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.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

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.

More Analysis by Luke O'Connell

Rookie Pick Craze

Updated: July 8th 2016

Most rookie drafts are now complete and owners are looking forward to the start of training camp in a month’s time. Throughout this process of drafting, I came to ask myself the question of whether rookie picks of all kinds are overvalued. With the hype-train that is the 2017 draft, I have seen many trades on both twitter and in my own leagues that would suggest that every player available is going to be the next Eric Dickerson, Randy Moss, and Tony Gonzalez. Even looking ahead to 2018, owners are reluctant to trade their picks based on the unknown of what the caliber of rookies will be in two years. While that is a fair argument, the last time I checked,  the whole point of playing fantasy football was to win championships, not assemble “the best” forward- looking team. Therefore, I wanted to take a look how successful rookie picks actually are. I should give credit to RotoViz writer Jacob Rickrode who looked at a similar topic last year. I will link his article here for those of you who have access to their articles.

Rookie Success

If we look back at the last six rookie drafts starting in 2010 below is a breakdown of how successful a rookie selected was. The chart looks at the average ADP of each year’s rookies. For 2012 Trent Richardson, Andrew Luck, and Doug Martin were the average top 3 drafted in that order. The Success Rate evaluates whether a pick had a top 12 (QB, TE) or top 24 (RB,WR) season at least once since being drafted. The Percentage of Top Seasons represents how often each pick was able to reach the top 12/24. The final two columns indicate the total round’s Bust Rate, whether they had at least one top season, and Top Season Rate, the percentage of having multiple top 12/24. I chose to only do individual picks for the first two rounds for two reasons: the fluctuation in ADP after 24 varied tremendously from site to site and the data showed that players drafted after the second round were mostly irrelevant.

Rookie Pick Chart

As you can see the first round selections have a slightly better than 50/50 chance to have at least one top 12/24 season while only a 20% chance of having more than one top seasons. From there it gets steadily worse. An interesting anomaly, the large value of success from the 2.12 is greatly inflated by Rob Gronkowski who’s five top 12 finishes are only second in that round to pick 2.02 (6). That’s one player versus six! As well, the 1.02 has seen some elite talent with names like Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, and Andrew Luck which is why it is the only pick that currently holds a perfect 100% success rate. The only individual players to have a perfect score (reaching the top 12/24 each season) having played in 2 or more seasons are Odell Beckham Jr. (2 years), Mike Evans (2), Jeremy Hill (2), Giovanni Bernard (3) and A.J. Green (5). This is the part of the article where you tip your cap to the Cincinnati Bengals scouting staff. Even if we look at the so-called “Best class in recent history” – 2014, in their first two seasons only 7 of 12 players have had a top 12/24 season thus far. Even looking ahead , with a couple more seasons under their belts, I do not see much more coming out of this round however due to names like Sankey and Manziel stinking up the average.

Move Up or Move Out

So knowing this information what can we do to come out ahead? If we look at my last article which helps layout the value of picks against one another and combine that with the stats presented here we can create a couple of trade strategies to maximize value. If you are a contending, bottom round team the likelihood of your rookie selection being a useful player is slim. Looking at the last 6 picks in the first round the success rate drops to only 40% and the multi-season success down to 10%. Consider also that if your team is contending and therefore full of top talent players, already the likelihood of incoming players being better than those players is even less likely. Therefore, you should be looking to move your picks to the top 3 where you have a robust 83% chance of picking a successful player as well as a 67% chance that they will have multiple top seasons.

Ryan Matthews

Forgotten veterans are a contender’s best friend

If you are unable to move into a position to secure a top 3 selection then the second option is to move out completely. The goal is to win championships, so if your pick isn’t going to help you win during your window then you should be getting value from it. Savvy veteran players are always undervalued and while they may not offer high returns like ODB or Allen Robinson, they definitely will have higher floors than shares of David Wilson, Cordarelle Patterson, and Johnny Manziel currently holds. Players like Matt Forte, Ryan Matthews, Greg Olsen, and Drew Brees are perfect candidates to target by casting out a late first round pick. I have said this in many articles before but the beautiful of RSO is that no player is locked in forever so the landscape of teams changes more than standard dynasties. For those of you who have been on the site for several years now you probably understand what I am saying since your first rookie class is coming due for their first free agency.

Hopefully, I have been able to open some eyes to what really happens with rookie picks and help you understand what to do with everyone going 2017 crazy! As always if you have questions or want to talk strategies you can find me on twitter @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Offseason Cookbook

Updated: July 7th 2016

Many important offseason decisions are rapidly approaching for those of you out there in the Reality Sports Online universe. Are you in need of a recipe for the offseason?  I have you covered with a simple guide that will cover many of the most important offseason considerations to get you ready for the 2016 season.  This guide does not cover every question you will have but is a starting point for how to think about a few of the fundamental offseason topics in RSO leagues.

  1. Team Evaluation

This step is perhaps the most difficult part for both amateurs and experts alike. Every owner looks optimistically at their own roster.  Of course you did not give your favorite player a big contract thinking he would not be a key contributor!  Now is the time to make a realistic assessment of where your team is at whether your team performed beyond expectations or well below them.  You must ask yourself tough questions and answer with your head not your heart.  Were injuries a factor that derailed your team or helped it?  Have younger players progressed like you hoped or have they hit their peak?

How do we come up with an unbiased evaluation of our team? One solution is to apply point projections for your predicted starting lineup and add them up to find your projected team total.  Then compare the point total against the point total finish of teams in your league from last season.  RSO has 2016 player projections and last season’s league data readily available.  You will have to make some assumptions about players you expect to obtain for positions you do not have filled yet.  I will generally assume that I am a contender if my projected team point total is near the top of the team scoring leaders from last year.  Conversely, I will start planning for a couple of years ahead if I project near the bottom of my league.  I will rapidly try to change my team if I find myself in the middle.  RSO’s own Nick Andrews provides a more detailed article on deciding if your team is a contender or a rebuilder here.

  1. Player Drops

We all make good and bad decisions with respect to player contracts. Some gambles do not work out as we plan because of injuries, suspensions, bad play, or a host of other reasons.  Now is the time to correct some of those bad decisions.  Cutting players is never easy but is necessary when it is clear that the player will not provide the value you need to justify keeping him at his current contract level.  The decision to drop a player is complicated.  An owner should consider many factors including the player’s contract, expected production, team and league salary cap situation, and the pool of available players in the free agent auction.  You can read more about the salary cap implications of dropping players on RSO’s How It Works page.

Let me give an example from a league I am in to demonstrate a few of the considerations in determining whether to drop a player. The league has 12 teams with 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE/2FLEX/1K/1DEF starting requirements.  I currently have Jeremy Hill on contract with one year left at almost $19 million.  Cutting Hill would save around $9.5M in cap space.  I would cut Hill in many cases given the contract and his expected production in 2016.  In this particular league, there will be about $800 million available in the free agent auction for approximately 40 fantasy relevant players coming to nearly $20 million per player.  In addition, only about twelve relevant RBs are in the FA auction and over half of the teams have significant RB needs.  The excess money available and high demand for running backs led me to keep Hill in this situation.

  1. Franchise Tag

Our next major offseason decision is whether or not we use the franchise tag. Each team may use the franchise tag on one player.  The franchise tag value is calculated as the greater of the average of the top 5 salaries at the position or 120% of the player’s previous year salary.  Table 1 breaks down the average top 5 salaries by position from RSO leagues in 2015.

Position Top 5 Average
TE $10,627,859
QB $16,228,848
RB $19,966,313
WR $20,466,396

*Table 1: Average of Top 5 Salaries per Position from 2015

Notice that tight ends are generally a solid place to use the franchise tag if you have one of the few high end options given how relatively cheap the position is. I would also not hesitate to franchise a top option at wide receiver because of the relative safety and expected production at the position, despite being the most expensive group.  Quarterbacks will not usually provide the value needed to justify using the franchise tag and there are too many cheaper options available in most leagues.  The running back position provides one of the true high risk/ high reward options when using the franchise tag.  Workhorse running backs rival top wide receivers in value when healthy but are more injury prone.

I personally used the franchise tag this year on Jordan Reed for $12 million in the league described above in the player drops section. The low value of the contract provides a low risk high reward option for a player who is the focal point of the Washington offense, outscored Rob Gronkowski on a per game basis, but who has had numerous issues staying on the field due to injuries.

  1. Rookie Draft and Free Agent Auction

We now arrive at the core of RSO leagues and what really sets the RSO platform apart from other types of leagues. This is the place where savvy owners build the nucleus of their teams for years to come.  We must address which rookie warrants a cheap multi-year contract, what free agent deserves a huge contract, and how we distribute our limited multi-year contracts.

As in the NFL, the RSO rookie draft provides teams the chance to secure players at below market prices for extended periods of time. An owner who hits on rookie picks holds a significant advantage over those who do not.  While we are always looking to acquire the most valuable player with our picks, I like to keep in mind a couple of key guidelines for RSO rookie drafts.

  1. Time is at a premium: RSO contracts are limited in length which means I place a premium on players who have better odds of contributing early. “Project” players who likely sit on an NFL bench developing move farther down my draft board.
  2. Second round value: RSO rookie contract structure favors acquiring picks in the 2nd round of rookie drafts. I will actively try to obtain as many as possible through trades due to the odds of picking contributing rookies and the low costs of contracts in this round.

While the rookie draft supplements the future of your team, the free agent auction is where most owners mold the core of their teams. Most leagues allow more multi-year contracts in the free agent auction than in the rookie draft.  This gives teams the ability to rapidly change in a short period of time.  How an owner distributes contracts can have implications that impact the present and future.  RSO owners face a complex problem of how to distribute contracts salaries across players and years.  A couple of concepts stand out when making these decisions.

  1. Player values change yearly: RSO leagues are different from yearly auction leagues in that the player pool, amount of salary cap available per team, and team needs all vary from year to year. Just as in the NFL, a player’s value likely increases significantly if he is the top available option at the position in the free agent auction.  Similarly, expect player prices to soar in a league where $600 million in salary cap is available for the FA auction vs. a league where only $300 million is available.
  2. Big vs. Small: RSO owners face one of the biggest decisions in determining if they want to put big money in multi-year player contracts or instead utilize small long-term commitments and place big money into 1 year deals. Big long-term deals allow teams to lock up the best players with the least risk.  These contracts can be a big burden on teams when they miss though.  Owners, conversely, might use their multi-year deals on cheaper, more speculative plays like players who went undrafted in the rookie draft or players caught in bad situations but are in the last year of their NFL contract.  This strategy provides owners maximum year to year roster flexibility and also reduces the consequences of missing on players but also significantly reduces the chances of hitting on contributing players.  Keep in mind players who might become available next offseason when deciding upon your preferred strategy.

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

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2.01 Is The New Black

Updated: June 22nd 2016

The RealitySportsOnline (RSO) platform offers a unique way of participating in fantasy football like no other dynasty system. By having contracts, salaries and a salary cap, owners in RSO have to not only be proactive with who they think will be next year’s breakout sleeper but also assign dollar figures to their commitment. Even if they are correct in picking out players and securing them on below market value contracts they still only hold their rights for a maximum of six years (two of which would be on a franchise tag designation for top dollar). It’s not like other dynasty leagues where a player that you take in your start-up draft is your player until he becomes undesirable and is either traded or released.

Knowing that an owner has an incoming rookie for a finite number of years also puts more emphasis on a rookie to perform from year one. Having a player red shirt their first season in the NFL essentially cuts their availability to a starting roster by a third or quarter (depending on your league format) where a wait and see approach can be implemented in other dynasty formats for many rookies. Just ask those who drafted Breshad Perriman and Kevin White in the first round whether they would have rather taken a gamble on a lower ranked receiver such as Stephon Diggs or Tyler Lockett. Would the Melvin Gordon owner, who likely spent a top 3 pick rather have taken one of the Johnson backs later? Of course time will tell if and how successful any of these players will be but so far the first years of their contracts are wasted dollars.

How To Value Each Round

So how does one determine value in rookie picks? More importantly how do we determine the tradability of one pick for a collection of picks and vice versa. For this we first have to look at how real NFL teams look at their collections of picks. In the early 90’s the Dallas Cowboys were winning Super Bowls thanks to a regression model that their then co-owner Mike McCoy created for Jimmy Johnson to quickly evaluate trades. When teams came calling during the draft they added all the values of the picks and if it fell in their favor then they likely accepted the trade. From the chart below you can see the updated model for a 32 team 7 round draft. If you were to extrapolate this data onto a graph it would follow an exponential curve that drops quickly and then levels out near the bottom.

NFL Trade Value Chart

This is the base for which I started looking at how the same principles could be used for a fantasy draft. To make this chart relevant for RSO though we needed to scale the number of teams and rounds down to a normal fantasy league size. For the purpose of this article let’s assume a 10 team league that has 5 rounds. Each pick holds a value between ranges of 3,000 and 1. Factoring the rookie pay scale from last year as provided on the site here we can create a chart of each value for picks 1 through 50. This is done by adding a multiplier to the linear difference between the Pick Value (blue column) and the Cap Figure (green column). The new value with the salary included is then represented in the Added Value column (red column).

Draft Pick Value Chart Round 1 - 3

Draft Pick Value Chart Round 1 - 3

This information is more easily represented via the chart below.

Rookie Pick Graph

The first thing that should jump out is the value of the early second round picks versus the last first round picks. The numbers would suggest that the 2.01 is more valuable than the 1.04 and the 1.10 is valued at a mid-second? Right about now I can feel a collection of you clicking the exit or back button on your browser thinking that I’m crazy. Stay with me here. If you just look back to even last year’s mock drafts it was clear that there was a two headed race at the top between Amari Cooper and Todd Gurley. After them guys such as Melvin Gordon, Kevin White and Nelson Agholor were being thrown around as 3rd and 4th best options. Down at 10th and 11th we have DeVante Parker and DGB. Would anybody say that the first three names are significantly more valuable than these two after the first year? What if I was to tell you that you could have the second group of names for 75% LESS over the length of their contracts!

Depending on your own league the number of teams and rounds will change the value of these picks but for the most part the 2.01 ranged in value from the third most valuable pick to the seventh. So is the 11th player off the board really 2.4 times less productive than the 10th player? Likely the answer is no. Clearly the cap figure for the first pick in the second round is much smaller than that of any pick in the first. So why is this trend something that most people don’t know about or follow? The answer could simply be the same reason why real NFL GMs hold onto and new teams are willing to give former first rounders a second chance, the pedigree that a player drafted in the first round holds.

How To Stay Atop The Mountain

So if you are sitting at the back quarter of your draft, congrats, as you likely won your league or were a week or two away from winning it all. This likely means that you have a pretty solid core of players that will be back next year for another title run. But no team escapes the offseason totally intact so you likely have one or two holes that you would need to fill. As an example let’s say that you would be looking to replace or upgrade your TE for next season.

Finding value in under appreciated talent is a smart way to use back end draft picks

Based on the information about back end drafting I just showcased why not bundle your first and second round pick for a higher second and a veteran player such as a Greg Olsen? If he’s on a reasonably priced contract would he not be better than rolling the dice on a Gary Barnidge or Delaine Walker who you would likely be bidding for in your free agent auction? You’re also saving yourself cap space from your rookie pool that could be used to win a different prized free agent.

Another strategy that can be used if you have multiple first round picks is trading for future picks if you are not sold on selecting incoming rookies. Much like your investment portfolio, it’s good to put your money into different areas to ensure that you yield the best return. Having two or three firsts in a single draft puts a lot of your stock into the success of one class. This also forces you to choose only one of your rookies to tag down the road should any emerge as great dynasty assets. By staggering your picks over years and rounds it allows for you to have a little of each class (or save up for one super class) while not losing a large core of your players at the end of any one season.

Cost efficient rookies turn championship teams into dynasties

The benefits of having a successful offseason are what makes for a successful regular season. Nothing is more rewarding than having a player you got for cheap or the rookie you drafted in the 3rd round be the final piece to a championship season. For me, this past season was a prime example of this philosophy. Having veteran players such as Doug Baldwin and Marvin Jones signed for $3M deals along with Tyler Lockett, who I drafted in the 3rd round, was key to my unexpected championship run. Of course not all of the free agents that are brought in will work out; I’m looking at you C.J. Spiller! The hope is that while others in your league are getting caught up in rookie fever, you are able to save more of your cap room for veterans that you can secure for the same or less value that will for sure be on the field in the coming season.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Hold'em or Fold'em: Part 2

Updated: June 5th 2016

When I wrote my first article here on RealitySportsOnline the goal was to help breakdown whether or not to tear down your team and start the rebuilding process. Now that NFL free agency and the draft have concluded we have a clearer picture of what our roster looks like. We can take a look ahead now at our own drafts and auctions to establish what our goals for 2016 should be. Hopefully you used my guide to evaluate your roster against those of your other league mates. If you haven’t already I’ll give a rundown of how to evaluate your league. Remember that just having a rough outline of whether you are making a run or not this season will give you a direction for preparing for your draft and auction. So let’s go ahead and get started!

Evaluating Your League

Recently I had a conversation with one of our readers about my last article which discussed a formula for valuing players in the auction draft.  He got me thinking about tiering players to create a value for a group of players rather than each one individually. This is where I will start our league-wide comparisons. Using the “base” system that I discussed we can break groups of players up into Elite, Great, Good, and Average. From there assign values to each group (1000, 500, 250, and 100 are nice round numbers to use) and sort the returning players onto each individual team and all expected free agent players into a “free agent” pool. Using an example from one of my leagues, where I adopted a team, you create a chart that resembles something similar below. The numbers within each box represent the number of players that fit within each of the tiers listed before. The totals are these players multiplied by the values given. I also included the free agent chart underneath that lists the number of players in each tier and at each position.

Team Talent 1

Team Talent 2

I have outlined my team in red here so that you can compare it to the others. Our league is pretty even in terms of talent with a couple outliers on either end. This is likely similar to your league where one or two teams clearly have the inside track to a championship, five to eight teams have a shot at making the playoffs and then one to three teams are a step behind the class and are likely to win only a handful of games. When doing your chart if you fall in the bottom third of team value you need to be in rebuild mode. If you are in the middle third you have the option to hold or rebuild now before everyone else in your tier starts their rebuild.

Finding New Building Blocks

Congratulations, you now have an outline for whether you are rebuild in 2016 or holding for another season. For rebuilders the next step is to determine how much of a rebuild your team needs. Your rebuild will be determined based on three factors: returning players, available cap room and auction pool value. For a fast track rebuild if you play in a league that starts fewer players (8-10) and your free agency happens to have a large number of ELITE and GREAT players this offseason you could potentially be a Cinderella team in 2016 just by building through one draft and an aggressive auction. This strategy likely only works however if you have a significant cap space differential from other owners and already have a couple of elite players retained for next season. More likely you will want to give yourself a window of 2-3 years to be a contender.

So if I say that it will take at least two offseasons to rebuild a team what does that mean for the players you currently have? Since RealitySportsOnline is different from other traditional dynasty league sites in that contracts limit the time that an owner can control any player, rebuilders can actually have an advantage. Similar to how other dynasty strategists suggest trading away veterans that are unlikely to be valuable assets when your team “makes the turn”, you can also move younger players on contracts that will be free agents in 2-3 years. Even with young players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins, if you’re not going to be contending with them until after their contracts have expired, you might as well strike while the iron’s hot and get value for them. For those of you that only have one or two standout players on their rosters this first step is much more beneficial than sitting on the player’s value for a couple of years.

Rebuilding in Year 1

But Nick, if we’re trading away all our elite talent what are we supposed to build around? Don’t worry you won’t be talent-less forever. Once you have moved your big names you should have a lot of cap space, draft picks and quality ancillary players. Not ideal for a team trying to win games but that’s okay because what we want is to have flexibility in free agency and to hold some good picks in next year’s draft.

Starting with your rookie draft preparation this season your strategy won’t change much from what you were likely already going to do. However, for those that do their draft away from the online draft room, if you are not in love with a player at your selection then consider moving out of the draft from that spot to a similar spot in future drafts. Remember that you’re not likely to compete this year so why not move the contract that you will be giving to a player a year out. Particularly considering how strong and deep the 2017 draft is shaping up to be. If you can trade a first pick this year for a first next year that could be a huge win.

With regards to your auction, the goal year one can be broken down into long and short term contracts. Long term contracts should only be given to low cost, young players (preferably WRs and QBs) that can generate value once your team comes around. Investing low cost 3-4 year contacts in players such as Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, John Brown, or Allen Hurns in the range of $3-5 million/year can offer a nice foundation player to have in the future. For the short term you want to purchase good value one year players that can offer midseason trade value to contenders. The goal is to not go crazy offering/accepting huge long term deals along with other league mates since you want to keep open your cap space in your second offseason of rebuild.

Preparing for 2017 and Beyond

Looking ahead to the 2017 offseason now you’ve likely won four or less games and have a top 3 pick along with several other picks accumulated from trading. All the players that were one year deals and became a bargain you likely traded them to contenders for either draft picks or more long term project players. Now is the year that you can pounce, especially if many of your league mates are locked in with their roster and cap space. You still want to use your long term deals only on players with high floors but you can begin to spend more. For those of you that are getting close to releasing your first class of rookies to free agency this is the perfect time for you to collect several of those players. Players like Kennan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Giovanni Bernard were likely allowing owners to benefit from their low rookie contracts and will not be able to afford them at their market value. This is why holding future cap space open is the key.

Now that you are collecting some elite talent and you haven’t lost all your future money you can implement the same strategy in year three. With the 2014 WRs coming available this year or possibly in 2017 depending on 3 or 4 year rookie contract lengths, at this point you should have collected enough elite and good players to compete with others in your league. As well you should hold a couple of players on rookie contracts that are less than market value, assuming you drafted well. From here on the goal to avoid having to go through a total rebuild again is to sell players in their second to last year of their contracts and continue to use long term deals only on high floor or lower cost players. Don’t be afraid of the one year deal on projected elite players as best case scenario the player is awesome and you get all your money back to buy them again the next year. If the player busts you get out from under them rather than having to pay half their salary for another two years.

Happy drafting and as always if you have any questions about draft or trade strategies you can find me @naandrews19 on twitter.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews