IDP Sit/Start: Week 1

Updated: September 16th 2022

Welcome to my IDP Sit/Start Article for the 2022 NFL season. This article aims to help you identify those truly start-worthy players who might be more on the fringe of the 2nd or 3rd or even 4th tier of the position groups (based on FantasyPros weekly rankings) but have the right situation to be a startable asset for each given week. The layout of this series will focus on DL, LB, and DB position groups, however, I will try to get some nuggets in there for those “True Position” leagues that get down with DT and CB requirements! Additionally, where I can find the long-term value, we will also call that out to help you with some of that season-long planning.

Let’s get to it now that you know what I am trying to do!

START: Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings, DL19

Danielle Hunter has that injury-prone label hanging over his head after back-to-back years of lost seasons (pectoral muscle in 2021, neck in 2020). This is scaring people off from what I strongly believe Danielle Hunter to be, and that is at tier 1 DL for IDP fantasy football. He meets the prerequisites of having pass rush win rates and pressures per game at elite levels when on the field. Secondly, throughout his career he has consistently seen around 80% of the defensive snaps each game and season and nothing has shown us that they are planning to bring that number down. Combine those points with the fact that Hunter is finally paired with another strong pass-rushing partner in offseason signing, Za’Darius Smith, Hunter has a path for success that should make him an every-week starter with top 8 DL upside for the entire season.

SIT: Sam Hubbard, Cincinnati Bengals, DL16

Sam Hubbard had a career year last season, in terms of sacks with 9 (tied career best), tackles at 62 (tied 2nd best), TFLs at 12 (career high), and QB hits with 17 (career high). These are strong numbers for where Hubbard was drafted last year and his perceived value. However, he did this on his highest snap total ever as well. His overall efficiency saw a drop but he delivered on volume. I am sure this is confusing at first because you are asking yourself, “Doesn’t Jake always say to chase volume for IDP?” And you would be right in every case. Volume is the first key to success for an IDP fantasy asset. The problem is, that volume came in what seemed more of a necessity than a desire. Hubbard and Hendrickson saw the vast majority of snaps as Joseph Ossai went down early last season. Ossai was an early round 3 pick (69th overall) and in the preseason, the Bengals were clearly showing signs of him being a key contributor. Once he went down, the Bengals didn’t have the talent or depth to replace that and just rode Hubbard and Hendrickson. With a full season to recover and prepare, Ossai will see an increased role which means a reduced snap count for Hubbard and Hendrickson. This means if you are looking for that high-end DL2 value, you are hoping he improves efficiency which is the less likely outcome.

START: Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals, LB26

Isaiah Simmons has had an interesting path to his current situation as it exists today. He was a top 10 draft pick (8th overall, 2020) but found himself on the wrong end of the snap counts (376, 34%) and given praise coming into the season and the increased utilization in other spots on the field, Simmons is looking like the key piece of this defense that he was (presumably) drafted to be. He spent time working with the safeties this offseason and he was recently named the defensive play-caller (given the green dot) for week 1. This aligns with his increased usage last season (1,005 and 94%) and the departure of other key defensive pieces in Jordan Hicks and Chandler Jones.

Right, wrong, or indifferent on how we got to this point, but we are here, and that place is “Success-town”, population Isaiah Simmons. I am sure there are plenty of people who held on tight to Simmons and always had the belief. Others though were most likely scared off from the low utilization, the lack of responsibility given, and even offseason talks that Jalen Thompson (Cardinals’ safety) would be the defensive play-caller this year. To those people I say, now is the time to get Simmons into your starting lineups! His talent, utilization, and opportunities are going to meet in a perfect storm, giving you a top end LB play this week and probably most of this season.

SIT: Anthony Walker Jr., Cleveland Browns, LB27

Going back-to-back in the FantasyPros rankings after Simmons is Anthony Walker Jr., and even though it is only one spot behind him, I would move Anthony Walker even further down that list. The primary reason for this? He is not even the best LB on his team… he might not even be in the top 2 for some people, and that is the case for me. I have him behind Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Jacob Phillips as LB3. This LB room ambiguity was not well-known in Cleveland due to other conversations in Cleveland (starting QB anyone?). There has been a some waffling on the green dot wearer for week 1 and for the season.

With so many things in the way of Walker succeeding and NFL defenses running almost no 3 LB sets to try and “guarantee” that Walker gets the snaps needed to be relevant, I am not rolling the dice on Walker of all people in that LB room. For me, it is JOK or pass. And I would rather pursue other 3-down LBs on other teams that give a better upside overall.

START: Kyler Gordon, Chicago Bears, Unranked

I am getting super deep on this one, but am a big believer in the slot role in Matt Eberflus led defenses. Kenny Moore has shown with the physical toolsets, the right coaching, and the opportunity a cornerback can be relevant. With Matt Eberflus taking over in Chicago, Kyler’s high draft capital and strong RAS, and him taking the lead on the slot role, all things are pointing up for Kyler Gordon!

Kyler Gordon to me is a player that will see the valuable snaps on the field as he was announced as the starter in the slot position and has taken most of his snaps there in the last two preseason games. The presumed microcosm of all of this, his first snap from the slot starting in preseason week 2, Eberflus blitze Gordon from the slot. In my opinion, that is just the beginning for him. With him taking the bulk (if not all) of his snaps so close to the ball and line of scrimmage, he has what we look for in DBs even but moreso for those leagues that require CBs. Also, historically rookie cornerbacks tend to see a strong number of targets against them that keep the floor and value safe for Kyler as well. He is basically free at this point and I am picking up all the shares of Kyler everywhere I can.

SIT (Fade or Trade): Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers, DB5

So this is tough one to treat as a true “sit”. If you spent the required draft capital to require Chinn, it may be hard to actual have Chinn on your bench come week 1 this season. However, let’s just look at what we can probably more realistically do with Chinn, and that is trade him for a “tier down” at DB and maybe something more in another player or draft capital. But why would you get rid of someone from your roster that is a consensus top 5 DB (redraft and dynasty)?

It breaks down to two key components and one consideration. The first being the fact that Chinn has thrived almost exclusively on his ability to rack up tackles while taking the bulk of his snaps in the “Sweet Spot” (Box, Slot, DL) and his production comes heavily from his tackle production. He has not show big-play tendencies from his first two seasons combined:

  • 2 sacks
  • 2 interceptions
  • 3 fumbles (2 forced, 1 recovered)
  • 10 passes defensed
  • 8 TFLs
  • 10 QB hits

And this preseason he has taken 8 snaps in the “Sweet Spot” and 23 at free safety with new teammate, Xavier Woods, taking the bulk of those valuable snaps while they were both on the field. Knowing the usage looking like this and his past success heavily predicated on tackles (which are more easily achieved from the “Sweet Spot”), getting out on Jeremy Chinn now would be the best chance to maximize his value before it starts to potentially shift. Is this to say that if Chinn’s positional play shifts to a deep safety role he can’t produce? No, we have seen others do this; Justin Simmons and Minkah Fitzpatrick are great examples, but also tend to be the outliers. Chinn is good, but his value might be at his highest it will ever be right now, so now is the time to sell!

More Analysis by Jake

Surprising NFL Transactions in 2023/24

Updated: August 10th 2022

RealitySports Online auctions are one of the easiest ways to inject immediate starter talent into your lineup without having to give up significant draft capital. Locking in great fantasy players to multi-year deals is the way to be a competitive team year over year. However, what might be a great deal in year one sometimes can become an anchor by years three and four if the value no longer matches the production. Whether that is due to a player’s age or a change in the offense they play in.

Knowing that the NFL (Not For Long) is constantly changing its poster players, we can look into the contracts of key players at each position to help better prepare for where the landscape is shifting over the next 12-24 months. Each of the cap relief and dead cap figures below are provided by OverTheCap. “Cap relief” is the value above or below zero (0) dollars that will be given to a team if the player is cut in a given year. A “relief” of $5 million on a $10 million dead cap means that the team is receiving $15 million in savings but $10 million is unrecoverable for cutting said player.


Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

2023 Cap Relief: $29.3M , Dead Cap: $5.6M

The Raiders reunited Derek Carr  with his college receiver by trading for Davante Adams and then gave Adams a big new contract. Hunter Renfrew also got a new contract to continue to strengthen the offense. However, with new Head Coach Josh McDaniels we do not know what his commitment to Derek Carr past the current season really is. We have seen the AFC West become an arms race at quarterback with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and now the Broncos bringing in Russell Wilson. The Raiders may look at their situation and wonder if the fourth best quarterback is enough to win a division. We have seen big trades of franchise quarterbacks recently and the contract situation in its current state gives the Raiders the opportunity to explore other options if they want.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

2023 Cap Relief: $20.7M , Dead Cap: $10M

When the Lions absorbed Jared Goff’s contract from the Rams the sands began to fall on when he eventually would be replaced/cut by the team with most of the guarantees already paid forwarded by the Rams. In 2023 the Lions could save over $20 million by moving on from Goff and going with a first-round rookie selection in what should be a bounce back year for talent at the quarterback position. If that happens, the odds of Goff receiving another guaranteed starting job is slim. Not that he couldn’t compete and win another job, it would just be more likely that he is a backup somewhere else. Most superflex leagues he likely is not receiving a large, multi-year deal currently but just be aware that unless he is really cheap long-term, you should approach Goff as more of a one-year rental.

Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders

2023 Cap Relief: $26.2M , Dead Cap: $0

Goff and Carson Wentz are forever tied to each other as the first and second pick in 2016 and they both have had similar career arcs thus far. So of course if Goff is a concerning cut candidate in 2023, Wentz is also going to be a concern for investing into the long term. Wentz has zero (0) dead money going forward so while the community may not have liked the Commanders trading draft selections for him there is no long term commitment to him and they could easily go back to the position for a rookie or different veteran option next season. After moving to three teams in three years I could not see him receiving a starting role for a fourth different team in four years. Wentz may be a serviceable QB2 in superflex leagues this year, but he is a one-year rental player from this point on in his career.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

2023 Cap Relief: $17.8M , Dead Cap: $18.8M

Most were shocked when Ryan Tannehill received a $118 million deal back in 2020 after being a bust in Miami and rebounding only slightly in Tennessee, but he has been an average to above average starter for most of his current deal. However, last year most would consider a disappointment and another mediocre year in 2022 could have the Titans front office looking for options going into next year. Tannehill’s dead money is much higher than either Goff or Wentz but if the Titans really want to get out, a post-June 1st designation drastically changes the layout of the money with $27 million in relief and only $9.6 million in dead money. Tannehill is another superflex quarterback that unless you are contending this season and need his services you should be looking to flip to a contender in need for whatever price can be found.

Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys

2023 Cap Relief: $4.9M , Dead Cap: $11.9M

Ezekiel Elliot is likely the first player that came to mind when the topic of big cut candidates in 2023 is discussed. While not as great of a dead cap to relief scenario as many other players in this article, the Cowboys are already $5.4 million over the projected cap and will be looking ahead to find money for both CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs re-signs. The owner loves Zeke which is likely the only thing that would explain why he is with the Cowboys next season. It is unlikely that another team would use him like he has been featured in Dallas so avoid paying his current contract values in 2023 and beyond.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

2023 Cap Relief: $12.5M , Dead Cap: $3M

This would be one of the bigger shocks to the NFL if the Titans were to release Derrick Henry next season. Looking deeper though, Henry would be going into the final year of his contract at 29 years old with not a lot of dead cap and a whole lot of savings. He is also coming off an injury last year that cost him half a season so how he performs in 2022 will likely have an influence on what the front office wants to do with the roster moving forward. Since Tannehill was listed earlier, the team could have an opportunity to hit the reset button in 2023 with the offense if 2022 is not going the way they planned.

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

2024 Cap Relief: $12.2M , Dead Cap: $4M

The Browns are hard to project what they are going to do for their roster over the next two (2) years since we don’t even know when their new quarterback will be available to play. Nick Chubb is likely safe for 2023, unless the Browns are desperate for cap space but we should not be signing up for much past next season. The Browns need to start saving money in other areas of the team to afford Deshaun Watson’s massive $230 million contract and like Derrick Henry next year, Chubb’s final year in 2024 comes with very little dead cap compared to salary relief. If he was not re-signed or tagged going into this off-season Chubb may be one of the bigger ticket items in your auctions. Just be mindful of giving anything more than two (2) years under the current conditions.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

2024 Cap Relief: $10.4M , Dead Cap: $2.8M

I put Chubb and Joe Mixon in the same category of safer for 2023 but watch out for 2024 based on the situation around them. The Bengals have already shown little interest in offering a new contract to Jessie Bates who was franchised for 2022. The expectation of having to pay massive contracts for both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase is likely to have the front office looking ahead to where they can cut corners. Especially under an owner that is notorious for not paying superstars to begin with, the budget is not likely there for a “would be” 28 year old Mixon. If there was a solid backup plan behind Mixon there would even be a chance that the team would move on next year but for now the Bengals are trying to get back to the Super Bowl.


Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

2023 Cap Relief: $2.8M , Dead Cap: $4.3M

Austin Ekeler’s situation culminates all the potential reasons the previously mentioned running backs could be released. He also does not have the draft capital that the other running backs had coming into the league, though at this far in his career that likely plays less of a factor. The Chargers just re-signed Mike Williams and will be expected to set the quarterback market when Justin Herbert’s new contract is inked. That, plus the Chargers selected Isaiah Spiller this past draft put Ekeler in the crosshairs of a potential cut candidate in the near future. A contending team may just ride his value out but most teams should either be trading or avoiding Ekeler on any long term contract.

Wide Receivers

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2023 Cap Relief: $14.5M , Dead Cap: $9.2M (Post-June 1st)

This is the biggest “What If” for this exercise as it would seem crazy that the Buccaneers would move on from their 7 time 1,000 yard receiver. However, if Tom Brady does in fact leave after this season, whether through retirement or free agency, the Bucs once again return to their usual quarterback purgatory with the second worst cap situation at $55 million over the projected cap! Mike Evans’ contract is also long overdue to catch up with the rest of the wide receiver market as he is set to make $13 million when contemporaries are earning nearly double. All this to say that if the Buccaneers see themselves as a teardown in 2023 they may see Evans as a luxury they can no longer afford and could ship him to another team while his value is still high.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

2023 Cap Relief: $14.8M , Dead Cap: $6.9M

Where Ekeler plays at a position that can often be supplemented with replacement level talent leading to his potential cut in the near future, Keenan Allen’s speculation is purely based on age and dollars. As previously mentioned the Chargers just signed Mike Williams to a new deal and Herbert’s will be coming up. That $14 million in 2023 or $23 million in 2024 could go a long way to making more room. At 30 years old it is unlikely the Chargers would give Allen another big extension also. Allen would likely land with another team who is looking for veteran talent but what are the odds that he lands in as ideal of a situation as San Diego/Los Angeles have been over the last decade.

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

2023 Cap Relief: $8.9M , Dead Cap: $1.4M

Whether playing second fiddle to A.J. Green or then to be bumped to third chair after the Bengals drafted Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd has become a forgotten commodity for most fantasy rosters. He is still productive but his value to the Bengals is likely not much past this season. Whether he signs a team friendly extension to remain the third option in Cincinnati or moves on to final test free agency there’s too much risk right now to be signing Boyd to a long term extension.

Other wide receivers that likely were not going to be earning big contracts but nonetheless should be avoided as more than just rental players based on their current contract situations include:

Robert Woods, Tennessee Titans

Corey Davis, New York Jets

Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers


Tight Ends

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

2023 Cap Relief: $9.5M , Dead Cap: $4.2M

One year after removing Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs offense we could be seeing the end of the Travis Kelce-era in KC as well. He and the Chiefs just agreed to push even more money into this season, lessening his committed money from 2023 onward. At 33 years old, Kelce is by no means done as a top tier talent but for how many more seasons can he be a candidate to the TE1 crown? If he doesn’t play with Patrick Mahomes how much of a hit does that do to his value? A contending team may pay an absorbent amount of money for his services this year and maybe next but any three (3) or four (4) year contracts runs the risk of holding a very expensive dead cap for an either unproductive or retired Kelce.

Hunter Henry, New England Patriots

2023 Cap Relief: $10.5M , Dead Cap: $5M

Based on last year’s productivity most would say that Jonnu Smith, not Hunter Henry would be a cut candidate if either of the two had to go. Looking at Smith’s contract though, his release would only save $1 million in cap room making it likely that he will be around for at least the 2023 season as well. The Patriots are always looking to get out a year earlier than a year late and if Smith does not fall flat like he did last year the team could look to get a cheaper option behind him rather than paying Henry his $9.5 million. It’s a big “if” but if any team is going to do whatever they feel is right with roster management, it’s the Patriots.

Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

2023 Cap Relief: $6.8M , Dead Cap: $0M

The Raiders keep suggesting that Darren Waller is one the next guys to get paid. The problem is that they just traded for Davante Adams and gave both him and Hunter Renfrew big re-signs and like the Derek Carr suggestion earlier, there may just not be enough on the plate to go around. Again, new Head Coach Josh McDaniels may see Waller as a Gronk-like substitute in his offense but he may also look to branch out to a more receiver balanced offense. With no dead money left in either of his remaining two years under contract, Waller is a cut/trade candidate at any point if the value is there.

Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

2023 Cap Relief: $0M , Dead Cap: $10.9M

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

2023 Cap Relief: $0M , Dead Cap: $10.9M

I am lumping Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki together as they are both playing on the franchise tag in 2022. We have no idea if either will come to any agreement with their current team for a long term contract after the season, remember that franchise tag players after early July cannot negotiate a new contract and will have to wait till the next off-season to try again. We also know that moving into a new system does not always result in continued fantasy success for players. Especially for Schultz who is in one of the better tight end spots for fantasy right now the odds are even lower that he would hold his production if signing elsewhere. Both are a huge risk to sign for long-term commitments right now since we do not have much to go on past 2022.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

RSO Features Wishlist

Updated: August 8th 2022

The start of the 2022 season is just around the corner and most leagues are long past their rookie drafts and new leagues, thanks for choosing RSO by the way, are completing their first auctions. There have been big changes in recent years to the structure and complexity of RSO leagues including features such as re-signs, fifth-year options, in-draft rookie trades, and the new feature this year with slow auctions. CTO Kyle English always brings new and exciting features and we are all excited each time he tweets about whatever he has created in his lab.

With that, we can look ahead to 2023 to try and suggest even more features that the community would like to see added.

Injury Reserve: Designated to Return Designations

During the COVID 2020 season my home league implemented a version of the IR (injury reserve) designated to return that the NFL uses. How it is implemented under its current version is that there is an agreed-upon timeframe that the player has to be on the IR before they can be reactivated by the commissioner manually. The NFL uses four (4) games as their benchmark for time served and up to eight (8) designations per season. Our league uses six (6) weeks as the time served but only one (1) player is allowed to be designated. Not to be confused with how many players can be put on injured reserve at one time which is a maximum of three (3) in the league.

Not all injuries are season-ending but it becomes a burden to teams to try and find more depth for a few weeks if they have to hold 1-3 bench spots for minorly injured players, especially with shallower benches. Of course, the team would have to have the salary room available at the time of designation to be able to fit the player back on their roster since a player’s contract once placed on IR relieves half (50%) of the remaining yearly value in cap space. Having the ability to move a player away from a roster spot with the option to also bring them back during the same year would add flexibility during the season to continue competing and making roster moves.

Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Franchise Tags

For those in leagues that have cycled through multiple off-seasons now, there have probably been a few cases where you, or someone in your league, has debated on what to do with a player whose contract has expired. Would it be better to franchise tag at the average top 5 contract value in the league or risk sending them back to free agency to see if they can retain their services for cheaper or for more years? What if there could be a middle area?

The NFL has the seldom used Non-Exclusive franchise tag designation which comes at a cheaper contract value than the Exclusive option but runs the risk of another team placing an offer sheet to sign that player away.

How this could work in RSO would be that any player who receives the Non-Exclusive designation would be assigned the value of the average top 10 value at their position instead of the top 5 for one year but the player would still appear in the auction for other teams to bid on. During the scheduled auction any players who have the Non-Exclusive designation are auto-nominated first for all teams to conduct their bidding. Whenever the bidding ends the original team then confirms whether they would like to agree to that contract or receive the set compensation instead from the winning team. The NFL uses two (2) first-round picks as the compensation received which would be a good benchmark for teams to really consider trading away for a likely top 10 player at the position. Teams would need to have the available draft capital to be able to offer contracts in the auction window, otherwise, their options would be “grayed out” just like with insufficient cap space. If no team bids on the player, their salary stays at the current top 10 average for one year with the original team.

Adding this layer of complexity would generate much more buzz during the auction as oftentimes great players do not make it to the free market. Individuals however have varying values of certain players and what may be worth two (2) first-round picks to some is high water for others. Teams that are aggressive could look to secure otherwise unavailable superstars while savvy owners could have a value floor set for a player that suggests they would be okay losing said superstar if they were compensated fairly.


Contract Balancing

One of the coolest features that the Madden franchise mode had for a year or two during the early 2010s was during the signing stages of the off-season the user could offer a contract based on three (3) scales: front-loaded, balanced, and back-loaded.

Back-loaded is the only current option in RSO auctions whereby the dollar amount of the final year is always more than the first year of a contract. This makes sense since the salary cap, in non-COVID scenarios, increases each year so the players should be getting an inflation raise each season to match. But in the NFL sometimes teams that are smart with their cap space know that they can front load the offering to a player to serve many purposes, both for them and the player. Obviously, for the player they are receiving more money now which increases their percentage of receiving the agreed full dollar value of the contract. The team also benefits by having the option in later years to move on from a player easier without as high of a dead cap. This can also benefit teams that are trying to outbid other teams that have more space now similar to how the back–loaded contracts benefit those that have less cap space in the current year.

The current percentages of a contract’s total value in RSO work as such:

1 year; 100%

2 years; 49%, 51%

3 years; 31.3%, 33.3%, 35.4%

4 years; 22%, 24%, 26%, 28%

Having the option to inverse the values would help teams that may have available cap room now to spread out their contracts rather than having all their big ticket cap figures placed within the same future years.

Adding this layer of complexity to the patented RSO formula for auction valuing may only make this feature usable during their new “slow auction” formats to allow for the system to better calibrate what a fair value contract would look like both front or back-loaded. Would the formula value a front-loaded $20 million contract more than a $20 million dollar back-loaded contract? Probably. What about a $25 million back-loaded contract? These are all data points that the RSO team would have to decide which way the scales tilt.

Final Thoughts

If it has not been established already in the tone of this article one of the biggest themes for these suggestions centers around salary cap flexibility. While some features may add a layer of complexity that some leagues may not be interested in implementing, I expect there would be a handful of RSO managers and leagues that would welcome new options for them to help create their ideal fantasy roster.

If you have any suggestions for features and concepts you would like to see the RSO team put research into, make sure to reach out on Twitter, @Nickandrews_RSO, or to the generic @RealitySportsOn account with your ideas.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Auction Strategies from Jake

Updated: August 8th 2022

Welcome to my off-season series, but today we are going to take a step away from the focus on IDP and take a more macro approach to one of the core tenants of Reality Sports Online’s fantasy platform. This is the Free Agency period (auction draft w/ contracts). For those who have completed one (or multiple) you understand how exciting and satisfying of an experience it is. However, I want to help you not just have a blast (which you will!) but go over some thought exercises to help you find the highest level of success for you and your teams.

When finding success, it breaks down to pre-draft preparation and draft mental preparedness. Before you even step into the Free Agency room, there is a handful of things we should break down:

  • Know your league and its settings, I can’t stress this one enough and I know I have said it multiple times prior to this as well (yes, it is that important)
    • Starters, bench, extensions, the franchise tag
  • Know where you want to go with your roster but also know (or estimate) where your league mates want to go with their roster
  • Build your free agency pool of players into tiers, and throw ADP out the window! (Not entirely, it has some value, but it shouldn’t be your guiding light)
  • Understand NFL players’ contract situations and age cliffs for positions

Alright, once we have covered all these things about how to prepare for the draft, we can jump into what we want or need to do while we are in the middle of the draft:

  • Pay attention to your tiers and who is left in them
  • Watch what positions your league-mates are bidding heavily on
  • Know your limits for players and positions and be aggressive pursuing them
  • There is most certainly a mental aspect to this, be ready

Time to dig into these thoughts a little bit more!

This is straightforward, but make sure you consider scoring for each individual position. Once you understand the scoring potential of that position, it will allow you to know its replaceability. This is most apparent and easily understood when you look at a Super-Flex style league versus a 1-QB league. The ability to replace the position is much more difficult now because everyone is trying to roster 2-3 QBs minimum. This idea is the same across all your positions and roster.

Make sure you know what your contract offerings look like! I have missed out on using a 4-year contract before… it sucks! Same for extensions and franchise tags, knowing you have these in your back pocket means you can possibly keep that critical piece of your roster or that unsuspecting breakout. As much as you don’t like to count on the unknown, you will most likely have a piece on your roster that outperforms expectations, and knowing you have the means to control is key to building the rest of your roster.


You need to understand the expectations of your roster going into the draft. I am sure it is safe to assume you made the best moves leading into the draft, but now is the time to make your big moves. And to make sure you make the best possible moves; know who will be available for your free agency. You do get a finalized few of the available free agents 72 hours prior to the start of your RSO auction draft. But you can start taking a look at that ahead of time to prepare better. Developing this list of available players will help you in your preparation for these players. Whether that is listening for these players on your favorite podcasts or following your top analysts on Twitter. Additionally, you want to try and highlight the positions that your fellow GM’s might target. It is obviously only a best estimate but having a grasp of where you think your opponents will go gives you a gauge on how aggressive you might need to be.


Now that you know your roster and that of your league mates, let’s build that player pool into tiers. My recommendation is that you have your tiers broken down into what you deem equal levels of performance. So in my main league this off-season, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffery are all available during the free agent auction. For me, these are the top tier, the players who can put together week-changing performances and I would be happy to put them out there as my RB1 week-in and week-out. From there, moved into the next tier of running backs and for me, those were the ones I have a current comfort with them be a starter every week, but they become more consistent floor plays and my roster would need to produce points at other positions. And I worked through this process for all positions of need to build out my tiers.


This one is more subjective but is an exercise I still have found helpful. Knowing an NFL player’s contract situation helps you understand how long you may want to commit to their situation or if you want to roll the dice on a change of scenery. Let’s take a look at two WR’s from Kansas City and assume they are available in your league for free agency. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster. MVS just signed a 3 year contract in an offense that has stability at QB and head coach. Looking at his specific contract, there seems to be an easy out in year 3 and possibly year 2. He is currently 28 years old and that 1-2 year window takes him right into his age cliff for a mediocre performer such as himself. But perhaps the 1-2 year window in this offense is worth it? (Everything’s always worth it, at the right cost) Juju on the other hand, has a 1-year contract but is going into his age-26 season. He is entering his prime for his WR career and has proven successful before this year. However, where he is beyond this season is a large variable. Again, there is no specific analytical data here to point one way or another, but just a good thought exercise to run through on your player pool as well.


I mentioned several things in the intro and they all circle around mental awareness and preparedness, and if you took the steps above already, you are more than likely ready to go for the most part. But just as a quick rundown, here they are:

  • If you created your tiers, understand when you are near or at your last person in that tier, especially if you haven’t gotten anyone from it and your roster makeup calls for someone in that tier.
  • Watch your league mates bidding patterns, they will tell more and more about their strategies if you pay attention to it. Are they nominating positions they need or are they nominating throw-aways? If they are putting up players they have no interest in, they may be trying to draw out other teams spent money so they can find value later.
  • Know your financial limits for your tiers and be aggressive in pushing for them. Once these contracts are signed, the only way you are getting these players is through trades and you have limited control there. During free agency in the auction draft, you have much more control.
  • And if you read all of this, you should hopefully have sharpened your mental acuity to succeed in your next and all upcoming RSO free agency auction drafts!

Thanks for the read and best of luck to you in your Reality Sports Online leagues this year! And as always, if you want to reach out for any discussions or comments, you can find me on Twitter @JakeKohlhagen.

More Analysis by Jake

Evaluating Rushers into 2022

Updated: August 8th 2022

Evaluating running backs is a notoriously difficult task using many basic statistics as running back production relies extensively on many factors outside of the back’s control.  The often cited “yards per carry” is one of the single worst NFL statistics in evaluating a player because of these issues.  The following takes a deeper dive evaluating rushing performance by more useful criteria.

The Data

I aggregate 2018-2021 data of running backs with at least 100 carries during that timeframe creating a four-year sample of 112 running backs.  This gives a big enough sample to matter while keeping the data relevant to the evaluation of current NFL players. This article focuses on three key rushing metrics from Pro Football Reference on a per attempt basis: Yards Before Contact (YBC), Yards After Contact (YAC), and Broken Tackles (BRK) to evaluate a group of running backs heading into 2022.

These metrics all depend on outside factors independent of running back skill to some degree.  As examples: offensive line, scheme, situation, and running back role all potentially influence yards before contact; downfield blocking may affect yards after contact;  broken tackle rate can be influenced by how quickly second and later defenders get to the ball carrier.   With that being said, broken tackle rate is widely considered among the most running back independent measures.  The data also suggests it influences yards after contact.  An increase in broken tackle rate correlates with an increase in yards after contact as seen in the plot below.   Yards before contact, on the other hand, displays minimal to no relationship to yards after contact or broken tackle rate (R2 = 0.00 for both) in the data set.

As always, nothing is absolutely certain.  Sometimes we don’t have the available data to properly segregate individual player influences.  Ben Linsey makes an anecdotal case for running back influence on yards before contact:  “The evidence points toward running backs with plus speed and vision being able to consistently avoid contact despite middling to below-average blocking in front of them.”  So, while yards before contact is likely the most team-dependent metric of the three focused in on this article, running back skill also influences it.

The following highlights a number of interesting players heading into the season with ranks of (broken tackles, yards after contact, and yards before contact) from the data sample.

Quality 2nd Year Running Backs to Watch

The hype for Javonte Williams (1 BRK, 33 YAC, 55 YBC) remains strong going into his second season largely due to his ability to break tackles which translated from college.  Williams essentially broke the broken tackle metric in this sample as the top-ranked back.  He more than doubled the average broken tackle rate and was about 18% higher than the next running back in this metric.  The Denver offense should increase scoring opportunities with Russell Wilson at the helm.  The main question is how much Williams’ role increases this year.  Melvin Gordon (27, 35, 47) is absolutely a quality back but wasn’t a priority free agent for the Broncos and only resigned for a marginal deal after failing to secure a bigger contract elsewhere.

Many people call Najee Harris (13, 39, 98) a plodder due to his sub-4 yards per carry figure from his first year.  This is far from the truth.  Pittsburgh’s abysmal offensive line led to one of the worst yards before contact numbers in the dataset which distorted his per carry numbers.  He’s going to get a ton of touches in this offense (which we care about for fantasy).  The offensive line and offense still projects poorly going into the season though.

Elijah Mitchell (44, 15, 57) ranks very similarly to Saquon Barkley (43, 12, 86) and Jonathan Taylor (54, 11, 10) in broken tackles and yards after contact.  San Francisco provides an excellent environment to rack up yards before contact also if Mitchell is able to maintain a hold on most of the rushes.  The lack of passing game utilization for 49er backs limits fantasy upside.

Many project Breece Hall to immediately assume a true workhorse-type role for the Jets after the New York traded up in the 2nd round to get him.  Michael Carter (20, 25, 79) meanwhile performed admirably in a challenging situation last season.  He might just be too good to completely take out of a meaningful role in New York.

Rhamondre Stevenson (3, 8, 91) looked borderline unstoppable at times last year plowing through prospective tacklers for New England.  Does a path exist for him to take over the main back duties or contribute significantly in the passing game?  Incumbent starter Damien Harris (40, 46, 16) ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd highest graded running backs each of the last two seasons.  The Patriots possess an impressive duo at running back no matter how the split plays out.

Green Bay Running Backs

Aaron Jones (25, 22, 15) and AJ Dillon (11, 23, 64) also form one of the butter running back duos for any NFL team.  They complement each other in ways which allow the Packers to utilize both in optimal situations but are both diverse enough to use alone without giving away the play call.  They both make for quality fantasy targets at cost on a Green Bay team without much in the way of proven receiving options.

Josh Jacobs

If one made a list of the most underrated NFL running backs, Josh Jacobs (18, 34, 87) would have to be near the top.  He sits among the most technically sound rushers in the league.  Jacobs ranks as one of the most evasive workhorse backs in the league over the last few seasons.  Only Nick Chubb (6, 1, 39), who I consider the top rusher in the league, compares with Jacobs in terms of making tacklers miss among lead backs as seen in the table below.

Most Forced Missed Tackles on Runs | Since 2019 per Pro Football Focus

Unfortunately for Jacobs, he’s another back stuck behind an awful offensive line the last couple of seasons as evidenced by his 87th ranked yards before carry and probably isn’t getting much better this season.  Some situational concerns also exist with a new coaching staff in Las Vegas this year and failure to utilize the 5th year rookie contract option but Jacobs is in a class of his own for Raiders’ running backs.

Concerns for Cam Akers

It’s been a rough start for Cam Akers (106, 56, 65) who I liked coming out of college.  A devastating Achilles injury short-circuited his second year before it began (he remarkably made his return in 2021, albeit ineffectually) after flashing at the end of his rookie season.  Unfortunately Akers’ body of work leaves a lot to be desired.  He hasn’t shown to be particularly good at any rushing aspect so far. Akers ranks among the worst tackle breakers in the data set next to players past their prime and backups.

Bottom-10 in Broken Tackle Rate

We also don’t know how effective he will be as the history of recovery from Achilles injuries is not encouraging, particularly for running backs.  The Rams were dead last in running back target rate for Stafford’s first season and the offensive line struggles in run blocking.  Akers’ fantasy case really rests on a presumed large rushing workload with touchdown upside for an efficient passing offense.

Cordarrelle Patterson probably won’t Repeat 2021

2021 produced a nice fantasy story for Cordarrelle Patterson (99, 76, 67), the long-time multi-purpose player in his age 30 year.  He beat his previous high in receiving yards and destroyed his previous rushing totals.  Atlanta cast Patterson as the main rusher primarily due to a lack of viable running back options.  The main problem is Patterson just wasn’t very good rushing the ball ranking below average in most categories.  This lack of success shouldn’t be a surprise as Patterson specialized as a returner with occasional wide receiver gadget plays on offense during his career.  While Patterson should maintain some role on offense with plays in the passing game, it’s difficult imagining the Falcons continuing using him as a significant portion of the run game unless his fellow Atlanta running backs fail miserably again.

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