offensive line ranked second-to-worst in the NFL in running up the middle and 29th running to the left end. With these stats, maybe there’s a reason Wilson threw the ball from the goal line against the Rams.

While all indications are that both Wilson and Rawls are at their healthiest since the season began, the Seahawks defense, plus the power run game/read option all have to be working like clockwork for the team to be dominant. Perhaps the Seahawks are gearing up for this in the playoffs, but can the line hold up and can the Seahawks stop opposing offenses routinely too? Seems doubtful.

3) The Opponents After This Week/The Kicking Game

As I predicted in the Reality Sports Online Wildcard Predictions Article, the Seahawks should hold serve at home and win this weekend against the Lions behind the raucous home crowd and playing a suspect Detroit Lions defense. After that, the road gets incredibly difficult.

Personally, I think the Seahawks path ends next week in Atlanta, a team that frankly should have beaten the Seahawks in Seattle earlier in the season. Matt Ryan passed for 335 yards and 3 touchdowns in a narrow 26-24 defeat and Julio Jones had his way with Sherman (7 catches for 139 yards and a TD). The Falcons got little in the run game that week behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, but the Falcons offense is humming right now and with the game being played potentially in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons opportunistic defense would make enough plays to beat the Seahawks.

To me the road ends in Atlanta, but if it doesn’t, it would likely end in Dallas or with a loss in the Super Bowl. It would take Russell Wilson going on an Aaron Rodgers type run for me to believe the Seahawks can go all the way this season.

Added to which, if any game gets close, kicker Stephen Hauschka missed six extra points this season (he was very accurate field goal wise, going 33 for 37). He also only made one 50+ yard field goal the entire season.

For all these reasons, and unless Wilson can take his team on a magical carpet ride, I think the Seahawks will be out in the divisional round.


Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter) and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally provided that reality! Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

Press Your Luck

Updated: September 4th 2016

When I was a kid, I used to love the Game Show Press Your Luck (Editor’s Note, this is my (Stephen’s) favorite game show of all-time). While I’m sure this makes it easy to guess my age, a young me loved the days on winter break or off from school when I was in front of a television with those hilarious whammies and contestants yelling, “Big Bucks! Big Bucks! STOP!” For those of you who have never seen the show, check out a link here.

While the Reality Sports Online Free Agent Auction offers way more substance than those sophomoric whammies, sometimes it becomes necessary to go against your initial instincts and press your luck to go all in on a player. What I mean by this is like the famous saying from the WWE’s Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase that “everyone has a price”, sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone bid wise to get the player(s) that makes you the league favorite.

Today, with many of you yet to have your auctions before the season starts, I will outline how I employed that strategy in two writers/expert leagues the past few weeks and in what situations/scenarios you should consider making bold moves. I’m predicating all of these scenarios based on you having adequate cap space to carry out this strategy without overextending yourself. Of course, another good strategy that sometimes works is making trades pre-auction so you don’t have to pay market prices for players you covet if most of the best players are under contract.

Scenario #1) Only One or Two Elite Free Agent Options Available in Your League

This very scenario occurred for me in my numberFire and friends writers league a few weeks ago (I hate to call anything an “experts” league because to me there’s always someone who I don’t know who I feel is an awesome fantasy player and to this point, a non-writer won the league last year). I was coming into this 10 team, third-year league with a team that has not gotten in done in the playoffs the past two seasons in spite of a combined regular season record of 19-7 and being the highest scoring team in the league the past few years. In my mind, my starting receivers of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were solid, but didn’t offer the upside to compete with the elite receiving options in the league. Most top receivers are concentrated on a few teams that in my opinion pose the biggest threats to me-ESPN’s Leo Howell’s team (Antonio Brown,Mike Evans, Allen Robinson), FantasyGuru.com’s Graham Barfield’s team (Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery) , and numberFire’s Tyler Buecher (Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks).

So, when I took inventory of this and found that Leo Howell would not be franchise tagging DeAndre Hopkins for a second straight year, I determined that my bidding strategy on Hopkins was to win him at all costs because it strengthens my position while weakening one of my chief competitors, one who has gone 24-2 the past two regular seasons.

My $91 million in cap space and the need really to only fill two flex positions in my starting lineup helped justify the massive expense on Hopkins, who by far was the best free agent available in this league and especially so at a position of need for me. So my pre-auction plan was to win Hopkins at any cost for four years-my pre-auction budget was around 4 years and between $140 million and $150 million total. However, Howell had plenty of cap space too and was targeting a return of Hopkins as well.

I ended up signing Hopkins to a 4 year, $171.5m deal which was the biggest contract I’ve seen in any of the three leagues I’m currently in. It sent some shock waves to the rest of the league (and a few Twitter followers) and honestly pushed my comfort zone somewhat because I do think Hopkins may experience some regression this season. However, it was definitely the right move for my team based on him being the premier option in the auction and fitting a team need.

Later in the auction players who are solid starters but not necessarily difference makers fetched big prices as a result of the Hopkins auction and teams being flush with cap space-for instance Randall Cobb received 3 years, $96.5 million and Jeremy Maclin signed for 4 years, $102 million. In essence, I may have set the market on receivers by my huge Hopkins bid and based on what happened afterwards, I’m happy that I added an elite option to my team that I hope puts me over the top.

Scenario #2) You Have Very Few Roster Spots Left

Especially in leagues where you have more than two rounds of rookie draft picks and carry roster sizes in the 20’s, by the time you get to a third-year auction, roster spots may not be plentiful when your auction rolls around. So, you might as well spend your cap space and get what you want, even if some of the pricing runs counter to what you are comfortable with. Sometimes that may involve you winning a player you don’t necessarily want via price enforcing, but more often than not, it will help you carry out a strategy.

For instance, RSO President and Founder Matt Papson and I got into a slight bidding war on Arian Foster, who he ended up signing for one year, $19.5 million. I’m sure that he was probably hoping to spend less, but he only had four roster spaces open coming into the auction for a team he took over and got value where he saw it. If Foster returns to previous year’s form, he fits well into Papson’s lineup (especially since he owns Jay Ajayi also).

But the key to me is that if Foster gets hurt again, Papson is still protected with only a one year deal. This is in and of itself a strategy-Papson is a chess-player and he may already be eyeing some of the 2017 free agents and his option value on Foster is huge. It also capitalized well on his bountiful cap space for very few roster spots.

While I’m advocating for spending your money in your auction, I’m not suggesting giving risky players multiple years on a big contract, however. Sometimes it is better to have the option value, even if the upside is lacking.

Scenario #3) Capitalizing on/Extending Championship Window

Let’s face it-not every team in your league is built to win for extended periods of time. You have to strike when the iron is hot. So if you’re only a flex player away from winning the whole freakin’ thing, go get your player and worry about the contract dollars on the back end later.

For me, furthering my example from #1, I arguably have the best and cheapest starting running back tandem in the league in picking Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley in consecutive rookie drafts. Since I only have this combination again this season (before franchise tags kick in) for a combined $7.7 million, winning time is now (or worst case next year). Heading into that auction, I also had Rob Gronkowski for another two seasons (before franchise tags) for around $15 million a year.

Taking into account Hopkins and the contracts I have, I feel that adding Hopkins extended my window to contend another two years beyond this year and leverages my Gronk and running back core.

Scenario #4) Your League Employs Late Round QB Strategy

If any of you reading this are doing multiple fantasy leagues and not following my numberFire editor JJ Zachariason, he is really one of the true visionaries in fantasy football these days. Plus, he works incredibly hard, is an overall nice guy, and offers tons of strategy and podcasts in terms of how to stream positions like quarterbacks and tight ends.

While the RSO format with multi-year contracts makes it a little more difficult to “stream” QB’s than a redraft league, there are certainly leagues which devalue QB play in your auction market dynamics. My numberFire writers league is exactly that. I mean, prior to Hopkins coming up for auction, I had to sit idly by while Aaron Rodgers was signed by defending champion Rory Ryan on a 3 year, $11 million contract. That may be counter-intuitive to some of you, yet that’s the Late Round QB strategy in full effect and while I would’ve loved to hope in that Rodgers bidding, I had to stay in my swim lane in order to be able to get Hopkins.

Basically that school of thought says to pay in auctions for wide receivers and running backs as QB play is usually not that differentiated (this works differently in two QB leagues). Anyways, if your entire league or most of it employs Late Round QB dynamics (or you at least do), you’ll have tons of money to spend on other players and if you combine that with only a few elite options in free agency and having few roster spots left, you’ll start breaking the bank for guys like C.J. Anderson and Michael Floyd who went to Leo Howell for 3 years each at $88 million and $72 million respectively-not a bad combined use of the money that would have otherwise went to Hopkins.

Scenario #5) You’re Typically Conservative 

If you have been in a league for a few years or start your first year auction super conservative, sometimes you have to throw your opponents for a loop. Some of your leaguemates have certain owners typecasted on who will bid on which players and then you hit them with a surprise left. When they look at your roster and see your biggest contract is $15 million a year, they don’t think you’ll go big on someone like Jamaal Charles. And then you do and he helps you big time.

The key is mixing in risk in years when you need that extra push to contend vs. not overextending yourself with players who may be dead money in other years. Who is in the free agent pool certainly matters and so does using player’s ages, sample sizes and gut instincts when awarding multi-year contracts.


numberFire Writer’s League Likely 10 man starting lineups

So as I went all in for Hopkins, here are the likely 10 man starting lineups for each team. Curious what everyone’s thoughts are. The league is 0.5PPR and starts a QB, Two RB’s, Two WR’s, TE, DST, K, FLEX, FLEX

University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) 

Dalton, Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Jordan Matthews, Kelce, Broncos, Crosby, Ryan Mathews, Baldwin

The Quickie Martin (Sam Hauss, numberFire)

Mariota, Doug Martin, Lacy, Nelson, Maclin, Fleener, Panthers, Walsh, Duke Johnson, Delanie Walker

Hospitable Takeover (Matt Papson, President and Founder, Reality Sports Online)

Wilson, L. Murray, Ingram, Beckham Jr., Edelman, Maxx Williams, Bills, TBD, Foster, Langford

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

Newton, David Johnson, Yeldon, Cooper, Watkins, Olsen, Texans, Tucker, John Brown, Emmanuel Sanders

Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire)

Fitzpatrick, DeAngelo Williams/Bell, McCoy, Julio Jones, Cooks, Reed, Eagles, Vinatieri, Marvin Jones, Desean Jackson

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online)

Rivers, Peterson, Jeremy Hill, Landry, Hurns, Graham, Rams, McManus, Cobb, Hyde

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

Roethlisberger, Gurley, Freeman, Hopkins, Decker, Gronkowski, Seahawks, Catanzaro, Demaryius Thomas, Diggs

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, ESPN)

Brees, Charles, C.J. Anderson, Antonio Brown, Allen Robinson, Ertz, Chiefs, Gostkowski, Evans, Floyd

Team: Funky Monks (Graham Barfield, FantasyGuru.com & Rotoworld)

Luck, Lamar Miller, Riddick, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Gates, Bengals, Hauschka, Jeffery, Fitzgerald

Team: Loss Aversion (Rory Ryan, Baylor University Law Professor)

Rodgers, Rawls, Gore, Hilton, Marshall, Bennett, Cardinals, Bailey, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith


Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter) and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally provided that reality! Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.