FA Expectancy: Brandin Cooks

Updated: July 16th 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Brandin Cooks – WR, New England Patriots

The talk so far of free agency didn’t come from a free agent but rather a trade that sent Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints to the New England Patriots. Many people have been touting this as the greatest move the Pats have made since acquiring Randy Moss in 2007. Fantasy fanatics need little reminder of the 23 touchdowns Moss put up in his first year with the team. But should owners expect the same level of production from Cooks in 2017 and beyond?

Those who speak against Cooks have quickly pointed out that he played eight of his games in the dome with New Orleans along with three more games in Tampa, Charlotte, and Atlanta each of the last three seasons. The AFC East, save for sunny Miami, is not a forgiving environment to play in weather wise and people question how Cooks’ blazing speed will translate into the cold and snowy region of Foxborough. Even Michael Fabiano posted a tweet showcasing the split between Cooks’ games indoors and out over the last two seasons.

Fabs Tweet

This is a classic case of throwing out a fact without much context. Yes, the points per game are lower but there’s no understanding as to who the opponents were or who Cooks was matched up against. Cooks actually average more catches outdoors based on this infographic. Needless to say, people are asking the wrong questions about what Cooks means to the Patriots.

So what does Cooks mean to Patriot players?

The Patriots needed a player who could stretch the defense on the outside away from Edelman in the slot and running backs out of the backfield. Having said that I don’t see him being a DeSean Jackson, lid popping, type receiver in the scheme on a frequent basis. Go routes will always be a part of his route tree but I see Josh McDaniels moving him around more to be the intermediate/crossing route receiver; especially on 2nd and mid or 3rd and short downs to pull the safeties away from the middle of the field opening up the underneath for other receivers and backs. Other than Gronk this definitely deflates the number of targets available for other pass catchers. I don’t see Edelman being forgotten this year and he should still put up low WR2/high WR3 points but he could be let go after this season similar to his predecessor Wes Welker. The big hit goes to Malcolm Mitchell owners who are disappointed that they didn’t get a chance to see what he could produce in his second year. Barring a long injury next season to one of the other receivers it will be hard to have Mitchell be anything more than a bye week/flex play.

So what is Cooks’ value?

As painful as it would sound based on what he produced for fantasy purposes last year I see Cooks being in 2017 a slightly better upgrade at what Hogan was in 2016, but with 4.3 speed. The Patriots and specifically Bill Belichick don’t care about your fantasy teams and will use whatever players they think will help them one game at a time. What that means is that there will be games where Cooks will push double digit catch and have multiple touchdowns and then he will be less than stellar for the next two games. The one difference that will save Cooks owners will be that based on the capital the Patriots invested in him his floor will be higher than Hogan’s was on a week-to-week basis with the hope that he replaces Edelman after 2017. If he’s on a decent contract for multiple seasons and is available for a mid-1st or a package for lower picks and players he would be an interesting buy.

So what does it mean for Saints players?

One person leaves so that means more food at the buffet for the rest right? Not exactly. While Cooks did account for 117 targets last season Michael Thomas was actually targeted more with 121 (even Willie Snead got 104). While it is possible that Thomas pushes into the Mike Evans, Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown range of 180 targets it’s more likely that Thomas has a mild increase in 2017 while a new receiver is integrated into the offense with 70-80 targets. Based on this expectation it is probably not worth trying to acquire Thomas who will be at his peak price right now. Instead, scribble in your auction journals to try and acquire Willie Snead on a savvy 2 or 3-year deal. He’s already an early sleeper to push WR2 numbers next season and should have a good couple of years left with Drew Brees. I was lucky to grab Snead in a few of my leagues last year on multi-year deals that would likely cost double this season. As well, keep an eye on any receiver that is brought in either late in free agency or through the draft. Drew Brees loves to spread the ball around and any day two or three drafted receivers that the Saints add could be fed the 70-80 targets previously mentioned. That would be tremendous opportunity value for a player that could be a 3rd round rookie pick this season.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

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.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Top 5 Remaining Offseason ?s

Updated: June 7th 2016

In the Zone

As the offseason has progressed, there have been some storylines that have continued to linger and others that have been new developments. There are fantasy implications all abound for all of these questions. Here are my top five remaining questions (in no particular order) that will alter the mindset of how players in these situations are viewed. I’m not including Tom Brady’s four-game suspension because the Patriots will be able to game plan for it if it sticks.

1) Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Contract Situation

The New York Jets, according to Spotrac, have only $3.1 million of remaining cap space for its Top 51 players. That provides an interesting conundrum on bringing back Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is coming off a career season with 3,905 yards passing and 31 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.

These numbers far exceed prior contributions from the signal-caller, yet Fitzpatrick only completed 59.6% of his passes last season and had one 300 yard game while the team narrowly missed the playoffs. Fitzpatrick seems to be wanting $12 million a year, possibly on a one year deal, which doesn’t appease the Jets who want to spread out the salary over time for cap purposes.

While the Jets were clearly a better team last year with Fitzpatrick at the helm, how much of that is attributable to a solid ground game and more importantly, renaissance man Brandon Marshall? I’d say a lot. Even with bolstering its offensive line with the trade for left tackle Ryan Clady and the big free agent signing of versatile running back Matt Forte, giving the quarterback the most amount of talent he’s ever had around him by far.

Geno Smith hasn’t effectively been a game manager, but hasn’t really been given the opportunity since the unfortunate broken jaw incident that led to Fitzpatrick starting the season and catching fire. Smith is the starter in OTA’s in Fitzpatrick’s absence and is a free agent in 2017. It would behoove the Jets to see what they have in Smith this year, especially if Fitzpatrick continues to hold out for what he believes he deserves.

What does all this mean for fantasy football? Not much, really. Marshall and fellow wide receiver Eric Decker have performed well no matter who their quarterback is, even if they are showing solidarity for Fitzpatrick. I watched Fitzpatrick frequently miss connections with Decker plenty last season and Decker does have a 200 yard game on his resume with Smith as quarterback. Forte also performed well in Chicago, even at a greater clip without Jay Cutler.

That’s your main concern, unless you are a Jets fan. Let’s face it- you aren’t throwing eight figures at Fitz in your auction or are considering him as a QB2 for any of your leagues.

Conclusion: Proceed as you were. Nothing to see here, people.

2) Sammy Watkins’ Injured Foot

It certainly came out of left field last month when it was announced that third-year wide receiver Sammy Watkins had foot surgery in April. This is the same surgery that impacted Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Julian Edelman. The big question that fantasy owners are dying to know is whether Watkins will be back in time for the regular season.

From a Reality Sports Online perspective, and I’ve said this on the record on Twitter, this Watkins news makes his price that much more reasonable and I’d be in buy mode while he’s cheaper. There are a few buckets of owners of Watkins in leagues. First, you have those who have Watkins on a rookie deal, likely around $6.0 million a year currently. That is a steal for a potential top 10 fantasy wideout for the next two years. Those who entered leagues later may have a heftier price tag on Watkins, but if it is anything under $20 million a season, that could be value.

As for me, I traded my final contract year of Randall Cobb (1 year remaining, $17.4 million) for Watkins (2016: $6.4 million, 2017: $7.0 million) and Matthew Stafford (1 year remaining $14.0 million). Basically, while I like Cobb’s potential efficiency to increase this year with the return of Jordy Nelson, I think Watkins ceiling is massive and a cheap price. Stafford is likely a cheap trade or cap casualty as I have Russell Wilson as my starter on a cheaper deal, but that to me was a small price to pay to get a potential superstar (which no doubt Cobb has been as well at times).

The news on Watkins having a screw inserted and prior history with Bryant rushing back and a subsequent Edelman surgery are troubling, but the Bills know what they have in Watkins and won’t make him take unnecessary training camp reps to risk not being ready for the regular season. Even if he starts slowly the first two weeks, his back half of 2015 was dominant on a team that only threw the ball more than 30 times in half of the final eight games.

How dominant you ask-try 41 catches for 732 yards and 6 touchdowns in the final eight games, including four 100 yard games. In fact, in that stretch, when Watkins was targeted 10 or more times, his worst game was 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Further, that’s on a run-oriented team and the team didn’t bring much in the help department for quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the passing game.

Lastly, in the event I haven’t convinced you on Watkins yet, he’s got a potential fantasy playoff slate against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Miami, all at home in Weeks 14-16 and the Raiders and Jags immediately prior.

Conclusion: Not concerned currently, but pay attention to the news. If you have Watkins, you’re probably holding him and expecting big things. If you have someone who is losing faith on him in your league, pounce on that, especially if the price is right.

3) The Josh Gordon Saga-Will It Continue?

By now you know the narrative about Josh Gordon. Incredibly talented, but can’t stay out of trouble. Those of you who still own him at an average of 1.7 remaining years and $9.3 million remaining contract are sincerely hoping Gordon can put his past (and Johnny Manziel) behind him to tear it up on the gridiron again.

That picture remains unclear, but there is some optimism that when August rolls around, Gordon can be clean and reinstated. The question then is what do the Browns do with him? He certainly would like nice in an all Baylor connection with Robert Griffin III and rookie #1 pick Corey Coleman (who I really like as a Top 3 rookie draft get), but at the same time Browns coach Hue Jackson is emphasizing character and the team is stockpiling Moneyball draft picks for the future.

Conclusion: Wait and see. If you have Gordon at an annual average of 1.7 years remaining and a little over $9.0 million left on his contract, just hope he hits the field, because if he does, he’ll produce anywhere. He still has top five wide receiver potential at close to bye week replacement pricing.

4) Is This the Year to Go Cheap at Quarterback?

Given the popularity of streaming quarterbacks in weekly redraft leagues and similar low dollar values in some daily games, a popular strategy that is now emerging in Reality Sports Online leagues is to spend as little as possible on your starting quarterback. The theory, as adopted by Reality Sports Online’s own Stephen Wendell with a quarterback like Derek Carr is simple: there are only 10-12 starting quarterbacks in each league, so don’t overpay for one while your budget can be used on positions that may require more cap space.

If any a year to adopt this strategy, 2016 seems like a prime one with quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston in their second year of rookie deals which typically found them as late first or early second round picks in 2015. The same holds true for Carr and fellow third year quarterback Blake Bortles. Both third year signal-callers have plenty of weapons. Heck, even Andy Dalton was playing like a top five quarterback until he got injured last season.

With quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning always a possibility to produce, unless quarterback is a position that derives more value in your leagues, it might be smart to not go crazy trying to sign the Aaron Rodgers types for $25 million when one of these quarterbacks can be had for $5 million or less.

Conclusion: 2016 seems like the first RSO league year where the cheap quarterback may really derive an advantage. I’m a firm believer in prime signal callers in the fantasy playoffs, someone you are sure will produce solid numbers even on a bad day. But if you can load up at receiver and get the right running backs under contract, this strategy is an interesting one.

5) Arian Foster: Whose Fantasy Season is he Going to Screw Up?

It is somewhat insane that Arian Foster remains unsigned, but it seems like he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s close to having a clean bill of health and there are definitely a few potentially needy teams still lurking. Foster likely is looking at a $3-4 million deal with some incentives that could be achieved if he’s healthy and performs well.

To me, the big question isn’t where Foster signs, but which current fantasy starter he’s going to destroy value for?

First off, if you are still holding Foster thinking he may be the same running back he was on Houston when healthy, please temper your expectations. He’s a very accomplished runner with excellent pass catching ability and a nose for the end zone. That’s where he holds the biggest value to teams. I don’t think teams are looking at him to be their bell-cow at this point in virtually any scenario.

I’d expect him to sign with the Miami Dolphins and if he does, Jay Ajayi owners will not be happy. Washington remains a good possibility and they’ve built up a pretty nice offense at this point. Put Foster in a committee and give him pass catching and goal-line responsibilities and he’ll have almost as much fantasy value on efficiency and fresh legs than he did as the featured back on the Texans. I personally don’t buy the New England hype-Dion Lewis is younger, coming off an easier injury to recover from, and under a fairly good contract.

Conclusion: If you haven’t cut Foster yet, hang on and see where this next month takes him. I wouldn’t overpay for him as a handcuff, but I’ve come around on him if he’s in a good situation and used well (10-12 touches a game), he could have Danny Woodhead like PPR fantasy value. If you are holding Ajayi or were hoping that Matt Jones was about to break out this year, get nervous, but wait to see what happens.


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.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Saying Goodbye To Being In Control

Updated: October 2nd 2015

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (33) poses for a portrait during the NFLPA Rookie Premiere on Saturday, May 31, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Ric Tapia/AP Images for NFL Players Inc.)

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (33) poses for a portrait during the NFLPA Rookie Premiere on Saturday, May 31, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Ric Tapia/AP Images for NFL Players Inc.)

I’ll start by saying that this article is particularly long. For those only interested in the football aspect of the article, you will want to scroll down to the #6 heading. For those of you who appreciate my writing style and want to see how a personal experience of mine has changed my fantasy football outlook, please read on.

This past weekend was one of the most difficult I’ve encountered on a personal level. And no, I’m not talking about fantasy football or my RSO leagues. Amidst a fairly hectic couple of weeks at work which took many turns while we landed on our most recent financial forecast, I got the news mid-last week that my Aunt Paula, who was battling Stage 4 cancer, was in home hospice.

To me, there was only one possibility for how I was going to spend my weekend — traveling to Southern California to support my parents and see my aunt and say my goodbyes, followed by traveling back home to my wife and young kids on one of my once-sacred fantasy football Sundays. I’d imagine that each of you has an Aunt Paula or an uncle like her; she played the role of the “cool aunt”– the one without kids of her own — to my younger brother and me. And she knocked it out of the park every time. She was the one who took us to countless baseball games (and two hour autograph sessions at team busses afterwards), the circus and many other events, all while she was in her 20’s and could have been living her own life. She was the one who provided innumerable life lessons to me and even explained to a younger version of me why a young woman was squatting outside of Cleveland Stadium before a Browns game (she only had to explain once, but this type of activity was commonplace for Browns games).

She is the reason I love numbers and statistics. She was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and later became a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the healthcare industry. When partners of her CPA firm took her to Cleveland Indians games, somehow I was the one who got to tag along and then win sports trivia contests as a youngster against these shocked partners of her firm. While I followed in her footsteps and became a CPA too, I decided that I was more interested in finance and strategy. However, my love of sports statistics that she instilled in me has only grown stronger, and through Reality Sports Online I get to be at the pinnacle of these statistics and use them to help others and try to win my leagues.

I’m not gonna lie, seeing a once vibrant woman full of life be non-responsive and in significant pain was the toughest experience I’ve been through and I can only imagine what was going through her mind and body. And while I wish I had happier news to report, Aunt Paula succumbed to cancer early Monday morning. She will be missed dearly by our family and her friends and co-workers.

The past weekend taught me so many lessons that I can draw from going forward and some can even be applied to Reality Sports Online leagues and fantasy football in general as well. Family members and friends who are only reading this for the non-football strategy aspects, you can stop reading now.

1) My proudest fantasy football moment of the weekend was….

One of my Reality Sports Online Twitter followers and fellow Seattle-area resident (whom I haven’t met yet but look forward to catching some games with), was asking me advice about trades and starting lineup decisions on Saturday. I apologized to him for not being as responsive as I usually am and tried to offer advice, although I really was in no place to do it. He apologized for what I was going through and when I had some time to respond on Sunday I found a stat on Steve Smith’s recent success against the Bengals for him that changed my course and advice on who he should start at wideout (he’s loaded there) and Smith powered him to victory while John Brown sat on his bench.  To his opponent, “Ice up, son!”

I really enjoying helping others with their lineups and strategy and hope that my articles this offseason have helped others build a roadmap to winning their leagues.

2) Sometimes I’m no more of an expert than anyone else….

While I went 12-4 in my weekly picks last week, I was 6-10 the week prior. Further, heading into Monday night’s games, I was dead last (50/50) in the FantasyDraft RSO Expert contest.  I ended up finishing higher than this based on Randall Cobb’s big performance, some of the players I chose who exhibited a high floor actually had no floor (Tyler Eifert had zero points) in this weird Week 3 of fantasy football.

So know that for every pick I get right, there are other picks I get very wrong.

3) I’m still chasing my first RSO Championship, but this week was definitely a highlight….

After three weeks in two RSO leagues, I’m the highest scoring team in both leagues. I’m 3-0 in my writers league and 2-1 in my main league. In my main league, I scored 337 points, which approached approached a league record. See my lineup below:

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 2.50.29 PM

I’m doing all this without Arian Foster, who was my big free agency get. I paid more than I would’ve liked for him (2 years, $51.5 million), but the cliff fall of remaining running backs in our league auction thereafter was very steep. Since we only are required to start one in this league (myself and my co-commish thought long and hard about our league scoring system and roster composition based on the NFL being a “passing” league), it was important to get a running back with “go-off” potential.

Little did I know in this very weird Week 3 of fantasy football that Devonta Freeman would have one of the best debuts as a starter in fantasy football history, certainly worthy of the “go off” categorization. I did think that he’d be solid in PPR, but in the little football I did get to watch while shuttling between airports and airplanes, Freeman showed the ability to get his pads low and deliver punishment while consistently reaching the second level of the Dallas Cowboys defense. Color me impressed. While Freeman is definitely at his highest “sell-high” point, those who own Tevin Coleman should fear that the running back who went in the first round of many RSO rookie drafts will now be a platooner at best if Freeman stays healthy. In terms of Freeman’s rest of season outlook, he’s definitely in the Top 24 running back discussion.

4) Most importantly, I learned that being in control is “overrated”…

I wouldn’t call myself a control freak, but with my unique ability to recollect statistics, facts, etc. that I acquired from Aunt Paula, I have a hard time not being in control. This is probably the reason that I rarely have drunk myself into oblivion, because I’m not a fan of not being able to remember things.

For these same reasons, until this past weekend I felt that my fantasy teams, NCAA Tournament brackets, etc. performed better if I was watching. Basically that my watching could somehow “control” the outcome. Of course it is more fun to be able to watch your fantasy players perform, but sometimes that simply isn’t possible.

Before marriage and children, there would be no way that I would even deign to consider flying on a football Sunday. My Thanksgiving travel has consistently featured either Saturday or Monday returns (cheaper that way, too). With my aunt’s health taking a significant turn for the worse, I had no choice but to fly and say my goodbyes quickly and fly back home on a football Sunday. Of course with the Sunday Ticket Max and Wi-Fi, I figured I’d be no worse for wear on Sunday while traveling.

That’s where I was wrong. The Wi-Fi was weak in the first airport I was passing through and I couldn’t stream any games or the Red Zone Channel. I basically was able to watch the Falcons/Cowboys game until I boarded, which is why I was able to tell early on that Freeman was looking good before he blew up. Another surprising performer for me this week, Lance Dunbar (about time after two years of touting him in Scott Linehan’s offense) was someone else I was able to watch a bit as well and I think he has cemented himself as part of the offense, although the whole “game-script” logic applies to him. Start him in PPR leagues, but be careful otherwise.

Luckily, I was able to check my scores and see my teams were performing well while I wasn’t watching. That was a feeling I had never really experienced before for prolonged periods of time. So when I boarded my first flight from Ontario to Oakland (Southwest’s regional spoke system for sure), I quickly was delighted to learn Wi-Fi was available, but then quickly disappointed that the Wi-Fi (which I paid $8 for) didn’t let me stream the Sunday Ticket. I then decided to pay another $4 for Red Zone so I had other options besides Eagles/Jets and figured my second flight (a two hour flight from Oakland to Seattle) would have Wi-Fi and I had already paid for the whole day on the first flight.

From 30,000 feet I saw that Steve Smith was going off for me in my writers league (someone inexplicably dropped Mr. Ice Up, Son during the week) and that A.J. Green was wrecking the Ravens as he typically does (which was to my benefit in one league and to my detriment in another as I was facing him).

When I landed in Oakland, it was the end of the early games and I peeked at the TV from a Chili’s (I have a deeply irrational love for Chili’s and wish they had them closer to me in Seattle, which is very anti-chain restaurant) as my Browns were failing in a last-ditch effort against the Raiders. It was still nice to be clued in on the games that had fantasy impact.

As I was boarding the second flight, the Seahawks were pulling off the fake-punt return play the Rams pulled on them last season, except Richard Sherman doesn’t have Robert Brooks’ “breakaway speed” and got caught from behind. The Seahawks sputtered early against the Bears, which is becoming a theme (more on that in a bit) as I headed down the jetway to board my plane.

Then, something that would have previously sent my world in a spiral happened. I entered the doorway of the plane and didn’t see a Wi-Fi symbol. I asked the flight attendant if there was Wi-Fi on the flight. Her response was “No, this is a classic airplane,” and then in her Southwest-Airlines-flight-attendant-trying-to-be-funny mode quipped, “You’ll have to make friends with your neighbor.” I thought to myself, “I don’t want to make friends with my neighbor. My aunt is effing dying, I’m tired as you-know-what and ALL I want to do is watch the Seahawks game.” And by the way, I was flying from one of the most tech savvy areas (Bay Area) to another highly techie area (Seattle). Of all the routes not to have Wi-Fi, this was it?

Somehow I killed two hours listening to music (those who know me best know what was on the playlist) on my noise-cancelling headphones (there wouldn’t be any making friends with my neighbor on this flight, missy!) and there was a quiet calm for me as our plane landed. Quick aside — I don’t travel much, but highly advocate buying a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Simply put,they are amazing and for the times you do travel are so nice to have and can change your mood instantly.

What this weekend taught me is that I didn’t have to be in control of everything. I wasn’t going to get my aunt back to health, I was there to say goodbye and be helpful and supportive to my family. I wasn’t going to have control of my ability to watch my fantasy players, I just had to trust they’d perform well. As my weekends going forward will certainly fill up with family activities like apple picking, soccer games, and playdates, it certainly is nice to know that I can pick my spots and not obsess over every play, because I don’t truly control the outcome.

5) I also can’t control what other teams in my league do on the trade market….

Both my teams have a legitimate chance if my players stay relatively healthy to win my leagues. However, I can’t control if a non-contending team shops their best players to my main competition for development players and draft picks. This has already happened in my league, but I’m in the position that I’m playing well without Foster and if it ain’t broke, there is no reason to fix it right now. People in other leagues hopefully realize that too. As commish, a trade would have to be an overt demonstration of collusion for me or my co-commish to consider vetoing it.

Additionally, a word of advice. My main league takes advantage of RSO’s playoff bracket flexibility. Our top four records make the playoffs and are the top four seeds. The final two playoff spots are determined by total points scored. This basically gives everyone a shot at being in the playoff picture for an extended period of time in the season. It sometimes works to our detriment in that teams are hesitant to trade in season until the deadline because they think they are still alive for a playoff spot. I’d highly recommend an approach like this for the fun of your league and to keep teams incentivized to continue to play until the final snap.

6) It’s Time To Sell, Sell, Sell These Guys….

While I like the Broncos faith in C.J. Anderson’s ability to bounce back, the injuries, a porous offensive line, and lack of performance have me channeling my inner-Duke brothers from Trading Places. “Turn those machines back on and sell, sell, sell,” says Randolph Duke. You’ll need something in return for Anderson, so you may need to package some draft capital if Anderson’s salary and years are high. If you can’t get something of value without giving up the farm, you’ll just have to hold Anderson and hope he turns it around, but the signs point against that.

The Seattle Seahawks have a problem on offense. For starters, their line stinks. For that reason, and while the timing isn’t ideal, I wouldn’t be too excited about Marshawn Lynch’s rest of season prospects. I’ve watched enough Seahawks games in Russell Wilson’s tenure with them being the local market team. The problem the Seahawks have is not a lack of offensive weapons-it’s Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell’s play-calling.

Basically the Seahawks wait the entire first half of games to feel out the opponent’s defense. This means Wilson stays in the pocket, they throw bubble screens (having flashbacks of the Percy Harvin era) and wait for Lynch or the defense to make a play. Then after half they start hitting their stride. The problem is that doesn’t offer you as a fantasy owner a ton of upside. Wilson is my starting quarterback in my main league and fits my league (high completion percentage, good runner, doesn’t turn the ball over in a league that interceptions and fumbles are worth negative 5 points), but I can unequivocally say that on a one-year deal I’d rather have Carson Palmer at this point).

In terms of a sell-high guy, Keenan Allen fits the bill. He has tons of targets and has performed in two of three games. However, Antonio Gates returns soon, and quarterback Philip Rivers is notorious for starting quickly and then coming back down to earth. And Stevie Johnson isn’t going away anytime soon.

I’m leery on a bunch of highly-rated running backs from the offseason, but I think guys like Jeremy Hill turn it around. He’s in too good of an offense and is likely on a nice rookie deal for you. Be patient with him. The same can’t be said for Justin Forsett. He’s a classic example of someone with a small sample size and one good season causing offseason hysteria. If the Ravens continue to lose games, look for the team to give more run to their young running backs.

7) These Guys Are For Real….

I love Marcus Mariota’s poise in the pocket and his subtle fakes and shifts to get out of danger. He has some Aaron Rodgers like qualities. I’d be targeting him in the trade market on his rookie deal as your quarterback of the future and I like the Mariota-Kendall Wright connection for years to come. Get Wright now as someone who will outperform his contract based on his sure hands (he had zero drops in 2014) and Tennessee’s defense allowing lots of points meaning the team will be throwing often.

In terms of a right-now guy, Tyrod Taylor is the real deal. His ability to run and use his weapons makes him dangerous. He’s really the only piece of the Buffalo offense I have faith in right now. Plus anytime he blows up, you can say, “When the east is in the house, Ty, Ty-Rod (Danger)”. Bonus points to anyone who knows what I’m talking about here. At this point, you’d have to consider starting Taylor over quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, and Wilson.

Not that you are doubting him, but Julian Edelman is really good at football. He’s super-consistent, gets tons of targets and plays in one of the best offenses in football. If you can get him on your team in a trade, make it happen and don’t trade him if you have him.

I love how Arizona is using Larry Fitzgerald as a slot receiver. His physical tools enable him to win balls against smaller slot corners and his 2015 fantasy value is more than intact. His 2016 is fully guaranteed in real life, so feel free to pursue him via trade if you like him as a medium term play. His numbers will have to come down, but based on his pace, 12 touchdowns this year is within reason if Palmer stays healthy and he’s being heavily targeted.

Well, that caps a very bittersweet week for me. I sincerely appreciate whatever eyeballs got all the way to the bottom of this and for Matt and Stephen giving me freedom in what I write. Feel free to reach out to me via Twitter @mattgoody2.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin