League Contract Settings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

As we round the final turn heading into training camp, let’s get into the final segment of the League Settings article series.  If case you’ve missed them, the first two articles focused on League Scoring Settings and League Configuration and Settings. As Alec Baldwin emphatically states in my favorite movie, Glengarry Glen Ross in reference to executing contracts, “there’s only one thing that matters: get them to sign on the line that is DOTTED!”.

The Reality Sports Online platform is unlike any other with respect to contracts. The Free Agent Auction Room and the online rookie draft allow for all sorts of both fixed priced contracts (rookie wage scale) and dynamic market-priced deals (free agent auction). Therefore, when a commissioner is creating or tweaking contract settings in their league, there are a myriad of things to consider so let’s dive in head-first.

1) Don’t Go Too Crazy With Long Term Contracts

I know, I know. You joined this platform because you actually wanted to use your brain. All the other keeper leagues feature roster keeper decisions that anyone can make. Keep Mike Evans for another year? Sure, can I have more steak with that? The RSO element of a league or commissioner-elected quantity of multi-year contracts enables maximum strategy on how you prioritize who gets long-term deals and manage yearly salary cap space.

Each year, you get the same allotment of contracts elected by your league (I know this is a question I get from newbies all the time so I wanted to address this). However, post-auction you can make any type of roster moves and trades to acquire whatever long-term or short-term talent you want as long as you have the cap space and roster slots to do it. If you want your team to consist of all four-year contract players, it may be difficult to amass, but it can happen.

When folks join a league like this, the inkling is to keep your studs in perpetuity. Talent and value constantly change, and making a multi-year contract mistake in your first year is crippling. My inaugural year had teams splurge on Trent Richardson and C.J. Spiller. It took a lot to get out from under those deals.

As a result, my recommendation is to start your league with the following contract allotment: 4 year contracts: one, 3 year contracts: two, 2 year contracts: three. The good part of this approach is it focuses your four year deal on someone you really value or the possibility of hitting a developmental home run at a cheaper price.

One year deals can be incredibly value in RSO leagues, assuming you strategize them well. For instance, in last year’s RSO Superflex writers league, I picked up Melvin Gordon on a one year, $8.0 million deal coming off an injury. I loved his talent and figured that his zero touchdowns scored in his rookie season was an anomaly. I was right, and now I have used my franchise tag on Gordon for the upcoming season for one year, $20.3 million.

I personally like using at least one of my two year deals on a quarterback and tend to like wide receivers for long term deals. It is rare for me to give a running back more than two years, based on how frequently that position changes and the short life span of most high-end backs.

2) Have A Two or Three Round Rookie Draft; Have Them Offline

If you’ve read some of our offseason pieces, the rookie draft has been a huge focus. I love the fixed price of rookies, especially at the top of the second round where the contract costs drop precipitously. To keep the rookie pool from getting diluted (like in a five round rookie draft), I recommend having two to three rounds of rookie drafts for most leagues that have 10 to 12 teams. That way there are a few coveted rookies who spill into the auction (think Jay Ajayi two years ago), but enough talent to not have rookies get dropped from rosters for weekly moves.

In terms of having the rookie draft offline, this is a mindset shift for me after having our writers league draft over email this year. I was astonished by how many trades occurred and how efficiently we could still pick rookies. I adhere to the more strategy the better, so I loved all the trade activity that occurred in the rookie draft.

Rookies remain incredibly valuable, especially if you can hit on your draft picks. Those who don’t like rookies can maximize their value by trading these picks for prime assets either at the trade deadline, throughout the offseason, etc.

3) The New Normal: In-season Contract Extensions

In April, Reality Sports Online released details on in-season contract extensions here. In general, I’m a fan of this as it adds another element of strategy to the league. However, I would recommend that owners proceed with caution on banking on in-season extensions or making trades with limited knowledge of how this will work in practice (it is all theory now) this offseason.

For starters, I would recommend that all leagues vote on how many in-season extensions they want to adopt each season (and potentially revisit this decision after the first year of this feature). My main league voted on one extension for transparency purposes with the thought being that we love the auction and want the player pool to be as deep as possible in the auction, but still allowing the opportunity to exercise the in-season extension for one key player per team.

One thing is obvious from all the guidance in Kyle’s release and my interactions with Stephen and Matt on the in-season extension. Players will not be taking pay cuts. So if you franchised tagged a player last season and the breakout season never came, that salary still serves as the base for a potential extension in season. These will be difficult decisions to make.

Further, until you see what the algorithm spits out in Weeks 4 through 13 of the 2017 season, it is a totally crapshoot. Especially with the famed rookie class featuring Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, and Sammy Watkins. Those rookies have a low base salary by virtue of the rookie wage scale but figure to jump to what they’d command in the auction if they were free agents on the in-season extension market. For instance, I paid 4 years, $169 million for OBJ in an auction last summer.

Both historic player performance and current year performance will factor into player salaries as well, so you really would be making a decision with imperfect information if you were basing 2017 offseason moves (including franchise tagging a player in hopes of extending them next summer) or trading for a player who could be extended.

4) An Outside-the-Box Thought

As you all know, I’m a huge fan of RSO and it is currently the only league platform I play on. That said, there are inherent limitations of any start-up which has to weigh the costs and benefits of making platform changes. For me, one sticking point is the fact that any player thrown out by an owner in an auction has to be thrown out at a minimum bid. Often towards the end of the auction, there’s a developmental type player I have my eye on and unless someone else throws that player out or I do and ensure that someone else bids on that player, the player I’m targeting may end up on my team as a one-year guy, which wasn’t my intent.

As a result and based on a conversation I had with Stephen this offseason, our league has adopted an off-platform workaround to that issue. Basically, every team in our league has the ability to convert a 1 year, $500k minimum contract to a multi-year contract of the length of their choice (two, three, or four years) within 24 hours of the auction by notifying the commissioner in writing. The commissioner would then have to use the edit contracts feature to alter the contract length. The intent would be for this player to be of the devy type, so ideally defenses and kickers would be excluded but your league could decide on that as you see fit.

By implementing this option, your league would be adding another layer of strategy without impacting the overall contract allotment that you have elected for your auctions.

5) Franchise Tags

The franchise tag is a super-valuable strategic piece that has been in RSO leagues since inception. Basically any expiring player can be extended for the higher of 120% of current year salary or the Top 5 positional average of your league for players under contract.

Since the salary of these players can get fairly high, I recommend that each league allows one franchise tag per team. A player can be franchise tagged and traded if the “Finalize Franchise Tag” button is selected in the offseason.

I personally have used my tag before and it typically pays off if you signed an oft-injured player who produced on his deal. For instance, I turned a two year, $26 million deal for Rob Gronkowski from our inaugural year into to franchise tags at 120% raises. Gronk is now out of franchise tags and will return to the player pool this offseason.

Positionally, depending on your league, there are some leagues where significant value can be found in using the franchise tag for positions like quarterbacks (those late round QB types), tight ends and DSTs. Wide receivers and running backs typically command a prettier penny.

6) Trades/Waivers

I think trades and waivers are fairly standard in RSO leagues. For trades, we let our commissioner review and make the decision. In a format like this, almost every deal has some form of long-term strategy, so something would have to be egregious or somehow demonstrate collusion (which frankly is super rare) for a deal to get rejected. To ensure that teams that are trading draft picks are invested long-term in our league, we make teams trading future year picks kick in at least 50% of next year’s league dues upon trade execution.

In terms of waivers, the FAAB system prevails for one year players. It is fairly standard.

 


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributed for numberFire for several years. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

RSO Rookie Picks Pt. 1

Updated: July 16th 2017

With the passing of this year’s NFL draft, many of you in the RSO community will soon hold your own rookie drafts. To help you along this path, I studied the value provided by previous rookie draft picks.  Part 1 of the 2-part series gives some basic insights into the valuation of RSO rookie picks.  This series is not meant to be all encompassing given the uniqueness of every league.  Starting requirements, number of teams, scoring rules, and many other considerations ultimately determine the value of players.  Every league is different but hopefully this study provides a basis for readers to evaluate rookie picks in their own leagues.

The Data

Rookie draft pick data came from MyFantasyLeague ADP Rankings using keeper league, rookie-only draft data primarily. My data set includes the top 20 draft picks (those picks relevant to a common RSO 10-team, 2-round rookie draft) from 2007 to 2016 which comes to 200 players.  The sample included 80 running backs, 80 wide receivers, 30 quarterbacks, and 10 tight ends.

I obtained player fantasy values from Pro Football Reference (PFR). VBD (Value Based Drafting) values were calculated on a non-PPR basis. VBD measures the fantasy points a player scores above a designated baseline player.  PFR uses the 12th highest scoring QB, 12th TE, 24th RB, and 30th WR as the baseline players.  A player scoring less than the baseline player is given a zero value (there are no negative values in the system).  The values come from season-long statistics which tends to overvalue players who manage to stay healthy throughout the season.  Conversely, high-end performers missing games to injury or suspension will be undervalued along with those players assuming major roles for only portions of the season (running back handcuffs for example).   The findings are best applied to non-PPR 10-team leagues using 1QB/2RB/2WR/1TE/1Flex starting requirements.

We next disaggregate the data into various groupings giving us a better of idea of how to value our rookie picks.

Value by Draft Pick

Image 1

The above chart details the average value produced each year by a draft pick based on draft position. Not surprisingly, better draft picks tend to produce better results.  Players selected in the top half of the 1st round (picks 1-5) in rookie drafts offered 50% more value than picks 6-10 and averaged almost four times the yearly value of players selected in the bottom half of round 2 (picks 16-20).

Image 2

Another way to judge rookie picks is by their success rate. I defined a success, with the somewhat liberal definition, as any player who holds some value (produces VBD points) during their initial 4-year rookie contract.  Again we find the top picks significantly out-producing lower picks.  Picks in the top half of the first round found success at some time during their initial four years a little under ¾ of the time.  Picks in the bottom half of the first round averaged success a little under ½ of the time while 2nd round picks came in at about a 1/3 success rate.  The yearly success rate for players is not nearly as good.  Rookie picks as a whole averaged just over 1 valuable season for every four years.

Value by Position

Image 3

The fact that running backs lead other positions in value is not unexpected for non-PPR leagues, but the extent to which they dominate might be to some. Running backs averaged over 50% more value per season than wide receivers, more than 100% of quarterbacks, and over 300% of tight ends for the sample draft picks.  Other positions simply have no way to make up for the massive volume top end running backs achieve leading to potentially huge yardage and touchdown totals.  Quarterbacks and tight ends are particularly handicapped by traditional fantasy starting requirements where only one TE and QB must start.  The difference from the QB8 to QB20 and TE8 to TE20 was about 30 points or less than two points per game in 2016.  There are simply too many cheap replacement-level players available who will not cost your team very much in scoring unless you are up against one of the few elite options at either position.  These large value differences among positions from the chart above and the afore-mentioned supply of replacement level players at QB and TE strongly argue for the use of 2QB/Superflex and 2TE requirements in order to help balance values among positions.

Value by Year in League

Image 4

I next examined player values by looking at how they performed in each year of the initial four-year contract. The biggest take-away from the above chart is that players, on average, see the biggest value jump after their rookie season.  Dividing the data further in Table 1 below by positions offers more interesting insights.

image 5

Running backs and wide receivers (the two biggest positions by value) display the largest jumps in value in year two.  This somewhat contradicts the popular “3rd year breakout” notion applied commonly to wide receivers.  The data suggests quarterbacks and tight ends breakout in year three but we should keep in mind the small samples associated with each position, particularly tight ends.

Conclusions

Part 1 is just the “tip of the iceberg” with regards to the evaluation of rookie pick value but it does provide a few useful insights:

  1. No rookie pick comes without risk, but the top picks are expensive for a reason. Picks in the top half of the first round provide value and reliability which greatly exceeds other picks.
  2. Running backs tend to dominate value in these shallow non-PPR leagues. You always want elite players but take the top back on your draft board if you are in doubt.
  3. Players production usually jumps substantially after the rookie season. This provides a buying window for savvy owners to take advantage of more impatient owners who were disappointed by a rookie’s first season.

While Part 1 dealt with some of the basics of rookie pick values, Part 2 will evaluate RSO rookie picks based on the contract values involved. Hope to see you there!


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

League Scoring Settings

Updated: July 16th 2017

As part of my fourth season writing, Matt and Stephen have asked me to write a series of Reality Sports Online strategy articles, sharing what makes the platform so unique and next level. To those who have been participating in Reality Sports Online leagues for at least one year now, some of my strategy series may simply be suggestions to augment or tweak your leagues. Of course any league not in its first year making seismic strategic shifts should let owners participate in a vote to make scoring changes. For you rookie GMs kicking the tires on the only fantasy football platform I use anymore, welcome.

What you’ll get from these articles, aside from hip-hop and pop culture references are ideas on how to optimize the strategy dynamic in your league. What you won’t get right away is too much player commentary, rookie draft analysis (we have plenty of good articles on both by talented writers). Feel free to reach out to me or the Reality Sports Online guys with any questions, knowing that you are part of something special and unique that also has amazing and prompt customer service.

My first article is going to focus on scoring settings. Other articles in the series will include roster and league configuration and contracts. Don’t worry, I will get to the newly introduced in-season contract extensions as well.

So, like Andy Dufresne said to his letter to Red in Shawshank Redemption, if you’ve come this far, come a little further. I can’t promise pristine ocean water on a Mexican beach, but you can potentially take that vacation after you win your coveted league championship.

Here are my five commandments of Reality Sports Online league scoring settings:

1) The Higher Scoring, the Better

You didn’t come to Reality Sports Online to play in some fantasy clunker with a score of 57.02 to 55.61 with limited scoring options. You came to be a year-round General Manager, to make frequent trades and roster moves, and to figure out how to gain your competitive advantage. With that said, make the scoring dynamic and high as the platform offers customized scoring for yards, touchdowns, etc.

As a rule of thumb, depending on how many starting roster spots you have, I personally like the potential for a good game to crack 200 and an epic performance to crack 300 (think about it like bowling in that regard).

You’re long removed from just rewarding players who score touchdowns from a fantasy perspective and the platform allows lots of creativity and categories for different fantasy scoring than your standard, vanilla fantasy platform. So reward yardage and big plays with bonuses wherever possible.

2) The NFL is a Passing League, so…

The key to RSO is that it turns fantasy into reality. The reality is that all but a few running backs are in timeshares, any quarterback who has half a good season is never a real NFL free agent, and that most successful NFL teams feature dynamic passing offenses.

As a result, you’ll want to turn fantasy football historic groupthink on league scoring settings on its head. With that, I highly advocate being very creative when scoring the quarterback position. For instance, the main league I’m in rewards quarterbacks with the same amount of points for a passing touchdown (7-again dynamic, high scoring with distance bonuses) that another player would score rushing or receiving. The quarterback is super valuable as a franchise builder in NFL drafts and in team success, so don’t diminish the position in your RSO dynasty league just because Emmitt Smith ran for 21 touchdowns in 1994.

Additionally, I’m all in favor of rewarding passing completions and penalizing passing incompletions. This just adds another layer of strategy in a manner similar to quarterbacks who are successful at running the football does. For starters, it makes almost every offensive play relevant from a fantasy perspective for quarterbacks. The NFL values accuracy from a passer, so why shouldn’t your league? My league currently rewards completions with +0.5 fantasy points and incompletions with -0.5. This really aids passers like Philip Rivers who don’t rely on the deep ball to be fantasy relevant. If you are in a league where you start two quarterbacks, this small change from typical leagues will make the values of quarterbacks more important.

Those of you who fall into the “Late Round QB” camp don’t have to be adversely impacted by dynamic quarterback scoring because you still have the freedom to choose how much you want to spend/prioritize on your quarterbacks in the Free Agency Auction Room and scoring against the position or other positions is still relative. All this does is adds another strategic element to your league.

3) PPR is the way to go

With the NFL being a passing league, of course I’m down with “PPR” scoring in my leagues. This aids in dynamic scoring. Naysayers will say that a player should not be rewarded in fantasy football for not garnering a lot of yards after the catch. However, if that play results in a first down to sustain the drive or contributes to the drive in a positive manner, I’m of the school of thought to reward it. Players like James White, who produced 14 receptions for 110 yards in the Super Bowl certainly exemplify the value of how accretive an NFL reception can be.

If you want the scoring tempered on receptions slightly, 0.5PPR can work. I know some leagues are even moving to rewarding Tight End receptions differently to 1.5PPR to put those players on a more level scoring field with their wide receiver brethren. My personal preference is to not give Tight Ends an extra 0.5PPR because they end up getting targeted more in the red zone anyways, which helps the middle-of-the-pack Tight End derive their middling fantasy value while being touchdown dependent.

I also don’t diminish the full PPR for pass-catching running backs because I think these plays are valuable in a passing league.

Changing direction for a second-I personally don’t like rewarding running backs with points for carries. I, along with my league commissioner, feel like the act of catching a ball (even if for zero yards) requires an act or skill that adds more value than simply carrying the ball for no gain.

4) Punish Mistakes Heavily

If quarterback is such a valuable position, then an elite quarterback should not make many mistakes in a game. So, if a quarterback throws an interception, -2 is not a sufficient punishment if you are doing dynamic scoring where touchdowns are worth considerably more. I’m in a league where all offensive player turnovers (interceptions, fumbles lost) are worth -5 points. It seems drastic, but it will change your league dynamic and add an interesting wrinkle to things. New this year: RSO has added a “pick six” category if you want to punish your quarterback for throwing interceptions that result in touchdowns for the opposing team.

Furthermore, quarterbacks who take sacks by holding onto the ball and making poor decisions should also not be exempt from negative points. RSO has a unique feature to deduct points for sacks taken and I recommend -1 fantasy pts for taking a sack. I highly advocate for these simple, small changes to make your league more exciting.

5) Special Teams/Defenses

For those of you not in IDP leagues, make sure you differentiate in your league scoring what is a dominant defensive effort from a middling one. The Reality Sports Online settings allow customized positive and negative scoring for points and yards allowed. Defenses in my league tend to fluctuate a lot in terms of week-to-week fantasy points where a dominant effort can be worth as much as a wide receiver catching 10 for 150 with two TDs. Our league collectively voted to move in this direction after our first year.

As a guideline, we value shutouts worth 12 fantasy points and then scale down by -2 fantasy points based on tranches of points allowed. Same deal with yards allowed where under 250 yards is worth 10 fantasy points. The key is in a strategic league like this, owners should have to think about not only which team DST they pay for in the auction (and how much), but which they start on a week-to-week basis without simply thinking of whether or not the team may score a touchdown on the defensive end.

If you want to go super dynamic, you will reward return touchdowns by distance as there are bonuses for yardage.

Additionally, in the vein of punishing mistakes, any kicker who misses PATs or short field goals has customized options for negative scoring.

The point is on Reality Sports Online’s innovative platform, with options such as scoring fantasy points for blocked punts, the only limitation to how your league scores fantasy points is your own imagination.


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

Press Your Luck

Updated: September 4th 2016

When I was a kid, I used to love the Game Show Press Your Luck (Editor’s Note, this is my (Stephen’s) favorite game show of all-time). While I’m sure this makes it easy to guess my age, a young me loved the days on winter break or off from school when I was in front of a television with those hilarious whammies and contestants yelling, “Big Bucks! Big Bucks! STOP!” For those of you who have never seen the show, check out a link here.

While the Reality Sports Online Free Agent Auction offers way more substance than those sophomoric whammies, sometimes it becomes necessary to go against your initial instincts and press your luck to go all in on a player. What I mean by this is like the famous saying from the WWE’s Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase that “everyone has a price”, sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone bid wise to get the player(s) that makes you the league favorite.

Today, with many of you yet to have your auctions before the season starts, I will outline how I employed that strategy in two writers/expert leagues the past few weeks and in what situations/scenarios you should consider making bold moves. I’m predicating all of these scenarios based on you having adequate cap space to carry out this strategy without overextending yourself. Of course, another good strategy that sometimes works is making trades pre-auction so you don’t have to pay market prices for players you covet if most of the best players are under contract.

Scenario #1) Only One or Two Elite Free Agent Options Available in Your League

This very scenario occurred for me in my numberFire and friends writers league a few weeks ago (I hate to call anything an “experts” league because to me there’s always someone who I don’t know who I feel is an awesome fantasy player and to this point, a non-writer won the league last year). I was coming into this 10 team, third-year league with a team that has not gotten in done in the playoffs the past two seasons in spite of a combined regular season record of 19-7 and being the highest scoring team in the league the past few years. In my mind, my starting receivers of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were solid, but didn’t offer the upside to compete with the elite receiving options in the league. Most top receivers are concentrated on a few teams that in my opinion pose the biggest threats to me-ESPN’s Leo Howell’s team (Antonio Brown,Mike Evans, Allen Robinson), FantasyGuru.com’s Graham Barfield’s team (Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery) , and numberFire’s Tyler Buecher (Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks).

So, when I took inventory of this and found that Leo Howell would not be franchise tagging DeAndre Hopkins for a second straight year, I determined that my bidding strategy on Hopkins was to win him at all costs because it strengthens my position while weakening one of my chief competitors, one who has gone 24-2 the past two regular seasons.

My $91 million in cap space and the need really to only fill two flex positions in my starting lineup helped justify the massive expense on Hopkins, who by far was the best free agent available in this league and especially so at a position of need for me. So my pre-auction plan was to win Hopkins at any cost for four years-my pre-auction budget was around 4 years and between $140 million and $150 million total. However, Howell had plenty of cap space too and was targeting a return of Hopkins as well.

I ended up signing Hopkins to a 4 year, $171.5m deal which was the biggest contract I’ve seen in any of the three leagues I’m currently in. It sent some shock waves to the rest of the league (and a few Twitter followers) and honestly pushed my comfort zone somewhat because I do think Hopkins may experience some regression this season. However, it was definitely the right move for my team based on him being the premier option in the auction and fitting a team need.

Later in the auction players who are solid starters but not necessarily difference makers fetched big prices as a result of the Hopkins auction and teams being flush with cap space-for instance Randall Cobb received 3 years, $96.5 million and Jeremy Maclin signed for 4 years, $102 million. In essence, I may have set the market on receivers by my huge Hopkins bid and based on what happened afterwards, I’m happy that I added an elite option to my team that I hope puts me over the top.

Scenario #2) You Have Very Few Roster Spots Left

Especially in leagues where you have more than two rounds of rookie draft picks and carry roster sizes in the 20’s, by the time you get to a third-year auction, roster spots may not be plentiful when your auction rolls around. So, you might as well spend your cap space and get what you want, even if some of the pricing runs counter to what you are comfortable with. Sometimes that may involve you winning a player you don’t necessarily want via price enforcing, but more often than not, it will help you carry out a strategy.

For instance, RSO President and Founder Matt Papson and I got into a slight bidding war on Arian Foster, who he ended up signing for one year, $19.5 million. I’m sure that he was probably hoping to spend less, but he only had four roster spaces open coming into the auction for a team he took over and got value where he saw it. If Foster returns to previous year’s form, he fits well into Papson’s lineup (especially since he owns Jay Ajayi also).

But the key to me is that if Foster gets hurt again, Papson is still protected with only a one year deal. This is in and of itself a strategy-Papson is a chess-player and he may already be eyeing some of the 2017 free agents and his option value on Foster is huge. It also capitalized well on his bountiful cap space for very few roster spots.

While I’m advocating for spending your money in your auction, I’m not suggesting giving risky players multiple years on a big contract, however. Sometimes it is better to have the option value, even if the upside is lacking.

Scenario #3) Capitalizing on/Extending Championship Window

Let’s face it-not every team in your league is built to win for extended periods of time. You have to strike when the iron is hot. So if you’re only a flex player away from winning the whole freakin’ thing, go get your player and worry about the contract dollars on the back end later.

For me, furthering my example from #1, I arguably have the best and cheapest starting running back tandem in the league in picking Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley in consecutive rookie drafts. Since I only have this combination again this season (before franchise tags kick in) for a combined $7.7 million, winning time is now (or worst case next year). Heading into that auction, I also had Rob Gronkowski for another two seasons (before franchise tags) for around $15 million a year.

Taking into account Hopkins and the contracts I have, I feel that adding Hopkins extended my window to contend another two years beyond this year and leverages my Gronk and running back core.

Scenario #4) Your League Employs Late Round QB Strategy

If any of you reading this are doing multiple fantasy leagues and not following my numberFire editor JJ Zachariason, he is really one of the true visionaries in fantasy football these days. Plus, he works incredibly hard, is an overall nice guy, and offers tons of strategy and podcasts in terms of how to stream positions like quarterbacks and tight ends.

While the RSO format with multi-year contracts makes it a little more difficult to “stream” QB’s than a redraft league, there are certainly leagues which devalue QB play in your auction market dynamics. My numberFire writers league is exactly that. I mean, prior to Hopkins coming up for auction, I had to sit idly by while Aaron Rodgers was signed by defending champion Rory Ryan on a 3 year, $11 million contract. That may be counter-intuitive to some of you, yet that’s the Late Round QB strategy in full effect and while I would’ve loved to hope in that Rodgers bidding, I had to stay in my swim lane in order to be able to get Hopkins.

Basically that school of thought says to pay in auctions for wide receivers and running backs as QB play is usually not that differentiated (this works differently in two QB leagues). Anyways, if your entire league or most of it employs Late Round QB dynamics (or you at least do), you’ll have tons of money to spend on other players and if you combine that with only a few elite options in free agency and having few roster spots left, you’ll start breaking the bank for guys like C.J. Anderson and Michael Floyd who went to Leo Howell for 3 years each at $88 million and $72 million respectively-not a bad combined use of the money that would have otherwise went to Hopkins.

Scenario #5) You’re Typically Conservative 

If you have been in a league for a few years or start your first year auction super conservative, sometimes you have to throw your opponents for a loop. Some of your leaguemates have certain owners typecasted on who will bid on which players and then you hit them with a surprise left. When they look at your roster and see your biggest contract is $15 million a year, they don’t think you’ll go big on someone like Jamaal Charles. And then you do and he helps you big time.

The key is mixing in risk in years when you need that extra push to contend vs. not overextending yourself with players who may be dead money in other years. Who is in the free agent pool certainly matters and so does using player’s ages, sample sizes and gut instincts when awarding multi-year contracts.


numberFire Writer’s League Likely 10 man starting lineups

So as I went all in for Hopkins, here are the likely 10 man starting lineups for each team. Curious what everyone’s thoughts are. The league is 0.5PPR and starts a QB, Two RB’s, Two WR’s, TE, DST, K, FLEX, FLEX

University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) 

Dalton, Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Jordan Matthews, Kelce, Broncos, Crosby, Ryan Mathews, Baldwin

The Quickie Martin (Sam Hauss, numberFire)

Mariota, Doug Martin, Lacy, Nelson, Maclin, Fleener, Panthers, Walsh, Duke Johnson, Delanie Walker

Hospitable Takeover (Matt Papson, President and Founder, Reality Sports Online)

Wilson, L. Murray, Ingram, Beckham Jr., Edelman, Maxx Williams, Bills, TBD, Foster, Langford

Team: Great Odin’s Raven (Dan Pizzuta, numberFire)

Newton, David Johnson, Yeldon, Cooper, Watkins, Olsen, Texans, Tucker, John Brown, Emmanuel Sanders

Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire)

Fitzpatrick, DeAngelo Williams/Bell, McCoy, Julio Jones, Cooks, Reed, Eagles, Vinatieri, Marvin Jones, Desean Jackson

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online)

Rivers, Peterson, Jeremy Hill, Landry, Hurns, Graham, Rams, McManus, Cobb, Hyde

Team: Cleveland’s Award Tour (Matt Goodwin, Reality Sports Online & numberFire)

Roethlisberger, Gurley, Freeman, Hopkins, Decker, Gronkowski, Seahawks, Catanzaro, Demaryius Thomas, Diggs

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, ESPN)

Brees, Charles, C.J. Anderson, Antonio Brown, Allen Robinson, Ertz, Chiefs, Gostkowski, Evans, Floyd

Team: Funky Monks (Graham Barfield, FantasyGuru.com & Rotoworld)

Luck, Lamar Miller, Riddick, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Gates, Bengals, Hauschka, Jeffery, Fitzgerald

Team: Loss Aversion (Rory Ryan, Baylor University Law Professor)

Rodgers, Rawls, Gore, Hilton, Marshall, Bennett, Cardinals, Bailey, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith


Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter) and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally provided that reality! Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

RSO Expansion Draft Suggestions

Updated: August 30th 2016

When I first found RSO two years ago and pitched it to members of my various leagues, I have to admit it was a hard sell for most.  The unique format of RSO scared off some prospective owners and ultimately I was only left with seven other guys willing to give it a shot.  We knew immediately that the plan was going to be expansion to ten teams but how we would accomplish that took a lot of consideration.  Luckily, a few months of actively using RSO and it’s format helped us hone our pitch and easily find two new members.  I figured that a write up of how my home league handled expansion would be helpful to other RSO users out there planning to do the same.

The Expansion Draft

We had many discussions about how to properly handle the expansion draft.  Existing owners did not want to lose much of what they had built in the first year of their dynasty but new owners did not want to be severely shorthanded.  Ultimately, this is what we agreed upon:

  • Existing owners would protect three players who were under contract for 2016.
  • New owners would have the opportunity to select up to four players each, with a maximum of one player taken per existing owner.
  • Existing owners would then protect two additional players who were under contract for 2016.
  • New owners would then have the opportunity to select up to four additional players each, with a maximum of one player taken per existing owner.

I believe this was a fair balance for both the new and existing owners.  Ultimately, the new owners didn’t simply go for “best available” and instead selected players based on value, cherry picking some of the players with undervalued contracts.  For example, Doug Martin, Allen Robinson, Jeremy Maclin and Keenan Allen were all selected.  Drafting for “value” didn’t carry over to quarterbacks though, new owners tended to spend big there selecting Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers.

Since RSO does not have expansion draft functionality, I ran it manually using a Google Docs spreadsheet.  It was easy to track and allowed the new and existing owners to follow along in real time.

To reflect the expansion draft results on RSO, I simply processed trades from one team to another.  Dropping/adding the players is a possibility but we were requiring the new owners to assume the old contract which would have been messy to do that way.  I did attempt to use RSO’s multi-team trade tool for this purpose but found it easier to just do multiple two team trades.

The Rookie Draft

The rookie draft was a no brainer – even with the benefit of the expansion draft, the new owners had to get first pick at the 2016 rookie crop.

  • New owners were given 1.01 and 1.02 in the rookie draft.
  • The new owners were able to discuss and negotiate who would want first expansion pick versus first rookie draft pick.  Ultimately one new owner wanted each so it worked easily, otherwise we would have done a coin flip.

Did It Work?

So far, so good.  Our free agent auction is scheduled for two weeks from now and that will be the ultimate test.  The new owners obviously have a ton of cap room which could lead to some interesting bidding wars and some overpaid stars early in the auction.  In the end, us existing owners are very happy that we put in the thought and time to expand and are even more excited for 2016 and our new owners are looking forward to learning the new format.

Start Counting from 100

Updated: July 20th 2016

On my 21st birthday my friends bought me tickets to go skydiving over a patch of land we had driven through, around, and past many times.   It is, by any account, as unassuming and potent a patch of land as you might find anywhere in America.  Throw a ball, plant some crops, or leap from a fully functioning airplane thousands of feet overhead.  Many people prefer to stay “grounded,” but my frenemies made friends helped me to take a leap.   Over a series of articles I want to take you through the potential of an RSO offseason, and help you look at your roster differently.  We will consider the RSO values of players 100-1 in June’s dynasty ADP.  These articles should help you to scrutinize the contracts on your team with a perspective that differs from ground level and give you a helpful vantage point as you construct and offer trades during the offseason.   When I went skydiving I had no frame of reference, no experience that anticipated strapping myself to a Greek stranger and rocking out the gaping side of a biplane somewhere above a field in Maryland.   In an RSO league you are oddly free from the wealth of information that saturates other formats, and this demands that you pick and choose the things that will help you make sense of what is coming.   Over the next ten articles I will evaluate each group of ten players and highlight the best value and player to target in a trade.

Consider the following ten players (all Data courtesy of My Fantasy League. Trade calculator values are derived from current average draft position and historical trade market via the Rotoviz Dynasty ADP App):

91 Fitzgerald, Larry ARI WR 46 91.4
92 Jones, Marvin CIN/DET WR 47 91.8
93 Green, Ladarius SDC/PIT TE 7 92.1
94 Walker, Delanie SFO/TEN TE 8 93
95 Booker, Devontae DEN RB 31 94.4
96 Roethlisberger, Ben PIT QB 9 95.5
97 Fleener, Coby IND/NOS TE 9 96.1
98 Ebron, Eric DET TE 10 98
99 Agholor, Nelson PHI WR 48 99.4
100 Fuller, Will HOU WR 49.5 100.9

 

In June, savvy drafters, addicts, and the sommeliers of fantasy football vintage (you are one or many of these things if you are reading fantasy football articles in July) selected ninety players before this gang of ten came off the board in dynasty startup drafts.   This information gives us a baseline, but demands we translate that into a helpful value as we hurtle towards free agency auctions in an RSO league.   These players constitute the field, so lets identify  for what players you want to trade.

Initially we have to dismiss Fuller and Booker from our consideration.   They currently register as the 11th and 14th rookies taken in dynasty rookie drafts, so you can use your league’s rookie contract settings to attach a value to their 3 or 4 year deals.  That leaves us with eight players to consider.   The player with the most years remaining on the average RSO contract may surprise you.   Nelson Agholor checks in with a solid average of 2.4 years remaining, reflecting the rookie contracts of last year.  He also registers the highest remaining salary for a non QB in the 91-100 field across RSO leagues, with a robust figure north of twelve million (12,074,270).   For owners of Agholor this means you are probably stuck with him unless you have an Eagles fan that is willing to ignore his alleged terrible-personness.   His lack of production, and the likelihood of seeing the wrong side of Goodell’s hammer suggests he is a prime cut candidate for most RSO GMs, given that the cost is not prohibitive and the production replaceable.  Marvin Jones offers the screaming value here, and as an owner you can likely hold or package him and his delightfully light 1.6 years and four million if you are one of the relatively few RSO GMs that locked him up to a multi-year contract before his impending NFL free agency and newfound Detroit opportunity.  Larry Fitzgerald is a very reasonable 7.7 million at just over a year across RSO leagues as well.   This suggests that three of the four receivers in this tier are tradeable assets, with Marvin Jones representing the highest reward, lowest risk if you can target him in a trade.

The real value here is tight end.   All four players figure to soak up the majority of their teams’ TE targets and carry a similar contract cost.  The young guys find themselves in favorable situations.  Eric Ebron saw significant targets depart with the Lions’ best receiver, and can be had for 1.7 years at nearly 12 million dollars.   Ladarius Green and Coby Fleener sit at an identical 1.7 average years remaining.   However, Fleener is the gem of this tier with his move to a Saints offense that targets tight ends at highest rate in the NFL, and a salary south of 7 million remaining.    Ladarius moves the needle to nearly ten million which seems to price him too high to make a viable trade target considering Delanie Walker can be had for 1.3 years and under 8 million.  Given the community’s relatively low investment in draft equity, it seems that these players can be had with a reasonable offer.   Walker and Fleener, in particular serve as the best options in this ten man field.

As we gripped the bars on the side of an airplane and prepared to hurtle ourselves into the morning sky, my tandem instructor/savior/guide yelled to me over the engine drone: “don’t worry, I am not like those things you hear about Greek men.”  Ladies and gentlemen, readers and fantasy GMs, I submit to you my man could have been Alexander the Great, and I his sworn Persian enemy, as long he was strapped tight and knew when to rip that cord and took me safely into the field below.


Bio: Luke @FantasyDocOC 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.