Pressing the Reset Button

Updated: November 3rd 2016

2015 was my first season playing at Reality Sports Online.  I’ve played fantasy football for nearly 20 years – redraft, keeper, and dynasty leagues, but never have played in a format that reflects the life of an NFL GM so accurately through the complex, nuanced decisions that are required to be made throughout the live free agency auction and in-season management.  Towards the end of year one, I began evaluating my off-season plans and the first thought that came to mind was…I “HATE THIS ROSTER!”

My roster was littered with overpaid players.  I believed in Randall Cobb as a top WR, especially without Jordy Nelson on the field – wrong.  Martavis Bryant’s contract ran through 2017 and was an excellent value when he was on the field.  Suspended with his future in doubt – I wanted out of that contract with his return far from guaranteed.  There were other players signed to multi-year deals that I didn’t want anymore even at affordable salaries, including Sam Bradford, David Cobb, and Andrew Hawkins.

My goal was to rid my roster of every player except for LeVeon Bell (signed through 2019), Kevin White (through 2018), and Maxx Williams (through 2019).  I attached several good players on 1-year deals (Jarvis Landry and Travis Kelce) to the contracts I viewed as poor and immediately targeted cap room and draft picks in trades.

Through four trades, I netted the following picks:

  • 1.10 – 2016
  • 1st – 2018
  • 2.04 – 2016
  • 2nd – 2017
  • 2nd – 2018

I left the 2016 rookie draft with Sterling Shepard and 3 RB projects (CJ Prosise, Paul Perkins, and DeAndre Washington).  

Before the auction, I put together a list of players that I wanted to sign and was willing to overpay a bit to land since I had well over $100 million in 2016 cap room.  The list: Drew Brees, Marvin Jones, Spencer Ware, and Doug Baldwin.  After signing each of these players and adding a few breakout free agents – most notably Terrelle Pryor and Cam Meredith, my team has rebounded better than I could have ever expected when I started this process last December.  Currently undefeated, I made several trades, featured in #RSOEpicTrade, to help supplement my roster and go for the title this year.  After all, championships are what we are playing for, right?

I’m not writing this article to brag about how good this team – that’s not the point.  In 12 leagues, I have several teams that have been disappointments and aren’t playoff contenders due to poor management, inaccurate player projections, and, of course, injuries.  

I want to highlight that rebuilding in RSO leagues isn’t as daunting of a task as you may expect.  

You may not have to go through years of struggling to right the ship.  Assess your roster – both for this year and future years, determine if you can compete, and plan accordingly.  By Week 8 or 9, I’ll decide if I realistically think I can compete in each of my RSO leagues.  I rarely ever stand pat as I’ll aggressively buy or sell depending on my expectations for the rest of the season.  If I’d need a miracle and know there are several rosters that are clearly better than mine, I’ll sell all 1-year deals to contenders and look towards the next year or two.  

Reminder: When discussing trades, I often hear that owners are afraid making a move and having it backfire in the long term.  My strategy is a bit different as I’m unafraid to make an aggressive move if I believe I’m getting more value at the time of the trade.  If you accept that you will lose in some trades but believe you will win out more than 50% of the time, be as aggressive as possible.  Right or wrong, I do not just consider deals made to be potential wins or losses.  I also think this way about trade talks that were close, but never materialized for whatever reason.  Take chances, trust your strategy, and most of all – have some fun!

How RSO Rookie Drafts Differ

Updated: August 30th 2016

After participating in several RSO rookie drafts, I began to think about how much these differ from standard dynasty league rookie drafts that are the industry standard throughout the fantasy community.  Rankings and Average Draft Positions that you’ll see on sites like Dynasty League Football are intended for standard dynasty leagues, where you can keep the selected rookies on your roster for an unlimited amount of time.  The presence of 3 to 4 year rookie contacts may create a market inefficiency with owners not shifting their draft strategy away from standard dynasty to match the uniqueness and realism RSO provides.  Retaining that player past their rookie contract will likely force that owner to pay the average of the top five salaries at that position, meaning that the player must become elite at their position by the end of their rookie deal to warrant the tag.  It’s worth noting that some leagues implement limits on the number of times a player can be tagged before he has to return to the free agent auction.  Sure, the player can be re-acquired in the free agent auction, but his cap hit will now be determined by the open market.

The Research

I set out to determine which positions should be prioritized in RSO rookie drafts by providing the best return on investment (ROI).  To do this, I created a sample of QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs that in the last three years (2013, 2014, 2015) posted a season that was “start worthy”.  For simplicity, I defined “start worthy” as players who finished among in the top 10 QBs, top 25 RBs, top 25 WRs, and top 10 TEs for the 2013, 2014, or 2015 seasons in standard scoring, data courtesy of Pro Football Reference.  The sample created a player pool consisting of 19 QBs, 47 RBs, 48 WRs, and 20 TEs.  With my sample pool selected, I began tracking how quickly each player put together a “start worthy” season by recording the results from their first four seasons in the league.

The Results

Start Worthy Chart

Quarterbacks

95% “Start Worthy” by year 4 – Before conducting this research, I expected quarterbacks to take longer to become “start worthy” and was surprised to see 18 of 19 did that in their first 4 seasons.  On average, it took these QBs 2.61 years to put together such a season, meaning this usually happened in years 2 and 3.  Those numbers alone may not mean a lot, but let’s see how it compares to other positions.

Running backs

1.91 years, the average time it takes a running back to become “start worthy” – For a variety of reasons (most of which I agree with), RBs are devalued in dynasty leagues.  However, I believe we should think differently about running backs in RSO as they typically become “start worthy” by year 2 at a ROOKIE SALARY!  This past off-season, I went out of my way to acquire additional second round picks to have more chances of hitting on one of these cost-effective productive young RBs.

Wide receivers

2.02 years, the average time it takes wide receivers to become “start worthy” – WRs are the stars of dynasty football, the prized assets that command huge trade returns.  Becoming “start worthy” by year 2 confirms that WRs are still very valuable in RSO, but might not hold as drastic of an edge over RBs as in standard dynasty leagues.

Tight ends

5% = the lowest % increase in becoming “start worthy” from year 3 to year 4 – By year 3, you may know what you have with your TE prospect.  80% of the sample put forth “start worthy” seasons by year 3, with only 1 TE waiting until year 4.  Important to note, TEs also took the longest time to produce an ROI with an average of 2.53 years to become “start worthy”.

What does this mean to RSO players?

Personally, I wouldn’t select a rookie QB in the 1st round of a rookie draft unless the format is 2QB or Superflex.  With that said, I do feel more comfortable with selecting the top QB prospects in the 2nd or 3rd round of rookie drafts after discovering that the breakout QBs almost always do so by their fourth season.  RBs and WRs should be heavily prioritized in RSO rookie drafts, given that they’re the quickest to produce “start worthy” seasons after entering the league.  While I’d give WRs a slight edge over RBs since they’re more consistent year to year, RBs close the gap a bit in RSO by becoming “start worthy” the soonest.  TEs, on the other hand, should be widely ignored in rookie drafts.  It frequently takes too long for these players to develop into starting caliber options.  Sure, there are outliers – Rob Gronkowski comes to mind.  But strategies built on the outcomes of outliers are doomed to fail.

To summarize, target RBs and WRs in your rookie drafts.  In trades, I’ll typically ask for a 2nd round pick to be added as a thrown in.  While mostly insignificant, I want more chances at hitting on a breakout RB or WR on a multi-year rookie contract.  The RBs and WRs that break out often do so by year 2, which makes it quicker to know when to cut bait on a bust and use the roster spot elsewhere.


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.