FA Expectancy: Kyle Shanahan

Updated: July 23rd 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.

Kyle Shanahan – HC, San Francisco 49ers

I want to take a different approach to my FA Expectancy than I normally do and look at new 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. More specifically, I want to see what type of coach he is and what his presence brings to the 49ers from an offensive standpoint. I also want to examine what his departure means for several high profile Falcons’ players.

A Team Saviour?

Shanahan began his coordinating career in Houston with the Texans from 2008 till 2010. His two seasons with the Texans he executed a balanced offense with 21 and 29 passing TDs to 16 and 13 rushing TDs respectively. In 2010 Shanahan was hired as the offensive coordinator underneath his recently unretired father, Mike, in Washington. For the first two seasons, they were a terrible offense. Led by Donovan McNabb (2010) and Rex Grossman (2011) they averaged only 18.5 points per game and failed to score 10 rushing TDs in either season. Then in 2012 Washington infamously traded for Robert Griffin III and the offense exploded around him and fellow rookie Alfred Morris. The Shanahan’s did an excellent job of keeping the offense simple and allowed both Griffin and Morris to control the game one the ground. The team finished with 22 rushing TDs (2nd overall) and averaged over 27 points per game, good for 4th overall.

Unfortunately, the offense took a step back in 2013 finishing average to below average in offensive statistics. This was likely due to the injury that Griffin suffered in the playoffs the season before as he became unable to execute the scramble drill that allowed the offense to make big, downfield plays. Both Kyle and his father were fired at the end of the season. Kyle became the offensive coordinator in Cleveland for the 2014 season and while awful in the passing game the team did have success running the ball, ranking 4th with 17 rushing TDs.

In 2015 Shanahan moved to join the newly hired Head Coach Dan Quinn in Atlanta. Quinn was the defensive coordinator of the Legion of Boom Seahawks that went to two Super Bowls and combining him with Shanahan was praised throughout the league. The team went through growing pains in their first season after starting off undefeated through the first month but failed to make the playoffs. Much like their record stated the offense was average with rankings of 21st in scoring, 23rd in passing and 13th in rushing. Then the offense exploded last season finishing top 3 in all three categories on their way to the team’s second Super Bowl appearance. The day after the Super Bowl Shanahan used his success to land the head coaching job in San Francisco, a team that was 27th in scoring in last season.

Having laid out his 8-year career as an offensive coordinator the below graphs show how Shanahan led offenses have done since 2008. For context, I have also listed the QB-WR-RB combo that led each team.

 

 

 

Kyle Shanahan Offensive Standings
YEAR Team SCORING S. RANK S. AVG PASSING P. RANK P. AVG RUSHING R. RANK R. AVG
2016 ATL 33.8 1 22.8 38 2T 24.6 20 3T 13.8
2015 ATL 21.2 21T 22.8 21 23T 26.3 13 13T 11.4
2014 CLE 18.7 27 22.6 12 32 25.2 17 4 11.9
2013 WAS 20.9 23 23.4 20 24 25.1 14 13T 12.8
2012 WAS 27.3 4 22.8 24 13T 23.7 22 2 12.5
2011 WAS 18 26 22.2 19 23 23.3 8 26 12.5
2010 WAS 18.9 25 22 21 22 23.5 9 24T 12.5
2009 HOU 24.3 10 21.5 29 5T 22.2 13 18 13.4
2008 HOU 22.9 17 22 21 13T 20.2 16 11T 14.9
AVG   22.9 17.1 22.5 22.8 17.4 23.8 14.7 12.7 12.9

 

Featured Starters
YEAR QB REC RB
2017 Brian Hoyer Pierre Garcon Carlos Hyde
2016 Matt Ryan Julio Jones Devonta Freeman
2015 Matt Ryan Julio Jones Devonta Freeman
2014 Brian Hoyer Andrew Hawkins Terrance West
2013 Robert Griffin III Pierre Garcon Alfred Morris
2012 Robert Griffin III Josh Morgan Alfred Morris
2011 Rex Grossman Jabar Gaffney Roy Helu
2010 Donovan McNabb Santana Moss Ryan Torain
2009 Matt Schaub Andre Johnson Steve Slaton
2008 Matt Schaub Andre Johnson Steve Slaton

 

Suffice to say that other than last year’s juggernaut Falcons and a magical season from a pair of rookies in 2013 his offenses have been pretty pedestrian. Matt Kelley of RotoUnderworld discussed how backward it is to assume that coaches who have had generational talents at a position are somehow going to make mid-tier to mediocre talent into fantasy stars. He even specifically talks about this infatuation with Kyle Shanahan and his Coach Klein-like advantage of motivating and play calling. If you want to listen to his full discuss you can find it here. Be warned that it does include some NSFW language.

What to Expect in San Francisco?

Football wise the 49ers were in complete shambles last season which is reflective in their two wins and 31st overall finish. Shanahan and new first-time General Manager John Lynch brought in veterans Brian Hoyer and Pierre Garcon, both of which Shanahan has worked with in the past, to have some stability in the passing game. I have already looked into the passing game in my Pierre Garcon article and discussed how Hoyer and Garcon can have appeal as low-cost options in 2017. Looking deeper into past seasons my 2017 prediction would be that the offense will fall somewhere between Shanahan’s 2013 Washington team and his 2014 Cleveland Browns. This would suggest that passing TDs would be hard to come by and therefore Garcon will need to rely heavily on collecting targets to hold WR3 value.

As we can see from above other than Matt Ryan the options at QB have been below average at best. This, along with the reputation his father had to turn any athlete with two legs into a 1,000-yard rusher, may be an indication as to why most Shanahan led offenses lean more heavily on the run. For those that are concerned that negative game script will force Shanahan to have to pass more frequently it has shown that even with mediocre teams Shanahan has always stuck with his running game. There is definitely fantasy appeal to having a Shanahan led backfield.

The question now becomes, “Who will be the primary back once the season opens”? They inherited Carlos Hyde who has been a workhorse back when healthy and also drafted Joe Williams in the 4th round. Apparently, Shanahan was adamant that the team take Williams for him to use in his offense. This has many thinking that Williams is the guy to own in San Francisco which has moved his rankings to the mid-second round in rookie drafts believing that his time will come sooner rather than later. But there has been news out of San Francisco that undrafted RB Matt Breida is looking better than Williams in practice and again Matt Kelley (in a separate discussion) mentioned back in May about how he was skeptical about Williams being ahead of Brieda on the depth chart come week 1. Have a listen here if you want the 3-minute conversation (again NSFW). Because of this for 2017 you want to stay the course with Carlos Hyde and try and acquire him from any panicky owners that don’t think he will return his usually RB2 value.

Will Atlanta suffer a Super hangover without Shanahan?

Other than Shanahan leaving the offense stays relatively the same. They still have Julio Jones who is top 3 of everybody’s receiver rankings. They still have Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman who make up one of the best 1-2 backfield combos in the league. And they still have Matt Ryan who is an ascending QB talent in the prime of his career. Regression probably is expected but that’s what happens when you have a record setting offense. Hopefully, not as bad as Cam Newton and Carolina last year but regression is expected nonetheless. Let’s be clear though that it won’t be because of Shanahan leaving. Remember that the team was middle of the road with Shanahan in his first season, statistically so we should expect the team to be somewhere between their mediocre 2015 season and their outstanding 2016 season.

If you are looking to acquire value from this team out of the previously mentioned players I would be trying to acquire Tevin Coleman. Devonta Freeman’s contract ends after this season and depending on what he is asking for it might be more economical if the Falcons let him go and draft another RB to pair with Coleman. This could open up the whole backfield in a strong offense to Coleman making his 2018 stock skyrocket. Worst case scenario Freeman signs a new contract and Coleman is in the same place he is now, a mid RB2 value in PPR leagues.

 

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.

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

Super Bowl Predictions

Updated: July 16th 2017

Well, those two Conference Championship games were complete duds. The Falcons and Patriots dominated from the start in each game, controlling both sides of the ball, and winning with ease. While Brady and Ryan have both appeared dominant this season, the similarities stop there with respect to this Super Bowl. Matt Ryan will be playing in his first Super Bowl game, having failed to reach the big game during his previous four trips to the playoffs. While Ryan has made five playoff appearances (certainly nothing to sneeze at for the 9th year veteran), Brady will be searching for his 5th Super Bowl victory in his 7th trip to the big game, an astonishing achievement. Irrespective of what happens in this game, there is no doubt in my mind that he is the GOAT, but if Brady is able to persevere in what will have to be a solid performance given the potency of the Falcons’ offense, he will leave no doubt. What do our writers think? Each dissects the game and gives you his prediction below. In case you are tracking at home and/or relying on a particular writer for betting purposes today, here are the writers’ records throughout the playoffs (in order of ML picking performance).

  1. Bernard Faller: Last Week 2-0 ML & 1-0-1 ATS; Playoffs 9-1 ML & 5-3-2 ATS
  2. Matt Goodwin: Last Week 1-1 ML & 1-1 ATS; Playoffs 8-2 ML & 6-3-1
  3. Luke O’Connell: Last Week 1-1 ML & 1-1 ATS; Playoffs 8-2 ML & 6-4 ATS
  4. Stephen Wendell: Last Week 1-1 ML & 1-1 ATS; Playoffs 7-3 ML & 7-3 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: Last Week 2-0 ML & 1-1 ATS; Playoffs 7-3 ML & 6-4 ATS
  6. Kyle English: Last Week 1-1 ML & 0-2 ATS; Playoffs 7-3 ML & 4-6 ATS
  7. Dave Sanders: Last Week 1-1 ML & 1-0-1 ATS; Playoffs 6-4 ML & 6-3-1 ATS
  8. Matt Papson: Last Week 1-1 ML & 0-2 ATS; Playoffs 6-4 ML & 5-5 ATS
  9. Robert Cowper: Last Week 0-2 ML & 0-2 ATS; Playoffs 5-5 ML & 4-6 ATS

Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots [Line: Patriots -3]

Stephen Wendell: I don’t have much to add than what I alluded to in the introduction above. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense have been incredible, and I don’t think they choke in this Super Bowl. Rather, I think Belichick figures a way to slow them down, the Pats get an opportune turnover as they usually do, and Brady plays flawless football en route to a Patriots victory and Brady’s 5th Super Bowl Championship. Projected Score: Patriots 27 – Falcons 21.

Matt Papson: The greatest coach ever vs. a great coach. The greatest quarterback ever vs. a great quarterback. The greatest offensive coordinator ever vs. a great offensive coordinator. Kyle Shanahan has gotten the most of some average & slightly above average NFL quarterbacks. Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Matt Schaub, RG3, Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer (there was an aging Donovan McNabb in there too). Matt Ryan was the first great quarterback he got to work with, and they’ve been great together. While there’s no doubt Shanahan is thoroughly prepared for this game and wants desperately to win, he’s also the current head coach of another NFL football team (the 49ers). That’s kind of a weird dynamic to balance while preparing for and calling the biggest game of his life. Plus, the opponent isn’t exactly a pushover. Bill & Tom are unanimously considered among the best ever — here and there somebody will have one or the other second or third on their “list”, but nobody with an opinion worth listening to has them outside the top 3. The appearance in this game should cement them at the top, but a win would leave no doubt. Everybody cites the 4 rings, but what’s crazy is just how good Brady has been after his first 3 Super Bowl victories. If you only took his career since 2005 (most of which coincides with Josh McDaniels as OC), Brady would STILL be in the discussion for greatest ever, and maybe even considered it. Since 2005 (not including ’08; injured), he’s won 134 of 172 games, completed 64.5% of his passes, and averaged 33 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He’s made 11 playoff appearances (every season), appeared in 8 conference championships, 4 Super Bowls, and he’s won at least one Super Bowl, maybe two. That is an absolutely insane career in an of itself. I can’t root against greatness, and I certainly won’t bet against it. Projected Score: Patriots 27 – Falcons 23.

Kyle English: I believe the Falcons can put up points against the Pats with their offense so I think this game comes down to how well the Falcons defense plays.  They’ll need to generate a pass rush on Tom Brady without sending the house and they’ll need to win (or at least tie) the turnover battle.  I would love to see Matt Ryan win the big one and will be cheering hard for the Falcons, but I don’t believe their defense will do enough for him. Pats win yet another one… Projected Score: Patriots 34 – Falcons 28.

Robert Cowper: The Patriots of recent memory certainly know how to win Super Bowls – more importantly they know how to keep those games close.  In the six Super Bowls the Pats have played in since 2002, the scoring margin was a combined 20 points.  If the game turns into a shootout I don’t believe Brady & Co can keep up with the stable of playmakers the Falcons have on offense so I think we are going to see Patriot game planning at its best.  We’ll see a heavy dose of Blount and I would take him as my MVP pick at +2000 odds and hope for one of his signature three 1-yard TD games.  I think it will be a typical Patriots Super Bowl, about 40 total points and comes down to a Gostkowski field goal.  Given how well my predictions have gone so far this playoff season, we’ll probably see a 45-38 scoreline but I’m going with my gut again.  Projected Score: Patriots 22 – Falcons 20. 

Matt Goodwin: I’ve had one big miss in a red-hot playoffs and that was in thinking Aaron Rodgers scorching run would continue in Atlanta, who demonstrated to me they have what it takes to be Super Bowl Champions. To me this game is about an opportunistic defense and an offense that RSO player and numberFire Editor Brandon Gdula wrote about this week as historic. In my mind, that all starts with the free-agent signing of center Alex Mack from the Cleveland Browns. Mack, who was Pro Football Focus’ top run blocker at the position, also anchors a line that gives MVP candidate Matt Ryan all sorts of time to make big plays to many different receiving options, including both playmaking running backs (Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman). While it is hard to go against Tom Brady in his quest for a fifth ring, I just don’t think he has the same support on offense that the Falcons do, especially in a run game that frankly disappointed in its two playoff games. Aside from Dion Lewis’ three touchdowns against the Texans which is really only fantasy relevant, the Patriots yards per carry was atrocious. Without a good ground game, the underrated and opportunistic Atlanta defense (remember head coach Dan Quinn anchored a Super Bowl blowout for Seattle) and Vic Beasley can get pressure on Brady. So while all the intangibles swing towards New England and Brady, in a game to me that feels like a virtual heat, I’ll take Julio Jones to be the difference maker and Matt Ryan to get MVP honors in a Falcons win. Projected Score: Falcons 30 – Patriots 27. 

Nick Andrews: The Big Game. The Show. Whatever you call it this matchup was surprisingly not the one that people realized they wanted until it happened. If you are a Patriots fan you want to see Brady get his 5th title to confirm his G.O.A.T. status. For everyone else sick of them you are hitching your wagon to “anybody else” which is played by a young, exciting Atlanta team. While most people have this game being a high scoring, back and forth affair (O/U at 59) Super Bowls generally are not. Looking back at the last two #1 scoring offenses to play in the Super Bowl the 2013 Denver Broncos scored eight points and the 2007 Patriots scored seventeen. Good games just don’t feature score after score, blowouts do. These two defensive-minded head coaches are too good to not have a game plan that revolves around feeling out what the other is doing in the first half and adjusting for the second half. Similar to their meeting two years ago when Quinn was a coordinator for the Seahawks. That game finished 28-24 which should be the template for predicting this game. Projected Score: Patriots 24 – Falcons 20. **Bonus MVP Prediction** Julian Edelman 120 yards, 2 TDs. 

Dave Sanders: Could this be one of the highest scoring Super Bowl’s ever?  Vegas thinks so with an over/under of 59 (as of Thursday), which will be the highest Vegas has ever projected in Super Bowl history if it stays over 57.  We all know that the big game features two of the league’s top offenses, but Tony Khan (@tonyrkhan on Instagram) shared several stats that truly quantify what we’re seeing: 1) Both teams rank among the top three teams in offensive line stability (% of snaps taken by the same players). This speaks to the importance of continuity among the offensive line and that both lines are fairly healthy. 2) The teams also rank 1st and 2nd in QBR, Passer Rating, TD/INT, and YAC/Completion, which makes sense with Ryan and Brady playing possibly the best football of their careers. It’s never smart to bet against Brady in the postseason. Projected Score: Patriots 37 – Falcons 27.  

Bernard Faller: This should be a fun one.  There is no dominating defense in the Super Bowl for the first time in years.  Instead we have what many would consider the top two offenses in the NFL.  The key to this game is if the young Atlanta secondary will avoid the big mistakes that leave receivers wide open for Tom Brady to take advantage of.  The Patriot defense largely avoided these types of blunders this year.  They won’t stop the vaunted Falcons offense but do just enough to make them work for their points. Projected Score: Patriots 34 – Falcons 31.

Luke O’Connell: Dante drops one of the most famous lines in all of literature at the start of arguably the greatest epic poem ever written: “Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself within a forest dark,/For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”  (Inferno, Canto I, 1-3).  The straightforward path is precisely my point of concern after attempting to analyze the Falcons’ chances against the Patriots.  If the Falcons lose, it will be largely because of the interior line play of the New England Patriots.    After PFF sorted them near the bottom of the league last season (25th) they have ascended from the inferno with Dante Scarnecchia, their offensive line coach.  The bright lights will shine on the usual names, but if you don’t hear the names Joe Thuney, David Andrews, and Shaquille Mason then you can be sure the Falcons have not beaten the Patriot’s guards and center with interior pressure.  No straight path to Brady means Atlanta will find all is lost. RSO Angle:  Who will be the more expensive contract/trade commodity between Dion Lewis and Tevin Coleman?  Both men will not be able to hide talent or usage on the biggest stage. Projected Score: Patriots 30 – Falcons 27. 

Do You Just Know?

Updated: May 2nd 2016

In the Zone

College Swagger

For the most part, I’m a fairly humble person. After all, that is the upbringing of most folks from the Midwest. However, my freshman year in college at Miami University, I had a resident advisor (let’s call him Chuck) that I disliked so much that out of standing up for myself turned me into a trash-talking a-hole, especially on the basketball court.

One night I was playing 3-on-3 hoops with some friends (and Chuck), and Chuck and I were matched up on each other. That night, I got the better of him for the most part and prior to a game I announced it would be my last as I had to head to study group. That seemed to tick Chuck off and he was yapping more than usual while guarding me the entire game.

It got to the point where we were a basket away from winning a close game and the ball got kicked out to me in the corner more than 20 feet out and way before Steph Curry was a known entity. As I squared up to assess my options, Chuck kept taunting me shouting, “be the hero, (Goody)”. I’m not sure but I think I even passed out of that situation initially only to find the ball back to me in the same place seconds later. The chatter ensued. Finally, I had enough of Chuck-I raised up, shot the ball and without looking immediately started running towards my backpack with my hand in the air (kind of like Larry Bird when finishing off a 3 point contest All-Star weekend).

By now, you know the outcome-why would I tell this story if the shot didn’t go in, right? Chuck charged me and wanted to fight because I shut him up again. The big question is “how did I know it was going in?”. The answer and tie-in to my article this week, is sometimes you “just know”.

There’s A Draft In Here…

I get the hype of the NFL Draft. It is the best process for a downtrodden team to make strides to turn things around and sometimes help a team get a missing piece to put them over the top to be Super Bowl Champions. The intrigue here is that players of all positions can be the cornerstone for a franchise, even those outside of the skill positions.

From a fantasy football perspective, it provides a new crop of players to fawn over, especially in dynasty leagues and even more so in a hyper-league format like Reality Sports Online. Pick the right rookies for three or four years on market-friendly deals and the thought is, you can write your own championship narrative.

No doubt folks who have recently drafted Odell Beckham, Jr. or Todd Gurley can attest to how prime talent at $6.0 million a year or less can take their RSO teams to new heights. That is why we as RSO owners get so hyped for the draft, other than the intuitive fact that it is the time when these rookies situations become more known (not from a depth chart perspective, but at least opportunity wise). Remember, even Beckham’s success wasn’t a given and his injury-riddled start cast some doubt initially and now he’s a Top 5 league contract.

In the right years like the 2014 wide receiver class, it eliminated some of the guess-work on the “just know” factor. While players like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans have not knocked it out of the park the past two years, nobody doubted their talent at the top of rookie drafts (the just know factor), and they have been slight victims of opportunity from offenses that aren’t necessarily pass happy thus far, but the consensus is their outlooks are still very rosy.

2016 Is Not A Just Know Year

With customization across leagues, including those that have individual defensive players (IDP), the rookie draft each year may have a deeper talent pool. For those who are in more common leagues that have 20-25 player rosters and offensive skill positions and team defenses, not all first round rookie deals are owner-friendly, especially if you draft a guy that isn’t a “just know” player, so sometimes it is better to spread your money around in a smarter way.

I’m fairly active on Twitter and follow Dynasty trade tweets frequently. Lots of times you see studs getting traded for a bevy of rookie picks because certain owners fawn over rookie potential in search of the big score on hitting on picks, especially late-round cheap ones. To me, that strategy is fairly risky, especially in a year like this one that is not a “just know” one.

By way of example, let’s dig into Nick Andrews’ Pre-Draft Mock. Of Nick’s Top 12 picks, only Ezekiel Elliott flashes the potential to be an immediate fantasy star (I’d define this as being top 10 in fantasy points at his position for the upcoming few years) and the Cowboys taking him cements that behind their hulking offensive line and Scott Linehan’s affinity for passing to running backs. From an NFL perspective, it probably didn’t make sense for the Cowboys to go this route given the devaluation of the running back position; however, RSO owners don’t want to hear that noise and should take Elliott at 1.01 in all their rookie drafts. Other players may take at least a year to prove themselves (which isn’t a bad thing if you think of players like Devonta Freeman).

However, if you have a league which features three-year rookie deals, you almost need immediate contributors or to hit on your post round one rookie draft picks (which points to trading down to get more shots at this-the Moneyball strategy is being tested in Cleveland and certainly can be applied to your RSO rookie drafts). Let’s get into a few hypothetical situations that may mirror decisions you are facing when assessing your offseason trade or rookie draft strategy (assuming you have a bit of time to evaluate and aren’t doing your rookie draft next week before depth charts are being figured out with offseason workouts).

Hypotheticals-Would You Rather Have?

Established Player A: Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions-1.6 years remaining, $14.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player A: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings-1.02 mock, 4 years, $6.0-$7.6m average annual contract

These are the types of questions that really test the mettle of RSO owners. Tate is a solid PPR option who figures to get the ball more with Calvin Johnson retired, although he’s probably around the 24th best fantasy wide receiver for the next two years.

Treadwell fills a big need in Minnesota, and as one of the highest regarded receivers in the draft, those players typically often become the instant primary target for their teams. Treadwell’s rookie draft value will likely be derived in years 2-3 of his four-year deal and based on the GM’s confidence in his role on the Vikings offense, which has been a fantasy wasteland for receivers for a long time now.

I don’t get too hung up on 40 times like Treadwell’s 4.65 if the player has known game speed. Larry Fitzgerald ran a 4.63 and was fast enough to be able to watch himself leave Steelers defenders in the dust on the Jumbotron while heading to the end zone in his lone Super Bowl appearance. For me, based on Treadwell’s situation in Minnesota, I prefer the steady, if not spectacular Tate based on known production and his role as the number one receiver in the Detroit offense. Full disclaimer, I’d also prefer Cleveland’s first round pick Corey Coleman over Treadwell as well. I know the Browns offense is a mess (with or without Josh Gordon), but they will have to throw the ball and will work with Coleman’s skills to get him the ball in space. This screams heavy volume and potentially a role in the return game as well.

Established Player B: Matt RyanQB, Atlanta Falcons-1.6 years remaining, $17.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player B: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams-2.11 mock, 4 years, $1.3-$1.6m average annual contract

I’m certainly not the first to compare these players, as Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier did in this article. From a real football perspective, Goff is asked to be the savior of a team returning to Los Angeles and that will likely take time to do, especially given that the franchise has mortgaged in terms of future drafts to get their face of the franchise for the new era of Rams football. The Falcons quickly pivoted to get Ryan some weapons, something that the Rams don’t have the luxury of doing, so they either have to count on Brian Quick types to come out of nowhere or hit a home-run with late round picks in either the 2016 or 2017 NFL Draft.

That said, from a fantasy perspective in dynasty leagues where you are starting one quarterback across a 10-12 team typical format, even with Goff’s potential challenges of being the day-one starter in 2016, the RSO contract values and fantasy production seem to highlight that Goff’s upside and potential return as a second round rookie pick exceed Ryan’s market dynamics.

I love Goff’s presence and instincts (much like fellow Cal alum Aaron Rodgers) and think that he will break out in Year two even without a top wideout like Julio Jones, who Ryan has the luxury of having. At this point, Ryan still has weapons, but hasn’t proved to be worth more than a replacement/streaming quarterback in our format, and that isn’t worth paying out multi-millions and multi-years for.

So in this case, consider me a member of fellow writer Bob Cowper’s valuing rookie QB’s higher school of thought.

Established Player C: Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers-1.0 years remaining, $3.5m remaining contract

Rookie Player C: C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks -1.09 mock, 4 years, $3.6-$4.5m average annual contract

Who better to compare to Woodhead than a former wideout who played running back at Notre Dame last year? In this case, Prosise is still somewhat of a work in progress and needs to better pass protect to see time on an NFL field. However, his route running ability and size are key assets in giving him the opportunity for significant playing time in the right system.

With the increased emphasis on the passing game in the NFL, Woodhead was surprisingly a top 10 fantasy running back last year in PPR leagues and Philip Rivers loves him. Can Prosise be the same at similar dollar values? Who would you take?

For me, this argument really boils down to where you can get Prosise in your rookie draft. Woodhead, while very productive is sometimes challenging to own in fantasy based on offensive game flow. No doubt will the Chargers continue to emphasize Melvin Gordon in the run game and his snaps ramped up on obvious passing downs as the season progressed. Woodhead is also a free agent in 2017 and will be fighting for targets with Keenan Allen returning from a season-ending injury and with newly-signed Travis Benjamin.

Prosise certainly has the ability to be a 50-60 catch guy with the quicks to be like another C.J. (Spiller). However, rookie draft owners making this pick hope that Prosise gets more playing time and utilization than Spiller. If the utilization is similar to Woodhead’s with some carries sprinkled in , it is a 50-50 proposition between Woodhead and Prosise at a pick around 1.09 in the rookie draft from a salary perspective that heavily skews towards Prosise if Thomas Rawls misses extended offseason time, as Rawls is far from cemented as an established fantasy entity. Anything past 1.09 heavily favors Prosise’s upside, especially in Round 2 or later.

Conclusion

Due to the lack of “just know” guys this year, the Moneyball strategy of trading down may benefit you. There are only a few players/situations right now that seem to be definitive, so sometimes the solid, if not flashy vet is a better option than the rookie draft pick. Last year, I traded my 1.08 pick for a year of T.Y. Hilton and I’d do it again with a contending team, in spite of some bad luck surrounding Hilton’s QB last year.

How your team stacks up against the competition and whether you are in contend/rebuild mode matters for your decisions, but the “just know” factor means a ton and dictates whether or not you move up or down in your rookie drafts or trade out of them completely.

As for Chuck, I still laugh about that game and think about the ball going through the net sight unseen.

My Top 5 Picks

If my rookie draft were this week based on the situations they are in and long-term upside, here’s who I’d select:

  1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
  2. Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns
  3. Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins
  4. Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
  5. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks

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.

Value Town: QBs

Updated: March 15th 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.

Quarterback Values

Our first question, when determining player values, concerns what exactly we value when we bid on a player. The most common approach, value over replacement player (VORP)*, examines player values by looking at the marginal points a player scores over a commonly available player at the same position deemed the baseline player.   This system takes into account a number of league settings such as scoring rules, number of teams, and positional starting requirements when determining player values.

I derive player values using a modified VORP methodology taking into account a number of additional items including number of games played, rosters, salary cap, and minimum salaries.  My standard RSO league for computing each player’s value consists of 12 teams, 1QB/2RBs/3WRs/1TE/1 Flex (RB/WR/TE) starting requirements, and PPR scoring.  Keep in mind that player values will vary between leagues based on league settings.  Leagues with a superflex position where two QBs may start have different player values than a start 1QB league and leagues using PPR scoring will have different player values than non-PPR leagues as examples.  Average salaries were derived from all 2015 RSO startup auctions.

Paying homage to one of the classic westerns of all time, I look at individual player values below.

* VORP is heavily related to the Value Based Drafting (VBD) methodology. An introduction to the topic can be found here.

The Good

Blake Bortles  –  Average Salary: $1.8M, Approximate Value: $11M

The best QB value in 2015 enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign where he finished the season among the NFL passing TD leaders with 35. He also bested his freshman season in almost every major statistical category.  Bortles is not among the better QBs in the league yet, as demonstrated by his 23rd ranked passer rating, but there is optimism for the future with his improved play in 2015.

Tyrod Taylor –  Average Salary: $1.2M, Approximate Value: $7M

Taylor emerged from a three way competition during the preseason for the starting QB job in Buffalo after spending his first few seasons in Baltimore. The first time starter did not disappoint ending the season as the 9th highest rated QB in 2015.  Taylor displayed his dual threat skills throughout the season adding an impressive 568 rushing yards to his resume.

Other Good Values: Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, and Andy Dalton

The Bad

Aaron Rodgers –  Average Salary: $22.4M, Approximate Value: $5M

Only in the world of Aaron Rodgers can we consider a QB7 finish to be a bad year. 2015 was the first healthy year since Rodgers was given the starting job in which he was not either the QB1 or QB2.  The lack of separation created by his outside receivers, combined with issues in the running game, diminished the Green Bay offense all year.  Look for a rebound in 2016 with the return of Jordy Nelson and a focused Eddie Lacy in his contract year.

Matt Ryan –  Average Salary: $7.3M, Approximate Value: Below replacement level

Matt Ryan had a very normal Ryan season in Atlanta under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan except for touchdowns. Ryan threw for his lowest TD total since his rookie season.  Expect Atlanta to add new receiving options at the WR and TE position in the offseason through free agency or the draft. This should help a lackluster set of offensive weapons outside of Julio Jones.  Ryan should challenge for low end QB1 status with some positive TD regression next season.

Other Bad Values: Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater

The Ugly

Peyton Manning –  Average Salary: $12.1M, Approximate Value: Not worth a roster spot

Manning went out on top with a Super Bowl victory in the final season of a magnificent career which will inevitably lead to a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the road to that victory this season was not a beautiful thing to behold.  Combining deteriorating physical skills and poor play with injuries, Manning posted the worst passer rating and lowest TD total of his career.  His 9.2 fantasy PPG were among the worst of any starter this season.   Manning made the correct choice with retirement.  We do not know what the future holds for Manning but we wish him the best and know he will succeed on whatever path he chooses next.

State of the Quarterback Position

The quarterback position changed in many ways for the 2015 fantasy season. Four out of the five top scorers from 2014 were not a part of the top five in 2015 due to injuries and diminished performance.  We witnessed the end of the Peyton Manning era riding off in the glory of a Super Bowl victory while struggling throughout his final season and becoming a non-entity for fantasy players.  Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tony Romo each dropped out of QB1 status, succumbing to the effects of injury.  Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, and Kirk Cousins rose from the ranks of fantasy obscurity to become quality starting options throughout the year.  Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota enjoyed nice rookie seasons showing the promise of last year’s top two draft picks.

The one area in which the quarterback position remained relatively unchanged is that it continues to be a very replaceable position in fantasy football. One tool we can use to evaluate the importance of a position is Value Market Share (VMS).  VMS is defined as the ratio of the sum of Points Above Replacement (PAR) for all players in a position group relative to the sum of PAR for all players in the league.  QBs enjoyed a VMS of about 8% in 2015, remaining relatively unchanged from 2014.  This is the lowest number of any offensive position group and also the lowest on a per player basis.  Another way to evaluate the value of a position is looking at the spread in points per game.  The difference between the QB2 and the QB16 was only about 4 PPG in 2015. There continues to be a large supply of suitable replacement options at QB capable of providing acceptable point levels at cheap prices.

What can we expect in 2016 from the QB position for RSO leagues? The QB position continues to be very deep and that probably will not change with the current emphasis on the passing game in the NFL.  There should be an abundance of cheaper options available for those owners preferring to choose between multiple lower end QBs on a week to week basis which should continue as a popular strategy.  The QB market might overcorrect somewhat given the poor performance and injuries of the more expensive options from 2015, setting up potential value for savvy owners.


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.

Cap Analysis: Falcons

Updated: March 7th 2016

Atlanta Falcons

Trending: Flat →

After putting together five consecutive winning seasons with four playoff appearances from 2008-2013, the Falcons have been perennial disappointments the last three years. The Dan Quinn era got off to a fast start with five consecutive wins to start the season (6-1 through first seven). But, the team lost seven of its final nine regular season games. I’m always leery of coordinators who become head coaches shortly after their predecessors became head coaches.

In addition to current general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons front office now contains three other former general managers helping them evaluate talent – assistant general manager Scott Pioli, and national scouts Phil Emery and Ruston Webster.

The Panthers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the Bucs appear to be on the rise, so the Falcons will almost undoubtedly end up with between 6 and 10 wins – though I would tend to lean toward the high side.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$128.5M (not including escalators and not likely to be earned incentives)

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$30.7M (~$155.27M Estimate; ~$3.9M Rollover)

Situation: Strong

The Falcons are right in the middle of the pack with approximately $31M in cap space. However, the team has four marquee players at key (and typically expensive) positions under contract for at least the next two years – Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthews, and Desmond Trufant. The team badly needs a pass rusher, but there are several serviceable veteran pass rushers available in free agency, especially if you include all of the 4-3 and 3-4 pass rushers.

Notable Free Agents:

Atlanta FAs

The Falcons only have a handful of notable free agents, and only one, Chris Chester, started every game of the season last year. 

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Atlanta Top Proj Cap Hits

As mentioned in our Lions evaluation, the Falcons are one of four teams that have two players with top 25 top charges – Matt Ryan is 7th and Julio Jones is 23rd. As we’ll address in the next section, two of the players on this list may not be on this list in a week.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Atlanta Cap Cas

Tyson Jackson has yet to live up to expectations that came with being drafted third overall in 2009. While he does play both inside and outside, he’s yielded exactly zero sacks in 32 games with the Falcons. If released, he’ll still count for $4.8M against the cap, but it would save the team $4.75M in cash.

Likewise, Roddy White would still count for $3.775M against the cap if released, but between base salary and roster bonuses, the team could save $4.25M in cash. I think it’s very unlikely fellow receiver Devin Hester remains with the team, at least on his current contract. [Editor’s Note: Roddy White has since been released].

Because of a lack of depth on the defensive line and at tight end, Jonathan Babineaux and Jacob Tamme will almost definitely be back.

Extension Watch List: 

Atlanta Ext Watch List

The Falcons can exercise Desmond Trufant’s fifth year option, pushing his expected free agency to March, 2018.

Robert Alford, who starts opposite Trufant, will be a free agent in 2017. He’s shown promise in his first three seasons, notching seven interceptions in 41 games. The team surely wants to keep him, though they may prefer to move him to the nickel if they invest a high draft pick in a corner or sign one in free agency. If an extension is reached before the start of the season, Alford should command something similar to the 5-year, $24.6M contract the Steelers gave Cortez Allen before the start of the 2014 season.

Position Needs: 

Defensive End, Safety, Tight End.

Sleeper Watch: 

Matt Ryan is going to have to throw the ball to somebody other than Julio Jones. With Roddy White being released, whoever the Falcons sign, draft, or promote to start opposite Julio should be in line for a lot of targets.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld