Evaluating Cleveland’s Trades

Updated: March 15th 2018

Cleveland made a few high-profile trades this past weekend using some of their enormous draft capital.  I take a closer look at what the Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry moves mean, both in real life and for fantasy purposes.

Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo to Cleveland for 208 3rd (65th Overall)

Let’s start with one of the more divisive players based on evaluator’s opinions.  The Bills move a player clearly not in the team’s future and receives significant compensation in the process, Cleveland’s top of the third round pick.  The trade gives Cleveland a short-term placeholder for the likely top-4 pick quarterback taken in this year’s draft.  For the most part, you know what you are getting from Taylor at this point.  He provides a low-volume passer who prefers running the ball than throwing into tight windows when questionable passing situations arrive.  What does he do well?  His supreme athleticism sets Tyrod as one of the top rushers at the quarterback position and gives him the ability to extend plays and escape free rushers.  This gives his team free first downs to extend drives from time to time when other quarterbacks would simply throw the ball away and punt.  He also has a risk-averse personality which limits the number of turnover-worthy plays resulting in one of the lowest interception rates in the league.

On the other side of the spectrum, Taylor struggles with most aspects of the passing game.  His lack of fundamental footwork, mechanics, and pocket awareness routinely results in inaccurate throws.  He does not possess the arm-strength to drive the ball which severely limits the number of intermediate-deep routes, particularly boundary throws. Taylor also struggles mightily in diagnosing defenses and choosing open receiving targets resulting in far too many missed opportunities.  Taylor is a player who can keep you in competitive games with his legs and avoid turnovers but his limitations as a passer hurts drive to drive consistency and severely hinders a team playing from behind needing to pass the ball.

Figure 1.  Selected Tyrod Taylor Statistics

What does the trade mean for fantasy?  Tyrod remains in the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 conversation thanks largely to his rushing ability.  He averaged over 500 rushing yards and almost 5 rushing TDs in his three seasons for Buffalo.  His surrounding players are likely at least as good, and probably better than those in Buffalo.  At the same time, the Bills quarterback never exceeded 436 attempts or 3,035 yards in any of his three seasons with Buffalo.  Taylor’s low-volume passing attack is unlikely to significantly change in Cleveland.

Looking at the other direction, what does this do for the fantasy prospects of Cleveland receivers?  Unfortunately, this is one of the worst-case scenarios for Browns pass catchers.  Gordon, Coleman, and Njoku all looked like potential values heading into the year.  The arrival of Taylor probably puts that on hold for a season.  Almost any other conceivable available option at quarterback provided far more potential volume and scoring opportunities to the receiving corp.  During Taylor’s three starting seasons, Buffalo ranked no better than 28th in passing yards, 20th in passing touchdowns, and 30th in completions.  Put another way, Buffalo averaged 6 fewer passing touchdowns, 63 less completions, and over 700 less yards than the average NFL team each season under Taylor.  Taylor produced very little in the passing department despite playing with wide receivers which have been more productive on other teams including Kevin Hogan, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Robert Woods, and Marquise Goodwin.  The Browns likely limited passing volume means one of Cleveland’s receivers would need a huge target share to make a substantial fantasy impact.  The arrival of Jarvis Landry makes that event even less likely to occur.

Figure 2.  Buffalo Passing vs NFL Passing, 2015-2017

Grade: C-, Taylor is a fine short-term option at quarterback but the 65th pick is a hefty price to pay for a probable middling stopgap.  He immediately improves the quarterback spot over what the Browns received from Kizer last season, however you could say the same thing for virtually anyone they would have brought in.  The deal looks worse in a deep free agency quarterback class with multiple options who possess production potential similar to Taylor’s and far higher upside available for no draft compensation.

Jarvis Landry from Miami to Cleveland for 2018 4th (123rd Overall) and 2019 7th

Miami’s abysmal salary cap situation made moving Landry a virtual must-do to get out of his contract.  The Browns obtain a quality NFL receiver, albeit one with a very specific skill-set, at a relatively cheap price in terms of draft pick compensation.  Landry provides a safety net for Taylor (see above) and whoever Cleveland takes at quarterback in the draft for the future.  The offense will need to incorporate many designed screens and other short routes to take advantage of his strengths.  He is not a player you will run a typical route tree with and expect to be successful.

Landry’s fantasy value becomes very problematic to pinpoint in Cleveland but is almost certainly a significant downgrade next season.  His value while in Miami was tied to a unique scheme in which the large majority of receptions and yardage came from the short passing game.  He averaged 100 catches a season with the Dolphins but only 10.1 yards per reception while gobbling up almost 142 targets per year.  It is difficult imagining a scenario with Taylor at quarterback where Landry sees anywhere close to that kind of usage.

Grade: B, The bottom of the fourth round is where teams start expecting role players, backups, and special teamers.  That is a very reasonable price to pay for a good NFL starter.  The true value of the trade depends on what role the Browns have in store for Landry and how they incorporate him into the offense.  This deal becomes better if Cleveland signs Landry to a reasonable long-term contract. They definitely have the cap space to do so.


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

 

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Should We Retire D/ST Position?

Updated: July 8th 2016

#NoMoreDefST

Where did the D/ST position come from? I understand that, like prop bets, it’s fun to have action on every aspect of a football game, but I believe the D/ST increases the randomness of weekly contests and makes fantasy football a less fun and skillful hobby. I’ve long believed the scoring outputs are too matchup and touchdown dependent, and are often aided by fluke, unpredictable plays. The quality of the defense matters less than it does at any other position. This has been a theory of mine for years, but I wanted to dive into the data and see if my theory was actually true.

There has been a movement to get rid of the kicker position, which has even been adopted by DraftKings and MyFantasyLeague. Why isn’t there much of a push to retire the D/ST position? Let’s examine why there should be #NoMoreDefST.

Weekly Matchups Impact D/ST Outputs More Than Any Other Position

Through analyzing ESPN’s 2015 Points Against Data, I discovered that defenses (D/ST) were affected more dramatically by weekly matchups than any other positions. Defenses facing the Tennessee Titans‘ offense averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game. Cleveland‘s offense was just behind Tennessee at 10.4 fppg. Ranking as the 32nd best matchup, defenses facing the Arizona Cardinals‘ offense averaged only 1.6 fppg. Teams facing the best matchup, Tennessee, scored 719% more points than those facing Arizona, the worst matchup. Looking at that same metric, it’s clear that other positions are far less affected by weekly matchups – QBs 197%, RBs 216%, WRs 196%, and TEs 260%. As unpredictable as the NFL, do we really want our weekly contests being decided by whichever defense is lucky enough to face a team like Tennessee or Cleveland?

How Does The Season Schedule Impact The D/ST Scoring Leaders?

Since we’ve found that weekly matchups matter greatly to fantasy D/STs, I wanted to determine if the frequency of good matchups dramatically impact the season long scoring leaders. To test this theory, I tallied how many top 10 matchups (using the aforementioned ESPN Points Against Data) each of the top 10 and bottom 10 fantasy scoring defenses faced in 2015. Teams that finished in the top 10 in scoring, according to ESPN’s 2015 Scoring Leaders, averaged 5.8 top 10 matchups during the season, while bottom 10 teams averaged only 4.1 top 10 matchups. A difference in nearly 2 top 10 matchups per team appears to have impacted the standings. This isn’t to say the quality of the D/ST doesn’t matter, but to explain that factors outside of their control impact their scoring outputs more than any other position.

Are TDs Too Heavily Weighted For D/STs?

The Philadelphia D/ST scored 7 TDs in 2015, tied for the most of any team. This aided the Eagles D/ST into becoming a defense that warranted consideration from many fantasy owners. On the season, Philadelphia finished 16th after a poor final month. Of the top 23 D/STs in 2015 scoring, no D/ST had more zero or negative point games than Philadelphia. Philadelphia had 5 such games. 7 plays  –Darren Sproles return TDs, a blocked punt, a fumble, and several interceptions caused the Eagles to swing several matchups in 2015. I’d argue that the randomness and unpredictability of these TDs required little preparation and skill from their fantasy owners.

Verdict

Fantasy football has never been more popular than it is right now. Major networks such as ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and NFL Network now produce weekly shows to help fantasy owners set lineups before kickoff every Sunday. Fantasy football platforms with unique offerings like Reality Sports Online are rapidly growing in popularity. With all of this growth in the industry, the widely accepted standard roster positions and scoring have mostly remained intact. With more resources for preparation and news information available than we have time to read, we should also aim to optimizing the experience on Sundays. Nothing is more frustrating than watching your season end as a defensive lineman runs into the endzone for a TD on a recovered fumble. You saw that coming? Me neither.

Join me in retiring the D/ST position on Twitter (@DaveSanders_RSO) by using the hashtag #NoMoreDefST!


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. 

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Cap Analysis: Browns

Updated: February 15th 2016

Cleveland Browns

Trending: Flat →

When you’ve hit rock bottom, the only place you can go is up. Unfortunately for the Factory of Sadness fans, I don’t think the Browns are in position to get better quickly.

I really like Hue Jackson, but his partnership with Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta seems kind of forced. The best thing the Browns have going for them is a ton of cap space, when you include the possibility of them spending what they rolled over.

Since taking over the Browns in 2012, Jimmy Haslam has fired Head Coaches Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinksi, and Mike Pettine. In the front office, he’s fired (or forced out) Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, Joe Banner (Jason La Canfora wrote about the Joe Banner tenure recently), Mike Lombardi, and Ray Farmer. That’s a lot of change for an organization to endure in less than four years. In 2015, they got barely any production from the whopping six first round picks they selected from 2011-2014. It’s hard to build a franchise when your first round draft picks aren’t contributing at all:

  • 2011: Phil Taylor – not on roster
  • 2012: Trent Richardson – not on roster; Brandon Weeden – not on roster
  • 2013: Barkevious Mingo – two starts
  • 2014: Justin Gilbert – one start; Johnny Manziel – six starts (likely to be released)

If the Browns can find their identity in 2016, that would be a win.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$136.2M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives)
*Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$38.2M (~$154M Estimate,~$20.7M Rollover)

Situation: Strong 

The Browns do not have many notable free agents, though that’s partially a reflection of the talent on the 2015 roster. Only Joe Haden will count for more than 8 figures against the cap. If Josh Gordon is reinstated, he’ll only count for $1.07M against the cap. They have a lot of space to use in free agency.

The problem is, they’re not one or two veteran pieces away from being contenders – so it’s hard to see how big spending in free agency will help the long-term cause. The Browns find themselves in a situation similar to what the Raiders were in a few years ago…purgatory. Not a lot of young talent, but enough space to spend on veterans in free agency to keep the roster somewhat competitive. It took the Raiders a few years to dig out of it, but they’re in a promising place now. A franchise quarterback could have the Browns trending upward quickly if Josh Gordon returns to form.

Notable Free Agents:

Browns FAs

Only five meaningful contributors (no, Terrell Pryor doesn’t count) are free agents. Alex Mack is under contract, but can opt-out. His name has been floated around in trade rumors before, and the Browns drafted a center in 2015, so I imagine he will test the market. Mitchell Schwartz played very well in 2015, and could do well in free agency. Unless the Browns over-pay him, I wouldn’t expect him to come back – he’s been tweeting about how great Peyton’s cadences are and I’m deducing that he desires a better quarterback.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Browns Top Proj Cap Hits

Most of these contracts are relatively favorable given the on-field contributions of the players, save for a few who you’ll see show up again in the next list (Cap Casualty Watch List). However, Joe Haden is the Browns only smart, long-term investment in a player under 30 (Paul Kruger turns 30 in a few days). By the time the Browns are contenders, I expect that Haden will be the only one of these players left on the roster.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Browns Cap Cas

The only thing that’s keeping this list from containing all of the veteran players on the “Top Projected Cap Hits” above is the fact that Sashi Brown was promoted from within, and as General Counsel he would have helped negotiate many of these deals. Because of his contract structure, Dwayne Bowe may actually get a chance to defend his title as “highest paid per snap”. The Browns will probably move on from Bowe, even though he’ll count for $4.6M against the cap regardless if he’s with the team, because they can still save $3.4M to spend elsewhere. Barkevious Mingo has been disappointing, but maybe another new staff will find the best in him. I still believe Josh McCown can play football, but Hue Jackson may want to bring in his own stop-gap starter. Brian Hartline was critical of the coaching staff and the organization during the season, and I would not be surprised to see him go.

Extension Watch List: 

Browns Ext Watch

Now entering his fourth year, the Browns will decide whether Barkevious Mingo will enter his contract year, or whether to exercise his fifth year option. It seems likely that they will not exercise that option, but with the new coaching staff, it’s hard to predict. If he had stayed out of trouble, Josh Gordon could be a free agent in a month. Instead, he’s seen his contract toll twice, and he’s failed to earn the necessary credit to reach unrestricted free agency in 2017. He’ll be a restricted free agent next year, so it’s not likely the Browns will do anything immediately – but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities mid-year. It’s really hard to find a comp for Josh Gordon because when he’s been on the field, he’s been absolutely dominant, but he hasn’t been on the field much. If I had to peg a comp, I would use Victor Cruz, who was a 26 year-old restricted free agent at the time of his extension, coming off a 1,000-yard season, and a year removed from a 1,500+ yard season. The biggest problem is that this comp is likely to be wiped away when Cruz is either forced to redo his contract or released.

Position Needs: 

The Browns need a franchise quarterback. Nothing else matters until they have that piece in place.

Sleeper Watch: 

I’m a sucker for a long-shot – I’d like to see what Austin Davis could do as the full-time starter with Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin on opposite sides. Connor Shaw is intriguing as well.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

More Analysis by Matt Papson

The Matt's Unplugged

Updated: September 5th 2015

DLF RSO

For my last article of the offseason, I figured I’d up the strategy element by doing a back and forth A Tribe Called Quest style with Reality Sports Online President and Founder Matt Papson. Since we’re both Matt’s, I’ll refer to us by our last names. I hope this is a fun look at auction strategy, the season ahead, all things Reality Sports Online and everything in between. We figure most people are about to have their auctions in the next few days.

With that, I’m going to jump right in and put Papson on the hot seat right now.

Editor’s Note from Papson: I’m writing this from 30,000 feet in the air, without wifi, so this piece will have fewer data/facts and more hyperbole than I would typically utilize – basically I’m channeling my inner Stephen Wendell, Chief Operating Officer of Reality Sports Online.

The Player I build my franchise around:

Papson:

  • Veteran: Andrew Luck When we talk about a franchise player in Reality Sports Online, we’re talking about somebody who is going to be the cornerstone of your franchise for at least four years, and maybe even five or six if the player proves to be franchise-tag worthy. And, for veterans, you’re talking about someone who is probably going to be your highest paid player. Right now, there is no safer bet for fantasy relevance in 2018+ than Andrew Luck. The Front Office could change, the coaching staff could change, his weapons could change, but he is a once-in-a-generation player that’s still 2-3 years away from his “prime”. Trust me, I love me some Antonio Brown – I like to think I climbed aboard the train long before most. Last year he was on every single one of my fantasy teams, and many the year before that. In fact, in one of my RSO Experts leagues he’s making just $6.5M this year on my roster. But, I’m hesitant to make a 4-year investment of the magnitude ($20M+ APY) it would take to lock up AB long-term, or almost any RB/WR for that matter. If you look at the last 10 years of fantasy data, I think you’ll find very few WRs or RBs that were in the top 5 in positional Fantasy points for 4-straight years. I think you’ll find many examples for QBs. An elite quarterback who is consistent and in their prime just has more longevity than a wideout who has a shorter window in his prime.
  • Rookie: Todd Gurley This one is really difficult, but I typically like to spend my rookie picks on Running Backs who could end up as fantasy cheap fantasy starters in years 2-4. Gurley is the best RB in this year’s class by far, and I really like the situation he ended up in with the Rams and Jeff Fisher. I expect him to be getting the majority of the touches by the mid-point in the season, and from my perspective, touches (not necessarily extraordinary production) for Rookies is the most you can reasonably ask for.

Goodwin:

  • Veteran: Antonio Brown Interesting. While I love the production and longevity that Luck will provide to owners and the proven track record he’s paved over his first few years, I tend to like my franchise guys to be wide receivers. As a result, I love the consistency and high targets, touchdowns, and production of Antonio Brown, so I’d take him for the next three years of him being a Steeler. He was also tackled at the one yard line four times last year! Big Ben being locked up until 2020 certainly helps matters too. I think that a quality quarterback like Tony Romo could produce in the same ballpark as someone like Luck on a much cheaper, shorter deal and that in given weeks even streaming could yield you a Top 5 quarterback. Of course over the long haul, Luck is the quarterback I’d want, but there’s nothing precluding someone like Marcus Mariota from being in Luck’s ballpark in a year, whereas Brown also is super consistent and at the top of his game right now.
  • Rookie: Todd Gurley As for rookies, I agree with you on Gurley and put my money where my mouth is in my Reality Sports Online/numberFire Writers League auction. I love Gurley’s burst and he just runs with an edge to him. I have zero concerns about his knee long term and agree with you that by midseason Gurley will be getting the lion’s share of running back touches in St. Louis.

Which tight end is a better contract play for you-Travis Kelce or Jimmy Graham?

Goodwin:

  • Based on age (Graham is 28 and Kelce is 25) and Graham’s high perceived value, I’d go with Kelce. I like his Gronk-like characteristics and while both tight ends don’t have a ton of wide receivers on their respective teams to compete with for targets, I think Kelce was used very cautiously last year coming back from microfracture knee surgery. To me, Kelce’s ceiling is higher and he’s already established a predictable floor at a fraction of Graham’s costs in your auction. He’s so good after the catch that I think he’ll be getting the over-the-middle volume that Graham got in New Orleans. Do I think Graham scores 10 touchdowns a season for my in market Seattle Seahawks? You bet-he was brought in to fix the red zone problems that cost them the Super Bowl. However, the team is one of the most run heavy over the past few years and I don’t expect that to let up much. In fact, Graham’s run blocking snaps were higher in the preseason than they were when he was a Saint and the Saints had 200 more pass attempts than the Seahawks last year. That smells like a regression candidate to me fantasy wise.

Papson:

  • Here’s the thing, this is really hard to evaluate without an exact contract comparison. Would I rather have Kelce for $5M than Jimmy Graham for $20M? Sure. But, if we’re talking about Jimmy Graham for 3 yrs/$50M and Kelce for 3 yrs/$40M – give me Jimmy Graham all day. You speak as if Jimmy Graham is ancient! He’s ?28 years old! I don’t want this to be perceived as Kelce-bashing, but I think Kelce really benefited from the extremely weak group of Wide Receivers the Chiefs played in 2014. With the addition of Jeremy Maclin (and maybe even Chris Conley?), and a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, and De’Anthony Thomas I foresee a significant reduction in total targets and redzone targets for Kelce. I’d be surprised if there’s ever been another top 5 TE in an Andy Reid offense. It seems like there are a lot of people concerned about Jimmy Graham’s transition to Seattle, although I have to say I’m surprised at tempered expectations. Barring injury, if any Tight End other than Gronk and/or Greg Olsen score more fantasy points than Jimmy Graham – I will be shocked.

How would you value Arian Foster based on his injury?

Papson:

  • 2 yrs, $16M Total (that’s what I signed him for in the Expert Auction). At the time I made the referenced signing, the Foster injury had just happened and it really seemed like people were predicting the worst – I/R for the season? I/R Designated for Return? PUP list? Since then, the injury news has steadily gotten better. Most reports now have him slated to return between weeks 2 and 4. I’d rather have the Texans wait than rush him back, but whenever he returns, he’s going to get a ton of touches. I’m not much of an Alfred Blue or Jonathan Grimes guy (I do like Chris Polk), so I think Arian is still a safe bet for 20+ touches in every game in which he plays. He takes great care of himself, and even though we try to be objective, he’s a guy I enjoy rooting for – he’s not your standard NFL personality.

Goodwin:

  • I like the valuation and would love to get a similar valuation for Foster. The key is that he ends the season healthy for your playoff run. I’m also a fan of the two-year deal as that is when he turns 30 and his contract with the Texans ends. At this point based on the news, I think I’d give Foster up to a 2 year, $30 million deal depending on league circumstances. I have no doubt he will be productive when he’s on the field.

Now that Rob Gronkowski is 100% healthy, would you give him a 4 year contract in Reality Sports Online leagues?

Goodwin:

  • I’m not sure on a pure four-year deal to a player with Gronk’s injury history (which granted I think are a series of bad, fluky luck) but I’m basically giving Gronk a four-year deal currently in my third year in the league with the franchise tag options. Luckily for me, the original 2 year, $26M contract that won me Gronk when he had forearm and back injuries heading into the 2013 season just expired following the 2014 season and offered me two separate franchise tag 1 year options. As tight end salaries in my league represent the lowest for a skill position, and Gronk finished last season healthy, I’ll gladly pay $15.9M for my first year franchise tag and if healthy, give him a 20% raise for next year two. Definitely trying to capitalize on my championship window with Gronk in tow. In short, Gronk is so much better at his position than his peer group right now that he is one of the most valuable players in the game, in spite of his injury history.

Papson:

  • I spent a significant amount of time above talking about investing your big-money four-year deals in Quarterbacks, but there are exceptions to every rule. I’ve tried (and failed in a few auctions) to land Gronk, Graham, or Olsen in each of my leagues. In 2015, I see more separation between Tight Ends 1 and 5 than QBs 1 and 5, WRs 1 and 5, and RBs 1 and 5. Think of it this way, if I offered you any of the following bets for a significant amount of money:
    • One Quarterback (Rogers, Luck, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?
    • One Runningback (Peters, Bell, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?
    • One Wide Receiver (Brown, Bryant, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?
    • One Tight End of your choice (Gronk, Graham, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?

    Isn’t the latter, “Gronk vs. the Field” the only bet where that you’d reasonably consider taking a single player versus the field? I think that speaks volumes.

Name a few late auction sleepers you’d consider giving multi-year contracts to and how much would you pay them?

Papson:

  • My favorite place to use my multi-year deals is on cheap sleepers – if you hit, it’s a major win. If you miss, the ramifications for cutting the player before the expiration of the contract are minimal.
    • Michael Crabtree: 2-3 yrs / $4M APY
    • Bryce Brown: 3 yrs / $2M APY (I can’t seem to kick my addiction)
    • Kenny Britt: 2 yrs / $2M APY

Goodwin:

  • I personally like Knile Davis for 2-3 years at around $2M per year. If anything happens to Jamaal Charles, Davis becomes a top running back. Even if not, he has standalone value. In terms of wide receivers, I of course like Jeff Janis on a 3 year deal for $3M per year. I think he’ll work out his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers and become a target in the Packers offense.

Who are guys you are really high on that you think will outperform their expected value heavily?

Goodwin:

  • In terms of receivers, I really like Eric Decker and Kendall Wright. Decker showed flashes when he got his health back last December (finishing strong is always a good thing) and I’m not scared at all by the quarterback situation. As for Wright, he’s already been discussed as Marcus Mariota’s favorite target, the Titans will be down and chucking it in most games, and he’ll see tons of targets. Staying with the Jets, Chris Ivory is a running back that I have high expectations for that others may not feel strongly about. I also really like Danny Woodhead bouncing back from injury and seeing plenty of action in the passing game. No need to shy away from Antonio Gates at tight end. I don’t care about the 4 game suspension, there is plenty of gas left in that tank. There are tons of quarterbacks who should perform well on the cheap. Carson Palmer may come the cheapest, but I like Tony Romo the best of the mid-tier guys based on the Cowboys offense. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, or Eli Manning either.

Papson:

  • This is my favorite question, because it’s the broadest stroke. I could probably name 50 guys that I expect to outperform their average APY, but I’ll try to keep it to a few.
    • Steve Smith: there are a lot of people aboard the train, so that probably means that it will blow up in my face, but I don’t see any reason why Steve Smith wouldn’t have 1,250+ receiving yards. Also, if you can save some 2015 cap space by giving him a 2-year deal, I would do it. I know he says he’s retiring after this year, but I can’t see him hanging it up until the wheels completely fall off. He’s too competitive to walk away after he puts up once of his most productive seasons of all time in 2015.
    • Darren McFadden: Yes, he’s injury prone. But, count me among the few who expect him to receive the majority of the backfield touches in Dallas in 2015. McFadden is still talented, and will play behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. Also – how did Joseph Randle get the hype by default? Honestly, I know it’s simple-minded of me to think this way, or maybe living in Razorback country has clouded my judgement – but Jerry Jones has been obsessed with Darren McFadden for a decade. There was a 100% chance he signed with the Cowboys this off-season, and I still follow the dollars when it comes to predicting fantasy touches.
    • Owen Daniels: For the skeptics, I share your concern about Virgil Green being a Julius Thomas athletic replica and limiting Daniels playing time and targets. But, I think Daniels is going to average 5 catches & 60 yards per game underneath a lot of Demaryius Thomas/Emanuel Sanders/Cody Latimer routes. And don’t forget the Gary Kubiak isn’t afraid to run double tights.

Which player do you like bouncing back in a big way this year?

Papson:

  • Nick Foles: Sam Bradford has stolen all of the hype from the Rams-Eagles Quarterback swap, but I think Foles is being extremely undervalued right now between QB 20 and 25. Foles looked totally broken in 2014, but I’ve watched every game he ever played in an Eagles uniform, and I still think he’s a playoff caliber NFL Quarterback. I like the Rams offensive weapons from Quick to Britt to Austin to Gurley to Mason to Cook. If you can get Foles as your backup, he could make for excellent trade bait mid-year after someone else realizes they need a starter.

Goodwin:

  • Keenan Allen: People forget that he’s only 23. He’s only on his Chargers rookie deal through 2016, but I wouldn’t hesitate to give Allen something in the $10-$12M a year range, or maybe even higher depending on your league dynamics. Philip Rivers has beamed about how well Allen has performed in camp and I really think his third year is when Allen shines bright, especially in PPR leagues.

Which real NFL free agent will perform best in his new digs?

Papson:

  • I’ve saved this answer until now, although I could have selected him for a few of the prior questions. I’ve been vocal about my prediction for a big year from Jeremy Maclin. It seems like the majority of analysts think being a Chiefs Wide Receiver automatically means Maclin is going to touchdown hell. I’m glad the majority thinks that way, because last year was a combination of a fluke and a less-than-stellar receive corps. I’m honestly not sure there’s a ceiling for Maclin’s finish – I certainly won’t be shocked if he finishes top 5. Alex Smith enters year 3 in this offense and I think the Chiefs are going to be firing on all cylinders.

Goodwin:

  • I agree 100%. Like in Old School and Will Ferrell’s winning debate against James Carville, I will say you just gave the perfect answer. This is how you debate!

Who do you think will be the season’s biggest bust?

Goodwin:

  • On a cheaper scale, I’d say Joseph Randle, but that seems too obvious here. If we are going a bigger name, I’m going to stick to my earlier guns and say Drew Brees. For me it is as much about what left his roster and the team’s desire to be more balanced with the running game as what other quarterbacks who will go for cheaper will do. If you really watched game tape of Brees last season (which I did), you’d see a dinker and dunker who had trouble taking the top off the ball deep. He’s just not worth a top five quarterback investment now contract wise when there are other replaceable options like Romo, Big Ben, Philip Rivers and the like on the cheap.

Editor’s Note: While I think that Brees will be between QB5 and QB8, I love Brandin Cooks this season. He shows so much Randall Cobb like qualities with more speed and came into the league way more accomplished. Cooks is a guy that I’d love to have on his original rookie deal and someone I would be targeting in trades or first year auctions without hesitation. 

Papson:

  • C.J. Anderson – Is he the next Arian Foster? The undrafted guy who found himself in the right situation and thrived for years and years? Or, is he Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Dominic Rhodes, Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman, etc. – a guy who thrived with Peyton for a year or two but was really just a plug-and-play in a powerful offense. To be honest, I don’t know the answer. But, I know that he’s going to need a lot of touches to be worth anywhere near what he currently costs. Why are we giving up on Montee Ball? It took Knowshon Moreno four seasons to reach his potential – are we really saying the Broncos are done with Montee after 2? The old coaching staff is gone, but the same Front Office that drafted Ball remains in place.

Editor’s Note: I think all of the Davante Adams people were saved by Jordy Nelson injury. It’s not that I don’t like Adams, but I think before the Nelson injury you would have had a hard time getting expected production from Adams. The Packers run a lot of 3+ WR sets, but I think you would have seen a heavy rotation between Adams, Montgomery (who I like), and Janis. Now Adams gets to be the #2 WR.

Name one defense you think will surprise people this season.

Papson:

  • Philadelphia Eagles: I see them ranked between 10th and 15th most places, and sometimes even lower. The Eagles might have more talent on defense than they do on offense. I also think teams are going to be playing from behind against the Eagles, which will give the Eagles an opportunity to leverage their strength rushing the passer and producing turnovers. I feel pretty confident that the Eagles will have a top 7 defense, and maybe even top 5.

Goodwin:

  • Cleveland Browns: You could call me a homer for this pick, but if you know me well, I typically avoid Cleveland players on my fantasy squad like the plague. That said, the Browns have a really good (and potentially elite) secondary who has an eye for creating turnovers. The front seven should be better at rushing the quarterback off the edge and they killed it in the draft with Danny Shelton as a run-stuffer and Nate Orchard as a pass rusher. While the offense is lagging, hopefully you are in a league that doesn’t punish your defense for that.

What’s the craziest Reality Sports Online trade you’ve made?

Goodwin:

  • On Wednesday, I literally traded nothing (insert favorite Seinfeld reference here) for Kendall Wright who has three years remaining on his deal and who I’ll pay $6.6M this season. The other team basically has their entire roster full prior to our auction and needed wiggle room to grab a player on a minimum deal or go for a premium free agent with their remaining money. Like I always say, cap space is an asset and now Reality Sports Online allows trades to happen with no players in return.

Papson:

  • I’ve been a part of a few blockbusters, especially in the Matt Waldman/Rookie Scouting Portfolio Experts league. My affinity for wheeling and dealing seems to amuse Waldman, but I think the rest of the league probably gets annoyed by my constant trade offers. In 2013, I took over a team where the original Owner had left mid-Auction and left me with a lowly roster, but  $60M+ in cap space. Ultimately, I’m really thankful he left and I took over the team I did, because this is now my favorite and most competitive league. After a two-year rebuilding project, I actually think I might be in position to make a run at the title this year. It was a flurry of moves, not really one blockbuster, but it felt like one big trade to me. I’ll have to see if I can dig up the actual terms or find the article where Waldman recapped the moves, but in a two-week window I:
    • Acquired Alex Smith for a future 3rd round pick
    • Assumed the 4-year/$40M+ Aaron Hernandez contract that another team gave out shortly before the incident, so that I could cut him and eat the cap hit. I also received Percy Harvin as part of that deal, who at the time seemed poised for a long, bright future with the Seahawks. Today, it’s the ugliest contract (and my second highest paid player at $14M) on my roster.
    • Traded Maurice Jones-Drew (1-year) and Zach Ertz for Antonio Brown (3 yrs/$18M) and another player

As someone very familiar with the NFL Salary Cap, name one free agent deal you nailed in 2015

Papson:

  • I’m not sure it’s fair to use the term “nailed”, but I got pretty close on Maclin, Murray, McFadden, and the recent Russel Wilson extension.

Goodwin:

  • I got very close on the Cobb deal and predicted right that Green Bay would sign him for a four-year deal around Victor Cruz/Marques Colston money.
  • Is Peyton Manning retiring after this year?

Papson:

  • No way. I think Peyton will make it until at least 2018, and I think Brady hits at least 2020. There’s such a shortage of playoff caliber Quarterbacks right now, that I can’t see either of them being forced out of a starting position in the next 2-3 years. I’m not going to predict that either of them remain with their current teams beyond their current contract, but I think they can both be relevant starters for 5+ years. Would you rather have an aging Peyton Manning or the Browns situation? There will be a place for each of them to start for quite a while, the question is whether they want to keep playing – I think the competitive drive is there to keep going.

Goodwin:

  • I think this is Peyton’s swan song and will be a good one at that. The pieces and the ground game is set up for #18 to make a Super Bowl run this year. However, I think that being a true historian of the game, Manning won’t want to leave after the game has passed him by and that time is around the corner.

Everyone has players on their squad that they are not rational about in terms of trade value, bid price, etc. Who are yours?

Goodwin:

  • For me, Cobb is way up there on the list. I’ve talked myself out of many deals involving me shipping him out. Wilson is someone I love being a local in Seattle too, although I am realistic that he may come down to fantasy earth this season based on less rushing opportunities for him.

Papson:

A couple of guys on my current teams that I wouldn’t give up because of favorable contracts…

  • Antonio Brown – 1 year $6.5M remaining
  • Sam Bradford – 4 years, $20M (I’ve got to see what happens first)
  • Bishop Sankey – 2 years, $10M remaining (I’m among the few that believe he’s going to be good)

My Fantasy Football Mount Rushmore Consists of These Players Owned by My Teams

Papson:

  • I’m going to just go with a list of retired guys from the early 2000’s: Priest Holmes, Ladanian Tomlinson, Daunte Culpepper, Tony Gonzalez, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison.

Goodwin:

  • For me, it is Cris Carter (I’ve joked with my best friend and RSO leaguemate Fox Sports’ Mark Pesavento) that Carter’s Hall-of-Fame bust should be in my basement for all the damage he did vs. his fantasy squad, Priest Holmes, Aaron Rodgers, Andre Johnson

You recently told me following one of my articles that you love mid-90’s hip-hop and A Tribe Called Quest is one of your favorites. Who ya got-Q-Tip or Phife Dawg?

Papson:

  • (Quoting Phife Dawg from Electric Relaxation)If my mom don’t approve then I’ll just elope…

Goodwin:

  • (Also Quoting Phife Dawg): Picture Phife losing a battle, c’mon, get off it. Put down the microphone son, surrender forfeit… I like Phife’s scrappy, diminutive stature. He’s like the slot receiver of MC’s to Q-Tip’s high draft status.

What is the best part of creating a platform like Reality Sports Online?

Papson:

  • Well, first – in addition to this being a business venture, I built the game because this is kind of fantasy platform I wanted to play on. The business experience has been absolutely awesome. I’ve learned way more in 3-years of running a startup than I did from 5+ years of undergrad & grad school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a roller-coaster – running any startup comes with the assumption that you’re going to face challenges, give up a lot of free time, test the boundaries of personal and professional relationships, etc. Plus, people take fantasy football very seriously, so once in a blue moon we get a nastygram that makes me wonder if people realize there’s a human on the other side of the screen. But, the customer feedback is overwhelmingly positive and the rush we get from the supportive feedback is indescribable. We’re trying to make ourselves and the platform better every day. I also get to work with my close friend, Stephen, who is probably the only person in the world that is unanimously more stubborn/hard-headed than I am – but he’s also a gregarious personality, the most meticulous worker I know, one of the best people I know, and like an older brother to me. The support we’ve gotten from friends, family, and the fantasy community means the world to me. I also want to give a quick shout-out to Kyle, our tech lead, for all his work, and for being the tie-breaking vote when Stephen and I disagree on something.

Well, that’ll wrap it up for the offseason, folks. Good luck in your auctions. Special thanks to Matt Papson for having such fun and coming strong for this article. Follow him on Twitter @RealitySportsMP and you can find me at @mattgoody2

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

The Matt’s Unplugged

Updated: September 10th 2015

DLF RSO

For my last article of the offseason, I figured I’d up the strategy element by doing a back and forth A Tribe Called Quest style with Reality Sports Online President and Founder Matt Papson. Since we’re both Matt’s, I’ll refer to us by our last names. I hope this is a fun look at auction strategy, the season ahead, all things Reality Sports Online and everything in between. We figure most people are about to have their auctions in the next few days.

With that, I’m going to jump right in and put Papson on the hot seat right now.

Editor’s Note from Papson: I’m writing this from 30,000 feet in the air, without wifi, so this piece will have fewer data/facts and more hyperbole than I would typically utilize – basically I’m channeling my inner Stephen Wendell, Chief Operating Officer of Reality Sports Online.

The Player I build my franchise around:

Papson:

  • Veteran: Andrew Luck When we talk about a franchise player in Reality Sports Online, we’re talking about somebody who is going to be the cornerstone of your franchise for at least four years, and maybe even five or six if the player proves to be franchise-tag worthy. And, for veterans, you’re talking about someone who is probably going to be your highest paid player. Right now, there is no safer bet for fantasy relevance in 2018+ than Andrew Luck. The Front Office could change, the coaching staff could change, his weapons could change, but he is a once-in-a-generation player that’s still 2-3 years away from his “prime”. Trust me, I love me some Antonio Brown – I like to think I climbed aboard the train long before most. Last year he was on every single one of my fantasy teams, and many the year before that. In fact, in one of my RSO Experts leagues he’s making just $6.5M this year on my roster. But, I’m hesitant to make a 4-year investment of the magnitude ($20M+ APY) it would take to lock up AB long-term, or almost any RB/WR for that matter. If you look at the last 10 years of fantasy data, I think you’ll find very few WRs or RBs that were in the top 5 in positional Fantasy points for 4-straight years. I think you’ll find many examples for QBs. An elite quarterback who is consistent and in their prime just has more longevity than a wideout who has a shorter window in his prime.
  • Rookie: Todd Gurley This one is really difficult, but I typically like to spend my rookie picks on Running Backs who could end up as fantasy cheap fantasy starters in years 2-4. Gurley is the best RB in this year’s class by far, and I really like the situation he ended up in with the Rams and Jeff Fisher. I expect him to be getting the majority of the touches by the mid-point in the season, and from my perspective, touches (not necessarily extraordinary production) for Rookies is the most you can reasonably ask for.

Goodwin:

  • Veteran: Antonio Brown Interesting. While I love the production and longevity that Luck will provide to owners and the proven track record he’s paved over his first few years, I tend to like my franchise guys to be wide receivers. As a result, I love the consistency and high targets, touchdowns, and production of Antonio Brown, so I’d take him for the next three years of him being a Steeler. He was also tackled at the one yard line four times last year! Big Ben being locked up until 2020 certainly helps matters too. I think that a quality quarterback like Tony Romo could produce in the same ballpark as someone like Luck on a much cheaper, shorter deal and that in given weeks even streaming could yield you a Top 5 quarterback. Of course over the long haul, Luck is the quarterback I’d want, but there’s nothing precluding someone like Marcus Mariota from being in Luck’s ballpark in a year, whereas Brown also is super consistent and at the top of his game right now.
  • Rookie: Todd Gurley As for rookies, I agree with you on Gurley and put my money where my mouth is in my Reality Sports Online/numberFire Writers League auction. I love Gurley’s burst and he just runs with an edge to him. I have zero concerns about his knee long term and agree with you that by midseason Gurley will be getting the lion’s share of running back touches in St. Louis.

Which tight end is a better contract play for you-Travis Kelce or Jimmy Graham?

Goodwin:

  • Based on age (Graham is 28 and Kelce is 25) and Graham’s high perceived value, I’d go with Kelce. I like his Gronk-like characteristics and while both tight ends don’t have a ton of wide receivers on their respective teams to compete with for targets, I think Kelce was used very cautiously last year coming back from microfracture knee surgery. To me, Kelce’s ceiling is higher and he’s already established a predictable floor at a fraction of Graham’s costs in your auction. He’s so good after the catch that I think he’ll be getting the over-the-middle volume that Graham got in New Orleans. Do I think Graham scores 10 touchdowns a season for my in market Seattle Seahawks? You bet-he was brought in to fix the red zone problems that cost them the Super Bowl. However, the team is one of the most run heavy over the past few years and I don’t expect that to let up much. In fact, Graham’s run blocking snaps were higher in the preseason than they were when he was a Saint and the Saints had 200 more pass attempts than the Seahawks last year. That smells like a regression candidate to me fantasy wise.

Papson:

  • Here’s the thing, this is really hard to evaluate without an exact contract comparison. Would I rather have Kelce for $5M than Jimmy Graham for $20M? Sure. But, if we’re talking about Jimmy Graham for 3 yrs/$50M and Kelce for 3 yrs/$40M – give me Jimmy Graham all day. You speak as if Jimmy Graham is ancient! He’s ?28 years old! I don’t want this to be perceived as Kelce-bashing, but I think Kelce really benefited from the extremely weak group of Wide Receivers the Chiefs played in 2014. With the addition of Jeremy Maclin (and maybe even Chris Conley?), and a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, and De’Anthony Thomas I foresee a significant reduction in total targets and redzone targets for Kelce. I’d be surprised if there’s ever been another top 5 TE in an Andy Reid offense. It seems like there are a lot of people concerned about Jimmy Graham’s transition to Seattle, although I have to say I’m surprised at tempered expectations. Barring injury, if any Tight End other than Gronk and/or Greg Olsen score more fantasy points than Jimmy Graham – I will be shocked.

How would you value Arian Foster based on his injury?

Papson:

  • 2 yrs, $16M Total (that’s what I signed him for in the Expert Auction). At the time I made the referenced signing, the Foster injury had just happened and it really seemed like people were predicting the worst – I/R for the season? I/R Designated for Return? PUP list? Since then, the injury news has steadily gotten better. Most reports now have him slated to return between weeks 2 and 4. I’d rather have the Texans wait than rush him back, but whenever he returns, he’s going to get a ton of touches. I’m not much of an Alfred Blue or Jonathan Grimes guy (I do like Chris Polk), so I think Arian is still a safe bet for 20+ touches in every game in which he plays. He takes great care of himself, and even though we try to be objective, he’s a guy I enjoy rooting for – he’s not your standard NFL personality.

Goodwin:

  • I like the valuation and would love to get a similar valuation for Foster. The key is that he ends the season healthy for your playoff run. I’m also a fan of the two-year deal as that is when he turns 30 and his contract with the Texans ends. At this point based on the news, I think I’d give Foster up to a 2 year, $30 million deal depending on league circumstances. I have no doubt he will be productive when he’s on the field.

Now that Rob Gronkowski is 100% healthy, would you give him a 4 year contract in Reality Sports Online leagues?

Goodwin:

  • I’m not sure on a pure four-year deal to a player with Gronk’s injury history (which granted I think are a series of bad, fluky luck) but I’m basically giving Gronk a four-year deal currently in my third year in the league with the franchise tag options. Luckily for me, the original 2 year, $26M contract that won me Gronk when he had forearm and back injuries heading into the 2013 season just expired following the 2014 season and offered me two separate franchise tag 1 year options. As tight end salaries in my league represent the lowest for a skill position, and Gronk finished last season healthy, I’ll gladly pay $15.9M for my first year franchise tag and if healthy, give him a 20% raise for next year two. Definitely trying to capitalize on my championship window with Gronk in tow. In short, Gronk is so much better at his position than his peer group right now that he is one of the most valuable players in the game, in spite of his injury history.

Papson:

  • I spent a significant amount of time above talking about investing your big-money four-year deals in Quarterbacks, but there are exceptions to every rule. I’ve tried (and failed in a few auctions) to land Gronk, Graham, or Olsen in each of my leagues. In 2015, I see more separation between Tight Ends 1 and 5 than QBs 1 and 5, WRs 1 and 5, and RBs 1 and 5. Think of it this way, if I offered you any of the following bets for a significant amount of money:
    • One Quarterback (Rogers, Luck, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?
    • One Runningback (Peters, Bell, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?
    • One Wide Receiver (Brown, Bryant, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?
    • One Tight End of your choice (Gronk, Graham, etc.) of your choice or “the field” to finish first in points/gm?

    Isn’t the latter, “Gronk vs. the Field” the only bet where that you’d reasonably consider taking a single player versus the field? I think that speaks volumes.

Name a few late auction sleepers you’d consider giving multi-year contracts to and how much would you pay them?

Papson:

  • My favorite place to use my multi-year deals is on cheap sleepers – if you hit, it’s a major win. If you miss, the ramifications for cutting the player before the expiration of the contract are minimal.
    • Michael Crabtree: 2-3 yrs / $4M APY
    • Bryce Brown: 3 yrs / $2M APY (I can’t seem to kick my addiction)
    • Kenny Britt: 2 yrs / $2M APY

Goodwin:

  • I personally like Knile Davis for 2-3 years at around $2M per year. If anything happens to Jamaal Charles, Davis becomes a top running back. Even if not, he has standalone value. In terms of wide receivers, I of course like Jeff Janis on a 3 year deal for $3M per year. I think he’ll work out his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers and become a target in the Packers offense.

Who are guys you are really high on that you think will outperform their expected value heavily?

Goodwin:

  • In terms of receivers, I really like Eric Decker and Kendall Wright. Decker showed flashes when he got his health back last December (finishing strong is always a good thing) and I’m not scared at all by the quarterback situation. As for Wright, he’s already been discussed as Marcus Mariota’s favorite target, the Titans will be down and chucking it in most games, and he’ll see tons of targets. Staying with the Jets, Chris Ivory is a running back that I have high expectations for that others may not feel strongly about. I also really like Danny Woodhead bouncing back from injury and seeing plenty of action in the passing game. No need to shy away from Antonio Gates at tight end. I don’t care about the 4 game suspension, there is plenty of gas left in that tank. There are tons of quarterbacks who should perform well on the cheap. Carson Palmer may come the cheapest, but I like Tony Romo the best of the mid-tier guys based on the Cowboys offense. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, or Eli Manning either.

Papson:

  • This is my favorite question, because it’s the broadest stroke. I could probably name 50 guys that I expect to outperform their average APY, but I’ll try to keep it to a few.
    • Steve Smith: there are a lot of people aboard the train, so that probably means that it will blow up in my face, but I don’t see any reason why Steve Smith wouldn’t have 1,250+ receiving yards. Also, if you can save some 2015 cap space by giving him a 2-year deal, I would do it. I know he says he’s retiring after this year, but I can’t see him hanging it up until the wheels completely fall off. He’s too competitive to walk away after he puts up once of his most productive seasons of all time in 2015.
    • Darren McFadden: Yes, he’s injury prone. But, count me among the few who expect him to receive the majority of the backfield touches in Dallas in 2015. McFadden is still talented, and will play behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. Also – how did Joseph Randle get the hype by default? Honestly, I know it’s simple-minded of me to think this way, or maybe living in Razorback country has clouded my judgement – but Jerry Jones has been obsessed with Darren McFadden for a decade. There was a 100% chance he signed with the Cowboys this off-season, and I still follow the dollars when it comes to predicting fantasy touches.
    • Owen Daniels: For the skeptics, I share your concern about Virgil Green being a Julius Thomas athletic replica and limiting Daniels playing time and targets. But, I think Daniels is going to average 5 catches & 60 yards per game underneath a lot of Demaryius Thomas/Emanuel Sanders/Cody Latimer routes. And don’t forget the Gary Kubiak isn’t afraid to run double tights.

Which player do you like bouncing back in a big way this year?

Papson:

  • Nick Foles: Sam Bradford has stolen all of the hype from the Rams-Eagles Quarterback swap, but I think Foles is being extremely undervalued right now between QB 20 and 25. Foles looked totally broken in 2014, but I’ve watched every game he ever played in an Eagles uniform, and I still think he’s a playoff caliber NFL Quarterback. I like the Rams offensive weapons from Quick to Britt to Austin to Gurley to Mason to Cook. If you can get Foles as your backup, he could make for excellent trade bait mid-year after someone else realizes they need a starter.

Goodwin:

  • Keenan Allen: People forget that he’s only 23. He’s only on his Chargers rookie deal through 2016, but I wouldn’t hesitate to give Allen something in the $10-$12M a year range, or maybe even higher depending on your league dynamics. Philip Rivers has beamed about how well Allen has performed in camp and I really think his third year is when Allen shines bright, especially in PPR leagues.

Which real NFL free agent will perform best in his new digs?

Papson:

  • I’ve saved this answer until now, although I could have selected him for a few of the prior questions. I’ve been vocal about my prediction for a big year from Jeremy Maclin. It seems like the majority of analysts think being a Chiefs Wide Receiver automatically means Maclin is going to touchdown hell. I’m glad the majority thinks that way, because last year was a combination of a fluke and a less-than-stellar receive corps. I’m honestly not sure there’s a ceiling for Maclin’s finish – I certainly won’t be shocked if he finishes top 5. Alex Smith enters year 3 in this offense and I think the Chiefs are going to be firing on all cylinders.

Goodwin:

  • I agree 100%. Like in Old School and Will Ferrell’s winning debate against James Carville, I will say you just gave the perfect answer. This is how you debate!

Who do you think will be the season’s biggest bust?

Goodwin:

  • On a cheaper scale, I’d say Joseph Randle, but that seems too obvious here. If we are going a bigger name, I’m going to stick to my earlier guns and say Drew Brees. For me it is as much about what left his roster and the team’s desire to be more balanced with the running game as what other quarterbacks who will go for cheaper will do. If you really watched game tape of Brees last season (which I did), you’d see a dinker and dunker who had trouble taking the top off the ball deep. He’s just not worth a top five quarterback investment now contract wise when there are other replaceable options like Romo, Big Ben, Philip Rivers and the like on the cheap.

Editor’s Note: While I think that Brees will be between QB5 and QB8, I love Brandin Cooks this season. He shows so much Randall Cobb like qualities with more speed and came into the league way more accomplished. Cooks is a guy that I’d love to have on his original rookie deal and someone I would be targeting in trades or first year auctions without hesitation. 

Papson:

  • C.J. Anderson – Is he the next Arian Foster? The undrafted guy who found himself in the right situation and thrived for years and years? Or, is he Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Dominic Rhodes, Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman, etc. – a guy who thrived with Peyton for a year or two but was really just a plug-and-play in a powerful offense. To be honest, I don’t know the answer. But, I know that he’s going to need a lot of touches to be worth anywhere near what he currently costs. Why are we giving up on Montee Ball? It took Knowshon Moreno four seasons to reach his potential – are we really saying the Broncos are done with Montee after 2? The old coaching staff is gone, but the same Front Office that drafted Ball remains in place.

Editor’s Note: I think all of the Davante Adams people were saved by Jordy Nelson injury. It’s not that I don’t like Adams, but I think before the Nelson injury you would have had a hard time getting expected production from Adams. The Packers run a lot of 3+ WR sets, but I think you would have seen a heavy rotation between Adams, Montgomery (who I like), and Janis. Now Adams gets to be the #2 WR.

Name one defense you think will surprise people this season.

Papson:

  • Philadelphia Eagles: I see them ranked between 10th and 15th most places, and sometimes even lower. The Eagles might have more talent on defense than they do on offense. I also think teams are going to be playing from behind against the Eagles, which will give the Eagles an opportunity to leverage their strength rushing the passer and producing turnovers. I feel pretty confident that the Eagles will have a top 7 defense, and maybe even top 5.

Goodwin:

  • Cleveland Browns: You could call me a homer for this pick, but if you know me well, I typically avoid Cleveland players on my fantasy squad like the plague. That said, the Browns have a really good (and potentially elite) secondary who has an eye for creating turnovers. The front seven should be better at rushing the quarterback off the edge and they killed it in the draft with Danny Shelton as a run-stuffer and Nate Orchard as a pass rusher. While the offense is lagging, hopefully you are in a league that doesn’t punish your defense for that.

What’s the craziest Reality Sports Online trade you’ve made?

Goodwin:

  • On Wednesday, I literally traded nothing (insert favorite Seinfeld reference here) for Kendall Wright who has three years remaining on his deal and who I’ll pay $6.6M this season. The other team basically has their entire roster full prior to our auction and needed wiggle room to grab a player on a minimum deal or go for a premium free agent with their remaining money. Like I always say, cap space is an asset and now Reality Sports Online allows trades to happen with no players in return.

Papson:

  • I’ve been a part of a few blockbusters, especially in the Matt Waldman/Rookie Scouting Portfolio Experts league. My affinity for wheeling and dealing seems to amuse Waldman, but I think the rest of the league probably gets annoyed by my constant trade offers. In 2013, I took over a team where the original Owner had left mid-Auction and left me with a lowly roster, but  $60M+ in cap space. Ultimately, I’m really thankful he left and I took over the team I did, because this is now my favorite and most competitive league. After a two-year rebuilding project, I actually think I might be in position to make a run at the title this year. It was a flurry of moves, not really one blockbuster, but it felt like one big trade to me. I’ll have to see if I can dig up the actual terms or find the article where Waldman recapped the moves, but in a two-week window I:
    • Acquired Alex Smith for a future 3rd round pick
    • Assumed the 4-year/$40M+ Aaron Hernandez contract that another team gave out shortly before the incident, so that I could cut him and eat the cap hit. I also received Percy Harvin as part of that deal, who at the time seemed poised for a long, bright future with the Seahawks. Today, it’s the ugliest contract (and my second highest paid player at $14M) on my roster.
    • Traded Maurice Jones-Drew (1-year) and Zach Ertz for Antonio Brown (3 yrs/$18M) and another player

As someone very familiar with the NFL Salary Cap, name one free agent deal you nailed in 2015

Papson:

  • I’m not sure it’s fair to use the term “nailed”, but I got pretty close on Maclin, Murray, McFadden, and the recent Russel Wilson extension.

Goodwin:

  • I got very close on the Cobb deal and predicted right that Green Bay would sign him for a four-year deal around Victor Cruz/Marques Colston money.
  • Is Peyton Manning retiring after this year?

Papson:

  • No way. I think Peyton will make it until at least 2018, and I think Brady hits at least 2020. There’s such a shortage of playoff caliber Quarterbacks right now, that I can’t see either of them being forced out of a starting position in the next 2-3 years. I’m not going to predict that either of them remain with their current teams beyond their current contract, but I think they can both be relevant starters for 5+ years. Would you rather have an aging Peyton Manning or the Browns situation? There will be a place for each of them to start for quite a while, the question is whether they want to keep playing – I think the competitive drive is there to keep going.

Goodwin:

  • I think this is Peyton’s swan song and will be a good one at that. The pieces and the ground game is set up for #18 to make a Super Bowl run this year. However, I think that being a true historian of the game, Manning won’t want to leave after the game has passed him by and that time is around the corner.

Everyone has players on their squad that they are not rational about in terms of trade value, bid price, etc. Who are yours?

Goodwin:

  • For me, Cobb is way up there on the list. I’ve talked myself out of many deals involving me shipping him out. Wilson is someone I love being a local in Seattle too, although I am realistic that he may come down to fantasy earth this season based on less rushing opportunities for him.

Papson:

A couple of guys on my current teams that I wouldn’t give up because of favorable contracts…

  • Antonio Brown – 1 year $6.5M remaining
  • Sam Bradford – 4 years, $20M (I’ve got to see what happens first)
  • Bishop Sankey – 2 years, $10M remaining (I’m among the few that believe he’s going to be good)

My Fantasy Football Mount Rushmore Consists of These Players Owned by My Teams

Papson:

  • I’m going to just go with a list of retired guys from the early 2000’s: Priest Holmes, Ladanian Tomlinson, Daunte Culpepper, Tony Gonzalez, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison.

Goodwin:

  • For me, it is Cris Carter (I’ve joked with my best friend and RSO leaguemate Fox Sports’ Mark Pesavento) that Carter’s Hall-of-Fame bust should be in my basement for all the damage he did vs. his fantasy squad, Priest Holmes, Aaron Rodgers, Andre Johnson

You recently told me following one of my articles that you love mid-90’s hip-hop and A Tribe Called Quest is one of your favorites. Who ya got-Q-Tip or Phife Dawg?

Papson:

  • (Quoting Phife Dawg from Electric Relaxation)If my mom don’t approve then I’ll just elope…

Goodwin:

  • (Also Quoting Phife Dawg): Picture Phife losing a battle, c’mon, get off it. Put down the microphone son, surrender forfeit… I like Phife’s scrappy, diminutive stature. He’s like the slot receiver of MC’s to Q-Tip’s high draft status.

What is the best part of creating a platform like Reality Sports Online?

Papson:

  • Well, first – in addition to this being a business venture, I built the game because this is kind of fantasy platform I wanted to play on. The business experience has been absolutely awesome. I’ve learned way more in 3-years of running a startup than I did from 5+ years of undergrad & grad school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a roller-coaster – running any startup comes with the assumption that you’re going to face challenges, give up a lot of free time, test the boundaries of personal and professional relationships, etc. Plus, people take fantasy football very seriously, so once in a blue moon we get a nastygram that makes me wonder if people realize there’s a human on the other side of the screen. But, the customer feedback is overwhelmingly positive and the rush we get from the supportive feedback is indescribable. We’re trying to make ourselves and the platform better every day. I also get to work with my close friend, Stephen, who is probably the only person in the world that is unanimously more stubborn/hard-headed than I am – but he’s also a gregarious personality, the most meticulous worker I know, one of the best people I know, and like an older brother to me. The support we’ve gotten from friends, family, and the fantasy community means the world to me. I also want to give a quick shout-out to Kyle, our tech lead, for all his work, and for being the tie-breaking vote when Stephen and I disagree on something.

Well, that’ll wrap it up for the offseason, folks. Good luck in your auctions. Special thanks to Matt Papson for having such fun and coming strong for this article. Follow him on Twitter @RealitySportsMP and you can find me at @mattgoody2

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Training Camp 2015 Edition

Updated: August 3rd 2015

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It’s hard to believe it, but training camp is upon us. While some of you may have already had your Reality Sports Online rookie drafts, a ton of offseason trades, or both, others may just be picking up serious activity. Either way, we all collectively can’t wait to watch the Houston Texans on Hard Knocks and for kickoff in September. Before that happens, though, there are some major storylines that will unfold in training camp that will help us determine how to tackle our Free Agency Auctions. I’ll skip over Russell Wilson’s contract signing for the most part and similar storylines. Basically the upshot with Wilson is this-now that it is reported he is in Seattle another 4 years, he’ll command big money in leagues where rushing is rewarded heavily and where turnovers are punished significantly (like my main league where turnovers are a negative 5 fantasy points). Moving on, so let’s jump into other topics now.

The Dallas Cowboys Running Back Situation

Demarco Murray made it look easy last season in racking up 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and a career-high 57 receptions behind Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked offensive line. Then the Cowboys decided that Murray was expendable and he went to their division rival Philadelphia Eagles. While many in fantasy circles are holding Joseph Randle in the highest regard based on being the best of a bunch of middling options, only training camp will tell whether Randle can be the bell-cow that Murray was behind that beastly O-Line. Those who want to extrapolate his 6.7 yards per carry on 51 totes for 343 yards and three touchdowns could be left holding the bag on an inflated Reality Sports Online contract if they aren’t careful, especially in PPR leagues. Randle only had 4 catches for 23 yards and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has made a living turning running backs like Moe Williams into serious PPR threats, which seems to indicate that Randle’s ceiling is lower than you’d think. Also take into account that Randle broke more than 10 runs over 10 yards (mostly in games the Cowboys were beating their opponents handily) and had some police blotter last season and you’ll gladly let someone else speculate on him. If you have to have him, keep him under $8.0 million a year annually and avoid a 3-4 year deal at all costs.

However, Randle’s best competition may not even be on the roster yet, especially if the team gives someone like Ray RiceAhmad Bradshaw, or even Chris Johnson (just a saw a rumor that he’s in contact with the team) a chance at winning the job. Based on the injury history of Darren McFadden, your best bet on capitalizing on the high-octane Cowboys offense in the backfield is Lance Dunbar. I know, I know you say, Goodwin you were high on him last year and I listened to you and now am stuck with Dunbar for another two years. Well, your patience may be rewarded this year. It isn’t hard to envision a Darren Sproles type role for Dunbar this year, especially in the passing game . I wouldn’t be betting much on him-a one year deal (Dunbar’s a free agent in 2016) at around $2.0 million feels right.

The Cheap Quarterback Who Will Produce Is…

Well, in terms of guys who may be available who aren’t on multi-year deals, you’ll probably be starting with choosing among the QB Class of 2004-Eli Manning (1.2 years, $2.4 million average), Philip Rivers (1.6 years, $4.4 million average), and Ben Roethlisberger (1.4 year, $2.6 million average). All three play in offenses that are ramping up their weapons and are significant bargains. Keep in mind if most of your league has the quarterback position taken care of, don’t bid against yourself. I personally like Eli the most based on his star wideout Odell Beckham Jr.  and getting Shane Vereen as a legitimate pass catching option out of the backfield, along with the hopeful return of Victor Cruz. Considering he’s in a division with some of the shakiest secondaries in the league, assume Eli will air it out and that he’s a bargain.

If you’re looking for someone not on this list, Ryan Tannehill (1.6 years, $2.2m million average) is on the younger side and someone you may be more willing to sign long-term. His receiving corps had a complete makeover in the 2015 offseason and draft as I alluded to in Marketwatch 2015: Stock Up/Down and the Dolphins signal-caller still remains under the radar as the signal-caller in Bill Lazor’s offense.

The Player Coming Out of Nowhere This Year

Reality Sports Online is every bit the developmental league, especially if your rookie draft goes deeper than two rounds. So players like Jeff Janis may not be under-the-radar. Others may have fallen off your map, but still have a semblance of an opportunity if things go right. I’m not going to pick one guy who may be the guy who comes out of nowhere and becomes the next Marvin Jones from 2013 but definitely look at the requisite prototype for players who can put up stats for you. A few people worth the late-auction flyer (especially if you have a multi-year contract to use late on the cheap) include Aaron Dobson (he’s reportedly finally healthy from various foot injuries and has the frame and speed to be the #3 WR on the Patriots), Marlon BrownTheo Riddick (notice the third down back theme in this article),and Leonard Hankerson are my biggest take a flyer guys. Heck, even Jones himself can be the next Jones (again) if he returns successfully from an injury.

The Tight End Battle in Denver

Peyton Manning has an excellent track record in turning tight ends into touchdown catching machines. Julius Thomas certainly benefitted from this, as did some of Manning’s ex-Colts teammates. The question entering training camp is whether free-agent signing Owen Daniels or young upstart Virgil Green will be the tight end apple of Peyton’s eye. While Green was the recipient of a nice 3 year, $8.4 million contract for his past accolades as a blocker, the team envisioned some upside in the passing game based on Green’s athleticism when the re-inked him. The 6’5, 255 lb Green is a specimen, but beware his 23 career catches, especially with Daniels in town. Daniels was fairly productive and has followed head coach Gary Kubiak twice now (first to Baltimore last season) and now to Denver. Based on his track record, look for Daniels to be the one finding the end zone at least six times, assuming he stays healthy. However, take note of Green’s potential upside and if you can get him on a good deal, take advantage because Green’s been putting in work at Duke with Manning and will be on the field plenty based on his blocking ability on a team that is said to be more run-oriented this year.

The Next Randy Moss?

Dorial Green-Beckham is certainly one of the most polarizing players in your rookie draft. He has boatloads of talent and the size and speed that offensive coordinators salivate over, even if he’s not the best route runner. He was compared to Randy Moss several times in articles such as this one this offseason and much like Moss, he comes into his rookie season with a checkered past and a desire to prove the teams that passed him over wrong.

With an average draft position of the 10.5th pick in the first round of RSO rookie drafts, Green-Beckham represents significant upside and of course downside based on his character. One has to think that early on Green-Beckham will be on his best behavior and quarterback Marcus Mariota will be a positive influence on the wideout as well.

Stay tuned to news out of training camp on how Green-Beckham is coming along from a route running perspective and that he’s overcome his mini-camp hamstring injury. Early word is that the team doesn’t want to “over-rep” him in training camp.

Defense on the Rise in Cleveland

As someone born in Cleveland, it is hard to get too excited about anything Browns related. However, the team invested heavily on the defense in the draft by adding run-stuffer Danny Shelton in the first round and pass-rusher extraordinaire in Nate Orchard, who led the NCAA’s in sacks per game in 2015. Taking into account a very strong secondary already, the team should improve significantly from the worst ranked rush defense last season in a division where teams love to run the rock. While the weak offense may keep putting the defense on the field, expect plenty of impact fantasy plays from Joe Haden and company this season from a fantasy perspective.

The Rookie Most Likely Not to Produce in 2015

New Chicago Bears coach John Fox is notorious for bringing rookie wide receivers along slowly. First round pick Kevin White is coming off RSO draft boards around the 4th pick in the rookie draft. However, when you take into account Cody Latimer’s four-catch 2014 for Fox’s Broncos last season and the fact that in interviews Fox couldn’t even recall whether a rookie wideout has ever started for him, you have to figure that even if White does start, he will be brought along slowly.  It certainly doesn’t help matters than White’s shin injury has landed him on the PUP list for the start of training camp.

Considering that one of the league’s most targeted wide receivers, Alshon Jeffery, starts on one side and that quarterback Jay Cutler typically only has eyes for one or two receivers, the number of targets available for White after Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and even slot receiver Eddie Royal get theirs may amount to crumbs, not a meal.

As a result, my 2015 outlook on White is fairly guarded, especially considering the high draft capital required to nab him in your drafts.

I Put In Work, And Watch My Status Escalate

Obviously last year’s rookie crop of wide receivers was one of the best in NFL history from a production standpoint. That even takes into account the injury to Brandin Cooks and limited production in a non-quarterback friendly environment for Sammy Watkins. That doesn’t mean that the rookie stars from last season are resting on their laurels. Mike Evans has been working in the offseason on his craft with the aforementioned Moss. Evans, who had 12 touchdowns and 1,051 receiving yards as the Z-Receiver with a limited route tree last season, now moves to the X receiver under new offensive guru Dirk Koetter, who groomed Julio Jones into one of the league’s best. The prospect of the kid gloves coming off of Evans, even with a rookie quarterback, is super enticing, especially since he’s still working out with Moss.

From the third year receiver crop and now that all-time leading Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is playing for the division rival Colts, DeAndre Hopkins figures to be the third-year receiver who will fully emerge into an NFL superstar.

Who Starts At Quarterback in Philly?

In one of the more intriguing battles (especially to RSO founders Matt Papson and Stephen Wendell), Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have an interesting quarterback competition. The team paid for a study to see how likely Sam Bradford was to re-injure himself and concluded those chances were low and traded Nick Foles for him. However, last year’s starter at the end of the season, Mark Sanchez, was fairly productive and the team invested a first rounder in rookie wideout Nelson Agholor, who has received rave reviews and figures to start right away, to replace the departed Jeremy Maclin. The team also reinvented their running game with Murray and Ryan Mathews.

It’ll be interesting to see who will win the quarterback battle here, because whoever does has immediately value and when it comes to Reality Sports Online, you’re all about value.

That’ll do it for now and I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing these articles. Feel free to contact me with any questions/feedback you may have on Twitter at @mattgoody2.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin