Slicing ’17 Rookie Class into 12 Tiers

Updated: July 23rd 2017

According to a recent poll on our RSO Twitter feed, about 50% of RSO leagues have not yet conducted their rookie drafts.  As you’re continuing your preparation, I’m here to provide my tiered rankings of the top 50 rookies.  Navigating three to four rounds of a rookie draft isn’t easy.  My tiers are designed to help you know when to buy or sell so you can accumulate the best possible rookie class, at great value!

So let’s begin…

Tier 1

1. Corey Davis WR TEN

While Corey Davis may not be quite the same level of prospect as recent 1.01/1.02 picks Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Todd Gurley, he’s undoubtedly the best prospect in this class and the only receiver I’m willing to bet will be a true NFL #1.  Putting my money where my mouth is, I already have 3 shares and am aiming for more.

Tier 2

2. Joe Mixon RB CIN
3. Christian McCaffrey RB CAR
4. Leonard Fournette RB JAX

To say you can’t go wrong with picks 2, 3, and 4 would be inaccurate. In a few years, all three will have differing values. But at this point, the margins between each are razor-thin.

Consistent with my general strategy, I’m going to often choose the most talented player regardless of their potential non-talent-related downfalls such as injury history, off-the-field issues, etc. I’ll take Joe Mixon at 2.  He’s the only RB in this class that I believe truly has an elite RB1 ceiling. My rankings 3rd and 4th ranked players differ depending on your scoring system. PPR -> Christian McCaffrey. Standard -> Leonard Fournette.

Tier 3

5. Dalvin Cook RB MIN

While a sub-10th percentile SPARQ score terrifies me, Dalvin Cook‘s college tape tells a different story. I firmly believe that he’s the most talented back on the Minnesota Vikings and it isn’t remotely close. How soon he will earn playing time may be another story. He will need to improve drastically in pass-protection and ball security to earn playing time.

After the 1.05 pick, this draft class falls off a cliff. If you’re slated to pick 6th or later in the first round of a rookie draft this year, I’d advise shopping that pick for help now or 2018/2019 picks.

Tier 4

6. Mike Williams WR LAC

Back injuries are scary. Back injuries are especially scary when learning a NFL playbook for this first time, getting acclimated to a NFL playbook, and completing for playing time among a crowded group of talented receivers. Even if he fully recovers from this injury in time for the season, he’s unlikely to contribute in a meaningful way this season. Still my 1.06, I’d only make that pick if I’ve exhausted every trade possible without coming to an agreement. If Mike Williams struggles for playing time, but appears healthy when on the field, he might be a buy-low target at the trade deadline or during the 2018 off-season

For more info on his injury and the potential need for surgery if the non-surgical route doesn’t work, I’d recommend listening to the AUDIBLE LIVE! Podcast from June 8th as Jene Bramel (@JeneBramel on Twitter) provides great insight.

Tier 5

7. Alvin Kamara RB NO
8. John Ross WR CIN
9. David Njoku TE CLE
10. Evan Engram TE NYG
11. Samaje Perine RB WAS
12. O.J. Howard TE TB
13. Kareem Hunt RB KC

Even if he doesn’t develop as an inside runner, Alvin Kamara will still be a very productive pass-catching back in the NFL. The Saints offense is very RB friendly and neither Adrian Peterson or Mark Ingram are locks for the Saints’ 2018 roster.

Love John Ross‘ talent, but hate the landing spot. Andy Dalton isn’t the ideal QB for him, especially behind a poor offensive line that may force them to focus on getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

My tight end rankings are based on my belief in their long-term upside. Love David Njoku‘s talent and his situation isn’t as bad as many believe, especially with the release of Gary Barnidge. Evan Engram should settle in as a big slot receiver, though classified as a TE, for the Giants once they release he can’t handle the typical blocking duties of an in-line TE.

O.J. Howard likely will end up as the best NFL TE, but I’m worried that his talent as a blocker may limit his fantasy potential.

Samaje Perine doesn’t feel like a 1st rounder to me.  I would do everything possible to trade the 1.11 pick for a random 2018 1st. He was graded by many as a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick dynasty rookie pick, but has catapulted into the 1st round due to his promising landing spot in Washington. Betting on him to the next Jordan Howard is dangerous. Barring that type of breakout, I expect Washington to be in play for signing a free agent or drafting a top RB prospect in 2018.

Rounding out this tier is Kareem Hunt – a running back who dazzled on tape, but disappointed at the NFL combine. Joining a Spencer Ware in the Kansas City backfield, many believe Hunt will overtake Ware for the majority of carries by mid-season. I believe this is far from a lock and would expect Ware to lead KC in carries this year, by a 2:1 ratio.

Tier 6

14. JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PIT
15. Chris Godwin WR TB
16. Carlos Henderson WR DEN
17. James Conner RB PIT
18. Zay Jones WR BUF
19. Curtis Samuel WR CAR

Higher on Carlos Henderson than most, I love his ability after the catch. It’s also worth mentioning that aging receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders aren’t long-term barriers to playing time in Denver.

Tier 7

20. Taywan Taylor WR TEN
21. D’Onte Foreman RB HOU
22. Jeremy McNichols RB TB

Loved Taywan Taylor pre-draft and couldn’t have hoped for a much better landing spot.  Great target in the late 2nd or early 3rd round of your draft.

Tier 8

23. Melvin Mack RB IND
24. Kenny Galladay WR DET
25. ArDarius Stewart WR NYJ
26. Gerald Everett TE LAR
27. Joe Williams RB SF
28. Josh Reynolds WR LAR
29. Chad Williams WR ARI

This group includes several recent ADP risers: Kenny Galladay, ArDarius Stewart, Joe Williams, and Chad Williams. In each of my drafts, I want to land several players from this tier.

Tier 10

30. Jamaal Williams RB GB
31. Aaron Jones RB GB
32. Patrick Mahomes QB KC

In both redraft and dynasty, Ty Montgomery is the back I want in Green Bay though it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Packers drafted 3 running backs. If everything breaks right for either rookie back, Williams and Jones could be featured in one of the NFL’s best offenses. That alone makes them solid values in the 3rd round.

If early rookie drafts are any indication, I’m going to be heavily invested in Patrick Mahomes. While he’ll need to be more consistent to succeed at the next level, I can’t help but drool at his raw ability. His landing spot, under Andy Reid’s tutelage, could not be better. Let’s not forget that Andy Reid used to be criticized during his Eagles days for passing too much.  Mahomes will be put into position to not only succeed, but also develop into a QB1 in fantasy.

Tier 11

33. Cooper Kupp WR LAR
34. Wayne Gallman RB NYG
35. Amara Dorboh WR SEA
36. Deshaun Watson QB HOU
37. Adam Shaheen TE CHI
38. DeShone Kizer QB CLE
39. Mitchell Trubisky QB CHI

Tier 12

40. Ishmael Zamora WR OAK
41. Jonnu Smith TE TEN
42. Josh Malone WR CIN
43. Jehu Chessen WR KC
44. Chad Kelly QB DEN
45. Dede Westbrook WR JAX

Tier 13

46. Shelton Gibson WR PHI
47. Jake Butt TE DEN

48. Elijah McGuire RB NYJ
49. Brian Hill RB ATL
50. Donnel Pumphrey RB PHI


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 dynasty and keeper leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

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

Open the Wallet: Players to Buy

Updated: December 4th 2016

Though many leagues’ trade deadlines are fast approaching or may have already passed, now’s a great time to get a head start on your plans for the 2017 season. Each year, I spend time during the last few weeks of the season to evaluate my team’s outlook for the next season to determine my off-season strategy and am ready to act as soon as league trading opens.  Strategically, I prefer off-season to in-season trading because trades often revolve around filling needs and replacing injured players during a particular season.  Off-season deals are instead often based on differing opinions on specific players’ values and/or the long-term plans of the two teams involved. In this late season edition of Open the Wallet, I’ll explain which players I’m actively looking to buy before the 2017 season.

Spencer Ware RB KCJamaal Charles‘ days as the lead RB in Kansas City are long gone and Ware appears ready to carry the torch.  His impressive combination of speed with the power to punish defenders renders him nearly match-up proof on a conservative offense, centered around the running game.  This year he’s also proved to be a weapon in the passing game, best exemplified by ranking second in yards per route run (2.35) through Week 8 per Pro Football Focus.

o DLF Nov ADP: 55th
o Advice: Trade a mid-2017 1st round pick to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $15 million per season in RSO.

CJ Prosise RB SEA – In just a few games, Prosise has already carved out a role in one of the league’s best offenses. Though he’s out for the remainder of 2016, CJ has shown that his natural pass catching skills have translated from his days at Notre Dame. He’s a top 20 PPR RB entering 2017, with a chance at reaching the top 10 by season’s end.

o DLF Nov ADP: 99th
o Advice: Trade a mid/late 2017 1st round pick to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $8 million per year in RSO.

Donte Moncrief WR IND – One of the 20 best dynasty assets, all Moncrief does is score touchdowns – 9TDs in his last 12 games with Andrew Luck, per Matthew Berry.  Expected to play much of his career with Andrew Luck, the yardage will come and he should inch closer to the tier of elite WRs. The price to acquire him will be high, but this is the last chance to buy before he becomes untouchable.

o DLF Nov ADP: 22nd
o Advice: Trade two 1st round picks to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $15 million per year in RSO.

Carson Wentz QB PHI – The Eagles offense and Wentz faltering the past few weeks creates a buying opportunity. Carson Wentz likely never will have worse skill position talent than he does right now. Improving the offense should be the first off-season priority of aggressive GM Howie Roseman as the Eagles severely lack reliable targets, let alone skilled playmakers.

o DLF Nov ADP: 148th
o Advice: Trade late 2017 1st round pick to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $4 million per on multi-year deal in a 1QB RSO league; $12 million per year on a multi-year in a Superflex or 2qb RSO league.

Kenneth Dixon RB BAL – If you’ve read much of my work this year, you’ve likely noticed that I favor RBs that are involved in the passing game. Less of their value is reliant on weekly TD scoring and their usage is likely to be more consistent as they don’t get lose playing time during games with negative game flow. Dixon was one of my favorite RBs draft in 2016.  A MCL injury slowed his NFL debut, but it only appears a matter of time before he takes over the Baltimore backfield.  In Week 11, Dixon nearly saw the field as much as Terrance West (West 24 snaps, Dixon 21 snaps per Nathan Jahnke of PFF).

o DLF Nov ADP: 96th
o Advice: Trade late 2017 1st to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $8 million per year for multiple years in RSO.

Sammy Watkins WR BUF – If you’re willing to stomach the risk of injuries throughout his career, the payoff could be huge. I bought low two months ago in a standard dynasty league, trading Julio Jones for Watkins and 2 late 1st round picks.  Like everyone else I’ve made plenty of trades that didn’t work out as planned this year, but I’ll certainly consider this a success should Watkins return to his 2015 form later this year.  Tyrod Taylor has put together a solid season for the second year in a row, likely establishing himself as the long-term solution at QB in Buffalo. I’ll bet on Watkins undeniable talent, hope he stays healthy, and watch as their offense opens up with their best player back on the field.

o DLF Nov ADP: 17th
o Advice: Trade two 1st round picks to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $14 million per season.

Tyler Lockett WR SEA – Trust the talent. With the ball in his hands, Tyler Lockett‘s elusive reputation has followed him from Kansas State to the NFL. Largely considered a disappointment in 2016, Lockett‘s talent should lead to more opportunities in 2017 and 2018. Over the past two weeks, he’s had two of his three best games on the season as a healthy Russell Wilson has regained late-2015 form. It’s also important to keep in mind that while we never root for injuries, the loss of either Doug Baldwin or Jimmy Graham for an extended period of time would clear the path for increased usage. I’d consider him a good buy if his owner is less optimistic about his future.

o DLF Nov ADP: 73rd
o Advice: Trade a 2nd round pick to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $5 million per year if signed for multiple years in RSO.

Ladarius Green TE PIT – Likely an afterthought after missing the Steelers’ first 8 games, Green has a chance to emerge as a reliable target for Pittsburgh in 2017. Martavis Bryant is expected to return next year, though that’s far from guaranteed as Karlos Williams reminded us last week. If Green puts it all together – a question fantasy players have been asking for years now – he has the top 5 TE potential. If he doesn’t, the cost to acquire him likely wasn’t enough to severely set you back.

o DLF Nov ADP: 170th
o Advice: Trade an early 3rd round pick to acquire in standard dynasty; Good value at $1.5 million for 2017.

Which of these players are you also targeting in trades? Let me know @DaveSanders_RSO on Twitter!


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

Week 1: React to Overreact

Updated: September 14th 2016

What an exciting first week of football! There were a lot of surprises, both good and bad, in the fantasy community that have owners either patting themselves on the back or pulling out their hair. Tuesday after week 1 is one of the largest scrambles for the waiver wire in the year so I wanted to go over a collection of players that I felt needed to be talked about. Note that this is just the first week of the season and you shouldn’t be basing all your hard offseason work off of 60 minutes worth of football. Instead, evaluate your own team and its performance and be prepared to throw around some serious dollars. Let us begin.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

Keenan AllenWhat a buzzkill this was. After an entire offseason that led many to believe Allen would return healthy and back to his WR1 form his knee gives out. Ending his season before the second half of game one, Allen owners are now left holding the bag with a big hole in their fantasy line-ups. It will be tough to say who on a game to game basis will immediately benefit from his absence. Danny Woodhead seems to have held off the doubters based on his performance and, along with Antonio Gates and Travis Benjamin, will have the first opportunities to increase their targets. Undrafted rookie Tyrell Williams looked good in the preseason and had two catches for 71 yards after Allen went out. With the other three likely being owned already Williams would likely be your immediate replace for Allen owners. Just don’t expect to see consistent fantasy results on a week to week basis.

Spencer Ware/Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Talk about feeding off of other’s misery. For Charles owners who were unable to handcuff Ware in the offseason, they were shedding tears at the near 200 total yard performance that he was able to put up in a thrilling come from behind win. Word is spreading that Charles may also be sitting a second week which leaves Ware owners foaming at the mouth. While there’s not much Charles owners can do at this point other than wait and see, it’s not time to panic just yet. Too often coaches ask players to come back before they are ready (i.e. Lynch, Dez, Romo, John Brown.) This just hurts the player’s value more by starting and subsequently leaving games early. Hopefully, Andy Reid is taking it slow with his star running back and he will be 100% healthy soon. When he does return though, it would be a surprise if he took the lion’s share back after Sunday’s performance by Ware.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

Sammy WatkinsSpeaking of letting injuries heal, reports are surfacing that Sammy Watkins is still feeling pain in his surgically repaired foot which could be affecting his performance. It was suggested that the team could be shutting him down for a significant amount of time but those reports were quickly shot down and he is said to be ready to play on Thursday night. Still, we have seen what a receiver trying to play through a foot injury looks like, Dez in 2015 and A.J. Green in 2014, with unimpressive results. If Robert Woods isn’t already owned in your league I would definitely be picking him up and stashing him. Either way, it is hard to own Watkins at this point as he could be a major dud due a lackluster passing game and now his lingering injury. If you can move him for any other WR2 or a 2017 1st and a replacement receiver I would be getting out now.

Tevin Coleman/Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Tevin ColemanThis was an interesting turn of events with Coleman looking more efficient with his 32 snaps (117 total yards) than Freeman’s (40 yards) on 36 snaps. Dan Quinn has stated that he will continue to use the committee approach making all those who spent big offseason dollars acquiring Freeman very nervous. Even more nerve-racking was how efficient Coleman was in a receiving role (95 yards) which was assumed to Freeman’s role. After being a fantasy beast early last season Freeman’s big knock was his inefficiencies without volume down the stretch. With a healthy Coleman (who remember was handpicked by this coaching staff in last year’s draft) this could be an early candidate for the one year wonder RB.

Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers

Jeff Fisher*Cricket… Cricket…* that’s the sound of the second Monday night game as the Rams looked awful; being shut out by a team that many expected to win less than five games this season. While the Rams may not offer much in terms of startable fantasy players (except Gurley), you would like to see them put up at least something to build off of. Touted as the best prospect since Adrian Peterson, Gurley seems to have the same trajectory of having to play on a bad offense that doesn’t scare the defense from stacking the box unforgivingly. You can’t help but wonder how successfully he would be if he didn’t have Jeff Fisher holding him back.

As for San Francisco call me a doubter but I have seen this narrative play out before; in last year’s opening Monday night game in fact. The 49ers held Peterson and Vikings in check and started the season 1-0 only to win four of their next fifteen games. It was nice to see Hyde play well and score two touchdowns but it will take a few more games before I see anything on this offseason as a consistent fantasy play.

Ups and Downs of the RSO Playoffs

Updated: December 24th 2015

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They say it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. To win Reality Sports Online league titles, it seems like you have to be a bit of both. Hit on your rookie draft picks, don’t spend big dollars on busts and get your multi-year deals right, don’t have player injuries and then have it all align in the playoffs.

So, after being in my main league for three years and the Writers League for two years, I can honestly say I haven’t won a championship and am still after that holy grail. As someone who is their own worst critic, and who writes strategy pieces for the website, that makes me feel like a little bit of a fraud. I know I’m beating myself up on this, but let me share my two league circumstances with you this year.

I welcome any of you who suffered a similar loss to Tweet me or contact me as some form of therapy. I have writing about this experience as my therapy, so let me be the one you vent to after reading this if you are in the same boat as me.

First, I’ll start with my Writers League with folks who I write with at Reality Sports Online and numberFire mainly (some have moved onto other sites like Rotoworld and ESPN). I finished 11-2 in the regular season with the highest scoring team by far. That earned me the #2 seed and a matchup against my friend @GrahamBarfield, the #3 seed in the league, while 12-1 #1 Seed @LeoHowell8 played upstart first-year owner and Baylor Law Professor and late summer league addition #4 seed (brought in via Twitter to compete against writers) @RoryRyan in the other playoff matchup.

Buoyed all season by a Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski stack, Devonta Freeman and Eric Decker, my team was stacked and I have most of these players (and Todd Gurley, Demaryius Thomas) for several more years. In round one however, I went into Monday Night Football with a 16 point lead and Graham having Lamar Miller remaining. Miller scored two touchdowns by halftime and my highest-scoring team in the league (and second highest among 10 teams that week) was toast.

On the other side, Howell, who has lost exactly two regular season games in two years in the league, put up a dud and lost to Ryan, who inherited one of the worst teams in the league mid-summer, was awarded T.Y. Hilton by the league on a two year, $40.0 million contract and left to his own devices to turn the rest around. He slid into the playoffs behind some good moves and then, wouldn’t you know it, won the whole thing while Howell and I put up very high totals in the third place game.

Rory Ryan Shocks the Writers League

Basically, Ryan capitalized on being healthy and opportunistic,  and a few solid moves. Here’s his summary of what lead to his success (in his words):

“As I looked around the locker room before the championship match, I decided we needed to do something unusual. We went around the room and introduced ourselves–as six of the ten starters were waiver-wire pickups. As I drove my family back from the Polar Express train ride during Monday’s finale, I kept getting SiriusXM updates that were good. Then better. Then — victory. To say the team I inherited was in “rebuilding mode” would be an understatement. But we were able to scrape out just enough wins and ride a whole lot of luck to the title. “

“Although (to quote Nuke Laloosh) “winning is like . . . so much better than losing,” the year was great either way. As I told folks on social media, it was fun playing against the guys whose advice I use when setting my lineups in other leagues. And the RSO format really does make even traditional dynasty leagues seem primitive. The contracts, waivers, salary cap, etc., make up the way fantasy ought to be played. “
“The opportunity to play this format against these guys was too much to pass up — despite my (formerly) firm rules against not playing in leagues with kickers, defenses (if I can help it), and true decimal scoring. But I’m still looking forward to next year, where hopefully my roster will be slightly more settled. “

“So what was my strategy? When I entered the auction, there were few (no) stars and plenty of money. So prices were inflated. I went after some grinders who I’d always feel OK inserting into the lineup: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, and Doug Martin (didn’t get him). But I spent little money. Instead, I saved most of my cap room, knowing that injuries and sleepers would emerge, and I would have the big bankroll. DeAngelo Williams, Danny Amendola, Antonio Gates, Dion Lewis, and Zach Miller all played important roles during the season.

“As for the future — we will see if my strategy works. Since there were no stars to lock down, I went after a group of guys who I thought were more talented than their projections, hoping that at least one of them ends up in an ideal situation. The prices are low enough that hitting 1/3 and cutting the other two will more than pay for itself in savings, despite the cap penalty, as I’ll avoid waiting for the player to demonstrate the market value. So, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith, and Markus Wheaton — please answer the phone if the Patriots call.”

A Rivalry Is Continued in Reality Sports Online

Let me set the stage for you a bit with some history. My best friend since our freshman year at Miami University, @MarkPesavento and I have been in fantasy football leagues together since 1996. He is my biggest rival and our fantasy matchups have quite a history of craziness as you can imagine for anyone playing against each other for that long. Since he works in sports and I don’t, there is an extra layer of who is the smarter football mind is between the two of us.

With that in mind, Mark and I left an ESPN keeper league a few years ago in search of something bigger, something more challenging that was fully customizable. As part of his work at the time, he discovered Reality Sports Online and we’ve been hooked ever since. Together we are co-commissioners of the Not Quite Gentlemen’s League, a super-customized PPR league with 12 teams and lineups consisting of only one required running back, three flex positions, and where turnovers are heavily punished (-5 points for interceptions, fumbles) and the 5th and 6th playoff seeds are determined solely based on total points scored.
RSO Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office Stephen Wendell is now in our league too, which adds to the competitiveness. Pesavento finished first overall at 11-2 with the highest point total (he won the league in 2014), newcomer Wendell finished 9-5 and was the #2 seed. I was the second highest scoring team, but finished 7-6 and got the #5 overall seed.

My high-scoring team proved no fluke in the opening round of the playoffs, winning 321.54-179.99 and a Week 15 rematch with Pesavento, who I was 0-2 against on the season, loomed.

Setting the Stage-Week 12

First, though, let me take you back to Week 12 where Pesavento and I squared off in an epic battle. He staked to an early lead behind Odell Beckham Jr., Philip Rivers, and Spencer Ware that seemed insurmountable at the time. Then late in the late games, my quarterback Russell Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for an 80 yard touchdown, en route to a 72 point fantasy performance.

I was close going into the Sunday night game where I had Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots DST to his Broncos DST. Behind a Gronk touchdown and subsequent Gronk-spike and an inteception by the Patriots D, I staked out to a fairly decent lead (like 20 points). As the clock turned to the 4th quarter, I instant messaged Pesavento saying this game seems like it is over.

And then the collapse happened. The Patriots muffed a punt, Denver’s running game started picking up steam and the Patriots were bleeding out yardage allowed and points scored. The game was getting much closer. All I needed was another Gronk catch and I’d be fine.

Then Gronk got called for offensive pass interference on a big catch that was nullified. A few plays later, then he was carted off with a knee injury. So my happiness of likely winning the game turned into losing my key league advantage (and someone I’d like to franchise tag on a good deal for 2016) for the season, and potentially this game as well.

The Broncos scored to take the lead and all I then needed (while I was frantically worried about Gronk’s health for the rest of the season) was the game not to go to overtime. Well, we all know Stephen Gostkowski is fantasy gold and the game went to overtime. In overtime, as long as the Broncos didn’t score a touchdown, I’d win.

I think you know the rest. C.J. Anderson scored on a 48 yard touchdown scamper to end the game and Pesavento beat me by .25 points, continuing a series of close calls in recent match-ups.

The Worst Possible Way To Lose?

Heading into the Week 15 playoff matchup of the two highest scoring teams in the league, Pesavento was favored, yet he had some of his best players with tough matchups (Beckham Jr vs CAR, Antonio Brown vs. DEN DST, DEN DST at PIT) while mine on paper seemed favorable (A.J. Green @SF, Wilson vs. CLE, Devonta Freeman @JAX, Gronkowski vs. TEN, NE DST vs. TEN).

I staked out to a decent lead as Beckham Jr. didn’t have any catches through three well-documented quarters vs. shutdown corner Josh Norman. While I was watching on the NFL Game Mix (8 games at once on a not so-huge TV on DirecTV), I noticed that things were getting super chippy and was waiting for OBJ to get ejected by referee Terry McAulay’s crew for the punches thrown and the cheap shots.

I usually don’t get “holier than though” watching football, but by the time the Giants started their comeback and OBJ started racking up fantasy points I was on my high-horse and stark-raving mad that Beckham Jr. hadn’t been tossed. Heck, I’ve been tossed from rec-league basketball games for way less.

However, his Alshon Jeffery only had one catch for 10 yards and a touchdown, my Patriots DST had a good game and I was hanging in with him heading into Wilson’s huge matchup against my hometown Browns. Knowing that Wilson was hot and the Browns defense is porous, I knew Russ would deliver for me.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Brown scoring 70 points against his Broncos DST. So as the Steelers/Broncos game wore down and I was hoping the Broncos would give up more points, I was hoping that another player would score the final touchdown of this game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and when Ben Roethlisberger threw an egregious interception on a terrible pass to his Denver defense right before the two minute warning that I coined the “Class of 1998 Miami University Fantasy Football Scholarship”, I knew that 5 points for the Broncos would loom large.

And as Brown caught another ball, I found myself down 15 points heading into Monday Night Football where it was my Golden Tate vs. his Tim Hightower for the right to survive and advance. Tate was coming off his best game of the season and was facing the porous Saints secondary. Hightower was coming off a solid game. Game flow seemed to favor Tate, but I figured the 15 points would loom too large for Tate to overcome.
As the game started and Tate scored two early touchdowns I found myself up in the game. Hightower scored right before half, but the play was called back on a lineman failing to report. The two of us went crazy over IM the remainder of the game.

At one point, unsolicited my wife and 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter started chanting “Golden Tate, Golden Tate!” pleading for him to get the ball when the Lions were on offense. It was super cute to see my daughter who talks but doesn’t know too many words saying this.

I was clinging to a slight lead and game flow took Hightower out of the game mostly. As I watched the Lions fumble away a few possessions that Tate could’ve had opportunities and the Lions DST unable to force punts to Tate as the returner (we get punt return yards for individual players in our league), I knew this was going to come down to the wire.

With five minutes left and me clinging to an ironic .26 point lead (basically the Week 12 margin of defeat), I paced around knowing that if Hightower got one more carry I would lose. I made it basically to the end of the game where the Lions were running out the clock unscathed. Alas, they didn’t have the ability to run off the entire clock and in came Matt Prater to kick a chip-shot field goal to end the game. Prater then missed, and I knew anything could happen.

The Saints had a few plays left and surely would be setting up for a Hail Mary after gaining a little bit of yardage. Initially seeing C.J. Spiller as the receiving back in the game, I figured I was fine. On a play with 14 seconds left, Drew Brees looked and pump faked at Hightower, but threw elsewhere. With six seconds left to go, folks in my league (including Pesavento) were congratulating me on the win.

Talk about Dewey vs. Truman. The last play should have been a Hail Mary. Instead, Brees decided to pad his completion percentage and throw a dump-off to Hightower. The yardage didn’t matter-I had lost after overcoming a deficit, in another crushing close defeat to Pesavento. Again on the last play of the game.
I wish this writing was fiction and not fact. I had seemingly overcome some poor performances by Green, T.Y. Hilton (who I started over Danny Woodhead based on recent history, Matt Hasselback starting, and Hilton’s history against Houston). I think back to all the dynamics of the matchup- Beckham not getting ejected and missing a for sure deep touchdown early in the game, two straight fade routes to Gronk in the end zone late in the Patriots/Titans game that came up just short, pass interference calls covering my Randall Cobb in the end zone, the Broncos late interception, and finally Hightower’s catch with the Saints down 8 points on the last play of the last game of the week, and I realize that the Reality Sports Online holy grail is a temptress. I easily could have lost by 50 points, won by 20 points or won by .26 points, but instead I lost by a few points and now wish Pesavento good luck in the finals (without Beckham and potentially Jeffery) while I play Wendell for third-place this week.

Only a combination of luck, health, and solid roster moves will result in winning this thing and I hope that my championship window with the same core I have locked up through 2016 will bring me better results next year. There’s always next year.

Please feel free to reach out to me with similar stories, start/sit questions for your big week 16 championship, or to call me a fraud via Twitter @Mattgoody2.