The Watch List 2021: Spring Scouting, TEs

Updated: May 25th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season. a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

In today’s installment of Spring Scouting, I will be focusing on the top three tight end prospects in the 2021 class: Kyle Pitts, Brevin Jordan and Pat Freiermuth. For the other entries in my Spring Scouting series I concentrated on under the radar players who deserved some attention, but I went in a different direction for the tight ends. I felt it was important to highlight these three standouts because they are less known to casual NFL Draft fans than the big names at other positions. Each player comes with an impressive pedigree (4-star recruits all around) and each has a shot at becoming the TE1 in the class.

(An honorable mention goes out to Matt Bushman of BYU. I was excited for Bushman heading into the 2019 season. He ended up meeting my expectations stats-wise but decided to skip the draft and come back for 2020. To read last year’s write-up on Bushman, click here.)

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

  • Measurables: 6060/239
  • 2018 Stats: 11 games, 3 receptions, 73 rec yards, 24.3 ypc, 1 rec TD
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 54 receptions, 649 rec yards, 12.0 ypc, 5 rec TDs

Pitts, a product of Philly and an Under Armour All-America game alumni, earned a starting role for the Gators in 2019. Throughout the 2018 season he played primarily on special teams but did score one long-distance touchdown against Idaho. I’m not sure what made me search for the highlight but I’m glad I did. The play itself was fine — Pitts was lined up outside, caught the post against an overmatched DB and ran 50 yards to the house — but it was the celebration afterward that caught my eye. The score put the Gators up 21-0 in a game that was in no doubt, and yet the players celebrated with Pitts like it was a game clinching score against Georgia. I love when I get to watch a player who is beloved by his teammates, especially when he was just a backup true freshman. A Gators fan blog called it “The Kyle Pitts Factor” in a 2019 post.

Put simply, Pitts is a first round talent. I checked out his game against LSU from last season to get a feel for his game against the nation’s best. I was impressed with how well-rounded Pitts’ game was for an underclassmen with only one season’s worth of starts. Pitts won’t be the best blocking tight end in the class but he lined up inline more than I anticipated and he acquitted himself well enough against LSU. He splits out often but he’s most dangerous lining up on the wing where he can get a free release and uses his speed to beat the linebacker tasked with covering him. In this play you see that the Tigers assigned All-American linebacker-safety hybrid Grant Delpit to cover Pitts. Pitts takes advantage of Delpit’s aggression to sell the underneath route before breaking upfield along the sideline. They hand fight and then Pitts uses his leverage to gain a modicum of separation to make the spectacular diving catch.

I’m excited to see Pitts pitted against SEC greats, and future NFL stars like Delpit, once again in 2020. With speed and a 6060/239 frame he’s an impossible matchup for most defenders. I would assume that Pitts declares early and becomes a hot NFL Draft commodity.

 

Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (FL)

  • Measurables: 6030/235
  • 2018 Stats: 12 games, 32 receptions, 287 rec yards, 9.0 ypc, 4 rec TDs
  • 2019 Stats: 10 games 35 receptions, 495 rec yards, 14.1 ypc, 2 rec TDs

Brevin Jordan, a rising junior, joined the Hurricanes in 2018 as the top rated tight end recruit in the nation. He was held catchless in his first-ever game against LSU but went on to tally 12-119-3 in his next two games, not bad for a true freshman. His final totals in both 2018 and 2019 are about average for the position but more impressive considering he missed time both years. Before we move on, a word on Jordan’s past injuries. Jordan missed a game and a half at the end of 2018 with an ankle injury (he returned for the bowl game). He then bruised his knee in March 2019 during offseason workouts which some thought might have been a more serious injury. In November of 2019 he injured his left foot and missed two games. He returned for the regular season finale but was shutout and then sat out the bowl game. In early March of 2020, pre-coronavirus, the Miami Herald reported that Jordan would miss all of Spring due to that nagging foot injury.

Enough injury talk, let’s talk about what makes Jordan great on the field. Jordan showcases his versatility on nearly every play because he lines up all over the formation. He features as an inline blocker more frequently than his 6030/235 size would dictate. He is a willing blocker but to my untrained eye it looks like he is sometimes too quick to initiate contact and in turn, overextending himself or falling for an evasive move. Jordan is a security blanket for his (ever-changing) quarterback. He’s particularly adept at selling a block before breaking into the flat for a chunk play. When he does get down field he has enough speed to burst past linebackers and find openings in the defense. In this sample play you see Jordan run a simple post from an inline position. The ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage but he maintains focus and makes the catch by using his body to protect the ball from the safety. He breaks the safety’s tackle and gets into the endzone for a key score in a big bragging rights game.

Jordan is a talented prospect and will be in the running for TE1 next draft season. I hope that he’s able to fully recover from his foot injury so we can see him at full strength in 2020.

 

Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

  • Measurables: 6050/256
  • 2018 Stats: 12 games, 26 receptions, 368 rec yards, 14.2 ypc, 8 rec TDs
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 43 receptions, 507 rec yards, 11.8 ypc, 7 rec TDs

Freiermuth, another highly touted junior tight end, is thisclose to Penn State history. He is currently tied with Mike Gesicki, the Nittany Lions’ last great tight end prospect, for career touchdown receptions at the position. If Freiermuth matches his previous touchdown output in 2020 he will vault to 2nd or 3rd on the Penn State career receiving touchdown list, ahead of familiar NFL names like WRs Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson. We are about to see, pending pandemic-related postponements, Freiermuth cement his place in Happy Valley lore.

I watched Freiermuth’s tape from Minnesota last season, arguably his best game of the season (7 receptions, 104 yards in a close loss). Interestingly, he seemed to line up on the line of scrimmage less frequently than either Pitts or Jordan did in their games that I watched. That, however, doesn’t mean he doesn’t feature as a key blocker. To the contrary, he is often used from the slot or the wing to seal the edge for his running back. He turns his blocks well, using leverage and angles to preserve running lanes, and does not rush. I loved this play where he patiently comes across the formation looking to help make an impact play. He ends up finding a DB who came up in run support and takes him out of the play to allow RB Journey Brown to cut back and turn a short gain into a big gain.

As a receiver, Freiermuth is a zone buster. He can find the soft spot and shows his numbers to the quarterback, making him an easy target. On this play you see his awareness as both the corner and linebacker sit on his short route. As the play breaks down, he releases down the field into an open area, putting his hand up to make sure he’s seen by his scrambling quarterback. He makes the catch and holds on through a crunching tackle.

I’ve always been honest that I grew up as a Michigan fan and now root for my nearby Scarlet Knights so I am pro-Big Ten. However, there’s no Big Ten bias here: Pat Freiermuth looks like a surefire NFL talent and will be a first rounder next April.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

2020 All About Reality Podcast League Rookie Draft

Updated: May 20th 2020

The All About Reality Podcast league graciously allowed the posting of their RSO rookie draft this season while also providing thoughts about their picks and strategy.  This draft is presented because it presents a league size for which many of you may not have played along with a couple of scoring rules not used in most leagues.  The article features analysis of the picks by the RSO GMs and takes by the author.

The league is a 16-team superflex PPR format with QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/FLEX/FLEX/SFlex starting requirements.  Roster sizes are limited to 20 spots plus I.R.  Scoring rules add additional significant twists with 0.5 points for all first downs, 6 points per passing touchdowns, and 0.5 points per completion / -0.5 points per incompletion.  The reader may find the RSO Writer’s League rookie draft as a comparison point for a 10 team superflex league.

Some Notes on the League

 Quarterbacks are King:   Quarterbacks become extremely valuable in almost any 16 team superflex league.  Not every team will field two starting quarterbacks and most will be limited to two.   Many teams may find starting just one quarterback on a given week difficult as byes and injuries take hold.  Quarterbacks accelerate to a higher stratosphere of value in this particular league.  The scoring settings result in most of the worst starting quarterback options producing near top-10 running back / wide receiver point levels.  A team likely finds itself in a lot of trouble if it does not have two starting quarterbacks.

Deep League, Shallow Benches:   The league rosters 320 players in total (excluding I.R. spots, etc) while starting 160 players on a weekly basis.   The 10 starters limit each team to just 10 spots for reserves, a fairly low ratio of bench players to starters.  The low level of reserves makes holding developmental players not expected to contribute in the near future expensive in terms of roster spots.   The decision to invest heavily in rookie contracts becomes complicated.  It frees up a lot of cap space to pay up for premium free agents, but there will not be many of those types of players available in a league this deep.   The ability to trade rookie contracts to teams in need of cap space should also not be underestimated in a league with many teams potentially running with little cap room.

 

Team Analysis

McAfee’s Canal Swimmers (Tyler Houston and Kyle Thompson) are hoping to have a comeback season after nosediving in the 2019 season. From 2nd place to dead last, the team has decided to build around (potential) future Hall of Famer, Joe Burrow. After trading the second pick this year for picks 5 and 7, we had picks 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 18. We were able to surround Joe Burrow with some great talent including: Justin Herbert, Deandre Swift, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Michael Pittman. We traded up from pick 18 to pick 15 to snag a falling Henry Ruggs and then got Michael Pittman with the 17th pick. Overall, we think this draft was great for us and with 4 more first round picks next year, we look forward to another monster class for the Canal Swimmers.

My take:  McAfee’s got great value taking the first three wide receivers selected in the NFL draft with 8, 9, and 15.  Trading out of the two spot is fascinating in what ends up as Tua for Herbert and Swift.  There is a lot of boom/bust quality with Herbert as a big, athletic passer with very good arm talent and good pre-snap smarts but sporadic accuracy at times and hesitant post-snap decision-making.  Herbert was one of the biggest value jumps when compared to the Writer’s League draft.  Talent isn’t the biggest concern with Swift as a consensus top-2 running back pre-draft.

 

RSO PodFather (Devonte Cleveland) – In a Superflex league that has no QB depth, Tua was an obvious choice as a franchise cornerstone at 1.02. Mims at 1.16 was during a period of a heavy receiver run and he is someone who with the Jets’ weak WR corps should see the field immediately. Claypool at 2.15 provides a big target for Big Ben towards the end of the draft.

My take: The ultra-accurate Tua could easily be worth the premium to trade up for if the health concerns are merely the randomness of injuries in effect, especially given the power of top quarterbacks in this league.  Mims and Claypool annihilated the combine and have huge catch frames but did not always play to their timed speed on the field.

 

Pontifex Minimus (All About Reality podcast co-host Luke Patrick) – At 1.03/1.04 Pontifex Minimus approached the draft comfortable with any player in a top tier of Taylor/CEH/Burrow and Tua. Two flex spots sat open in my starting lineup, so the fact that Taylor and CEH fell made for a fairly straightforward draft day.

My take: These picks look standard for a team confident in their quarterback situation.  The only question is whether the extreme quarterback scoring makes passing up on a top-6 overall pick in the NFL draft at QB a mistake.

 

The Teal Curtain (Curtis Burleson) –  My strategy was to stick to my board and take the best available. At 1.15 I had six players that are an coin flip difference to me. So I traded back only enough to let the draft decide for me and get him cheaper. Also to obtain another pick for the chance to get Jordan Love. With Jordan Love gone I ultimately ended up with Bryan Edwards, who I’m still pretty excited about.

My take: Teal took a shotgun approach with six picks in the draft.  Edwards is a great value pick with an outstanding analytical college profile who likely fell in the NFL draft due to injuries.  Vaughn and McFarland feel like reaches at running back due to league scarcity, especially with the wide receiver talent left on the board.

 

The Fantasy Affliction (Tim Aylesworth) – I came into the draft with a simple plan, almost threw it out the window, then stuck to the plan and won the draft. After a few attempts to trade up for Herbert (and throw my whole plan out the window) I settled for Akers, the last elite member of the top 10 tier, as I expected all along. At 1.13, I felt really fortunate to have Reagor, the WR who landed in the best position to contribute right away, fall to me.  In the second round, I get my guy Hurts even after trading down! Not only do I think he is the most underrated QB in the class, but he gives me insurance for my starter Carson Wentz.  Then, I was out of picks, but trade back in to get Gibson, a David Johnson clone, and the back up to my perennialy injured RB Derrius Guice.

My take: Tim did a nice job of capitalizing on player tiers by getting Akers and Raegor at relatively cheap prices.  Hurts seems very expensive at this spot, in terms of other potential players and a roster spot, for a player who is unlikely to be anything more than a backup with possible gadget duties during his rookie contract.  This willingness to expend significant draft capital on backup quarterbacks to lock down a quarterback spot might be one of the biggest differences in moving to a 16-team superflex.

 

The Waterboys (Bobby Hoyt) – After attempting to trade up multiple times in the early portion of the draft for a top running back to no avail, I seriously thought about taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn here due to my barren RB core. However, I loved Justin Jefferson going into this draft, feeling like he could be a significant week one producer in Minnesota, and I ultimately decided that picking my highest rated player over positional need was the way to go.  In the second round, as I watched Aiyuk (a guy I had a first-round grade on and a Daniel Jeramiah favorite) continue to slip deeper into the second-round, it seemed like giving up one of my three 2021 second-rounders to move up from 2.15 to get him was a simple choice. Although, I did have a little trepidation about picking another wide-out over a running back, and I briefly thought of drafting Zack Moss instead. Again, I happily decided to take value over need–thus, feeling like my receiving core acquired a substantial shot in the arm at the conclusion of this draft.

My take: Aiyuk continues to present great value throughout rookie drafts.  There just aren’t many years a first round receiver falls this far.

 

Lucha Vikings (Ryan Swenson) – QB is so highly coveted in this league, and although I was desperate for RB help I didn’t love the options available, so I grabbed a 1st round QB in Love that will no doubt be a starter at some point in his career. With my other pick, I’m sure this was looked at as a big head-scratcher, but I simply believe in the talent and leadership of Jake Fromm, and since Josh Allen is a featured player on my team it felt good to secure a backup I LOVE.

My take: There are a lot of ways Love could turn out.  My belief is Love sees the field by year three.  That makes him easily worth the gamble at this price.  On the other hand, it is difficult making an argument to use a roster spot and draft pick on a 5th round quarterback you hope just makes the active roster as a backup for Buffalo.

 

Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna Davis) – After a few unsuccessful attempts to trade up in the draft, I took Zack Moss. He punishes defenders, is a satisfactory blocker, and has the ability to catch the ball. The value was worth the wait.

My take: Moss should have an immediate place in Buffalo alongside Singletary.  While an injury would likely be required for Moss to assume a large portion of the work, running backs with consistent shared roles have increased usefulness in a deep league.

 

Bortles Popped (Stephen Boviall and Brennan Emenhiser) – The NFL rookie draft crippled our running backs…Mack and Damien WiIliams. We HAD to get a running back. Eason is the player I was supposed to pick at 2.11 but there was some miscommunication. However, since I’m a genius, we got Eason anyway.

My take: Bortles did not even mention Kelley but he is one of my favorite late rookie picks going in drafts.  He possesses size the Chargers’ other backs don’t have and there is an immediate opening for a rushing down role on a team which uses multiple backs.

 

House Stark (Ashley Swinney) – I was just looking for guys I may be able to start if I’m in a pinch. I feel Bowden Jr. will have opportunities to make a big time play and hopefully Evans will see some field behind Henry.

My take: While unlikely to ever assume a lead role, Evans has serious juice with the chance to immediately contribute on passing downs.  I am not sure what the plan is for Bowden in Las Vegas.  He might end up as one of those “jack of all trades” players without a defined role needed to become a fantasy contributor, better for real life than fantasy.

 

Brian Brennan’s Stadium Shakers (All About Reality podcast co-host Matt Goodwin) – Having no picks in either round is a psychological blow. I tried to trade in when Lamb fell, when Pittman was still on the board, and towards the end to nab Eason in this highly shallow QB pool in a 16 team Superflex league. None of that worked. However, I was able to trade two future 2nds which I figure will be back end of the draft for Dillon. I feel he will be part of a rotation in 2020 and goal line packages and will have an increased role when one of or both of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams move on in free agency.

My take: Dillon is one of the top values in this draft and many others.  There is a clear path to a significant role next year and a road to lead duties.

 

 

 

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.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2020 Quarterback Manifesto

Updated: May 20th 2020

I’ve recently had the pleasure of collaborating with a few dynasty newcomers in my 3 RSO leagues.  In doing so, I have found their hunger for insight invigorating.  It’s caused me to push my own boundaries as an analyst.  Try as I may, I cannot cover everything these guys need to know in one offseason.  Learn by doing, right?  I hate giving them vague advice like, “Zig when people zag” or “Forget groupthink and do your own due diligence.”  I have to be able to offer them (and RSO readers) more.  So for me, this article goes beyond just breaking down quarterbacks.  It’s a template for changing the way you attack fantasy.

Years ago, I found myself constantly arguing with friends over the Aaron Rodgers’ “Sit and Learn” myth.  I call it a myth because until Pat Mahomes burst out on to the scene in 2018, the list of 1st-Round QBs that sat as rookies post-Aaron Rodgers’ 2008 breakout consisted of Tim Tebow, Blaine Gabbert, Johnny Manziel, and Paxton Lynch.  Not exactly the who’s who of NFL careers.  It took 10 seasons to find a second qualifying case for this gabage sentiment, and yet NFL pundits beat us over the head with it week after week, year after year.  As a result, many owners missed out on the Jared Goffs and Josh Allens, fearing that they might be wasting a pick/roster spot.  1st-round rookie QBs play Year 1 (except for you Jordan Love).  It may be 7 games like Lamar Jackson and Dwayne Haskins.  It may be 14 games like Daniel Jones and Baker Mayfield.  Whatever the case, buying into this realization and investing accordingly will always give you an edge from a cap perspective.

I understand this is old news for a lot of you veterans that could not wait to grab Tua and Herbert in your Rookie Drafts.  Hopefully, this next insight will be a bit more compelling.

Lamar Jackson threw a touchdown pass on 8.98% of his attempts last year.  Why not just round it up to an even 9% you ask?  Well, because since the merger, Peyton Manning is the only person to have ever surpassed that threshold.  He threw 49 TDs on a mere 497 pass attempts (9.86%) in 2004.  Despite all the monster QB seasons that came in the 15 years since then, Lamar’s 36 TDs on 401 attempts ranks the closest.  Here’s a list of the Top 10 seasons according to TD to Pass Attempt Ratio.

Name Year TDs Ratio
Peyton Manning 2004 49 9.86%
Lamar Jackson 2019 36 8.98%
Aaron Rodgers 2011 45 8.96%
Tom Brady 2007 50 8.65%
Pat Mahomes 2018 50 8.62%
Nick Foles 2013 27 8.52%
Dan Marino 1984 48 8.51%
Peyton Manning 2013 55 8.35%
Russell Wilson 2018 35 8.20%
Randall Cunningham 1998 34 8.00%

The TD to Pass Attempts Ratio helps us pinpoint efficiency.  Contemplate Rodgers vs Brady vs Brees for this upcoming season.   Deciphering which one of these old-timers we may want to invest in becomes much easier once we focus our attention to efficiency.  Rodgers has the biggest arm, while Brady boasts the best weapons.  Brees, however, is the clear-cut choice due to his 7.1% TD rate last year (3rd highest).  Observe what a difference this made in terms of fantasy points per game.You will notice Peyton Manning is the only player who has eclipsed 8% multiple times in his career, and the second instance came 9 years later in 2013.  This data can be beneficial to us in a couple of ways.  For starters, Lamar’s absurd scoring efficiency through the air is bound to come down in 2020 (more on that later).  35-36 TDs may be repeatable, but it will require a hell of a lot more throws moving forward.  So the first question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you envision Lamar increasing his pass attempts to say 480+.  If you do not, you should probably forget about him returning to this mark.

2018 TD/Att Ratio 2019 TD/Att Ratio 2019 Points Per Game PPG Ranking
Drew Brees 6.5% 7.1% 20.4 7th
Aaron Rodgers 4.2% 4.6% 17.4 13th
Tom Brady 5.1% 3.9% 16.5 16th

Back to Lamar.  Earlier I referrenced how disproving the “Sit and Learn” rookie myth provided clarity for dynasty leagues.  I would like to now PROVE a QB trend that should have a similar impact.  In 2018, Patrick Mahomes threw for 5100 yards and 50 TDs.  Public opinion varied on how he would follow it up.  Most expected at least a mild step back.  I, on the other hand, was placing small bets with friends that even with Tyreke Hill eluding a suspension, Mahomes would not exceed 36 TDs.  Now I hardly expected him to be reduced to nearly half his production (26 TDs).  I was more in the 32-34 range.  I did predict a massive regression, though, and here is why.

I call it the “Matt Ryan Rule”.  It’s simple.  Big seasons are followed up with considerable regression.  To prove it, I have provided a list of all the 34+ Passing TD seasons in NFL history, as well as their respective fantasy totals.  Also included are the follow-up seasons’ stats and Regression %.  Of the 51 season sample size, only 3 QBs managed to improve upon their big year fantasy output.  Another way of putting that is 94.1% of these QBs experienced some level of regression.  The average regression rate was 31.7%, which indicates these follow-up seasons as a whole range from significant dropoffs to absolute busts.

I know what you are thinking.  These passing trends do not account for the 1200 yards and 6 TDs Lamar just ran for, and therefore can not be applied to him.  Fair enough.  While we are at it, let’s disect history’s most notable QB rushing seasons.  Our metrics of qualification can be 500+ yards or 6+ Rushing TDs.

The running results are a bit more positive with 7 of the 44 QBs improving in their fantasy production via running.  Ultimately, though, it is a similar diagnosis.  84.1% of the follow-up seasons experienced some form of regression, and the average regression was 23.9%.  To sum it up, the safe bet is Lamar Jackson is neither throwing for 35-36 TDs, nor is he rushing for anywhere near 1200 yards in 2020.  I have him projected for 3500 passing yards with 26 TDs & 9 Ints. On the ground – 810 rushing yards with 6 rushing TDs & 4 Fumbles.  Those are still Top 5 QB numbers, but that represents a 16.5% regression.  If you are satisfied with that level of production on the final year of his rookie contract, power to you.  I, however, would consider shopping him around.  Perhaps someone in your league will throw you 3 future 1st-round picks, with plans to later tag and extend Lamar in the offseason.  Whatever you do, do not drop 30+ mil on him in the event that he is available in your auction (for leagues entering their 1st season).  Regression is coming.

The same can be said for Dak Prescott.  The man went from 3900 yards in 2018 to 4900 in 2019…on just 32 more completions.  I love Dak’s development through 4 seasons, and his WR trio is the best in the league in my opinion.  The Cowboys expeirenced a lot of stat padding in garbage time, however.  CeeDee Lamb and Blake Jarwin may have more upside than Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, but that is still a combined 118 receptions, 1,350 yards, and 25 years of experience that just left the building.  On top of all this, Zeke Elliott could easily lead the league in rushing once again.  All in all, I have Dak projected for 4300 yards with 25 TDs and 12 Ints, while adding 300 yards and 4 TDs on the ground.  This stat line represets roughly an 8% regression.  That forecast really shouldn’t scare you considering Dak has recorded 29, 28, 28 and 33 total TDs in his first 4 seasons.  I would pay Dak less than Wilson but more than Watson for what it’s worth.

 

So, if Lamar and Dak aren’t throwing for 30 touchdowns this season, who is?  I would like to close with 5 cheap QBs I believe can accomplish this feat in order of probability:

1).  Derek Carr will never receive the “Doing it with nobodies” credit the league showered Tom Brady and Andrew Luck with every year, but his 4,000+ yards & 21 TDs in 2019 is the new standard with which I measure those type of overachieving seasons.  Carr’s “veterans” consisted of Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones and Jalen Richard.  Darren Waller was embarking on his 4th season, but only had 18 career catches.  Aftert that it was all rookies, albeit some good ones: Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau and Keelan Doss.  Such an uninspiring group, and yet Carr completed 70.4% of his passes (2nd only to Brees).  Observe below how his compared with 3 of the biggest names in the league.

Pass Yards Pass TDs Ints Comp %
Pat Mahomes 4031 26 5 65.9
Aaron Rodgers 4002 26 4 62
Tom Brady 4057 24 8 60.8
Derek Carr 4054 21 8 70.4

Carr’s perseverance last year proved to Gruden he is not only the right man for the job, but that this team is ready to compete for a playoff berth under his leadership.  He and Mike Mayock’s draft selections in April reflected that.  Henry Ruggs adds explosiveness to the offense.  Even if Carr cannot connect on vertical passes, Ruggs can take intermediate work in stride and turn it into chunk plays.  Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden bring strong run after the catch ability to the table as well.  We round out the offensive offseason additions with Nelson Agholor.  His hands are shaky at times, but he does have 2 60+ catch and 700+ yard seasons under his belt.  It’s a raw group, but it’s talented and I believe the Raiders and Broncos are both trying to out-offense the Chiefs for that division.

Projections:  4200 yards – 28 TDs & 10 Ints, 90 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 3 fumbles

2).  Ryan Tannehill started 10 games last year.  He threw 2 or more TDs in 9 of them.  I admit, it’s easy to fall into this trap of thinking, “Well, Henry might rush for 2,000 yards this year, and who’s the #2 after A.J. Brown?”  However, I have seen time after time a team exceed passing expectations due to a stout running game.  That is when play action is most lethal.  In 2014, Demarco Murray led the league in rushing with 1845 yards on 392 carries.  Tony Romo managed to throw 34 TDs on just 435 pass attempts.  That’s a 7.8% TD rate.  Ryan Tannehill finished 2nd in the league last year with a 7.7% TD rate.   In 2007, we witnessed a similar occurence with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Willie Parker and Najeh Davenport combined for 428 carries for 1,815 yards.  That was hands down Big Ben’s most efficient season of his career.  He threw 32 TDs on just 404 pass attempts – 7.9% TD rate.  His top 3 pass catchers were Santonio Holmes with 942 yards, Hines Ward with 732, and Heath Miller with 566.  That’s the kind of season we can project for the 2020 Titans.

Projections:  3800 yards – 27 TDs & 11 Ints, 240 yards rushing – 3 TDs & 2 fumbles

3).  In the last 2 seasons, we have witnessed a 2nd year QB without much experience take over the league I’m not predicting an MVP caliber season, but I do believe Drew Lock is poised to somewhat follow in Mahomes and Lamar’s footsteps.  Full disclosure: I would prefer to talk about Daniel Jones or Kyler Murray here, but I don’t think they are very accessible.  From my experience thus far, their current owners aren’t interested in moving them.  Lock, on the other hand, can likely be acquired for say a future 2nd round pick.  I think many will be surprised to see just how well Lock performed in his 5 starts last year:

Week Opponent Result Comp % Yards TDs Ints QB Rating
13 Chargers W 23-20 64.29 134 2 1 84.5
14 Texans W 38-24 81.48 309 3 1 136
15 Chiefs L 3-23 45 208 0 1 50.8
16 Lions W 27-17 75.76 192 1 0 99.6
17 Raiders W 16-15 60.71 177 1 0 90.9

Lamar Jackson went 6-1 as a rookie with an 84.5 QB rating.  Drew Lock went 4-1 with an 89. 7 QB rating.  One of my favorite stats regarding Lock’s rookie campaign…he hit Courtland Sutton 4 times for 72 yards and 2 scores in his 1st NFL start & Noah Fant 4 times for 113 yards and a TD in his 2nd.  That answers the question of whether he can find his playmakers.  His completion percentage (64.1%) and his lack of Ints (3) also addresses any turnover concerns.  All that’s left to do is build around him, and did John Elway ever.  Melvin Gordon may be limited as a runner, but his 1680 yards, 11 TDs and 8.8 ypc as a receiver the last 4 years make him a perfect fit for a young QB.  Add Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam to the mix and Lock will now have freedom to make his own reads and exploit mismatches.  Commence “Operation Beat Chiefs 38-35 Twice a Year”.

Projections:  3700 yards – 25 TDs & 12 Ints, 210 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 4 fumbles

4).  You will have to forgive me for this one.  I can’t help but draw parallels between players sometimes.  In 2001, Drew Bledsoe signed a 100 mil contract with the Patriots at age 29.  He went down late in Week 2, and was replaced by 6th rounder Tom Brady.  Brady recorded an 86.5 QB rating through 14 games, and Bledsoe was subsequently traded to the Bills that offseason.  Fast forward 18 years.  Nick Foles signed an 88 mil contract with the Jaguars at age 30.  He went down in the first half of Week 1, and was replaced by 6th rounder Gardner Minshew.  Menshew recorded a 91.2 QB rating through 14 games, and Foles was subsequently traded to the Bears this offseason.  Now, by no means am I calling Menshew the next Tom Brady.  I just find the similarities interesting, especially considering Brady went on to throw for 3,764 yards and 28 TDs in his 2nd year as a starter.  That’s exactly the sort of ceiling I envision for Menshew in 2020.  For starters, the Jags hired Jay Gruden as the new offensive coordiantor.  Let’s take a look at his QB resume.

Year  Experience Comp % Pass Yards Pass TDs Ints QB Rating
Andy Dalton 2011 Rookie 58.1 3398 20 13 80.4
2012 Year 2 62.3 3669 27 16 87.4
2013 61.9 33 20 20 88.8
Kirk Cousins 2014 5 starts as RG3’s backup 61.8 1710 10 9 86.4
2015 Year 2 69.8 4166 29 11 101.6
2016 67.0 4917 25 12 97.2
2017 64.3 4093 27 13 93.9

Although he hasn’t had much success in the win column, Jay has long been regarded as a QB whisperer.  The additions of Tyler Eifert, Chris Thompson and Laviska Shenault Jr. will go a long ways in maintaining said reputation.

Another factor that plays into Menshew’s chances of ascending in 2020 is Leonard Fournette’s extreme mediocrity.  Buga found the endzone 3 times on 341 touches last year.  You can say he got unlucky in terms of goal-line opportunities.  That’s fine.  There is no denying his ineffectiveness in the passing game, however.  Let’s compare his numbers to the rest of the Top 10 Targeted RBs last year:

Fournette’s 6.9 ypc was tied for 3rd to last in this group, while his 5.2 yards per target fell short of everyone but Tarik Cohen (heads up to you Kamara owners out there as well).  The days of playing tough defense and grinding with Leonard Fournette are over.  The Jags gave up 26.5 points in the final 6 games last year.  Neither that unit, nor Leonard Fournette and his chronic ankles, are special.  The culture of this team is about to flip.  Fade Fournette and invest in Menshew long term folks.

Projections:  3900 yards – 25 TDs & 13 Ints, 360 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 5 fumbles

5).  What goes for the Jags also applies to Sam Darnold, Le’Veon Bell and the Jets.  It is time to evolve.  Bell is clearly not the runner or receiver he was in 2014 and 2016.  He and the Jets backfield accounted for 3 rushing TDs in 2019.  He didn’t do much with his 78 targets either.  If the Jets are going to score in 2020, it is going to be up to Darnold.  Chris Herndon is back.  Remember him?  He caught 39 passes for 502 yards and 4 TDs as a rookie in 2018.  Mark Andrews hauled in a similar 34 receptions for 552 yards and 3 TDs that same year.  I absolutely believe Herndon was poised for a Mark Andrews type of breakout before his 4 game suspension to start the season disrupted everything.  His prescence will be felt immediately this year.  As for the new WRs, I cannot promote Breshard Perriman and Denzel Mims too much, aside from the fact that they possess size mismatches at 6’2 215 lbs and 6’3 207.  This trio of big bodies, along with Jamison Crowder and what’s left of Le’Veon must be enough for Darnold to take that next step.

Sam threw 2 or more TDs 6 times out of 13 last year.  Baker Mayfield only managed 6 out of 16, and yet he wound up with 22 TDs.  I think that is very encouraging for all these young QBs.  You can play horrendous, backyard football, consistently fail to get a Top 5 WR the ball, and struggle with Ints all year, and still somehow finish with just 2-4 less TDs than Brady, Rodgers and Mahomes.  Darnold will never play as poorly as Baker did last year.  I think if he can give us a full 16 game season, 30 TDs is within reach.

Projections:  3800 yards – 24 TDs & 15 Ints, 150 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 3 fumbles

 

So this offseason, don’t sweat it if the Lamar, Dak or Mahomes owners talk.  Our focus is on depth and balance, not a big name QB.  Go sign/trade for 2 of the QBs on this list.  Pair them with a Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff or Drew Brees and I promise you will be in a better position than the rest of the league.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano

The Watch List 2021: Spring Scouting, QBs

Updated: May 18th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season. a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

In today’s installment of my Spring Scouting series we’re going to take a closer look at three quarterbacks: Trey Lance, Jamie Newman and Kyle Trask. These three signal callers may not get the headlines of stars like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields but each has a shot at being drafted next spring so they deserve a deeper look now.

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

  • Measurables: 6030/224
  • 2019 Stats: 16 games, 192-287, 66.9% comp percentage, 2,786 pass yards, 9.7 ypa, 28 pass TDs, 0 INTs, 180.6 rating; 169 rush att, 1,100 rush yards, 6.5 ypa, 14 rush TDs

I’m going to start this piece with a bold prediction: Trey Lance will be the most talked about quarterback on #DraftTwitter this season. It has been assumed for two years already that Trevor Lawrence will be the top quarterback drafted in 2021, but who comes in at QB2 will be the subject of intense debate. You could easily make the case for Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Or you just may fall in love with Bison signal caller Trey Lance. Lance won the Walter Payton Award in 2019, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman, and was the first (redshirt) freshman to ever win the honor.

Let’s start by taking a look at Lance’s numbers. His measurables certainly stack up at 6030/224 (think Joe Burrow’s size). DraftScout.com predicts Lance would run in the 4.67 range which would make him one of the fastest passers in the last three classes who measure 6020 or taller. As far as his stats go, his 28:0 touchdown to interception ratio speaks for itself, as does his 1,100-14 rushing line.

Since I didn’t watch any of him in 2019 I watched a lengthy Trey Lance highlight package featuring each of NDSU’s playoff games. Lance has the ability to uncork the ball with placement. The reel had two plays where he launched the ball fifty yards downfield to hit a streaking receiver. As his stats would suggest, he does not make mistakes with the ball and he uses his speed and elusiveness well. This clip illustrates all three points succinctly and shows how dangerous Lance can be for defenses. He evades the rush, first to his left then to his right, and isn’t brought down by any of three potential tacklers. As he’s rolling to his right he chucks the ball 30+ yards to a wide open receiver who is able to score. Sure, it would have been nice to lead the receiver on his way to the end zone but let’s not get greedy. The fact that Lance was still upright and able to find his receiver while delivering an accurate off-structure throw is impressive.

Coaches, avert your eyes. This second clip is not the type of play you want to see your quarterback making but as a casual fan I loved it. Lance is not afraid to take a hit or fight for extra yards. This dogpile turns into a rugby scrum that lands beyond the first down marker.

As if you needed another reason to get excited for Lance, I’ll remind you that he stars for FCS darling North Dakota State, and is following in the footsteps of recent NFL draftees Carson Wentz and Easton Stick. He’s only a redshirt sophomore so we don’t know that Lance will be joining the 2021 draft class but if he does he’ll be a priority study.

 

Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia

  • Measurables: 6040/230
  • 2018 Stats (Wake Forest): 6 games, 84-141, 59.6% comp percentage, 1,083 pass yards, 7.7 ypa, 9 pass TDs, 4 INTs, 139.5 rating; 64 rush att, 247 rush yards, 3.9 ypa, 4 rush TDs
  • 2019 Stats (Wake Forest): 12 games, 220-361, 60.9% comp percentage, 2,868 pass yards, 7.9 ypa, 26 pass TDs, 11 INTs, 145.3 rating; 180 rush att, 574 rush yards, 3.2 ypa, 6 rush TDs

Jamie Newman arrives in Athens, GA as a grad transfer from Wake Forest. Newman was the starter for the Demon Deacons last season and put up respectable numbers and a 7-5 record. The Georgia quarterback room was once a strength, with the high-potential trio of Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason and Justin Fields, however times have changed. Newman is penciled in on most depth charts as the presumptive starter even without spring ball because the Bulldogs’ other options are unproven.

On the Cover 3 podcast, Tom Fornelli shared some advanced stats about Newman’s play last season at Wake. One of them was that his on-target percentage was one of the lowest of returning Power 5 quarterbacks. On the other hand, PFF had high grades on Newman and included him on one of its top 2021 prospects lists. (Worth noting, PFF did state that Newman’s game grades were significantly higher with standout WR Sage Surratt in the lineup versus without him.) To make sense of these competing ideals I watched Newman’s film against UNC from 2019. I did take note of some inconsistent placement and touch on Newman’s passes, which led to some overthrows and a bad interception. Newman has eyes for the deep ball and that impressed me more than the overthrows worried me. He keeps the ball high and cocked, ready to unleash it effortlessly downfield. On this sample play Newman takes advantage of three defenders reading the flat pass and lofts one deep for Surratt. The throw is maybe a yard underthrown but Surratt is able to keep enough momentum to score what would ultimately be the deciding touchdown.

With all the talk about his arm I did not expect to see Newman playing in a zone read offense but nearly half his touches in that game were runs. He was productive too, gaining 78 yards and punching it in twice. I don’t think he’s enough of a dual-threat for that to make or break his draft stock but it’s surely a bonus. If Newman can helm a reloading Georgia squad to another SEC East title we’ll be talking about his NFL potential come January.

 

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

  • Measurables: 6050/239
  • 2018 Stats: 3 games, 14-22, 63.6% comp percentage, 162 pass yards, 7.4 ypa, 1 pass TD, 0 INT, 140.5 rating; 5 rush att, -4 rush yards, 1 rush TD
  • 2019 Stats: 12 games, 237-354, 66.9% comp percentage, 2.941 pass yards, 8.3 ypa, 25 pass TDs, 7 INTs, 156.1 rating; 63 rush att, 8 rush yards, 4 rush TDs

Kyle Trask is a familiar face in Gainesville as he enters his redshirt senior season for the Gators. Trask battled injuries and the depth chart during his first four campaigns and only saw starter’s reps a few games into 2019 when incumbent Feleipe Franks dislocated his ankle. Trask seized his opportunity and led Florida to the Orange Bowl and a 6th ranked finish. Franks has moved on to Arkansas but Trask may still need to fend off the highly touted redshirt sophomore Emory Jones (4-star, 0.9587 composite score per 247Sports). I’ll venture a guess that Trask keeps the starting job but don’t be surprised to see Jones continue to get sub-package touches which may detract from Trask’s final tallies.

The first thing you’ll notice about Trask is his size. I thought for sure his listed weight of 239 must have been a typo so I checked it on the Florida roster itself. Sure enough, 6050/239 it is. Since 2010, only ten quarterbacks have measured as tall and as hefty as Trask’s listed numbers. Ironically that group spans a wide gamut from first overall pick (Cam Newton) to high draft capital busts (Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler) to undrafted projects (Tyree Jackson). To help place him within that rubric, let’s see what some film can tell us.

I watched Trask’s 2019 outing against South Carolina. His final stat line in that game (200 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT) belies what really was a mediocre, at best, performance. Trask’s anticipation, accuracy and touch were inconsistent and tended toward the negative. On the positive side, he is a towering presence in the pocket and isn’t afraid to step into pressure to deliver his throw. He uses his frame well as a short yardage runner and throws accurately on the move. I watched a full-season highlight package to see if those positives stood up over the course of more games and they did. The bottomline: he’s big, has good pocket mobility and somehow makes big plays happen. Here he is embodying that on a key 4th down late against South Carolina where the Gators convert then score the go-ahead touchdown on the next play:

Circle October 31st on your calendar — not for Halloween, but for the Georgia vs Florida matchup in Jacksonville that’s likely to serve as the de facto SEC East championship game. It’ll be a great showcase for both Trask and the aforementioned Jamie Newman to show off their talents in the national spotlight.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Your RSO Guide

Updated: May 25th 2020

 

Your Ultimate Fantasy Experience:

Prove you have what it takes to create a real Dynasty. Reality Sports Online provides YOU the space to prove and show off your football fortitude. This isn’t just playing normal fantasy football; RSO is the complete GM experience. You will build your team, scout rookies, decide when to use multi-year contracts, nail the draft, and trade like a boss. RSO is your one shot, will you take it?

Managing your salary cap:

The beating heart of every dynasty is roster construction. Will you build around a dependable veteran QB or be the next team to draft a young stud and go all-in while you have him on a rookie deal? Like everything at RSO, the salary cap is authentic. As a GM you will have to work the real NFL salary cap. Find under-valued vets to fill gaps in your roster. As GM you decide who to offer contracts, and whether those are 1 to 4 years long. Offer aging vets a big dollar deal over a single year, or sign the next breakout guy to a 4-year deal on the cheap right before their big year. As an RSO GM you will need to balance winning now while also building for the future. This is much easier said than done. Are you one of the greats?

Sitting in the GM Chair:

Build the team you want. Your guys, your way, on your terms. You sit in the big chair now. Your RSO league follows the NFL schedule. You’ll need to navigate free agency, nail the draft, and manage your team’s run to the championship. Your passion drives you to win, but not just once. In your chair, you must be preparing for long-term success. Which contracts are expiring? Are you drafting to fill those roles, re-signing, or trading for new talent? You’re not just looking at this year or the next. You have ten fingers, and each one needs a championship ring. Do you have what it takes?

How RSO makes your league authentic

Free Agency Auction Room:

Our innovative Free Agency Auction Room facilitates as many as 32 fantasy owners to compete against each other to negotiate with and sign athletes to single or multi-year contracts, live-online in real-time. When the owners are negotiating with a given player, that player fields and contemplates contract offers of various lengths and amounts instantaneously, with a proprietary algorithm acting as artificial intelligence (the player’s agent). The algorithm factors in many of the same variables that NFL players and agents use when selecting the most desirable contract offer, which include the total amount of the contract, guaranteed money, per year average, and contract length. As fantasy owners submit various offers, our software automatically calculates the next best available minimum offer for each contract length and displays the offers on the screen across different “Offer” buttons so that each GM can easily choose to submit a better offer. Essentially, we have taken the NFL Free Agency process, which lasts 3-4 months, and condensed it to a teeth-clenching, adrenaline-filled few hours.

Rookie Draft:

The Rookie Draft is designed to offer GM’s the most realistic front office experience possible. The number of rounds and the length of contracts for the Rookie Draft are configurable league settings. The Commissioner can choose a Rookie Draft from one (1) to five (5) rounds and rookie contract lengths of three (3) or four (4) years. And, just like the NFL first-round picks are eligible for a fifth-year option (that is how serious RSO takes your authenticity). Each draft slot comes with an associated contract, based on real NFL contracts. The first selection earning more than the second, all the way to Mr. irrelevant earning the least.

If you haven’t yet, start your team now

https://realitysportsonline.com/RSOLanding.aspx find an existing fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online join a fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online

Establish your Dynasty. Now.

Good things come to people that wait. Yes, yes. Now, onto the winning.

“RSO’s format can have that kind of feel at first and the learning curve seems a lot steeper than it really is. Once you spend a few minutes learning the rules and trying out the draft room, you realize the process is not only intuitive, but it might be one of the most promising ways to run a league that I have seen yet.” – Matt Waldman

Tip 1: Know. Your. Rules!

RSO has thousands of variables, all designed to let you and your league set up YOUR perfect GM experience. Is your league a superflex, ppr, first-down points, IDP, and how many roster spots will you have? Here is a quick checklist for you:

  1. Review your scoring settings
  2. how many roster spots (active & bench)
  3. Is the practice squad turned on for your league?
  4. what are your league rules of the IR spot?
  5. How many contracts do you get? (league settings allow for 1-9 different contracts of each length)
  6. What are your league trade limits and deadlines?
  7. League calendar. When / what do you need to be prepared for

Tip 2: Prepare for your first free agent auction room

You want those ten championships? You need to get the first one, first. Who will you offer long-term deals vs single year contracts? How will those affect your budget this year, or the next? Jump over to the RSO mock draft area and see what your team could look like. Offering Tom Brady 15 million for 1 year may make sense in 2020, offering him that deal for 4 years could make you look really dumb.

“It’s not the will to win that matters – everybody has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” – Bear Bryant

Your step-by-guide for first-year success:

  1. Run through one partial mock draft to understand how the process works
  2. Breakdown each roster spot on your roster. How important is your RB2, your fourth WR? Allocate a percentage of your budget to each roster spot. Once you’ve tinkered with those percentages multiply them out by the salary cap to see about how much you are willing to spend on each position.
  3. If your league is conducting a rookie draft prior to your auction draft you will have a few contract values locked in. Make sure you subtract those from your salary cap, and because rookie contracts are usually cheaper than veterans you can readjust your available salaries.
  4. Compare your budgets against RSO suggested contracts for 2020. This is a proxy for ADP. RSO is unique; it’s not an unrealistic dynasty league where players are kept forever, and it’s not a simple redraft league where everyone in your franchise is a one-year rental. There are also thousands of variables including team size, starting line-up alternatives, scoring, etc. Use these suggested contracts as a starting point, a range of expectations relative to the other players on the list.
  5. Run through another mock draft, this time with your handy positional budgets, and see if what you came up with is feasible.
  6. Now you’re ready to tackle your first veteran auction. Feel that excitement? Are the butterflies ravaging your stomach? Good! You are prepared, you know what to do, how to do it, and now all that’s left is to crush it. Remember to be flexible though. You may want player X, and that guy goes way too high and you may have to bail. Player Y may be going for way too cheap, take advantage of the situation. You are the GM: your team, your terms.

* P.S. These are some handy non-football strategy tips for your draft

  1. Do you have beverages handy? If you cannot get to the fridge and back in 15 seconds you may want to pack a cooler for down by your feet.
  2. Bathroom breaks, have you asked the commish about a schedule?
  3. Psychology – Who can you drive up the cost on, who will call your bluff?
  4. Rember the infamous words of DJ Khaled, all you do is win, win, win!

Tip 3: Your first rookie draft

General managers are instrumental in rookie drafts. This is just important for your RSO franchise as it is for any NFL team. GM’s aren’t at games scouting individual players, their job, your job is to assess all the available data in order to come to direction and consensus.

Utilize different tools, scouting reports, and strategy assessments in order to create a successful plan. THE place to start is Bernard Faller’s two-part data-driven strategy break-down specific to RSO leagues. He broke down draft pick values and other considerations vital to set your franchise up for a true Dynasty.

Tip 4: Looking ahead; future team construction

Have you ever been in the position of desperately needing something? Like a car being totaled and going to a car lot knowing you have to purchase a vehicle this weekend. You are at the mercy of that day’s stock: only a few color choices, years, and mileages are available. If so, you probably look back and realize you didn’t get exactly what you wanted, and if you did you paid too much for it.

Don’t let that happen to your team. Come on GM, be better than that. You have a stud WR, and another that is pretty good but aging out of solid production. Don’t wait for that aging vet’s contact to expire before you start shopping. Do you want another top-ten guy? Do you want to go young and draft a replacement? If so, start getting your roster in order now. Maybe you know you’ll have to flip that vet and a second-round pick to move up in the first round and get your new guy. Maybe you spend a little more on a 26-year-old free agent with an upside that only you are seeing right now.

Whatever your decision is you will need to think about what your team will need in a year, two, even three from now. Ensure you’re franchise has the assets in place to secure talent. That is the job of an NFL GM, that is the power RSO places in your hands as GM. The big chair is yours, you answer to nobody. Can you succeed?

Tip 5: Know your rules

Yes, tip 5 is the same as 1. It is THAT important. In a superflex the QB spot is way more important. Full ppr, half, WR only ppr, all of these will dramatically change how you value slot receivers vs downfield threats; or if you can build an RB core of satellite backs getting 30 yards rushing but 8 catches for another 40 each week. Knowing all the ways you can zig when everyone else is zagging is a key component of your GM tenure. As you sit in your big chair and see the league moving towards small quick coverage linebackers, will you load up on huge guards and a fullback to punish them? As the league shifts back will you spread them out and go downfield? Will you stay ahead of everyone to cement your dynasty?

Your waiver wire, and maximizing your practice squad

Waiver Wire:

The details: When a player is waived, he is placed on waivers for a designated period (1-day is standard but check your league settings). During this time, all other GM’s have the opportunity to place a waiver claim on that player and the associated contract. If the player is assigned to a new team via waivers, the acquiring team becomes responsible for the remainder of the player’s contract (including guarantees), and the team that placed the player on waivers receives no additional cap charge beyond games for which the player has already played. When a player is waived each team gets a shot at signing him for the value his existing contract. That order goes in reverse of current-season rankings, just like the NFL. When all GM’s pass on that contract the player is moved into free agency. Every GM who wants offers him a blind bid contract. The player will sign the best-offered contract (minimum is 500k).

Be the Boss: Don’t automatically pick up big names of the waiver. What is their contract status? Why is the GM dropping them? Big names will hit the waivers. Sometimes, that is simply because another GM mismanaged their cap and you have the opportunity to reap the rewards. Other times the player is not living up to expectations and the former GM is just shedding the contract. Use your resources to assess the situation and your football fortitude to expertly decipher the best move.

Keeping cap room: You will need to keep 2-3 million dollars of cap space handy for exactly these reasons. Don’t be stuck on the sidelines when a valuable player goes for peanuts because you don’t have enough capital to even bid. Injuries happen, and opportunity will arise. Ensure you, as the GM, keep your team nimble and able to react by preparing for the unknown.

Practice Squad:

Adding practice squad players (PS):

  • Players can’t be added to the practice squad prior to or during the auction, it’s exclusively post-auction/in-season.  This, of course, means that there are no multi-year contracts on the practice squad
  • Players can only be added through the same process as normal FAAB adds, except now on the Add/Drop page there’s a radio button to select ‘Active Roster’ or ‘Practice Squad’ for those players that are eligible.
  • To mimic the NFL as closely as we could, a player must have been in the NFL for two full seasons or less (so players going into their third season are eligible, those going into their fourth aren’t).  We also added a ‘Practice Squad’ filter on the Player/FA page so you can see who all is available that is eligible.

Activate Player:

To activate a player on your practice squad, you simply go to your lineup page and select ‘Activate’ from the dropdown menu.  This will pop-up a confirmation screen that tells you the contract terms of activation and you can select to continue or cancel.  You do need to have an open active roster spot for this option to appear.  There is no method for deactivating a player from the active roster to the practice squad.  The only way to add players to the practice squad is listed above.  This also means that rookies that were drafted in your league can’t be put on the practice squad.

Poaching Players:

In the NFL, Practice Squad players can be signed by any team to their active roster so we naturally built something in as well.  You can attempt to poach a practice squad player from someone else’s roster to your active roster from that team’s contracts page (can’t however poach a player that is locked for the week).  Click the ‘poach’ button and then you’ll submit what is basically a FAAB bid to acquire that player.  However, the team that currently owns them does get the right to match your request first.  When you submit that request, it will send an email to the current owner of the player stating that someone is trying to poach the player and the contract terms.  They then have your FAAB Wait period league setting worth of time to activate the player to their own active roster.  If they do that, the poach request fails and if they don’t then the poach request will process.

Off-Season: Practice Squad players will be cleared off your rosters in February when we roll the site over for the new season.  They are not eligible to be tagged or extended in any way.

 

Being vigilant:

Will you find that undrafted free agent and sneak him onto your practice squad? As GM, will you have the acumen to pick up extra depth at RB, so that when bye week hell combines with a couple of injuries you can plug that TD vulture into your lineup and get those final 6 points, leading to that one extra win your team needed to squeak into the playoffs? Your team, your way, your terms. Welcome to the big leagues.

Race to the Ring: in-season management

You’ve signed veterans, drafted rookies, and filled your practice squad. Preseason is over, kickoff is around the corner. It’s time to watch your team dominate week 1, but then what?

The best GM’s work to improve their teams through trades, foresight, and knowing who to start.

Trades:
Reality Sports Online facilitates trades for players and trades for draft picks up to two (2) years in advance. For example, teams may trade a current player for a draft pick in a future year’s Rookie Draft. Any teams involved in trades are responsible for the remaining value of the contracts of the players or picks they acquire and are absolved of responsibility for the remaining value of the contracts of the players or picks they trade. So, trade wisely!

In-season free-agency:
Each week during the NFL season, players that are Free Agents are subject to blind offers from team owners for a designated period (1 day (Tuesday) standard). The player will sign with the team that offers the player the most valuable contract, and if no offers are made within the designated period, then the player will sign any $500,000 minimum offer made by any team in the subsequent days of the week (i.e. these players are first come first serve). Once the NFL games commence, players will lock and cannot be signed again until the following week.

Injured Reserve:
Commissioners can decide how many injured reserved (“IR”) spots are allowed per team. Unlike other fantasy leagues where players can only be put on IR if they are actually injured in real life, RSO teams can place any player on IR whenever they want provided they have not already used their allotted IR spots. However, when a player is placed on IR, he must remain there for the entire season. When a player is placed on IR, the team will only owe him 50% of his remaining contract for the year, thus allowing him to use the extra money to sign other free agents to replace the player placed on IR. If leagues want to implement IR-DFR (designated for return), they can do so by allowing the Commissioner of the league to utilize his Commish Tools to remove a player off of IR.

Foresight:
With great power comes great responsibility; only the best GM’s will ever achieve dynasty status. Preparing for what is likely to happen next allows GM’s like you to create trade leverage, turning your third-round rookie pick into a late first by out-flanking GM’s focused only on the now. You took the handcuff, and with a single promotion/injury you act and move up those draft rounds. Foresight will move your franchise into the Hall of Fame. Legend. Dynasty status.

 

If you haven’t yet, start your team now

https://realitysportsonline.com/RSOLanding.aspx find an existing fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online join a fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online

More Analysis by Chris Collet

The Watch List 2021: Spring Scouting, Small-School Sleepers

Updated: May 13th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season. a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

And we’re back! The 2020 NFL Draft is barely in our rearview mirror and I am already looking ahead to the 2021 draft class. One of my favorite things about the draft is watching Day 3 and seeing where my favorite under-the-radar players land. That’s why I love starting the new draft season with a look at small-school sleepers. The players profiled below are all competing either at the FCS or DII level. Players from the lower levels of college football may be a minority on NFL rosters but every year there are a few who surprise us.

 

Aqeel Glass, QB, Alabama A&M

  • Measurables: 6050/215
  • 2017 Stats: 9 games, 106-219, 48.4% comp percentage, 1,192 yards, 5 TDs, 10 INTs, -48 rush yards, 0 rush TD
  • 2018 Stats: 11 games, 194-346, 56.1% comp percentage, 2,421 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INTs, -26 rush yards, 1 rush TD
  • 2019 Stats: 12 games, 273-445, 61.3% comp percentage, 3,600 yards, 32 TDs, 11 INTs, -59 rush yards, 1 rush TD

Aqeel Glass, the soon to be fourth year starting quarterback at Alabama A&M, emerged as one of the top FCS quarterbacks in 2019. At the end of the campaign, he had 3,600 yards and 32 TDs along with a 61.3% completion percentage. He finished 4th in the FCS in passing touchdowns and 5th in passing yards per game. It’s also encouraging to see an annual upward trend in his rate stats, something that we will hopefully see further in 2020.

Glass is a tall pocket passer (6050) who could use a few extra pounds to fill out his lower half (215). The Bulldogs feature a quick-strike offense that is heavy on screens and flat routes. I watched last year’s game against Southern and I think each play has the facade of a zone read or RPO but I’m not sure how often Glass is tasked with the decision himself versus how often it’s a scripted play. When he’s forced to improvise on the run, he shines. His feet are active in the pocket and he shows that he can evade the rush while keeping his eyes downfield, sometimes with a quick rollout or a strong spin move. That can turn into a negative though if he flees the pocket before letting the play develop. In this example play you can see Glass start to read the field as he gives a slight shoulder shimmy pump fake. He spins away from the rushing end and keeps his eyes upfield as he looks to salvage the down. He connects with a receiver who is ultimately walloped so it wasn’t a perfect play; you’d like to see him lead the receiver towards the sideline.

My favorite play of Glass’ was a double fake reverse touchdown pass late against Southern. It was midway through the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs were down by a touchdown. It was a great playcall and perfect execution by Glass. The deft feint is obvious from the broadcast angle but even better on the replay, although it’s hard to appreciate in a choppy gif. Since he fakes on nearly every play Glass is sometimes inconsistent with the quality of his fakes but when he’s at his best it’s a fantastic trait that shows off his situational awareness.

I found a lot to like in Aqeel Glass and am looking forward to checking on his progress in the fall. If he continues to improve, I believe Glass can land on an NFL roster in 2021.

 

Elijah Dotson, RB, Sacramento State

  • Measurables: 6000/185
  • 2017 Stats: 11 games, 87 att, 475 rush yards, 5.5 ypa, 5 rush TDs, 8 receptions, 139 rec yards, 17.4 ypc, 2 rec TDs
  • 2018 Stats: 10 games, 185 att, 1,154 rush yards, 6.2 ypa, 9 rush TDs, 14 receptions, 160 rec yards, 11.4 ypc, 0 rec TD
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 151 att, 742 rush yards, 4.9 ypa, 7 rush TDs, 70 receptions, 702 rec yards, 10.0 ypc, 4 rec TDs

I came across Elijah Dotson’s name on one of my go-to websites, www.draftscout.com, and boy am I glad I did. A two-time All Big Sky player, Dotson’s stats are quite interesting to review. He had a great sophomore season in which he averaged 115.4 yards per game and had a career high with 9 rushing scores. While his rushing totals dropped off in 2019, he flourished as a receiver, totaling 70 receptions and 702 receiving yards. I feared there might have been a position change to explain the drastic jump in receiving production so I had to find some film to watch to get a fuller picture.

I ended up watching the full highlights of Sacramento State vs Arizona State from early 2019, skipping ahead to Dotson’s touches, and a school-produced highlight package from the season. What I watched really impressed me. Dotson runs with a pinball-like momentum that makes him hard to bring down. It’s hard to peg whether he’s a power back or a speedy scat back, but that “somewhere in between” makes him a tough tackle. Much of his receiving production does come out of the backfield, putting my position-change fears to rest, where he runs a number of varied routes; he’s particularly deadly on a wheel route with a well-placed lofted toss from the quarterback. Here he is smoking the Montana defense on one of those wheel routes:

He’s also trusted to line up as both a slot or boundary receiver as I saw him do a few times late against the Sun Devils. There weren’t many opportunities to see Dotson in pass protection but the few glimpses I saw appeared positive. There was a great hustle play where he ended up out of the play and sprinted ahead to throw a helpful block for his receiver. I also loved the way he was able to make defenders miss him horizontally by juking and cutting with his eyes upfield and his pads parallel to the yard lines. Here’s a good example of what Dotson’s role at the next level could look like. He lines up in the slot and comes in motion, the quarterback fakes the quick pop-pass, Dotson catches the ball yards behind the line of scrimmage and manages to stop his momentum before stepping out of bounds. He springs past the first tackler and then makes two more miss before finishing his run with a thump to the cornerback. Even more impressive, this one came against FBS foe Fresno State.

Despite all of the positives I gushed about above, there is one looming concern and that is Dotson’s size. Over the last five combines, just three running backs 5110 and taller weighed in less than 200lbs, and none less than 197lbs: Salvon Ahmed, Justin Crawford, Justin Jackson. (Full disclosure, the next lightest back on that list is Christian McCaffrey at 202lbs but he seems to be the exception on the >5110/<210 list.)

It’s been awhile since I got as excited about a small-school running back as I did watching Dotson’s highlights so I’ve got my fingers crossed for him. I don’t love doing comparisons but while I was looking at similarly sized players from recent combines my mind’s eye likened him to Justin Jackson, formerly of Northwestern and now on the Chargers. Like Jackson, Dotson’s do-it-all skillset might be enough to get him drafted and would be a valuable depth asset for any NFL team.

 

Samori Toure, WR, Montana

  • Measurables: 6030/190
  • 2017 Stats: 11 games, 31 receptions, 553 rec yards, 17.8 ypc, 5 rec TDs
  • 2018 Stats: 11 games, 37 receptions, 440 rec yards, 11.9 ypc, 2 rec TDs
  • 2019 Stats: 11 games, 87 receptions, 1,495 rec yards, 17.2 ypc, 13 rec TDs

Samori Toure’s bio on the Montana athletics page still shows its prophetic prediction for the 2019 season: “Toure (pronounced TOO-ray) is poised to have his best season yet for the Grizzlies after a strong fall camp.” Toure exploded in 2019, his junior year, finishing second in the FCS in receiving yards (1,495) and sixth in touchdowns (13). Thanks in part to Toure, Montana made it to the FCS quarterfinals last season, the furthest they’ve progressed in a decade. Toure will hope to end his Griz career on an even higher note in 2020.

Toure is a deep threat who has enough wheels to beat a dropping safety or to outrun a tackler after the catch. He tracks the ball well and adjusts well to an underthrown or tipped ball, something that was evident repeatedly on the highlight reels I watched. On his shorter routes he’s rarely brought down by the first tackler. My favorite play of Toure’s shows how dangerous he can be downfield. Nearly fifty yards down the sideline, Toure turns for the ball while effortlessly continuing his momentum by backpedaling. He spots the ball, secures the catch, and manages to drag both feet for an NFL-worthy catch.

It’s too soon to say what Toure’s pro prospects look like but he should be on your radar. Unfortunately for small-school receivers, despite the high volume of receivers being drafted, recent history has shown that only one or two are drafted per year from the FCS or lower. A deep playoff run by Montana could help Toure get some deserved exposure.

 

Zach Davidson, TE, Central Missouri

  • Measurables: 6070/245
  • 2017 Stats: 12 games, 0 rec, 47 punts, 44.3 ypp, 66 yard long, 14 inside twenty
  • 2018 Stats: 11 games, 11 rec, 239 rec yards, 21.72 ypc, 3 TDs, 42 punts, 42.8 ypp, 64 yard long, 15 inside twenty
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 40 rec, 894 rec yards, 22.35 ypc, 15 TDs, 48 punts, 40.29 ypp, 67 yard long, 19 inside twenty

When I first came across Zach Davidson’s name while I was searching the proverbial haystack for prospects to add to my watch list, it was his size that caught my eye. Then when I looked up his stats and bio, his versatility caught my eye. Not only did Davidson lead all DII tight ends in touchdown receptions in 2019 (15, the next closest had 10), which earned him first team DII All-American honors, but he has also previously earned plaudits as a punter as well.

Predictably, film clips of Davidson’s are difficult to find. Thankfully, Draft Diamonds is doing yeoman’s work this offseason and already has a highlight package available on YouTube. I was surprised to see how many downfield targets Davidson received. Given his size, I expected him to be mostly a short and intermediate receiver. I need to keep in mind that he’s playing against DII opposition, but I was impressed with his speed. The highlights also showed a penchant for winning contested catches. My favorite play was this 78 yard TD. Davidson releases off the line, runs a skinny post, catches the ball in stride 25 yards downfield, outruns the corner to the goal line and carries him for the final two yards into the endzone.

Davidson came into his own in 2019 and I hope we see another standout year from him in 2020. Solid receiving stats, above average size and speed, and his unique ability as a punter might just help Davidson find some draft buzz.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper