OC’s Gameplan: Bad Offenses and Good RBs

Updated: March 8th 2018

My brother once asked me when he was going to college: what major was most likely to find a wife?   Looking back, this is an odd thing for an 18 year-old to worry about, but highlighted for me the importance what questions we should be asking.   Orthodoxy around drafting running backs points us toward opportunity.   That wisdom of the crowd may not be far off, but one aspect of a running back’s chances often has me thinking and saying statements such as: “draft running backs attached to good offenses,” or “I want Aaron Rodgers’ caddie.”   At a macro level, our preparation for the 2018 season, and the projections of the best minds in the fantasy business, suggest that a team’s overall pace of play, scoring, and potential yardage is factored and then fantasy prognosticators can begin carving the ham for individual players.   The hours of our lives we spend panning through the dirt and grit of film and data for the nuggets of golden touchdown goodness from our adopted players is desperate to a degree that might even merit sympathy from prospectors.  How do we find the highest scoring running backs? Do we know the best offenses?  Will the two ever meet?

Think for a moment about the scoring offenses that are truly great over the last three years.   Upstarts in the LA Rams took the crown this past season.  Prior to that was Atlanta’s outlier, and the season before the Falcons, the Carolina Panthers.   The only thing these offenses share is that none of them appear in the top 10 the other two seasons under our scrutiny.   Not too many hands are in the air when asked who predicted the Gurley men would wreck real and fantasy seasons, nor Matty Ice flinging the rock like the only sober guy in a cornhole contest.  However, the Panthers led by wunderkind Cam Newton had more preseason hype.   The only problem is that if we attached our fantasy RB fortunes to the Panthers, the recently departed Jonathan Stewart was riding shotgun and returned RB2 numbers.   Not until 2017 did the top overall RB come from the top scoring team, and last season of the top 24 scoring RBs, 16 of them came from offenses outside the top 10.   It did become slightly more promising in the top 10 where 6 of the 10 RBs corresponded to the top offenses, but two of them, Mark Ingram and the golden-grilled Alvin Kamara hailed from the same offense.

Two significant problems arise with the “hitch your cart to the best offense” theory of drafting running backs.  1) Our cart-hitching is fairly random, as only three offenses (NE, NO, and Pitt) have sustained a presence in the top 10 for the last three years.  2) Even if we manage to predict those offenses, only one of them, has produced a top 10 back in all three years.  Pittsburgh managed that feat but with DeAngelo Williams in 2015 and Lev Bell the past two seasons.   In fairness, NO should be counted on as well.  Standing in the shadow of larger names, Mark Ingram makes a case for the most consistent back in fantasy over the last three years (registering RB1 numbers each time) but just outside of the top 10 once.

The most stunning aspect of looking into the truly elite NFL scoring offenses, however, is that the league AVERAGE for rushing touchdowns over that three year span was always within 5 of an average of those elite offenses.  In 2017 the ratio was 12/17, 2016: 14/16, and 11.4/16.*  The elite offenses seem to distinguish themselves by outstripping their average counterparts in passing touchdowns by nearly double digit margins.  Fantasy orthodoxy holds that players should look to tether their fortunes to RBs in the best offenses.   The truth seems to point to other aspects of opportunity as far more important and so future examinations of offensive play calling will point you to the coordinators and players likely to garner scoring chances.  Incidentally, I told my brother he should look into Musical Theatre and Nursing…opportunity over talent, I suppose.

*All numbers drawn from the inestimable Pro Football Reference


Luke @FantasyDocOC is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. He writes OC’s Gamplan for Reality Sports Online.  Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

More Analysis by Luke O'Connell

2018 NFL Free Agency

Updated: February 18th 2018

Welcome back! With the NFL free agency just around the corner and the RSO and the site reopened, it is time to start watching who is a free agent or a potential cut candidate before the official offseason kicks off. There will be a few windows between now and March to either sell a player before he moves into a worse situation or buy a player before he joins a prolific offense. Here is a preview of each position’s key free agents as well as some player who could be cut before or during the offseason. Similar to last year I will be picking players that relocate to feature in the Free Agency Expectancy article series done throughout the offseason.


QB FAs QB Cuts
Drew Brees Eli Manning
Kirk Cousins Tyrod Taylor
Sam Bradford Ryan Tannehill
Josh McCown Mike Glennon
Case Keenum
Teddy Bridgewater
Blaine Gabbert
Jay Cutler
A.J. McCarron

The fireworks have already started with regards to the quarterback market with Alex Smith being dealt to Washington which should signal the end of Kirk Cousins in the Capital. Without knowing whether or not Drew Brees is going to seriously test free agency we have to assume that Cousins will be the one who will receive the largest contract. We haven’t seen a healthy, young(ish), competent QB hit the market in years so it will interesting to see how teams will court him. There should only be a handful of teams that don’t take a serious look at their starter and wonder if Cousins could be better. For the rest of the available and possibly available QBs, it’s a mixed bag in terms of fantasy relevance. Not sure many will have an impact outside of 2QB league but we’ll see where they land.

Running Backs

RB FAs RB Cuts
Le’Veon Bell DeMarco Murray
Carlos Hyde Doug Martin
Jerrick McKinnon Adrian Peterson
Dion Lewis Chris Ivory
Isaiah Crowell Mike Gillislee
Alfred Morris
Eddie Lacy
Jeremy Hill
LeGarrette Blount
Frank Gore
Rex Burkhead
Charles Sims
Thomas Rawls – RFA
Alex Collins – ERFA

Much like last year, I don’t expect Le’Veon Bell to hit the market, whether it is another year on the franchise tag or Pittsburgh comes to a long-term deal with him. Carlos Hyde would likely have the most upside of any free agent but he does have a history of injuries. He could find himself in a similar situation as Latavius Murray was last year where a team signs him but transitions to a rookie later in the season. After those two it would be hard to trust any RB to be more than an RB3-4 on a week-to-week basis. With another incoming rookie class that is extremely talented and super deep at the position, it will be tough for anyone to feel confident acquiring these available players. At best some will be able to share the backfield with a rookie or one another veteran. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

Wide Receivers

WR FAs WR Cuts
Jarvis Landry Jordy Nelson
Allen Robinson Brandon Marshall
Danny Amendola Randall Cobb
Paul Richardson Dez Bryant
Marqise Lee Emmanuel Sanders
Jordan Matthews Allen Hurns
Sammy Watkins Jeremy Maclin
Terrelle Pryor
Donte Moncrief
John Brown
Mike Wallace
Kendall Wright
Jeff Janis
Cameron Meredith – RFA
Quincy Enunwa – RFA
Tyrell Williams – RFA
Willie Snead – RFA
Brandon Coleman – RFA
Josh Gordon – ERFA

There are some big names available in the receiver market as well as some bigger names on the cut list which could make for savvy buy/sell opportunities between now and March. If Allen Robinson finds a new team with an efficient QB he will see his value spike back up to the mid WR1 conversation that it was a couple years ago. Same goes for Jarvis Landry who had good production in Miami with less than efficient offenses the last two seasons. If either or both Packers receivers are booted from Aaron Rodgers’ offense their value will crater. I would be selling both of them over the next three weeks before the trade value completely falls out from under them. Overall, this is the position group to watch throughout the offseason. Lots of moving pieces may create incredible value for a number of these players.

Tight Ends

TE FAs TE Cuts
Jimmy Graham Julius Thomas
Austin Seferian-Jenkins Eric Ebron
Tyler Eifert Vance McDonald
Antonio Gates C.J. Fiedorowicz
Benjamin Watson
Trey Burton
Cameron Brate – RFA  

Tight ends lag behind again as there are very few fantasy relevant options that will hit the open market and the ones that are available are extremely risky. Jimmy Graham started to be productive in Seattle last season with the offense needing to open up and carry their surprisingly weak defense. If he stays in Seattle he could be reconsidered in the top 3 conversation again for TE value. Until we know for sure his value is in flux. The rest of the group is either seriously flawed, injury prone or contemplating retirement which doesn’t bode well for fantasy value. Hopefully, the youth movement comes to blossom soon for this position otherwise it could be a wasteland if Gronk is serious about his retirement.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Early RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: August 6th 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. This week I move to one of the most volatile positions in fantasy football, running back, where increased injury rate and player turnover make long-term decisions extremely difficult.

Top of the Market

No shock here.  Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell are the three highest paid running backs in RSO leagues and also atop the overall player salaries.  There is not much of an argument to be made about why they do not belong here.  Each is a proven game changer at the position and potential league winner capable of putting up 2,000 total yards with extraordinary potential touch volume.

The only issue which concerns me is the lengths of contracts where each is averaging nearly four years.  I do not have much of an issue with Zeke given the dominant offensive line mostly locked up with long term deals and a quarterback who was excellent as a rookie, but questions linger about his off-the-field behavior.  I am a little more skeptical of Bell and Johnson though with situations more in flux and extensive workloads which increase injury risk.  Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger could retire any year moving forward with no real alternatives on the rosters leaving a possibly dicey quarterback situation for each.  Bell also has multiple suspensions, major injury issues, and is not signed to a long-term contract with Pittsburg (and will not be until after the season, if at all).

The Rookies

The rookies listed in the table all came from one auction as most rookies will go in rookie drafts instead of auction, so do not put too much stock into the results.  I believe it is a useful reminder, however, of inflated rookie prices which can occur in startup auctions.  Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook all landed maximum term contracts in the auction with average salaries that would place each in the top-14 among running backs without playing a down in the NFL.  This is just a reminder not to go overboard with rookies in your auction.

An Important Tier Break

For those owners who like to invest in two heavy volume running backs for your starters, remember the name Lamar Miller.  He is the last player on the list before a major tier drop, coming off the board as the RB15 in average salary.  The main reason for this big tier break is certainty of volume.  Forgetting the rookies, I have every back priced above Isaiah Crowell projected for 270+ touches over the course of a full season.  I do not have any other back projected for over 250 touches.  The primary problem for these other backs centers around 1) uncertainty of role (example: Spencer Ware) or 2) playing on projected bad teams limiting workload (example: Carlos Hyde).

Top Buys

C.J. Anderson heads my list of top running back buys this season.   The Denver back is virtually assured the the lion’s share of carries with last year’s bust Devontae Booker (already injured), late rounder De’Angelo Henderson, and former superstar Jamaal Charles (still returning from injury and on the roster bubble) as the only competition.  Anderson averaged 18 touches per contest through 7 games last season before injury ended his year and was the RB12 during that time.  The Broncos improved their offensive line in the offseason and will want to rely heavily on the run game no matter who ends up starting at quarterback.  Anderson is a steal as the RB26.

Bilal Powell (RB35), Danny Woodhead (RB37), and Theo Riddick (RB42) provide cheap useful starters, particularly in PPR leagues, for those teams taking a wide receiver-heavy approach.  Each has standalone value and a lot of upside should the other committee back on their respective team go down with injury.

Top Avoids

The narrative surrounding Ty Montgomery (RB22) has amused me to no end this offseason.   Montgomery started 12 games, including three in the playoffs, once bruiser Eddie Lacy went down with injury.  The converted wide receiver rushed for more than 11 times once and accumulated more than 60 rushing yards once in his 12 starts.  Those games were with James Starks (likely done in the league) and Christine Michael (who has been cut more times than we can count) as the only real competition for touches.  Green Bay was even giving Aaron Ripkowski touches.  Now the story is that Montgomery will take over a far bigger role after the Packers drafted multiple running backs with far more talent than last year’s backs? Montgomery is the classic perceived “great situation” case boosted by small sample efficiency stats which were propped up on two games against a Chicago defense decimated by injuries.

I am a big fan of C.J. Prosise and the multi-dimensional skill-set he brings.  I am not paying starter money on a short-term contract for a player likely needing multiple items going his way to take over the primary back role.  Grab Prosise on a cheaper longer-term contract if possible in your league as a nice lottery ticket.


Average RSO Running Back 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.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

FA Expectancy – Le’Veon Bell

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.

Before free agents officially signed though, I wanted to get in a comprehensive analysis of Le’Veon Bell who has been designated with the Franchise Tag for 2017. I want to evaluate where he and the Steelers are in 2017 and where they might be in the future should they part ways.

Currently, the dynasty RB3 on DLF Bell had himself another great season that made those who gambled on his 3-game suspension a likely championship caliber team. Since his tagging, there are talks that he and the Steelers are looking at a big extension that could make him the highest-paid running back in the league. Even if they don’t come to an agreement before the July 15 deadline the Steelers would have the option to tag him again for next season. But would Bell play under a second tag? I posted a poll on Twitter asking the community what they thought Bell would do if he was placed under the tag.

Twitter Question - Bell

The community expects him to play, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as one might think. In fact, holding out after a potential second tag in 2018 was only 1% different and his expectation to hold out this year was also reasonably high. Bell hasn’t expressed any interest in holding out, so we’ll expect him and the Steelers to come to an agreement in the coming months. But the devil will be in details of what the contract really says about the Steelers commitment to him. Too often the headline after signings will read, “Player and Team agree to a $45M deal over 4 years”, but what does that really mean? If it is very front loaded with the guaranteed money drying up after the second year then this can really just equate to a 2 year extension.

The Steelers will also show their hand in this year’s draft by how they handle the running back position. Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette will not be drafted by the Steelers in round one, but a serious investment at the end of day 2 or even a high day 3 running back selection could signal that the team is already thinking past the days of Bell. Joe MixonI think Joe Mixon, another running back with a troubling history would be the perfect fit for the Steelers in this draft. The franchise is well insulated to handle an expected media frenzy that would come with his selection, and they wouldn’t have to invest as high a value pick because of his history (likely 3rd to 5th round). He could be an excellent bargaining chip for the Steelers to hold over Bell’s head in future contract talks. If Bell walks, Mixon can step right in after the media storm blows over after 2017. If they sign him they still have an excellent talent at backup in case of injury or major suspension.

So what would the Steelers be with/without Bell then?

We know what the Steelers are with Bell lining up behind Ben Roethlisberger and keeping defenses honest for Antonio Brown to work all over the secondary. They are one of the most prolific offenses in the league, and are frequently in the top 10 in terms of scoring and total yards. But what if Bell held out or the Steelers moved on?

We had glimpses of what this scenario would be like, with mixed results, thanks to recent suspensions and the injuries that Bell had in 2015 and 2016. In early 2015 DeAngelo Williams was as good as Bell to fantasy owners. He also held up for those who kept him through midseason when he picked right back up after Bell went out with a leg injury for the rest of the season. It started the same in 2016 when Williams had to fill in for Bell again at the start the season due to suspension. However in the playoff game against New England when Bell could only play the first quarter the Steelers couldn’t get anything going on offense. The defense took away Brown with double coverage and the running game was stale for most of the game.

This might be why the Steelers are willing to sign Bell to a long-term deal because they saw that without him they might not be able to get over the hump that is New England in the AFC. But the question still remains as to whether any above average running backs like the previously mentioned Joe Mixon, would do equally as well in Pittsburgh’s offense for what could be a fraction of Bell’s cost?

So what does this mean for Bell as a fantasy asset?

Short of taking another ill-timed puff of the funny stuff I expect Bell to be dominant in 2017; maybe not as dominant on a per game basis as he was down the stretch last year but still a locked-in RB1. The interesting evaluation will be what his value is in 2018? Depending on his contract situation and what the Steelers do to fill his backup role this off-season he could be an excellent sell-high asset. Even in 2017 for owners that are not in their championship window, this could be the best (and maybe last) year to sell Bell for a fist full of picks and/or young players.

For those of you who have him in your Auction this season do not get sucked into offering him a huge $70M/4year deal. Remember that the back years of RSO deals are where the cap hit is at its highest so let other owners commit long term to him. Instead try and get him with only a 2-year deal which gives you the flexibility to hold him or move him at the end of 2017 based on what he does.

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

2017 Free Agency Preview

Updated: July 16th 2017

Welcome to 2017! Hopefully, 2016 was a success in regards to your fantasy teams. We are less than one week away from the start of the NFL Combine which officially starts the NFL offseason activities. While many people will have their attention focused on the incoming rookies, rightfully so, this will also offer the first major opportunity for the rumor mill to start for players set to hit free agency on March 9th. We will have to wait and see which players are ultimately tagged by their team but this could be a great year for dynasty owners that like to take risks on relocating free agents. Along with these free agents, there may be a star-studded group of players that are cut. Once the draft comes around there should be a large number of big names that will be changing uniforms.

To prepare you, the owners of RSO, for the whirlwind that is NFL free agency I’ve gone to the liberty of making a list of the most fantasy relevant players that are either free agents or could be moving teams next season.

Colin Kaepernick (Cut) Adrian Peterson (Cut) Adam Thielen (RFA) Cameron Brate (ERFA)
Jay Cutler Alfred Morris (Cut) Alshon Jeffery Gavin Escobar
Jimmy Garoppolo (Trade) Andre Ellington Brandon Marshall (Cut) Jack Doyle
Josh McCowan (Cut) Benny Cunningham Brian Quick Jared Cook
Kirk Cousins Chris Thompson (RFA) Cordarrelle Patterson Jermaine Gresham
Mike Glennon Christine Michael Danny Amendola (Cut) Jordan Cameron
 Tony Romo (Cut) Danny Woodhead DeSean Jackson Julius Thomas (Trade)
Tyrod Taylor (Cut) Darren McFadden Eddie Royal (Cut) Lance Kendricks (Cut)
DeAngelo Williams Eric Decker (Cut) Larry Donnell
  Doug Martin (Cut) Kamar Aiken Luke Willson
  Eddie Lacy Kendall Wright Martellus Bennett
  Isaiah Crowell (RFA) Kenny Britt Ryan Griffin
Jamaal Charles (Cut) Kenny Stills Vernon Davis
  James Stark (Cut) Markus Wheaton
Jonathan Stewart (Cut) Marquess Wilson
Latavius Murray Michael Floyd
  LeSean McCoy (Cut/Trade) Pierre Garcon
  LeGarrette Blount Robert Woods
Le’Veon Bell Taylor Gabriel (RFA)
  Mike Gillislee (RFA) Terrance Williams
Rashad Jennings (Cut) Terrelle Pryor
Rex Burkhead Willie Snead (ERFA)
Ryan Mathews (Cut) Victor Cruz (Cut)
Terrance West (RFA)






Anthony Lynn Chargers (HC) Bills (OC/HC)
Chris Ballard Colts (GM) Chiefs
Doug Marrone Jaguars (HC) Jaguars (OC)
Kyle Shannahan 49ers (HC) Falcons (OC)
Mike McCoy Broncos (OC) Chargers (HC)
Sean McDermitt Bills (HC) Panthers (DC)
Sean McVay Rams (HC) Redskins (OC)


Throughout the offseason I will be working on a collection of articles focusing on some of these players as they sign new deals (either with a new team or their current team) and the impact they will they have as well as what this means for the players around them. I will also look at a couple of coaching and management changes that you should be aware of and what it means for your players that aren’t moving.

In the meantime make sure to buy-in to your leagues and start those trade conversations again with other owners. The best way to prepare for free agency is to have a list of what other owners may be looking for before your rookie draft. As players begin to sign with new teams having an open communication with your league mates will put you atop their list of first contacts when they want to start trading.

If you want to start a conversation about what any player’s impact could be if they move to a new team reach out to me on Twitter @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

2017 Top 25s: QBs and RBs

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!

In part 1 of my 2017 Top 25s, I’ll explore the quarterback and running back positions:


Top 25 QBs for 2017

Aaron Rodgers is in a tier of his own, making him an elite asset in Superflex and 2QB leagues. Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo are two of the most intriguing names on this list. Over the next few months, we should find out where they’ll play in 2017. If either lands in Denver or Houston, expect their values to rise even higher up this list.

Top 25 RBs for 2017

Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson form the elite trio of RBs that should command the highest AAV (average annual value) of any players in free agency auctions. Rookies Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette could be RB1s in the right situation. Coming off major injuries, veteran RBs Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson just missed the top 25. If they appear healthy as the season approaches and have promised roles, both could be underrated RB2s that will be undervalued in many free agency auctions.

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

More Analysis by Dave Sanders