Updated: July 7th 2016

In the Zone

First off, I’d be remiss as someone born and raised in Cleveland to not talk about the first championship in 52 years as the Cleveland Cavaliers became part of history in coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors. Watching the final four and a half minutes of the game and seeing the Cavs hold the Warriors scoreless was very similar to my waiting out my semi-final playoff matchup in my main Reality Sports Online league last year. While that one didn’t go my way on the final play as I’ve written about before on a Drew Brees dumpoff to Tim Hightower, this one did and it was beyond my wildest expectations.

Outside of family events, this by far was the best event I’ve experienced and all the better that it was on Father’s Day as a I hit the floor in a sea of emotions when the buzzer sounded like I played in the game. In many ways I’m still celebrating this team as The Chasedown and The Three replace The Drive, The Fumble, The Blown Save, The Move. Suffice to say, I cannot wait until the championship gear we ordered shows up on my doorstep and am grateful to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Cavs for providing me the freedom to watch sports with no nervousness that the worst will happen going forward.

With that aside, it is time to talk a little bit about some wide receivers and tight ends that I like for 2016. I’ll stay away from the obvious names that may not be available in your auctions or will command top dollar. Writing articles like this are certainly bittersweet for me because I feel like I’m giving people in my leagues insight into potential targets of mine, but the beauty of Reality Sports Online marketplace pricing makes value fairly subjective. Before I jump in, one of the best in the business at dissecting wide receivers for fantasy football is’s Matt Harmon through his Reception Perception series. If you are serious about contending in your league, Harmon’s strength is dissecting the route tree receivers run and the success and advanced metrics that support predictive analysis.

1) Tyler Lockett & Doug Baldwin, Wide Receivers, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Lockett did a little bit of everything last year for the Seahawks and when Russell Wilson started airing it out in Seattle in Week 11, Lockett became a serious threat as a receiver, including catching 30 of his 40 targets for 444 yards and five touchdowns in seven games. As Harmon pointed out in Reception Perception, the Seahawks love taking deep shots with Lockett as the “nine” route was the route that the Seahawks ran the most with Lockett in his sample. The Seahawks targeted Lockett two to three times a game down the stretch and while some of those lacked success, Wilson works tirelessly with his receivers in the offseason so you can expect Lockett to be the recipient of amplified targets based on his ability to beat different coverages with frequency.

In leagues that factor in return yardage, Lockett is even more valuable. My fellow league-mate and USA Today Network’s Ryan Bonini recently compared Lockett to Randall Cobb and I think he could be right in terms of his rookie to second year ascension.

Further, if you are one who thinks the Seahawks will turn into a ground and pound team again at the beginning of the season and are paying $20 million plus to Thomas Rawls in your leagues, you may want to rethink that decision based on Doug Baldwin’s recent four year, $46 million ($24 million guaranteed) extension.

To me, this contract extension signals the Seahawks transition to being a passing team. Drafting C.J. Prosise, who excels as a pass catching running back as a former college receiver shows that the team wants to surround Wilson with the full arsenal of aerial weapons, as well as highlights that they are not fully invested in Rawls, who is coming off a significant ankle injury after being an undrafted rookie success last season. Look, I’m not sending Rawls to Siberia; however, I think his sample size is still small enough that in spite of an astronomical yards per carry last season that the Seahawks don’t have much capital invested in him, which makes him a scary dynasty asset to predict (think C.J. Anderson last season).

Back to Baldwin. In the same post Game 11 stretch as Lockett, Baldwin amassed 40 receptions on 53 targets for 590 yards and 11 touchdowns. Talk about crazy efficiency, but also note that Baldwin went bananas in a four game stretch with multiple touchdowns in each of those in the midst of your fantasy football playoffs.

Those in the fantasy football community talk about regression frequently and those who don’t understand the term automatically associate it with something bad. However, it more refers to statistical deviation and performances regressing to a mean or average. Surely, Baldwin’s touchdowns should come down this year or get closer to his career averages (29 total touchdowns in five seasons); however, would you really complain if he scored eight touchdowns for your fantasy squad this year as a top 24 wideout?

Based on the Reality Sports Online data I’ve seen, it is likely that Baldwin is a free agent in your auction and while others pursue some bigger names like T.Y. Hilton and Keenan Allen, Baldwin figures to perform on a similar level for a boatload less money. Ride the continued perception of the Seahawks ground game to get their wideouts on the cheap.

2) Coby Fleener, Tight End, New Orleans Saints

For fantasy owners seeking a quote to bank on for getting a steal at the suddenly declining tight end position, “He’s Always Open” is hopefully not the “We’ll run him until he throws up” quote from yesteryear (C.J. Spiller on Buffalo). However, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees uttered these words recently about new free agent signing Coby Fleener after playing the NFC South last season and watching lots of film on Fleener.

Early returns are that Fleener’s getting open in practice too, for what’s that worth. It may not matter. When a tight end like Benjamin Watson has 74 receptions on 110 targets for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns at age 35, following Jimmy Graham’s run in New Orleans, it is clear that the system produces opportunities for tight ends. In Indy, Fleener was forced to block and was inconsistent without Andrew Luck.

If there were any doubts in how New Orleans values the position, Fleener’s 5 year, $36 million contract with $18 million guaranteed should quell those questions. Now, the only question becomes whether or not a player with a history of drops makes the most of always being open. To me, the smart money in your auction is to take the chance on Fleener on a one to two year deal around $5-6 million a year. Assuming health, your reward should be a Top 8 tight end with upside.

3) Daniel Braverman, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears

File this one in the rookie sleeper category, but Chicago’s Daniel Braverman is a slot wide receiver who shows an uncanny ability to get significant yards after the catch and catch the ball in traffic. If you aren’t aware of him, he left Western Michigan after his junior season in which he caught 108 balls for 1,367 yards with 13 touchdowns. The 5’10, 177 lb. Braverman runs a 4.47 40 yard dash and was a 7th round selection of the Chicago Bears.

His story is compelling as he grew up in South Florida playing with an incredible work ethic and a chip on his shoulder because he was often overlooked among 5 star recruits. Braverman is the protege of former NFL wideout and fellow Miami University alum Sly Johnson who has been his mentor since 7th grade in South Florida. You certainly want to root for a guy as a fantasy owner who has overcome his mother leaving Braverman and his father at a young age.

When you watch tape of Braverman like this game against Ohio State and you see plays that show a little bit of Golden Tate, a splash of Julian Edelman (perhaps it is the Jewish receiver connection), and some Cole Beasley. He shined in two games against top ten opponents Michigan State and Ohio State, finishing the former with 13 catches for 109 yards and the latter with 10 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, showing the ability to break free over the middle while running all sorts of routes. Braverman also handled some punts and kickoffs which would add to his fantasy value.

What makes Braverman attractive to me are the targets that exited with Martellus Bennett, as well as Marquess Wilson’s foot injury landing him on the PUP list to begin the season. Add in the fact that Eddie Royal is 30 years old and we all know what he brings, and this brings unique opportunity for Braverman who seems like the type of player that will work his way into playing time and then play well enough to never relinquish it. Word is he’s already seeing some snaps with the 1’s while Royal has been out.

For a price of a third round rookie pick or a flier multi-year deal in your free agency auction, there’s significant value to be had on Braverman and I’m all in on the Braverman Express.

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.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

2016 Under/Over Predictions

Updated: July 4th 2016

The NFL season begins in just a few short months (and not soon enough for some of us). We have a fairly good grasp of what NFL teams will look like this fall with free agency and the NFL draft behind us.  There will be subtractions as teams cut down their rosters and additions as injuries take hold but the core players for teams are in place.  All of this data gives us an idea of how teams will fare in 2016 by examining the performance of teams last season and looking at the changes made by each team in the offseason.

Our first step in predicting how teams will fare in 2016 is looking at how they performed last season. I modeled win totals from 2015 based on a few key offensive and defensive metrics using data from the last two NFL seasons.  The model eliminates the effects of fumble recoveries, performance in close games, and other factors which, while playing a major role in determining teams’ win total, are somewhat random in nature and hard to predict.  The article focuses on teams with the largest differences between 2015 win totals and predicted wins from the model.


Minnesota Vikings –  2015 Win Total: 11,  2015 Model Prediction:  7,  Vegas 2016 Under/Over: 9.5

The Vikings increased their win total by four games in 2015 largely based on their top 5 scoring defense and relying heavily on Adrian Peterson to carry the offense. The offense ran the ball over 51% of the time, 2nd only to Buffalo, which limited the impact of a bottom third passer.  Minnesota took advantage of a mediocre division with a bad Chicago team plus Green Bay and Detroit performing significantly below expectations.   The team also benefitted from Cordarrelle Patterson who was a large part in producing the number one kickoff return average in the league.

I am comfortable taking the under for 2016. The rest of the division likely improves significantly in 2016.  We can also expect the defense to allow more points next year as the points allowed masked an average defense which ranked only 21st in rushing yards per attempt and 15th in opposing passer rating in 2015.  There are quality young players at all levels of the defense but not enough to carry an offense that will once again be heavily run based next season.

New Orleans Saints –  2015 Win Total: 7,  2015 Model Prediction:  4,  Vegas 2016 Under/Over: 7

The tale of the 2015 Saints begins and ends with their defense. It was not just bad, but historically awful in every context.  The New Orleans defense somehow managed to finish last in the NFL in points per game, opposing passer rating, and yards per carry. The Saints defense set NFL records with a 116.2 passer rating and 45 touchdowns passes allowed.  The offense did their part, finishing as a top ten scoring team once again.

New Orleans is a hard team to predict in 2016 but I will take the over here. New defensive coordinator Dennis Allen likely sees an improved defense next season if only by accident and even a below average defense is probably enough for the Saints to get to the .500 mark.  We have not seen any decline in the play of Drew Brees over the past few years and there is little to suggest he will decline this year.  The offense likely remains a top ten unit dominated by the pass.  The Saints should also be aided by a reduction in penalties and a division that has not improved significantly in the offseason.


San Diego Chargers –  2015 Win Total: 4,  2015 Model Prediction:  7,  Vegas 2016 Under/Over: 7

The San Diego Chargers are a much better team than what their 2015 record indicated.   Injuries decimated the offense, particularly an offensive line that ended 2015 as Pro Football Focus’ worst graded unit.  The poor line play translated to the worst rushing average (3.5 YPC) in the league with not a single San Diego running back managing even four yards per carry on the season.  The injury bug also hit the top of the running back and wide receiver groups with Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver, Keenan Allen, and Stevie Johnson all missing significant time.  The defensive line also struggled ending as the second worst (4.8 YPC) unit against the run.

The Chargers are a good bet to make the over next season. The hopefully healthy offensive line and positional players should improve the run and passing game in 2016 for what could be one of the better offensive units in the league.  The defense is not good enough to win games on their own, but there are quality players to build around including Jason Verrett, Melvin Ingram, and top draft pick Joey Bosa.  The rest of the division is strong but there is not a dominant overall team in the group.  San Diego was also unlucky in close games last season going 3-8 in contests decided by 7 points or less.

Seattle Seahawks –  2015 Win Total: 10,  2015 Model Prediction:  14,  Vegas 2016 Under/Over: 10.5

Seattle simply dominated on both sides of the ball in 2015. The Seahawks boasted the top rated passer in the NFL in Russell Wilson while also getting a lot of production from Thomas Rawls and the third ranked rushing offense averaging a robust 4.5 yards per carry. The tremendous production came despite PFF’s 30th ranked offensive line which had issues all season long.  The defense continued as one of the best units in the league against both the pass and run finishing the year 3rd in opponents’ passer rating and as the number one rushing defense.  Tyler Lockett also gives the Seahawks a dangerous weapon in the return game.

Eleven wins is a large number to predict for any team in the parity driven NFL, but feel confident taking the over with Seattle in 2016. Seattle amassed ten wins last season in spite of a 2-5 record in games decided by seven points or less.  The Seahawks have one of the most complete teams in the league.  Wilson’s scrambling ability at the quarterback position minimizes one of the teams’ few weaknesses in their offensive line.  We can expect the pass game to regress a little in 2016 after a likely unrepeatable finish to last season, but expect another strong season from Seattle.

Bonus Predictions

Denver Broncos –  2015 Win Total: 12,  2015 Model Prediction:  9,  Vegas 2016 Under/Over: 9

The Super Bowl champs lost significant performers, including Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, from a dominant defense in the offseason and Mark Sanchez is the most experienced QB on the roster. I am still taking the over here.  Denver kept the core of the defense together and whoever is starting at QB will likely be better than Peyton Manning was last season (I do not believe I just wrote that).  The prediction quickly changes to the under if Von Miller’s contract issues persist into the season and Talib misses time due to his “incident”.

Tennessee Titans – 2015 Win Total: 3,  2015 Model Prediction:  6,  Vegas 2016 Under/Over: 5.5

Jacksonville Jaguars – 2015 Win Total: 5,  2015 Model Prediction:  7,  Vegas 2016 Under/Over: 7.5

There are a lot of similarities for two young teams at the bottom of the AFC South.  Both teams were bottom half in offensive passer rating and near the bottom in rushing.  Both teams were strong defensively against the run but struggled against the pass.  Both teams added a lot of key defensive pieces through the draft and free agency plus bolstered the running back core. It is close, but I do not think either have done enough to get the three additional wins needed in 2016 to take the over.  Both teams have improved but likely not as much as their division rivals.  Indianapolis gets a major boost with the return of a healthy Andrew Luck.  Houston should improve across the board with big commitments at quarterback, running back and wide receiver on a team with one of the better defenses.

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

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Open the Wallet – Players to Buy

Updated: June 22nd 2016

In dynasty and RSO leagues, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying active year round in trade talks.  Player values fluctuate more than ever during this time of year.  If you’re willing to stomach some risk, there’s an opportunity for profit.  When discussing trades, I often hear that owners are afraid making a move and having it backfire in the long term.  My strategy is a bit different as I’m unafraid to make an aggressive move if I believe I’m getting more value at the time of the trade.  If you accept that you will lose in some trades but believe you will win out more than 50% of the time, be as aggressive as possible.  Right or wrong, I do not just consider deals made to be potential wins or losses.  I also think this way about trade talks that were close, but never materialized for whatever reason.  For example, trades I’ve declined have potential to be wins or losses as well though my roster has remained intact.

In this off-season edition of Open the Wallet, I’ll explain which players I’m actively looking to buy before the 2016 season.

Mark Ingram RB NO – I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of him early in his NFL career, but his production the last few years cannot be ignored. In fact, Ingram has averaged 4.5 yards per carry over the past 3 seasons, while increasing his utilization in the passing game each year.  In 2015, Ingram caught 50 passes in only 12 games.  With an ADP of 44th overall in Dynasty League Football June startup drafts, Ingram is a value with a few years left in the tank.


Ryan Mathews RB PHI / Wendell Smallwood RB PHI – Give me running backs in a Doug Pederson offense.  We saw last year that non-elite talents like Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware could be effective in Pederson’s conservative scheme. In Philadelphia, Pederson should continue running a conservative offense, especially while grooming Carson Wentz. The Eagles off-season moves also indicate that they’ll be heavily focused on running the football. They didn’t add any notable WRs in the draft or free agency, leaving the receiver corps very thin.  Philadelphia also invested heavily on the offensive line and at tight end this off-season. Mathews was very efficient in 2015, especially early in the season. He should be a borderline RB1 for as long as he can stay healthy. That said, Mathews isn’t the only running back on the team with fantasy value. Wendell Smallwood quietly was a do-it-all workhorse at West Virginia. I’d expect for him to open the season as Ryan Mathews backup with the potential to become the feature back if/when Mathews misses time for an injury.


Danny Woodhead RB SD – Woodhead finished 5th in PPR scoring among RBs last year. As we all know, Melvin Gordon struggled last season but still managed to eat 217 touches. With Gordon returning from microfracture surgery, Woodhead may have an even larger role this season.  He still has enough in the tank to be a valuable contributor for title contending teams, especially in PPR or .5 PPR formats.


Keenan Allen WR SDAccording to DLF ADP, Keenan Allen is currently being selected just ahead of a group of exciting but unproven wide receivers that includes Laquon Treadwell, Kevin White, Donte Moncrief, and DeVante Parker. Allen’s currently going 15th overall, 11th among WRs. He was on pace to put up career numbers in 2015 before lacerating his kidney. Expected to be at full strength for Week 1, Allen is an excellent trade target if you own one of these young and unproven WRs listed above or own an aging wide receiver like Dez Bryant, AJ Green, or Demaryius Thomas and want to cash in while they still have top 20 value. You likely wouldn’t need to toss in more than a second round rookie pick with Treadwell, White, Moncrief, Parker, or Thomas to acquire Allen.


Eric Decker WR Jets – Quietly Eric Decker had a monster year in 2015.  Many expected that his productive days would end when he left the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos, but that hasn’t been the case.  In fact, he’s been very productive with bottom-tier talents Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith.  While Fitzpatrick’s numbers were solid last year, he was largely aided by his star wide receivers and the Chan Gailey scheme.  Pro Football Focus ranked him as just the 25th best QB in 2015.


Tom Brady QB NE – As Matthew Berry coined in 2015, the “Gronk You Tour” may continue into 2016.  He’s the perfect number two QB for a contending team as he’ll likely provide elite production for a majority of the season.  Let’s not forget that Brady was the 2nd best fantasy QB in 2015.  His four-game suspension presents a great buying opportunity as he’s currently 122nd in DLF ADP, 11th among QBs.


Carson Palmer QB ARI – Similar to Brady, Palmer was very good in 2015 – ranking 5th among QBs. I’m hoping the memory of his last game, the 4 interception disaster vs. Carolina in the playoffs, remains in the front of his owners’ minds. Optimistic that he has 1-2 good seasons left, I’d be willing to part with a late round rookie pick to acquire Palmer.  That’s likely all it would take as he’s currently being drafted 153rd in DLF ADP, 13th among QBs.

Which of these players are you also targeting in trades? Let me know @DaveSanders_RSO on Twitter!
More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Value Town: TEs

Updated: June 10th 2016

Most people like a deal. Receiving good value for that new phone, TV, car, or any other item allows us to put our hard earned resources into other things we value.  Obtaining good values on players in Reality Sports Online (RSO) leagues is a must when putting together a winning team.  The Value Town series examines the good and bad buys from the 2015 season in RSO leagues plus the overall state of positional groups in an attempt to get owners ready for the upcoming 2016 season.

This article examines the tight end position group from 2015. You can find more information on methodology, assumptions, and definition of terms in the first article of the series here.

State of the Tight End Position

The tight end position remains simultaneously one of the most consistent and fluid positions. The elite of the position has not changed as Rob Gronkowski finished as the overall TE1 once again, the fifth straight season in which either Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham has finished as the top tight end.  Greg Olsen continues providing solid value finishing as a mid range TE1 for the fourth consecutive season.  Several young talented young players joined the TE1 ranks including Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert, and Zach Ertz.  Reed led all tight ends in fantasy points per game while Eifert dominated the red zone topping the position with 13 touchdowns in only 13 games.  The “old” players proved the NFL is not just a young man’s game as six players in their 30s finished in the top 12.

Tight End Values

The Good

Gary Barnidge –  Average Salary: $0.5M, Approximate Value: $23M

Barnidge wins the “Best Value” award for any player in 2015 with a top four finish at the position from a guy who was likely claimed off waivers in your league. His 79 reception/1,043 yard/9 touchdown performance was one of the few bright spots on a Cleveland team that went through multiple quarterbacks and struggled on offense all year.  The 30 year old also takes my “Where did that come from?” award with a season that accumulated more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than his previous eight seasons combined in the league.  Barnidge was rewarded for his impressive year with a three year, $12 million contract in the offseason.  He provides one of the few veteran presences on a team who just drafted four receivers.

Jordan Reed –  Average Salary: $1.2M, Approximate Value: $31M

We were finally able to see what a (mostly) healthy Reed could do in 2015 as he broke out with an impressive 87 reception/952 yard/11 touchdown season in fourteen games. The often injured star has played only 34 games in his three year career suffering through a variety of injuries including multiple concussions.  His hands, athleticism, and fluidity as a receiver make him a matchup nightmare when on the field though, resulting in an incredible 0.76 reception to target ratio throughout his career.  The Washington tight end was also rewarded with a contract extension in the offseason and should remain as the focal point of the emerging offense.

Ben Watson –  Average Salary: $0.6M, Approximate Value: $11M

Another veteran who made his presence felt is the well traveled Ben Watson. The thirteen year veteran took full advantage of the high powered New Orleans offense on the way to his best statistical season in the NFL.  His season was highlighted by a 9 reception, 147 yard performance against the Giants.  The 35 year old takes his talents to a crowded Baltimore depth chart in 2016.

The Bad

Jimmy Graham –  Average Salary: $13.8M, Approximate Value: $5M

The Saints traded Jimmy Graham to Seattle prior to the 2015 season in one of the biggest moves of the year.   Events did not quite go as expected by many with Graham producing as only a low level starting option for fantasy teams while he was in the lineup.  The Seahawks certainly utilized their new tight end, probably more than many realized.  His 74 targets in only 11 games was second on the team for the entire 2015 season and easily eclipsed Seattle’s tight end targets from all of 2014.  The one area in which Graham truly disappointed fantasy owners was in the touchdown department of which he managed only two on the season.

Graham suffered a patellar tear in week 12 ending his season. His prospects for the 2016 season are somewhat in doubt.  Seattle is hopeful he will be ready for week 1 this season but he could easily be placed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the year.  We simply do not have many examples of players with this type of injury and fewer yet who have made a full recovery (You can read more about his road to recovery here).

Jordan Cameron –  Average Salary: $3.3M, Approximate Value: Not Worth a Roster Spot

Many people were excited at the prospects of Cameron moving to Miami last season. The former Brown was expected to be an integral part of the offense going forward.  Cameron proved to be a disappointment. He was targeted more than seven times per game over the first five weeks but only managed an abysmal 5.5 yards per target over that span.  The Dolphins eventually decreased Cameron’s role and he did not eclipse 35 yards or 5 targets in any game for the rest of the season.

Looking Forward

Greg Olsen continues as a rock at tight end and Gronkowski is simply one of the best to have ever played at the position (although with his own substantial injury history). However, there are more questions than answers going forward which is not unusual for the tight end position.  Will the likes of Barnidge, Walker, and Watson build upon career years in their 30s?  Will young and talented, but often injured, stars such as Reed and Eifert stay healthy for an entire season (I write this as Eifert recently had ankle surgery)?

The position remains as fluid as ever. I could make legitimate arguments for why a large number of tight ends including Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Ladarius Green, Eric Ebron, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins could join the starting fantasy tight end ranks in 2016.  Fortunately, the tight end position is a good place to take multiple cheap gambles in RSO leagues.  Only five tight ends averaged over $5 million in RSO auctions for the 2015 season with the 6th through 20th ranked salaries averaging about $2.5 million.   This allows for a lot of value upside at the position and not much downside with the cheap salaries.

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

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Top 5 Remaining Offseason ?s

Updated: June 7th 2016

In the Zone

As the offseason has progressed, there have been some storylines that have continued to linger and others that have been new developments. There are fantasy implications all abound for all of these questions. Here are my top five remaining questions (in no particular order) that will alter the mindset of how players in these situations are viewed. I’m not including Tom Brady’s four-game suspension because the Patriots will be able to game plan for it if it sticks.

1) Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Contract Situation

The New York Jets, according to Spotrac, have only $3.1 million of remaining cap space for its Top 51 players. That provides an interesting conundrum on bringing back Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is coming off a career season with 3,905 yards passing and 31 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.

These numbers far exceed prior contributions from the signal-caller, yet Fitzpatrick only completed 59.6% of his passes last season and had one 300 yard game while the team narrowly missed the playoffs. Fitzpatrick seems to be wanting $12 million a year, possibly on a one year deal, which doesn’t appease the Jets who want to spread out the salary over time for cap purposes.

While the Jets were clearly a better team last year with Fitzpatrick at the helm, how much of that is attributable to a solid ground game and more importantly, renaissance man Brandon Marshall? I’d say a lot. Even with bolstering its offensive line with the trade for left tackle Ryan Clady and the big free agent signing of versatile running back Matt Forte, giving the quarterback the most amount of talent he’s ever had around him by far.

Geno Smith hasn’t effectively been a game manager, but hasn’t really been given the opportunity since the unfortunate broken jaw incident that led to Fitzpatrick starting the season and catching fire. Smith is the starter in OTA’s in Fitzpatrick’s absence and is a free agent in 2017. It would behoove the Jets to see what they have in Smith this year, especially if Fitzpatrick continues to hold out for what he believes he deserves.

What does all this mean for fantasy football? Not much, really. Marshall and fellow wide receiver Eric Decker have performed well no matter who their quarterback is, even if they are showing solidarity for Fitzpatrick. I watched Fitzpatrick frequently miss connections with Decker plenty last season and Decker does have a 200 yard game on his resume with Smith as quarterback. Forte also performed well in Chicago, even at a greater clip without Jay Cutler.

That’s your main concern, unless you are a Jets fan. Let’s face it- you aren’t throwing eight figures at Fitz in your auction or are considering him as a QB2 for any of your leagues.

Conclusion: Proceed as you were. Nothing to see here, people.

2) Sammy Watkins’ Injured Foot

It certainly came out of left field last month when it was announced that third-year wide receiver Sammy Watkins had foot surgery in April. This is the same surgery that impacted Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Julian Edelman. The big question that fantasy owners are dying to know is whether Watkins will be back in time for the regular season.

From a Reality Sports Online perspective, and I’ve said this on the record on Twitter, this Watkins news makes his price that much more reasonable and I’d be in buy mode while he’s cheaper. There are a few buckets of owners of Watkins in leagues. First, you have those who have Watkins on a rookie deal, likely around $6.0 million a year currently. That is a steal for a potential top 10 fantasy wideout for the next two years. Those who entered leagues later may have a heftier price tag on Watkins, but if it is anything under $20 million a season, that could be value.

As for me, I traded my final contract year of Randall Cobb (1 year remaining, $17.4 million) for Watkins (2016: $6.4 million, 2017: $7.0 million) and Matthew Stafford (1 year remaining $14.0 million). Basically, while I like Cobb’s potential efficiency to increase this year with the return of Jordy Nelson, I think Watkins ceiling is massive and a cheap price. Stafford is likely a cheap trade or cap casualty as I have Russell Wilson as my starter on a cheaper deal, but that to me was a small price to pay to get a potential superstar (which no doubt Cobb has been as well at times).

The news on Watkins having a screw inserted and prior history with Bryant rushing back and a subsequent Edelman surgery are troubling, but the Bills know what they have in Watkins and won’t make him take unnecessary training camp reps to risk not being ready for the regular season. Even if he starts slowly the first two weeks, his back half of 2015 was dominant on a team that only threw the ball more than 30 times in half of the final eight games.

How dominant you ask-try 41 catches for 732 yards and 6 touchdowns in the final eight games, including four 100 yard games. In fact, in that stretch, when Watkins was targeted 10 or more times, his worst game was 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Further, that’s on a run-oriented team and the team didn’t bring much in the help department for quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the passing game.

Lastly, in the event I haven’t convinced you on Watkins yet, he’s got a potential fantasy playoff slate against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Miami, all at home in Weeks 14-16 and the Raiders and Jags immediately prior.

Conclusion: Not concerned currently, but pay attention to the news. If you have Watkins, you’re probably holding him and expecting big things. If you have someone who is losing faith on him in your league, pounce on that, especially if the price is right.

3) The Josh Gordon Saga-Will It Continue?

By now you know the narrative about Josh Gordon. Incredibly talented, but can’t stay out of trouble. Those of you who still own him at an average of 1.7 remaining years and $9.3 million remaining contract are sincerely hoping Gordon can put his past (and Johnny Manziel) behind him to tear it up on the gridiron again.

That picture remains unclear, but there is some optimism that when August rolls around, Gordon can be clean and reinstated. The question then is what do the Browns do with him? He certainly would like nice in an all Baylor connection with Robert Griffin III and rookie #1 pick Corey Coleman (who I really like as a Top 3 rookie draft get), but at the same time Browns coach Hue Jackson is emphasizing character and the team is stockpiling Moneyball draft picks for the future.

Conclusion: Wait and see. If you have Gordon at an annual average of 1.7 years remaining and a little over $9.0 million left on his contract, just hope he hits the field, because if he does, he’ll produce anywhere. He still has top five wide receiver potential at close to bye week replacement pricing.

4) Is This the Year to Go Cheap at Quarterback?

Given the popularity of streaming quarterbacks in weekly redraft leagues and similar low dollar values in some daily games, a popular strategy that is now emerging in Reality Sports Online leagues is to spend as little as possible on your starting quarterback. The theory, as adopted by Reality Sports Online’s own Stephen Wendell with a quarterback like Derek Carr is simple: there are only 10-12 starting quarterbacks in each league, so don’t overpay for one while your budget can be used on positions that may require more cap space.

If any a year to adopt this strategy, 2016 seems like a prime one with quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston in their second year of rookie deals which typically found them as late first or early second round picks in 2015. The same holds true for Carr and fellow third year quarterback Blake Bortles. Both third year signal-callers have plenty of weapons. Heck, even Andy Dalton was playing like a top five quarterback until he got injured last season.

With quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning always a possibility to produce, unless quarterback is a position that derives more value in your leagues, it might be smart to not go crazy trying to sign the Aaron Rodgers types for $25 million when one of these quarterbacks can be had for $5 million or less.

Conclusion: 2016 seems like the first RSO league year where the cheap quarterback may really derive an advantage. I’m a firm believer in prime signal callers in the fantasy playoffs, someone you are sure will produce solid numbers even on a bad day. But if you can load up at receiver and get the right running backs under contract, this strategy is an interesting one.

5) Arian Foster: Whose Fantasy Season is he Going to Screw Up?

It is somewhat insane that Arian Foster remains unsigned, but it seems like he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s close to having a clean bill of health and there are definitely a few potentially needy teams still lurking. Foster likely is looking at a $3-4 million deal with some incentives that could be achieved if he’s healthy and performs well.

To me, the big question isn’t where Foster signs, but which current fantasy starter he’s going to destroy value for?

First off, if you are still holding Foster thinking he may be the same running back he was on Houston when healthy, please temper your expectations. He’s a very accomplished runner with excellent pass catching ability and a nose for the end zone. That’s where he holds the biggest value to teams. I don’t think teams are looking at him to be their bell-cow at this point in virtually any scenario.

I’d expect him to sign with the Miami Dolphins and if he does, Jay Ajayi owners will not be happy. Washington remains a good possibility and they’ve built up a pretty nice offense at this point. Put Foster in a committee and give him pass catching and goal-line responsibilities and he’ll have almost as much fantasy value on efficiency and fresh legs than he did as the featured back on the Texans. I personally don’t buy the New England hype-Dion Lewis is younger, coming off an easier injury to recover from, and under a fairly good contract.

Conclusion: If you haven’t cut Foster yet, hang on and see where this next month takes him. I wouldn’t overpay for him as a handcuff, but I’ve come around on him if he’s in a good situation and used well (10-12 touches a game), he could have Danny Woodhead like PPR fantasy value. If you are holding Ajayi or were hoping that Matt Jones was about to break out this year, get nervous, but wait to see what happens.

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). 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.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Deep Draft Targets

Updated: June 5th 2016

Everyone is always looking for those hidden gems the NFL seems to have missed in the early rounds of the NFL draft. We all want to be that RSO owner who finds the next Arian Foster or Allen Hurns.  This can be very difficult though. NFL production tends to correlate with draft position.  Higher draft picks have better odds of producing at the NFL level.

I want to focus on players drafted in the 7th round or went undrafted in the NFL draft.  These players will likely go undrafted or drafted late in your RSO rookie drafts.   There is a good reason for this.  These players are very unlikely to help your fantasy team.  As an example, just two out of seventy-five wide receivers (Julian Edelman, Stevie Johnson) selected in the seventh round since 2003 have put together significant stretches of fantasy production.  This article looks at a few of those deep round options in rookie drafts who might have a little better chance of providing some fantasy production for your team.

Keith Marshall, RB, 7th Round, Washington

Sometimes a player needs a change of scenery to bring out the best. Keith Marshall might be one of those players.  A highly recruited athlete coming out of high school, Marshall endured a seemingly endless string of setbacks at the college level.  An ACL tear ended his season five games into his sophomore year after a productive freshman year at Georgia.  He then attempted to return before his knee fully healed and managed only three games as a junior.  His senior campaign saw limited work behind Nick Chubb, who many consider to be one of the better backs in college.

So why the optimism given Marshall’s limited resume? Marshall (5’-11”, 219 lbs) comes into the NFL with one of the all-time best combinations of size and speed at the running back position. He ran a blistering 4.31 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, practically unheard of at his near optimal weight.  Competent pass catching skills and smooth, efficient change of direction added to his game-breaking speed produce an intriguing prospect with a ceiling practically unheard of for a seventh round pick.  His size and speed usually result in him falling forward for extra yards.  He is not the most elusive back and does not show a lot of power in his runs, resulting in few missed and broken tackles.

Marshall also goes to a tremendous situation in Washington, a team with a young ascending offense and very little at the running back spot ahead of him on the depth chart. Marshall’s primary competition for early touches is Matt Jones, one of the worst running backs in the league last year according to Pro Football Focus.  Jones averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per carry, the lowest of any back to have 100 carries, behind PFF’s 13th ranked rushing offensive line.  Jones also managed to lose four fumbles on his disastrous first year.  Overall, this is simply one of the best combinations of athletic ability and opportunity that a running back selected in the seventh round will ever see in the NFL.

Josh Ferguson, RB, Undrafted, Indianapolis

Ferguson profiles as a quality pass catcher out of the backfield for the Colts. He totaled 168 receptions and averaged over five yards per carry over his career on an Illinois team that struggled to remain competitive in the Big Ten.  The 5’-9”, 198 pound back has quick feet, great short area moves, and tremendous lateral agility that routinely made defenders look silly.  He also plays larger than his size with the ability to break arm tackles of defensive backs.  His size likely limits him to a passing down back role which was probably the reason he went undrafted as not every team utilizes a receiving back specialist.

Indianapolis could be a great landing spot for Ferguson. This is a pass first offense and Luck has shown the willingness to utilize his running backs extensively, particularly near the goal line where the Colts do not have a dominant red zone threat.  The Colts would love to run the ball more in order to protect Luck and tried to address the issue taking four offensive linemen in this year’s draft.  However, Gore was thoroughly ineffective last season and is unlikely to improve at the age of 33.  The depth chart behind Gore, headed by released former Seahawk Robert Turbin, is also uninspiring leaving plenty of opportunity for Ferguson to make an immediate impact.

Devon Cajuste, WR, Undrafted, San Francisco

The huge former Stanford Cardinal wideout has a versatile skill set which could translate well to the NFL. Cajuste averaged almost 18 yards per reception at Stanford.  He has enormous 10-3/4” hands that helped him continually make difficult catches.   Cajuste effectively uses his large frame to shield defenders from throws particularly near the end zone.  He has deceptive speed that allows him to get by unsuspecting players.  The 6’-4”, 234 pound receiver also displayed incredible agility for a player of his size with an NFL combine best three-cone drill time of 6.49 seconds.

Oppurtunity is the key for Cajuste in San Francisco. The wide receiver and tight end situation in San Francisco is largely unsettled.  Torrey Smith led the returning group of players with small totals in both receptions (33) and targets (61).  Anquan Boldin was not resigned leaving 110 targets from 2015.  The high volume Chip Kelly offense should also have more targets available for the receiving crew.  Philadelphia doled out almost 100 more targets than San Francisco last season.  Cajuste’s size, skill, and versatility could see him playing multiple roles for San Francisco as a move tight end, a big slot receiver, or an isolated wide out near the goal line.

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

More Analysis by Bernard Faller