Early RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 16th 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information. We move to the tight end position, probably the shallowest group in fantasy football.  There are few teams in the NFL who feature the tight end position in the passing game and many of the top options at the position have struggled staying on the field.  Let us take a deeper look at the position to sort out where we can find value.

When they are Healthy…

Two players stand out from the rest in the tight end fantasy landscape when on the field, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed.   The problem for each player over their career is staying on the field.  Reed has never played a full season and Gronkowski has not played a full season in 6 years.

“Gronk” dominates in a way that is almost indescribable when on the field and he is used in ways unlike other players at the position.  He is a true downfield threat and incredibly difficult to tackle one-on-one by defensive backs.  The New England powerhouse leads active tight ends in yards per reception at 15.0 (the next highest is Travis Kelce at 12.8) and receiving yards per game at 69.3 (the next highest is Travis Kelce at 58.4) while also accumulating 68 touchdowns.  Antonio Gates, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Brandon Marshall are the only active players with more touchdowns and each has played 10+ seasons in the league.  Remarkably, Gronkowski accumulated his touchdown total in only 88 career games or 5.5 full seasons.

Not to be outdone, Jordan Reed firmly placed his name in contention for best at the position with his performance over the last two seasons.  The Washington tight end produces in a different manner than Gronkowski as a classic move tight end relying on beautiful separation skills and tremendous ball skills in the short game.  He owns a high 76% catch rate over his career.  Reed finished as the overall TE1 in fantasy points per game for PPR leagues each of the last two seasons despite being used as a decoy in multiple games last year after separating his shoulder (which he amazingly played with in multiple games).  Taking out those shoulder injury games last year, Reed’s 16-game average in 23 games played over the last two seasons looks like this:

102 receptions / 136 targets / 1101 yards / 11 touchdowns       Those are WR1 numbers in PPR leagues.

While not on the level of Gronkowski and Reed for fantasy purposes, Tyler Eifert is another player worth mentioning in the oft-injured group.  The Cincinnati tight end offers tremendous weekly upside as one of the premier red zone threats in the entire league.  The former first round pick scored 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons in only 21 games.

Even when taking into account the additional injury risk associated with each of these players, they are all well worth their current costs.  Each of these players displayed the ability in past seasons to make up the current average cost in only half a year’s worth of play and each will be a huge value-win if they play close to a full season.

Best of the Rest

Travis Kelce finished as the overall TE1 last season.  His reception and yardage total have increased each season in the league and he is the de facto top receiver in Kansas City with a bunch of unknowns at wide receiver.  The limitations of Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense limit his upside, particularly in the touchdown department, but he is a safe high-end starter for your RSO team.

Greg Olsen remains as one of the only reliable targets in Carolina.  There is a lot of unknown as to what the Panthers’ offense will look like after drafting two offensive weapons in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel.  Similarly to Kelce, Olsen is limited by his quarterback play which caps his upside to a certain degree.

One of the more surprising stories from 2016 was the quick return of Jimmy Graham from a patellar tear, historically one of the worst injuries for NFL players.  Graham faded in the second half of the season and will never see the target load that he saw in New Orleans, but is still a dynamic receiving threat for the Seahawks.  Look for a nice season as he moves farther from his injury and is more incorporated into the Seattle offense.

Expect some Regression

Kyle Rudolf is not what one would call a dynamic receiving weapon.  He is a slow (4.88 forty time) un-athletic tight end who averages just under 10 yards per reception and only 6.3 yards per target for his career.  Rudolf demolished his career highs in yardage (840, previous high: 495) and receptions (83, previous high:  53) thanks to a massive increase in targets (132, previous high:  93) which lead to his overall TE2 finish in PPR leagues.  This big usage increase was largely the result of an awful offensive line which could not pass protect or run block. With limited weapons at both receiver and running back, quarterback Sam Bradford was forced to dink and dunk at Rudolf throughout the year.  The Vikings addressed both deficient areas in the offseason adding offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Mike Renners, running back Latavius Murray, and wide receiver Michael Floyd in free agency.  Minnesota also drafted 2nd round running back Dalvin Cook.  With last year’s first round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell likely seeing more action, look for a significant step back from Rudolf.

The Tennessee massively upgraded the receiving core drafting Corey Davis with the 5th overall pick and taking Taiwan Taylor in the 3rd round, while also adding Eric Decker in free agency thanks to the New York Jets overhaul.  These moves are great for Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense but not so good for Delanie Walker’s fantasy prospects in a run-first scheme.

Streamers and Matchup Plays

There are some names RSO owners should keep in mind for those who like to stream the tight end position in shallow leagues or employ a cheap multi-tight end matchup based system from week to week.  Few players disappointed as much as Coby Fleener last season given his sky-high expectations last season.  He still finished as the TE15 last season.  With Brandin Cooks gone, Fleener could see 100 targets in the high-volume Saints passing attack.  He is a bargain at his TE22 cost as one of the only players in this range with legitimate TE1 upside.  Charles Clay (TE29) performed as a mid range TE2 each of the last two seasons and finished last season on a strong note as the overall TE3 in the last month.  Clay does not possess much upside but he is a useful player on a team without much in receiving weapons.  When you are looking at weekly plays an RSO owner wants touchdown upside and nobody on the low-cost list has as much as Jesse James (TE27).  He is a massive target and could see lots of red-zone looks on a Pittsburg offense which could be among the league’s best.

 

Average RSO Tight End Contracts


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

2017 Top 25s: WRs and TEs

Updated: July 16th 2017

Since RSO has rolled over to 2017, now’s the perfect time to revisit your rosters and start planning for the next season!

Do you have any players on your team that warrant a franchise tag?  Is it time to shop a player who’s 2016 didn’t meet your expectations and now burdens you with a high salary contract?  My “way too early” PPR rankings, known as my 2017 Top 25s, are here to help with those decisions!

If you missed part 1, I explored quarterbacks and running backs.

In part 2 of my 2017 Top 25s, I’ll finish by examining the wide receiver and tight end positions:

 

Top 25 WRs for 2017

While several of the top WRs didn’t pan out in 2016, I wouldn’t shy away from a WR-heavy strategy in 2017. The top 7 in my rankings have shown year-over-year consistency, which should ease the minds of those recently burned by Hopkins and Robinson. In 12 team leagues, I’d want to leave the auction with at least 3 WRs from this list. since the depth from 13 to 25 is much stronger at WR than it is at RB.

 

Top 25 TEs for 2017

In 2017, I plan to target Gronkowski, Kelce, and Reed with AAV (average annual values) over $10 million per season. If I strike out on the three of them, I’m likely to wait and select 1-2 TEs from the 9-18 range of my rankings and hope that one can turn into someone I’m comfortable starting on weekly basis.

My Recommendation

Take an hour this weekend and send out personal emails to all of your fellow owners. Get the trade conversations started because they likely won’t come knocking down your door to acquire one of these players you’re looking to vanquish from your roster. Explain what you’re looking to accomplish, who interests you on their team, and provide an idea of how a potential deal could be reached. If you’re in an active league, you’ll be surprised at the quality of responses you receive.

I followed this recommendation last year, revamped one of my teams almost from scratch, and ended up winning the league.  Have a few minutes?  Read my article on Pressing the Reset Button to find out more about how this strategy can work for you.


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

Most Frequently Franchised in '16

Updated: October 13th 2016

Back in May, we took a look at the most frequently cut players in 2015 to learn some lessons in advance of our free agent auctions.  Now that we are in season, I thought it would be useful to look at which players were most frequently franchise tagged in 2016.  In my experience, Week 6 seems to be the time when struggling owners first commit to being a seller rather than a buyer for the rest of the season.  Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you can gain some valuable insight by looking at last year’s franchise tag trends.  I personally did this in my home RSO league – I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold onto him, so I sent my tagged David Johnson to the second place owner for Theo Riddick, a 2017 First and a 2018 Third.

Here’s the list of the top seven most frequently franchise tagged players for 2016 and my takeaways:

  1. Thomas Rawls
  2. Jordan Reed
  3. Rob Gronkowski
  4. Antonio Brown
  5. Tyler Eifert
  6. DEN Defense
  7. Greg Olsen

Make an Offer for a Top TE

Four of the top seven spots went to TEs which shouldn’t be a surprise as Reed, Gronk and Eifert are all injury risks while Olsen is getting up there in age – offering a multi-year deal to these guys is risky.  If you’re making a championship run, take a look at the TE position of your league’s worst teams.  If one of them is holding Olsen, Reed or Gronk, make the offer now without hesitation.  It will help you this year and gives you a viable franchise tag option next year (TE tends to have the most value with so many low priced guys who bring down the average).  Olsen is by far the TE1 in PPR scoring with Reed in second.  Gronk is far down the list due to injury but if anything that might help you get him slightly cheaper.  Zach Miller, Kyle Rudolph and Travis Kelce are averaging 2-4 points per game less than Reed and 7-9 less than Olsen (I’m discounting Martellus Bennett whose 3 TD game buoys his stats and is unsustainable).  Five points or so most certainly will be a factor at some point for you in the playoff push.

Antonio Brown May Be Available in 2017

I was surprised to see Brown on this list.  In both of my RSO leagues he’s on a long term deal so part of me assumed that would be the case across the board.  If you’re doing poorly in 2016 and have an eye to 2017, check on Brown’s contract status.  If he’s franchised in your league, there is a chance he becomes available in free agency (unless of course the owner tags him again so take a look at their 2017 cap space and draft picks to determine if they can make it work) and you can pounce on him.  While others in your league are concentrating on 2016, offload some win-now players on multi-year contracts;  you’ll get picks in return and reduce their 2017 cap space to give you a better shot at the top free agents, including guys like Brown.

Don’t Franchise Tag Jordan Howard!

Granted, Howard was probably drafted in your rookie draft but the point is this: franchising a RB who succeeded as a rookie is a bad idea.  Sure you could end up like me, who used it on David Johnson, or you could end up like all of the Thomas Rawls owners.  Take a look at last year’s top ten rookie RBs in rushing yards if you need a reminder of how quickly the shine can fade:

  1. Todd Gurley
  2. Thomas Rawls
  3. TJ Yeldon
  4. Melvin Gordon
  5. Ameer Abdullah
  6. David Johnson
  7. Jeremy Langford
  8. Karlos Williams
  9. Buck Allen
  10. Matt Jones

At best, half of that list is not startable and a few are droppable.  If any of this year’s valuable rookie RBs are still available, by all means pick them up and ride them for all they are worth this season but don’t make the mistake of franchising them next year, even if they explode late in the season.

Most Frequently Franchised in ’16

Updated: October 17th 2016

Back in May, we took a look at the most frequently cut players in 2015 to learn some lessons in advance of our free agent auctions.  Now that we are in season, I thought it would be useful to look at which players were most frequently franchise tagged in 2016.  In my experience, Week 6 seems to be the time when struggling owners first commit to being a seller rather than a buyer for the rest of the season.  Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you can gain some valuable insight by looking at last year’s franchise tag trends.  I personally did this in my home RSO league – I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold onto him, so I sent my tagged David Johnson to the second place owner for Theo Riddick, a 2017 First and a 2018 Third.

Here’s the list of the top seven most frequently franchise tagged players for 2016 and my takeaways:

  1. Thomas Rawls
  2. Jordan Reed
  3. Rob Gronkowski
  4. Antonio Brown
  5. Tyler Eifert
  6. DEN Defense
  7. Greg Olsen

Make an Offer for a Top TE

Four of the top seven spots went to TEs which shouldn’t be a surprise as Reed, Gronk and Eifert are all injury risks while Olsen is getting up there in age – offering a multi-year deal to these guys is risky.  If you’re making a championship run, take a look at the TE position of your league’s worst teams.  If one of them is holding Olsen, Reed or Gronk, make the offer now without hesitation.  It will help you this year and gives you a viable franchise tag option next year (TE tends to have the most value with so many low priced guys who bring down the average).  Olsen is by far the TE1 in PPR scoring with Reed in second.  Gronk is far down the list due to injury but if anything that might help you get him slightly cheaper.  Zach Miller, Kyle Rudolph and Travis Kelce are averaging 2-4 points per game less than Reed and 7-9 less than Olsen (I’m discounting Martellus Bennett whose 3 TD game buoys his stats and is unsustainable).  Five points or so most certainly will be a factor at some point for you in the playoff push.

Antonio Brown May Be Available in 2017

I was surprised to see Brown on this list.  In both of my RSO leagues he’s on a long term deal so part of me assumed that would be the case across the board.  If you’re doing poorly in 2016 and have an eye to 2017, check on Brown’s contract status.  If he’s franchised in your league, there is a chance he becomes available in free agency (unless of course the owner tags him again so take a look at their 2017 cap space and draft picks to determine if they can make it work) and you can pounce on him.  While others in your league are concentrating on 2016, offload some win-now players on multi-year contracts;  you’ll get picks in return and reduce their 2017 cap space to give you a better shot at the top free agents, including guys like Brown.

Don’t Franchise Tag Jordan Howard!

Granted, Howard was probably drafted in your rookie draft but the point is this: franchising a RB who succeeded as a rookie is a bad idea.  Sure you could end up like me, who used it on David Johnson, or you could end up like all of the Thomas Rawls owners.  Take a look at last year’s top ten rookie RBs in rushing yards if you need a reminder of how quickly the shine can fade:

  1. Todd Gurley
  2. Thomas Rawls
  3. TJ Yeldon
  4. Melvin Gordon
  5. Ameer Abdullah
  6. David Johnson
  7. Jeremy Langford
  8. Karlos Williams
  9. Buck Allen
  10. Matt Jones

At best, half of that list is not startable and a few are droppable.  If any of this year’s valuable rookie RBs are still available, by all means pick them up and ride them for all they are worth this season but don’t make the mistake of franchising them next year, even if they explode late in the season.

Arbitrage Time

Updated: April 8th 2016

In the Zone

For those of you reading me for the first time (thank you), I love movies. I quote them incessantly, especially my favorite ones. Glengarry Glen Ross is one of them based on an all-star cast and intense, gripping dialogue (if you haven’t seen it and are a House of Cards fan, picture Kevin Spacey on his heels the entire movie getting chewed out by Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino, amongst others). The movie centers around selling of investment properties and who can “close” the most to win the monthly sales contest (first prize Cadillac El Dorado, second prize set of steak knives, third prize is you’re fired).

Since you are all going after the Cadillac El Dorado and not you’re fired (or some humiliating punishment for finishing last if your league is super intense), every now and then I’m going to write about arbitrage opportunities in your leagues-essentially where you may be able to take advantage of the market on a certain player to gain competitive advantage. To me, for 2016 the lowest hanging arbitrage fruit comes in Washington Redskins Tight End Jordan Reed. Reed is owned on multi-year deals about a third as much as Rob Gronkowski in Reality Sports Online leagues and has favorable contract metrics (1.2 average years remaining, $5.7 million average contract remaining). That’s cheaper at this point than the Jason Witten and Kyle Rudolph deals currently out there.

The Opportunity

A few years ago, I wrote this numberFire article comparing Reed to the contents of the envelope of the frozen concentrated orange juice crop report from Trading Places. This came at a time when Reed hadn’t proven himself to make it through an entire season and was more about potential than production. His 9 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 17 targets vs. Green Bay in the playoffs quelled any further talk of potential as Reed has established himself as a Preseason Top 5 fantasy tight end.

However, in spite of the Preseason Top 5 distinction, based on his concussion history, Reed’s 2016 auction price likely has a fair bit of buy-low upside in it, especially against the competitive set at the tight end position who in some cases, have experienced worse injuries. Gronkowski (ACL, Back, Forearm in the past), Jimmy Graham (Patellar Tendon in 2015), Travis Kelce (Microfracture Knee Surgery in 2013), and Julius Thomas (Hand Surgery in 2015) all carry similar if not worse question marks with way higher Reality Sports Online price tags. Only Greg Olsen has managed to escape missing significant game time in the past few seasons.

So your auction offer for Reed has to consider both his concussion history, the fact that he played like a Top 5 tight end last season (87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games),  Reed being a 2017 real-life free agent, and the competitive set of who is actually a free agent at the position. I’m even suggesting you take it one step further and consider Reed as a flex-worthy receiving option to pair with the tight ends above or in lieu of spending big on a free-agent wide receiver as well. This accomplishes two great things for you: 1) it dilutes the already not deep pool of tight ends for those in your league needing them, and 2) it gets you a flex playmaker with potentially the same upside and similar stats for cheaper. In plain terms, you can try to get cute and hope for this season’s Gary Barnidge or you can make the market for one of the best tight ends in the league who still has significant upside.

Think about it this way-if you had to choose between Reed and last year’s early-season target monster Keenan Allen, is it really that big of a slam dunk for Allen? I’d say not as Allen is coming off a lacerated kidney which ended his season and while he posted a 67-725-4 line in only eight games, and often runs fairly short and intermediate routes (2.16 yards per route run per Pro Football Focus), which is actually less than Reed with less red-zone potential as well.

If you are considering using your franchise tag for the tight end position, the average of the Top 5 tight ends across all RSO leagues is $13.5 million and that feels like a fairly good barometer for an annual Reed contract in an auction as well. I love the yearly option value of the franchise tag, especially if you took Reed last season as a flier with upside or someone off the waiver-wire. Remember, $13.5 million is the average Top 5 tight end contract across all leagues, yours may be lower. If so, Reed presents a significant opportunity to profit.

Competition for Targets? 

Washington certainly will have an interesting offense in 2016 with Kirk Cousins, fresh off getting the franchise tag around $20 millon for 2016 slinging the football to a ton of weapons and a ground game featuring the punishing second-year pro Matt Jones. The way Jay Gruden’s offense is constructed with DeSean Jackson (in the few games a year he’s healthy) taking the top off the defense on deep balls, allows perfectly for Reed and Jamison Crowder to own the middle of the field, with veteran Pierre Garcon opposite Jackson to get the rest.

So then, what was the need for the team to sign Vernon Davis, you ask? Personally, I think the Davis signing is more Reed injury insurance than anything else (remember Niles Paul is still making his way back from injury, too). GM Scot McCloughan drafted Davis and he played at the University of Maryland, so in essence this is a double-homecoming for him in the event Reed’s pending free agency and injury history catch up to him. However, if you have nervous owners in your league who are worried about Davis you can certainly benefit even further by the target uncertainty facing Reed.

In the end, Reed is a wide receiver playing tight end who makes way too many plays like these for a relatively low cost. So if you want the El Dorado this year, you may need to get on the Reed train this year.


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.

 

numberFire Writers League Results

Updated: August 28th 2015

RSO writer Matt Goodwin hopes that Todd Gurley's dynasty sign pays off for his team vs. fellow writers.

RSO writer Matt Goodwin hopes that Todd Gurley’s dynasty sign pays off for his team vs. fellow writers.

Everyone had so much fun last year that the writers from Reality Sports Online and numberFire returned for year two of their writers league. Along the way, there with a few other new owners (two writers) and a Law Professor from Baylor– the write-in candidate who responded to our tweets and got the final spot. The 10 of us embarked on both a rookie draft and auction recently for their second year in the league. The three-round, three-year contract rookie draft and auction were held on consecutive Sundays.

The participants rookie picks, auction key wins, and strategies are outlined below, along with player contract values to assist those users who have not had their rookie draft yet or auctions. Also do all these hard working writers a solid and follow us on Twitter. We have writers for all kinds of fantasy sports websites who really believe or were interested in kicking the tires on the unique Reality Sports Online format.

Without further ado, the owners and their rosters….

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

Picks:

1.01 Todd Gurley, RB St. Louis Rams (3 years, $19.2M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Going for it all last year, I traded my 2014 first round pick Carlos Hyde to SamHerbie for C.J. Anderson and what turned into pick 1.01. I also traded my other two picks at the deadline as part of a deal to get Marshawn Lynch. A week before the rookie draft, I moved my 1.08 pick to Great Odin’s Raven with Jimmy Graham for Rob Gronkowski who costs about $5.0m a year less than Graham for another 3 years. For me this deal was all about flexibility for the huge free agent pool in 2015 in addition to getting the game’s best tight end on a 4 year, $56 million deal. This trade also enabled me to use the franchise tag on Anderson for $28.1 million knowing that the free agent pool would be shallow in the second year of our league (yes, I actually do follow some of the advice I give in my articles).

With that in mind and given that my top three running backs (Matt Forte, Anderson, and Lynch) will all be free agents following the 2015 season, Todd Gurley was the perfect pick for me for a succession plan at running back. I truly believe he is a faster and younger Lynch and that he will be dominant when the team hands over the reins to him. It was hard to pass up on Amari Cooper’s potential immediate impact, but I generally am not confident in the Raiders offense and figured I could replace Cooper’s production in free agency.

Auction Strategy: I had $27 million of cap space going into the auction, the least of any team. While I believe my starting lineup was fairly stacked, I did have to paint around the edges in the auction and stretch dollars as best I could, noting that I’m not necessarily counting on Gurley to contribute to my team much this season. Overall, having Tom Brady on a 1 year, $3.1 million remaining contract from 2014 meant that I had to find a replacement while Brady likely sits due to Deflategate. So getting a productive quarterback on a multi-year deal was a priority, but ranked second to getting my second starting wide receiver. However, when fellow Miami University alum Ben Roethlisberger had his name called in the auction, I moved quickly and signed him to a 2 year, $8.0 million deal. As I noted in a previous article, I’m very high on Big Ben this year with the weapons he has (with or without Pouncey).

Eric Decker was my top wide receiver target and I used my four year deal to grab the New York Jet wideout for 4 years, $14.0 million. I think Decker will be super productive and love that he ranks highly in the valued yards per route run stat from Pro Football Focus’s premium stats. I also value his production down the stretch last season, capped by a 10 catch, 221 yard, 74 yard TD finale vs. the Dolphins. Otherwise, I grabbed a bunch of cheap wide receivers who may be able to start/flex for me, including Kendall Wright (2 years, $5.0 million), and minimum contract vets like Marques ColstonMichael CrabtreeAntonio Gates.

I also could not resist my Seahawks DST for 1 year, $2.0 million as I like not having to think about a defense when the rest of my lineup is strong.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Roethlisberger, Lynch, Forte, Demaryius Thomas, Decker, Gronkowski, Seahawks DST, Adam Vinatieri, Anderson, Devonta Freeman

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

Picks:

1.02 Amari Cooper, WR Buffalo Bills (3 years, $18.1M)

1.08 T.J. Yeldon, RB Jacksonville Jaguars (3 years, $11.0M)

2.02 David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals (3 years, $4.3M)

3.02 Devin Smith, WR New York Jets (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Knowing Matt was going to take Gurley, I felt like I had three options at 1.02. I entered the draft thin at running back, but decided to go with Amari Cooper. Cooper is pretty clearly the No. 1 option in Oakland and should catch at least 80 passes this season with much higher upside. I didn’t think I’d come as close to Cooper’s production with a wide receiver at 1.08 than I could to come close to someone like Melvin Gordon. Ameer Abdullah was one of the players I briefly considered at 1.02, so my eyes lit up when he was there at 1.07, but he didn’t make it past there. Instead I got T.J. Yeldon at 1.08, who should be a steady contributor and the lead back in Jacksonville by at least next season. I like David Johnson’s skillset at 2.02, and he was a hedge on Andre Ellington, the only running back I had on my roster entering the draft, so now I’m hopefully set however the Arizona backfield plays out. Graham is probably going to talk about how much Phillip Dorsett fell, and I agree with him. I would have taken him over Devin Funchess and Jaelen Strong in the second, but I think Devin Smith is a better version of Dorsett. This is a view I had before the NFL Draft and still hold even though Dorsett is paired with a superior quarterback.

Auction Strategy: I entered the auction with Andre Ellington and T.J. Yeldon as my starting running backs, so that needed to change. With the third most cap space entering the auction, but only a few roster spots, I wasn’t afraid to pay a premium for the top guys, especially considering how few there were. I wanted to come away with at least two of the top three backs. I was outbid after a long back and forth for Lamar Miller, so that made me go harder for Justin Forsett and Chris Ivory. I paid a high price for Forsett on a one-year deal, but it’s still less than had I gotten him on a franchise tag for this year. He’s 30 years old with a short track record of success, so I didn’t want to commit years to him. Ivory, on the other hand, should be the clear No. 1 in New York and is 28, making me feel better about a two-year deal at $19 million.

I also added Shane Vereen for $5 million, should I’ll have some options at running back. From the past two rookie drafts I’m pretty young and deep at wide receiver (Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Cooper, Josh Gordon in a year), so I was able wait and grab John Brown for three-years and $28 million. It’s a high price, but with his age and my lack of big long term commitments, it was a risk I felt I could take.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Cam Newton, Forsett, Ivory, Vincent Jackson, Brown, Graham, Texans DST, Dan Bailey, Vereen, Watkins

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

Picks:

1.03 Nelson Agholor, WR Philadelphia Eagles (3 years, $17.6M)

2.03 Jameis Winston, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.03 Matt Jones, RB Washington Redskins (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: I play in a lot of dynasty leagues. And the most important thing for me was realizing this isn’t a dynasty league. These guys get guaranteed money (though modest), and the rookie contract only provides a three-year discount from market for a producing player. Combine that with the unfortunately shallow rosters (considering the deep starting lineups) and the unfortunate state of the team I inherited, it didn’t seem wise to use my first two picks on project players. Instead, I targeted players likely to produce and contribute at a level above their salaries. Nelson Agholor would have been my top pick in this format regardless, as I think he has a high ceiling and fairly low three-year floor in that offense and competing with that depth chart. The same is true of Jameis Winston, as I’m going to carry a backup QB behind Drew Brees in his final contract year. Winston is priced perfectly for that role, and I like his upside as a great backup or potential platooner thereafter. I took my flier in the third round with the near-minimum salary.

Auction Strategy: There was only so much I could do in the auction. When I acquired the team, my best RBs were Gio Bernard and Tre Mason. In a ten-team league.  And Julian Edelman was my WR1. The free-agent pool contained no true stars.  So while, generally, longer-term contracts may be best utilized to discount the per-year impact of the highest salaries, I took  a different approach and looked for long-term contracts that might end up being market-value homeruns and set me up for next year and beyond, where I’ll have cap room and access to stars. The rest of the draft was simply looking for values and arbitrage while compiling a respectable starting lineup. I was able to keep $37 million in cap room, sign solid multi-year contracts, and get on the brink of a respectable starting lineup.  I was thrilled with the Golden Tate price 3yr-14million. I wanted Markus Wheaton for 4 years at near-minimum because I think he is wildly undervalued and a much better football player than Martavis Bryant. My only regret was losing connectivity during the Doug Martin bidding because he was my other 3-year target. Had to settle for Torrey Smith at 3yr-6.5 million.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Brees, Frank Gore, Jonathan StewartT.Y. Hilton, Tate, Martellus Bennett, Jets DSTMatt Prater, Edelman, Agholor

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

Picks:

1.04 Melvin Gordon, RB San Diego Chargers (3 years, $16.9M)

2.04 Devin Funchess, WR Carolina Panthers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.04 Chris Conley, WR Kansas City Chiefs (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Let’s just say I wasn’t picking from 1.04 because I traded to get there. My team has a ton of holes, and I wanted the best players I could get. I assumed the first three to go would be Gurley, Cooper, and Melvin Gordon, so I was debating between Agholor and Abdullah. Getting Gordon here was easy, even though I’m not totally sold on him and think Danny Woodhead will be a nuisance for him this year.

In round two, it was between Funchess and Strong for me. I have Strong in another dynasty, and diversifying was my goal here. I like both, so I figured why not? In round three, I was absolutely torn between Chris Conley and Dorsett, but given that rookie deals are only three years, I thought that Conley might have the best chance to be a go-to guy in an offense in that span as opposed to Dorsett, who could be a weekly headache despite being in one of the best offenses in the NFL for years to come. Conley has the physical traits to be a huge threat, and I’m hearing good things about him in camp prior to his injury. I’m all in on Conley, which seems a bit of an unpopular position.

Auction Strategy: Going into the draft, I didn’t have too many bench spots open, so I just wanted to wait on things. I didn’t place an actual bid until after my first two nominations. I also wanted to make sure I got a quarterback on a minimum deal so that I could stream quarterbacks, defenses, and kickers without the penalty of cutting a guaranteed deal.

I was aiming hard for Jeremy Maclin, Danny Woodhead, and another running back or receiver I thought was a value. I felt like I was getting bid up on Maclin, so I dropped it on Sam Herbie even though I really expect big things from Maclin. I also got into a bidding war with Leo Howell over Woodhead and wasn’t going to stop until I got him. Charles Johnson at a modest deal is okay with me. I got Colin Kaepernick, whom I’ve been targeting, for the 1-year, $500k minimum, so that was also a win for my strategy.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Kaepernick, Alfred Morris, Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, Johnson, Travis Kelce, Rams DSTMatt Bryant, Woodhead, Ryan Mathews

Team: Discount Double Check (Daniel Lindsey, TBD) @BitterPackerFan

Picks:

1.05 Kevin White, WR Chicago Bears (3 years, $15.9M)

2.05 Jaelen Strong, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $4.1M)

2.08 Jay Ajayi, RB Miami Dolphins (3 years, $4.0M)

3.05 Maxx Williams, TE Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $2.7M)

3.08 Mike Davis, RB San Francisco 49ers (3 years, $2.7M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My draft strategy ended up being like a series of unfortunate events. I had a plan, but the dominoes started to fall the day my star running back Arian Foster hurt his groin. Before Foster got hurt, my plan was to just go BPA in the rookie draft – I figured I would be able to take Agholor and that’s who my initial target was. Once Foster went down, I was hoping for Gordon at 5, but I wasn’t expecting it either – especially when Kevin White got sidelined. But I was hoping a team that is contending for this year would still take him as a flier. That ended up being me as I missed out on both Agholor and Gordon. However, I was still hoping to land either David Johnson or David Cobb. Johnson went a couple picks before me and I thought about Cobb at 2.05, but thought he would still be there at 2.08. Missed out on him too and settled for Jay Ajayi over Buck Allen, someone I thought would last until the third round. Alas, he didn’t either and now I hope to strike gold in the FA Auction draft.

Auction Strategy: One of the biggest regrets I have from the auction draft is not putting Knowshon Moreno on IR to open up one more roster spot. Given that I took over a team from last year and my five draft picks this season, I had a much bigger bench than most teams. After bidding on a bunch of running backs (I only got two of who I wanted) and nabbing Peyton Manning kind of by accident (I was seeing how much I could push his price) I realized I had a shorter bench to fill than just about everyone else.

My strategy was to land Mark Ingram and Forsett to make up for no RB to start the season and my flubs in the rookie draft. Ingram was my top get – didn’t matter how much I had to pay for him. Forsett was getting bid up and I wasn’t wanting to play ball (but I should have). My next targets were Rashad Jennings, Doug Martin and Latavius Murray. I was hoping to land two of them, but ended up with Murray (and Joseph Randle, again by accident).
I then found myself in an odd bidding war for Russell Wilson. With most people set with a quarterback and I only had Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and then Manning with a 1 year contract, I threw out some contracts for Wilson because I still had a 4 year contract left. And then as the bidding started to ramp up, I realized I could use this to my advantage – having Manning and Wilson for one year may seem odd at first (and totally not me) but I can definitely pick my matchups with elite quarterbacks. Then I’d still have Wilson for three more years. I paid a hefty price in the end (and wasn’t pleased with the obvious price gouging, but now I can attempt to compete this year and really start building my wide receivers corps after Odell Beckham Jr. over the next couple years. I’d love to trade Manning, but don’t see that happening after looking at the waiver wire. But who knows – maybe it pays off.
Likely 10 man starting lineup: Manning or Wilson, Ingram, L. Murray, Emmanuel Sanders, Beckham Jr., M. Williams, Bills DSTStephen Gostkowski, Randle, Michael Floyd

Team: Funky Monks (Graham Barfield, Rotoworld, numberFire, & RotoAcademy) @GrahamBarfield

Picks:

1.06 Breshad Perriman, WR Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $14.1M)

2.06 Duke Johnson, RB Cleveland Browns (3 years, $4.1M)

3.06 Phillip Dorsett, WR Indianapolis Colts (3 years, $2.7M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: At 1.06, I got my first dynasty share of Breshad Perriman this offseason. I’ve been trying to buy him everywhere and have had to settle for other options in most drafts (like Agholor and Abdullah). I’m a sucker for his ceiling and available opportunity — plus it definitely doesn’t hurt he’s my WR5 on this squad. At 2.06 I landed Duke Johnson (another guy I have wanted to own in dynasty, but hadn’t landed yet). I loved him coming out of Miami — but just wasn’t thrilled with his landing spot in a muddy backfield. I still think he’s quite possibly the most versatile RB on the Browns with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West not exactly light the world on fire in their rookie seasons. Finally, I was shocked Phillip Dorsett fell to me at 3.06. I legitimately did a little dance in my desk chair when he fell in my lap. He’s been going late-1st/early-2nd all summer, and since TY Hilton re-signed, his dynasty stock has taken a hit. I’ll take a slice of the Colts high-powered offense at a discount where ever I can.

Auction Strategy: My strategy in this auction was to secure one running back and attack a mid-priced option to fill in my No. 2 RB slot. Some of the backs I was expecting to go for cheaper prices went for more than I expected, so I pivoted to spending on veteran depth like Reggie Bush on a mininum deal and buying Tyler Eifert.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Andrew Luck, Lamar Miller, Bush, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Jason Witten, Dolphins DSTMason Crosby, Jordan MatthewsKeenan Allen

Team: Sam Hauss (Sam Hauss, numberFire) @Real_Hauss

Picks:

1.07 Ameer Abdullah, RB Detroit Lions (3 years, $12.4M)

2.07 David Cobb, RB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $4.0M)

3.07 Marcus Mariota, QB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $2.7M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Going into the rookie draft I felt much more comfortable at the wide receiver position than I did at running back with Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Kelvin Benjamin (of course the draft happened before he both Nelson and Benjamin tore their ACLs) locked in as starters even if I was unable to upgrade in the auction. I wanted to target a running back and, honestly, was very surprised to see Abdullah fall as far as he did. He is an explosive back who is a plus in the passing game, is expected to have a major role this season and could be the Lions primary back of the future. I was also thrilled to grab David Cobb since I don’t really trust Bishop Sankey to keep the job in Tennessee and Cobb is an incredibly talented runner who could steal this job sooner rather than later. Once I got my two running backs I was just looking for the most upside left on the board in the third which is why I took Marcus Mariota. If he pans out, I may not have to worry about the quarterback position for years to come, even though I don’t think he’ll be all that valuable this season.

Auction Strategy: With Benjamin and Nelson lost for the year before the season started, I knew I had to go into the draft with the goal of grabbing at least two viable starting wide receivers. However, I felt the remaining wide receiver pool had significantly less value than the pool of running backs who were available to draft. With that in mind, I figured I could snatch up as much running back depth as I could with an eye on making a few mid-season deals to round out my receiving corps. I was able to get two of my favorite running back targets in Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount. If all pans out the way I hope, Martin and/or Abdullah — who I took in the rookie draft — will hit big early and I’ll be able to trade one as Blount gets eased back into the Patriots’ offense following his suspension.

 With all that said, there were two mid-tier starting wide receivers that I wanted to target — Andre Johnson and Anquan Boldin — and I made sure that I paid what I had to in order to grab them both given my lack of depth at the position. I also added Steve Johnson and Brian Quick to add depth at the position. I didn’t plan on spending much if anything on the quarterback or tight end positions given the fact that I already had guys who I felt were viable starters at each position already on my roster, however, I am extremely high on Ryan Tannehill and was able to get him for excellent value to lock him up for several years to come.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Tannehill, Eddie Lacy, Johnson, Boldin, Julius Thomas, Cardinals DSTJustin Tucker, Abdullah, Brandon Marshall

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

Picks:

1.09 Tevin Coleman, RB Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $10.8M)

3.09 Sammie Coates, WR Pittsburgh Steelers (3 years, $2.6M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: After a successful draft last year that left me with Mike Evans, Teddy Bridgewater and Allen Robinson as a foundation for the future, I wanted to add a couple of complementary pieces this year. Picking near the end of the first round, I went with Tevin Coleman of the Falcons. I have two older running backs under long-term contracts (DeMarco Murray and Jamaal Charles), but wanted to take a shot on a younger player in a decent situation. Coleman doesn’t have a high bar to clear to become the main ballcarrier in the ATL. I didn’t have a second-round pick, but got a guy I may have taken in the second with my third round selection in Sammie Coates. He’s not as tall as I normally like for a young receiver to be, but he has special athletic ability and time to learn and grow with the Steelers, and I’m hopeful he can become a contributor sooner rather than later.

Auction Strategy: I entered the auction with a pretty stable foundation, with Charles, Murray, Evans, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins already on board. I didn’t need a ton of help at skill positions, and had the quarterbacks I wanted in Matthew Stafford and Bridgewater. But I didn’t have a great tight end, which led to my big acquisition of Greg Olsen. He’s not a long-term asset, but there are few tight ends who will see the volume and consistent production Olsen will this season. I also picked up Knile Davis to “handcuff” to Charles, but also because he’s a terrific athlete who will do well if he gets touches. It just so happens I have the guy he’d take touches from, so it works out to be a positive for me either way. (But please stay healthy, Jamaal.) I took a flier on Percy Harvin, hoping he’d carve out a role and make some big plays with the Bills, and I scooped up Jeff Janis, as I believe he’ll play a role in filling Jordy Nelson’s shoes in Green Bay.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Stafford, D. Murray, Charles, Evans, Brown, Olsen, Patriots DST, Blair Walsh, Hopkins, Allen Robinson

Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire) @gingersauce4u

Picks:

1.10 DeVante Parker, WR Miami Dolphins (3 years, $9.76M)

2.10 Javorius “Buck” Allen, RB Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $10.3M)

3.10 Justin Hardy, WR Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $2.6M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Drafting from the 10-spot, I was pleasantly surprised to see DeVante Parker fall to the end of the first round. Seeing him go as high as #3 overall, the 6′ 3″ Louisville product brings size and some unbelievable college productivity to the table. Javorius Allen has been a post-draft favorite of mine as I loved the fit with him in Baltimore. A productive receiving back at USC, Allen should jive well with Marc Trestman’s offense while spelling the soon to be 30-year old Justin Forsett. If Forsett were to miss any time, I think Allen could jump in immediately and provide fantasy value. At 3.10 and the last pick of the draft, I decided to take the NCAA’s all-time receptions leader in Justin Hardy. The former walk-on only has to beat journeymen Leonard Hankerson and return specialist Devin Hester to see significant playing time as the slot receiver, and Hardy should be able to do that with ease. I’m not expecting immediate results with Hardy, but he’s a stash I’m happy to hold onto and monitor closely as the season progresses. Thankfully my roster doesn’t require any of these players to have significant contributions in their rookie years, but I’m happy with the building blocks I acquired in our league’s second rookie draft.

Auction Strategy: Heading into the auction with an already well-stacked roster at RB (Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy) and WR (Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, and Brandin Cooks), my intentions were to just find some good depth at running back and get a quality starting tight end. I was aggressive in our startup draft last year, and my cap space certainly reflected that as I had the second-lowest amount to start the draft. I was able to land C.J. Spiller (1-year, $8.5 mil) and a cheap Joique Bell (1-year, $1 mil), but the first two weeks may be rough for my team if some of these injured running backs are slow to return. I was continuously in bidding wars trying to land Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, and Tyler Eifert, but was out-muscled due to my cap space. I ended up getting Delanie Walker (1-year, $1.5 mil) and Dwayne Allen (1-year, $1 mil) as two later bargains, but I fell short of my goal trying to land one of my higher ranked tight ends.

The only other big play of the night I made was acquiring DeSean Jackson (2-years, $10 mil) as a fourth wide receiver. Already owning a stable core, DJax could be the one to help give my team some big weeks from the flex position. Heading into the season I’m a lot less confident (thanks Chip for exiling Shady to Buffalo) than last year where I was able to score the most points en route to a championship, but I believe this is still a playoff-worthy team.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Tony Romo, Bell, McCoy, Jones, Cobb, Walker, Colts DST, Connor Barth, Cooks, Jackson

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

Picks:

2.01 Dorial Green-Beckham., WR Tennessee Titans (3 years, $4.3M)

2.09 Cameron Artis-Payne, RB Carolina Panthers (3 years, $3.9M)

3.01 Tyler Lockett, WR Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Having already traded this year’s first round pick for Carlos Hyde, I planned to go receiver at the top of the second round. Abdullah is the only RB I would have considered there had he been available. Comfortable with Dorial Green-Beckham, as he has a lot of upside and came at a cheap price tag as the first pick in round two. The Cameron Artis-Payne pick came down to the names above his on the Panthers RB depth chart. Even if Stewart does stay healthy (…unlikely), this squad is going to have a tough time winning ballgames this year. Its young talent should get some good burn and, more importantly, experience for ’16 and ’17. My last pick came at the top of the 3rd where I strongly considered taking Mariota. Head won over heart in this case, though – Tyler Lockett should get a lot of targets in Seattle’s slot, especially with Graham often demanding two defenders. Lockett is dynamic and has in him a lot of what Randall Cobb brings to the field.

Auction Strategy: My roster is rather top heavy with nearly $71MM tied up in three players (Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson). Luckily my RB core is intact with AP, Hyde and Jeremy Hill, which felt like enough cushion to avoid the gold rush on running backs that came during the first half of the auction. Once I landed Rashad Jennings at $4.5MM, which may go down as a huge bargain, my entire focus shifted to wide receiver. Coming into the auction I definitely had my eye on Maclin and had prepared to pay a premium. But I felt much more comfortable paying $15MM for one year of Maclin after investing just $7.5MM for two years of Jarvis Landry, who is about to break out. My lone regret comes in the form of Brandon LaFell ($1.5MM), as it would’ve been nice to have another minimum contract on the books… Damn New England roots. In all, I executed my auction gameplan far better in 2015 than I did in our league’s inaugural session.

Likely 10 man starting lineup: Rodgers, Peterson, Hill, Calvin Johnson, Maclin, Charles Clay, Broncos DST, Cody Parker, Hyde, Landry