Preseason Predictions Revisited

Updated: May 28th 2017

During training camp five of the RSO writers took on the challenge of looking ahead to the 2016 season and planted our flags on who we expected to take home end of season awards. We also made one BOLD prediction on something happening this season that others were skeptical about. With the fantasy season now behind us let’s revisit these predictions and see how we did.

Comeback Fantasy Player of the Year

Goodwin: Victor Cruz – Cruz was on a role the first month of the season scoring double-digit fantasy points in his first four games. Unfortunately, the fairy tale ends there as he only reached those numbers twice in the final eleven games. All the while rookie Sterling Shepard began to find traction and looks like him and Odell Beckham Jr. could be forming a nice 1-2 combination for Big Blue in 2017. We may have seen the last of the salsa dance.

Luke: Tony Romo – Poor Tony. The butt end of every football joke couldn’t even make it to regular season healthy. An injury to his back in the third preseason game led to a rookie QB from Mississippi State named Dak Prescott having to start the first half of the season. He, along with fellow rookie of the year candidate Ezekiel Elliot, revitalized the Cowboys and now is the new face of what Dallas fans hope will be a Super Bowl Champion. As for Romo barring an injury to Prescott in the playoffs, 2016 will be his final season in Big D.

Bernard: Eddie Lacy – The Packers took a little while to get the steam train rolling but after a guaranteed turnaround from front man Aaron Rodgers they are one win away from being the NFC North Champs. But while everyone else in green and gold is having a comeback season Lacy remains the same as 2015 Eddie Lacy. He started off the year slow, with only one double-digit performance before injuring his ankle in week 6. In his contract year and having two stinker years on his resume it’s likely a change would be good for both the Packers and Lacy.

Jordy NelsonDave: Jordy Nelson – People wondered if Nelson was the glue that held the Packers together and sure enough they were right. He had over 15 points in 12 of his 15 games and averaged 26 points in the playoffs. He is the PPR WR2 and looks to be back to full health. Anyone who was able to grab him or Rodgers for a discount was mighty pleased with Nelson’s return.

Nick: Dez Bryant – As expected there were a lot more “Xs” being thrown up in Dallas this season but it might not have as much as what Bryant owners were expecting. Bryant missed games due to injury from weeks 4 through 7 which might have put owners in a big hole going into the second half of the season. He was able to manage over 15 points/game in his 12 games played but anyone who made the playoffs with him was likely bounced early with a 2 point stinker against the Giants in week 14.

Overvalued Player of the Year

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls – Coming into the season everyone was giving their two cents on which 2015 breakout running backs were good and which were a mirage. Turns out that Goody got this one right as Rawls couldn’t shake the injury bug that ended his 2015 season and missed a significant amount of time in 2016 due to various other injuries. His lone 2 touchdown game against Carolina in week 13 was the only week he eclipsed more than 12 fantasy points but that was likely too little too late for owners. It will be interesting to see whether C.J. Prosise has passed Rawls on the depth chart when training camp opens in 2017 and what sort of role Rawls will have moving forward.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo BillsLuke: Le’veon Bell – Those who stuck with Bell through both the suspension and the injury concerns were likely treated to a fantasy championship this season based on his performance and consistency. Once returning from his three-game ban Bell scored 18+ points in 12 of 13 games including a 50 burger in week 14. There is still concern over the long term contract situation in Pittsburgh but owning Bell in 2016 was like printing money.

Bernard: Donte Moncrief – Touchdowns are a hard thing to predict year over year but Moncrief was one of the most consistent players in 2016. He scoring one touchdown in 7 of his 8 games played and average 12.8 points/game played. The emphasis though is “games played” as he missed 7 games throughout the season. Meanwhile, T.Y. Hilton played in all 15 games for the Colts, averaged 17.2 points/game and had four games where he scored over 26 points. If he can stay healthy Moncrief could be a sneaky buy-low for 2017.

Dave: Jordan Matthews – Depending on your expectations of Matthews he was either an incredible asset to have or the bane of your fantasy lineups. Those who saw Matthews as their high-upside WR2 with WR1 potential would have been disappointed with his inconsistent production. But using him as a Flex or WR3 was a nice safe blanket to have averaging 12.2 points/game. Where he likely hurt you though was the last two weeks where he only offered 11.9 points total for weeks 15 & 16. Still, in leagues with more than two starting wide receivers or large flex options Matthews was a low-cost option to fill out an open slot.

Nick: David Johnson – This is simply egg all over my face. Not only did David Johnson not bust the way I had predicted he became the most consistent player for 2016 while also becoming the first player since L.T. to go over 400 fantasy points in a season. Johnson never scored less than 16 PPR points in any game and had 10 games with over 25 points. Both he and Ezekiel Elliot will be considered 1 and 1A in terms of dynasty rankings heading into 2017.

2016 BOLD Predictions

Goodwin: Charles Sims will outscore Doug MartinDavid Johnson

Sadly, both Martin and Sims were a huge disappoint despite the Bucs taking steps forward this season to being playoff ready. Both had injuries reduce their playing time to the point that Jacquizz Rodgers was the Bucs leading rusher with only 485 yards. For this prediction though Sims (69.9) failed to outscore Martin (87.5).

Luke: David Johnson will be the RB1

Luke clearly saw something that I did not and accurately predicted Johnson to be the RB1 for 2016. Johnson did one better by being the highest scoring fantasy player with 406 points.

Bernard: Ryan Mathews will be a top 10 RB

Mathews was plagued with injuries and inconsistency throughout 2016. His first month offered a promising return for those who took a chance on him in free agency however Darren Sproles ended up being the highest scoring running back in Philly. Mathews failed to be even an RB2 for the season.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will NOT be a top 10 RB

Whether Dave was expecting Peterson to succumb to a season-long injury or not he nailed Peterson failing to make the top 10 running backs. It was another tough year for Peterson owners who were trying to milk one more good season before the end of a stellar career. While he is not going to be retiring this season his days in Minnesota are likely over due to salary and performance not lining up. This was also probably Peterson’s last chance to be an every-down back in the NFL.

Nick: Giovanni Bernard will have the most receptions and scrimmage yards for an RB

This was looking to be a good prediction before his injury midway through the season. No, he wasn’t going to be leapfrogging David Johnson in what is a stellar year for him but Gio was doing well catching almost 40 passes out of the backfield and adding another 330 yards in the air. He received a four-year contract extension before training camp which should prevent him from rushing his rehab and risking further injury. If he can return in a similar capacity to Jordy Nelson this year, Gio could be an excellent buy-low candidate during drafts.

Reviewing 2/2/1 RB Draft Strategy

Updated: September 7th 2016

Last week I took a look at the 2-2-1 RB strategy and offered some hypothetical picks for maximum value in the RSO format.  How did the strategy work in reality?  Here’s a rundown of how I used the strategy in three leagues.

RSO Home League – Year 2 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex

I went into our free agent auction with Jonathan Stewart, David Johnson and Le’veon Bell on my roster.  So, that meant my 2-2-1 strategy would need to be modified to account for the fact that I already had studs in Johnson and Bell.  Rather than look for value, I decided I needed to ensure I was able to handcuff Stewart and Bell because they have clear handcuffs, while Johnson could lose touches to both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington.  I did manage to get both Cameron Artis-Payne (1 year, $1.5 mil, due to some price enforcing) and DeAngelo Williams (2 years, $7 mil total).  So, in 2016 I’m spending about $5.0 mil to lock down the Steelers and Cardinals backfields – not bad at all considering they were both Top 5 scoring offenses last year.

RSO Experts League – Year 1 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex

I stuck to some of my original picks in this start up auction and grabbed JStew, CAP, Isaiah Crowell and Ka’Deem Carey.  I also added the tandem of Doug Martin and Charles Sims.  Unfortunately, I missed out on Duke because he went for more than I had budgeted (signed for 1 year, $8.0 mil) but then I spent more on Stewart and Martin than I really wanted to.  Our auction went a little screwy with RB value and was all over the place.  In hindsight, Duke only ended up being the 21st most expensive RB for 2016 but at the time it seemed like a lot.  At the end of the day, starting RBs like Frank Gore, Thomas Rawls, CJ Anderson and Matt Jones all went for between $3.5-6.0 mil.  Faults and all those are real bargains because I will be paying Stewart and Martin about $24 mil combined in 2016.  I probably should have abandoned the strategy mid-auction once I realized the value wasn’t there for me but I ended up sticking with it and the depth of my roster is weaker because of it.

Yahoo Home League – Year 9 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex, Keep 3

Despite this being a keeper league, I went in with a clean RB slate as I didn’t keep any.  I missed out on the Carolina RBs (being a snake draft I did not have the flexibility I had in the auctions) but did manage to land both Cleveland RBs.  I paired them with the duo of Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi.  I also got two PPR RB steals in Theo Riddick and Giovani Bernard who will end up starting for me at RB2 and Flex until I see how the Miami backfield shakes out.  Between keepers and my first picks, I started with Rob Gronkowski, Allen Robinson, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Russell Wilson and Blake Bortles.  Some draft pick trades meant I did not pick in Rounds 3 through 5 but from Round 6 on, I was concentrating on using my RB strategy to build a solid roster and I think it worked.

 

So, after putting the strategy into practice, what is the final verdict?  I actually really like it.  I was never one for handcuffing, but the knowledge that you have a team’s backfield locked up is comforting – less worry about injuries.  To double down on the idea and handcuff both your RB1 and RB2 just adds to the roster stability.  As long as you keep to teams with a clear handcuff, I think this strategy can work, especially if you’re able to nail the “1” part of the 2-2-1.


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.

Value and Style

Updated: August 7th 2016

I invited one of the best people I have ever met to a formal dance in high school.   I did this based on potential, and comfort.  If this was a fantasy pick we are talking a low-cost proposition in terms of social capital.  No boom or bust, I was her friend, and she knew we would remain so for a long time.   What she could not have known, nor could I, was how much better a high school dance was when enjoyed among friends, rather than spent in a desperate reach for whatever it is that socially awkward high school boys think they are reaching.   The dance of course is a monetary proposition.  Tux, dinner, limo.   My friends lacked money, but not ingenuity.   We decided to roll in our own unique style to spend money on something besides our wheels.   While many of our classmates took to the phones to order all manner of limos: stretch limos, Hummer limos, etc.  We took to the local grocer to get cardboard boxes and paint.   Hours later we had “pimped my ride” and my parents’ rusted Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon  took on the character, or at least caricature, of a limousine with a duct tape and cardboard body work semi-intact.  Our dates emerged in their formal dresses to their “players” in our ill-fitting, garish tuxedos and rolling Station Wagonosine.  Before the dance started we were hardly the most sought out dates, but when we tossed the keys to that beast to the Valet, we had truly arrived.  Limousine style at station wagon prices.

In the first article in the series we looked at the last tier of the top 100 players being selected in dynasty snake drafts through June.   With this sense of the best 100 players from the larger dynasty community, these articles will continue to offer you specific insight into how the players are valued in the RSO community so you can target great contracts in your offseason housekeeping.   The bottom of the 100 offered value to be found the WR position, but potential breakouts at TE provided the best trade targets.  This group of ten is headlined by a young QB being drafted 8th overall at the position, but the primary lesson to be learned is in a game of king of the Hill.  Just as we came to understand that holding out for late value in tight ends may be the way to go after the premier players come off the board, this tier reinforces and highlights a noteworthy aspect of RSO:  don’t overpay for running backs.

Jeremy Hill is almost universally owned across RSO leagues.   This ownership does not come cheap.  To secure the services of the young Bengal owners dropped contracts averaging 2.8 years and 52.29 million dollars.  He lead the league in rushing touchdowns in both 2014 and 2015 with 11 each year. By all means he is a qualified NFL success. Yet, his is a cautionary tale for GMs falling in love with the breakout of first year backs like David Johnson and Thomas Rawls.  Most owners view the return on their massive investment as dubious, because the Bengals have invested heavily in Gio Bernard in the offseason, and in RSO leagues Gio checked in last year at a purchase price of 8.19 million over an average contract length of 1.7 years.   This comparison allows you to evaluate what you are likely to pay at auction for the other backs in this tier: Duke Johnson, Ajayi, and Abdullah.

The young Duke offers the best comparison, slated to play the Gio role in Hue Jackson’s Cleveland odyssey is far less widely owned than either Bengal.   He is valued only fractionally differently by the broader dynasty community, and RSO GMs have him contracted for a nearly identical span (2.4 years) however, the young Brown Duke bears a price tag south of 5 million dollars, likely reflecting the low rookie draft capital and depressed contracts he commanded coming out of college.   Most owners are not selling at that price.  However, Duke and his truly sorry running mate, Isaiah Crowell are available at auction in a high percentage of RSO leagues.   Here is where you can make an informed investment.  Last year in the same time frame Joseph Randle slotted  at the 81st player taken in June ADP.  Randle’s cost in RSO: an average of 14.3 Million dollars over 1.8 years.    That contract is about 7.9 million per year.   If Duke, Ajayi, and Abdullah have lower price tags than that, the obvious play is to move on them while they still face relative ambiguity in their backfields.   However, the surprising find in this analysis is that Isaiah Crowell may actually be the cardboard-bedazzled RB to own.   He will be virtually free, and after seeing his possible range of comparables from Hill to Gio to Duke to Abullah, compare those names to the non-RBs in this tier.  Wouldn’t you rather spend that precious cap money on something besides the dubious wheels of Cincinatti, Cleveland, and Detroit?

(all Data courtesy of My Fantasy League. Trade calculator values are derived from current average draft position and historical trade market via the Rotoviz Dynasty ADP App):

81 Hill, Jeremy CIN RB 26 81.1
82 Johnson, Duke CLE RB 27 81.6
83 Crabtree, Michael OAK WR 43 82.4
84 Bernard, Giovani CIN RB 28 83.7
85 Ertz, Zach PHI TE 6 84.7
86 Boyd, Tyler CIN WR 44 84.8
87 Ajayi, Jay MIA RB 29 85.6
88 Abdullah, Ameer DET RB 30 86.2
89 Funchess, Devin CAR WR 45 91.1
90 Roethlisberger, Ben PIT QB 8 89.7

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.

2016 Writers’ Bold Predictions

Updated: July 22nd 2016

Training camp is just days away! Only a short few weeks till the Hall of Fame Game which means that it’s time to start making some projections. The writers here at RSO have passed around five (5) topics about what we are keeping an eye out for in 2016. The list includes players to stash, players to be wary of as well as one bold prediction for fantasy this season.  Let it begin!

Interesting team/position group to watch for in fantasy

Matt Goodwin: I like the Cleveland Browns receivers to be better than advertised. Let’s not underestimate head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns will likely be trailing in most games and the team invested high draft capital in Corey Coleman, who I peg to eclipse 1,000 yards and 80 catches and 6 touchdowns this season. Andrew Hawkins is healthy and while the team will throw to running back weapon Duke Johnson and tight end Gary Barnidge plenty (don’t expect a steep drop-off in targets for Barnidge), this offense will be considerably better than people think. If Josh Gordon manages to come back too (the Browns brass seem like they’ve moved on and would likely trade their maligned star wideout), this offense could be somewhat dare I say, dynamic.

Coaching Changes

A change in Philly could be good for two cities

Luke O’Connell: The most fascinating fantasy position group has to be the San Francisco 49ers and their ragtag band of WRs: Torrey Smith, Deandre Smelter, Bruce Ellington.  Owners salivate over the projected negative game scripts for the 49ers and the sheer volume that Kelly might generate. Monopolizing these players at the beginning of the year and dropping the losers of the fantasy gold rush seems a viable strategy for owners.

Bernard Faller: Perhaps no team completely remade their offense as much as Houston did in the offseason.  The Texans instantly transformed from one of the slowest offensive skill position groups to one of the fastest.  Hopkins and Miller have top-5 potential plus Oz could be a sneaky play in 2QB and Superflex leagues with all the new weapons around him.

Dave Sanders: 49ers’ passing game under Chip Kelly is intriguing. As one of the slowest paced teams in 2015, they’ll see a drastic increase in snaps per game. For the 2016 season, I’m buying Torrey Smith as a low-end WR3 and whichever QB lands the job as a QB2.

Nick Andrews: Maybe it’s because I have actually conversed with Doug Pederson in the past (who is hilarious by the way) but I want to see what he can do running the show in Philadelphia. Being very different from former Eagles coach Chip Kelly I want to see what he can get out of his skilled positions, specifically Ryan Matthews, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. We know what he could do with the Chiefs last year making Maclin a seriously underrated WR1 each week and turning any RB into a fantasy commodity. Assuming either Wentz or Bradford can be an average, stable QB (à la Alex Smith) we could see a better-motivated offense coming out of PA.

Rebound/Comeback Player of the Year

Goodwin: Obviously Jordy Nelson brings the vertical threat back to the Packers and should once again thrive in Green Bay. Seems too obvious. Going out of the limb for me would be Victor Cruz. I rightfully get the Sterling Shepard hype, but with Cruz slated to be the Giants #3 receiver, I think his price is so low that he represents significant value and upside, especially if injuries occur. Cruz has always been a solid route runner and if the calf if really healthy, can easily exploit weaker defensive backs in the slot.

Dez and Romo

Big things cooking in Big D this year?

Luke: The last ride of Tony Romo is one in which fantasy owners should be interested.  He has a stacked line, an explosive rookie RB as a pressure valve, and the enigmatic Dez Bryant catching passes.  He could, perhaps even should, be the comeback star.

Bernard: You could put any Packer here but I will go with Eddie Lacy.  The consensus “safest” RB last season struggled with poor offensive line play, injuries, and poor play due to weight issues.  Lacy ended 2015 as the RB47 in PPR PPG.  Look for a contract year Lacy to be in prime condition and improve greatly, along with the rest of the Green Bay offense, with the return of Jordy Nelson.

Dave: I’m all in on Jordy Nelson this year.  He’s my WR7 this year in PPR leagues after having a full calendar year to recover from his torn ACL.

Nick: There will be a lot more “X” being thrown up in the end zone in 2016. Dez Bryant said he is good to go this season after missing half of last season with a foot injury and missing his QB for the other half. Before last season Bryant had three straight seasons with 1,200+ yards receiving and 12+ touchdowns. The man plays the game with a competitive fire that won’t let him have back-to-back down seasons. Throw that “X” up!

Who do you think the fantasy community’s Overvalued POTY will be?

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls and it isn’t close. The Seahawks secret sauce in the past has been pounding Beast Mode. However, with a different offensive line and receiving weapons, the Seahawks seem better equipped to turn the keys over to Russell Wilson like they did down the stretch in 2015. I feel Rawls resembles a 2014 C.J. Anderson and while I agree that if I’m paying lots of money for running backs, I want them young; however, if I’m buying young I want the pedigree too (high draft capital) or a larger sample size. Rawls has neither of these while the Seahawks invested in C.J. Prosise in the draft and Rawls is coming back from a significant injury. To invest long-term in him with $20+ million a year when the Seahawks can so easily walk away from him seems to be incredibly irresponsible.

Luke: Le’veon Bell rapped “I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest/Ima need 15 a year and they know this,” in his track “Focus.”  Viewed by many as the top RB in fantasy, the risk is starting to outweigh the reward.  Rumors of missing drug tests, a reconstructed knee, and contract negotiations via albums dropped on twitter…Le’Veon Bell will not toll for this GM.

Bernard: This is Donte Moncrief for me.  I spoke to many people who expect Moncrief to take over as the #1 WR in Indianapolis and possibly produce low-end WR1 numbers.  Many people will be disappointed this year.  Moncrief was quietly one of the most inefficient WRs in the NFL last season with or without Luck.  T.Y. Hilton is still the #1 target in Indy and will be for some time.

Dave: Count me out on Jordan Matthews.  According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s currently going 27th among WRs in PPR, but places 47th in my PPR WR rankings for this season.  After OTAs, Matthews is expected to remain a slot WR in Doug Pederson’s offense that will operate at a much slower pace in 2016.

Nick: Running back is one of the trickiest positions to understand as a fantasy player. New names seem to come out of the woodwork each week only to disappear before you can even put in a waiver claim.

Unproven RBs

Two sophomore RBs that may be too good to be true

This year’s hot name is David Johnson who took the NFL by storm with a 3 TD, 200 total yards performance against Philadelphia in the fantasy playoffs. Last I checked though Chris Johnson is coming back for another season and before CJ2K’s injury in week 12 David had seen a total of 27 carries. I’ve been burned one too many times from early round redraft RBs (Zac Stacy, C.J. Anderson) to invest heavily in another.

 

Who do you think could be the Underrated POTY?

Goodwin: Tyrod Taylor. While there seem to be a multitude of options at quarterback this season, Taylor’s versatility with his legs and another year of experience in a contract year will only benefit him. The Bills have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, a now healthy Robert Woods and assuming Sammy Watkins’ health; I expect huge things from this tandem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor finishes as a Top 5 fantasy quarterback this season.

Underrated QBs

A pair of waiver wire QBs that could be a cap saver in 2016

Luke: Alexander the Great, while rolling and conquering much of known world, had time to learn philosophy from Aristotle and drop lines like this one: “As one lion overcomes many people and as one wolf scatters many sheep, so likewise will I, with one word, destroy the peoples who have come against me.” The lion that may prove to overcome many this year is Matthew Stafford.   In traditional redraft leagues His ADP puts him down in 14th round. However, with a ceiling that projects favorably to Big Ben and Drew Brees (5/6th round picks) you can save crucial salary cap money and destroy the league that comes against you.   If analysis based purely on cost isn’t your cup of tea, know that Jim Bob lets Stafford sling it inside the 10 yard line.  Stafford led all passers in the NFL with 21 touchdowns last year and was by far the most efficient, completing 75% of his passes inside the 10 yard line despite being one of the league leaders in attempts.

Bernard: Dwayne Allen is currently coming off the board as a mid-range TE2.  He could finish much higher.  Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson left Indianapolis with 162 targets.  Expect Allen to pick up a big chunk of those targets.  Allen is also a nice target near the goal line on a team without much in the way of red zone threats.  Do not be surprised if Allen hits double digit TDs on a high powered Colts offense.

Dave: I’m higher on Kevin White for this season and in dynasty than much of the fantasy community.  He’s currently going 37th among WRs in PPR leagues this season (30th in my rankings) and 21st among WRs in July dynasty startups according to DLF July ADP. If Jeffery misses time, White could quickly jump into the WR2 conversation.

Nick: If Giovani Bernard isn’t the ideal buy low target in fantasy this season I don’t know who is. The Bengals lost over 150 targets in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu and Tyler Eifert looks like he could miss games to start the season with yet another injury. With only A.J. Green to help Dalton consistently in the passing game I can easily see a scenario where Gio becomes the number two. A schedule that includes the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Broncos along with two divisional games against the Steelers and a better Ravens squad will make for close scoring games.

Your 2016 Fantasy Bold Prediction

Goodwin: I felt like I just gave one with Taylor, but I’ll go something different. Here goes-Charles Sims outscores Doug Martin in fantasy points this season. Sims is already slated for more carries than his 107 totes in 2015 (higher than you’d think given Martin’s season) and is the Bucs receiving back. While Martin got the big money deal, Sims to me is too talented to keep off the field, especially if the game script is in his favor.

Luke: Perhaps it’s just too much “All or Nothing” on Amazon, but my bold prediction is that David Johnson will be the highest scoring RB in all formats this upcoming year.  His starting workload from last season projected over an entire year is a Cardinal virtue for BA’s team.

Ryan Matthews is the new Jamaal Charles

Ryan Matthews is Doug Pederson’s new Jamaal Charles

Bernard: Ryan Mathews finishes as an RB1.  Mathews has been a very productive back throughout his career, averaging 4.5 YPC, despite playing with some bad offensive lines.  Injuries have also been Mathews undoing far too frequently.  The former Charger is by far the most talented lead back on the roster mixing prototypical size, speed, and power.  He is the clear #1 back on an offense that will be run heavy with new head coach Doug Pederson.  Mathews stays mostly healthy on his way to a big year.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will not finish 2016 as a top 10 RB in PPR scoring.  Peterson’s never been a huge part of the passing game and is now finding himself on the sidelines often in 3rd and long situations according to Pro Football Focus.   Entering his age 31 season, I’d rather be out one year too early than one year too late.

Nick: The new NFL features more passing and requires versatile running backs that can both run between the tackles and catch passes down the field. Because of this I boldly predict that Giovani Bernard will lead all running backs in receptions while simultaneously having the most scrimmage yards of any running back in 2016. Management and the coaches clearly saw Bernard being a big part of their offense by extending his contract through 2019. They could have just as easily let him play out the season and see what’s available in free agency as well as the 2017 draft. With the inconsistencies of Jeremy Hill on the ground and the lack of receiving options in the air, Gio should be used in the same role as fellow AFC North running back Le’veon Bell.

2016 Writers' Bold Predictions

Updated: July 22nd 2016

Training camp is just days away! Only a short few weeks till the Hall of Fame Game which means that it’s time to start making some projections. The writers here at RSO have passed around five (5) topics about what we are keeping an eye out for in 2016. The list includes players to stash, players to be wary of as well as one bold prediction for fantasy this season.  Let it begin!

Interesting team/position group to watch for in fantasy

Matt Goodwin: I like the Cleveland Browns receivers to be better than advertised. Let’s not underestimate head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns will likely be trailing in most games and the team invested high draft capital in Corey Coleman, who I peg to eclipse 1,000 yards and 80 catches and 6 touchdowns this season. Andrew Hawkins is healthy and while the team will throw to running back weapon Duke Johnson and tight end Gary Barnidge plenty (don’t expect a steep drop-off in targets for Barnidge), this offense will be considerably better than people think. If Josh Gordon manages to come back too (the Browns brass seem like they’ve moved on and would likely trade their maligned star wideout), this offense could be somewhat dare I say, dynamic.

Coaching Changes

A change in Philly could be good for two cities

Luke O’Connell: The most fascinating fantasy position group has to be the San Francisco 49ers and their ragtag band of WRs: Torrey Smith, Deandre Smelter, Bruce Ellington.  Owners salivate over the projected negative game scripts for the 49ers and the sheer volume that Kelly might generate. Monopolizing these players at the beginning of the year and dropping the losers of the fantasy gold rush seems a viable strategy for owners.

Bernard Faller: Perhaps no team completely remade their offense as much as Houston did in the offseason.  The Texans instantly transformed from one of the slowest offensive skill position groups to one of the fastest.  Hopkins and Miller have top-5 potential plus Oz could be a sneaky play in 2QB and Superflex leagues with all the new weapons around him.

Dave Sanders: 49ers’ passing game under Chip Kelly is intriguing. As one of the slowest paced teams in 2015, they’ll see a drastic increase in snaps per game. For the 2016 season, I’m buying Torrey Smith as a low-end WR3 and whichever QB lands the job as a QB2.

Nick Andrews: Maybe it’s because I have actually conversed with Doug Pederson in the past (who is hilarious by the way) but I want to see what he can do running the show in Philadelphia. Being very different from former Eagles coach Chip Kelly I want to see what he can get out of his skilled positions, specifically Ryan Matthews, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. We know what he could do with the Chiefs last year making Maclin a seriously underrated WR1 each week and turning any RB into a fantasy commodity. Assuming either Wentz or Bradford can be an average, stable QB (à la Alex Smith) we could see a better-motivated offense coming out of PA.

Rebound/Comeback Player of the Year

Goodwin: Obviously Jordy Nelson brings the vertical threat back to the Packers and should once again thrive in Green Bay. Seems too obvious. Going out of the limb for me would be Victor Cruz. I rightfully get the Sterling Shepard hype, but with Cruz slated to be the Giants #3 receiver, I think his price is so low that he represents significant value and upside, especially if injuries occur. Cruz has always been a solid route runner and if the calf if really healthy, can easily exploit weaker defensive backs in the slot.

Dez and Romo

Big things cooking in Big D this year?

Luke: The last ride of Tony Romo is one in which fantasy owners should be interested.  He has a stacked line, an explosive rookie RB as a pressure valve, and the enigmatic Dez Bryant catching passes.  He could, perhaps even should, be the comeback star.

Bernard: You could put any Packer here but I will go with Eddie Lacy.  The consensus “safest” RB last season struggled with poor offensive line play, injuries, and poor play due to weight issues.  Lacy ended 2015 as the RB47 in PPR PPG.  Look for a contract year Lacy to be in prime condition and improve greatly, along with the rest of the Green Bay offense, with the return of Jordy Nelson.

Dave: I’m all in on Jordy Nelson this year.  He’s my WR7 this year in PPR leagues after having a full calendar year to recover from his torn ACL.

Nick: There will be a lot more “X” being thrown up in the end zone in 2016. Dez Bryant said he is good to go this season after missing half of last season with a foot injury and missing his QB for the other half. Before last season Bryant had three straight seasons with 1,200+ yards receiving and 12+ touchdowns. The man plays the game with a competitive fire that won’t let him have back-to-back down seasons. Throw that “X” up!

Who do you think the fantasy community’s Overvalued POTY will be?

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls and it isn’t close. The Seahawks secret sauce in the past has been pounding Beast Mode. However, with a different offensive line and receiving weapons, the Seahawks seem better equipped to turn the keys over to Russell Wilson like they did down the stretch in 2015. I feel Rawls resembles a 2014 C.J. Anderson and while I agree that if I’m paying lots of money for running backs, I want them young; however, if I’m buying young I want the pedigree too (high draft capital) or a larger sample size. Rawls has neither of these while the Seahawks invested in C.J. Prosise in the draft and Rawls is coming back from a significant injury. To invest long-term in him with $20+ million a year when the Seahawks can so easily walk away from him seems to be incredibly irresponsible.

Luke: Le’veon Bell rapped “I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest/Ima need 15 a year and they know this,” in his track “Focus.”  Viewed by many as the top RB in fantasy, the risk is starting to outweigh the reward.  Rumors of missing drug tests, a reconstructed knee, and contract negotiations via albums dropped on twitter…Le’Veon Bell will not toll for this GM.

Bernard: This is Donte Moncrief for me.  I spoke to many people who expect Moncrief to take over as the #1 WR in Indianapolis and possibly produce low-end WR1 numbers.  Many people will be disappointed this year.  Moncrief was quietly one of the most inefficient WRs in the NFL last season with or without Luck.  T.Y. Hilton is still the #1 target in Indy and will be for some time.

Dave: Count me out on Jordan Matthews.  According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s currently going 27th among WRs in PPR, but places 47th in my PPR WR rankings for this season.  After OTAs, Matthews is expected to remain a slot WR in Doug Pederson’s offense that will operate at a much slower pace in 2016.

Nick: Running back is one of the trickiest positions to understand as a fantasy player. New names seem to come out of the woodwork each week only to disappear before you can even put in a waiver claim.

Unproven RBs

Two sophomore RBs that may be too good to be true

This year’s hot name is David Johnson who took the NFL by storm with a 3 TD, 200 total yards performance against Philadelphia in the fantasy playoffs. Last I checked though Chris Johnson is coming back for another season and before CJ2K’s injury in week 12 David had seen a total of 27 carries. I’ve been burned one too many times from early round redraft RBs (Zac Stacy, C.J. Anderson) to invest heavily in another.

 

Who do you think could be the Underrated POTY?

Goodwin: Tyrod Taylor. While there seem to be a multitude of options at quarterback this season, Taylor’s versatility with his legs and another year of experience in a contract year will only benefit him. The Bills have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, a now healthy Robert Woods and assuming Sammy Watkins’ health; I expect huge things from this tandem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor finishes as a Top 5 fantasy quarterback this season.

Underrated QBs

A pair of waiver wire QBs that could be a cap saver in 2016

Luke: Alexander the Great, while rolling and conquering much of known world, had time to learn philosophy from Aristotle and drop lines like this one: “As one lion overcomes many people and as one wolf scatters many sheep, so likewise will I, with one word, destroy the peoples who have come against me.” The lion that may prove to overcome many this year is Matthew Stafford.   In traditional redraft leagues His ADP puts him down in 14th round. However, with a ceiling that projects favorably to Big Ben and Drew Brees (5/6th round picks) you can save crucial salary cap money and destroy the league that comes against you.   If analysis based purely on cost isn’t your cup of tea, know that Jim Bob lets Stafford sling it inside the 10 yard line.  Stafford led all passers in the NFL with 21 touchdowns last year and was by far the most efficient, completing 75% of his passes inside the 10 yard line despite being one of the league leaders in attempts.

Bernard: Dwayne Allen is currently coming off the board as a mid-range TE2.  He could finish much higher.  Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson left Indianapolis with 162 targets.  Expect Allen to pick up a big chunk of those targets.  Allen is also a nice target near the goal line on a team without much in the way of red zone threats.  Do not be surprised if Allen hits double digit TDs on a high powered Colts offense.

Dave: I’m higher on Kevin White for this season and in dynasty than much of the fantasy community.  He’s currently going 37th among WRs in PPR leagues this season (30th in my rankings) and 21st among WRs in July dynasty startups according to DLF July ADP. If Jeffery misses time, White could quickly jump into the WR2 conversation.

Nick: If Giovani Bernard isn’t the ideal buy low target in fantasy this season I don’t know who is. The Bengals lost over 150 targets in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu and Tyler Eifert looks like he could miss games to start the season with yet another injury. With only A.J. Green to help Dalton consistently in the passing game I can easily see a scenario where Gio becomes the number two. A schedule that includes the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Broncos along with two divisional games against the Steelers and a better Ravens squad will make for close scoring games.

Your 2016 Fantasy Bold Prediction

Goodwin: I felt like I just gave one with Taylor, but I’ll go something different. Here goes-Charles Sims outscores Doug Martin in fantasy points this season. Sims is already slated for more carries than his 107 totes in 2015 (higher than you’d think given Martin’s season) and is the Bucs receiving back. While Martin got the big money deal, Sims to me is too talented to keep off the field, especially if the game script is in his favor.

Luke: Perhaps it’s just too much “All or Nothing” on Amazon, but my bold prediction is that David Johnson will be the highest scoring RB in all formats this upcoming year.  His starting workload from last season projected over an entire year is a Cardinal virtue for BA’s team.

Ryan Matthews is the new Jamaal Charles

Ryan Matthews is Doug Pederson’s new Jamaal Charles

Bernard: Ryan Mathews finishes as an RB1.  Mathews has been a very productive back throughout his career, averaging 4.5 YPC, despite playing with some bad offensive lines.  Injuries have also been Mathews undoing far too frequently.  The former Charger is by far the most talented lead back on the roster mixing prototypical size, speed, and power.  He is the clear #1 back on an offense that will be run heavy with new head coach Doug Pederson.  Mathews stays mostly healthy on his way to a big year.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will not finish 2016 as a top 10 RB in PPR scoring.  Peterson’s never been a huge part of the passing game and is now finding himself on the sidelines often in 3rd and long situations according to Pro Football Focus.   Entering his age 31 season, I’d rather be out one year too early than one year too late.

Nick: The new NFL features more passing and requires versatile running backs that can both run between the tackles and catch passes down the field. Because of this I boldly predict that Giovani Bernard will lead all running backs in receptions while simultaneously having the most scrimmage yards of any running back in 2016. Management and the coaches clearly saw Bernard being a big part of their offense by extending his contract through 2019. They could have just as easily let him play out the season and see what’s available in free agency as well as the 2017 draft. With the inconsistencies of Jeremy Hill on the ground and the lack of receiving options in the air, Gio should be used in the same role as fellow AFC North running back Le’veon Bell.

Rookie Pick Craze

Updated: July 8th 2016

Most rookie drafts are now complete and owners are looking forward to the start of training camp in a month’s time. Throughout this process of drafting, I came to ask myself the question of whether rookie picks of all kinds are overvalued. With the hype-train that is the 2017 draft, I have seen many trades on both twitter and in my own leagues that would suggest that every player available is going to be the next Eric Dickerson, Randy Moss, and Tony Gonzalez. Even looking ahead to 2018, owners are reluctant to trade their picks based on the unknown of what the caliber of rookies will be in two years. While that is a fair argument, the last time I checked,  the whole point of playing fantasy football was to win championships, not assemble “the best” forward- looking team. Therefore, I wanted to take a look how successful rookie picks actually are. I should give credit to RotoViz writer Jacob Rickrode who looked at a similar topic last year. I will link his article here for those of you who have access to their articles.

Rookie Success

If we look back at the last six rookie drafts starting in 2010 below is a breakdown of how successful a rookie selected was. The chart looks at the average ADP of each year’s rookies. For 2012 Trent Richardson, Andrew Luck, and Doug Martin were the average top 3 drafted in that order. The Success Rate evaluates whether a pick had a top 12 (QB, TE) or top 24 (RB,WR) season at least once since being drafted. The Percentage of Top Seasons represents how often each pick was able to reach the top 12/24. The final two columns indicate the total round’s Bust Rate, whether they had at least one top season, and Top Season Rate, the percentage of having multiple top 12/24. I chose to only do individual picks for the first two rounds for two reasons: the fluctuation in ADP after 24 varied tremendously from site to site and the data showed that players drafted after the second round were mostly irrelevant.

Rookie Pick Chart

As you can see the first round selections have a slightly better than 50/50 chance to have at least one top 12/24 season while only a 20% chance of having more than one top seasons. From there it gets steadily worse. An interesting anomaly, the large value of success from the 2.12 is greatly inflated by Rob Gronkowski who’s five top 12 finishes are only second in that round to pick 2.02 (6). That’s one player versus six! As well, the 1.02 has seen some elite talent with names like Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, and Andrew Luck which is why it is the only pick that currently holds a perfect 100% success rate. The only individual players to have a perfect score (reaching the top 12/24 each season) having played in 2 or more seasons are Odell Beckham Jr. (2 years), Mike Evans (2), Jeremy Hill (2), Giovanni Bernard (3) and A.J. Green (5). This is the part of the article where you tip your cap to the Cincinnati Bengals scouting staff. Even if we look at the so-called “Best class in recent history” – 2014, in their first two seasons only 7 of 12 players have had a top 12/24 season thus far. Even looking ahead , with a couple more seasons under their belts, I do not see much more coming out of this round however due to names like Sankey and Manziel stinking up the average.

Move Up or Move Out

So knowing this information what can we do to come out ahead? If we look at my last article which helps layout the value of picks against one another and combine that with the stats presented here we can create a couple of trade strategies to maximize value. If you are a contending, bottom round team the likelihood of your rookie selection being a useful player is slim. Looking at the last 6 picks in the first round the success rate drops to only 40% and the multi-season success down to 10%. Consider also that if your team is contending and therefore full of top talent players, already the likelihood of incoming players being better than those players is even less likely. Therefore, you should be looking to move your picks to the top 3 where you have a robust 83% chance of picking a successful player as well as a 67% chance that they will have multiple top seasons.

Ryan Matthews

Forgotten veterans are a contender’s best friend

If you are unable to move into a position to secure a top 3 selection then the second option is to move out completely. The goal is to win championships, so if your pick isn’t going to help you win during your window then you should be getting value from it. Savvy veteran players are always undervalued and while they may not offer high returns like ODB or Allen Robinson, they definitely will have higher floors than shares of David Wilson, Cordarelle Patterson, and Johnny Manziel currently holds. Players like Matt Forte, Ryan Matthews, Greg Olsen, and Drew Brees are perfect candidates to target by casting out a late first round pick. I have said this in many articles before but the beautiful of RSO is that no player is locked in forever so the landscape of teams changes more than standard dynasties. For those of you who have been on the site for several years now you probably understand what I am saying since your first rookie class is coming due for their first free agency.

Hopefully, I have been able to open some eyes to what really happens with rookie picks and help you understand what to do with everyone going 2017 crazy! As always if you have questions or want to talk strategies you can find me on twitter @naandrews19.