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

Receiveland

Updated: July 7th 2016

In the Zone

First off, I’d be remiss as someone born and raised in Cleveland to not talk about the first championship in 52 years as the Cleveland Cavaliers became part of history in coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors. Watching the final four and a half minutes of the game and seeing the Cavs hold the Warriors scoreless was very similar to my waiting out my semi-final playoff matchup in my main Reality Sports Online league last year. While that one didn’t go my way on the final play as I’ve written about before on a Drew Brees dumpoff to Tim Hightower, this one did and it was beyond my wildest expectations.

Outside of family events, this by far was the best event I’ve experienced and all the better that it was on Father’s Day as a I hit the floor in a sea of emotions when the buzzer sounded like I played in the game. In many ways I’m still celebrating this team as The Chasedown and The Three replace The Drive, The Fumble, The Blown Save, The Move. Suffice to say, I cannot wait until the championship gear we ordered shows up on my doorstep and am grateful to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Cavs for providing me the freedom to watch sports with no nervousness that the worst will happen going forward.

With that aside, it is time to talk a little bit about some wide receivers and tight ends that I like for 2016. I’ll stay away from the obvious names that may not be available in your auctions or will command top dollar. Writing articles like this are certainly bittersweet for me because I feel like I’m giving people in my leagues insight into potential targets of mine, but the beauty of Reality Sports Online marketplace pricing makes value fairly subjective. Before I jump in, one of the best in the business at dissecting wide receivers for fantasy football is NFL.com’s Matt Harmon through his Reception Perception series. If you are serious about contending in your league, Harmon’s strength is dissecting the route tree receivers run and the success and advanced metrics that support predictive analysis.

1) Tyler Lockett & Doug Baldwin, Wide Receivers, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Lockett did a little bit of everything last year for the Seahawks and when Russell Wilson started airing it out in Seattle in Week 11, Lockett became a serious threat as a receiver, including catching 30 of his 40 targets for 444 yards and five touchdowns in seven games. As Harmon pointed out in Reception Perception, the Seahawks love taking deep shots with Lockett as the “nine” route was the route that the Seahawks ran the most with Lockett in his sample. The Seahawks targeted Lockett two to three times a game down the stretch and while some of those lacked success, Wilson works tirelessly with his receivers in the offseason so you can expect Lockett to be the recipient of amplified targets based on his ability to beat different coverages with frequency.

In leagues that factor in return yardage, Lockett is even more valuable. My fellow league-mate and USA Today Network’s Ryan Bonini recently compared Lockett to Randall Cobb and I think he could be right in terms of his rookie to second year ascension.

Further, if you are one who thinks the Seahawks will turn into a ground and pound team again at the beginning of the season and are paying $20 million plus to Thomas Rawls in your leagues, you may want to rethink that decision based on Doug Baldwin’s recent four year, $46 million ($24 million guaranteed) extension.

To me, this contract extension signals the Seahawks transition to being a passing team. Drafting C.J. Prosise, who excels as a pass catching running back as a former college receiver shows that the team wants to surround Wilson with the full arsenal of aerial weapons, as well as highlights that they are not fully invested in Rawls, who is coming off a significant ankle injury after being an undrafted rookie success last season. Look, I’m not sending Rawls to Siberia; however, I think his sample size is still small enough that in spite of an astronomical yards per carry last season that the Seahawks don’t have much capital invested in him, which makes him a scary dynasty asset to predict (think C.J. Anderson last season).

Back to Baldwin. In the same post Game 11 stretch as Lockett, Baldwin amassed 40 receptions on 53 targets for 590 yards and 11 touchdowns. Talk about crazy efficiency, but also note that Baldwin went bananas in a four game stretch with multiple touchdowns in each of those in the midst of your fantasy football playoffs.

Those in the fantasy football community talk about regression frequently and those who don’t understand the term automatically associate it with something bad. However, it more refers to statistical deviation and performances regressing to a mean or average. Surely, Baldwin’s touchdowns should come down this year or get closer to his career averages (29 total touchdowns in five seasons); however, would you really complain if he scored eight touchdowns for your fantasy squad this year as a top 24 wideout?

Based on the Reality Sports Online data I’ve seen, it is likely that Baldwin is a free agent in your auction and while others pursue some bigger names like T.Y. Hilton and Keenan Allen, Baldwin figures to perform on a similar level for a boatload less money. Ride the continued perception of the Seahawks ground game to get their wideouts on the cheap.

2) Coby Fleener, Tight End, New Orleans Saints

For fantasy owners seeking a quote to bank on for getting a steal at the suddenly declining tight end position, “He’s Always Open” is hopefully not the “We’ll run him until he throws up” quote from yesteryear (C.J. Spiller on Buffalo). However, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees uttered these words recently about new free agent signing Coby Fleener after playing the NFC South last season and watching lots of film on Fleener.

Early returns are that Fleener’s getting open in practice too, for what’s that worth. It may not matter. When a tight end like Benjamin Watson has 74 receptions on 110 targets for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns at age 35, following Jimmy Graham’s run in New Orleans, it is clear that the system produces opportunities for tight ends. In Indy, Fleener was forced to block and was inconsistent without Andrew Luck.

If there were any doubts in how New Orleans values the position, Fleener’s 5 year, $36 million contract with $18 million guaranteed should quell those questions. Now, the only question becomes whether or not a player with a history of drops makes the most of always being open. To me, the smart money in your auction is to take the chance on Fleener on a one to two year deal around $5-6 million a year. Assuming health, your reward should be a Top 8 tight end with upside.

3) Daniel Braverman, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears

File this one in the rookie sleeper category, but Chicago’s Daniel Braverman is a slot wide receiver who shows an uncanny ability to get significant yards after the catch and catch the ball in traffic. If you aren’t aware of him, he left Western Michigan after his junior season in which he caught 108 balls for 1,367 yards with 13 touchdowns. The 5’10, 177 lb. Braverman runs a 4.47 40 yard dash and was a 7th round selection of the Chicago Bears.

His story is compelling as he grew up in South Florida playing with an incredible work ethic and a chip on his shoulder because he was often overlooked among 5 star recruits. Braverman is the protege of former NFL wideout and fellow Miami University alum Sly Johnson who has been his mentor since 7th grade in South Florida. You certainly want to root for a guy as a fantasy owner who has overcome his mother leaving Braverman and his father at a young age.

When you watch tape of Braverman like this game against Ohio State and you see plays that show a little bit of Golden Tate, a splash of Julian Edelman (perhaps it is the Jewish receiver connection), and some Cole Beasley. He shined in two games against top ten opponents Michigan State and Ohio State, finishing the former with 13 catches for 109 yards and the latter with 10 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, showing the ability to break free over the middle while running all sorts of routes. Braverman also handled some punts and kickoffs which would add to his fantasy value.

What makes Braverman attractive to me are the targets that exited with Martellus Bennett, as well as Marquess Wilson’s foot injury landing him on the PUP list to begin the season. Add in the fact that Eddie Royal is 30 years old and we all know what he brings, and this brings unique opportunity for Braverman who seems like the type of player that will work his way into playing time and then play well enough to never relinquish it. Word is he’s already seeing some snaps with the 1’s while Royal has been out.

For a price of a third round rookie pick or a flier multi-year deal in your free agency auction, there’s significant value to be had on Braverman and I’m all in on the Braverman Express.


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) and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally provided that reality! 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.

Value Town: TEs

Updated: June 10th 2016

Most people like a deal. Receiving good value for that new phone, TV, car, or any other item allows us to put our hard earned resources into other things we value.  Obtaining good values on players in Reality Sports Online (RSO) leagues is a must when putting together a winning team.  The Value Town series examines the good and bad buys from the 2015 season in RSO leagues plus the overall state of positional groups in an attempt to get owners ready for the upcoming 2016 season.

This article examines the tight end position group from 2015. You can find more information on methodology, assumptions, and definition of terms in the first article of the series here.

State of the Tight End Position

The tight end position remains simultaneously one of the most consistent and fluid positions. The elite of the position has not changed as Rob Gronkowski finished as the overall TE1 once again, the fifth straight season in which either Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham has finished as the top tight end.  Greg Olsen continues providing solid value finishing as a mid range TE1 for the fourth consecutive season.  Several young talented young players joined the TE1 ranks including Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert, and Zach Ertz.  Reed led all tight ends in fantasy points per game while Eifert dominated the red zone topping the position with 13 touchdowns in only 13 games.  The “old” players proved the NFL is not just a young man’s game as six players in their 30s finished in the top 12.

Tight End Values

The Good

Gary Barnidge –  Average Salary: $0.5M, Approximate Value: $23M

Barnidge wins the “Best Value” award for any player in 2015 with a top four finish at the position from a guy who was likely claimed off waivers in your league. His 79 reception/1,043 yard/9 touchdown performance was one of the few bright spots on a Cleveland team that went through multiple quarterbacks and struggled on offense all year.  The 30 year old also takes my “Where did that come from?” award with a season that accumulated more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than his previous eight seasons combined in the league.  Barnidge was rewarded for his impressive year with a three year, $12 million contract in the offseason.  He provides one of the few veteran presences on a team who just drafted four receivers.

Jordan Reed –  Average Salary: $1.2M, Approximate Value: $31M

We were finally able to see what a (mostly) healthy Reed could do in 2015 as he broke out with an impressive 87 reception/952 yard/11 touchdown season in fourteen games. The often injured star has played only 34 games in his three year career suffering through a variety of injuries including multiple concussions.  His hands, athleticism, and fluidity as a receiver make him a matchup nightmare when on the field though, resulting in an incredible 0.76 reception to target ratio throughout his career.  The Washington tight end was also rewarded with a contract extension in the offseason and should remain as the focal point of the emerging offense.

Ben Watson –  Average Salary: $0.6M, Approximate Value: $11M

Another veteran who made his presence felt is the well traveled Ben Watson. The thirteen year veteran took full advantage of the high powered New Orleans offense on the way to his best statistical season in the NFL.  His season was highlighted by a 9 reception, 147 yard performance against the Giants.  The 35 year old takes his talents to a crowded Baltimore depth chart in 2016.

The Bad

Jimmy Graham –  Average Salary: $13.8M, Approximate Value: $5M

The Saints traded Jimmy Graham to Seattle prior to the 2015 season in one of the biggest moves of the year.   Events did not quite go as expected by many with Graham producing as only a low level starting option for fantasy teams while he was in the lineup.  The Seahawks certainly utilized their new tight end, probably more than many realized.  His 74 targets in only 11 games was second on the team for the entire 2015 season and easily eclipsed Seattle’s tight end targets from all of 2014.  The one area in which Graham truly disappointed fantasy owners was in the touchdown department of which he managed only two on the season.

Graham suffered a patellar tear in week 12 ending his season. His prospects for the 2016 season are somewhat in doubt.  Seattle is hopeful he will be ready for week 1 this season but he could easily be placed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the year.  We simply do not have many examples of players with this type of injury and fewer yet who have made a full recovery (You can read more about his road to recovery here).

Jordan Cameron –  Average Salary: $3.3M, Approximate Value: Not Worth a Roster Spot

Many people were excited at the prospects of Cameron moving to Miami last season. The former Brown was expected to be an integral part of the offense going forward.  Cameron proved to be a disappointment. He was targeted more than seven times per game over the first five weeks but only managed an abysmal 5.5 yards per target over that span.  The Dolphins eventually decreased Cameron’s role and he did not eclipse 35 yards or 5 targets in any game for the rest of the season.

Looking Forward

Greg Olsen continues as a rock at tight end and Gronkowski is simply one of the best to have ever played at the position (although with his own substantial injury history). However, there are more questions than answers going forward which is not unusual for the tight end position.  Will the likes of Barnidge, Walker, and Watson build upon career years in their 30s?  Will young and talented, but often injured, stars such as Reed and Eifert stay healthy for an entire season (I write this as Eifert recently had ankle surgery)?

The position remains as fluid as ever. I could make legitimate arguments for why a large number of tight ends including Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Ladarius Green, Eric Ebron, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins could join the starting fantasy tight end ranks in 2016.  Fortunately, the tight end position is a good place to take multiple cheap gambles in RSO leagues.  Only five tight ends averaged over $5 million in RSO auctions for the 2015 season with the 6th through 20th ranked salaries averaging about $2.5 million.   This allows for a lot of value upside at the position and not much downside with the cheap salaries.


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.

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.

 

The Matt’s Unplugged

Updated: September 10th 2015

DLF RSO

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

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

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

The Player I build my franchise around:

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Goodwin:

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

Papson:

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

How would you value Arian Foster based on his injury?

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Goodwin:

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

Papson:

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

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

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

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Goodwin:

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

Papson:

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

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

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Papson:

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

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

Name one defense you think will surprise people this season.

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Goodwin:

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

Papson:

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

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

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Goodwin:

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

Papson:

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

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

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

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Papson:

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

Goodwin:

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

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

Papson:

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

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