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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Squeeze Every Penny

Updated: June 5th 2016

Let me start this article by raising a glass to the creator at Twitter who added the poll option to tweeting. Since this feature has been added, the ability to quickly skim through @dynastytrades feed to vote and see the results of fantasy football trades, has been an incredible resource. If you are not already following them you should be. However, be careful when reading these polls that they don’t offer exactly approximate value of players in the context of YOUR league. As I have said in previous articles owners have tendencies towards certain players and team philosophies that can alter the value of these players. Even entire leagues can have a style that can alter how one participates in their auctions. One league can be very bullish in their contract signings while another can be coyer when spending large cap figures on single players. Regardless of your league setup however, there is a way that you can quantify how much each player should receive. I will breakdown how to understand and use this formula for not only your auction drafts but also to compare the values of players that are already currently owned.

Please note there are two factors that prevent the formula from being applied universally across all leagues. The first is that the point values are inputted at the discretion of the user and different lists could yield different results. Some users simply like to apply the point totals for last season, others like to use predicted point totals that are released from various fantasy sites. Whichever YOU chose,  just be sure that you feel comfortable with the values as these are the drivers for all the contracts. The second variable is the league settings, including roster sizes and number of starters at each position. It should be pretty easy to understand that the more players that are started and the larger the roster size the more money that needs to be spread throughout each roster. This will reduce the max dollars that the elite players should receive when compared to smaller rosters.

Preparing Your Chart

Once you find a database for every player’s fantasy point total that you are comfortable with, organize them into each individual position so that you can create a baseline and margin scores. Again make sure that the database values that you are using were calculated based on your league’s scoring settings. There is a big difference between half, full and non PPR scoring as well as TE premium and 6 points/passing TDs that will drastically change the values for certain players. From here you can place each player and their fantasy point value in a chart that goes in descending points order along with 6 extra columns labeled as below. This example is for the QBs in my 10 team 0.5 PPR home league which starts 1QB, 3RB, 4WR, 1TE, 2FLEX, 1K, 1DST and has a roster size of 26.

Auction Chart 1

A tip here would be to use Microsoft Excel so that you can input all the formulas and save some time. Either way, now that you have the information entered you can create the VORP score (Value Over Replacement Player) for each player. For each of the BASE values they will be equal to the number of starting players in your league times the appropriate multiplier (1.75, 1.5, 1, 0.5). In my example that would be values of 18, 15, 10 and 5. These values are what you are going to be comparing each player against to calculate their margin score. For example, in the Base x1 to determine Aaron Rodgers’ margin you would compare his points versus that of the 10th ranked QB (Andy Dalton) and subtract his points from Rodgers (304.58-269.3=35.28). You would follow the same process to fill out the rest of the chart where comparisons would be made against the 18th, 15th, 10th and 5th ranked players. This is also why you may have noticed that I did not include every QB available. Every player that ranks lower than your Base x1.75 value, in this case the 19th ranked QB and lower, should only receive the minimum bid at auction. Now you will have a chart now that looks like this. I also included the margin value which is the sum of these base values.

Auction Chart 2

Applying the Math

Once you have done this for every position you can then calculate the contract values. This requires a formula that will be the same for all positions and will yield a multiplier to calculate contract values.

Contract Multiplier = (∑QB Margins+∑RB Margins+∑WR Margins+∑TE Margins)/[(Salary Cap -Roster Size*Minimum Bid)*Number of Owners]

This may seem like a daunting formula but it is simple when broken down. First, multiply the number of rostered players you must have in your league by the minimum auction bid of $500,000. Subtract that number from the salary cap value of $155,270,000 for this year. This difference becomes the “fun money” that you have to spend after accounting for filling out the roster with minimum bid players. Multiply this by the number of teams in the league and you have the entire league’s “fun money”. This number will likely be in the billions of dollars!

The numerator part of the formula takes all of the margins for each position and adds them together. Notice that I did not include a sum for kickers or defenses as I believe in only spending the minimum. Let other owners in your league spend the extra money so that you have more to use on positions that matter. Finally, divide this sum of all position margins from the billions of dollars available in total league “fun money”. This value will be very small, likely a number with four to six 0s after the decimal. For my example this number comes out to 0.00001456 or 1.456e-5.

You now have your multiplier to compare players’ values against one another. Divide an individual player’s margin by the contract multiplier and a dollar value will appear as your contract value. Don’t forget to add back $500,000 to account for the minimum bid value that comes with each player with a value equal to 0. Doing this for every position will yield a completed chart as below.

Auction Chart 3

For those of you that participate in IDP leagues the same formula can apply. You simply would need to do the same margin charts for all defensive positions and apply their sum margins to the numerator.

Hopefully you have stayed with me throughout this impromptu math session. The key to staying focused in your auction is to be prepared. Every owner is entitled to conducting the auction in their own manner, however, too often I have seen owners come in knowing that they want a collection of players and are willing to pay whatever to acquire them. Having a sheet prepared of all the approximate values for each player helps see the whole field instead of getting locked in with blinders. I know math and computers are not everyone’s strong suit so if you have any questions about the chart or want help setting up yours you can find me on twitter @naandrews19.