The End of Eli?

Updated: September 21st 2017

Struggles of the New York Giants offense during the first two weeks of the NFL season led many to question whether Eli Manning’s play diminished to the point that his career is nearing the end.  The question becomes is this season that much different for Manning?  Are there other factors in the play here which contribute to the Giants’ poor play so far?  I take a deeper look into the question comparing this season with the rest of Eli’s career.

Eli’s Career

Eli Manning accumulated many accolades over the course of his 14 seasons.  Eli amassed 48,677 yards (8th all-time) and 321 touchdowns (7th all-time) so far in his career.  Manning’s yardage and touchdown numbers are greater than that of many quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame.  Those numbers are due, in part, to his remarkable run of availability.  Manning has been a model of good health over his career never missing a game to injury playing every game for the New York Giants.  The Giants have managed 6 playoff appearances during Manning’s time as quarterback and he owns an 8-4 playoff record during that time.  The New York quarterback also won two Super Bowl trophies over the years including two Super Bowl MVPs, beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for each win.

Not all has been great in the Manning realm throughout his career though.  Eli has been one of the most consistently inconsistent quarterbacks in the league.  He has the skills to produce great seasons like the Super Bowl winning 2011 year in which Manning threw for nearly 5,000 yards while at the same time fully capable of completely imploding as in the 2013 season in which he led the league with an astounding 27 interceptions.  Manning tossed 217 interceptions so far, second among active quarterbacks.  His inconsistency can appear even in the same game.  Manning may look like a Hall of Famer one minute making solid pinpoint accurate throws for chunks of a game.  The next minute might easily see Manning throwing horribly inaccurate throws and making awful decisions usually reserved for rookies.  And what about that stellar playoff record?  Outside of those two Super Bowl seasons, Manning produced exactly zero wins in four playoff appearances producing an abysmal 54% completion percentage, a miniscule 6.3 yards per attempt, and an ugly 3:7 touchdown to interception ratio during those games.

Eli Compared to Other Quarterbacks

I next take a look at how Manning has performed in relation to other NFL quarterbacks.  The chart below shows Manning’s yearly ranking for a variety of quarterback metrics including ESPN’s QBR, passer rating, and Football Outsider’s quarterback DVOA.  Manning’s average of each metric is displayed at the bottom of the chart not including 2017.  The results are decidedly mediocre.  Manning manages zero top-5 and few top-10 finishes by any measure throughout his entire career.  His best score is a middle of the pack average of 15th over his career.  Eli’s recent history is even worse.  From 2013-2016, Manning best average among the listed metrics is only 21st.  Put succinctly, Eli was never among the better quarterbacks in the league and his play in recent years qualifies only as average, at best, for starting quarterbacks in the NFL.  His play this season does appear completely not out of the norm when compared to his latest years.

So what types of players are the best comparables to Manning?  Jay Cutler and Joe Flacco provide the closest comps to Manning with very similar yards per attempt, completion percentage, and touchdown to interception ratios found below.  This may seem surprising at first but really should not be when one thinks about the players, particularly Cutler.  Manning and Cutler share many of the same strengths including good arm strength but also many of the same weaknesses including the afore-mentioned poor decision making and inconsistent accuracy.  Pro-Football-Reference’s Adjusted Yards per Attempt and Net Yards per Attempt are also included below for additional comparison purposes.

Eli’s Surrounding Circumstances in New York

Numbers sometimes hide the true value of a player working in a sub-optimal situation so we need to look at Manning’s surround cast during his time with the Giants to determine if he was handicapped by his fellow teammates.  Below we find Football Outsider’s efficiency rankings on total defense, offensive line pass protection (adjusted sack rate), and offensive rushing for New York during the Manning years with the average rank from 2004 to 2016.  New York’s defense and rushing attack have overall been within the norm of the NFL, ranking slightly above average.  Most interesting is the great pass protection Manning received over his career which has generally been superb.  New York finished outside the top-11 in adjusted sack rate only twice in thirteen years and Eli only faced very poor pass protection once which happened during his rookie season.  Overall, the data verifies Manning was not hindered by his teammates over the course of his career and his supporting personnel likely boosted his outcomes to some extent above what would be expected if Manning played for another team.

Looking at this season, there is no doubt the offensive line struggles significantly impact Manning’s performance.  Eli is under far more pressure than what he is accustomed to and the Giants’ coaching staff has not provided help for an offensive line that is clearly overmatched so far this year.  Manning has not helped the situation.  He looks like an immovable statue in the pocket and holds the ball far too long too often taking sacks when it is clear he should simply throw the ball away.

Conclusion

While Manning’s gross numbers and accomplishments suggest a player worth of Hall of Fame recognition, a deeper look into the statistics demonstrates a decidedly average quarterback over the course of his career.  His perception as a great quarterback relies significantly on what I will call “highlight” bias coming from two Super Bowl wins and his luck on the injury axis likely contributed by a great offensive line throughout much of his career.

We really should not be surprised by Manning’s current level of play given his drop off in efficiency over recent years.  Manning benefitted from stellar pass protection for most of his career.  With what looks to be one of the few truly bad offensive lines in Eli’s career this season, Manning’s lack of mobility might well be on full display.  Ben McAdoo and the rest of the New York coaching staff may very well adjust blocking schemes adding more blockers, or adjust offensive schemes to quicker throws.  If not, Manning and the Giants offense could be looking at a very ugly season.  Taking a broad view, it is doubtful Manning’s play greatly diminished this season as some suggest.  It is far more likely New York’s offensive line struggles simply magnify some of Eli’s deficiencies as a player.  Manning has not been a particularly good quarterback for a long time and that is unlikely to change as his career draws to an end.


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.

Into the Regular Season

Updated: September 7th 2017

The preseason brings lots of excitement for those of us deprived of the NFL for so long.  It also leads to some of the worst analysis from fantasy “experts”.  Reviewing stat lines from preseason games is mostly meaningless.  Touch sample sizes are typically incredibly small with starters playing very limited snaps.  Teams usually incorporate very “vanilla” play calls which may not be similar to what happens during the regular season.  Backups compete against second and third string players or worse.  While much of what we see in preseason play is essentially worthless in predicting fantasy value for the upcoming season, examining player situations and delving deeper into game tape can provide some useful observations for the coming season.

Moving Up

The most significant mover of the preseason is Chiefs’ running back Kareem Hunt.  The devastating torn PCL and LCL injury to Kansas City starting running back Spencer Ware opens the door for the third round rookie.  Hunt finished as one of Pro Football Focus’ highest ranked backs in college at Toledo and flashed nice plays throughout the preseason (along with some not-so-nice “rookie” moments).  The Chiefs are left only with Hunt, Chancandrick West, and re-signed C.J. Spiller as the only running backs on the roster.  Hunt should see plenty of work for Kansas City this season.

Perhaps no player benefits more from a quarterback change than Miami wide receiver Devante Parker.  Gone are the days of Ryan Tannehill force-feeding short passes to Jarvis Landry with Tannehill out for the season.   In comes Jay Cutler at quarterback with the arm talent to aggressively attack defenses down field.  The former Bear also has the mindset to throw into tight coverage and allow his physically gifted receivers to make plays on their own.  Parker is set up for a big third season in the NFL.  Cutler also solidifies deep threat Kenny Stills’ value while at the same time likely limiting the volume Landry has seen over the course of his career.

Questions about Kelvin Benjamin’s role in the new Carolina offense with two high draft pick offensive weapons and his ballooned weight in training camp depressed his fantasy value to the point that Benjamin moved all the way down to WR38 in early RSO auctions.  Second round draft pick Curtis Samuel was slowed by injury and no other receiver emerged during the preseason.  Benjamin clearly appears like the Panthers’ WR1 right now.  Early Benjamin buyers could have received quite the steal.

Wait and See Mode

Seahawks’ backfield historically holds good fantasy value during the Russell Wilson era in Seattle.  Wilson’s ability as a rusher prevents teams from keying on running backs opening running lanes for the back.  Last season Wilson suffered early injuries limiting his mobility throughout the season.  Wilson’s injuries and some horrendous run blocking by Seattle’s inexperienced offensive line inevitably led to a big decline in the Seahawks’ rushing game effectiveness.  Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise competed for first-team duties this offseason but all suffered from minor injuries during the preseason.  Rawls and Lacy likely split rushing down carries limiting the fantasy appeal of either.  You will want to avoid this backfield early in the season until injuries take hold or someone emerges as the clear top option.  Prosise will hold value as a low end flex play, especially in PPR leagues, as the passing down back and only real receiver out of the backfield.  This is particularly true early in the season with an extremely shallow receiving core behind starters Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson.  Tyler Lockett will be eased back into the receiving rotation after a gruesome leg injury late last year.

The Green Bay backfield was ugly last season.  Converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery filled in admirably in a limited role last year after injuries destroyed the running back core but did not receive enough volume to be a consistent fantasy option.  I was hoping someone would stand out in the preseason to take over the primary back role.  No one did.  Montgomery was limited with injuries throughout the preseason and struggled with pass protection once again.  All three Green Bay running backs drafted this year (Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays) made the 53-man roster.  None consistently showed enough to earn a big role.  Montgomery starts as the “lead” back and his receiving skills should make him a solid flex play but it remains to be seen whether his health and pass protection struggles will allow enough time on the field for enough volume to be a consistent RB2 option.  Williams makes for a nice stash in case Montgomery misses time.

Moving Down

Expectations for Terrelle Pryor and Tyreek Hill were extremely high this offseason with both being typically drafted as high to low-end WR2s. Many thought each had WR1 upside.  The preseason showing from both should dampen those expectations.  Both had massive problems catching the football with drops galore, a huge issue on teams whose passing game relies primarily on short, high percentage throws.  Pryor also continued his very raw route running skills from last season.  The Washington and Kansas City offense will undoubtedly run through superstar tight ends, Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce.  Pryor could easily end up as the third most targeted player in Washington behind Reed and Jamison Crowder.  Hill is due for negative touchdown regression this year and will be fighting for touches behind Kelce on a low volume Kansas City passing attack.  Consider both players boom-or-bust WR3s as of now.

The unknown timetable of Andrew Luck’s return moves all Colts down in the rankings to start the season most notably T.Y. Hilton.  Backup quarterback Scott Tolzein looked horrendous this preseason, so much so that Indianapolis traded for Patriots’ third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to eventually take over backup duties.  This could lead to prime buy-low opportunities for Hilton and Luck.

Blake Bortles remarkably is still the starting quarterback in Jacksonville.   Chad Henne was unable to supplant Bortles in a bizarre one-week open competition for the starting spot.  Bortles might be benched at any time this season and the backup is not much of an improvement.  The dreadful quarterback situation means bad things for any Jaguars player’s fantasy fortunes including Allen Robinson and Leonard Fournette.  The Jacksonville offensive line displayed little improvement this preseason and Fournette is already dealing with a foot injury.  Just stay away from this offense.


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.

Mid Preseason Report

Updated: August 30th 2017

There have been 33 preseason games played which have given us a nice preview of what the 2017 season could be. Several players have already flashed potential while others are starting to make owners very nervous. Here is a list of players that have caught my eye (for good or bad) and what I think it means for their regular season.

↑ 2nd Round Rookie Risers

Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams have been impressive while running with their first team offenses in their first two games. Both have shown they can burst through the middle as well as make plays in the passing game. Hopefully, their usage hasn’t been a mirage due to other players (Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram for New Orleans and Ty Montgomery for Green Bay) not being in the lineup. Regardless, both are in high scoring offenses that should benefit their specific skill set, Kamara through the passing game and Williams with frequent goal line carries. Depending on where they were selected in your rookie draft it might be worth it to inquire what their costs would be now. After the usual crew (Fournette, Cook, McCaffrey, Mixon) these two RBs might have the highest floor for 2017.

↑ McCaffrey the Real 1.01?

It was an interesting quandary as to who should be chosen with the first pick in rookie drafts. Early in the offseason, it was Dalvin Cook but a poor combine dropped him from the pole position. Leonard Fournette was then the next man up and he along with Corey Davis have been the most consistent 1.01 in drafts May through July.  But now that the pads are on and the tackles are real it might have been a steal to get Christian McCaffrey at 1.03 or 1.04. He looks like he will fit perfectly with the Panthers play style and we haven’t even seen how defenses will react to read plays with Cam Newton under center. I expect Jonathan Stewart to have a role but this could be an even better complementary backfield than Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill was in Cincinnati. With his skills in the passing game, McCaffrey looks like an easy candidate for 60-70 targets and should be pushing 1,000 total yards. In PPR leagues that’s more than what I would want out of my 1.01 selection.

↓ LeGarrette Blount

LeGarrette Blount is the most Patriots system player. No other player could go from 18 touchdowns with one team to a potential cut candidate with a different team. With reports suggesting that Blount is slightly overweight and has shown that he might not be a good fit for Doug Pederson’s stretch and shotgun run game it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see him not on the roster week 1. Even if he does stay with the Eagles it will be difficult to expect a consistent weekly total. His value will solely be on whether or not he scores a touchdown in a given week. Unless you play in standard leagues Blount is a player that will likely have Matt Asiata-like value.

↑ Corey Clement

With the news of Blount and maybe even Wendell Smallwood not being roster locks for the Eagles, it makes sense to try and find who the next man up will be. Darren Sproles will always be the satellite back and will be more featured on passing plays. That leaves Corey Clement, the UDFA rookie out of Wisconsin as an interesting option for deeper leagues. He looked good running against a strong Bills defense (4.2 yards/carry and a TD) last week. While he’s unlikely to be used day 1 this may be a Rob Kelley like situation where by midseason he’s pushing for the most touches of the more traditional RBs. He is worth monitoring for now and if either Blount or Smallwood don’t make the roster he might be worth adding.

 

↓ All Indianapolis Colts

I’m tired of this “will he, won’t he” game that the Colts have been playing with Andrew Luck and his shoulder injury. At some point, his lack of presence in practice and in preseason games suggests that he is not healthy and will be missing some games. How many is anybody’s guess at this point but it’s hard to trust any Colts players with the possibility of Scott Tolzien running the offense. T.Y. Hilton is the only player that should hold some consistency week-to-week but even he takes a mild hit. If you haven’t already sold Dante Moncrief I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. His touchdown dependency is a scary thing to bet on and without Luck in 8 games the last two seasons the offense has only averaged 17.5 points a game (Tolzien’s only game they scored 7 points!). Even with a rumor that Brock Osweiler may be on the Colts radar for a trade that shouldn’t get people excited about what the Colts will have going on this season.

↑ Zay Jones

Sometimes a player’s situation just trumps all the previous biases you have against him and you go from avoiding to actively seeking to acquire. Jordan Howard was that player for me last year and Zay Jones looks like he will be my 2017 choice. Sammy Watkins is gone, so is Anquan Boldin, and Jordan Matthews is JAG (Just A Guy) material. A player who is no stranger to being the first option in his offense, he had 158!! receptions last season at East Carolina, Jones is the definition of a possession receiver who just also happens to have 4.45 speed. While I’m less optimistic about long term value because of the history of the Bills and their run first offensive scheme, Jones should be one of the most targeted rookies in 2017.

Early RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 22nd 2017

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

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

Top Avoids

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

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

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

Best Values

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

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

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

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

 

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

 


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

Early RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 16th 2017

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

When they are Healthy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest

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

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

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

Expect some Regression

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

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

Streamers and Matchup Plays

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

 

Average RSO Tight End Contracts


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

Expert League’s Auction Afterthoughts

Updated: August 10th 2017

Our Expert League’s sophmore auction concluded at the end of July. Some owners needed to fill most of their roster while others were able to cherry-pick a few players to fill in the gaps. In all, it played out like a usual RSO auction night with several prized players going for exorbinate amounts of money and then some of the more risk adverse owners scooping up the value players with the final few contracts. After a week of deliberation we asked several of the writers to give their thoughts on what some of their favorite (and least favorite) contracts were. The gave their responses and discussed them below.

Terrelle Pryor – 3 years, $15.5MM – Dave Saunders

 Matt “Goody” Goodwin – While I think there is more to the narrative why Pryor is no longer with the Browns, a team he wanted to stay with than what we know, there is definitely a target upside opportunity in Washington in Kirk Cousins’ high-flying passing attack. With Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, and Josh Doctson all already injured, Pryor could see plenty of targets. His range of outcomes highlights upside and Top 5 WR potential if he can keep from having an attitude that may have given the Browns brass pause from bringing him back. He definitely has a real reason to be playing for another contract based on his one year NFL deal and flashed some serious big-play potential in his first year as an NFL receiver. I believe that the contract he was signed to in our league is underpriced by at least $8 million a year in what was a shallow free agent pool at the wide receiver position.

Cameron Meredith – 4 years, $9MM – Stephen Wendell

Goody – Stephen got a total steal here. Figures to be targeted frequently and the price is not much less than a 2nd round rookie. His stretch last season demonstrates what he can do and you have to assume the Bears’ game script figures to be one where the team is behind the next few years.

Sterling Shepard – 3 years, $2MM – Kyle English

Goody – I know he’s injured currently, but this contract is basically free for someone who had a knack for finding the end zone last season as a rookie. The Giants offense is too talented for Shepard not to have a healthy amount of targets if he remains healthy. And even if he doesn’t, the price was certainly right.

Jamaal Williams – 3 years, $2MM – Nick Andrews

Goody – While Ty Montgomery was impressive last season in his transition to running back from wide receiver, the Packers used decent draft stock to pick Williams and he already has earned some first team reps. The price is incredibly low and the opportunity in Green Bay is huge, especially given Montgomery’s injury history.

Nick Andrews  – Each year I try to get at least one rookie/project player that I can use a multi-year contract to build value with. As I said in our 2017 Rookie Discrepancies I’m higher than most on Williams and so far my love for him has been rewarded with great reviews from Packers camp. I moved in on Howard last year before he built up his value and it helped me win a championship. My hope is that Williams will follow a similar rookie season and will hold tremendous value heading into 2018. Either way, $2MM is a very low risk, high reward cost to pay.

Danny Woodhead – 1 year, $9MM – Bob Cowper

Bob – I estimate that the split between Woodhead and Terrance West will be similar to that of Woodhead and Melvin Gordon in 2015.  Despite getting about 40 fewer touches than Gordon, Woodhead was more productive with 80 receptions, 1,000+ total yards, and 9 TDs.  In that season, Woodhead was RB3 in PPR scoring per FantasyData.com.  Woodhead haters will point out his age and injury history.  The injuries are worrisome but for me, the age is not because while the tires may be old there isn’t a lot of wear on them.  Over his career, Woodhead has just 770 touches which averages to just 8 touches per game.  It’s also worth noting that Woodhead’s huge 2015 season was coming off a season-ending injury in 2014 so he has experience in managing this type of situation.  If he can avoid re-injury, I expect Woodhead to be a solid RB1 in our PPR league.

Matthew Stafford – 4 years, $37MM – Bernard Faller

Kyle English – This contract is an absolute steal in this Superflex league.  Compared to the other contracts doled out to solid QB options (Mariota 4/$96M, Wentz 4/$89.5M, Dak 4/$74M) this is an excellent value. He is the 18th highest paid QB in our league who should produce for four years.

Nick – As I stated in one of my earlier offseason articles sometimes it’s a blessing or a curse to get the first player at a position in the auction. The market hasn’t set so you can be grossly overpaying or absolutely stealing a player. A QB1 season to season Stafford went for slightly less ($44MM) than what my auction formula recommended. Compared to the cost of the other marquee QBs that were available Stafford was a major steal.

Jordan Howard – 2 years, $30MM – Jaron Foster

Luke O’Connell – Jaron had a remarkable draft netting Jordan Howard and following that up with Dak Prescott for 4 years/$74MM which is below market in our Superflex for an ascending young QB. This made the contrast with my own Ajayi 2yr/$50MM and Mariota 4yr/$96MM a painful lesson on how to bid on players within the same tier.

Rishard Matthews – 2 years, $3MM – Stephen Wendell

Nick – My man crush for Matthews probably borders on lunacy as I have turned down some decent offers simply because he was going the wrong way. It’s too bad that I already had a full roster of WRs because I would have loved to add him in this league. He is a player that is a tremendous value compared to his cost and could mirror what Michael Crabtree has done opposite to a young rookie receiver (Corey Davis) for their first couple seasons.

Kenny Britt – 1 year, $2MM – Bernard Faller

Nick – A great candidate to be a target monster in Cleveland, Britt should have a comfortable floor on a weekly basis. With the league being so shallow (10 teams) values for the mid-tier players can sometimes fluctuate in a way that allows WR2-3s to be forgotten until the end of the auction. Britt should offer Bernard great flex options on a weekly basis and will be a cheap option to shop if he so choses.

Jay Ajayi – 2 years, $50.5MM – Luke O’Connell

Kyle – This one seems really expensive.  Coming into the auction the top three RBs available by most rankings were Ajayi, Howard, and Crowell.  Howard went for 2/$30.5M while Crowell went for 2/$37.5M so any extra $6-10M/yr extra for Ajayi seems steep.  This contract also makes him the highest paid RB in our league for 2017 and 8th most expensive player at any position in 2017 which seems too high to me.

Nick – As I said early it can be hard to buy the first player at a position in auctions and Ajayi was a cautious tale of that. While he has the opportunity to be an RB1 this season the risk associated with RBs being 1-year wonders is all too real. In RSO especially you want to make sure your double-digit contracts are used on players that you know have safe floors. This contract has very little room for upside and a very real chance of being a blunder.

Carson Wentz – 4 years, $89.5MM – Dave Sanders

Marcus Mariota – 4 years, $96MM – Luke O’Connell

Dak Prescott – 4 years, $74MM – Jaron Foster

Nick – Superflex leagues are definitely the way to go for fantasy, especially in smaller leagues, but sometimes the needle swings totally in the other direction in terms of value for QBs. I’m firmly in the camp that Mariota is a serious breakout candidate for 2017 and has a chance to be a QB1 for the next 5-10 years. But for him and the other two young QBs (Wentz, Prescott) they were approaching Aaron Rodgers levels of expectancies from their given contracts. Again, I’m all about finding the value and with these contracts, there is very little room for value and a whole lot of room for disappointment.