Into the Regular Season

Updated: September 7th 2017

The preseason brings lots of excitement for those of us deprived of the NFL for so long.  It also leads to some of the worst analysis from fantasy “experts”.  Reviewing stat lines from preseason games is mostly meaningless.  Touch sample sizes are typically incredibly small with starters playing very limited snaps.  Teams usually incorporate very “vanilla” play calls which may not be similar to what happens during the regular season.  Backups compete against second and third string players or worse.  While much of what we see in preseason play is essentially worthless in predicting fantasy value for the upcoming season, examining player situations and delving deeper into game tape can provide some useful observations for the coming season.

Moving Up

The most significant mover of the preseason is Chiefs’ running back Kareem Hunt.  The devastating torn PCL and LCL injury to Kansas City starting running back Spencer Ware opens the door for the third round rookie.  Hunt finished as one of Pro Football Focus’ highest ranked backs in college at Toledo and flashed nice plays throughout the preseason (along with some not-so-nice “rookie” moments).  The Chiefs are left only with Hunt, Chancandrick West, and re-signed C.J. Spiller as the only running backs on the roster.  Hunt should see plenty of work for Kansas City this season.

Perhaps no player benefits more from a quarterback change than Miami wide receiver Devante Parker.  Gone are the days of Ryan Tannehill force-feeding short passes to Jarvis Landry with Tannehill out for the season.   In comes Jay Cutler at quarterback with the arm talent to aggressively attack defenses down field.  The former Bear also has the mindset to throw into tight coverage and allow his physically gifted receivers to make plays on their own.  Parker is set up for a big third season in the NFL.  Cutler also solidifies deep threat Kenny Stills’ value while at the same time likely limiting the volume Landry has seen over the course of his career.

Questions about Kelvin Benjamin’s role in the new Carolina offense with two high draft pick offensive weapons and his ballooned weight in training camp depressed his fantasy value to the point that Benjamin moved all the way down to WR38 in early RSO auctions.  Second round draft pick Curtis Samuel was slowed by injury and no other receiver emerged during the preseason.  Benjamin clearly appears like the Panthers’ WR1 right now.  Early Benjamin buyers could have received quite the steal.

Wait and See Mode

Seahawks’ backfield historically holds good fantasy value during the Russell Wilson era in Seattle.  Wilson’s ability as a rusher prevents teams from keying on running backs opening running lanes for the back.  Last season Wilson suffered early injuries limiting his mobility throughout the season.  Wilson’s injuries and some horrendous run blocking by Seattle’s inexperienced offensive line inevitably led to a big decline in the Seahawks’ rushing game effectiveness.  Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise competed for first-team duties this offseason but all suffered from minor injuries during the preseason.  Rawls and Lacy likely split rushing down carries limiting the fantasy appeal of either.  You will want to avoid this backfield early in the season until injuries take hold or someone emerges as the clear top option.  Prosise will hold value as a low end flex play, especially in PPR leagues, as the passing down back and only real receiver out of the backfield.  This is particularly true early in the season with an extremely shallow receiving core behind starters Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson.  Tyler Lockett will be eased back into the receiving rotation after a gruesome leg injury late last year.

The Green Bay backfield was ugly last season.  Converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery filled in admirably in a limited role last year after injuries destroyed the running back core but did not receive enough volume to be a consistent fantasy option.  I was hoping someone would stand out in the preseason to take over the primary back role.  No one did.  Montgomery was limited with injuries throughout the preseason and struggled with pass protection once again.  All three Green Bay running backs drafted this year (Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays) made the 53-man roster.  None consistently showed enough to earn a big role.  Montgomery starts as the “lead” back and his receiving skills should make him a solid flex play but it remains to be seen whether his health and pass protection struggles will allow enough time on the field for enough volume to be a consistent RB2 option.  Williams makes for a nice stash in case Montgomery misses time.

Moving Down

Expectations for Terrelle Pryor and Tyreek Hill were extremely high this offseason with both being typically drafted as high to low-end WR2s. Many thought each had WR1 upside.  The preseason showing from both should dampen those expectations.  Both had massive problems catching the football with drops galore, a huge issue on teams whose passing game relies primarily on short, high percentage throws.  Pryor also continued his very raw route running skills from last season.  The Washington and Kansas City offense will undoubtedly run through superstar tight ends, Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce.  Pryor could easily end up as the third most targeted player in Washington behind Reed and Jamison Crowder.  Hill is due for negative touchdown regression this year and will be fighting for touches behind Kelce on a low volume Kansas City passing attack.  Consider both players boom-or-bust WR3s as of now.

The unknown timetable of Andrew Luck’s return moves all Colts down in the rankings to start the season most notably T.Y. Hilton.  Backup quarterback Scott Tolzein looked horrendous this preseason, so much so that Indianapolis traded for Patriots’ third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to eventually take over backup duties.  This could lead to prime buy-low opportunities for Hilton and Luck.

Blake Bortles remarkably is still the starting quarterback in Jacksonville.   Chad Henne was unable to supplant Bortles in a bizarre one-week open competition for the starting spot.  Bortles might be benched at any time this season and the backup is not much of an improvement.  The dreadful quarterback situation means bad things for any Jaguars player’s fantasy fortunes including Allen Robinson and Leonard Fournette.  The Jacksonville offensive line displayed little improvement this preseason and Fournette is already dealing with a foot injury.  Just stay away from this offense.


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.

Early RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: August 6th 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information. This week I move to one of the most volatile positions in fantasy football, running back, where increased injury rate and player turnover make long-term decisions extremely difficult.

Top of the Market

No shock here.  Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell are the three highest paid running backs in RSO leagues and also atop the overall player salaries.  There is not much of an argument to be made about why they do not belong here.  Each is a proven game changer at the position and potential league winner capable of putting up 2,000 total yards with extraordinary potential touch volume.

The only issue which concerns me is the lengths of contracts where each is averaging nearly four years.  I do not have much of an issue with Zeke given the dominant offensive line mostly locked up with long term deals and a quarterback who was excellent as a rookie, but questions linger about his off-the-field behavior.  I am a little more skeptical of Bell and Johnson though with situations more in flux and extensive workloads which increase injury risk.  Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger could retire any year moving forward with no real alternatives on the rosters leaving a possibly dicey quarterback situation for each.  Bell also has multiple suspensions, major injury issues, and is not signed to a long-term contract with Pittsburg (and will not be until after the season, if at all).

The Rookies

The rookies listed in the table all came from one auction as most rookies will go in rookie drafts instead of auction, so do not put too much stock into the results.  I believe it is a useful reminder, however, of inflated rookie prices which can occur in startup auctions.  Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook all landed maximum term contracts in the auction with average salaries that would place each in the top-14 among running backs without playing a down in the NFL.  This is just a reminder not to go overboard with rookies in your auction.

An Important Tier Break

For those owners who like to invest in two heavy volume running backs for your starters, remember the name Lamar Miller.  He is the last player on the list before a major tier drop, coming off the board as the RB15 in average salary.  The main reason for this big tier break is certainty of volume.  Forgetting the rookies, I have every back priced above Isaiah Crowell projected for 270+ touches over the course of a full season.  I do not have any other back projected for over 250 touches.  The primary problem for these other backs centers around 1) uncertainty of role (example: Spencer Ware) or 2) playing on projected bad teams limiting workload (example: Carlos Hyde).

Top Buys

C.J. Anderson heads my list of top running back buys this season.   The Denver back is virtually assured the the lion’s share of carries with last year’s bust Devontae Booker (already injured), late rounder De’Angelo Henderson, and former superstar Jamaal Charles (still returning from injury and on the roster bubble) as the only competition.  Anderson averaged 18 touches per contest through 7 games last season before injury ended his year and was the RB12 during that time.  The Broncos improved their offensive line in the offseason and will want to rely heavily on the run game no matter who ends up starting at quarterback.  Anderson is a steal as the RB26.

Bilal Powell (RB35), Danny Woodhead (RB37), and Theo Riddick (RB42) provide cheap useful starters, particularly in PPR leagues, for those teams taking a wide receiver-heavy approach.  Each has standalone value and a lot of upside should the other committee back on their respective team go down with injury.

Top Avoids

The narrative surrounding Ty Montgomery (RB22) has amused me to no end this offseason.   Montgomery started 12 games, including three in the playoffs, once bruiser Eddie Lacy went down with injury.  The converted wide receiver rushed for more than 11 times once and accumulated more than 60 rushing yards once in his 12 starts.  Those games were with James Starks (likely done in the league) and Christine Michael (who has been cut more times than we can count) as the only real competition for touches.  Green Bay was even giving Aaron Ripkowski touches.  Now the story is that Montgomery will take over a far bigger role after the Packers drafted multiple running backs with far more talent than last year’s backs? Montgomery is the classic perceived “great situation” case boosted by small sample efficiency stats which were propped up on two games against a Chicago defense decimated by injuries.

I am a big fan of C.J. Prosise and the multi-dimensional skill-set he brings.  I am not paying starter money on a short-term contract for a player likely needing multiple items going his way to take over the primary back role.  Grab Prosise on a cheaper longer-term contract if possible in your league as a nice lottery ticket.

 

Average RSO Running Back Contracts


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.

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

numberFire Rookie Draft Results ’16

Updated: August 22nd 2016

Welcome to year three of their writers league featuring writers from Reality Sports Online, numberFire, ESPN and FantasyGuru.com. Ironically, our defending champion is the only non-writer in the league, Rory Ryan, a Law Professor from Baylor, a write-in candidate from last year. Only one team turned over this year and is now owned by Reality Sports Online founder and president Matt Papson, who inherited a squad rich with assets and picks hence his team name being Hospitable Takeover. The three-round, three-year contract rookie draft was held on Sunday, August 7th and was completed in record time (less than 15 minutes).

The participants rookie picks and strategies are outlined below, along with player contract values to assist those users who have not had their rookie draft yet. Please follow us all on Twitter as we definitely love talking fantasy football.

Without further ado, the 2016 Rookie Draft.

Team: University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) @gdula13

Picks:

1.01 Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys (3 years, $20.8M)

2.01 C.J. Prosise, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.7M)

3.01 Wendell Smallwood, RB Philadelphia Eagles (3 years, $3.1M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My team needed everything, if we’re being honest, and at 1.01, I had no choice but to take Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas liked him enough to take him fourth overall, and he might lead the league in carries in 2016. What’s not to like? C.J. Prosise is a receiving back with some rushing ability in a run-first offense in Seattle. Thomas Rawls’ injury concerns me, and Prosise could wind up as a starter as a rookie. Even if not, he should secure the third-down role. I didn’t like any receivers left at the start of the third and was targeting DeAndre Washington, but I settled on Wendell Smallwood. He might be able to be a three-down back given that there is not much certainty ahead of him on the depth chart as a rookie.

Team: The Quickie Martin (Sam Hauss, numberFire) @Real_Hauss

Picks:

1.02 Corey Coleman, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $19.6M)

2.02 Kenneth Dixon, RB Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $4.6M)

2.09 Pharoh Cooper, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $4.3M)

3.02 Austin Hooper, TE Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With Elliott off the board and a big hole at the wide receiver position, I opted for Corey Coleman with the second pick of the first round. Coleman should be in store for a big role early in his career, even with Josh Gordon returning to the Browns, and has as much upside as any wide receiver in this draft class. My second pick was a bit trickier, because I really wanted to nab another wide receiver, but I liked the value much more at running back, hence my selection of Kenneth Dixon. The Ravens backfield is up for grabs and Dixon may already be the most talented of the bunch. He could emerge as the starter in a Marc Trestman offense as soon as this season. After taking a running back second I went back to the well at wide receiver, selecting Pharoh Cooper of the Rams. While I’m not sure where he’ll fit into the offense this season, I needed to add depth at wide receiver and Cooper is an explosive athlete with a lot of upside over the next few seasons. Some of you may be surprised to see me select the Falcons’ Austin Hooper with my fourth pick before Hunter Henry, however, in this league format rookie contracts are three year contracts and Hooper simply has a more clear path to fantasy value over the next three seasons than Henry. Henry is still playing behind Antonio Gates and will struggle to stay on the field as a full time player until he becomes a better blocker. Meanwhile, Atlanta has a huge number of targets to fill behind Julio Jones and, depending on what your opinion of Mohamed Sanu is, there really isn’t much competition to fill that void. Hooper has a rare chance to be a major contributor as a rookie at the tight end position and is a much safer choice in the short-term than the aforementioned Henry.

Team: Hospitable Takeover (Matt Papson, President and Founder, Reality Sports Online) @RealitySportsMP

Picks:

1.03 Laquon Treadwell, WR Minnesota Vikings (3 years, $19.1M)

1.09 Will Fuller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $11.7M)

2.03 Leonte Carroo, WR Miami Dolphins (3 years, $4.6M)

3.03 Braxton Miller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy:  I inherited/took-over, what I believe to be, the bones of a well-balanced, championship-potential roster. The team isn’t deep at any one position, but it’s not overly shallow anywhere either. It’s also set up well for me from a contract perspective, with Russell Wilson’s $13.2M cap figure the highest on the team. Several promising young players, including Jay Ajayi, Kevin White, Maxx Williams, and Odell Beckham Jr. are still on affordable rookie contracts.

I was hoping to land Treadwell third overall, so-as not to over-invest in the Robert Griffin III experiment (on my roster), and was fortunate to have Coleman go off the board 2nd. I would have taken Derrick Henry in the 9 slot if he had lasted. With Henry off the board, I decided to hedge my Jaelen Strong ownership by selecting Philly-native Will Fuller. I didn’t love my option at 2.03, and wish I could have traded back to gain an extra selection in the late 2nd/early 3rd given how things turned out, but went with Leonte Carroo. With Smallwood off the board at 3.01 (who I had ranked right after Carroo), I had to decide between Hunter Henry (I already have a high pick invested in Williams and need a veteran), Paxton Lynch/Jared Goff (but need a backup to Wilson who can play now in case RG3 re-busts), and my actual selection — Braxton Miller. I went with Miller’s high upside, and him being a super-hedge to Strong and Fuller. If a clear #2 emerges behind DeAndre Hopkins in Houston, he’s on my roster.

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

Picks:

1.04 Josh Doctson, WR Washington Redskins (3 years, $18.3M)

2.04 Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears (3 years, $4.5M)

3.04 Hunter Henry, TE San Diego Chargers (3 years, $3.0 M)

3.09 Chris Moore, WR Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: 

I’ve drafted second overall the past two years in this league, so sitting at pick No. 1.04 made me feel like I was waiting around forever. It didn’t matter though, because I got the player I would have taken second overall anyway, knowing Elliott is the obvious first overall pick. I think Josh Doctson is the best wide receiver in this class and even if he doesn’t have an immediate impact his rookie year, there’s going to be a lot of good to follow.

I didn’t really like how the board fell to me in the second round, so I went with Jordan Howard to pair with Ka’Deem Carey to possibly get two-thirds of a potential RBBC for the Bears. It’s faulty, but that was my logic taking David Johnson in the third round of this draft last year and that worked out pretty well.

Heading into the third I was targeting Hooper, who I viewed as the top rookie tight end before the NFL Draft, but he went two picks ahead of me, which I was not expecting. I went with Henry because I could see San Diego throwing a lot and Antonio Gates is 36-years-old, but man, I really would have liked Hooper. I also had the ninth pick in the third round from a late season trade and took Chris Moore from Baltimore. I’m a big fan of Moore’s skillset — he can get down the field, create separation and win at the catch point — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contribute sooner rather than later for the Ravens, especially considering the unknown health/quality of Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace.

Team: Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire) @gingersauce4u

Picks:

1.05 Sterling Shepard, WR New York Giants (3 years, $17.3M)

2.05 DeAndre Washington, RB Oakland Raiders (3 years, $4.5M)

3.05 Mike Thomas, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Heading into our third year of this league, I’ve learned not to value positions of need as badly as I used to. Rookies beyond the first round are typically dart throws, but I have some optimism with the three players I drafted here. Sterling Shepard enters a terrific situation in his rookie season in an offense that has 100-plus targets up for grabs. Settling in behind Odell Beckham Jr. should allow Shepard plenty of single-coverage looks and allow him to truly shine out of the slot — an area he dominated in college. I love what the Raiders have done this offseason beefing up their offensive line with the addition of Kelechi Osemele and their additions on defense. It lines up for Oakland to have a more balanced attack, and something that rookie DeAndre Washington could take advantage of in his rookie year. Latavius Murray struggled with efficiency in 2015 with his success largely a byproduct of volume. Washington could carve out an early third-down/change-of-pace role that could expand into more touches as the season goes on. I’m not as high on Mike Thomas as a lot of others, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab him here in the mid-third round. Thomas was this year’s most notable Combine snub, after shining his final collegiate season with a 71-1,391-14 stat line for Southern Miss. He had an unlucky landing situation with the Rams, a team that ran the fewest plays per game last year and had the fifth-lowest passing play percentage. Fortunately, the receivers there have yet to establish any consistent production, so he may find a quicker path to playing time than if went somewhere else. 

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online) @SamHerbie

Picks:

1.06 Devontae Booker, RB Denver Broncos (3 years, $15.2M)

2.06 Malcolm Mitchell, WR New England Patriots (3 years, $4.4M)

3.06 Paxton Lynch, QB Denver Broncos (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: While most would think about wide receivers at this point in the rookie draft, I really like what Devontae Booker brings to the table. He’s a versatile every down back playing for a coach who he can thrive under and even though C.J. Anderson re-signed this offseason, he’s had a history of not holding up health-wise. I love Malcolm Mitchell’s big play ability and it didn’t take him long in the preseason to demonstrate some of that. Word is he’s projected to start as the Patriots “X” receiver. In the final round, I took Paxton Lynch as the first QB off the board.

Team: Cleveland’s Award Tour (Matt Goodwin, Reality Sports Online & numberFire) @mattgoody2

Picks:

1.07 Michael Thomas, WR New Orleans Saints (3 years, $13.5M)

2.07 Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants (3 years, $4.4M)

3.07 Jared Goff, QB Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My strategy typically changes a bit in this league due to the 3 year rookie contracts vs. 4 years in my other leagues. To that end, I always try to get players who are fantasy ready in their rookie years. Michael Thomas fits that bill. He’s gotten glowing reviews in training camp and has earned quarterback Drew Brees’ confidence. He also fits a pretty big need for me at wideout. I was really hoping in the second round that Washington would be available as I think he could have an immediate impact in the Raiders offense as a pass-catcher, but like in Round 1, Tyler grabbed who I would’ve wanted. So I went with Paul Perkins, a versatile back out of UCLA. While all indications in New York point to a crowded backfield and Perkins probably being a year away, I have a little time to wait for someone scouts compared to Jamaal Charles. This strategy worked for me in the past with Devonta Freeman and this late in the draft, Perkins could be a steal.

In the last round, I was really open to anything. I originally was targeting a wide receiver who will have to wait until the auction potentially, but the opportunity to take the first overall pick in Jared Goff proved tantalizing. I’m not expecting much out of him this year, but could have a cheap and productive fantasy option for years 2 and 3 in a league that doesn’t tend to pay a premium quarterbacks. If Goff ends up being a startable fantasy quarterback in year two (i.e. Top 12 option), I can spend bigger at the other positions while paying Goff roughly $1M a season. I love his pocket presence and quick release. Hopefully I’ve picked the next elite Cal quarterback.

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, ESPN) @LeoHowell8

Picks:

1.08 Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $11.9M)

2.08 Alex Collins, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.3M)

3.08 Rashard Higgins, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: The rookie draft wasn’t really a major event for me due to my lackluster selection for finishing well last year. I was surprised to see Derrick Henry fall to me, and since I was in full “best player available” mode, he made the most sense. Of the guys on the board, he’d easily be the highest for me in a redraft setting, and I feel like I can win now. I was tempted to go with Paxton Lynch in the second round, but thought he’d fall to me in the third… he didn’t. Still, happy with Alex Collins, who is a job away from being productive in a great system. Ended up with a bit of a biased pick, as Rashard Higgins hails from my favorite FBS college team. I doubt he makes an impact, but I’m banking on the big plays I’ve watched him make for the Rams.

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

Rookie Draft Strategy: I sat the rookie draft out after an aggressive first year in the league. I traded my picks last year in an effort to win the championship and came close, losing in the finals. I traded my 1st round pick for Arian Foster, my 2nd round pick for Brandon Marshall, and my 3rd round pick for Carson Palmer.

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

Picks:

1.10 Tyler Boyd, WR Cincinnati Bengals (3 years, $11.2M)

2.10 Kelvin Taylor, RB San Francisco 49ers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.10 Tajae Sharpe, WR Tennessee Titans (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With three-year rookie contracts and rosters that are very shallow, I contemplated bypassing my last two picks. But I decided to risk the cap hit and take two of my guys. I think Kelvin Taylor has an NFL skill set. A pretty good one, actually. The upside with him and Chip in SF is worth the cap risk. I was very sad when Tajae Sharpe got so much good press so early. I’ve been on him for a while, but I wanted the press after my drafts. I knew I wanted both Taylor and Sharpe and drafted Taylor first guessing someone else might take a flier in Taylor but that all would be bored by Sharpe. I ended up getting both of the guys nobody wanted along with Tyler Boyd, who I would take for three years over many of the receivers who go earlier. I see a lot of Allen Robinson in him and there isn’t much in front of him on the Bengals roster.

numberFire Rookie Draft Results '16

Updated: August 22nd 2016

Welcome to year three of their writers league featuring writers from Reality Sports Online, numberFire, ESPN and FantasyGuru.com. Ironically, our defending champion is the only non-writer in the league, Rory Ryan, a Law Professor from Baylor, a write-in candidate from last year. Only one team turned over this year and is now owned by Reality Sports Online founder and president Matt Papson, who inherited a squad rich with assets and picks hence his team name being Hospitable Takeover. The three-round, three-year contract rookie draft was held on Sunday, August 7th and was completed in record time (less than 15 minutes).

The participants rookie picks and strategies are outlined below, along with player contract values to assist those users who have not had their rookie draft yet. Please follow us all on Twitter as we definitely love talking fantasy football.

Without further ado, the 2016 Rookie Draft.

Team: University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) @gdula13

Picks:

1.01 Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys (3 years, $20.8M)

2.01 C.J. Prosise, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.7M)

3.01 Wendell Smallwood, RB Philadelphia Eagles (3 years, $3.1M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My team needed everything, if we’re being honest, and at 1.01, I had no choice but to take Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas liked him enough to take him fourth overall, and he might lead the league in carries in 2016. What’s not to like? C.J. Prosise is a receiving back with some rushing ability in a run-first offense in Seattle. Thomas Rawls’ injury concerns me, and Prosise could wind up as a starter as a rookie. Even if not, he should secure the third-down role. I didn’t like any receivers left at the start of the third and was targeting DeAndre Washington, but I settled on Wendell Smallwood. He might be able to be a three-down back given that there is not much certainty ahead of him on the depth chart as a rookie.

Team: The Quickie Martin (Sam Hauss, numberFire) @Real_Hauss

Picks:

1.02 Corey Coleman, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $19.6M)

2.02 Kenneth Dixon, RB Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $4.6M)

2.09 Pharoh Cooper, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $4.3M)

3.02 Austin Hooper, TE Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With Elliott off the board and a big hole at the wide receiver position, I opted for Corey Coleman with the second pick of the first round. Coleman should be in store for a big role early in his career, even with Josh Gordon returning to the Browns, and has as much upside as any wide receiver in this draft class. My second pick was a bit trickier, because I really wanted to nab another wide receiver, but I liked the value much more at running back, hence my selection of Kenneth Dixon. The Ravens backfield is up for grabs and Dixon may already be the most talented of the bunch. He could emerge as the starter in a Marc Trestman offense as soon as this season. After taking a running back second I went back to the well at wide receiver, selecting Pharoh Cooper of the Rams. While I’m not sure where he’ll fit into the offense this season, I needed to add depth at wide receiver and Cooper is an explosive athlete with a lot of upside over the next few seasons. Some of you may be surprised to see me select the Falcons’ Austin Hooper with my fourth pick before Hunter Henry, however, in this league format rookie contracts are three year contracts and Hooper simply has a more clear path to fantasy value over the next three seasons than Henry. Henry is still playing behind Antonio Gates and will struggle to stay on the field as a full time player until he becomes a better blocker. Meanwhile, Atlanta has a huge number of targets to fill behind Julio Jones and, depending on what your opinion of Mohamed Sanu is, there really isn’t much competition to fill that void. Hooper has a rare chance to be a major contributor as a rookie at the tight end position and is a much safer choice in the short-term than the aforementioned Henry.

Team: Hospitable Takeover (Matt Papson, President and Founder, Reality Sports Online) @RealitySportsMP

Picks:

1.03 Laquon Treadwell, WR Minnesota Vikings (3 years, $19.1M)

1.09 Will Fuller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $11.7M)

2.03 Leonte Carroo, WR Miami Dolphins (3 years, $4.6M)

3.03 Braxton Miller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy:  I inherited/took-over, what I believe to be, the bones of a well-balanced, championship-potential roster. The team isn’t deep at any one position, but it’s not overly shallow anywhere either. It’s also set up well for me from a contract perspective, with Russell Wilson’s $13.2M cap figure the highest on the team. Several promising young players, including Jay Ajayi, Kevin White, Maxx Williams, and Odell Beckham Jr. are still on affordable rookie contracts.

I was hoping to land Treadwell third overall, so-as not to over-invest in the Robert Griffin III experiment (on my roster), and was fortunate to have Coleman go off the board 2nd. I would have taken Derrick Henry in the 9 slot if he had lasted. With Henry off the board, I decided to hedge my Jaelen Strong ownership by selecting Philly-native Will Fuller. I didn’t love my option at 2.03, and wish I could have traded back to gain an extra selection in the late 2nd/early 3rd given how things turned out, but went with Leonte Carroo. With Smallwood off the board at 3.01 (who I had ranked right after Carroo), I had to decide between Hunter Henry (I already have a high pick invested in Williams and need a veteran), Paxton Lynch/Jared Goff (but need a backup to Wilson who can play now in case RG3 re-busts), and my actual selection — Braxton Miller. I went with Miller’s high upside, and him being a super-hedge to Strong and Fuller. If a clear #2 emerges behind DeAndre Hopkins in Houston, he’s on my roster.

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

Picks:

1.04 Josh Doctson, WR Washington Redskins (3 years, $18.3M)

2.04 Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears (3 years, $4.5M)

3.04 Hunter Henry, TE San Diego Chargers (3 years, $3.0 M)

3.09 Chris Moore, WR Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: 

I’ve drafted second overall the past two years in this league, so sitting at pick No. 1.04 made me feel like I was waiting around forever. It didn’t matter though, because I got the player I would have taken second overall anyway, knowing Elliott is the obvious first overall pick. I think Josh Doctson is the best wide receiver in this class and even if he doesn’t have an immediate impact his rookie year, there’s going to be a lot of good to follow.

I didn’t really like how the board fell to me in the second round, so I went with Jordan Howard to pair with Ka’Deem Carey to possibly get two-thirds of a potential RBBC for the Bears. It’s faulty, but that was my logic taking David Johnson in the third round of this draft last year and that worked out pretty well.

Heading into the third I was targeting Hooper, who I viewed as the top rookie tight end before the NFL Draft, but he went two picks ahead of me, which I was not expecting. I went with Henry because I could see San Diego throwing a lot and Antonio Gates is 36-years-old, but man, I really would have liked Hooper. I also had the ninth pick in the third round from a late season trade and took Chris Moore from Baltimore. I’m a big fan of Moore’s skillset — he can get down the field, create separation and win at the catch point — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contribute sooner rather than later for the Ravens, especially considering the unknown health/quality of Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace.

Team: Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire) @gingersauce4u

Picks:

1.05 Sterling Shepard, WR New York Giants (3 years, $17.3M)

2.05 DeAndre Washington, RB Oakland Raiders (3 years, $4.5M)

3.05 Mike Thomas, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Heading into our third year of this league, I’ve learned not to value positions of need as badly as I used to. Rookies beyond the first round are typically dart throws, but I have some optimism with the three players I drafted here. Sterling Shepard enters a terrific situation in his rookie season in an offense that has 100-plus targets up for grabs. Settling in behind Odell Beckham Jr. should allow Shepard plenty of single-coverage looks and allow him to truly shine out of the slot — an area he dominated in college. I love what the Raiders have done this offseason beefing up their offensive line with the addition of Kelechi Osemele and their additions on defense. It lines up for Oakland to have a more balanced attack, and something that rookie DeAndre Washington could take advantage of in his rookie year. Latavius Murray struggled with efficiency in 2015 with his success largely a byproduct of volume. Washington could carve out an early third-down/change-of-pace role that could expand into more touches as the season goes on. I’m not as high on Mike Thomas as a lot of others, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab him here in the mid-third round. Thomas was this year’s most notable Combine snub, after shining his final collegiate season with a 71-1,391-14 stat line for Southern Miss. He had an unlucky landing situation with the Rams, a team that ran the fewest plays per game last year and had the fifth-lowest passing play percentage. Fortunately, the receivers there have yet to establish any consistent production, so he may find a quicker path to playing time than if went somewhere else. 

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online) @SamHerbie

Picks:

1.06 Devontae Booker, RB Denver Broncos (3 years, $15.2M)

2.06 Malcolm Mitchell, WR New England Patriots (3 years, $4.4M)

3.06 Paxton Lynch, QB Denver Broncos (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: While most would think about wide receivers at this point in the rookie draft, I really like what Devontae Booker brings to the table. He’s a versatile every down back playing for a coach who he can thrive under and even though C.J. Anderson re-signed this offseason, he’s had a history of not holding up health-wise. I love Malcolm Mitchell’s big play ability and it didn’t take him long in the preseason to demonstrate some of that. Word is he’s projected to start as the Patriots “X” receiver. In the final round, I took Paxton Lynch as the first QB off the board.

Team: Cleveland’s Award Tour (Matt Goodwin, Reality Sports Online & numberFire) @mattgoody2

Picks:

1.07 Michael Thomas, WR New Orleans Saints (3 years, $13.5M)

2.07 Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants (3 years, $4.4M)

3.07 Jared Goff, QB Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My strategy typically changes a bit in this league due to the 3 year rookie contracts vs. 4 years in my other leagues. To that end, I always try to get players who are fantasy ready in their rookie years. Michael Thomas fits that bill. He’s gotten glowing reviews in training camp and has earned quarterback Drew Brees’ confidence. He also fits a pretty big need for me at wideout. I was really hoping in the second round that Washington would be available as I think he could have an immediate impact in the Raiders offense as a pass-catcher, but like in Round 1, Tyler grabbed who I would’ve wanted. So I went with Paul Perkins, a versatile back out of UCLA. While all indications in New York point to a crowded backfield and Perkins probably being a year away, I have a little time to wait for someone scouts compared to Jamaal Charles. This strategy worked for me in the past with Devonta Freeman and this late in the draft, Perkins could be a steal.

In the last round, I was really open to anything. I originally was targeting a wide receiver who will have to wait until the auction potentially, but the opportunity to take the first overall pick in Jared Goff proved tantalizing. I’m not expecting much out of him this year, but could have a cheap and productive fantasy option for years 2 and 3 in a league that doesn’t tend to pay a premium quarterbacks. If Goff ends up being a startable fantasy quarterback in year two (i.e. Top 12 option), I can spend bigger at the other positions while paying Goff roughly $1M a season. I love his pocket presence and quick release. Hopefully I’ve picked the next elite Cal quarterback.

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, ESPN) @LeoHowell8

Picks:

1.08 Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $11.9M)

2.08 Alex Collins, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.3M)

3.08 Rashard Higgins, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: The rookie draft wasn’t really a major event for me due to my lackluster selection for finishing well last year. I was surprised to see Derrick Henry fall to me, and since I was in full “best player available” mode, he made the most sense. Of the guys on the board, he’d easily be the highest for me in a redraft setting, and I feel like I can win now. I was tempted to go with Paxton Lynch in the second round, but thought he’d fall to me in the third… he didn’t. Still, happy with Alex Collins, who is a job away from being productive in a great system. Ended up with a bit of a biased pick, as Rashard Higgins hails from my favorite FBS college team. I doubt he makes an impact, but I’m banking on the big plays I’ve watched him make for the Rams.

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

Rookie Draft Strategy: I sat the rookie draft out after an aggressive first year in the league. I traded my picks last year in an effort to win the championship and came close, losing in the finals. I traded my 1st round pick for Arian Foster, my 2nd round pick for Brandon Marshall, and my 3rd round pick for Carson Palmer.

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

Picks:

1.10 Tyler Boyd, WR Cincinnati Bengals (3 years, $11.2M)

2.10 Kelvin Taylor, RB San Francisco 49ers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.10 Tajae Sharpe, WR Tennessee Titans (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With three-year rookie contracts and rosters that are very shallow, I contemplated bypassing my last two picks. But I decided to risk the cap hit and take two of my guys. I think Kelvin Taylor has an NFL skill set. A pretty good one, actually. The upside with him and Chip in SF is worth the cap risk. I was very sad when Tajae Sharpe got so much good press so early. I’ve been on him for a while, but I wanted the press after my drafts. I knew I wanted both Taylor and Sharpe and drafted Taylor first guessing someone else might take a flier in Taylor but that all would be bored by Sharpe. I ended up getting both of the guys nobody wanted along with Tyler Boyd, who I would take for three years over many of the receivers who go earlier. I see a lot of Allen Robinson in him and there isn’t much in front of him on the Bengals roster.

Carrying the Rock

Updated: May 18th 2016

April 28th 2007. My girlfriend sat outside her family home in the aging cracked leather seats of a still-glistening black Celica convertible on the Jersey shore, and inside I was asking her mother and father for her hand in marriage.   She was blissfully unaware how her life would change that day.  She knew the plan.  She could tell you about the drive to NYC that was to come.  The time and location of the show at the New Victory Theatre.  What she didn’t and couldn’t see was the ring designed for her in my pocket, the behind the scenes intrigue that would put her on a Broadway stage at the close of the show, and the question that would link us forever.

Earlier that day Adrian Peterson was asked “how do you feel about being a Minnesota Viking?”  Megatron got a proposal from the Lions.  The Raiders and Browns were forever changed by Jamarcus Russell and Brady Quinn…Less in a “happily ever after”, and more in “college regret your buddies will remind you of at reunions” kind of way.    This is part of the intrigue of Dynasty.   The commitment GMs make to players.  It is understood that this won’t be a fling, there will be some sickness and health involved.   In reality most human beings and NFL teams are best served by going all in with a commitment to one person.   My bride carrying that rock on her finger, and Adrian toting the rock for the Vikings nearly a decade later speak to that truth.  Fantasy, particularly in RSO, demands a certain degree of fiscal promiscuity, however, understanding that some of the costs will be lost, but ultimately it may prove cheaper to spread three contracts over an uncertain backfield than pay for the services of stud and his handcuff.

April 28th, 2016.  Nine years later the first round of the NFL draft reintroduces us to the wonder and beauty of the fantasy season in earnest after the long national nightmare of the offseason.  Dynasty fantasy GMs carefully gauge the worth of their rookie picks as players meet their betrothed teams for the first times.  Veterans on the fantasy roster rise with the well-placed selection of a lineman with high hopes, or fall as the fickle gaze of a team turns to the next hot prospect.  Last article we looked at teams with relative stability at running back position, or at least a succession plan that seems probable.  The other half of the league can be looked at in light of the majesty of the draft.  Notably, CJA and Murray owners have clear handcuffs and possible successor targets in Booker(Utah) and Henry(Alabama).  Ezekiel Elliott’s bare midriff found its way to Dallas.  This, of course, caused last year’s cellar-dwelling fantasy GMs to squeal like middle-aged women at an N’sync concert.  McFadden and Alf owners were left annoyed and appalled like teachers chaperoning Prom.  Little analysis is needed here, the best RB prospect behind a line regarded as one of the best in football immediately vaults Elliott into top three RB status in the minds of many dynasty GMs.  Experts at Rotoviz make a case that Zeke might already be the #1 fantasy back overall in dynasty.

The fate of the following teams remain in the balance, however, and wise RSO GMs do well to note better deals and opportunity in other backfields as the draft unfolded.   This is not a column advising you to sell as the draft loomed over your players.  Dave Sanders did some prescient work for you on the Dallas and Miami situations, for example.  What we need to look for here are places where the incumbent running back situation is muddled, driving down value, and producing risk and opportunity for owners.  Think like an RSO GM clearly here.  While there is significant value in getting stud running backs described in other places, bigger rosters and the contract format of RSO allows you to monopolize backfields at a reasonable cost.  This hedges against failure and produces situations like Arizona last year where Ellington, CJ2K, and David Johnson could be rostered on your team for less than a single contract for a player like Eddie Lacey.

First the NFC East (DAL, WAS, NYG, and Phi) presents the most opportunity for savvy owners.  We covered Dallas.  Washington has the same offense and a nominal commitment to Matt Jones.  There are plenty of carries to go around as Alf departs with 202 carries.  Keith Marshall landing in Washington promises to have some value this year and moving forward.  Buy Jones and the rookie.  The New York Giants introduce McAdoo as head coach, but as he was the offensive coordinator and Jennings carried the load, it should prove easy for a savvy owner to roster Vereen and Paul Perkins in the hope that one back emerges.  Finally, the Eagles have a relatively loaded, but aging depth chart, proving another opportunity to stagger short terms/trades for Matthews and Sproles to pair with a long-term rookie contract for the rookie Smallwood.

The AFC North (Bal, Cin, Cle) tells a different story.  Hue Jackson leaves behind an offense that produced two backs with over 200 touches a piece.  Hill and Bernard won’t come cheap and as Bernard approaches free agency, the best hope for an owner would be an expensive double-down anticipating the two backs split in free agency next year, but this feels like a scenario to avoid.  Baltimore requires three roster slots for the enterprising owner, as Forsett, Buck Allen, and Kenneth Dixon can all be had at reasonable cost in most leagues.  Whatever back emerges in the lead roll behind a line likely improved by the draft should provide extremely valuable.  Cleveland’s value likely lies in its receivers due to perennial game-flow questions.  Duke Johnson is the value here, unless Hue Jackson drives the hype train too hard.

Staying on the up North in the NFC.  Chicago seems to have a marginal lead back in Langford, but protecting that investment with contracts for Ka’Deem Carey and Jordan Howard should be very affordable.  Langford and company are headed for a committee under Fox and should not demand a premium.  Detroit will offer very little value in terms of opportunity at RB for rookies.  Look to consolidate Abdullah and Riddick in the event one back emerges.  Zenner may be worth a roster spot in deeper leagues.

Rounding out the NFC are two teams that demand consideration.  Chip Kelly’s unpredictability diminishes Hyde as a surefire lead but he is safer than most options in this category.  Rostering a rookie RB that is more of a pass-catcher seems particularly valuable in light of the potential for some big deficits and Kelly’s famously up tempo offense.  Your NFL runner-up is the most intriguing.  The oft-injured Jonathan Stewart is locked in to lead the Panthers in carries this year, but whatever rookie the Panthers sign in 2017 in will be coupled with a strong offense and little competition beyond Stewart, unless a man named Fozzie Whittaker moves you.

The final AFC backfields to target if you believe in gathering all the parties provide one fine situation in Indy.  Owners can trade for/stagger a short term Gore deal with a long term rookie contract.  Dion Lewis must be paired with James White.   Lewis provides the biggest boom/bust potential in terms of injury and usage of this whole group.  Finally Oakland and Miami have relatively strong incumbents, and some failed free agent flirtation by their team in the offseason suggests owners would be wise to assume a 2017 rookie in Oakland and Kenyan Drake factor into their teams’ plans long-term.

In fantasy the best GMs know how to ask the right question.  When confronted with talents like Ezekiel Elliot the answer is obvious.  The more valuable questions in terms of contractual obligations seem to lie in assuming the risk of backfields in their entirety.   Putting the rock in the right hands is such a vital part of real and fantasy football, so pay close attention to the landing spots below and consider the opportunity of the rookies as they answer “yes” to their new teams.

In list form:

  1. Ezekiel Elliot- If you have the 1.1 enjoy.
  2. Dion Lewis- Absurd PPG when healthy.
  3. Yeldon + Ivory- More touchdowns are coming.
  4. Hill+Bernard
  5. Murray + (Deandre Washington)- Breakout offense.
  6. Hyde + (Wait for 2017).
  7. Gore + Rookie (Wait for 2017)
  8. Stewart + Rookie (Wait for 2017)
  9. Baltimore Backfield (Kenneth Dixon) Forsett, Buck Allen
  10. Eagles Backfield Ryan Matthews + (Wendell Smallwood)
  11. Langford + (Jordan Howard)
  12. Jennings + Vereen (Paul Perkins)- Begging for a transition.
  13. Matt Jones + Keith Marshall
  14. Cleveland Backfield (Duke Johnson) Crowell
  15. Ajayi + Kenyan Drake- Will need a couple years for Gase to sort a lead back.
  16. Detroit Backfield (Abdullah) + Zenner/Riddick

The list is ordered in terms of my anticipated points by backfield for the upcoming season.  The backs in bold project better over a three year span.


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