2017 Top 25s: QBs and RBs

Updated: July 16th 2017

Since RSO has rolled over to 2017, now’s the perfect time to revisit your rosters and start planning for the next season!

Do you have any players on your team that warrant a franchise tag?  Is it time to shop a player who’s 2016 didn’t meet your expectations and now burdens you with a high salary contract?  My “way too early” PPR rankings, known as my 2017 Top 25s, are here to help with those decisions!

In part 1 of my 2017 Top 25s, I’ll explore the quarterback and running back positions:

 

Top 25 QBs for 2017

Aaron Rodgers is in a tier of his own, making him an elite asset in Superflex and 2QB leagues. Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo are two of the most intriguing names on this list. Over the next few months, we should find out where they’ll play in 2017. If either lands in Denver or Houston, expect their values to rise even higher up this list.

Top 25 RBs for 2017

Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson form the elite trio of RBs that should command the highest AAV (average annual value) of any players in free agency auctions. Rookies Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette could be RB1s in the right situation. Coming off major injuries, veteran RBs Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson just missed the top 25. If they appear healthy as the season approaches and have promised roles, both could be underrated RB2s that will be undervalued in many free agency auctions.

My recommendation

Take an hour this weekend and send out personal emails to all of your fellow owners. Get the trade conversations started because they likely won’t come knocking down your door to acquire one of these players you’re looking to vanquish from your roster. Explain what you’re looking to accomplish, who interests you on their team, and provide an idea of how a potential deal could be reached. If you’re in an active league, you’ll be surprised at the quality of responses you receive.

I followed this recommendation last year, revamped one of my teams almost from scratch, and ended up winning the league.  Have a few minutes?  Read my article on Pressing the Reset Button to find out more about how this strategy can work for you.


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

Best Values – Writers’ League

Updated: October 16th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


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

Best Values – Writers' League

Updated: September 7th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


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

One is the Loneliest Number

Updated: April 17th 2016

I have recently joined two new RSO leagues. For most when you join a new league you look at the scoring and rules to see if there will be any major discrepancies in terms of player value. Obviously certain RBs and WRs lose value in non-PPR leagues; while earning points for kick return yardage and touchdowns places slightly more value on those Swiss Army knife players. Most of the leagues that I have participated in, redraft or dynasty, feature some combination of half to full point PPR and start between two and four RBs and WRs with flex players mixed in. These are almost the new standard for fantasy football leagues. However one style seems to be less prevalent and sometimes actively avoided across the community, 2QB.

Starting two quarterbacks seems counter intuitive to some owners as they want the closest experience to being a real general manager in the NFL. That is why RSO owners choose the site since the salary cap and contracts are as realistic as possible. Therefore if you want the real experience why would you ever want to start two quarterbacks in fantasy when there is only one on the field? While it may not seem realistic, fantasy owners do need to remember what position is most important on the field, the quarterback. Depending on scoring formats of the top 20 scoring players in 2015, eighteen were quarterbacks!  Despite this, the smart owners know to not overspend in auctions, and to invest lower or no draft capital in the position. Fellow RSO writer Dave Sanders wrote an article explaining how to hold your dollars and picks for other positions instead of investing heavily in an elite quarterback.

Stacking the Deck

If we know that football’s most important position is now being undervalued due to an influx of usable options, how can we fix leagues to make quarterbacks more valuable in terms of contract dollars and trade value? Simple, you start two of them! The chart below shows the average points per game that the first ranked player earned over the 10th, 20th and 30th ranked player at each position. Since most leagues start more than one WR/RB this is why these two positions on most championship teams earn contracts in the $20-$30million/year range while the starting quarterback contract is between $8-$15million/year.

Position PPG 2015

To further illustrate my point that leagues should be 2QB as a standard I am going to use a formula that some of you may already be aware. I like to think of this formula as one similar to the WAR score (wins against replacement) that is frequently referenced in baseball. The principles are the same; the higher the score the better that player is against the average replacement player at his position. The use of this formula is to set contract values for each player in your free agency auction based on their expected fantasy points. In my next article I’ll breakdown the formula in more depth when I show you how to prepare your budget for your auction draft. For the purpose of this article I’ll just be showcasing the result comparing a 1QB vs. 2QB league.

2QB 4TD Contracts

Comparing four of the most valuable quarterbacks and two elite players at both running back and wide receiver shows the big disparity between the values. Elite skilled positions are at a greater premium and therefore command a greater amount of the annual salary cap. However, when owners become forced to use the 20th ranked QB (and up to 30th in the case of bye weeks, injuries, benching etc.) the point differential increases to the level of starting three RBs/WRs. The value of these elite quarterbacks then rises on average over 170%. When we make this same comparison in a league that uses six points for a passing touchdown instead of four the gap is almost completely lost. As seen in the chart below the values of the quarterbacks actually leapfrogs the running backs and rivals that of the wide receivers.

2QB 6TD Contracts

Now we see the most valuable position in football start to hold similar value in fantasy football as it does on the field. In a league with this format it would make it much easier to justify trading, drafting and paying for quarterbacks. Additionally, this helps leagues that lack trades because it creates opportunities for teams to have different strategies to build a championship team around. In the case of leagues bigger than 10 teams however, I recommend utilizing only one quarterback and offering a superflex position instead. This allows teams that are not able to have three starting quarterbacks on their roster to still compete each year since there would not be 36 starters each week to use.

Ups and Downs of the RSO Playoffs

Updated: December 24th 2015

golden-tate-nfl-new-orleans-saints-detroit-lions-850x560

They say it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. To win Reality Sports Online league titles, it seems like you have to be a bit of both. Hit on your rookie draft picks, don’t spend big dollars on busts and get your multi-year deals right, don’t have player injuries and then have it all align in the playoffs.

So, after being in my main league for three years and the Writers League for two years, I can honestly say I haven’t won a championship and am still after that holy grail. As someone who is their own worst critic, and who writes strategy pieces for the website, that makes me feel like a little bit of a fraud. I know I’m beating myself up on this, but let me share my two league circumstances with you this year.

I welcome any of you who suffered a similar loss to Tweet me or contact me as some form of therapy. I have writing about this experience as my therapy, so let me be the one you vent to after reading this if you are in the same boat as me.

First, I’ll start with my Writers League with folks who I write with at Reality Sports Online and numberFire mainly (some have moved onto other sites like Rotoworld and ESPN). I finished 11-2 in the regular season with the highest scoring team by far. That earned me the #2 seed and a matchup against my friend @GrahamBarfield, the #3 seed in the league, while 12-1 #1 Seed @LeoHowell8 played upstart first-year owner and Baylor Law Professor and late summer league addition #4 seed (brought in via Twitter to compete against writers) @RoryRyan in the other playoff matchup.

Buoyed all season by a Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski stack, Devonta Freeman and Eric Decker, my team was stacked and I have most of these players (and Todd Gurley, Demaryius Thomas) for several more years. In round one however, I went into Monday Night Football with a 16 point lead and Graham having Lamar Miller remaining. Miller scored two touchdowns by halftime and my highest-scoring team in the league (and second highest among 10 teams that week) was toast.

On the other side, Howell, who has lost exactly two regular season games in two years in the league, put up a dud and lost to Ryan, who inherited one of the worst teams in the league mid-summer, was awarded T.Y. Hilton by the league on a two year, $40.0 million contract and left to his own devices to turn the rest around. He slid into the playoffs behind some good moves and then, wouldn’t you know it, won the whole thing while Howell and I put up very high totals in the third place game.

Rory Ryan Shocks the Writers League

Basically, Ryan capitalized on being healthy and opportunistic,  and a few solid moves. Here’s his summary of what lead to his success (in his words):

“As I looked around the locker room before the championship match, I decided we needed to do something unusual. We went around the room and introduced ourselves–as six of the ten starters were waiver-wire pickups. As I drove my family back from the Polar Express train ride during Monday’s finale, I kept getting SiriusXM updates that were good. Then better. Then — victory. To say the team I inherited was in “rebuilding mode” would be an understatement. But we were able to scrape out just enough wins and ride a whole lot of luck to the title. “

“Although (to quote Nuke Laloosh) “winning is like . . . so much better than losing,” the year was great either way. As I told folks on social media, it was fun playing against the guys whose advice I use when setting my lineups in other leagues. And the RSO format really does make even traditional dynasty leagues seem primitive. The contracts, waivers, salary cap, etc., make up the way fantasy ought to be played. “
“The opportunity to play this format against these guys was too much to pass up — despite my (formerly) firm rules against not playing in leagues with kickers, defenses (if I can help it), and true decimal scoring. But I’m still looking forward to next year, where hopefully my roster will be slightly more settled. “

“So what was my strategy? When I entered the auction, there were few (no) stars and plenty of money. So prices were inflated. I went after some grinders who I’d always feel OK inserting into the lineup: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, and Doug Martin (didn’t get him). But I spent little money. Instead, I saved most of my cap room, knowing that injuries and sleepers would emerge, and I would have the big bankroll. DeAngelo Williams, Danny Amendola, Antonio Gates, Dion Lewis, and Zach Miller all played important roles during the season.

“As for the future — we will see if my strategy works. Since there were no stars to lock down, I went after a group of guys who I thought were more talented than their projections, hoping that at least one of them ends up in an ideal situation. The prices are low enough that hitting 1/3 and cutting the other two will more than pay for itself in savings, despite the cap penalty, as I’ll avoid waiting for the player to demonstrate the market value. So, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith, and Markus Wheaton — please answer the phone if the Patriots call.”

A Rivalry Is Continued in Reality Sports Online

Let me set the stage for you a bit with some history. My best friend since our freshman year at Miami University, @MarkPesavento and I have been in fantasy football leagues together since 1996. He is my biggest rival and our fantasy matchups have quite a history of craziness as you can imagine for anyone playing against each other for that long. Since he works in sports and I don’t, there is an extra layer of who is the smarter football mind is between the two of us.

With that in mind, Mark and I left an ESPN keeper league a few years ago in search of something bigger, something more challenging that was fully customizable. As part of his work at the time, he discovered Reality Sports Online and we’ve been hooked ever since. Together we are co-commissioners of the Not Quite Gentlemen’s League, a super-customized PPR league with 12 teams and lineups consisting of only one required running back, three flex positions, and where turnovers are heavily punished (-5 points for interceptions, fumbles) and the 5th and 6th playoff seeds are determined solely based on total points scored.
RSO Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office Stephen Wendell is now in our league too, which adds to the competitiveness. Pesavento finished first overall at 11-2 with the highest point total (he won the league in 2014), newcomer Wendell finished 9-5 and was the #2 seed. I was the second highest scoring team, but finished 7-6 and got the #5 overall seed.

My high-scoring team proved no fluke in the opening round of the playoffs, winning 321.54-179.99 and a Week 15 rematch with Pesavento, who I was 0-2 against on the season, loomed.

Setting the Stage-Week 12

First, though, let me take you back to Week 12 where Pesavento and I squared off in an epic battle. He staked to an early lead behind Odell Beckham Jr., Philip Rivers, and Spencer Ware that seemed insurmountable at the time. Then late in the late games, my quarterback Russell Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for an 80 yard touchdown, en route to a 72 point fantasy performance.

I was close going into the Sunday night game where I had Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots DST to his Broncos DST. Behind a Gronk touchdown and subsequent Gronk-spike and an inteception by the Patriots D, I staked out to a fairly decent lead (like 20 points). As the clock turned to the 4th quarter, I instant messaged Pesavento saying this game seems like it is over.

And then the collapse happened. The Patriots muffed a punt, Denver’s running game started picking up steam and the Patriots were bleeding out yardage allowed and points scored. The game was getting much closer. All I needed was another Gronk catch and I’d be fine.

Then Gronk got called for offensive pass interference on a big catch that was nullified. A few plays later, then he was carted off with a knee injury. So my happiness of likely winning the game turned into losing my key league advantage (and someone I’d like to franchise tag on a good deal for 2016) for the season, and potentially this game as well.

The Broncos scored to take the lead and all I then needed (while I was frantically worried about Gronk’s health for the rest of the season) was the game not to go to overtime. Well, we all know Stephen Gostkowski is fantasy gold and the game went to overtime. In overtime, as long as the Broncos didn’t score a touchdown, I’d win.

I think you know the rest. C.J. Anderson scored on a 48 yard touchdown scamper to end the game and Pesavento beat me by .25 points, continuing a series of close calls in recent match-ups.

The Worst Possible Way To Lose?

Heading into the Week 15 playoff matchup of the two highest scoring teams in the league, Pesavento was favored, yet he had some of his best players with tough matchups (Beckham Jr vs CAR, Antonio Brown vs. DEN DST, DEN DST at PIT) while mine on paper seemed favorable (A.J. Green @SF, Wilson vs. CLE, Devonta Freeman @JAX, Gronkowski vs. TEN, NE DST vs. TEN).

I staked out to a decent lead as Beckham Jr. didn’t have any catches through three well-documented quarters vs. shutdown corner Josh Norman. While I was watching on the NFL Game Mix (8 games at once on a not so-huge TV on DirecTV), I noticed that things were getting super chippy and was waiting for OBJ to get ejected by referee Terry McAulay’s crew for the punches thrown and the cheap shots.

I usually don’t get “holier than though” watching football, but by the time the Giants started their comeback and OBJ started racking up fantasy points I was on my high-horse and stark-raving mad that Beckham Jr. hadn’t been tossed. Heck, I’ve been tossed from rec-league basketball games for way less.

However, his Alshon Jeffery only had one catch for 10 yards and a touchdown, my Patriots DST had a good game and I was hanging in with him heading into Wilson’s huge matchup against my hometown Browns. Knowing that Wilson was hot and the Browns defense is porous, I knew Russ would deliver for me.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Brown scoring 70 points against his Broncos DST. So as the Steelers/Broncos game wore down and I was hoping the Broncos would give up more points, I was hoping that another player would score the final touchdown of this game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and when Ben Roethlisberger threw an egregious interception on a terrible pass to his Denver defense right before the two minute warning that I coined the “Class of 1998 Miami University Fantasy Football Scholarship”, I knew that 5 points for the Broncos would loom large.

And as Brown caught another ball, I found myself down 15 points heading into Monday Night Football where it was my Golden Tate vs. his Tim Hightower for the right to survive and advance. Tate was coming off his best game of the season and was facing the porous Saints secondary. Hightower was coming off a solid game. Game flow seemed to favor Tate, but I figured the 15 points would loom too large for Tate to overcome.
As the game started and Tate scored two early touchdowns I found myself up in the game. Hightower scored right before half, but the play was called back on a lineman failing to report. The two of us went crazy over IM the remainder of the game.

At one point, unsolicited my wife and 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter started chanting “Golden Tate, Golden Tate!” pleading for him to get the ball when the Lions were on offense. It was super cute to see my daughter who talks but doesn’t know too many words saying this.

I was clinging to a slight lead and game flow took Hightower out of the game mostly. As I watched the Lions fumble away a few possessions that Tate could’ve had opportunities and the Lions DST unable to force punts to Tate as the returner (we get punt return yards for individual players in our league), I knew this was going to come down to the wire.

With five minutes left and me clinging to an ironic .26 point lead (basically the Week 12 margin of defeat), I paced around knowing that if Hightower got one more carry I would lose. I made it basically to the end of the game where the Lions were running out the clock unscathed. Alas, they didn’t have the ability to run off the entire clock and in came Matt Prater to kick a chip-shot field goal to end the game. Prater then missed, and I knew anything could happen.

The Saints had a few plays left and surely would be setting up for a Hail Mary after gaining a little bit of yardage. Initially seeing C.J. Spiller as the receiving back in the game, I figured I was fine. On a play with 14 seconds left, Drew Brees looked and pump faked at Hightower, but threw elsewhere. With six seconds left to go, folks in my league (including Pesavento) were congratulating me on the win.

Talk about Dewey vs. Truman. The last play should have been a Hail Mary. Instead, Brees decided to pad his completion percentage and throw a dump-off to Hightower. The yardage didn’t matter-I had lost after overcoming a deficit, in another crushing close defeat to Pesavento. Again on the last play of the game.
I wish this writing was fiction and not fact. I had seemingly overcome some poor performances by Green, T.Y. Hilton (who I started over Danny Woodhead based on recent history, Matt Hasselback starting, and Hilton’s history against Houston). I think back to all the dynamics of the matchup- Beckham not getting ejected and missing a for sure deep touchdown early in the game, two straight fade routes to Gronk in the end zone late in the Patriots/Titans game that came up just short, pass interference calls covering my Randall Cobb in the end zone, the Broncos late interception, and finally Hightower’s catch with the Saints down 8 points on the last play of the last game of the week, and I realize that the Reality Sports Online holy grail is a temptress. I easily could have lost by 50 points, won by 20 points or won by .26 points, but instead I lost by a few points and now wish Pesavento good luck in the finals (without Beckham and potentially Jeffery) while I play Wendell for third-place this week.

Only a combination of luck, health, and solid roster moves will result in winning this thing and I hope that my championship window with the same core I have locked up through 2016 will bring me better results next year. There’s always next year.

Please feel free to reach out to me with similar stories, start/sit questions for your big week 16 championship, or to call me a fraud via Twitter @Mattgoody2.

The Art of Trading-RSO Style

Updated: November 6th 2015

Danny Woodhead could be an interesting player to acquire at the trade deadline.

Danny Woodhead could be an interesting player to acquire at the trade deadline.

When you and your friends signed up to join a Reality Sports Online league, you basically walked into the corn like in Field of Dreams. You weren’t necessarily sure what your initial strategy would be, but like other owners on the platform, you needed something more challenging, more engaging, basically an NFL-General Manager experience to break from the monotony of the everyday redraft league.

That’s exactly what you’re entrenched in and winning your league against your friends who you consider to be of above-average intelligence would be sweet, very sweet. Now you are at the point where you’ve meticulously managed your roster, strategized over rookie draft picks, made a deal or two, had some injuries, doled out some long term contracts, used your franchise tag and are ready to get raise your fist in the air for your first RSO championship.

The final piece to that roster puzzle to win your league may or may not come at the trade deadline, which is upcoming for several leagues. For non-contenders, the trade deadline becomes a chance to salvage some value (particularly future rookie draft picks or developmental players) for expiring players who won’t be retained but may help a contender. For contenders, the trade deadline is the last chance of the season to add a piece to help you for your championship run and potentially in future years.

The art of trading in your RSO league is all contextual and situation dependent which makes it the most complex set of scenarios you can face down the stretch in your attempt to gain lifetime bragging rights on your buddies because flags fly forever and your championship forever becomes part of league lore.

With that, let’s discuss some scenarios that you may be facing at the deadline, with a quick primer first.

Every now and then, we get Tweets asking about trades and whether or not you should do them. Let me start with some obvious advice-context really matters. Of course I’d rather have Julio Jones than Allen Robinson all things being equal. But if Robinson is on a second-round rookie deal and Jones costs me $30 million a year, Robinson’s value and point production allows so much flexibility that he’s more valuable than Jones to me. So make sure you consider the following when making any trade deadline deal:

1) Are You a Contender or a Non-Contender?

This can be a tricky question depending on what kind of league you are in. For instance, the top four records make the playoffs in my league plus another two wild-cards based on total points scored. So there’s multiple ways into the playoffs and teams that are on the fringe of one or the other can still be chasing these up until the last week of the season. Which makes our league super-exciting, but also hard to gauge how a team sees itself.

To me, total points scored is a good barometer at this point for how your team really is performing. I know there are bye weeks and everything, but if I learned anything in business school, it is the bigger the sample size, the better and a sample size of 30 typically takes out the randomness. So if you go to your standings and to the breakdown section, you’ll see your record if you played every team in your league each week. If your record is strong (sample size is definitely bigger than 30), it means you are putting up ample total points to contend in your league. If it is below .500, your overall record may mean you are getting lucky and you should be a seller.

Every owner has to decide where they fit at the deadline, but false optimism usually leads to straddling and backfires. So if you are playing for next season, act like it and get some assets that will help you more than having a few more weeks of Jonathan Stewart.

2) You don’t always have to get the best player in the deal, but make sure you are walking away with the best valued player in the deal.

Your lineup is like a puzzle and you have to put together the best lineup possible to win. Through the auction, rookie draft, in-season free agency and trades you’ve made thus far, you have to fit the player and the cap space you are targeting into your lineup. The natural inclination as your league trade deadline approaches is to go hard after the obvious names, a bunch of studs that you think can put you over the top, even if their contracts may not be good.

Hold off on this approach, unless the capital required is reasonable. The truth is if you are contending, you probably have a lot of solid pieces already. You don’t need two more years of Adrian Peterson at $25-30 million a year, you need Eric Decker at $5-$8 million a year for the next two-three years (or even one year). Plus the trade capital required to get a player like Decker will be way less (Editor’s Note: Goody indeed just traded Kendall Wright and his 2016 2nd Round Pick for Decker).

3) If you’re trading rookie draft picks, figure out what they are worth to you. What’s a Rookie Draft Pick Worth? should help you immensely in that pursuit.

In my main league, I’ve seen rookie draft picks (particularly first rounders) move back and forth all season as teams have gone in and out of determining whether they are contenders. Meanwhile, the top two contenders (me included) have kept their picks intact and watched these teams make these moves.

Examples of these trades include Ben Roethlisberger’s owner panicking when he went down and trading his first for a one-year, $15.0 million Drew Brees deal (which so far, along with a solid cast has kept that team near the top of the standings), and a team traded a first rounder and Coby Fleener for DeMarco Murray (who was franchised in 2015). In total there have been fifteen trades so far this regular season in my 12-team league, most of which involving 2016 first-round draft picks.

I can with fair certainty say that save for myself and another top team, that most of the serious playoff contenders (and by that I mean the ones who can do serious playoff damage), don’t have draft picks to trade at the deadline to upgrade their teams. As a result, for me, it may be best to stand pat and not make moves unless this other top team does. Assuredly, assuming team health, trading first rounders seems to be out of the question when I can stand pat and still have a very good shot of being a top two team without making a deal. Thus in my particular situation, even though my draft pick figures to be towards the end of the first round, I’ve determined that it isn’t likely worth it to me to trade my 2016 first rounder to try to get a player to help ensure I win the championship this year. That doesn’t mean I don’t have other players I couldn’t move to get another piece (more on that later).

Please note that I’m more clingy to my rookie draft picks in a league with four-year rookie deals than three-year deals, especially since most owners are already one year into those deals. So if you are in the last year of an Eddie Lacy rookie deal for instance, getting something of substance back could be a coup.

4) Remember that you aren’t necessarily looking to “win the trade”, but rather get the value that propels your team to greater heights either now or later, depending on what your goal is.

So many trades don’t happen in fantasy leagues, because one owner is trying to get over on another. We’re all smart owners on this platform, so appropriate value the best way you know how. At the deadline you have two types of teams-contenders and non-contenders. Contenders want help now for the short-term (and maybe a year beyond) and non-contenders want future assets in the form of draft-picks or development players. If a non-contender decides that trading Martellus Bennett for three years of Jay Ajayi floats their boat, then other owners shouldn’t judge. The same thing goes for if a team makes a move going for the playoffs and it blows up in their face. Last year, a leaguemate did exactly that in my league and I think they’ll be way more careful at the deadline this year.

5) Throwing the farm and multiple good players for one great player doesn’t make as much sense in a league like this as it does in a redraft league.

I’ve seen some Tweets lately asking my views on multi-player trades. The one that stuck out to me was someone asking me if they should trade Jordan Matthews, Mike Evans (both on original rookie deals) and Gio Bernard for DeAndre Hopkins (3 years, $48.0 million) and a 2016 2nd rounder? Of course, I drilled in on context, but while this trade may make sense in a redraft league, no way am I give up two cheap, young assets plus Bernard for Hopkins (who I do think is a Top-5 wideout).

The upside is just too high on Matthews and Evans, plus the value given of three fantasy starters for one studly starter just doesn’t compute for me.

If I’m a contender at the deadline, I’m not looking to get back less starters than I’m giving up, unless I have a super deep bench. If making a deal like the above, though to get Hopkins means I have to start a player I can’t trust weekly in the playoffs to replace a guy I just traded while giving up multiple starters, the point differential Hopkins is giving me doesn’t matter. I’m not starting Nate Washington or Malcom Floyd in the playoffs without a serious down-the-stretch track record or injuries just to get myself a player like Hopkins.

6) Don’t be afraid of the one-year contract expiring player for several reasons.

A few weeks ago, a Twitter follower @naandrews19 sent me a few messages about how to value first year players. Nick was asking me how to value these in his league when others were so focused on multi-year players and suggested I write an article about it. First off, thanks Nick for the idea and for following me. Second, hopefully I can address the one-year expiring player, who I do believe has more value than your league counterparts think.

Nick was saying that most of his league was very afraid to trade their picks for “rental” players, guys on one-year deals. This is faulty logic to me. I know the tendency in leagues like this is to try to lock up a bunch of studs on multi-year deals. However, sometimes that blows up in an owners face. In fact, in your first few years, your best team strategy is probably to avoid getting yourself into bad contracts. Ask the owner of Charles Johnson about multi-year deals now and see what he says if he/she can get out a complete sentence without a bunch of expletives.

With that, let me be explicit. There are certain types of players worth trading your first-round draft picks for on expiring deals. Those players to me are guys that you’d consider putting the franchise tag on in 2016. If you already have an obvious franchise tag player based on your league dynamics, or the amount this newly acquired player would cost you in 2016, don’t fret. You still may be willing to part with a 2016 first rounder if you know that you will be in the bottom few picks of the first round and the player you’re getting is worth it. Logically, you’d prefer to give up a second rounder because the picks don’t snake, so you aren’t really giving up much from that standpoint with a second rounder. The happy go between may be to give up a second rounder and a player (either a mid-tier player or a devy guy if you have many of them).

In terms of examples, guys like Danny Woodhead (still currently in the Top 5 in PPR league scoring at running back) are prime examples of players who may not have a ton of future value but can make a significant contribution for your team towards a title.

7) Who is your biggest roadblock to winning a championship and what are they doing at the deadline to improve their team?

Sometimes you have to follow a game theory strategy and only make moves if you perceive your biggest roadblock is going to make them (or already has made them). As a contending team, you have a certain window to remain competitive, so keep that in mind in any deals made. That said, on my current team, I’d be more than willing to move a guy like Chris Conley and his 6’3′, 205 lb frame and 4.35 40-time on a cheap multi-year deal if it netted me the piece I needed to put me ahead of my rival. If the right player was available and the other trading partner wanted someone else in the deal with Conley, I feel like a guy like Vernon Davis could be of interest in his new Denver locale.

If the other team is doing nothing, you may not need to do anything (sometimes doing nothing is actually the best strategy), but be acutely aware of where their weaknesses are and see how you really match up with them in a one-game playoff scenario

8) Non-contending teams should be looking to unload bad contracts as well as pick up future assets.

I feel like I’ve been banging this drum all year, but non-contending teams want three things in this order: 1) future draft picks 2) to rid themselves of bad contracts 3) developmental players. If you are a team that’s fallen on bad luck with injuries or non-performance but have a wealth at a certain position, perhaps you package that wealth with a bad contract (think guys like Michael Floyd or Victor Cruz) to get a combination of assets and contract relief. Heck, if you haven’t moved a player out for the season to IR, you can even trade them if they have future years (guys like Arian Foster) if you are thinking they won’t come back at the same level or at all. Like the NFL, however, you can’t trade players off of your IR on the RSO platform.

So, those are some of my thoughts as your league deadline approaches. I find myself currently to be a buyer in both leagues I’m in (I’m a jaw-dropping 8-0 in my writers league, dominating in total points scored and searching for an area to improve in a 10 team league and I’m 5-3 in my main league with the second highest point total). I don’t know if I’ll get any deals done in these leagues, but I certainly am thinking about potential offers at this point.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @mattgoody2 to talk trade strategy, general questions, start/sit, whatever is on your mind RSO wise and good luck this week!