GM’s Guide to Waldman’s RSP: Part II

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Back in April, I took a Reality Sports centric look at Matt Waldman’s opus, The Rookie Scouting Portfolio.  My aim then was to distill the 1,000+ page document into a few useful takeaways for RSO owners; the aim today is to take those takeaways and apply them to the 2017 rookie crop.  By no means is this an exhaustive or all-encompassing look at the RSP and it’s potential lessons, so please support Matt and his work by purchasing the full RSP and going through it in depth – you’ll be happy you did.

Below you will find the same headers from my original post, the takeaways, with a short reminder of why I think that point is important, and how I feel 2017 applies.  For each section, there are numerous players who might apply but I will concentrate on just one per section – specifically players who would be on the radar for most in “standard” RSO leagues.  Your mileage may vary, depending on league settings.

Pair Rookie Productivity Charts with Depth Chart Notes

The key to being a successful RSO GM (as in the NFL) is identifying value.  Everybody knew that Zeke Elliott was going to be a real life and fantasy stud, but he didn’t represent any value as you had to use the 1.01 to get him.  Those owners who grabbed backs like Rob Kelley and Devontae Booker later in their RSO rookie drafts were the beneficiaries of production that belied the value of their contract.  In my first RSP article, I identified 150-200 carries as the sweet spot between production and cost to acquire.  In order to find rookies who have the potential to hit that threshold, it’s important to closely look at the team’s depth chart to determine their opportunity – Waldman’s depth chart notes are a great tool to help with that.  The guy who I am targeting with all of this in mind in 2017 is Wayne Gallman.  I’ve proclaimed my love for Gallman on RSO’s site before and I will do so again here.  Gallman joins a Giants backfield with Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen but there should be enough touches to go around.  I see 2017 going very similar to 2016, whereas Perkins will start the year as the starter (like Rashad Jennings did) with Gallman gaining steam as the season progresses.  Vereen factors in mostly as a pass catcher rather than a ball carrier; he missed most of 2016, and has missed multiple games in four of six seasons, but even when healthy he’s only had more than 62 carries once.  Perkins averaged a respectable, but uninspiring, 4.1 yards per carry on 112 carries and added 15 receptions for 618 total yards but zero TDs.  My expectations for Gallman would be a bit higher, maybe 160-175 total touches, 750-800 yards and 3-4 TDs.  Keep in mind that the Giants invested a 4th round pick in Gallman after spending a 5th on Perkins just the year before.  So, either they are not convinced Perkins can be their RB1 or they will be invested in a RBBC.  Obviously the first outcome is preferable for Gallman owners but either way I firmly believe he will outperform his RSO contract.  Waldman has Gallman ranked at 22 and DynastyLeagueFootball.com has him at 21, so depending on your league size he’s either a late 2nd or early 3rd draft pick so his contract will be somewhere in the $900,000-$1,300,000 range.  Invest in him now and as he blossoms the next few years you’ll be happy you have him locked in on the cheap.

Pay Attention to ADP Value Designations

A player I’m higher on after reading through this year’s Post Draft Update is WR Josh Reynolds.  Reynolds was drafted by the Rams in the 4th round and Waldman believes he will see production right away in the NFL; he placed Reynolds on his “Good Fit” list and also placed him in Tier A with other instant impact WRs like Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross.  The average ADP for Reynolds as collected by Waldman was pick 35.8, over 21 picks after where Waldman has him ranked, the highest such discrepancy for anybody in the top 50 (note: DynastyLeagueFootball.com currently has him at 30.50 so his value may be creeping up).  The more research I do, I’m starting to convince myself that Waldman is right and that Reynolds is somebody I should own shares in.   The Rams WR corps is weak, maybe the weakest in the league, and Reynolds had solid collegiate production in the SEC (164 receptions, 2,788 yards and 30 TDs in three full years).  Last year, Malcolm Mitchell was in a similar position (ranked #16 by Waldman but being underdrafted).  So, what does this mean for RSO owners?  It means that you can wait a round (or maybe even two if you’re daring) on Reynolds and still get great value.  Target him in the early- or mid-3rd round and the $900,000 investment will provide solid returns.

Don’t Fall in Love with Lottery Tickets

It’s easy for a dynasty owner to fall in love with a rookie, especially ones with the intoxicating blend of physical ability and potential playing time.  If we’re talking players like Leonard Fournette or Corey Davis, they are obvious no-brainers.  The challenge though, is identifying the guys who might need to work on a key positional skill or maybe who are buried on a depth chart.  These “lottery tickets” can pose huge cap headaches for their RSO owners so I urge you to stay away.  In my original piece, I mentioned Zach Zenner, whom I was highly interested in in 2015 but avoided.  Ultimately he did realize some value in late 2016 but not enough to warrant a roster spot through all his zeroes and a guaranteed rookie contract.  This year, I will avoid WR Krishawn Hogan from the Cardinals.  In a recent draft of mine, a fellow owner called Hogan a “lotto ticket I’m willing to take,” but in taking Hogan he passed on the aforementioned WR Josh Reynolds who has a shorter path to targets and has draft capital invested in him.  I know that Hogan is a great story (he supported himself through college so he could play football) but the hype has gone way too far for me as an RSO GM.  Hogan has prototypical size at 6’3″ and 220lb but he played in the NAIA at Marian University.  It’s not that he chose to skip D1 recruiting offers for personal reasons, he just didn’t have much production in high school (20 receptions as a senior).  He chose D2 Walsh University but then transferred after a 32 reception season to the lesser NAIA.  Aside from my questions about his ability and lack of high level competition, I am concerned about how many bodies there are in front of Hogan on the Cardinals depth chart.  There’s the obvious names of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, JJ Nelson and Jaron Brown but the Cardinals also added Patriots castoff Aaron Dobson and even drafted rookie Chad Williams in the 3rd round.  I know all this sounds like I’m “hating” on Hogan, and I honestly feel bad writing negatively about him because everything I read has great things to say about him as a person but I’m just not willing to commit to him on my RSO team.  Even if you have a 5-round rookie draft, I would rather not invest in somebody like Hogan who will likely eat up cap and roster space for most of his contract before (maybe) becoming productive.  If you are intrigued by Hogan and want to be the guy who had him before he arrives, I would urge you to let him go undrafted, sign him as a free agent on a 1-year deal and then use the new contract extension feature if he flashes anything.

 

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, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com

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.

GM’s Guide to Matt Waldman’s RSP

Updated: July 23rd 2017

There are a lot of dynasty resources out there but none of them is as comprehensive as Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio (RSP).  There are two parts to the RSP, the Rookie Scouting Portfolio proper which is released before the NFL draft, and the Post-Draft update. First time readers will undoubtedly be overwhelmed as I was in 2015 when I first bought the RSP but don’t be dissuaded!  After two years, I am far from an RSP expert but I truly believe that the amount of research you do is directly correlated to your long term dynasty success.  Whether you spend an hour with the RSP, cherry picking paragraphs about your favorite players, or power through the full 1,600 page document, you’ll be a more informed dynasty owner because of it.  It should be no surprise that the RSP is not perfect in it’s predictions and conclusions, nothing can be given such a fickle topic, but don’t let that discourage you from purchasing again in the future even if you miss on somebody this season; past issues are a treasure trove of information when players change teams or hit free agency.  Because of the unique cap/contract format of RSO, I thought it would be helpful to present some tips for RSO owners to get the most out of the RSP.  For more information about the RSP, testimonials and details on how to purchase it, click here.

Pair Rookie Productivity Charts with Depth Chart Notes

The RSP has rookie productivity charts for each position.  These charts are based on the last ten years of rookies and show the average production for a player who had a certain threshold of passes/rushes/receptions.  For example, there were 63 RBs in the sample who had at least 100 rushing attempts in their rookie season; those backs averaged nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 6 TDs.  When the threshold increases, obviously so does the production (i.e. a better rookie will end up getting more touches).  I find it interesting that there seems to be a sweet spot in the 150-200 carry range that can net you some great value with your RSO rookie draft picks.  Somebody like Zeke Elliot who is going to be a starter from day one is an obvious early draft pick but does not offer much value.  The key is being able to identify which rookie backs will get the opportunity to fall in that 150-200 carry range where their value is maximized.  In 2016, the rookie backs who did were Rob Kelley (168 carries) and Devontae Booker (174).  Kelly was far off the radar in May of last year for RSO owners, Booker, though, is the real takeaway.  Similar to the Redskins and Matt Jones, the Broncos have been hesitant to commit to CJ Anderson and ended up drafting Booker in 2016.  If you grabbed Booker in your 2016 rookie draft despite him not being the immediate starter, you were rewarded with some decent output and hopefully a future starter.  Jordan Howard ended up exceeding the 200 carry mark, but is a further example of a shaky incumbent leading to a great rookie pick.  By pairing Waldman’s rookie productivity charts with his depth chart notes, you can find rookies like Booker who have a shorter path to meaningful production and draft accordingly in the late 1st and early 2nd rounds of your rookie draft.

Pay Attention to ADP Value Designations

In the Post-Draft update, there is a lot of ADP data.  My favorite way to view this data is through the lens of Waldman’s “value designations.”  These notations are formatted like “over 5” or “under 5.”  What that means is that Waldman feels that that player is either being over- or under-drafted by that many spots.  This data is useful in two ways because it can help you avoid reaching for a player and it can also help you identify a bargain in RSO contract terms.  Out of the top 24 rookies by ADP (so about the first two rounds of your rookie draft), Waldman identified C.J. Prosise, Pharoh Cooper and Kenyan Drake as over-drafted players.  Prosise and Drake have some value but the difference between where you had to draft them based on ADP and where they were valued by Waldman’s research is about $500,000 (or, exactly how much you might need for that mid-season waiver wire savior).  Instead, you could have realized the lack of talent at your pick, traded back, and drafted somebody like Tajae Sharp a little later and received a better return on investment.  Conversely, players like Kenneth Dixon and Malcolm Mitchell were marked as under-drafted heading into 2016.  Getting a bargain on a potential contributor when you draft these guys can help set you up for future salary cap success.

Don’t Fall in Love with Lottery Tickets

Those of you who are college football fans like myself will likely recognize some of the names in the “UDFAs to Watch” and the “Fantasy Waiver Wire Gems” sections in the Post-Draft update.  Undoubtedly it’s a great list for deep dynasty leagues or those with a taxi squad but as an RSO owner it’s easy to get excited by this and suffer from confirmation bias.  Don’t fall in love with them and take their inclusion as confirmation that you should take them in your RSO rookie draft.  Most RSO leagues (check your settings) will not have a deep enough roster to warrant taking these players.  If your league rosters 35+ players, maybe, but anything less and I think you should stay away.  That is not to say that these players will never “hit,” I just mean that they are at least two years away from being relevant and until then it will tie up much needed salary cap space.  It may not sound like much, but that $900,000 you commit to your 3rd round rookie pick could keep you from picking up that free agent RB you desperately need or keep you from completing a trade because you’d be receiving more salary than you have space for.  Even if you have salary cap available, you’re going to be faced with cutting that lottery ticket and you’ll take the cap hit to add insult to injury.  In 2015, one of those guys I fell in love with in the RSP and nearly drafted was Zach Zenner.  On my 23-man roster, I would definitely have been forced to cut him before he became useful for a few games late in 2016.  In 2016, two of those UDFAs I had my eye on were Peyton Barber and Jalen Richard.  Ultimately, Barber offered minimal contribution despite the Bucs RB injuries; Richard looks like he could be a better pro than fantasy asset (especially in standard where his 29 receptions wouldn’t count) because his production was decent but inconsistent.  Don’t forget, RSO is not like other dynasty formats where you can be more patient with a player.  If you’re drawing a salary for my RSO team you better be closer to contributing or I’ll have to find somebody who is.  That “what have you done for me lately” mentality is one of the things that makes RSO so similar to the real NFL.

Be sure to purchase the RSP on April 1 and get a head start on your league.  Check back again after the draft and I will try to apply some of the above lessons to the 2017 draft class.


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.