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.

Do You Just Know?

Updated: May 2nd 2016

In the Zone

College Swagger

For the most part, I’m a fairly humble person. After all, that is the upbringing of most folks from the Midwest. However, my freshman year in college at Miami University, I had a resident advisor (let’s call him Chuck) that I disliked so much that out of standing up for myself turned me into a trash-talking a-hole, especially on the basketball court.

One night I was playing 3-on-3 hoops with some friends (and Chuck), and Chuck and I were matched up on each other. That night, I got the better of him for the most part and prior to a game I announced it would be my last as I had to head to study group. That seemed to tick Chuck off and he was yapping more than usual while guarding me the entire game.

It got to the point where we were a basket away from winning a close game and the ball got kicked out to me in the corner more than 20 feet out and way before Steph Curry was a known entity. As I squared up to assess my options, Chuck kept taunting me shouting, “be the hero, (Goody)”. I’m not sure but I think I even passed out of that situation initially only to find the ball back to me in the same place seconds later. The chatter ensued. Finally, I had enough of Chuck-I raised up, shot the ball and without looking immediately started running towards my backpack with my hand in the air (kind of like Larry Bird when finishing off a 3 point contest All-Star weekend).

By now, you know the outcome-why would I tell this story if the shot didn’t go in, right? Chuck charged me and wanted to fight because I shut him up again. The big question is “how did I know it was going in?”. The answer and tie-in to my article this week, is sometimes you “just know”.

There’s A Draft In Here…

I get the hype of the NFL Draft. It is the best process for a downtrodden team to make strides to turn things around and sometimes help a team get a missing piece to put them over the top to be Super Bowl Champions. The intrigue here is that players of all positions can be the cornerstone for a franchise, even those outside of the skill positions.

From a fantasy football perspective, it provides a new crop of players to fawn over, especially in dynasty leagues and even more so in a hyper-league format like Reality Sports Online. Pick the right rookies for three or four years on market-friendly deals and the thought is, you can write your own championship narrative.

No doubt folks who have recently drafted Odell Beckham, Jr. or Todd Gurley can attest to how prime talent at $6.0 million a year or less can take their RSO teams to new heights. That is why we as RSO owners get so hyped for the draft, other than the intuitive fact that it is the time when these rookies situations become more known (not from a depth chart perspective, but at least opportunity wise). Remember, even Beckham’s success wasn’t a given and his injury-riddled start cast some doubt initially and now he’s a Top 5 league contract.

In the right years like the 2014 wide receiver class, it eliminated some of the guess-work on the “just know” factor. While players like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans have not knocked it out of the park the past two years, nobody doubted their talent at the top of rookie drafts (the just know factor), and they have been slight victims of opportunity from offenses that aren’t necessarily pass happy thus far, but the consensus is their outlooks are still very rosy.

2016 Is Not A Just Know Year

With customization across leagues, including those that have individual defensive players (IDP), the rookie draft each year may have a deeper talent pool. For those who are in more common leagues that have 20-25 player rosters and offensive skill positions and team defenses, not all first round rookie deals are owner-friendly, especially if you draft a guy that isn’t a “just know” player, so sometimes it is better to spread your money around in a smarter way.

I’m fairly active on Twitter and follow Dynasty trade tweets frequently. Lots of times you see studs getting traded for a bevy of rookie picks because certain owners fawn over rookie potential in search of the big score on hitting on picks, especially late-round cheap ones. To me, that strategy is fairly risky, especially in a year like this one that is not a “just know” one.

By way of example, let’s dig into Nick Andrews’ Pre-Draft Mock. Of Nick’s Top 12 picks, only Ezekiel Elliott flashes the potential to be an immediate fantasy star (I’d define this as being top 10 in fantasy points at his position for the upcoming few years) and the Cowboys taking him cements that behind their hulking offensive line and Scott Linehan’s affinity for passing to running backs. From an NFL perspective, it probably didn’t make sense for the Cowboys to go this route given the devaluation of the running back position; however, RSO owners don’t want to hear that noise and should take Elliott at 1.01 in all their rookie drafts. Other players may take at least a year to prove themselves (which isn’t a bad thing if you think of players like Devonta Freeman).

However, if you have a league which features three-year rookie deals, you almost need immediate contributors or to hit on your post round one rookie draft picks (which points to trading down to get more shots at this-the Moneyball strategy is being tested in Cleveland and certainly can be applied to your RSO rookie drafts). Let’s get into a few hypothetical situations that may mirror decisions you are facing when assessing your offseason trade or rookie draft strategy (assuming you have a bit of time to evaluate and aren’t doing your rookie draft next week before depth charts are being figured out with offseason workouts).

Hypotheticals-Would You Rather Have?

Established Player A: Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions-1.6 years remaining, $14.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player A: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings-1.02 mock, 4 years, $6.0-$7.6m average annual contract

These are the types of questions that really test the mettle of RSO owners. Tate is a solid PPR option who figures to get the ball more with Calvin Johnson retired, although he’s probably around the 24th best fantasy wide receiver for the next two years.

Treadwell fills a big need in Minnesota, and as one of the highest regarded receivers in the draft, those players typically often become the instant primary target for their teams. Treadwell’s rookie draft value will likely be derived in years 2-3 of his four-year deal and based on the GM’s confidence in his role on the Vikings offense, which has been a fantasy wasteland for receivers for a long time now.

I don’t get too hung up on 40 times like Treadwell’s 4.65 if the player has known game speed. Larry Fitzgerald ran a 4.63 and was fast enough to be able to watch himself leave Steelers defenders in the dust on the Jumbotron while heading to the end zone in his lone Super Bowl appearance. For me, based on Treadwell’s situation in Minnesota, I prefer the steady, if not spectacular Tate based on known production and his role as the number one receiver in the Detroit offense. Full disclaimer, I’d also prefer Cleveland’s first round pick Corey Coleman over Treadwell as well. I know the Browns offense is a mess (with or without Josh Gordon), but they will have to throw the ball and will work with Coleman’s skills to get him the ball in space. This screams heavy volume and potentially a role in the return game as well.

Established Player B: Matt RyanQB, Atlanta Falcons-1.6 years remaining, $17.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player B: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams-2.11 mock, 4 years, $1.3-$1.6m average annual contract

I’m certainly not the first to compare these players, as Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier did in this article. From a real football perspective, Goff is asked to be the savior of a team returning to Los Angeles and that will likely take time to do, especially given that the franchise has mortgaged in terms of future drafts to get their face of the franchise for the new era of Rams football. The Falcons quickly pivoted to get Ryan some weapons, something that the Rams don’t have the luxury of doing, so they either have to count on Brian Quick types to come out of nowhere or hit a home-run with late round picks in either the 2016 or 2017 NFL Draft.

That said, from a fantasy perspective in dynasty leagues where you are starting one quarterback across a 10-12 team typical format, even with Goff’s potential challenges of being the day-one starter in 2016, the RSO contract values and fantasy production seem to highlight that Goff’s upside and potential return as a second round rookie pick exceed Ryan’s market dynamics.

I love Goff’s presence and instincts (much like fellow Cal alum Aaron Rodgers) and think that he will break out in Year two even without a top wideout like Julio Jones, who Ryan has the luxury of having. At this point, Ryan still has weapons, but hasn’t proved to be worth more than a replacement/streaming quarterback in our format, and that isn’t worth paying out multi-millions and multi-years for.

So in this case, consider me a member of fellow writer Bob Cowper’s valuing rookie QB’s higher school of thought.

Established Player C: Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers-1.0 years remaining, $3.5m remaining contract

Rookie Player C: C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks -1.09 mock, 4 years, $3.6-$4.5m average annual contract

Who better to compare to Woodhead than a former wideout who played running back at Notre Dame last year? In this case, Prosise is still somewhat of a work in progress and needs to better pass protect to see time on an NFL field. However, his route running ability and size are key assets in giving him the opportunity for significant playing time in the right system.

With the increased emphasis on the passing game in the NFL, Woodhead was surprisingly a top 10 fantasy running back last year in PPR leagues and Philip Rivers loves him. Can Prosise be the same at similar dollar values? Who would you take?

For me, this argument really boils down to where you can get Prosise in your rookie draft. Woodhead, while very productive is sometimes challenging to own in fantasy based on offensive game flow. No doubt will the Chargers continue to emphasize Melvin Gordon in the run game and his snaps ramped up on obvious passing downs as the season progressed. Woodhead is also a free agent in 2017 and will be fighting for targets with Keenan Allen returning from a season-ending injury and with newly-signed Travis Benjamin.

Prosise certainly has the ability to be a 50-60 catch guy with the quicks to be like another C.J. (Spiller). However, rookie draft owners making this pick hope that Prosise gets more playing time and utilization than Spiller. If the utilization is similar to Woodhead’s with some carries sprinkled in , it is a 50-50 proposition between Woodhead and Prosise at a pick around 1.09 in the rookie draft from a salary perspective that heavily skews towards Prosise if Thomas Rawls misses extended offseason time, as Rawls is far from cemented as an established fantasy entity. Anything past 1.09 heavily favors Prosise’s upside, especially in Round 2 or later.

Conclusion

Due to the lack of “just know” guys this year, the Moneyball strategy of trading down may benefit you. There are only a few players/situations right now that seem to be definitive, so sometimes the solid, if not flashy vet is a better option than the rookie draft pick. Last year, I traded my 1.08 pick for a year of T.Y. Hilton and I’d do it again with a contending team, in spite of some bad luck surrounding Hilton’s QB last year.

How your team stacks up against the competition and whether you are in contend/rebuild mode matters for your decisions, but the “just know” factor means a ton and dictates whether or not you move up or down in your rookie drafts or trade out of them completely.

As for Chuck, I still laugh about that game and think about the ball going through the net sight unseen.

My Top 5 Picks

If my rookie draft were this week based on the situations they are in and long-term upside, here’s who I’d select:

  1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
  2. Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns
  3. Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins
  4. Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
  5. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Picks 13-24

Updated: April 28th 2016

In my previous article I put together a list of the top 12 rookie that could come off your board starting next week. If you didn’t read the first part I am looking at Chad Reuter’s 7 round mock that he put together and from this I am making my own rookie mock draft of the first two rounds for a 12 team league. The first 12 selection are here for you to read. Let’s move on to the second round now.

Paul Perkins, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 13         Proj: R4 Pick 114, Oakland Raiders

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Perkins has all the traits you want to see out of a RB. He’s quick and agile, has good vision, isn’t afraid of contact and runs to the whistle. Watch his first half against Stanford last year to see each of these traits. In Oakland he would fit perfectly with a young budding offense and would be able to compete with Latty Murray for the starting role. At worst he’s a solid change of pace RB who excels in the passing game.

Pharoh Cooper, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 14         Proj: R5 Pick 140, Tennessee Titans

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper is a great Swiss Army knife player. He can run and catch the ball as well as return punts. He will likely need to start training camp as a WR4/Special Teams returner but we’ve seen that pay off for rookies before (hello Tyler Lockett). With Tennessee already having Kendall Wright, DGB and signing Rishard Matthews in free agency it would not be an ideal situation for him to ascent to the top of the depth chart but I am a believer that talent usually trumps situation. His time would come.

Tajae Sharpe, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 15         Proj: Undrafted

Tajae Sharpe, WR, UMASS

Tajae Sharpe, WR, UMASS

It’s hard to get excited about picking a guy that is likely a late day three or undrafted prospect. However, once you get past this fact you can see the kind of athlete that Sharpe is. His hand size (8 ⅜ inch) has left many to think that he will have a hard time holding onto the ball at the next level. If you watch his tape though you will see he must be sweating “Stick-Um” because he just doesn’t drop the ball, EVER! For those who follow RotoViz you will also know that he is one of their lovable sleepers in terms of his metric’s scores.

Jonathan Williams, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 16         Proj: R4 Pick 134, Baltimore Ravens

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Another powerful runner, I like Williams here more than fellow RB Devontae Parker by the slimmest of margins. With the expectation that Justin Forsett is in his last year with the team and Javorius “Buck” Allen is a good but not great RB I believe there would be a clearer path to the starting role. While OC Marc Tresman may favor backs that can catch passes Williams would fit the tough, grind it out running style of the AFC North.

Devontae Booker, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 17         Proj: R2 Pick 63, Denver Broncos

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Age has been a big knock on Booker (23) at a position that seems to expire faster than fruit on the counter. But with age comes wisdom and Booker has shown he has the vision and patience to be a successful back in the NFL. To land in Denver would be a question mark with the resigning of both Anderson and Hillman but stranger things have happened. If he landed with a team that had a more direct route to being the starting RB, I could see Booker moving closer to the top of the second or even back of first rounds.

Mike Thomas, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 18         Proj: R7 Pick 233, Philadelphia Eagles

Mike Thomas, WR, SMU

Mike Thomas, WR, SMU

With another Mike Thomas in the draft, there is sure to be some confusion come draft time as to which is being selected. I really like this Mike Thomas as an under the radar player that could compete for a WR2 or WR3 spot despite being a day three selection. Going to the Eagles would dump a cold bucket of water on his upside as the Eagles already have a large collection of WRs and new head coach Doug Pederson comes from KC where other than Maclin, usable fantasy WRs were scarce.

Braxton Miller, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 19         Proj: R3 Pick 70, Baltimore Ravens

Braxton Miller, WR, OSU

Braxton Miller, WR, OSU

The converted QB showed flashes with his one year at WR in 2015. It will be interesting to see which team can mold his raw athletic skills at WR. Because of this he might be limited in his role his rookie season. With Baltimore having Steve Smith coming back for one more year and Perriman healthy and ready to go this season this could be a perfect situation for Miller to learn the position before stepping into a starting role in 2017.

Jordan Howard, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 20         Proj: R4 Pick 120, Washington Redskins

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

Call me a skeptic but I’m not sold on Matt Jones as a starting RB in the NFL. His fumble issues should open the door for another back to come in and share the load in 2016. Enter Howard, who follows the theme of this round by being another big (6’0” 230lbs) runner that can push through the middle. Ironically this is the same style of runner that they let walk this offseason, Alfred Morris.

Rashad Higgins, WR

Mock: R2 Pick 21         Proj: R5 Pick149, New York Giants

Rashad Higgins, WR, Colorado St.

Rashad Higgins, WR, Colorado St.

An easy way to hide your flaws is to be part of a great system. Getting to play next to one of the elite young WRs in Odell Beckham Jr. would definitely take some of that pressure off. While he under performed at the combine, there’s no doubt watching Higgins that he can be a great complimentary WR in a pass first offense. With strong hands, he knows how to trap the ball in his 9 ¾ inch mitts.

Tyler Ervin, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 22         Proj: R3 Pick 90, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose St.

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose St.

My same logic applies here that it did with Matt Jones and Washington. While I believe Thomas Rawls is a better and more rounded back than Jones, his short resume and the ankle injury that ended his year will always leave a concern with fantasy owners. Whichever team Ervin ends up with he showed that he can explode out of the backfield with a 4.32 40 time and 130” broad jump, which tested in the 89th and 96th percentile respectively.

Jared Goff or Carson Wentz

Mock: R2 Pick 23

Proj: R1 Picks 1&2, Los Angeles Rams/Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz, QB,NDSU

Carson Wentz, QB,NDSU

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

I know this seems like a cop out picking both but at the end of the second round seems like the place for owners to select the first QB in rookie drafts. Depending on who goes to the Rams first will likely dictate the value of these two players also. Neither is likely to be QB1s in their first season, and whichever goes to Philly may sit part or all of their rookie season out. Wentz will offer more running upside but temper your expectations as you should expect more Winston/Luck in terms of rushing attempts than a Newton or Wilson.

Daniel Lasco, RB

Mock: R2 Pick 24         Proj: R3 Pick79, Philadelphia Eagles

Daniel Lasco, RB, Cal

Daniel Lasco, RB, Cal

The last pick of the second round might be a reach for some but for the reasons I wouldn’t like a WR to Philly I would LOVE a RB to fall there. Ryan Matthews is on the training table more than the field and Darren Sproles is well into his 30’s and more of a specialty player at this point. Pederson used the run game heavily in KC and made fantasy relevancy of both Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware last year. Lasco has the same explosiveness that Ervin possesses and would thrive in a similar role as Jamaal Charles was for Pederson’s system.

That’s it for the first two rounds of my pre-draft mock. Other players that missed the cut are Alex Collins to Detroit, Hunter Henry to Chicago and Kenyan Drake to Dallas. It will be exciting to see where the chips actually fall over the weekend. Watch for Dave Sanders and his official rankings once the draft is completed. Look for me @naandrews19 to suggest who you think has the best value in rookie drafts. Happy Drafting!

Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Picks 1-12

Updated: April 28th 2016

The NFL draft is nearing and everyone is getting anxious about which players will end up with which teams. There are always a couple of players that rise, or fall down, fantasy draft boards based on their landing spot over the weekend. As a “what if” scenario I have taken the latest 7 round mock from NFL writer Chad Reuter and created a two round rookie mock draft based on the landing spots laid out in his article. This hypothetical draft will consist of the standard PPR, 1QB league. Let us begin!

Ezekiel Elliot, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 1            Proj: R1 Pick 13, Miami Dolphins

Ezekiel Elliot, RB, OSU

Elliot will likely be the first player off every board this offseason regardless of team need. With the ability to be a three down back that already has arguably the best pass blocking skills in this year’s class it won’t be hard for him to find the field as a rookie. Adding him to Adam Gase’s Dolphin offense would only strengthen his case for going #1.

Laquon Treadwell, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 2            Proj: R1 Pick 23, Minnesota Vikings

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

After Elliot there is a clear tier gap that features 3-4 WRs. The order of their selections in the real draft may also affect their selections in fantasy drafts. While many may be quick to judge the slow 40 time Treadwell posted during his pro day, I am sticking with the player that this time last year was considered the locked in first pick.

Josh Doctson, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 3            Proj: R1 Pick 22, Houston Texans

Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Doctson did nothing to hurt his chances of being the first selected WR off the board this year by showing off at the combine in February. At worst Brock Osweiler offers the same level of quarterback play as Teddy Bridgewater would to Treadwell in Minnesota.  If he landed with Houston however, Doctson’s target numbers would be capped being opposite Hopkins as the WR2, whereas Treadwell would likely step in as Minnesota’s week 1 starter.

Leonte Carroo, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 4            Proj: R2 Pick 61, New England

Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers

Here’s where things get spicy. Many have Carroo projected as mid to late first round selection in rookie mocks. With off field issues being as taboo as they are right now it’s likely that some will drop him down even further. But should he land in New England with a coach who’s known for polishing up troubled players, Carroo could offer the Patriots an outside, sure handed WR that the likes of LaFell, Lloyd, and Dobson never could live up to.

Corey Coleman, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 5            Proj. R2 Pick 34, Dallas Cowboys

Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

The Coleman hype train has been gaining steam since the end of the college season when the Baylor product put up a mind boggling 20TDs! When your comparisons are to that of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., you immediately draw the eyes of readers as well. In Dallas he would likely be the WR2 behind Dez Bryant and play a majority of his snaps out of the slot. In a scheme that values a strong running game and already has a slot receiver in Cole Beasley it would be interesting to see how Coleman would fit in big D’s playbook.

Derrik Henry, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 6            Proj: R1 Pick 30, Carolina Panthers

Derrik Henry, RB, Alabama

Skeptics have pointed to two holes that suggest Henry is one of the most overvalued players in this year’s rookie draft: his size and the school he attended. While some may be able to argue that Alabama has dangled some rotten carrots over the NFL’s head in recent years (*cough* Richardson *cough*), Henry showed at the combine that despite being a freakish 6’3” 247lbs he could still run a respectable 4.54 40 time. Rumors have suggested that he could go anywhere from Seattle at 26 to Dallas at 34 in the second round. Henry would bring a familiar smash mouth running style that has been a staple to these franchises in recent years.

Kenneth Dixon, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 7            Proj: R3 Pick 96, New England Patriots

Kenneth Dixon, RB, LA Tech

While Belitricks has left a bad taste with fantasy owners in the last half decade, Dixon would present a nice ying to Dion Lewis’ yang. His ability to both hit the hole and go, while also catching passes out of the backfield make him a late day two, early day three option for any team that needs an RB.  After abandoning the running game altogether during the playoffs last year, it seems apparent that the Patriots will address the running game in this year’s draft to better balance their offense in 2016.

Tyler Boyd, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 8            Proj: R3 Pick 65, Cleveland Browns

Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

I like to think of Corey Coleman as the MonStars from Space Jam with Tyler Boyd playing the role of Charles Barkley and friends. When the offseason started Boyd was being talked about with Treadwell in the WR1 conversation. Since his poor showing at the combine however, his upside has been zapped out of him by the likes of combine stars Coleman and Doctson. This has resulted in him falling out of the first round in several rookie mocks recently. While being mocked to the Browns wouldn’t add any incentive to reaching for Boyd in drafts, it wouldn’t be the first time that a star player who under performed at the combine turned out to be a draft day steal.

C.J. Prosise, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 9            Proj: R3 Pick 72, Chicago Bears

C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

For converting from a WR to RB, Prosise had a pretty spectacular year. While it will be interesting to see how his skill set translates to the NFL level his value will ultimately come down to which team he falls to. If he can play the Danny Woodhead role on a pass oriented offense he could easily see 50 to 60 catches out of the backfield.

Michael Thomas OSU, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 10         Proj: R1 Pick 28, Kansas City Chiefs

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas, WR, OSU

It would fit perfectly that Michael Thomas, who is criticized for being simply a piece of a great Ohio State team would be lining up opposite to Jeremy Maclin who was one of 2015’s most underappreciated WRs. While Thomas didn’t have the typical offensive market share that many fantasy analysts look for in a top-tier pick, it would have been hard to fault him when your team’s first, second and third options are hand the ball off to Ezekiel Elliot. You just can’t know exactly what his ceiling will be and therefore he offers those at the end of the first round a serious risk-reward option.

Sterling Shepard, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 11         Proj: R2 Pick 49, Buffalo Bills

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

Fantasy enthusiasts have a serious love-hate relationship with Shepard. His 5’10” 197lbs frame makes him an ideal candidate for becoming a slot receiver in the NFL. The problem is that there haven’t been many elite slot WR seasons since Wes Welker in 2013. That was on the most productive passing offense in NFL history and he still finished third on his team! Shepard may become another PPR targets hog, but we will need to see how he can separate with agility and strong route running before he can be compared to a Cobb, Landry or Edelman in terms of superstars in the slot.

Will Fuller, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 12         Proj: R1 Pick 24, Cincinnati Bengals

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Unlike Shepard, Fuller can and will take the top off a defense with his blazing 4.32 in the 40 time. Still, his small frame (6’0” 186lbs) will make it hard for him to break the stigma of being just another speed dependent DeSean Jackson receiver type. Going to a team like Cincinnati would definitely keep opposition safeties and corners honest by having to additionally cover the likes of Green and Eifert on any given play. Much of Fuller’s value will be determined by the receiving core around him.

That’s the first 12 picks for my pre-draft RSO rookie mock. Look for part two that will include picks 13 through 24 before Thursday’s NFL Draft.

2016 NFL Mock Draft

Updated: April 27th 2016

Is there any singular event in sports that excites fan bases of all teams as much as the NFL Draft? It’s inclusive of all teams unlike post-season tournaments or playoffs. Fans of losing teams are provided with hope that they’ll land players that will change the direction of their franchise. Fans of successful teams that came up just short have an opportunity to add that missing piece.  Even the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos can build on a championship team and replace several players lost in free agency.

Mock drafts encapsulate this energy and manufacture even more buzz for the last weekend in April. When a new mock is posted, fans quickly scroll through to see who their team is projected to take and often immediately react by loving or hating the pick.

At Reality Sports Online, we’re anxiously awaiting the NFL Draft ourselves and have put together a mock of the first round!

#1 Los Angeles Rams – QB Jared Goff (California)

After moving up from pick #15, the Rams land Jared Goff who they hope will be their franchise quarterback.  HBO’s Hard Knocks, featuring the Los Angeles Rams, just got a bit more interesting.

#2 Philadelphia Eagles – QB Carson Wentz (North Dakota State)

Similar to the Rams, the Eagles set their sights on landing a potential franchise quarterback and moved up to grab Carson Wentz.  The transition from FCS to the NFL will be made easier by the pro-style scheme Wentz executed for the Bison.

#3 San Diego Chargers – CB Jalen Ramsey (Florida State)

Sitting comfortably at pick #3, the Chargers have their choice among the non-QBs and will select a CB to pair with Pro Bowler Jason Varrett.

#4 Dallas Cowboys – RB Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State)

This selection may cause the most buzz around the dynasty football community.  After helping revive Darren McFadden’s career, the sky’s the limit for Elliott behind the Dallas offensive line.

#5 Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Joey Bosa is an excellent fit for Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme and should provide nice production alongside free agent signing Malik Jackson.

#6 Baltimore Ravens – OT Laremy Tunsil (Mississippi)

Prior to the Titans and Rams trade, Tunsil was widely expected to be the #1 pick in the draft.  

#7 San Francisco 49ers – OT Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)

The 49ers have plenty of needs and take the best player available in tackle Ronnie Stanley.

#8 Cleveland Browns – DE DeForest Buckner (Oregon)

Buckner, the best player available with this pick, is a perfect fit for the Browns’ 3-4 defense.

#9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB William Jackson III (Houston)

Even after signing Brent Grimes, Jackson’s playmaking abilities can fit nicely in Tampa Bay’s secondary.

#10 New York Giants – WR Corey Coleman (Baylor)

Corey Coleman’s ability to create plays after the catch is the perfect complement to Odell Beckham in the Giants’ West Coast offense.

#11 Chicago Bears – OLB Leonard Floyd (Georgia)

Floyd is quickly rising up draft boards as a high-upside edge rusher.

#12 New Orleans Saints – DT Sheldon Rankins (Louisville)

The Saints have to prioritize defense in this year’s draft and Rankins should help bolster their front four.

#13 Miami Dolphins – CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida)

Miami would love to land Zeke Elliott at pick #13, but I don’t see that happening. Weak at CB, Hargreaves III is the best available.

#14 Oakland Raiders – ILB Reggie Ragland (Alabama)

By selecting one of the biggest hitters in this draft, Oakland keeps building on their improving defense.

#15 Tennessee Titans – OT Jack Conklin (Michigan State)

Desperate to land a tackle in this draft, Tennessee will possibly explore a trade to make sure they land Tunsil, Stanley, or Conklin.

#16 Detroit Lions – DT Chris Jones (Mississippi State)

The Lions fill a hole and find a defensive tackle to pair with pass rusher Ziggy Ansah.

#17 Atlanta Falcons – DE Shaq Lawson (Clemson)

Atlanta can never have too many pass rushers for Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme.

#18 Indianapolis Colts – OT Taylor Decker (Ohio State)

Taylor Decker will help solidify the right side of the Colts’ offensive line to protect franchise QB Andrew Luck.

#19 Buffalo Bills – OLB Daron Lee (Ohio State)

I could see the Bills going in a variety of directions with this pick, but ultimately I see them drafting the speedy linebacker out of Ohio State.

#20 New York Jets – CB Mackensie Alexander (Clemson)

The Jets land possibly the best man coverage corner in the draft to pair with Darrelle Revis.

#21 Washington Redskins – DT Jarran Reed (Alabama)

Reed is a natural fit with Washington, needing help on their defensive line.

#22 Houston Texans – WR Josh Doctson (TCU)

Last season, Houston struggled to find a productive #2 WR opposite DeAndre Hopkins. By selecting Doctson, the Texans have a formidable duo for newly acquired QB Brock Osweiler.

#23 Minnesota Vikings – WR Laquon Treadwell (Mississippi)

Treadwell’s stock has fallen greatly over the past few months, but the Vikings land a quality possession receiver to help developing QB Teddy Bridgewater.

#24 Cincinnati Bengals – WR Michael Thomas (Ohio State)

Thomas can help fill the void left by departed free agents Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

#25 Pittsburgh Steelers – S Karl Joseph (West Virginia)

A big hitter with improving ball skills, Joseph rates as the premiere safety in the draft even while recovering from a torn ACL.

#26 Seattle Seahawks – C Ryan Kelly (Alabama)

The Seahawks need to improve what was arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL last season. Kelly, the best center in the draft, is a nice addition.

#27 Green Bay Packers – DT Andrew Billings (Baylor)

If Billings is available, I have no doubt that the Packers will select him to replace the departed BJ Raji.

#28 Kansas City Chiefs – CB Eli Apple (Ohio State)

The Chiefs fill a pressing need at CB with this pick by grabbing the rising Eli Apple.

#29 Arizona Cardinals – OLB Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State)

Arizona lands one of the best pass rushers in the draft, even after trading for Chandler Jones earlier this off-season.

#30 Carolina Panthers – DE Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

Carolina believes in building around their front seven. With many of the top CB prospects gone, I expect them to grab another disruptive player for that defensive line.

#31 Denver Broncos – TE Henry Hunter (Arkansas)

Denver was so desperate to find a TE for Kubiak’s scheme that they traded for Vernon Davis last season. Hunter Henry immediately becomes the best TE on the roster and will help whoever ends up as Denver’s starting QB.

Thanks for reading!  We’d love to hear your thoughts – reply in the comments section or tweet me @DaveSanders_RSO!


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. 

Dollars and Sense: Rookie QB Value

Updated: April 18th 2016

I believe that rookie QBs are an undervalued commodity on Reality Sports Online.  However, I am a man on an island because most of my colleagues disagree.  In Dave Sanders’ piece titled “Maximizing Quarterback Value”, he suggests skipping rookie quarterbacks completely.  In Bernard Faller’s piece titled “Value Town: QBs”, he suggests that since the difference between QB2 and QB16 was just 4 ppg that owners could plug-n-play at the position which could lead to you avoid drafting the top rookie QBs.  I disagree with my colleagues on this, in fact I have been a big proponent in my first two articles of reaching for a quarterback in the early second round of your RSO rookie draft.  Ultimately, our differences of opinion come down to one thing: position scarcity.  

The first thing we need to keep in mind about RSO is it’s unique contract driven dynasty format.  Since there are salary cap ramifications for every add/drop, it’s not quite as simple as other formats to rely on the waiver wire to fill your quarterback position.  Furthermore, because of the rookie draft that kicks off each season, younger quarterbacks are more highly owned than in other formats which further complicates the plug-n-play strategy.  Lastly, because RSO owners are more likely to hoard their quarterbacks, it’s important to keep this in mind when looking at metrics such as VBD and others that compare the “replacement level” of a position.

In Bernard’s piece he presents Tyrod Taylor as a good value, which I agree with, but the problem is that in most RSO leagues Taylor was not available once he was a viable fantasy starter and you needed him.  Sure, you could have grabbed him after the Bills’ announcement since he was only owned in about 20% of leagues originally, but if you doubted him and waited to grab Taylor mid-season as a bye week or injury fill-in he was likely already gone.  Ultimately, Taylor finished as QB17 based on the average number of points scored across all RSO leagues and was 81% owned. For comparison, Taylor was only 56% owned on Yahoo and 35% on NFL.com at the end of the season.  On those sites/formats, relying on Taylor to give you some good plug-n-play value at quarterback was a viable strategy, even late into the season, but I don’t believe it could have been on RSO.

Blake Bortles was also a good value but I think the reality of the ownership percentage paints a bleak picture for those who use Dave’s strategy of skipping quarterbacks in RSO rookie drafts.  Before the start of the 2015 season, Bortles was approximately 17% owned on RSO, presumably most of those being owners who drafted Bortles in their 2014 rookie draft.  Compare that to the data compiled by NFL.com leagues in which Bortles was just 2.8% owned in Week 1 of 2015.  By the Jags Week 8 bye, Bortles was up to 40% on NFL.com and by the end of the season he was up to 71.6%; comparatively he skyrocketed to 90.74% in RSO leagues by the end of the season (mid-season ownership percentages are tough to pinpoint on RSO but I would estimate that by Week 8 it would be at least 70%).  To quote Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly.”  The owners who had the foresight to draft Bortles in 2014 are paying him rookie money for QB1 production and that’s worth the gamble of drafting a rookie QB rather than battling on the waiver wire once they “pop.”

The next veteran QB we’ll look at to illustrate my rookie QB feelings is the guy everybody loves to hate: Andy Dalton.  Coincidentally, Dalton finished 2015 as QB16 in both average points and ownership on RSO.  In “Value Town: QBs,” Bernard points out that the difference between QB16 and QB2 was just 4 points per game to illustrate his replacement-level strategy.  Based on my research, I think RSO owners need to dig deeper to find the true replacement level at QB.  For most redraft and keeper leagues, I agree with Bernard that QB16 would be the right place to look but for RSO, I would posit you need to go down to at least QB20, if not further, to realistically expect a player to be available.  Before the 2015 season, Andy Dalton was available in just 25% of RSO leagues (17th most owned QB) and that fell to just 8% by the end of the season.  In order to find somebody who was available in at least 40% of leagues at the start of the season, you would have to look to Sam Bradford, Colin Kaepernick or Teddy Bridgewater (the 20th-22nd most owned respectively).  If you were banking on picking up QB16 as a bye week fill-in during your RSO season you were probably out of luck.

As a counterpoint I looked at Ryan Fitzpatrick, the true embodiment of replacement level QBs.  He was just 19% owned before the season began and ultimately finished as QB11 in average scoring so I would admit that he was the rare case of a viable fantasy starter being widely available on RSO.  The interesting thing though lies in Fitzpatrick’s RSO contracts.  A measly 1% of RSO owners have Fitzpatrick locked up for another year.  So while you can find somebody like Fitzpatrick to help you through a few games this season, you can bet that somebody in your league will overpay for him in the subsequent free agent auction.  Instead, you could be content to have a young, potential stud like Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota under contract for rookie money for another 2-3 years.

In summary, I believe these numbers perfectly illustrate the different dynamic of an RSO league and why you need to value young QBs more highly.  You may think that that a value quarterback will be available for you mid-season but chances are they’re already owned by the time you get to the waiver wire.  The best way for you to ensure that you own that QB before they “pop” is to grab them in your rookie draft.  If you get lucky, and I do admit that this is a crapshoot, you could find yourself paying little salary for much production.  After all, the beauty of RSO is it’s similarity to the real NFL, so why would the value of rookie QBs be any different?  Remember what happened when Russell Wilson’s cap-friendly rookie contract allowed the Seahawks to spend their money elsewhere?  Championship.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.