Rookie Film Study: QBs

Updated: July 23rd 2017

My first love was college football.  Like every long-term relationship, college football and I have had our ebbs and flows throughout the years.  Recently we’ve been in a lull due to the fact that I have Rutgers season tickets and I typically spend 6-8 hours at the stadium on a game day.  Factor in an annual away game (Ann Arbor here I come again this year) and I’m missing about 8 weeks of college football action each season.  Thankfully, playing on RSO has helped me refocus and concentrate on the incoming rookies and starting with today’s piece my writing on RSO will be devoted to rookies and the college game.  Check back throughout the offseason for more rookie-centric research, film study and mock drafts.  First up, let’s take a look at the top of the 2017 rookie QB class.

Mitch Trubisky, UNC

By many accounts, Mitch Trubisky will be the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft and much ink will be spilled discussing him.

Trubisky is a Junior who is coming out after just one full season as a starter.  The only game in which he had significant reps as a Sophomore came against FCS Delaware when he filled in for injured starter Marquise Williams.  In 2016 he totaled 3,748 passing  yards, 30 TDs and 6 INTs.  He also added decent production on the ground with eight games of either 30+ yards or a rushing TD.  Trubisky’s best outing was against #12 FSU where he completed 31 of 38 passes for 453 yards and 3 TDs; he also added a rushing TD.  His worst outing undoubtedly came against #25 Virginia Tech when he went 13-33 for just 58 yards, zero TDs and 2 INTs.

I watched Trubisky’s film against Duke and Stanford.  One of the first things I noticed about him is that his feet never stop moving in the pocket.  He is always poised to throw but is equally able to evade the rush and escape the pocket.  Twice in the 3rd quarter against Duke, Trubisky fled the rush and turned a sack into positive yardage (one of them into a first down actually).  He did the same a number of times against Stanford and their Top 5 prospect DE Solomon Thomas.  Unfortunately a last second two point conversion attempt to tie the game was one example of the pressure getting home and Trubisky being unable to escape.  Against Stanford he also threw two bad INTs which ended possessions the Tar Heels desperately needed late in the game.

The second half of the game against Stanford perfectly encapsulates Trubisky’s draft prospects.  In the 3rd quarter, on 2nd & 11, Trubisky eludes the pressure and throws a flat-footed pass 40 yards for a first down.  In the 4th quarter, 3rd & Goal, down 8 points with 30 seconds left, Trubisky rolls right toward the boundary but is pressured.  He circles back towards the field, quickly sets his feet and throws a dart from the opposite hash for a touchdown (he threw a similar TD pass from the opposite hash in the 1st quarter of the Duke game).  The next play was the aforementioned two point conversion sack that essentially ended the game.

He certainly has the arm strength and athleticism to make it in the NFL but he’s just a step short.  Will he be the first quarterback drafted?  I think so and somebody will likely take him in the Top 10 but that is too rich for me.

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

Kizer will be over-drafted because of his size, plain and simple.  He is 6’4″ and 230lb which should peg him as the biggest quarterback prospect other than Davis Webb who will be drafted significantly later.  He certainly won’t be drafted for the stats he put up at Notre Dame.  He had a horrendous completion percentage of 58.7% in 2016 and did not break 3,000 passing yards in either 2015 or 2016.  He does have some “boom” capability though so be careful which tape you watch – he went off for 5 TDs and 0 INTs twice, once in 2016 against Texas and once in 2015 against Pitt.  What makes his size so tantalizing is the speed that goes with it – he’s tough to bring down in traffic and if he gets into the open field, he’s gone.

When I watched Kizer’s film, I was struck by how uncomfortable he looked under pressure which I thought might be a strength given his athleticism and speed.  Kizer often seems to forget about the rush once it gets behind him and gets sacked from behind rather than stepping up and out of the pocket.  Against Stanford, I counted four sacks like this; two of which came on the last drive when the Irish were down 7 points.  I was not impressed with his accuracy or arm strength when rolling out.  I also question his attention to detail: between the two games I watched, Duke being the other, Kizer dropped two snaps and botched a handoff.  Lastly, his awareness of game situation and field position worries me.  Of all of the film I have watched so far of the rookie QBs, Kizer has by far the worst throw.  Let me set the stage… it’s 35-35 against Duke with just 5 minutes left, Notre Dame has the ball in the shadow of their own goal posts and it’s 3rd & 20.  Kizer drops back to pass, into his own endzone, shuffles left and throws a duck without setting his feet.  The pass is easily intercepted at the Notre Dame 45 yard line.  The announcer basically says, “no big deal, they would have punted anyway” but that is asinine.  If Kizer was able to gain even 5 yards to give his punter some room, they could have ensured that Duke at least got the ball back in their own half instead of plus territory.  Duke took over, killed 4+ minutes and kicked a 19 yard field goal that ended up being the game winner.

Some quarterback desperate team will inevitably take Kizer in the Top 15 due to his physical tools but I wouldn’t want my team making that mistake – he will need time to develop and he won’t get that if he’s taken in the top half of the first round.

DeShaun Watson, Clemson

DeShaun Watson will be the name that most casual fans will be familiar with and the one that I am most worried about RSO owners reaching for.  Watson has played in two National Championship games, one of which he won, has finished in the Top 3 of Heisman voting twice and has more than 10,000 career passing yards.  Watson certainly has a championship pedigree but can he turn that into success in the NFL?  Not unless he can stop throwing interceptions.

Without even watching any film of Watson, you can quickly determine his biggest negative… he throws way too many INTs.  In 2016 he threw 17 and in 2015 he threw 13.  Does this sound familiar?  Okay you’re right I ragged on Watson for his interceptions in the lead up to January’s championship game, so I’ll move on.

When I started watching film of Watson, I had a preconceived notion that his interception problems were caused by his limited reading of the field.  After watching 2016 outings against Auburn and Ohio State, I still believe that.  Against Auburn, the first game of the season, you will find very few throws when Watson looks away from his primary receiver.  Against Ohio State, in the semi-finals, he was improved but still not what you would hope for from a franchise quarterback.  Going back to the Auburn game, I also noticed three times when Watson’s throw was deflected at the line of scrimmage.  Depending where you look he is either listed at 6’3″ or 6’2″ – I would not be surprised if his height becomes a problem come combine.

Watson is obviously supremely talented and I think that his field vision issues could be helped by the right coach (whether that means giving him half-field reads or actually helping him improve) so I’d be willing to give him a shot in the late 1st round.

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

If there is one quarterback in the first round that I would be targeting it would be Mahomes.  Many draft resources have him listed as the 4th prospect behind Trubisky, Kizer and Watson but I believe he should be right up there with Trubisky.  Given the difference in draft pick needed to nab the two, Mahomes would be my pick.

It’s easy not to give any credence to the numbers that Mahomes (and past air raid quarterbacks) put up but let’s just take a quick look because they are insane.  He threw for over 11,000 total passing yards in his career and 93 TDs.  In 2016 he had six games of 400+ yards, three games of 500+ and one of 700+.  Add in 22 career rushing TDs and you have an all-around prolific quarterback.  All of Mahomes’ stats (yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, interceptions, etc) improved year over year from 2014 to 2016.

Watching film of Mahomes is a bit misleading due to how many attempts he has each game, but it was sill instructive – anybody could find pros and cons when you have 50+ attempts.  You will notice immediately that his footwork needs improvement – he throws off one foot often – but he has the arm strength to overcome.  To my eye, he looked most comfortable when rolling out of the pocket and only had half of the field to read.  When on the run, he throws accurately.  Like Kizer, he seems to struggle with stepping up and out of the pocket, oftentimes he just stepped right into a sack.  Two things that I loved when watching Mahomes play against Arizona State… First, he drew two offsides and turned one of those into a touchdown on a free play.  That is something you see in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers anybody?  Just kidding) and not so often in college.  Second, he executed this one play perfectly a few times, once going for a touchdown, where he has a long fake at the mesh point and then fires a quick bullet to a slanting TE.  He was knocked out of the game against Kansas but it was not a serious injury.

Mahomes, like the other three profiled here, is not perfect but I think his trajectory is pointing in the right direction and he is worth a pick by a fringe playoff team around 20th overall.

 

Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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

How RSO Rookie Drafts Differ

Updated: August 30th 2016

After participating in several RSO rookie drafts, I began to think about how much these differ from standard dynasty league rookie drafts that are the industry standard throughout the fantasy community.  Rankings and Average Draft Positions that you’ll see on sites like Dynasty League Football are intended for standard dynasty leagues, where you can keep the selected rookies on your roster for an unlimited amount of time.  The presence of 3 to 4 year rookie contacts may create a market inefficiency with owners not shifting their draft strategy away from standard dynasty to match the uniqueness and realism RSO provides.  Retaining that player past their rookie contract will likely force that owner to pay the average of the top five salaries at that position, meaning that the player must become elite at their position by the end of their rookie deal to warrant the tag.  It’s worth noting that some leagues implement limits on the number of times a player can be tagged before he has to return to the free agent auction.  Sure, the player can be re-acquired in the free agent auction, but his cap hit will now be determined by the open market.

The Research

I set out to determine which positions should be prioritized in RSO rookie drafts by providing the best return on investment (ROI).  To do this, I created a sample of QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs that in the last three years (2013, 2014, 2015) posted a season that was “start worthy”.  For simplicity, I defined “start worthy” as players who finished among in the top 10 QBs, top 25 RBs, top 25 WRs, and top 10 TEs for the 2013, 2014, or 2015 seasons in standard scoring, data courtesy of Pro Football Reference.  The sample created a player pool consisting of 19 QBs, 47 RBs, 48 WRs, and 20 TEs.  With my sample pool selected, I began tracking how quickly each player put together a “start worthy” season by recording the results from their first four seasons in the league.

The Results

Start Worthy Chart

Quarterbacks

95% “Start Worthy” by year 4 – Before conducting this research, I expected quarterbacks to take longer to become “start worthy” and was surprised to see 18 of 19 did that in their first 4 seasons.  On average, it took these QBs 2.61 years to put together such a season, meaning this usually happened in years 2 and 3.  Those numbers alone may not mean a lot, but let’s see how it compares to other positions.

Running backs

1.91 years, the average time it takes a running back to become “start worthy” – For a variety of reasons (most of which I agree with), RBs are devalued in dynasty leagues.  However, I believe we should think differently about running backs in RSO as they typically become “start worthy” by year 2 at a ROOKIE SALARY!  This past off-season, I went out of my way to acquire additional second round picks to have more chances of hitting on one of these cost-effective productive young RBs.

Wide receivers

2.02 years, the average time it takes wide receivers to become “start worthy” – WRs are the stars of dynasty football, the prized assets that command huge trade returns.  Becoming “start worthy” by year 2 confirms that WRs are still very valuable in RSO, but might not hold as drastic of an edge over RBs as in standard dynasty leagues.

Tight ends

5% = the lowest % increase in becoming “start worthy” from year 3 to year 4 – By year 3, you may know what you have with your TE prospect.  80% of the sample put forth “start worthy” seasons by year 3, with only 1 TE waiting until year 4.  Important to note, TEs also took the longest time to produce an ROI with an average of 2.53 years to become “start worthy”.

What does this mean to RSO players?

Personally, I wouldn’t select a rookie QB in the 1st round of a rookie draft unless the format is 2QB or Superflex.  With that said, I do feel more comfortable with selecting the top QB prospects in the 2nd or 3rd round of rookie drafts after discovering that the breakout QBs almost always do so by their fourth season.  RBs and WRs should be heavily prioritized in RSO rookie drafts, given that they’re the quickest to produce “start worthy” seasons after entering the league.  While I’d give WRs a slight edge over RBs since they’re more consistent year to year, RBs close the gap a bit in RSO by becoming “start worthy” the soonest.  TEs, on the other hand, should be widely ignored in rookie drafts.  It frequently takes too long for these players to develop into starting caliber options.  Sure, there are outliers – Rob Gronkowski comes to mind.  But strategies built on the outcomes of outliers are doomed to fail.

To summarize, target RBs and WRs in your rookie drafts.  In trades, I’ll typically ask for a 2nd round pick to be added as a thrown in.  While mostly insignificant, I want more chances at hitting on a breakout RB or WR on a multi-year rookie contract.  The RBs and WRs that break out often do so by year 2, which makes it quicker to know when to cut bait on a bust and use the roster spot elsewhere.


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. 

FA Auction: Lessons Learned

Updated: June 18th 2016

Last time in this space, I took a look at the most frequently cut players from each offensive skill position.  My hope was that an analysis of where we went wrong last year could help steer us in this season’s free agent auction.  After all, nothing could sink a promising franchise faster than dead cap space.

For each position I picked a few players who I think that you should avoid spending big money on in your 2016 free agent auction.  Every player can be valuable with the right contract, this is not to say the below players should not be owned, I am arguing you should avoid splashing the cash on them.  First, let’s start with the obvious caveat: every league is different (size, scoring, roster size, etc.), so your mileage may vary, one league’s trash could be another’s treasure.

QUARTERBACKS:

  1. Tyrod Taylor
  2. Brock Osweiler

The biggest take away after looking at last year’s most frequently released QBs was that you should not overpay for a small sample size.  I am not advocating skipping these two altogether, but I think prudence is the key.  Taylor went 8-6 and only threw 6 INTs (3 of which in one game) but he also had five games with less than 15 completions and five games with less than 200 yards passing.  The x-factor for Taylor, of course, is his rushing ability but that is the part that worries me: it will either lead to injury, it could be game planned away by the defense or be removed from his own game plan as preservation (see: Robert Griffin III).  I’m staying away from Taylor this year, I would rather be the guy who missed on him rather than have to eat his salary later.

For Osweiler, the sample size is much smaller and his rate stats were lower than Taylor’s (completion percentage, rating, yards per attempt, etc).  So, why do I think you should avoid Taylor more so than Osweiler?  Osweiler’s value is not so heavily influenced by his rushing ability, or lack thereof.  Osweiler is a “prototypical” quarterback and has 7″ and about 20lb on Taylor.  Still, though, I am concerned what a change of scenery will mean for Brock and can’t help but see him as the next Matt Flynn.  I wouldn’t avoid him at all costs but I would only offer him a one- or at a maximum, a two-year deal.

RUNNING BACKS:

  1. Chris Ivory
  2. Matt Forte
  3. Demarco Murray

The theme with last year’s most frequently cut RBs was that you should avoid the hype of the veteran who was changing teams.  Despite some niggling injuries last year, both Ivory and Forte had decent seasons in 2015.  Ivory broke 1,000 yards for the first time in his career (1,070) and had more receptions (30) than he had the rest of his career combined (23).  Forte missed three games but was on pace for another 1,000 yard rushing season if he played the full campaign; he also pitched in with 44 receptions which was down on a per-game basis from 2014 but is still more than most RBs see in a full season.  Ivory has left the Jets for Jacksonville and Forte has taken his place.  Unless I can get them for just $2 or $3 million, I am probably skipping both Ivory and Forte.

Murray is interesting after what could not have been a more disappointing season in Philly last year.  He joins the Titans and could be at a point where his stock is so low you could actually get him for a song.  The ultimate post-hype sleeper.  He’s burned me once though, so I’m going to sit this year out.  I might let another owner take him, and if the contract is small enough, try to swing a trade once training camp starts and we see how the Titans backfield will work out.  Or maybe that’s the Cowboys fan in me talking.

WIDE RECEIVERS:

  1. Jordy Nelson – Jeff Janis
  2. Michael Crabtree – Seth Roberts
  3. Brandin Cooks – Willie Snead

The lesson to be learned last year was to not spend too much money on the up-and-coming WRs who may unseat an established veteran.  So, for this position, I thought it would be useful to look at both the old and the new at the same time because I would actually avoid picking both sides of these pairs.

Jeff Janis had a memorable playoff game for the Packers against the Cardinals (7-145-2) but is it enough to make everybody forget about Jordy Nelson who missed the season due to injury?  Probably not, but I have just enough doubt to avoid Nelson this year.  Nelson is now 31 and has had two serious injuries – an ACL and a hamstring – which forced him to miss significant time.  Dynasty players know Janis well but I don’t think his brief flash is enough to warrant anything more than a minimum contract – many of us have been fooled by his potential already.

Amari Cooper is obviously the top Raiders WR to own, but who should you target second?  After all, Derek Carr does like to air the ball out.  I’m not biting on Crabtree’s 85-922-9 and instead think that Seth Roberts will emerge.  Roberts was an unheralded rookie out of West Alabama whose line was 32-480-5.  Like Janis, his sample size is too small to spend on, but his presence means I will not sign Crabtree this offseason.

Chances are that Willie Snead was snagged off waivers by somebody last year rather than being signed to a long term deal.  I cannot imagine there were too many owners who were holding Snead futures so he’s likely up for free agency.  I’d bite in a PPR league but there weren’t enough TDs there for standard scoring, in my opinion.  Snead’s emergence dented Brandin Cooks’ potential.  Cooks didn’t score his first TD or surpass 100 yards until Week 5; ultimately he had six sub-50 yard games versus just four over-100 yard games.  His strong suit was supposed to be the volume of receptions but even that was lacking – just 84.  The saving grace for Cooks fantasy-wise was his 9 TDs but I would take the under for 2016.  Snead and Cooks are too similar in their playing style and so cannibalize each other’s opportunities to succeed.

TIGHT ENDS:

  1. David Johnson
  2. Alex Smith
  3. Coby Fleener
  4. Ladarius Green

In my last piece, I noted that David Johnson and Alex Smith were two of the most frequently cut tight ends.  Originally I attributed it to their deep, deep sleeper status but after further thought I think it was definitely because they share a name with another position player.  Whether it was an honest mistake or an unscrupulous nomination, I think some owners ended up with the wrong guy and immediately cut bait landing them on the list.  Don’t make that mistake again this year, folks.

Last year, we should have all held off on anointing Josh Hill the Jimmy Graham heir apparent, and I think this year you should similarly avoid Fleener.  Green is likewise joining a new team, the Steelers, and while he has shown flashes, he’s never been the go-to tight end for an extended period of time.  Ultimately, I think both are so close to replacement level that I wouldn’t bother.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Dollars and Sense: Rookie QB Value

Updated: April 18th 2016

I believe that rookie QBs are an undervalued commodity on Reality Sports Online.  However, I am a man on an island because most of my colleagues disagree.  In Dave Sanders’ piece titled “Maximizing Quarterback Value”, he suggests skipping rookie quarterbacks completely.  In Bernard Faller’s piece titled “Value Town: QBs”, he suggests that since the difference between QB2 and QB16 was just 4 ppg that owners could plug-n-play at the position which could lead to you avoid drafting the top rookie QBs.  I disagree with my colleagues on this, in fact I have been a big proponent in my first two articles of reaching for a quarterback in the early second round of your RSO rookie draft.  Ultimately, our differences of opinion come down to one thing: position scarcity.  

The first thing we need to keep in mind about RSO is it’s unique contract driven dynasty format.  Since there are salary cap ramifications for every add/drop, it’s not quite as simple as other formats to rely on the waiver wire to fill your quarterback position.  Furthermore, because of the rookie draft that kicks off each season, younger quarterbacks are more highly owned than in other formats which further complicates the plug-n-play strategy.  Lastly, because RSO owners are more likely to hoard their quarterbacks, it’s important to keep this in mind when looking at metrics such as VBD and others that compare the “replacement level” of a position.

In Bernard’s piece he presents Tyrod Taylor as a good value, which I agree with, but the problem is that in most RSO leagues Taylor was not available once he was a viable fantasy starter and you needed him.  Sure, you could have grabbed him after the Bills’ announcement since he was only owned in about 20% of leagues originally, but if you doubted him and waited to grab Taylor mid-season as a bye week or injury fill-in he was likely already gone.  Ultimately, Taylor finished as QB17 based on the average number of points scored across all RSO leagues and was 81% owned. For comparison, Taylor was only 56% owned on Yahoo and 35% on NFL.com at the end of the season.  On those sites/formats, relying on Taylor to give you some good plug-n-play value at quarterback was a viable strategy, even late into the season, but I don’t believe it could have been on RSO.

Blake Bortles was also a good value but I think the reality of the ownership percentage paints a bleak picture for those who use Dave’s strategy of skipping quarterbacks in RSO rookie drafts.  Before the start of the 2015 season, Bortles was approximately 17% owned on RSO, presumably most of those being owners who drafted Bortles in their 2014 rookie draft.  Compare that to the data compiled by NFL.com leagues in which Bortles was just 2.8% owned in Week 1 of 2015.  By the Jags Week 8 bye, Bortles was up to 40% on NFL.com and by the end of the season he was up to 71.6%; comparatively he skyrocketed to 90.74% in RSO leagues by the end of the season (mid-season ownership percentages are tough to pinpoint on RSO but I would estimate that by Week 8 it would be at least 70%).  To quote Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly.”  The owners who had the foresight to draft Bortles in 2014 are paying him rookie money for QB1 production and that’s worth the gamble of drafting a rookie QB rather than battling on the waiver wire once they “pop.”

The next veteran QB we’ll look at to illustrate my rookie QB feelings is the guy everybody loves to hate: Andy Dalton.  Coincidentally, Dalton finished 2015 as QB16 in both average points and ownership on RSO.  In “Value Town: QBs,” Bernard points out that the difference between QB16 and QB2 was just 4 points per game to illustrate his replacement-level strategy.  Based on my research, I think RSO owners need to dig deeper to find the true replacement level at QB.  For most redraft and keeper leagues, I agree with Bernard that QB16 would be the right place to look but for RSO, I would posit you need to go down to at least QB20, if not further, to realistically expect a player to be available.  Before the 2015 season, Andy Dalton was available in just 25% of RSO leagues (17th most owned QB) and that fell to just 8% by the end of the season.  In order to find somebody who was available in at least 40% of leagues at the start of the season, you would have to look to Sam Bradford, Colin Kaepernick or Teddy Bridgewater (the 20th-22nd most owned respectively).  If you were banking on picking up QB16 as a bye week fill-in during your RSO season you were probably out of luck.

As a counterpoint I looked at Ryan Fitzpatrick, the true embodiment of replacement level QBs.  He was just 19% owned before the season began and ultimately finished as QB11 in average scoring so I would admit that he was the rare case of a viable fantasy starter being widely available on RSO.  The interesting thing though lies in Fitzpatrick’s RSO contracts.  A measly 1% of RSO owners have Fitzpatrick locked up for another year.  So while you can find somebody like Fitzpatrick to help you through a few games this season, you can bet that somebody in your league will overpay for him in the subsequent free agent auction.  Instead, you could be content to have a young, potential stud like Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota under contract for rookie money for another 2-3 years.

In summary, I believe these numbers perfectly illustrate the different dynamic of an RSO league and why you need to value young QBs more highly.  You may think that that a value quarterback will be available for you mid-season but chances are they’re already owned by the time you get to the waiver wire.  The best way for you to ensure that you own that QB before they “pop” is to grab them in your rookie draft.  If you get lucky, and I do admit that this is a crapshoot, you could find yourself paying little salary for much production.  After all, the beauty of RSO is it’s similarity to the real NFL, so why would the value of rookie QBs be any different?  Remember what happened when Russell Wilson’s cap-friendly rookie contract allowed the Seahawks to spend their money elsewhere?  Championship.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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.