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.

Week 3 Waiver Report

Updated: September 19th 2017

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 50% of RSO league that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer 1 player that is owned in <10% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

Add of the Week

Rashard Higgins, WR – CLE (owned 10%)

Week 2: 7 Rec/95 yards, 1 Car/4 yards

The Browns had a rough go on Sunday against the Ravens. However, Rashard Higgins had a surprisingly good game (7-95-0) in a game in which two different QBs (Keizer and Hogan) were in the game. While it may have been just a young player taking advantage of some playing time in a one-sided game there are serious reasons for this to be the beginning of an under the radar season. Corey Coleman, Cleveland’s first-round pick from 2016, has broken his hand again and could be out 6-8 weeks while Kenny Britt has fallen on bad terms with head coach Hugh Jackson. This opens the door for Higgins to be the primary target on and an offense that projects to be down in more games than up this season. Depending on how deep your rookie drafts are this player may still be lingering at the bottom of some team’s rosters. He’s worth kicking the tires on for a trade if he can be at least a WR4 the rest of the season.

Suggested Bid: $1,000,000 – $5,000,000

QB Replacement

Trevor Siemian, QB – DEN (owned 41%)

Week 2: 22 for 32 Comp, 231 Passing, 4TD, 1 INT, 5 Car/14 yards

Through two weeks Trevor Siemian is the QB2 in fantasy (written before Monday night’s game results) yet is one of the least owned QBs that has a starting role. While he might not hold the consistency of a Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers you definitely can do worse over the next 14 weeks. Denver seems more comfortable letting Siemian open up the offense this year compared to 2016 and with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as options outside he has plenty of talent to work with. There should be a consistent floor of 200 yards and a touchdown (12 points) each week. Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins’ owners should be looking to add Siemian as a comfortable substitute.

Suggested Bid: $1,000,000 – $3,000,000 ($7,000,000 in Superflex)

RB Stash

Tyler Ervin, RB – HOU (owned 13%)

Week 2: 3 Car/8 yards, 4 Rec/18 yards

RotoViz loved the metrics of Tyler Ervin coming out of college last season. His pass-catching ability, as well as his size, made him comparable to Danny Woodhead on Player Profiler. Unfortunately, he was also behind Lamar Miller who is himself a decent pass catching back and being paid too much to be put on the bench. Recently, however, Ervin has been playing more out of the slot as a receiver and with all the injuries to the receiving and tight end groups, he’s likely to see more playing time due to necessity. At this point, he would only be a stash candidate in deeper leagues but if you are already feeling the pressure from your RBs production and were unable to secure Cohen or Allen last week Ervin could be a poor man’s Ty Montgomery from a year ago.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,000,000

WR Replacements

Paul Richardson, WR – SEA (owned 38%) 2 Rec/19 yards, 1 TD

While Cincinnati’s offense has been the joke of NFL fans the first two weeks for not scoring a touchdown, Seattle’s offense hasn’t looked much better scoring their first touchdown late in the 4th quarter of week two’s game against San Francisco. That touchdown came from former 2nd round pick Paul Richardson who was labeled a sleeper WR to add during the offseason. Despite this, his ownership still hovers around 38%. He’s averaged 10PPR points/game and 12 targets over the first two weeks showing that he can be a downfield threat and red zone option for Russell Wilson. If the offense can turn things around and start scoring more than 10 points a game there is a chance that Richardson becomes a flexible WR.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,500,000

Terrance Williams, WR – DAL (owned 24%) 4 Rec/17 yards

Yikes, nobody expected the Cowboys to be dominated on both sides of the ball like they were against the Broncos last week. At least one silver lining is that the NFL lost their appeal for an Ezekiel Elliot stay so the team should be able to refocus their offensive game plan knowing they will have him for the remainder of the season. This means that defenses will have to keep contain on Zeke and Dak Prescott while double teaming Dez Bryant, opening up one-on-one matchups for Terrance Williams. While his touchdown upside is limited with Dez, Zeke, and Jason Witten in the lineup he still receives his share of the targets each week. He’s an ideal option to have on your bench during the midseason when bye weeks become a lineup killer.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

TE Stash

Benjamin Watson, TE – BAL (owned 5%)

Week 2: 8 Rec/91 yards

The Ravens haven’t been in very competitive games these first two weeks which has reduced their number of pass attempts (51) to the bottom of the league. Still, Watson had 8 receptions vs. the Browns and almost 20 PPR points last week. Dennis Pita received over 120 targets last season and while Jeremy Maclin has been a nice addition Flacco has a history of feeding his TEs, when healthy. Watson has also shown that he can handle a large number of targets from his time in New Orleans. For those who lost Greg Olsen this week, Watson could be a worthwhile replacement.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,500,000

Sleeper Add (<10%)

Deonte Thompson (owned 2%)

Week 2: 4 Rec/57 yards, 1 TD

The Bears looked more like the team that experts thought they would be in week 2 being shutout till the final moments of the 4th quarter. With injuries piling up at the WR position and likely a QB switch at some point it could be a long season for Da Bears. It is hard to tell how much of Deonte Thompson’s week 2 production came due to a blowout but some needs to catch the ball and he could be the next man up. Thompson has a strong speed adjusted score (92nd percentile) and showed some potential in the Bears’ preseason game against the Broncos earlier this year. With Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy dropping several passes last week Thompson could be a volume add, similar to Jermaine Kearse last week.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

Week 2 Waiver Report

Updated: September 12th 2017

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 50% of RSO league that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer 1 player that is owned in <10% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

Add of the Week

Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI (owned 45%) 5 Car/66 yards, 8 Rec/47 yards, 1 TD

Surely the biggest surprise of the week 1 was how much rookie runner Tarik Cohen was involved in the Bears’ offense. Yes, he did have 40% of his total yards on one big reverse field run play but overall he was heavily involved in the passing game with 8 catches on 12 targets (led team) and almost led the Bears to an upset win over the reigning NFC Champs. It’s not like Jordan Howard wasn’t involved (13-51-1) as he also had 3 catches but this could definitely decrease Howard’s role on passing downs. The Bears look like they could be joining the rest of the NFL on the RBBC bus now. For owners that think the Bears will be down in games and forced into passing formations, Cohen should see his share of targets each week, especially with news that Kevin White is being placed on IR now with a scapula injury. Give a bump in PPR leagues.

Suggested Bid: $1,00,000 – $4,000,000

RB Replacements

Shane Vereen, RB – NYG (owned 45%) 9 Rec/51 yards

Javorius Allen, RB – BAL (owned 19%) 21 Car/71 yards

Both of these running backs benefited from positive game script in week 1 but they did showcase what their role is in their respective offenses. For Vereen, he had 9 catches (5 on the final meaningless drive) but he was clearly the Giants passing down back. Perkins and Darkwa couldn’t get any run game going (36 yards) and the offensive line looked mediocre at best. If the Giants offense is unable to open holes for the running game they will be forced to use the dump passes as a substitute. This was the role Vereen had in New England and as long as he stays healthy it’s the role he will have this season in New York. With games against the AFC and NFC West, it’s probable that the Giants find themselves behind in games, unable to run the ball and relying on Vereen with screens and dump passes to keep the offense moving.

Javorius “Buck” Allen had 21 carries, 4th most in the opening week against the Bengals which should symbolize a bell cow role in an offense. Unfortunately, fellow back Terrance West also had 19 carries (7th most) and Joe Flacco only had 17 pass attempts in a total defensive domination by the Ravens. With Danny Woodhead going out with a hamstring injury early it did show, however, that Allen will be the secondary runner in case of a West injury or regression. This makes him an add if you have either of the other two Raven runners or a lack of depth at the position. Depending on the severity of the injury to Woodhead the Ravens do need to show which of West or Allen would be the pass catching back when games are closer. This could be Allen’s role with the upside of increased carries should West falter.

Suggested Bids: $500,000 – $1,000,000

WR Replacements

Jermaine Kearse, WR – NYJ (owned 26%) 7 Rec/59 yards

Danny Amendola, WR – NE (owned 26%) 6 Rec/ 100 yards

Many were shocked when the Jets shipped Sheldon Richardson to Seattle for some picks and Jermaine Kearse but to everyone’s surprise, Kearse led the Jets in both catches (7) and yards (59) in week 1. Sometimes volume trumps talent and despite previous reservations against Kearse’s talent when he is being fed #1 target numbers he has to be rostered. If Kearse maintains the target volume that he saw in week 1 and can offer a touchdown every 2 or 3 games he will be a nice option to have for bye weeks or when injuries start piling up.

The Patriots looked like a 16-0 team for the first half and a 0-16 team for the second half. It showed that they missed having Julian Edelman as a reliable target for crossing routes, bubble screens and 3rd down quick slants. Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan were used more on the play action and deeper routes which leaves Danny Amendola and the RBs to be the underneath pass catchers. It’s unlikely that any of the backs are available but Amendola is available in 74% of RSO leagues which needs to be changed. The Patriots are changing offensive schemes weekly but the one constant for Tom Brady is to find the quick-hit routes to move the chains. Despite Bill Belichick saying that everyone will be picking up Edelman’s contributions, it is likely Amendola who will most replicate his usage.

Suggested Bids: $1,000,000 – $2,000,000

TE Substitute

Charles Clay, TE – BUF (owned 40%) 4 Rec/53 yards, 1 TD

Similar to my Jermaine Kearse analysis sometimes a guy just needs to be rostered for his volume alone. The Bills lost Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins to the Rams this offseason and Jordan Matthews hasn’t been a spectacular fantasy option since his rookie season. While they do have Shady McCoy to run the ball someone still needs to catch passes and touchdowns. Clay should be averaging a touchdown at least every other game this season and be a reliable target for Tyrod Taylor to have between the 20s and on 3rd down. While he’s not as sexy a name as Gronk or Kelce, Clay should be a low-end TE1 for most matchups this season.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,500,000

Sleeper Add (<10%)

Kerwynn Williams, RB – ARZ (Owned 9.7%) 5 Car/10 yards, 1 Rec/2 yards, 1 TD

This is pure speculation and may have no use by the end of the week but anytime a bell cow is injured you have to take a shot in the dark. When David Johnson went out after a big hit in the 3rd quarter it was Williams who took the goal line carry for a touchdown. After Johnson went out indefinitely with a wrist injury later in the game it was Williams who played the bulk of the snaps behind Carson Palmer. If Johnson’s injury is anything that keeps him out of next week’s game and beyond (which is a real possibility if reports are true) Williams will see his share of touches and targets. If you are playing the David Johnson owner and his RB depth is thin Williams is worth a minimum bid just to limit your opponent’s options heading into week 2.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

RSO Rookie Picks Pt. 2

Updated: July 23rd 2017

The RSO salary cap and contract structure provides a unique setting when compared to other fantasy platforms.   A superior player with more expensive contract will be worth less in many instances than a lesser producing player with a cheaper contract for RSO leagues.  RSO rookie deals give owners access to cost-controlled, long-term contracts.  The question is whether rookies produce enough of the time to be worth the costs involved.  This article continues our examination of RSO rookie draft picks from Part 1 looking at the basics of evaluating picks for RSO leagues.

Part 2 expands upon this by comparing the expected production value of rookie picks with the associated RSO rookie contract costs. We can then ascertain where the best bargains can be found and relate draft pick costs to veteran spending.  While there is no superbly accurate means of determining how a rookie will turn out given the many variables outside the control of the player and the host of intangible player traits which determine success, but the model below should give the reader an idea of how to value rookie picks.

The Technical Aspects

This section details the technical aspects of my value formulation. As a quick reminder, the values obtained come from shallow, non-PPR leagues.  The reader may refer to part 1 for more information about the data.  I first converted the player values in part 1 to dollar values based on the salary cap and league settings specified above.

My next step involved weighting player values by the year in which production occurred using a 20% yearly discount rate unless noted otherwise. People generally prefer production in the present when compared to production in the future.  An example may help to illustrate the point.  Given one rookie who produces only in year 1 of a rookie contract and another rookie who produces equally but only in year 4 of the rookie deal, most RSO GMs prefer the rookie who produces in year 1.  There is another more tangible reason to discount the production in future years.  You might not be in your RSO league in future seasons.  Maybe the league breaks up.  Maybe your life circumstances change so that you are no longer able to compete in the league.  As shown in part 1, draft picks tend to produce more after the rookie season.  The RSO GM is generally receiving less production in the rookie season compared to later years but paying the same price as a percentage of the salary cap.  I finally summed the time-weighted values to form an associated present day value for each player.

Lastly, I estimated player values for each draft position using a linear-log regression model. The estimation utilized players selected from 2007 to 2013 rookie drafts.  Players selected from 2014 to 2016, included in part 1, were excluded in this analysis as they have not completed their rookie contracts.

Contract Value vs Cost

Reality Sports Online posts rookie contract costs for drafts up to five rounds. Similarly to player values, I converted contract costs to present day dollars in order to compare rookie draft costs to values.  There are a few key items worth mentioning after examining the costs.  First, there will be a sharp drop in rookie costs from the last pick of the first round to the first pick of the second round.  Second, contract costs remain relatively “flat” after the first round.  There exists little difference in costs from 2.1 to 2.10 for example.  Third, contract costs grow yearly at a rate which should adequately approximate the yearly salary cap growth in the NFL.  This means rookie picks should take up approximately the same percentage of cap space for each year of the contract.

The data also presents interesting notions on the relative value of draft picks. The 1.1, for example, is approximately equal in production value to 1) picks 4 and 5 or 2) picks 7 to 9 or 3) picks 9 through 12.  The massive premium attached to top picks seems quite reasonable when looking at the expected production.  If we want a better a look at how good a rookie contract is, however, we need to take into account the associated costs with each rookie deal.  The next section details this further.

Net Contract Value

The net contract value is simply the contract costs subtracted from the contract value. A rookie contract with a net value of zero is expected to produce at the market value rate.  As seen from the chart above, rookie deals as a whole tend to be good contracts to owners with 75% of the picks having positive net values and the remaining picks producing minimal losses.  In particular, rookie picks near the top of the first and second rounds substantially out-produce their contracts.  This is primarily a result of large production from the top picks and the big drop in rookie costs starting with second round picks.

Net Contract Values with Selected Discount Rates

Of course not everyone values future production of players in the same way. It becomes readily apparent from the table above that rookie picks rapidly lose value for those people who sharply discount future production and are focused more on the present.  Be sure to understand your personal situation and timeframe before investing heavily in draft picks.

Other Considerations

The analysis above focused on the production value of rookie picks. Another way to look at the problem is through the lens of what I will call “perceived” value or, put another way, how the rest of your league values draft picks.  It is well documented that many fantasy leagues value draft picks above their production value, particularly around the time of rookie drafts.   RSO owners, particularly those out of the playoff race, might consider trading for draft picks during the season even if the player values traded away is larger than the received draft pick value.  You may be able to translate the short-term loss into a long-term profit near the next rookie draft.

The above values for rookie picks are a solid starting point but we also need to remember that not every draft class is created equal. For example, I consider the 2017 rookie class generally superior to the 2016 class with more high-end talent and quality depth throughout.  Be sure to adjust your valuations accordingly.

Loading up a roster with draft picks can be an effective salary cap management technique. A roster with many low cost rookie picks, particularly after the first round, allows a lot of cap space to spend on high-end starters in the free agent auction.  Misses on rookies (of which there will be plenty) will not have too big of an impact thanks to the low costs involved and gives the RSO GM substantial cap flexibility in the future.

Conclusions

While every RSO GM is different, there are a couple of key points to keep in mind when evaluating rookie picks.

  1. Rookie pick value is maximized near the top of the first and second rounds. Try to trade up, down, or out if you have picks in the bottom portion of the round. Picks at the end of the second round and later are essentially “throw away” picks which have net values near or below market value.  You are better off using your cap space in the free agent market.
  2. Know yourself and the league when evaluating draft picks. Rookie pick values increase substantially in stable long-lasting leagues for owners who hold a longer-term outlook. The RSO team with a shorter window should seriously consider trading away rookie picks.

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.

 

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.

Top 100: RSO Rookie Rankings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

To answer the question right at the top… Yes, I still have Leonard Fournette as my 1.01.  I’m sure we’ll spill much digital ink over the coming months debating the pick but I think he will be dominant and with so much draft capital invested, the Jaguars will have to stay dedicated.

The lifeblood of every dynasty team are it’s incoming rookies, like Fournette.  The only problem is that few rookies are as well-known as Fournette and so many owners don’t have the time to devote to doing research on who the rookies are and how their landing spot impacts their RSO outlook.  Throughout the last three months, I have done the research for you and have come up with what you will see below: RSO’s top 100 rookies.

This was a fascinating exercise for me because after I started, I realized there were still a number of players even I needed to do more research on.  For example, at one point I realized I was getting the two RB Elijahs mixed up (Hood: UNC and McGuire: LA-Lafayette) despite having opposite skill sets because I had them listed consecutively on my RB ranking (for the record: even though I prefer Hood for his bigger frame and the way he always fights forward, I pushed McGuire above him because of his fit with the Jets and path to touches).  I first started making rankings for each position so I could easily compare players and develop tiers within each position.  Next, I decided how I would value positions based on my league assumptions (see below).  Then, I massaged the positional rankings together using my tiers and positional values to help determine the overall rankings.  Finally, I fine tuned throughout the draft to adjust positional and overall rankings based on team fit.  It was a time consuming exercise for sure, but one I would recommend for RSO owners, just on a smaller scale (I would suggest however many rookie picks your league has + 5).

Before we get to the rankings, a few notes:

  1. I created these rankings assuming the following starting lineup in a 10-12 team league: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, OFLEX, DL, LB, DB, DFLEX.
  2. I assumed 0.5PPR but otherwise standard scoring (i.e. a slight bump to WR and pass catching RBs).  IDP scoring can vary quite significantly in my experience but I assumed the typical key stats of tackles, sacks and INTs.
  3. If you are in a Superflex or 2QB league, I would recommend moving the QBs up about 10-15 spots.
  4. If your IDP league uses more starters (meaning more will be drafted) you should move IDP players up about 5 spots as the value of the best IDP players will increase.
  5. I ranked at least 10 QB, TE, DL, LB and DB and at least 20 RB and WR.  I figured all but the deepest of leagues would need to go deeper than that at each position.  Determining how some DE/OLB will be listed is tough at this point but when in doubt I used NFL.com’s listed position.
  6. As you go down the list, the amount of research done on a given player admittedly decreases, so to do the strong opinions.  I feel much more strongly about Mixon over Cook than I do about Clement over Pumphrey.
  7. Keep in mind that these rankings are being finalized on Saturday, April 29.  Much can, and will, change before you draft.

Rank First Name Last Name Position Pos Rank
1 Leonard Fournette RB RB1
2 Corey Davis WR WR1
3 Christian McCaffrey RB RB2
4 Joe Mixon RB RB3
5 Mike Williams WR WR2
6 John Ross WR WR3
7 OJ Howard TE TE1
8 Chris Godwin WR WR4
9 Dalvin Cook RB RB4
10 Zay Jones WR WR5
11 Kareem Hunt RB RB5
12 David Njoku TE TE2
13 Marlon Mack RB RB6
14 Curtis Samuel RB RB7
15 D’onta Foreman RB RB8
16 Taywan Taylor WR WR6
17 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR WR7
18 Evan Engram TE TE3
19 Carlos Henderson WR WR8
20 Cooper Kupp WR WR9
21 Jeremy McNichols RB RB9
22 Samaje Perine RB RB10
23 Mitch Trubisky QB QB1
24 Myles Garrett DL DL1
25 Wayne Gallman RB RB11
26 Pat Mahomes QB QB2
27 Jake Butt TE TE4
28 Alvin Kamara RB RB12
29 Solomon Thomas DL DL2
30 KD Cannon WR WR10
31 Malik Hooker DB DB1
32 Deshaun Watson QB QB3
33 Zach Cunningham LB LB1
34 Josh Malone WR WR11
35 Taco Charlton DL DL3
36 Jonathan Allen DL DL4
37 Jonnu Smith TE TE5
38 Haason Reddick LB LB2
39 Jamal Adams DB DB2
40 Jabrill Peppers DB DB3
41 Josh Reynolds WR WR12
42 Amara Darboh WR WR13
43 Jamaal Williams RB RB13
44 James Conner RB RB14
45 Josh Dobbs QB QB4
46 Tim Williams LB LB3
47 Takkarist McKinley DL DL5
48 Malachi Dupre WR WR14
49 Reuben Foster LB LB4
50 Ardarius Stewart WR WR15
51 Charles Harris DL DL6
52 Deshone Kizer QB QB5
53 Nate Peterman QB QB6
54 Joe Williams RB RB15
55 Elijah McGuire RB RB16
56 TJ Watt LB LB5
57 Marshon Lattimore DB DB4
58 Raekwon McMillan LB LB6
59 Gerald Everett TE TE6
60 Derek Rivers DL DL7
61 Isaiah Ford WR WR16
62 Bucky Hodges TE TE7
63 Chad Hansen WR WR17
64 Obi Melifonwu DB DB5
65 Elijah Hood RB RB17
66 Derek Barnett DL DL8
67 Jarrad Davis LB LB7
68 Brad Kaaya QB QB7
69 Brian Hill RB RB18
70 Davis Webb QB QB8
71 Ryan Anderson LB LB8
72 Tyus Bowser LB LB9
73 Marlon Humphrey DB DB6
74 Adam Shaheen TE TE8
75 Jalen Robinette WR WR18
76 Donnel Pumphrey RB RB19
77 Jordan Leggett TE TE9
78 Corey Clement RB RB20
79 Duke Riley LB LB10
80 Dede Westbrook WR WR19
81 Seth Russell QB QB9
82 Aaron Jones RB RB21
83 C.J. Beathard QB QB10
84 Malik McDowell DL DL9
85 Budda Baker DB DB7
86 Carl Lawson DL DL10
87 Marcus Maye DB DB8
88 Jeremy Sprinkle TE TE10
89 Adoree’ Jackson DB DB9
90 Kevin King DB DB10
91 Gareon Conley DB DB11
92 Mack Hollins WR WR20
93 Tarik Cohen RB RB22
94 Chad Williams WR WR21
95 Jordan Willis DL DL11
96 Chad Kelly QB QB11
97 Amba Etta-Tawo WR WR22
98 Chidobee Awuzie DB DB12
99 Kenny Galloday WR WR23
100 George Kittle TE TE11