FA Auction: Lessons Learned

Updated: June 18th 2016

Last time in this space, I took a look at the most frequently cut players from each offensive skill position.  My hope was that an analysis of where we went wrong last year could help steer us in this season’s free agent auction.  After all, nothing could sink a promising franchise faster than dead cap space.

For each position I picked a few players who I think that you should avoid spending big money on in your 2016 free agent auction.  Every player can be valuable with the right contract, this is not to say the below players should not be owned, I am arguing you should avoid splashing the cash on them.  First, let’s start with the obvious caveat: every league is different (size, scoring, roster size, etc.), so your mileage may vary, one league’s trash could be another’s treasure.


  1. Tyrod Taylor
  2. Brock Osweiler

The biggest take away after looking at last year’s most frequently released QBs was that you should not overpay for a small sample size.  I am not advocating skipping these two altogether, but I think prudence is the key.  Taylor went 8-6 and only threw 6 INTs (3 of which in one game) but he also had five games with less than 15 completions and five games with less than 200 yards passing.  The x-factor for Taylor, of course, is his rushing ability but that is the part that worries me: it will either lead to injury, it could be game planned away by the defense or be removed from his own game plan as preservation (see: Robert Griffin III).  I’m staying away from Taylor this year, I would rather be the guy who missed on him rather than have to eat his salary later.

For Osweiler, the sample size is much smaller and his rate stats were lower than Taylor’s (completion percentage, rating, yards per attempt, etc).  So, why do I think you should avoid Taylor more so than Osweiler?  Osweiler’s value is not so heavily influenced by his rushing ability, or lack thereof.  Osweiler is a “prototypical” quarterback and has 7″ and about 20lb on Taylor.  Still, though, I am concerned what a change of scenery will mean for Brock and can’t help but see him as the next Matt Flynn.  I wouldn’t avoid him at all costs but I would only offer him a one- or at a maximum, a two-year deal.


  1. Chris Ivory
  2. Matt Forte
  3. Demarco Murray

The theme with last year’s most frequently cut RBs was that you should avoid the hype of the veteran who was changing teams.  Despite some niggling injuries last year, both Ivory and Forte had decent seasons in 2015.  Ivory broke 1,000 yards for the first time in his career (1,070) and had more receptions (30) than he had the rest of his career combined (23).  Forte missed three games but was on pace for another 1,000 yard rushing season if he played the full campaign; he also pitched in with 44 receptions which was down on a per-game basis from 2014 but is still more than most RBs see in a full season.  Ivory has left the Jets for Jacksonville and Forte has taken his place.  Unless I can get them for just $2 or $3 million, I am probably skipping both Ivory and Forte.

Murray is interesting after what could not have been a more disappointing season in Philly last year.  He joins the Titans and could be at a point where his stock is so low you could actually get him for a song.  The ultimate post-hype sleeper.  He’s burned me once though, so I’m going to sit this year out.  I might let another owner take him, and if the contract is small enough, try to swing a trade once training camp starts and we see how the Titans backfield will work out.  Or maybe that’s the Cowboys fan in me talking.


  1. Jordy Nelson – Jeff Janis
  2. Michael Crabtree – Seth Roberts
  3. Brandin Cooks – Willie Snead

The lesson to be learned last year was to not spend too much money on the up-and-coming WRs who may unseat an established veteran.  So, for this position, I thought it would be useful to look at both the old and the new at the same time because I would actually avoid picking both sides of these pairs.

Jeff Janis had a memorable playoff game for the Packers against the Cardinals (7-145-2) but is it enough to make everybody forget about Jordy Nelson who missed the season due to injury?  Probably not, but I have just enough doubt to avoid Nelson this year.  Nelson is now 31 and has had two serious injuries – an ACL and a hamstring – which forced him to miss significant time.  Dynasty players know Janis well but I don’t think his brief flash is enough to warrant anything more than a minimum contract – many of us have been fooled by his potential already.

Amari Cooper is obviously the top Raiders WR to own, but who should you target second?  After all, Derek Carr does like to air the ball out.  I’m not biting on Crabtree’s 85-922-9 and instead think that Seth Roberts will emerge.  Roberts was an unheralded rookie out of West Alabama whose line was 32-480-5.  Like Janis, his sample size is too small to spend on, but his presence means I will not sign Crabtree this offseason.

Chances are that Willie Snead was snagged off waivers by somebody last year rather than being signed to a long term deal.  I cannot imagine there were too many owners who were holding Snead futures so he’s likely up for free agency.  I’d bite in a PPR league but there weren’t enough TDs there for standard scoring, in my opinion.  Snead’s emergence dented Brandin Cooks’ potential.  Cooks didn’t score his first TD or surpass 100 yards until Week 5; ultimately he had six sub-50 yard games versus just four over-100 yard games.  His strong suit was supposed to be the volume of receptions but even that was lacking – just 84.  The saving grace for Cooks fantasy-wise was his 9 TDs but I would take the under for 2016.  Snead and Cooks are too similar in their playing style and so cannibalize each other’s opportunities to succeed.


  1. David Johnson
  2. Alex Smith
  3. Coby Fleener
  4. Ladarius Green

In my last piece, I noted that David Johnson and Alex Smith were two of the most frequently cut tight ends.  Originally I attributed it to their deep, deep sleeper status but after further thought I think it was definitely because they share a name with another position player.  Whether it was an honest mistake or an unscrupulous nomination, I think some owners ended up with the wrong guy and immediately cut bait landing them on the list.  Don’t make that mistake again this year, folks.

Last year, we should have all held off on anointing Josh Hill the Jimmy Graham heir apparent, and I think this year you should similarly avoid Fleener.  Green is likewise joining a new team, the Steelers, and while he has shown flashes, he’s never been the go-to tight end for an extended period of time.  Ultimately, I think both are so close to replacement level that I wouldn’t bother.

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.

Post-Draft Rookie Mock Draft

Updated: May 18th 2016

As you’ve likely already heard by now, the 2016 draft class is not strong. After watching the NFL Draft unfold, I’m less optimistic than I was about this class even a week ago. Last year there was a debate between Amari Cooper and Todd Gurley for the 1.01 pick, but we expected both to be excellent players in the NFL. This year no such debate exists as Ezekiel Elliott cemented himself as the 1.01 pick by landing with the Dallas Cowboys. After Elliott, there are six players that would be worthy of a 1st round rookie pick in most years.  Calling the end of the 1st round ugly would be an understatement. The caliber of player drops off a cliff, making late 1st round picks not much more valuable than 2nd rounders.

If we compared this draft to the 2015 class at the time they entered the NFL, only Elliott would be among the top 5 prospects. In my opinion, Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley, Kevin White, and DeVante Parker were all better prospects last year than Treadwell, Coleman, Doctson, Shepard, Henry, etc.

Without further ado, let’s kick off this 12 team, standard scoring IDP mock draft:

Round 1

1.01 – Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL

Undoubtedly the number #1 pick in all rookie drafts, he immediately slots in as my #3 RB for dynasty and is even a 1st round pick in redraft leagues.

1.02 – Laquon Treadwell WR MIN

While his stock has fallen over the past few months, Treadwell still is a very good prospect that should have plenty of opportunity in Minnesota.

1.03 – Corey Coleman WR CLE

Immediately the #1 WR on the team, Coleman should get fed the ball plenty. If everything clicks, Coleman has dynasty WR1 potential.

1.04 – Josh Doctson WR WAS

Love Doctson’s ability to go up and get the ball. He should be an immediate red-zone threat that plays frequently opposite DeSean Jackson. However, it’s important to note that Doctson is several years older than both Treadwell and Coleman.

1.05 – Sterling Shepard WR NYG

Thought of mainly as a slot receiver, Shepard has the ability to win on the outside and should make plenty of plays opposite OBJ in the Giants’ West Coast offense.

1.06 – Michael Thomas WR NO

He’s a work-in progress, but has great physical tools. Should challenge Willie Snead for the #2 WR position in New Orleans.

1.07 – Tyler Boyd WR CIN

Maybe the most polarizing player of this dynasty rookie class, Boyd lands in a nice spot and will help replace departed free agents Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

1.08 – Derrick Henry RB TEN

I did not expect Tennessee to draft a RB early after trading for DeMarco Murray. While he may not play a ton in his rookie year, Henry has a chance to be “the guy” moving forward in a run-first offense.

1.09 – Kenneth Dixon RB BAL

My favorite running back prospect besides Elliott, Dixon is more talented than Buck Allen and could immediately threaten Justin Forsett for carries.

1.10 – Will Fuller WR HOU

I typically shy away from the big play, low volume receivers that fit the DeSean Jackson mold. That said, there’s no denying Fuller’s talent makes him a borderline 1st rounder in a weak rookie class.

1.11 – Paul Perkins RB NYG

Perkins has a chance to share carries early in the season and potentially be the Giants’ lead back by seasons end.

1.12 – Jordan Howard RB CHI

If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to check out Mike Clay’s piece on Jeremy Langford’s rookie season. Upon further review, Langford really struggled in year 1. Of course there is room for improvement, but it would not be crazy to see Howard become the lead back in Chicago.

Round 2

2.01 – Leonte Carroo WR MIA

Carroo easily could have found himself as a mid-1st rounder had he landed in a better situation. In Miami, he’ll have to compete with young WRs Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker for targets. Tannehill also is not the ideal quarterback to maximize Carroo’s skill set.

2.02 – CJ Prosise RB SEA

Prosise should be an excellent 3rd down compliment to Thomas Rawls and is clearly an improvement for Seattle on the 2015 version of Fred Jackson.

2.03 – Myles Jack LB JAX

Without the injury concerns, Jack would have firmly cemented himself as a late 1st rounder.

2.04 – Devontae Booker RB DEN

Booker should quickly become the #2 RB in Denver ahead of Ronnie Hillman in Denver’s run-first offense led by Mark Sanchez/Paxton Lynch.

2.05 – Keith Marshall RB WAS

It’s not often a 7th round pick becomes a fantasy commodity, but this is the case for Marshall as the incumbent Matt Jones has done little to secure the job.

2.06 – Tajae Sharpe WR TEN

Many will question whether the sure-handed receiver from UMass can be a productive fantasy WR. In a weak class, I’m willing to take a chance on him in the 2nd round.

2.07 – DeAndre Washington RB OAK

Rumors have swirled this off-season about the Raiders’ lack of confidence in Latavius Murray. DeAndre Washington, the undersized productive running back out of Texas Tech, could immediately push for playing time.

2.08 – Jared Goff QB LA

The face of the LA Rams, Goff has potential to be a franchise QB and potentially a QB1 in fantasy someday.

2.09 – Carson Wentz QB PHI

Wentz should be given the keys to open the 2017 season. I wouldn’t even be shocked if Wentz starts the final few games of 2016 to give him some experience in meaningless games for the Eagles. With experience in a pro-style offense, the Eagles hope he can quickly adapt to the NFL game.

2.10 – Wendell Smallwood RB PHI

I’ll admit that I’m higher on Smallwood than most. I strongly believe he’ll see work behind Ryan Mathews from Week 1. Smallwood’s abilities as a pass blocker and receiver should get him plenty of 2nd and 3rd down work to start the season. Even while playing through an ankle injury, Smallwood carried the ball 238 times for WVU’s run heavy offense. He also showed big play ability as over 30 percent of his carries went for 15+ yards.

2.11 – Darron Lee LB NYJ

Lee is a great fit in Todd Bowles’ scheme. The speedy pass rusher has tons of upside.

2.12 – Kenyan Drake RB MIA

I expected Miami to add a more versatile back to challenge Jay Ajayi for the starting job. Drake projects to be passing down back in Miami, but I wouldn’t expect him to carry the full load if Ajayi gets injured.

Round 3

3.01 – Jonathan Williams RB BUF

Williams could have been a late 1st/early 2nd rookie pick if he landed in a better situation….say Miami for instance. Even in Buffalo, I’ll bet on his talent and take a chance on him.

3.02 – Paxton Lynch QB DEN

Lynch may not be ready to start in 2016, but has a unique combination of size and athleticism. If he puts it all together, he has a chance to be the best fantasy QB of this class.

3.03 – Pharoh Cooper WR LA

Cooper has an opportunity to earn playing time among the Rams’ thin wide receiver core.

3.04 – Braxton Miller WR HOU

At the very least, Miller should be a gadget player who creates mismatches for Bill O’Brien’s offense.

3.05 – Joey Bosa DE SD

Bosa is the best pure pass rusher in this draft and should immediately make an impact in fantasy.

3.06 – Hunter Henry TE SD

The most talented TE in this draft, Henry is a great long-term prospect but don’t expect much in year 1.

3.07 – Malcolm Mitchell WR NE

The Patriots haven’t had much success when drafting receivers lately, but his 2015 season forces me to take notice, especially considering the offense he’s joining.

3.08 – Rashard Higgins WR CLE

One of the best route runners in this draft, Higgins has a great opportunity for early playing time.

3.09 – Jaylon Smith LB DAL

Like Jack, Smith’s value is greatly deflated due to massive injury concerns. I’m slightly more optimistic than I was heading into the draft after Dallas took him early in the 2nd round. It’s also important to note that the Cowboys’ team doctor performed Smith’s surgery. Dallas must feel he’s worth the risk so I’ll take the gamble as well. If you’re a bit more bullish than me, you may need to target him in the 2nd round of rookie drafts to be sure to get him.

3.10 – DeForest Buckner DL SF

San Francisco’s roster severely lacks talent. Destined for a high draft pick again in 2017, DeForest Buckner is a nice building block for the 49ers.

3.11 – Leonard Floyd LB CHI

Floyd needs to be coached up, but the raw talent is intriguing.

3.12 – Mike Thomas WR LA

With an excellent ability to reel in the ball in contested situations, Thomas has a chance to earn playing time with LA in year 1.

Round 4

4.01 – Tyler Ervin RB HOU

4.02 – Reggie Ragland LB BUF

4.03 – Austin Hooper TE ATL

4.04 – Cardale Jones QB BUF

4.05 – Noah Spence DL TB

4.06 – Karl Joseph DB OAK

4.07 – Keanu Neal DB ATL

4.08 – Danny Lasco RB NO

4.09 – Keyarris Garrett WR CAR

4.10 – Shaq Lawson DL BUF

4.11 – Kevin Dodd LB TEN

4.12 – Alex Collins RB SEA

Most Intriguing Pick of Round 4: Cardale Jones – Rumors are swirling that the Bills are lacking confidence in Tyrod Taylor as the long-term solution at QB.  Jones has all the physical tools, but is strictly a developmental prospect that needs a great deal of coaching.

Round 5

5.01 – Robert Nkemdiche DL ARI

5.02 – Deion Jones LB ATL

5.03 – Charone Peake WR NYJ

5.04 – Tyler Higbee TE ATL

5.05 – Jalen Ramsey DB JAX

5.06 – Christian Hackenberg QB NYJ

5.07 – Su’a Cravens DB WAS

5.08 – Chris Moore WR BAL

5.09 – Josh Perry LB SD

5.10 – Kenny Lawler WR SEA

5.11 – Darian Thompson DB NYG

5.12 – Sheldon Rankins DL NO

Most Intriguing Pick of Round 5: Christian Hackenberg – His inclusion in the top 60 is strictly due to the confidence the Jets have placed in him.  When it comes to Christian Hackenberg, I don’t see it.  After a promising freshman year, where he fed now NFL superstar Allen Robinson, he regressed greatly…showing poor accuracy and bad footwork.  The arm talent is there, but he needs to be completely rebuilt by this coaching staff.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts – reply in the comments section or tweet me @DaveSanders_RSO!

Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Picks 13-24

Updated: April 28th 2016

In my previous article I put together a list of the top 12 rookie that could come off your board starting next week. If you didn’t read the first part I am looking at Chad Reuter’s 7 round mock that he put together and from this I am making my own rookie mock draft of the first two rounds for a 12 team league. The first 12 selection are here for you to read. Let’s move on to the second round now.

Paul Perkins, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 13         Proj: R4 Pick 114, Oakland Raiders

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Perkins has all the traits you want to see out of a RB. He’s quick and agile, has good vision, isn’t afraid of contact and runs to the whistle. Watch his first half against Stanford last year to see each of these traits. In Oakland he would fit perfectly with a young budding offense and would be able to compete with Latty Murray for the starting role. At worst he’s a solid change of pace RB who excels in the passing game.

Pharoh Cooper, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 14         Proj: R5 Pick 140, Tennessee Titans

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper is a great Swiss Army knife player. He can run and catch the ball as well as return punts. He will likely need to start training camp as a WR4/Special Teams returner but we’ve seen that pay off for rookies before (hello Tyler Lockett). With Tennessee already having Kendall Wright, DGB and signing Rishard Matthews in free agency it would not be an ideal situation for him to ascent to the top of the depth chart but I am a believer that talent usually trumps situation. His time would come.

Tajae Sharpe, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 15         Proj: Undrafted

Tajae Sharpe, WR, UMASS

Tajae Sharpe, WR, UMASS

It’s hard to get excited about picking a guy that is likely a late day three or undrafted prospect. However, once you get past this fact you can see the kind of athlete that Sharpe is. His hand size (8 ⅜ inch) has left many to think that he will have a hard time holding onto the ball at the next level. If you watch his tape though you will see he must be sweating “Stick-Um” because he just doesn’t drop the ball, EVER! For those who follow RotoViz you will also know that he is one of their lovable sleepers in terms of his metric’s scores.

Jonathan Williams, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 16         Proj: R4 Pick 134, Baltimore Ravens

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Another powerful runner, I like Williams here more than fellow RB Devontae Parker by the slimmest of margins. With the expectation that Justin Forsett is in his last year with the team and Javorius “Buck” Allen is a good but not great RB I believe there would be a clearer path to the starting role. While OC Marc Tresman may favor backs that can catch passes Williams would fit the tough, grind it out running style of the AFC North.

Devontae Booker, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 17         Proj: R2 Pick 63, Denver Broncos

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Age has been a big knock on Booker (23) at a position that seems to expire faster than fruit on the counter. But with age comes wisdom and Booker has shown he has the vision and patience to be a successful back in the NFL. To land in Denver would be a question mark with the resigning of both Anderson and Hillman but stranger things have happened. If he landed with a team that had a more direct route to being the starting RB, I could see Booker moving closer to the top of the second or even back of first rounds.

Mike Thomas, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 18         Proj: R7 Pick 233, Philadelphia Eagles

Mike Thomas, WR, SMU

Mike Thomas, WR, SMU

With another Mike Thomas in the draft, there is sure to be some confusion come draft time as to which is being selected. I really like this Mike Thomas as an under the radar player that could compete for a WR2 or WR3 spot despite being a day three selection. Going to the Eagles would dump a cold bucket of water on his upside as the Eagles already have a large collection of WRs and new head coach Doug Pederson comes from KC where other than Maclin, usable fantasy WRs were scarce.

Braxton Miller, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 19         Proj: R3 Pick 70, Baltimore Ravens

Braxton Miller, WR, OSU

Braxton Miller, WR, OSU

The converted QB showed flashes with his one year at WR in 2015. It will be interesting to see which team can mold his raw athletic skills at WR. Because of this he might be limited in his role his rookie season. With Baltimore having Steve Smith coming back for one more year and Perriman healthy and ready to go this season this could be a perfect situation for Miller to learn the position before stepping into a starting role in 2017.

Jordan Howard, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 20         Proj: R4 Pick 120, Washington Redskins

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

Call me a skeptic but I’m not sold on Matt Jones as a starting RB in the NFL. His fumble issues should open the door for another back to come in and share the load in 2016. Enter Howard, who follows the theme of this round by being another big (6’0” 230lbs) runner that can push through the middle. Ironically this is the same style of runner that they let walk this offseason, Alfred Morris.

Rashad Higgins, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 21         Proj: R5 Pick149, New York Giants

Rashad Higgins, WR, Colorado St.

Rashad Higgins, WR, Colorado St.

An easy way to hide your flaws is to be part of a great system. Getting to play next to one of the elite young WRs in Odell Beckham Jr. would definitely take some of that pressure off. While he under performed at the combine, there’s no doubt watching Higgins that he can be a great complimentary WR in a pass first offense. With strong hands, he knows how to trap the ball in his 9 ¾ inch mitts.

Tyler Ervin, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 22         Proj: R3 Pick 90, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose St.

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose St.

My same logic applies here that it did with Matt Jones and Washington. While I believe Thomas Rawls is a better and more rounded back than Jones, his short resume and the ankle injury that ended his year will always leave a concern with fantasy owners. Whichever team Ervin ends up with he showed that he can explode out of the backfield with a 4.32 40 time and 130” broad jump, which tested in the 89th and 96th percentile respectively.

Jared Goff or Carson Wentz

Mock: R2 Pick 23

Proj: R1 Picks 1&2, Los Angeles Rams/Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz, QB,NDSU

Carson Wentz, QB,NDSU

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

I know this seems like a cop out picking both but at the end of the second round seems like the place for owners to select the first QB in rookie drafts. Depending on who goes to the Rams first will likely dictate the value of these two players also. Neither is likely to be QB1s in their first season, and whichever goes to Philly may sit part or all of their rookie season out. Wentz will offer more running upside but temper your expectations as you should expect more Winston/Luck in terms of rushing attempts than a Newton or Wilson.

Daniel Lasco, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 24         Proj: R3 Pick79, Philadelphia Eagles

Daniel Lasco, RB, Cal

Daniel Lasco, RB, Cal

The last pick of the second round might be a reach for some but for the reasons I wouldn’t like a WR to Philly I would LOVE a RB to fall there. Ryan Matthews is on the training table more than the field and Darren Sproles is well into his 30’s and more of a specialty player at this point. Pederson used the run game heavily in KC and made fantasy relevancy of both Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware last year. Lasco has the same explosiveness that Ervin possesses and would thrive in a similar role as Jamaal Charles was for Pederson’s system.

That’s it for the first two rounds of my pre-draft mock. Other players that missed the cut are Alex Collins to Detroit, Hunter Henry to Chicago and Kenyan Drake to Dallas. It will be exciting to see where the chips actually fall over the weekend. Watch for Dave Sanders and his official rankings once the draft is completed. Look for me @naandrews19 to suggest who you think has the best value in rookie drafts. Happy Drafting!

Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Picks 1-12

Updated: April 28th 2016

The NFL draft is nearing and everyone is getting anxious about which players will end up with which teams. There are always a couple of players that rise, or fall down, fantasy draft boards based on their landing spot over the weekend. As a “what if” scenario I have taken the latest 7 round mock from NFL writer Chad Reuter and created a two round rookie mock draft based on the landing spots laid out in his article. This hypothetical draft will consist of the standard PPR, 1QB league. Let us begin!

Ezekiel Elliot, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 1            Proj: R1 Pick 13, Miami Dolphins

Ezekiel Elliot, RB, OSU

Elliot will likely be the first player off every board this offseason regardless of team need. With the ability to be a three down back that already has arguably the best pass blocking skills in this year’s class it won’t be hard for him to find the field as a rookie. Adding him to Adam Gase’s Dolphin offense would only strengthen his case for going #1.

Laquon Treadwell, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 2            Proj: R1 Pick 23, Minnesota Vikings

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

After Elliot there is a clear tier gap that features 3-4 WRs. The order of their selections in the real draft may also affect their selections in fantasy drafts. While many may be quick to judge the slow 40 time Treadwell posted during his pro day, I am sticking with the player that this time last year was considered the locked in first pick.

Josh Doctson, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 3            Proj: R1 Pick 22, Houston Texans

Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Doctson did nothing to hurt his chances of being the first selected WR off the board this year by showing off at the combine in February. At worst Brock Osweiler offers the same level of quarterback play as Teddy Bridgewater would to Treadwell in Minnesota.  If he landed with Houston however, Doctson’s target numbers would be capped being opposite Hopkins as the WR2, whereas Treadwell would likely step in as Minnesota’s week 1 starter.

Leonte Carroo, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 4            Proj: R2 Pick 61, New England

Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers

Here’s where things get spicy. Many have Carroo projected as mid to late first round selection in rookie mocks. With off field issues being as taboo as they are right now it’s likely that some will drop him down even further. But should he land in New England with a coach who’s known for polishing up troubled players, Carroo could offer the Patriots an outside, sure handed WR that the likes of LaFell, Lloyd, and Dobson never could live up to.

Corey Coleman, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 5            Proj. R2 Pick 34, Dallas Cowboys

Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

The Coleman hype train has been gaining steam since the end of the college season when the Baylor product put up a mind boggling 20TDs! When your comparisons are to that of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., you immediately draw the eyes of readers as well. In Dallas he would likely be the WR2 behind Dez Bryant and play a majority of his snaps out of the slot. In a scheme that values a strong running game and already has a slot receiver in Cole Beasley it would be interesting to see how Coleman would fit in big D’s playbook.

Derrik Henry, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 6            Proj: R1 Pick 30, Carolina Panthers

Derrik Henry, RB, Alabama

Skeptics have pointed to two holes that suggest Henry is one of the most overvalued players in this year’s rookie draft: his size and the school he attended. While some may be able to argue that Alabama has dangled some rotten carrots over the NFL’s head in recent years (*cough* Richardson *cough*), Henry showed at the combine that despite being a freakish 6’3” 247lbs he could still run a respectable 4.54 40 time. Rumors have suggested that he could go anywhere from Seattle at 26 to Dallas at 34 in the second round. Henry would bring a familiar smash mouth running style that has been a staple to these franchises in recent years.

Kenneth Dixon, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 7            Proj: R3 Pick 96, New England Patriots

Kenneth Dixon, RB, LA Tech

While Belitricks has left a bad taste with fantasy owners in the last half decade, Dixon would present a nice ying to Dion Lewis’ yang. His ability to both hit the hole and go, while also catching passes out of the backfield make him a late day two, early day three option for any team that needs an RB.  After abandoning the running game altogether during the playoffs last year, it seems apparent that the Patriots will address the running game in this year’s draft to better balance their offense in 2016.

Tyler Boyd, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 8            Proj: R3 Pick 65, Cleveland Browns

Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

I like to think of Corey Coleman as the MonStars from Space Jam with Tyler Boyd playing the role of Charles Barkley and friends. When the offseason started Boyd was being talked about with Treadwell in the WR1 conversation. Since his poor showing at the combine however, his upside has been zapped out of him by the likes of combine stars Coleman and Doctson. This has resulted in him falling out of the first round in several rookie mocks recently. While being mocked to the Browns wouldn’t add any incentive to reaching for Boyd in drafts, it wouldn’t be the first time that a star player who under performed at the combine turned out to be a draft day steal.

C.J. Prosise, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 9            Proj: R3 Pick 72, Chicago Bears

C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

For converting from a WR to RB, Prosise had a pretty spectacular year. While it will be interesting to see how his skill set translates to the NFL level his value will ultimately come down to which team he falls to. If he can play the Danny Woodhead role on a pass oriented offense he could easily see 50 to 60 catches out of the backfield.

Michael Thomas OSU, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 10         Proj: R1 Pick 28, Kansas City Chiefs

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas, WR, OSU

It would fit perfectly that Michael Thomas, who is criticized for being simply a piece of a great Ohio State team would be lining up opposite to Jeremy Maclin who was one of 2015’s most underappreciated WRs. While Thomas didn’t have the typical offensive market share that many fantasy analysts look for in a top-tier pick, it would have been hard to fault him when your team’s first, second and third options are hand the ball off to Ezekiel Elliot. You just can’t know exactly what his ceiling will be and therefore he offers those at the end of the first round a serious risk-reward option.

Sterling Shepard, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 11         Proj: R2 Pick 49, Buffalo Bills

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

Fantasy enthusiasts have a serious love-hate relationship with Shepard. His 5’10” 197lbs frame makes him an ideal candidate for becoming a slot receiver in the NFL. The problem is that there haven’t been many elite slot WR seasons since Wes Welker in 2013. That was on the most productive passing offense in NFL history and he still finished third on his team! Shepard may become another PPR targets hog, but we will need to see how he can separate with agility and strong route running before he can be compared to a Cobb, Landry or Edelman in terms of superstars in the slot.

Will Fuller, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 12         Proj: R1 Pick 24, Cincinnati Bengals

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Unlike Shepard, Fuller can and will take the top off a defense with his blazing 4.32 in the 40 time. Still, his small frame (6’0” 186lbs) will make it hard for him to break the stigma of being just another speed dependent DeSean Jackson receiver type. Going to a team like Cincinnati would definitely keep opposition safeties and corners honest by having to additionally cover the likes of Green and Eifert on any given play. Much of Fuller’s value will be determined by the receiving core around him.

That’s the first 12 picks for my pre-draft RSO rookie mock. Look for part two that will include picks 13 through 24 before Thursday’s NFL Draft.

Running Backs: Seasonal Tires

Updated: April 8th 2016

Find a flag football field near you on a random Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you will find him.  The old  man seasoned veteran whose shorts are perilously high on the thigh, joints bound by braces and tape, and gray hair tufting from his head, shoulders, legs.   While the young guys jog around, chug water, and toss the ball with careless abandon to loosen up and shake off hangovers, the King beyond the Wall stretches methodically, mustering rebellious muscles, coaxing injuries into shape for one more battle, yet another raid on field no one will ever talk about.  Watch him during the game.  He will score, he will win his mismatch, he will breathe deeply of the thrill of victory (some call it panting for breath), his window is not shut.

Chase Stuart wrote an interesting post a few years back important in terms of dynasty franchise structure.  He makes a compelling case running back decline typically begins at the age of 26 (not 30), but more broadly understood, a running back that has the talent and opportunity to exceed a thousand yards in the NFL will most likely do so between the ages of  22 and 27.   For superlative talents the career production arc is shifted upwards, so a player like Adrian Peterson at 30 may not be AP at 25, but still outstrips his completion.  This insight, coupled with a common narrative in our fantasy community that players with huge workloads start losing “tread on the tires” lead many fantasy GMs to devalue older running backs entirely, or overvalue players that had fewer opportunities at a younger age.   While it is true that players that crossed 300 and 400 touch thresholds diminished in production following such seasons, other variables factor in heavily to statistical production, and the fantasy points did not diminish at a rate that dropped them below inferior players.  The tire analogy should be expanded in such a way to better help RSO GMs target running backs for the upcoming seasons.  Team changes (“patched tires”), coaching changes (“new driver”), the role in the offense/RB role specialization (“tire rotation”), all paint a more complex picture of aging running backs.

Redraft experts noted years ago the beginning of the end for over reliance on stud running backs.  For dynasty players this tight window of production and increased specialization of the running back position further diminishes the value.  Writers like Matt Goodwin offer insight why you might better allocate auction money and draft capital elsewhere.   However, RSO’s format narrows the dynasty window of commitment in a way that adds value to the running back position, because the RSO contract lengths of two and three years generally mirror the productive window of running backs.  A look at NFL contracts, regime stability, and backfield usage situations around the NFL running back picture might help you build your team accordingly.

At the risk of belaboring the tire analogy, Consumer Reports calls Michelin the best overall tire on the market.   Read this analysis of the Michelin Defender, and you have my assessment of the best backs in fantasy: “Michelin tires can be pricey and that holds back a lot of potential buyers. It’s too bad because if you factor in the outstanding tread wear, the Michelins might be a bargain compared to other tires with a lower price.”  Factoring for things other than just age and carries produces a different RB picture. Our 2-3 year RSO window produces exactly half the league with running backs to target based contract and opportunity stability:

All-Season High Performance Tires:  Steelers, Falcons, Rams, Texans, Chargers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Saints, Bucs, Titans, Broncos, Packers

The twelve teams listed above have running backs that can reasonably be expected to carry the load within our three year window.   If you further eliminate RBs in this tier based on coaching changes, role specialization, and team changes you are left with a few “Defenders” worth buying despite the cost because they are in stable situations and within the window of highest productivity:  Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, CJ Anderson, Thomas Rawls, Doug Martin, Eddie Lacy, and Mark Ingram.  It should be noted that Bell and Lacy are free agents in 2017 and Mark Ingram was just restructured in a way that makes it easier for the Saints to shed his contract after 2016.  If you are an owner that seeks to set and forget your running back position, these RBs figure to appear in your lineup a lot over the next few seasons.  With Bruce Arians ready to anoint DJ one of the GOATs at the position, he represents the sneaky value in this tier.

Studded Winter Tires: Vikings, Jets, Chiefs, Bills

This category is narrower, but speaks to the heart of the issue.  Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Jamal Charles, and LeSean McCoy present the most unique RSO tier, because they can be true lead backs if you are willing to assume the fiscal burden and injury risk.  Clear succession plans provide insurance in Minnesota and Buffalo, but pay close attention to the draft.  The Chiefs appear to be locking up both Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware for a dreaded future committee.   McCoy should be paired with Karlos Williams and Peterson can be insulated with a long term speculative contract on Jerrick McKinnon as he rides his horse camel into the sunset. The Jets’ future plan is about as clear as the skies above Beijing.

The sixteen team situations listed above represent the most stability in terms of fiscal and scheme commitment to the running backs listed.  The other half of the league gets far more speculative and variable. Further posts will explore the new and shifting situations, or those mired in committees.  However, for a 2-3 year window of stability, RSO squads looking to win now with stable contributions from the running back position, the top 16 backs might look something like this (MFL average draft position listed parenthetically):

  1. Todd Gurley (6.92)
  2. David Johnson (18.50)
  3. Le’Veon Bell (8.86)
  4. Adrian Peterson (40.79) (McKinnon)
  5. Doug Martin (42.94)
  6. Devonta Freeman (25.2)
  7. CJ Anderson (63.31)
  8. Mark Ingram (53.5)
  9. Thomas Rawls (40.31)
  10. Eddie Lacey (46.00)
  11. Lamar Miller (31.,53)
  12. Matt Forte (76.93) (Powell/Rookie)
  13. Lesean McCoy (84.67) (Karlos Williams)(84.73)
  14. Demarco Murray (71.19)
  15. Melvin Gordon (66)
  16. Jamaal Charles (56.21) (Ware/West)

Note the players in bold.  They likely only represent one more year of peak production at the position.  The unlisted NFL franchises provide an interesting window in which to spend your rookie draft picks on good offenses with future backfield uncertainty (Colts, Panthers),  risk capital on more production from coaching changes (Carlos Hyde), or gambles on good RBs in committees (Jeremy Hill, Dion Lewis).  Noteworthy situations like Washington, Chicago, Oakland, and Miami offer higher upside because of their incumbent starters facing limited competition for great opportunity.   My methodology attempted to value the runners based on anticipated talent, opportunity, and production over the next three years and significantly diminished the value of age.

Luke is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

Best Value Rookie Mock Draft

Updated: April 5th 2016

Last week in this space I presented some analysis on rookie value on the RSO platform.  As we learned after taking a deeper dive into the numbers, the rookie wage scale on RSO, as in the NFL, forces owners to draft for value more so than other formats.  In my round-by-round analysis, I identified three trends that we will use today to create an early mock draft.  Since rookie drafts can vary widely I decided to include picks both at the 3rd and 8th pick of each round so the insight could be useful for a wider range of readers.

1st Round Trend: Wasted Value

1.3 – WR Josh Doctson, TCU (2.90 ADP)

The heading of this section is “Wasted Value” and I fear I’ve already blown my mock draft by taking Doctson here.  Doctson has the height (6’4″), stats (79-1,327-14 despite missing nearly four full games to a wrist injury, including six consecutive multi-TD games) and story (former walk-on turned first team all-American) to be a great selection but the injury and TCU’s air raid offense give me pause.  1.2 through 1.4 will likely see three consecutive receivers this year (also in the mix are Laquan Treadwell from Ole Miss and Corey Coleman from Baylor) it’s just a matter of grabbing the right one.  Right now Treadwell has the highest ADP of the three so that left me with Doctson or Coleman with this pick and I decided to go with the bigger Doctson.

1.8 – WR Leonte Carroo, Rutgers (8.4 ADP)

Call this a homer pick since I am a Rutgers season ticket holder but there’s just something about Carroo.  Despite seeing bracket coverage and occasional triple teams, Carroo remained uncoverable for large portions of the last two seasons.   Carroo had a bizarre 39-809-10 stat line in 2015 which saw him play just eight games due to injury and suspension.  In 2014 Carroo also scored 10 TDs (55-1,086) and in 2013 he scored 9 TDs (28-478).  So, over his three year career at Rutgers he played in 31 games and scored 29 TDs – that’s an incredible rate.  Carroo isn’t very big (6’1″) or fast (4.5 40-yard dash) and the missed games would scare me but he could prove to be a great rookie value if he lands with the right team.

2nd Round Trend: Long Term Value at QB

2.3 or 2.8 – QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota St (30.10 ADP)

Yes, I’m crazy.  Yes, I’m breaking all the “rules” with this pick.  But I just can’t unsee how valuable both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were in 2015 for RSO owners as mid-2nd round picks.  Wentz’s March ADP put him at the 30th rookie off the board, so far in April he’s already moved up about five spaces.  We’ll see him continue to rise up the ranks but regardless it’s probably safe to say you can get him in the 2nd if you’re willing to deal with the inevitable “reach” shouts from your friends.  Take your pick of combine recaps, most agree that Wentz was the best QB on the field – he may not beat out Jared Goff as the first QB off the board but I prefer the unknown upside of Wentz.  Ask a Winston or Mariota owner if they’re happy in their investment – I’m sure they answer will be yes.  Hitting on this pick let’s you free up valuable cap space to put towards free agency the following season (see: real life Russell Wilson) so take the gamble.

3rd Round Trend: Take a Safe WR

3.3 – WR Rashard Higgins (23.20 ADP)

If you reached for Wentz in the 2nd, you need more of a sure thing here in the 3rd round.  Higgins was a target monster at CSU, securing 68, 96 and 75 receptions over his three seasons.  His stellar sophomore campaign in 2014 saw him earn 1,750 yards and a whopping 17 TDs on those 96 receptions.  Impressively, some of his biggest games over the last two seasons came against the hardest teams on their schedule: Utah State, Boise State and Colorado.  I was surprised when I saw Higgins eye-popping cumulative stats so I was sure they were all earned against the weakest of opponents but that wasn’t the case.  Higgins definitely isn’t a sexy pick but he could feature right away in the NFL.

3.8 – WR De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State (25.10 ADP)

It’s a shame that Wilson didn’t “runnya” faster at the combine otherwise he’d be higher on the draft board.  Wilson is a big target at 6’5″ and 215 lb, the biggest by my research out of the top 20 WRs, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that he only ran a 4.85, but I was still hoping for faster.  Wilson put together a solid junior season (60-918-10) but has never really imposed himself on opposing defenses (only nine 5+ reception games and only three 100+ yard games over three seasons).  Ultimately, I think Wilson can come in and contribute early as a rookie in the red zone which will guarantee him a fair share of snaps.

ADP data from DynastyLeagueFootball.com, combine data from sbnation.com and college stats from cfbstats.com

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.