Mock Draft Trends

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Does anybody else have Mock Draft Fever yet?  I sure do.  I’ve been checking out various mocks around the interwebs and have noticed two trends that I think are important for RSO owners to keep in mind as we head into the combine season.  Will things change as we progress through the combine and pro-days, certainly, but starting your research now is still a good idea.  Here are two story lines that RSO owners need to pay attention to as they start their mock draft and rookie research.

Offensive Line is Almost Historically Weak

Since 1999, an offensive lineman was not taken in the Top 10 just twice: 2015 and 2005.  Ultimately, like the quarterback position, I think team need will supersede talent and somebody will reach for whomever they feel is the top graded tackle.  You may be asking yourself, who cares, I’m not drafting Cam Robinson regardless of where he goes in the NFL draft.  Of course, but I think this is important for two reasons…
  1. The later the first offensive lineman is taken, the higher the potential that star offensive skill position rookies get drafted higher (i.e. by worse teams)
  2. The earlier the first offensive lineman is taken, the more likely a “run” on them starts because teams are worried they will get stuck with a third-rate tackle
Let’s use a real example to illustrate both ideas and how they could play out.  If the Jaguars, who arguably need both OL and RB help, take RB Leonard Fournette at #4, the next likely landing spot for the first OL would be the Chargers, Panthers or Bengals at #7-9.  If they all skip on OL too, it’s possible we may not see an OL taken until #14 and the Colts who desperately need to protect Andrew Luck.  If the Jaguars go OL first, maybe Fournette falls to #8 and the Panthers, which would look A LOT better for his rookie RSO prospects than the Jaguars.  If the Jaguars do go OL and it causes any of the next ten teams to panic and grab their own over a skill position player, it could mean somebody like WR Corey Davis falling to a better offense like the Titans or Bucs to pair with their young franchise QBs.

2017 Could be the Year of the 1st Round RB

Depending on which mock draft you look at, we will likely have multiple RBs taken in the 1st Round, probably three.  Fournette will undoubtedly go first followed by Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffery.  The draft fortunes of RBs has fluctuated over the last twenty years but over the last five years specifically, the demand for rookie RBs has trended downward.  We could argue if that has more to do with the talent of the players or the importance of the position to NFL teams but that is a conversation for another day.

The last two years gave us Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, but 2014 and 2013 gave us zero 1st Round backs.  2012 was the last time that three RBs were drafted in the 1st Round but two of those were at #31 and #32.  You’d have to go back to 2010 to see a stronger crop with #9, #12 and #30.  Looking back at the 1st Round names before the 2013-14 drought is scary: Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson, Mark Ingram, CJ Spiller, Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best.  The best of this group, Martin and Ingram, are viable RB1s in RSO formats today but they have had bad seasons along the way and aren’t without question (you could throw Gurley and Gordon in that mix too – of course Elliot is a step above them all).  Spiller, Richardson and Mathews have had varying levels of success but none proved to be dynasty assets.  Wilson and Best were both out of the league prematurely due to injury.  Should you be scared of drafting a 1st Round RB for your RSO dynasty?  Probably if his name is not Leonard Fournette.

I think 2017 should probably be a two RB year in the NFL Draft’s 1st Round: Fournette and Cook.  After seeing the success of Elliot in 2016 though, I would not be surprised if some team who thinks their OL is on the rise tries to recreate that magic, albeit with a lesser back.  I predict somebody will reach for McCaffery in the 24-30 range and would not be surprised to see either Joe Mixon (despite his off field issues) or Wayne Gallman (after all of Clemson’s success the last two years) get a nod at #32 if the Patriots trade out which they often do.  Your RSO draft of course will look different with only skill position players but at this point in the process, I would be hesitant to take Cook higher than 1.05 and for McCaffery/Mixon I would wait even a few picks later (of course that could all change based on who drafts these guys).

*Note: 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
  • Draft history: drafthistory.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.

2016 Stories and Lessons

Updated: May 28th 2017

Happy holidays everyone! I hope everyone is having a great end to the year.  The fantasy season concluded recently for most of the fantasy community with the week 16 championships (we do keep in mind our wild brethren who finish in week 17) and the NFL season finishes shortly in week 17.  While some of you out there may still be celebrating your successful season and others might be crying after disaster, it is a good time to look at stories that dominated the fantasy season and examine a few lessons learned from the year.

Return of the Running Back

What a difference a year makes. Running backs were the ugly step-child of the fantasy community coming into the season with seemingly every analyst avoiding them like the plague.  We heard everything from “Running Backs are always hurt” to “Every team is going to a committee” or “Nobody runs the ball in a passing league”.  The much-maligned position group came back with a vengeance in 2016 absolutely dominating in a way we have not seen for years.  Table 1 details the big increase in weekly scoring among running backs this season, particularly among the top scorers.  The top running backs have also been far more reliable losing fewer games to injury this season.  The top six scorers per game from 2015 lost 41 games to injury while this year’s group has lost only 6 games total (including 3 games from LeVeon Bell’s suspension).   While the injury rate for running backs returned closer to historical levels, the scoring was far higher than recent years.  I do not expect the increased scoring to continue and will likely be lower on running backs than the consensus next season.

Table 1: PPR PPG for running backs

                RB1        RB2       RB6       RB12     RB18     RB24

2016       26.69     26.45     19.28     14.78     13.68     12.49

2015       21.09     20.22     16.95     14.52     12.80     12.24

 

Tight End is the new Running Back

Similarly to running backs in 2015, the top of the tight end position lost a lot of time to injuries in 2016. The top-6 per game scorers lost only 7 games in 2015.  That number ballooned to 19 so far this season primarily including top options Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, and Tyler Eifert.  This number does not include a bunch of “decoy” games with minimum use due to injuries and reincorporation to the offense following an injury which lowered player scoring averages dramatically as seen in table 2.   Many in the fantasy community will use this data as evidence of how “injury-prone” tight ends are.  I will use it as a buying opportunity to obtain one of the few game changers at the position on the cheap.

Table 2: PPR PPG for tight ends

               TE1         TE6       TE12

2016       14.7        12.1        11.0

2015       18.1        14.7        10.8

Avoid Injured Players

Here is a small sample of stat lines for players returning from injury in 2016:

Julio Jones: 4 receptions, 60 yards; Stephon Diggs: 2 receptions, 18 yards;  Steve Smith: 4 receptions, 47 yards

Donte Moncrief: 4 receptions, 41 yards;  Julio Jones: 4 receptions, 60 yards;  Rob Gronkowski: 0 receptions, 0 yards

Tyler Eifert: 1 reception, 9 yards;  Jordan Reed: 1 reception, 10 yards

The conventional wisdom has been to insert your star players into fantasy lineups whenever they are available. The reality is that any player either returning from an injury or playing with an injury is a gargantuan-size risk usually not worth taking.  We will not know how effectively each individual will perform and, perhaps more importantly, how coaches will limit their snaps and thus the opportunity to put up fantasy points.  Coaches and front office personnel tend to the conservative side with players the organization invested heavily in.  It may not seem smart to bench your star players but, in many instances, it is exactly the correct move.

Avoid Skill Position Players with Bad Quarterbacks

There is a common belief among many that talent supersedes situation in dictating fantasy production. The reality is that situation plays a far larger part.  Perhaps no other situation highlights this dynamic more than the relationship between quarterbacks and skill players.  In particular, bad quarterback play negatively impacts fantasy production of attached players dramatically.

This negative impact manifests directly on wide-outs by receivers accumulating less yards for every target. Bad quarterback play also limits the opportunity for receivers to score touchdowns as drives tend to stall much earlier with fewer plays near the end zone.  Competitive teams shield bad quarterbacks in many cases by decreasing passing attempts which means fewer targets for wide receivers.  The bottom 9 NFL teams in passing rating so far in 2016 are:  New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, and the Chicago Bear.  What does this “stellar” group have in common?  There is not a single wide receiver that managed even a WR2 season so far this season (based on PPG) in PPR leagues.  Terrelle Pryor is currently the highest ranked wide receiver out of these teams at WR25.  Those who invested in Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, or Brandon Marshall likely saw their fantasy seasons end early due to abysmal quarterbacks.

Bad quarterback play can also have a detrimental impact on running backs. Backs suffer from the same loss of touchdown opportunities as wide receivers but also see negative indirect consequences which limit effectiveness.  Defenses adjust to bad quarterbacks by placing more men closer to the line of scrimmage forcing teams to choose between passing with their awful quarterback and running against stacked boxes in low upside situations.  Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley and Houston Texan Lamar Miller provide two examples (both currently top-6 in rushing attempts) which demonstrate the effect.  Both suffered from bottom of the league QBs and faced extensive loaded defensive fronts (along with marginal offensive line play and predictable offensive play calling) throughout the season.  The heavy volume should dictate RB1 numbers but QB play has heavily impacted each resulting in RB2 seasons.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Best Values – Writers’ League

Updated: October 16th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


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

Best Values – Writers' League

Updated: September 7th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


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. 

RB Insurance: Handcuffs

Updated: August 30th 2016

We purchase insurance in our daily lives to dampen the consequences of unforeseen major detrimental events including accidents, sickness, and natural catastrophes. Should we do the same thing for our starting running backs in fantasy football?   Answering this question and looking at a few handcuff options will be the primary focus of this article.  What is a handcuff?  The definition of a handcuff varies from analyst to analyst.  I will define handcuff as a backup player bought for the purpose of insuring the starting player against games lost.

How much are handcuffs worth?

Our first step in answering our primary question is determining how many games running backs typically miss in a season.   The answer is quite large if we look at only 2015.  The top 12 running backs in points per game (PPG) averaged only 11 games played last season and the top-24 averaged only 12 games.  2015 was an outlier season however.  Top-24 running backs from 2012 to 2014 averaged 14 games played which is much closer to historical norms.  All of this means handcuffs are expected to start about two games per season.

We next need to find out how much production we can expect from our handcuffs when they get the opportunity to play. Unsurprisingly, the results varied drastically between handcuffs in 2015.  Jeremy Langford led all handcuffs with 25.2 PPG in his three starts without Forte.  DeAngelo Williams proved to be everything a fantasy owner wants in a handcuff putting up high-end RB1 numbers for 10 games in Le’Veon Bell’s absence.  On the other end of the spectrum, Alfred Blue (8.7 PPG) and Chris Johnson (10.4 PPG) provided just marginal bye week fill-in value as handcuffs.  Table 1 gives the approximate value* for handcuffs of varying production levels in RSO leagues when playing for the expected two games.

*My standard RSO league for computing each player’s value consists of 12 teams, 1QB/2RBs/3WRs/1TE/1 Flex (RB/WR/TE) starting requirements, and PPR scoring.

RB6 RB18 RB30
PPG 17 13 11
Value $3.5 M $1.5 M Min.
Table 1: Value of Handcuffs

The majority of handcuffs will produce at the RB18 level or worse. Keep this in mind when bidding on backup running backs.  We must remember most handcuffs are less talented than the starters and are backups for a reason.  The volume share of the starting running back tends to be distributed among multiple backs in many cases when the starter goes down with injury or suspension.  This implies most handcuffs will produce at lower levels than the starter.

Handcuff Considerations

There are three key considerations I look at when determining if a handcuff is worth a roster spot.

  1. Certainty of holding the backup job. You generally do not want to invest in a player who might not end up as the backup running back or waste multiple roster spots on backups from the same team.   There are no guarantees, as we saw with Knile Davis last year who was considered by many of the top minds to be one of the safest handcuffs, but certainty at the position is of prime importance.
  2. Expected Production. I take a number of factors into consideration here including player talent, projected volume, and surrounding players particularly on the offensive line. The handcuff must have a reasonable expectation of producing RB2 type numbers for me to roster a backup. Why waste a roster spot on a player who is unlikely to see your lineup if he gets the opportunity to play?
  3. Price. Table 1 shows how little a handcuff is generally worth. You should not pay much more than the league minimum in most instances for a handcuff.

Top Handcuff Options

This list includes players whose primary value is as a handcuff. You will not see players who are expected to have significant roles in the offense, regardless of injury, like Charles Sims, Tevin Coleman, and Derrick Henry.

  1. DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburg Steelers – DeAngelo is the easy choice for the number one spot on the list. Locked in for four games to start the season with Bell’s looming suspension. Produced RB1 numbers for an extended stretch last season with Bell injured. Solid expected volume in both the running and passing game for a high scoring offense.
  2. Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys – Give me any back with one of the best offensive lines in football. The team’s top rusher has averaged 4.6 YPA or better over the last three seasons. There is some risk McFadden takes a significant portion of the reps in a committee situation, but this is firmly Morris’ job now with McFadden’s injury. Keep track of this situation going into the year.
  3. Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings – McKinnon is probably the most talented back on this list and would have the opportunity to start for a number of teams in the NFL. The former Georgia Southern Eagle is absolutely dynamic with the ball in his hands producing a robust 4.9 YPA during his career. He will split touches and lose goal line work with Matt Asiata if Peterson goes down however.
  4. James Starks, Green Bay Packers – The longtime Packer checks all of the boxes you want in a backup running back. He is competent in all phases of the game. There is no competition for the backup job on a high-powered Green Bay offense which has plenty of volume in the running and passing game for its running backs. Starks also has a real shot of significant playing time without a Lacy injury, providing possible bye-week and flex value.
  5. DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders – The former Red Raider immediately steps in as the likely backup to Latavius Murray in Oakland. Washington impressed many observers so far in training camp with his solid compact frame and explosive lightning-quick moves out of the backfield. Oakland projects to have one of the better run blocking offensive lines in the NFL for 2016. Washington could also earn a passing down role early in this offense.
  6. Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints – Hightower is strictly a backup, but one who received 21 rushing attempts and 3 receptions per game over the last four games of the season. He plays behind Mark Ingram who has played a full season only once in his career. Hightower likely loses touches to a healthier committee if Ingram goes down but still plays in one of the most offensive friendly systems in the league.
  7. Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals – Another backup on a great offense, Johnson put together a 196 carry, 814 yard campaign in 2015 after starter Andre Ellington was injured on multiple occasions. Johnson himself was injured for the season and David Johnson eventually took over. There are a few dangers with Chris Johnson though. Chris likely sees plenty of run volume if the other Johnson is injured but offers little in the passing game accumulating only six receptions last season. He was also thoroughly outplayed by Ellington last season in both the passing and run game so there is the potential to lose significant backup snaps also.

In the end, remember running back handcuffs are backup players unlikely to receive much playing time in your RSO lineups. Price them accordingly when you decide to add handcuffs to your roster.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.