League Scoring Settings

Updated: July 16th 2017

As part of my fourth season writing, Matt and Stephen have asked me to write a series of Reality Sports Online strategy articles, sharing what makes the platform so unique and next level. To those who have been participating in Reality Sports Online leagues for at least one year now, some of my strategy series may simply be suggestions to augment or tweak your leagues. Of course any league not in its first year making seismic strategic shifts should let owners participate in a vote to make scoring changes. For you rookie GMs kicking the tires on the only fantasy football platform I use anymore, welcome.

What you’ll get from these articles, aside from hip-hop and pop culture references are ideas on how to optimize the strategy dynamic in your league. What you won’t get right away is too much player commentary, rookie draft analysis (we have plenty of good articles on both by talented writers). Feel free to reach out to me or the Reality Sports Online guys with any questions, knowing that you are part of something special and unique that also has amazing and prompt customer service.

My first article is going to focus on scoring settings. Other articles in the series will include roster and league configuration and contracts. Don’t worry, I will get to the newly introduced in-season contract extensions as well.

So, like Andy Dufresne said to his letter to Red in Shawshank Redemption, if you’ve come this far, come a little further. I can’t promise pristine ocean water on a Mexican beach, but you can potentially take that vacation after you win your coveted league championship.

Here are my five commandments of Reality Sports Online league scoring settings:

1) The Higher Scoring, the Better

You didn’t come to Reality Sports Online to play in some fantasy clunker with a score of 57.02 to 55.61 with limited scoring options. You came to be a year-round General Manager, to make frequent trades and roster moves, and to figure out how to gain your competitive advantage. With that said, make the scoring dynamic and high as the platform offers customized scoring for yards, touchdowns, etc.

As a rule of thumb, depending on how many starting roster spots you have, I personally like the potential for a good game to crack 200 and an epic performance to crack 300 (think about it like bowling in that regard).

You’re long removed from just rewarding players who score touchdowns from a fantasy perspective and the platform allows lots of creativity and categories for different fantasy scoring than your standard, vanilla fantasy platform. So reward yardage and big plays with bonuses wherever possible.

2) The NFL is a Passing League, so…

The key to RSO is that it turns fantasy into reality. The reality is that all but a few running backs are in timeshares, any quarterback who has half a good season is never a real NFL free agent, and that most successful NFL teams feature dynamic passing offenses.

As a result, you’ll want to turn fantasy football historic groupthink on league scoring settings on its head. With that, I highly advocate being very creative when scoring the quarterback position. For instance, the main league I’m in rewards quarterbacks with the same amount of points for a passing touchdown (7-again dynamic, high scoring with distance bonuses) that another player would score rushing or receiving. The quarterback is super valuable as a franchise builder in NFL drafts and in team success, so don’t diminish the position in your RSO dynasty league just because Emmitt Smith ran for 21 touchdowns in 1994.

Additionally, I’m all in favor of rewarding passing completions and penalizing passing incompletions. This just adds another layer of strategy in a manner similar to quarterbacks who are successful at running the football does. For starters, it makes almost every offensive play relevant from a fantasy perspective for quarterbacks. The NFL values accuracy from a passer, so why shouldn’t your league? My league currently rewards completions with +0.5 fantasy points and incompletions with -0.5. This really aids passers like Philip Rivers who don’t rely on the deep ball to be fantasy relevant. If you are in a league where you start two quarterbacks, this small change from typical leagues will make the values of quarterbacks more important.

Those of you who fall into the “Late Round QB” camp don’t have to be adversely impacted by dynamic quarterback scoring because you still have the freedom to choose how much you want to spend/prioritize on your quarterbacks in the Free Agency Auction Room and scoring against the position or other positions is still relative. All this does is adds another strategic element to your league.

3) PPR is the way to go

With the NFL being a passing league, of course I’m down with “PPR” scoring in my leagues. This aids in dynamic scoring. Naysayers will say that a player should not be rewarded in fantasy football for not garnering a lot of yards after the catch. However, if that play results in a first down to sustain the drive or contributes to the drive in a positive manner, I’m of the school of thought to reward it. Players like James White, who produced 14 receptions for 110 yards in the Super Bowl certainly exemplify the value of how accretive an NFL reception can be.

If you want the scoring tempered on receptions slightly, 0.5PPR can work. I know some leagues are even moving to rewarding Tight End receptions differently to 1.5PPR to put those players on a more level scoring field with their wide receiver brethren. My personal preference is to not give Tight Ends an extra 0.5PPR because they end up getting targeted more in the red zone anyways, which helps the middle-of-the-pack Tight End derive their middling fantasy value while being touchdown dependent.

I also don’t diminish the full PPR for pass-catching running backs because I think these plays are valuable in a passing league.

Changing direction for a second-I personally don’t like rewarding running backs with points for carries. I, along with my league commissioner, feel like the act of catching a ball (even if for zero yards) requires an act or skill that adds more value than simply carrying the ball for no gain.

4) Punish Mistakes Heavily

If quarterback is such a valuable position, then an elite quarterback should not make many mistakes in a game. So, if a quarterback throws an interception, -2 is not a sufficient punishment if you are doing dynamic scoring where touchdowns are worth considerably more. I’m in a league where all offensive player turnovers (interceptions, fumbles lost) are worth -5 points. It seems drastic, but it will change your league dynamic and add an interesting wrinkle to things. New this year: RSO has added a “pick six” category if you want to punish your quarterback for throwing interceptions that result in touchdowns for the opposing team.

Furthermore, quarterbacks who take sacks by holding onto the ball and making poor decisions should also not be exempt from negative points. RSO has a unique feature to deduct points for sacks taken and I recommend -1 fantasy pts for taking a sack. I highly advocate for these simple, small changes to make your league more exciting.

5) Special Teams/Defenses

For those of you not in IDP leagues, make sure you differentiate in your league scoring what is a dominant defensive effort from a middling one. The Reality Sports Online settings allow customized positive and negative scoring for points and yards allowed. Defenses in my league tend to fluctuate a lot in terms of week-to-week fantasy points where a dominant effort can be worth as much as a wide receiver catching 10 for 150 with two TDs. Our league collectively voted to move in this direction after our first year.

As a guideline, we value shutouts worth 12 fantasy points and then scale down by -2 fantasy points based on tranches of points allowed. Same deal with yards allowed where under 250 yards is worth 10 fantasy points. The key is in a strategic league like this, owners should have to think about not only which team DST they pay for in the auction (and how much), but which they start on a week-to-week basis without simply thinking of whether or not the team may score a touchdown on the defensive end.

If you want to go super dynamic, you will reward return touchdowns by distance as there are bonuses for yardage.

Additionally, in the vein of punishing mistakes, any kicker who misses PATs or short field goals has customized options for negative scoring.

The point is on Reality Sports Online’s innovative platform, with options such as scoring fantasy points for blocked punts, the only limitation to how your league scores fantasy points is your own imagination.


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year 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.

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

Redrafting the 2016 Rookie Draft

Updated: October 9th 2016

As we’re about a quarter of the way into the 2016 season, plenty has changed since our rookie drafts this past summer.  Values have changed, injuries have occurred, and roles have been more clearly defined.  In hindsight there are many picks that we’re all proud of, but also some that we’re ashamed to look back on.  In this piece, I’m going to redraft the first round of a 2016 Rookie Draft assuming that it took place today.

#1.01 Ezekiel Elliott – RB DAL

2016: 94 car – 412 yards – 3TDs; 6 rec – 44 yards

Analysis: The consensus 1.01 pick throughout the off-season, Elliott has largely delivered on the months of hype that surrounded him.  He’s produced as the number one running back in Dallas, though he has been unluckily vultured at the goal-line a few times.  He’s been less involved in the passing game than I anticipated, but I expect his usage to improve over the next few years.

#1.02 Corey Coleman – WR CLE

2016: 7 rec – 173 yards – 2TDs

Analysis: Coleman, my choice for the 1.02 pick in the off-season, has flashed his immense potential in limited opportunities this season.  The Cleveland offense, headed by Hue Jackson, may no longer be a fantasy wasteland as Isaiah Crowell, Terrelle Pyror, and Corey Coleman have emerged this season as viable fantasy options.  Missing 4-to-6 weeks with a broken hand is unfortunate, but it doesn’t impact my long-term projection of Coleman.

#1.03 Will Fuller – WR HOU

2016: 19 rec – 323 – 2TDs

Analysis: I’m not afraid to admit that I was dead wrong about Will Fuller.  I had him outside of my top 10 and didn’t believe he would be nearly as versatile as he’s proved to be.  Not only a deep threat, Fuller is a weapon in all areas of the field.  His success is currently being limited by poor QB, but the sky’s the limit if Brock Osweiler improves.

#1.04 Sterling Shepard – WR NYG

2016: 20 rec – 263 – 2TDs

Analysis: Of all the 2016 rookies, I have the most shares of Sterling Shepard.  A very polished route runner, I expected Shepard to immediately make an impact especially in PPR leagues.  He has not disappointed and appears on a trajectory towards WR2 status for much of his career.

#1.05 Michael Thomas – WR NO

2016: 21 rec – 229 yards – 2TDs

Analysis: Through 4 games, the 6’3″ sure-handed possession receiver has performed well as many expected.   His quick emergence, as a WR3/WR4 in 2016, make him an excellent value on a 3 or 4 year RSO rookie contract.

#1.06 Derrick Henry – RB TEN

2016: 27 car – 97 yards; 3 rec – 50 yards

Analysis: After a very impressive preseason, I expected that Derrick Henry would be much more involved in the Tennessee offense than he’s been through four games.  Instead, DeMarco Murray has been a true workhouse, leaving little work for the rookie Henry.  In a year or two, Henry should take over the starting job in Tennessee and immediately join the RB1 conversation.  A true physical specimen with a unique combination of size and speed, Henry is one of the most athletically gifted RB prospects we’ve seen in quite some time.  This preseason, he even showed promise catching the ball out of the backfield.  If the Henry owner in your league is growing impatient, now’s the time to buy.

#1.07 Laquon Treadwell – WR MIN

2016: n/a

Analysis: Treadwell was widely considered the consensus 1.02 or 1.03 pick in all rookie drafts, but his value has dropped in the first month of the season.  He’s been a healthy inactive in several games and has seen very few snaps when he’s actually been active.  While the Vikings may want to bring their rookie along slowly, it’s very concerning that he can’t beat out Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, and Cordarrelle Patterson for WR reps.  I’m still a believer in his talent, but red flags have been raised.

#1.08 Kenneth Dixon – RB BAL

2016: n/a

Analysis: Dixon’s expected debut in Week 5 has generated a great deal of buzz in the fantasy community as many expect him to quickly overtake Terrance West.  As a prospect at the draft, I was very high on Kenneth Dixon…love his speed, athleticism, and pass catching abilities.  The knee injury delayed his NFL debut and briefly suppressed his value, but that has now risen likely greater than it was in April and May.

#1.09 Josh Doctson – WR WAS

2016: 2 rec – 66 yards

Analysis: 2016 may end as a lost season for Josh Doctson, but all hope is not lost.  Assuming he enters the 2017 season healthy, he will have a great opportunity to earn a significant target share in Washington.  DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both free agents after 2016 and it seems unlikely both will return.  

#1.10 Jordan Howard – RB CHI

2016: 35 car – 178 yards; 9 rec – 77 yards

Analysis: The most interesting aspect of Jordan Howard’s impressive start as a rookie is his usage in the passing game.  Largely considered a 2-down back after catching a total of 24 passes in 32 collegiate games, Howard seemed to lack the upside of more versatile backs but clearly that isn’t the case.

#1.11 DeAndre Washington – RB OAK

2016: 23 car – 147 yards; 6 rec – 37 yards

Analysis: Throughout the off-season we kept hearing that the Raiders weren’t 100% sold on Latavius Murray as their workhorse back.  DeAndre Washington became a fantasy sleeper soon after the NFL draft.  Though only 5’8”, Washington is a physical back that can run between the tackles, make a defender miss in space, and is adequate catching the ball out of the backfield.  He may be part of a committee in Oakland long-term, but committees are the new norm in the NFL.  Washington is clearly a talent that runs behind one of the best offensive lines in football.

#1.12 Hunter Henry – TE SD

2016: 10 rec – 153 yards – TD

Analysis: Hunter Henry looks like he may turn into what the fantasy community had hoped Ladarius Green would be.  Henry has produced in Antonio Gates‘ absence and has become a reliable target for QB Philip Rivers.

Just missed the first round:

Wendell Smallwood – RB PHI

Carson Wentz – QB PHI

Tajae Sharpe – WR TEN

Tyler Boyd – WR CIN

Braxton Miller – WR HOU

Devontae Booker – RB DEN

Malcolm Mitchell – WR NE

CJ Prosise – RB SEA

Paul Perkins – RB NYG

Dwayne Washington – RB DET

Let me know which of your rookie picks you’re most proud of – on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO!


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

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.

Maximizing Quarterback Value

Updated: March 17th 2016

The year of the breakout first or second year quarterback is over.  Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, and Derek Carr all took positive steps in 2015 that have created a buzz among their fan bases and fantasy owners alike.  Speaking purely in terms of their fantasy value, could the hype make these players overvalued in dynasty football?  We’ll examine further as we explore the 3 steps to maximizing quarterback value.

Step 1: Sell young quarterbacks who broke through in 2015  

QB Jameis Winston

Time to sell as Buccaneers’ QB Jameis    Winston’s stock has never been higher

Immediately upon reading that, you may recoil.  You may be asking yourself, “Why would I want to give up a young QB who appears to be on the track towards becoming useful in fantasy on a week to week basis?”  The answer is simple.  They’re worth more on the trade market than they are on your roster.  2015 was a breakout fantasy year for Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, and Derek Carr as many became serviceable plays in the right matchups.  The assumption among many in the fantasy community is that these players will continue on that positive trajectory.  However we’ve seen countless examples of quarterbacks showing promise, yet never quite making it to that tier of elite fantasy quarterbacks.  If we look back just seven months ago, Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Tannehill were two of the hottest names in dynasty football.  Both were selected among the top 7 quarterbacks in start-up dynasty mock drafts according to Dynasty League Football’s August 2015 Average Draft Position data.  After having disappointing seasons, neither is drafted among the top 16 quarterbacks in DLF’s Feb 2016 ADP data.  Imagine if Bridgewater and Tannehill owners had a do-over.  Think they wish they’d cashed in on the buzz surrounding these quarterbacks entering the 2015 season?  Of course.  For every exception like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton, there are cautionary tails that failed to launch themselves into the elusive grouping of elite quarterbacks.

Step 2: Buy undervalued veteran quarterbacks outside of the elite tier and focus your most valuable resources towards wide receivers 

These types of quarterbacks are severely undervalued in many Reality Sports Online leagues, yet many were productive in 2015.  According to Fantasy Pros 2015 fantasy points per game datawhich uses settings similar to RSO’s standard scoring, Drew Brees ranked 4th place in points per game, Carson Palmer 6th, Andy Dalton 10th, Kirk Cousins 12th, Eli Manning 14th, Ryan Fitzpatrick 15th, and Philip Rivers 16th.  If the rest of your roster is strong, you certainly can build a championship team by acquiring one or two of these types of quarterbacks each year.  To take full advantage of this strategy, you’ll need to be aggressive in free agency and the trade market since you’ll be targeting these quarterbacks who are often and preferably on short-term deals.  

Instead of investing heavily in quarterbacks, my priority in RSO and standard dynasty leagues alike is to build my team around elite wide receivers.  From year to year, wide receivers hold their value significantly better than running backs.  These are the players that I want to invest in with my long-term contracts and that I value so highly in RSO leagues.  More specifically, I’m placing these long-term contracts on the high-priced elite wide receivers and players of all positions, except quarterback, that I believe in significantly more than the consensus of my opponents.  An example of this would be fantasy players that liked Michael Crabtree‘s potential last season.  Anyone who was smart enough to lock in Crabtree on multi-year contract at an inexpensive salary has profited significantly on Crabtree and will for years to come.  In the coming months, I will release a piece identifying several players that I’m targeting with these long-term contracts in start-up drafts and free agency.  

Brees

Saints’ QB Drew Brees is the perfect type of veteran to target

If we relate this strategy of profitability back to quarterbacks, the buzz around these young quarterbacks is so high that they are going to cost a lofty price in start-up drafts.  The opportunity to profit is minimal, at best.  In established leagues, you only have these quarterbacks for 3-4 years from when they enter the league before you have to franchise tag them or allow them to enter free agency.  How many times during those 3-4 years will they actually be a top 5, difference making quarterback?  Blake Bortles was the only QB1  quarterback ranked in the top 10 in points per game among quarterbacks to play in at least 7 games.  Marcus Mariota placed 17th, Jameis Winston 18th, and Derek Carr 19th.  Mariota, Winston, and Carr could all take another step forward and still not crack the top 10 in points per game, which would make them not even an average fantasy starter.  The price to acquire your preference of Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, or Ryan Fitzpatrick is very low in start-up drafts or even through trades in established leagues.  Make the move for one or two of these quarterbacks and allocate most of your resources elsewhere.

Step 3: Avoid drafting quarterbacks in rookie drafts

Cardinals’ RB David Johnson, taken outside of the 1st round in 2015 rookie drafts, burst onto the scene late in the season

RB David Johnson, taken outside of the 1st Rd    in 2015 drafts, burst onto the scene late in the season

When building a team on Reality Sports Online, I am most concerned with how my players can outperform what they cost for me to acquire them, whether it’s through the draft or free agency.  As we’ve discussed earlier, rookie quarterbacks offer the lowest chance of profitability while they remain on your roster.  Aside from the value they may have in trades, quarterbacks in rookie drafts don’t have the breakout potential and weekly “start-ability” that you can find in running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.  If we take another look at DLF’s August 2015 ADP data, all of these players were taken outside of the top 10 in rookie drafts: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Tyler Lockett, Devin Funchess, Jeremy Langford, Jay Ajayi, Javorius Allen, Matt Jones, Tevin Coleman, Phillip Dorsett, David Cobb, Jaelen Strong, Maxx Williams, Cameron Artis-Payne, Ty Montgomery, and Zach Zenner.  Thomas Rawls even went undrafted.  Locking players like these in for 3-4 years allows you to profit significantly on these picks as they are much more likely to find ways into your lineups than quarterbacks will.  For example, rookie running backs can quickly become NFL starters and immediately fantasy RB1s: see how David Johnson and Thomas Rawls finished 2015.  Aside from Johnson and Rawls, there are many names in this group that hold more value going into 2016 than their RSO rookie contract would indicate.  In addition to profiting for the next 2 to 3 years, a few of these players may be worthy of the franchise tag for a season or two if their production warrants.  While you may hit on the occasional quarterback that you’re able to trade for profit after a breakout, the smarter strategy is to use your draft picks on other positions which feature a much better likelihood of profitability.


Personal 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.

Cap Analysis: Chargers

Updated: February 15th 2016

San Diego Chargers

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

The Chargers are a franchise in transition, literally and figuratively. Nobody knows where the Chargers will call home from 2017-2036, though it seems likely that they’ll end up in Los Angeles with the Rams. In a few weeks, the Chargers are also likely to say goodbye to many key on-field contributors from the past several years.

With all of that uncertainty, I think the Chargers were smart to keep Mike McCoy, Tom Telesco, and Phillip Rivers. The Chargers have a significant number of free agent starters, and the majority of them have played their final snap as a Charger, but the Chargers don’t necessarily have to rebuild – I believe they’re in position to re-tool and enter a new era for the better.

The Chargers were plagued by injuries in 2015, but they have some young pieces to build around, and Phillip Rivers performed amazingly well in 2015 given the circumstances. The AFC West will be one of the best divisions in football in 2016, regardless of whether Peyton Manning is a Bronco, but I still believe the Chargers will be able to win more than 4 games.  

Projected 2016 Team Salary$124.5M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives)
*Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$31.8M (~$154M Estimate; ~$2.3M Rollover)

Situation: Strong 

As is the case with most teams that have franchise quarterbacks, Philip Rivers contract eats up a large portion of their cap ($21M; 13.5%). But, the Chargers have enough cap space to be players in free agency, and they have a solid foundation of core players locked up for multiple years on reasonable contracts. Their contract commitments are balanced across position groups, and with the right moves in free agency, they could end up without many holes. 

Notable Free Agents:

Chargers Notable FAs

The 2015 starts for Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates, and Malcom Floyd don’t come close to giving an accurate picture of their contributions to the franchise. Gates has started 176 games since 2003, Weddle 122 since 2008, and Floyd 77 since 2009. Weddle’s situation got ugly at the end, and Floyd announced his intention to retire mid-season. There were a few games where Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers looked like they could keep the magic alive for another year, but I am not sure if Gates will be back. A number of other starters and key contributors are also reaching free agency, including three offensive lineman (Johnnie Troutman missed 2015 with injury but was a full-time starter in 2014). The Chargers will need to address the Offensive Line through the rookie draft and/or free agency, and they’ll also need to address their situation at tight end. Ladarius Green, who has been a popular “sleeper” for nearly four years, is reaching free agency with Gates – as is H-back David Johnson, and third string tight end John Phillips.  

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Chargers Top Cap Hits

The Chargers only have seven players who will count for more than $5M against the cap, but it’s a good-looking group. When looking for a solid nucleus on a team, you would expect to find a quarterback and left tackle on the offensive side, and a pass rusher and a corner on the defensive side. All but one of these seven players are locked up for at least three more seasons.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Chargers Cap Cas

Donald Brown, Danny Woodhead, and Melvin Gordon (in no particular order) make for a pretty formidable three-part backfield. But, Brown may find himself as the odd man out, as his release would free up $3.5M in space for the Chargers without any cap repercussions.

Extension Watch List: 

Chargers Ext Watch

The Chargers will likely exercise D.J. Fluker’s fifth year option, and they’ll be able to take their time on a long-term contract decision. More pressingly, the Chargers will have to address contracts for three young players entering their contract years. Melvin Ingram will be the first priority. Ingram only talleyed 6 sacks combined in his first three seasons, partially due to an inability to stay on the field. In 2015, he had a breakout season, starting all 16 games and putting up 10.5 sacks. There are some pretty strong comps available for Ingram, five in my opinion, although they only play for three teams. Connor Barwin ($6M APY), Brandon Graham ($6.5M APY), Lamarr Houston ($7M APY), Pernell McPhee ($7.75M APY), and Paul Kruger ($8.1M APY). The biggest difference is that each of them was an unrestricted free agent at the time of his signing, and Ingram is in a team-controlled year. Ingram compares pretty favorably to Kruger, and that deal was signed in free agency 3 years ago, when the salary cap was roughly 20% lower. Ingram could probably draw $8M per year in free agency in 2017, or settle for $6-$7M per year now and reduce the risk of decreasing his value from injury or a down year.

Keenan Allen’s many fantasy supporters would tell you that you could extrapolate his 2015 numbers over a full-season and he would have had 134 receptions and 1,450 yards. When it comes to negotiations, good luck getting the team’s front office to make that same leap of faith. Allen compares favorably to Doug Baldwin ($4.33M APY), who signed a 3-year extension in May of 2014, before entering the final year of his contract. Based on his current resume, his contract comp ceiling is probably Pierre Garcon, who is now entering the final year of his 2012 contract that paid him $8.5M per year. That’s a pretty wide window, so I wouldn’t be surprised if negotiations take a while, and perhaps nothing will happen before next March. There are other comps in between that would work as well (Torrey Smith, $8M APY; Golden Tate, $6.2M APY), so I could see a pre-season Keenan Allen extension being worth $6-$7M per year.

Position Needs: 

As mentioned previously, the Chargers need to address their offensive line and tight end immediately.

Sleeper Watch: 

With another year in Mike McCoy’s system, and starting opposite Keenan Allen, I could see Stevie Johnson becoming a 1,000-yard receiver again.


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