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.

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.