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.

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.

Value Town: RBs

Updated: May 18th 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 RB 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 Running Back Position

2015 will be remembered as the year of the injury for running backs. The top seven scorers on a points per game (PPG) basis all missed games at some point during the season, including fantasy stars Jamal Charles, Arian Foster, and LeVeon Bell.  The group totaled forty-nine missed games averaging seven games per player.  This high attrition rate among the best running backs had profound consequences throughout the fantasy world.  Running backs contributed just twenty-three percent of the total replacement points in fantasy leagues, a decrease of more than thirty percent from 2014. On a per starter basis, running backs only eclipsed quarterbacks last season.   The high injury rate meant that many RSO GMs who spent heavily on running backs in 2015 did not enjoy a great year.

The mass injury rate presented opportunities for many other running backs waiting for their chance. The Pittsburg running game never missed a beat following Bell’s knee injury as DeAngelo Williams, at 33 years old, played like a man a decade younger.  Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West formed a potent combination helping Kansas City roll to the playoffs without Charles manning the lead back role.  Many rookies including David Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, and Jeremy Langford flashed potential starting ability when given touches.  Adrian Peterson returned to form in 2015 as one of the best backs in the league following his year-long suspension.  DeVonta Freeman took control of the Atlanta backfield following rookie Tevin Coleman’s early season injury issues and never looked back ending 2015 as the top scoring running back.

Running Back Values

The Good

DeVonta Freeman –  Average Salary: $2.6M, Approximate Value: $44M

Freeman exploded on the fantasy scene in 2016 ending as the RB1. His breakout campaign was highlighted by a four week stretch of thirty-plus point performances including nine touchdowns during that span.  Freeman’s rushing faded down the stretch, averaging a miniscule 3 yards per carry in his last seven games.  Expect more carries to go to Coleman next season but Freeman will still have value catching a lot of balls out of the backfield.

DeAngelo Williams –  Average Salary: $1.9M, Approximate Value: $17M

Williams was picked up by many Bell owners given Bell’s early suspension. Williams rewarded his owners with over 20 fantasy points per game when Bell was not in the lineup which would be among the league leaders.  Expect DeAngelo to be a popular handcuff again with his great 2015 play and Bell’s injury history.

Passing Down Backs

Cheap passing down backs, once again, provided a lot of value for those owners who chose to put most of their resources into other position groups. Dion Lewis (RB5 in PPG) and Danny Woodhead (finished as the RB3) vastly overproduced their low salaries while many others including Gio Bernard, Bilal Powell, and Charles Sims provided adequate cheap production.   Bargains galore will be found again in this group for 2016.

The Bad

Eddie Lacy –  Average Salary: $18.4M, Approximate Value: Replacement Level

Considered by many to be the safest running back for 2015, Lacy was outplayed by and eventually lost snaps to his teammate James Starks. The entire Green Bay offense regressed in 2015 and with it much of Lacy’s production.  I would bet on a bounce back campaign next season from a trimmed down Lacy with an improved Green Bay offense.

Demarco Murray –  Average Salary: $16.3M, Approximate Value: $8M

Just a disaster from the first snap, Murray never fit in Chip Kelly’s lateral running system. Philadelphia’s offensive line never seemed to be on the same page early in the season after losing two guards in free agency resulting in Murray being hit in the backfield on too many occasions.  Murray’s move to Tennessee and the Titans drafting Derrick Henry in the second round of the NFL draft put a lot of uncertainty in Murray’s 2016 value.

Jeremy Hill –  Average Salary: $15.6M, Approximate Value: Replacement Level

C.J. Anderson –  Average Salary: $15.1M, Approximate Value: Replacement Level

Two of the most hyped young running backs coming off of terrific second halves in 2014 disappointed many RSO owners this past season. Anderson and Hill were both outplayed by their smaller teammates early in the season.  Anderson was limited somewhat due to injuries and Hill was subject to a brutal defensive S.O.S against the run.  Gio Bernard will continue to be a big part of the Cincinnati offense and Devontae Booker could provide competition to Anderson’s touches, but I would expect both to have more consistent years in 2016.

Looking Forward

Uncertainty and transition are the overriding themes for 2016. Many of the top fantasy stars from previous years, including Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, and Marshawn Lynch, are at or near the end of their careers.  How many of the young up and coming backs like David Johnson, Thomas Rawls, and Matt Jones will take over dominant roles as their teams featured backs?

What has not changed? The NFL has seen a steady decline in rushing yards over the last few years and that is unlikely to change.  Examining Tables 1 and 2, we see that the performance of top running backs did not change very much.  Both fantasy PPG and yards per attempt were very similar in 2015 throughout the distribution of starting running backs.  The lack of value in the running back position was clearly caused by the unsustainably high injury rate in 2015, not by a sudden loss in effectiveness.  This may present RSO owners with the opportunity to buy high end running backs at value prices from owners scared off by all of the injuries to the top running backs.

Year RB1 RB6 RB12 RB18 RB24
2015 21.09 16.95 14.52 12.8 12.24
2014 23.16 17.04 14.45 12.95 11.3

Table 1. Fantasy PPG

Year RB1 RB6 RB12 RB18 RB24
2015 5.6 4.8 4.5 4.3 4.1
2014 5.4 4.8 4.6 4.2 4.0

Table 2. Yards Per Attempt

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.

Do You Just Know?

Updated: May 2nd 2016

In the Zone

College Swagger

For the most part, I’m a fairly humble person. After all, that is the upbringing of most folks from the Midwest. However, my freshman year in college at Miami University, I had a resident advisor (let’s call him Chuck) that I disliked so much that out of standing up for myself turned me into a trash-talking a-hole, especially on the basketball court.

One night I was playing 3-on-3 hoops with some friends (and Chuck), and Chuck and I were matched up on each other. That night, I got the better of him for the most part and prior to a game I announced it would be my last as I had to head to study group. That seemed to tick Chuck off and he was yapping more than usual while guarding me the entire game.

It got to the point where we were a basket away from winning a close game and the ball got kicked out to me in the corner more than 20 feet out and way before Steph Curry was a known entity. As I squared up to assess my options, Chuck kept taunting me shouting, “be the hero, (Goody)”. I’m not sure but I think I even passed out of that situation initially only to find the ball back to me in the same place seconds later. The chatter ensued. Finally, I had enough of Chuck-I raised up, shot the ball and without looking immediately started running towards my backpack with my hand in the air (kind of like Larry Bird when finishing off a 3 point contest All-Star weekend).

By now, you know the outcome-why would I tell this story if the shot didn’t go in, right? Chuck charged me and wanted to fight because I shut him up again. The big question is “how did I know it was going in?”. The answer and tie-in to my article this week, is sometimes you “just know”.

There’s A Draft In Here…

I get the hype of the NFL Draft. It is the best process for a downtrodden team to make strides to turn things around and sometimes help a team get a missing piece to put them over the top to be Super Bowl Champions. The intrigue here is that players of all positions can be the cornerstone for a franchise, even those outside of the skill positions.

From a fantasy football perspective, it provides a new crop of players to fawn over, especially in dynasty leagues and even more so in a hyper-league format like Reality Sports Online. Pick the right rookies for three or four years on market-friendly deals and the thought is, you can write your own championship narrative.

No doubt folks who have recently drafted Odell Beckham, Jr. or Todd Gurley can attest to how prime talent at $6.0 million a year or less can take their RSO teams to new heights. That is why we as RSO owners get so hyped for the draft, other than the intuitive fact that it is the time when these rookies situations become more known (not from a depth chart perspective, but at least opportunity wise). Remember, even Beckham’s success wasn’t a given and his injury-riddled start cast some doubt initially and now he’s a Top 5 league contract.

In the right years like the 2014 wide receiver class, it eliminated some of the guess-work on the “just know” factor. While players like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans have not knocked it out of the park the past two years, nobody doubted their talent at the top of rookie drafts (the just know factor), and they have been slight victims of opportunity from offenses that aren’t necessarily pass happy thus far, but the consensus is their outlooks are still very rosy.

2016 Is Not A Just Know Year

With customization across leagues, including those that have individual defensive players (IDP), the rookie draft each year may have a deeper talent pool. For those who are in more common leagues that have 20-25 player rosters and offensive skill positions and team defenses, not all first round rookie deals are owner-friendly, especially if you draft a guy that isn’t a “just know” player, so sometimes it is better to spread your money around in a smarter way.

I’m fairly active on Twitter and follow Dynasty trade tweets frequently. Lots of times you see studs getting traded for a bevy of rookie picks because certain owners fawn over rookie potential in search of the big score on hitting on picks, especially late-round cheap ones. To me, that strategy is fairly risky, especially in a year like this one that is not a “just know” one.

By way of example, let’s dig into Nick Andrews’ Pre-Draft Mock. Of Nick’s Top 12 picks, only Ezekiel Elliott flashes the potential to be an immediate fantasy star (I’d define this as being top 10 in fantasy points at his position for the upcoming few years) and the Cowboys taking him cements that behind their hulking offensive line and Scott Linehan’s affinity for passing to running backs. From an NFL perspective, it probably didn’t make sense for the Cowboys to go this route given the devaluation of the running back position; however, RSO owners don’t want to hear that noise and should take Elliott at 1.01 in all their rookie drafts. Other players may take at least a year to prove themselves (which isn’t a bad thing if you think of players like Devonta Freeman).

However, if you have a league which features three-year rookie deals, you almost need immediate contributors or to hit on your post round one rookie draft picks (which points to trading down to get more shots at this-the Moneyball strategy is being tested in Cleveland and certainly can be applied to your RSO rookie drafts). Let’s get into a few hypothetical situations that may mirror decisions you are facing when assessing your offseason trade or rookie draft strategy (assuming you have a bit of time to evaluate and aren’t doing your rookie draft next week before depth charts are being figured out with offseason workouts).

Hypotheticals-Would You Rather Have?

Established Player A: Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions-1.6 years remaining, $14.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player A: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings-1.02 mock, 4 years, $6.0-$7.6m average annual contract

These are the types of questions that really test the mettle of RSO owners. Tate is a solid PPR option who figures to get the ball more with Calvin Johnson retired, although he’s probably around the 24th best fantasy wide receiver for the next two years.

Treadwell fills a big need in Minnesota, and as one of the highest regarded receivers in the draft, those players typically often become the instant primary target for their teams. Treadwell’s rookie draft value will likely be derived in years 2-3 of his four-year deal and based on the GM’s confidence in his role on the Vikings offense, which has been a fantasy wasteland for receivers for a long time now.

I don’t get too hung up on 40 times like Treadwell’s 4.65 if the player has known game speed. Larry Fitzgerald ran a 4.63 and was fast enough to be able to watch himself leave Steelers defenders in the dust on the Jumbotron while heading to the end zone in his lone Super Bowl appearance. For me, based on Treadwell’s situation in Minnesota, I prefer the steady, if not spectacular Tate based on known production and his role as the number one receiver in the Detroit offense. Full disclaimer, I’d also prefer Cleveland’s first round pick Corey Coleman over Treadwell as well. I know the Browns offense is a mess (with or without Josh Gordon), but they will have to throw the ball and will work with Coleman’s skills to get him the ball in space. This screams heavy volume and potentially a role in the return game as well.

Established Player B: Matt RyanQB, Atlanta Falcons-1.6 years remaining, $17.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player B: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams-2.11 mock, 4 years, $1.3-$1.6m average annual contract

I’m certainly not the first to compare these players, as Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier did in this article. From a real football perspective, Goff is asked to be the savior of a team returning to Los Angeles and that will likely take time to do, especially given that the franchise has mortgaged in terms of future drafts to get their face of the franchise for the new era of Rams football. The Falcons quickly pivoted to get Ryan some weapons, something that the Rams don’t have the luxury of doing, so they either have to count on Brian Quick types to come out of nowhere or hit a home-run with late round picks in either the 2016 or 2017 NFL Draft.

That said, from a fantasy perspective in dynasty leagues where you are starting one quarterback across a 10-12 team typical format, even with Goff’s potential challenges of being the day-one starter in 2016, the RSO contract values and fantasy production seem to highlight that Goff’s upside and potential return as a second round rookie pick exceed Ryan’s market dynamics.

I love Goff’s presence and instincts (much like fellow Cal alum Aaron Rodgers) and think that he will break out in Year two even without a top wideout like Julio Jones, who Ryan has the luxury of having. At this point, Ryan still has weapons, but hasn’t proved to be worth more than a replacement/streaming quarterback in our format, and that isn’t worth paying out multi-millions and multi-years for.

So in this case, consider me a member of fellow writer Bob Cowper’s valuing rookie QB’s higher school of thought.

Established Player C: Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers-1.0 years remaining, $3.5m remaining contract

Rookie Player C: C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks -1.09 mock, 4 years, $3.6-$4.5m average annual contract

Who better to compare to Woodhead than a former wideout who played running back at Notre Dame last year? In this case, Prosise is still somewhat of a work in progress and needs to better pass protect to see time on an NFL field. However, his route running ability and size are key assets in giving him the opportunity for significant playing time in the right system.

With the increased emphasis on the passing game in the NFL, Woodhead was surprisingly a top 10 fantasy running back last year in PPR leagues and Philip Rivers loves him. Can Prosise be the same at similar dollar values? Who would you take?

For me, this argument really boils down to where you can get Prosise in your rookie draft. Woodhead, while very productive is sometimes challenging to own in fantasy based on offensive game flow. No doubt will the Chargers continue to emphasize Melvin Gordon in the run game and his snaps ramped up on obvious passing downs as the season progressed. Woodhead is also a free agent in 2017 and will be fighting for targets with Keenan Allen returning from a season-ending injury and with newly-signed Travis Benjamin.

Prosise certainly has the ability to be a 50-60 catch guy with the quicks to be like another C.J. (Spiller). However, rookie draft owners making this pick hope that Prosise gets more playing time and utilization than Spiller. If the utilization is similar to Woodhead’s with some carries sprinkled in , it is a 50-50 proposition between Woodhead and Prosise at a pick around 1.09 in the rookie draft from a salary perspective that heavily skews towards Prosise if Thomas Rawls misses extended offseason time, as Rawls is far from cemented as an established fantasy entity. Anything past 1.09 heavily favors Prosise’s upside, especially in Round 2 or later.


Due to the lack of “just know” guys this year, the Moneyball strategy of trading down may benefit you. There are only a few players/situations right now that seem to be definitive, so sometimes the solid, if not flashy vet is a better option than the rookie draft pick. Last year, I traded my 1.08 pick for a year of T.Y. Hilton and I’d do it again with a contending team, in spite of some bad luck surrounding Hilton’s QB last year.

How your team stacks up against the competition and whether you are in contend/rebuild mode matters for your decisions, but the “just know” factor means a ton and dictates whether or not you move up or down in your rookie drafts or trade out of them completely.

As for Chuck, I still laugh about that game and think about the ball going through the net sight unseen.

My Top 5 Picks

If my rookie draft were this week based on the situations they are in and long-term upside, here’s who I’d select:

  1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
  2. Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns
  3. Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins
  4. Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
  5. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks

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.

Dollars and Sense: Rookie QB Value

Updated: April 18th 2016

I believe that rookie QBs are an undervalued commodity on Reality Sports Online.  However, I am a man on an island because most of my colleagues disagree.  In Dave Sanders’ piece titled “Maximizing Quarterback Value”, he suggests skipping rookie quarterbacks completely.  In Bernard Faller’s piece titled “Value Town: QBs”, he suggests that since the difference between QB2 and QB16 was just 4 ppg that owners could plug-n-play at the position which could lead to you avoid drafting the top rookie QBs.  I disagree with my colleagues on this, in fact I have been a big proponent in my first two articles of reaching for a quarterback in the early second round of your RSO rookie draft.  Ultimately, our differences of opinion come down to one thing: position scarcity.  

The first thing we need to keep in mind about RSO is it’s unique contract driven dynasty format.  Since there are salary cap ramifications for every add/drop, it’s not quite as simple as other formats to rely on the waiver wire to fill your quarterback position.  Furthermore, because of the rookie draft that kicks off each season, younger quarterbacks are more highly owned than in other formats which further complicates the plug-n-play strategy.  Lastly, because RSO owners are more likely to hoard their quarterbacks, it’s important to keep this in mind when looking at metrics such as VBD and others that compare the “replacement level” of a position.

In Bernard’s piece he presents Tyrod Taylor as a good value, which I agree with, but the problem is that in most RSO leagues Taylor was not available once he was a viable fantasy starter and you needed him.  Sure, you could have grabbed him after the Bills’ announcement since he was only owned in about 20% of leagues originally, but if you doubted him and waited to grab Taylor mid-season as a bye week or injury fill-in he was likely already gone.  Ultimately, Taylor finished as QB17 based on the average number of points scored across all RSO leagues and was 81% owned. For comparison, Taylor was only 56% owned on Yahoo and 35% on at the end of the season.  On those sites/formats, relying on Taylor to give you some good plug-n-play value at quarterback was a viable strategy, even late into the season, but I don’t believe it could have been on RSO.

Blake Bortles was also a good value but I think the reality of the ownership percentage paints a bleak picture for those who use Dave’s strategy of skipping quarterbacks in RSO rookie drafts.  Before the start of the 2015 season, Bortles was approximately 17% owned on RSO, presumably most of those being owners who drafted Bortles in their 2014 rookie draft.  Compare that to the data compiled by leagues in which Bortles was just 2.8% owned in Week 1 of 2015.  By the Jags Week 8 bye, Bortles was up to 40% on and by the end of the season he was up to 71.6%; comparatively he skyrocketed to 90.74% in RSO leagues by the end of the season (mid-season ownership percentages are tough to pinpoint on RSO but I would estimate that by Week 8 it would be at least 70%).  To quote Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly.”  The owners who had the foresight to draft Bortles in 2014 are paying him rookie money for QB1 production and that’s worth the gamble of drafting a rookie QB rather than battling on the waiver wire once they “pop.”

The next veteran QB we’ll look at to illustrate my rookie QB feelings is the guy everybody loves to hate: Andy Dalton.  Coincidentally, Dalton finished 2015 as QB16 in both average points and ownership on RSO.  In “Value Town: QBs,” Bernard points out that the difference between QB16 and QB2 was just 4 points per game to illustrate his replacement-level strategy.  Based on my research, I think RSO owners need to dig deeper to find the true replacement level at QB.  For most redraft and keeper leagues, I agree with Bernard that QB16 would be the right place to look but for RSO, I would posit you need to go down to at least QB20, if not further, to realistically expect a player to be available.  Before the 2015 season, Andy Dalton was available in just 25% of RSO leagues (17th most owned QB) and that fell to just 8% by the end of the season.  In order to find somebody who was available in at least 40% of leagues at the start of the season, you would have to look to Sam Bradford, Colin Kaepernick or Teddy Bridgewater (the 20th-22nd most owned respectively).  If you were banking on picking up QB16 as a bye week fill-in during your RSO season you were probably out of luck.

As a counterpoint I looked at Ryan Fitzpatrick, the true embodiment of replacement level QBs.  He was just 19% owned before the season began and ultimately finished as QB11 in average scoring so I would admit that he was the rare case of a viable fantasy starter being widely available on RSO.  The interesting thing though lies in Fitzpatrick’s RSO contracts.  A measly 1% of RSO owners have Fitzpatrick locked up for another year.  So while you can find somebody like Fitzpatrick to help you through a few games this season, you can bet that somebody in your league will overpay for him in the subsequent free agent auction.  Instead, you could be content to have a young, potential stud like Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota under contract for rookie money for another 2-3 years.

In summary, I believe these numbers perfectly illustrate the different dynamic of an RSO league and why you need to value young QBs more highly.  You may think that that a value quarterback will be available for you mid-season but chances are they’re already owned by the time you get to the waiver wire.  The best way for you to ensure that you own that QB before they “pop” is to grab them in your rookie draft.  If you get lucky, and I do admit that this is a crapshoot, you could find yourself paying little salary for much production.  After all, the beauty of RSO is it’s similarity to the real NFL, so why would the value of rookie QBs be any different?  Remember what happened when Russell Wilson’s cap-friendly rookie contract allowed the Seahawks to spend their money elsewhere?  Championship.

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Cashing Out – Players to Sell

Updated: April 18th 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 Cashing Out, I’ll explain which players I’m actively looking to sell before the 2016 season.  


Jordan Matthews finished with 997 yards and 8 TDs in 2015

Jordan Matthews WR PHI – One of the most polarizing players in dynasty leagues, Jordan Matthews has an ADP of 26 in Dynasty League Football’s April 2016 mock drafts.  Personally, I wouldn’t draft him within the first four rounds.  Philadelphia figures to run a more conservative offense under Doug Pederson as Kansas City ranked 24th in passing yards in 2015.  Jeremy Maclin managed to have a very strong first season with the Chiefs, but I see him as a far superior talent to Matthews.  When exploring trades for Matthews, I’d attempt to package a 2016 pick with him to land Sammy Watkins, Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Alshon Jeffery, Brandin Cooks, Jarvis Landry, or Kevin White.

Marvin Jones WR DET – After signing a 5 year, $40 million dollar deal with the Detroit Lions, Jones is now viewed as the 1a or 1b option in a Lions offense that will have to find ways to replace Calvin Johnson’s production.  Jones’ inclusion on this list has more to do with a lack of confidence in Matthew Stafford than anything.  Fantasy owners have spent the past few years chasing Stafford’s 2011 season in which he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TDs to be largely disappointed with Stafford’s fantasy scoring.  According to Pro Football Focus’ end of 2015 quarterback rankings, Stafford ranked as the 23rd best quarterback.  While there’s an opportunity for Jones to absorb many of Johnson’s 150 targets in 2015, I don’t have confidence that he’ll be a top 25 WR on a weekly basis.  I’m looking to sell as I believe there will be quite a few owners in my leagues who like him more than I do.

Jay Ajayi RB MIA – While Miami has not be quiet in their attempts to land a running back this off-season, April may be the perfect time to sell Ajayi.  If I owned Ajayi, I’d email every owner and attempt to sell the fact that he’s currently in line to be the lead back.  After the trade with Philadelphia, Miami may have moved back too far to land Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott at pick 13 in the upcoming NFL Draft.  I’d certainly bring this up in trade talks and sell the fact that at worst he will likely split carries with the drafted running back.  I’m also very worried about his ability to hold up and have a long career as his knees caused him to fall to the 5th round of the NFL Draft.  Even with the uncertainty of the NFL Draft a few weeks away, his value is likely higher today than it may ever be.

Alfred Morris rushed for only 751 yards in 2015, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.

Alfred Morris rushed for only 751 yards in 2015, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.

Alfred Morris RB DAL – We’ve all heard the popular narrative that anyone can succeed running behind the Dallas offensive line.  Left for dead, Darren McFadden may have proved this to be correct in 2015 by revitalizing his fantasy value with 1,089 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry.  My concern with Alfred Morris is due to his lack of versatility.  Never an option in the passing game, Morris may only see the field on obvious running downs.  I don’t see him getting more than 10 rushes per game and don’t view his as a top 25 RB option to open the 2016 season.  Lance Dunbar, Darren McFadden, and potentially a RB acquired in the draft make the Dallas backfield crowded enough for me to avoid at this point.

Martavis Bryant WR PIT – Bryant’s inclusion strictly has to do with the structure of RSO leagues.  I’m cautiously buying Bryant in standard dynasty leagues where you keep your entire roster from year to year, but I cannot justify rostering Bryant long-term in RSO.  If his contract is for anything more than league minimum, he’s hurting your roster with his cap hit.  As a fan of his immense talent, I own Martavis Bryant in my RSO league.  In that league, he’s entering the 2nd year of a 3 year deal worth approximately $6 million per season.  Not too long ago I considered him to be a huge asset at that price.  Now, I’d be willing to do anything possible to move him since there’s no guarantee he’s reinstated for the 2017 season.  If the history of Josh Gordon and others suspended players teaches us anything, it’s not to assume reinstatement is automatic.  Not only will I be actively looking to move Bryant for nearly anything, I might be willing to move back a few spots in the draft just to unload that contract.  If I can find a buyer, the increased cap space is worth enough to move back a few spots and run the risk Bryant returns and is successful in 2017.  This strategy may prove to be difficult for me after writing this article, which I’m hoping my leaguemates don’t see.

Stay tuned later this month as I’ll explore players that I’m actively trying to acquire in the off-season addition of Open the Wallet – Players to Buy.

Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.