The Amazing, Good, Sad and Embarrassing

Updated: September 19th 2018

The first two weeks of the NFL season are in the books.  If you need a brief overview of what happened, this is the place.  The article looks at some of the outstanding players and teams so far to some of the worst with a couple more topics thrown in.

The Amazing

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Patrick Mahomes

“FitzMagic” is back!  The Harvard-grad leads the NFL after two weeks in passing yards with over 400 per game, in passer rating (151.5), and yards per attempt (13.4) which is almost three more than any other quarterback.  The “Beard” performed this monumental feat despite playing against two defenses which were top-8 in Football Outsider’s pass efficiency last season.  DeSean Jackson provides a big reason for Fitzpatrick’s early success.  The 31 year old is proving his doubters wrong by setting up big plays for Fitzpatrick getting easy deep separation with his game-changing speed.  Jackson leads the league in receiving yards on only nine targets catching each one for a gaudy 30.6 yards per reception.

Not to be outdone, the Kansas City second-year playcaller is setting records early in 2018.  Mahomes already racked up ten touchdowns without throwing an interception leading the Chiefs to a 2-0 start.  He is receiving good pass protection and the assortment of offensive targets makes big plays possible on every snap.  It is a truly outstanding start to his career.

The Good

NFL Passing

Offenses sometimes start slowly the first few weeks of the season thanks to limited practices in the preseason.  That is not the case this year where teams are putting up video game offensive numbers early.  I talked about the expected increase in passing prior to the season but we have witnessed a massive overcorrection so far.  Tom Brady led the NFL in passing last year at 286 yards per game.  There are eleven quarterbacks averaging more so far this year.  Eleven quarterbacks have passer ratings in excess of 100 this season while only five managed that feat last year.  Yardage and scoring are broadly up throughout the league.  This is a great NFL for those who worship offensive football.

Los Angeles Rams

There was some concern out there the Rams might regress somewhat after an amazing 2017.  We must keep in mind the opponents played so far but the early results suggest the concern is unwarranted.  Los Angeles dismantled the Raiders and Arizona on the way to a league-leading +54 point differential.  The Rams rank no worse than 7th in yardage and scoring for both offense and defense highlighted by allowing a league best 6.5 points per game.  The major offseason additions of Cooks, Suh, Peters, and Talib appear to have integrated nicely at this point making for a dangerous team on both sides of the ball.

The Sad

Josh Gordon

The Gordon saga with the Browns finally came to an end this week after a suspension fueled tumultuous time in Cleveland filled with off the field issues.  The hope and promise of a player who led the league in receiving five years ago never fully materialized again for the Browns.  The fact that Gordon is still on an exclusive rights free agent contract seven years after being drafted tells all you need to know about his struggles.  He was traded to New England Monday.  Everyone hopes he succeeds with the Patriots but that concern is a distant second in comparison to hoping he gets his life in order away from the football field.

Buffalo Bills

Many people envisioned the Bills taking a major step backward after winning nine games and making an improbable playoff bid in 2017. The playoff birth was a mirage masking a Buffalo team finishing with a -57 point differential and ranking just 20th in Football Outsiders team efficiency.  The Bills’ coaching staff understood this was not a playoff-worthy roster and started a complete takedown.  The process will be even uglier than most envisioned.  The offensive side of the ball features one of the worst offensive lines in the league after losing two top linemen to retirement and trading a third away.  There are no receiving options which scare any team.  The only real offensive weapon, LeSean McCoy, just suffered a rib injury.  The Bills were even forced to put rookie Josh Allen into the starting lineup after Nathan Peterman predictably was benched yet again.  A mediocre Bills’ defense crumbled under the pressure of an incompetent offense this year yielding a league worst 39 points per game.  Things are so bad Vontae Davis gave up millions to retire at halftime of week two.  Things will get better in Buffalo but 2018 will be a struggle.

The Embarrassing

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona was competitive last year despite big losses during the season.  The Cardinals went 8-8 in 2017 without David Johnson for most of the year while also starting either Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton for over half the season.  New head coach Steve Wilks and the rest of the coaching staff has managed to make a complete mess in Arizona so far this season.  The Cardinals have been outscored by a combined 58 to 6 tally in two lifeless outings on the way to a 0-2 start.  New quarterback Sam Bradford accumulated 346 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions in his last full start for Minnesota.  He has a combined 246 yards and zero touchdowns with two interceptions in two starts for Arizona this year.  This looks like a team destined for a complete top to bottom rebuild with everyone from players to coaches in danger.

Honorable mention: Detroit Lions.  The Lions are another competitive team from last season with a new head coach, Matt Patricia, whom struggled mightily in two games.  The 9-7 team from 2017 has not been close in two contests, including being blown out at home against a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, with players already calling out the new coaching staff.  It could be a rough year for Detroit in a solid NFC conference.

The Giants Offensive Line

Anyone watching the New York-Dallas game Sunday night should easily recognize the huge discrepancy between offensive lines.  Dak Prescott was able to sit back in clean pockets for much of the night while Eli Manning was under constant pressure for almost every dropback forcing short quick dumpoffs and ugly throws.  The Giants’ line struggles continued to the run game where Saquon Barkley was continuously required to make defenders miss nearly as soon as he touched the ball.  New York will not compete this season if new head coach Pat Shurmur does not fix the dreadful offensive line, no matter the wealth of talent at the skill positions.

NFL “Roughing the Passer” Issue

Defenders may not hit the quarterback in the head, or the knees, or the mid-section, or land on them, or pick them up, or…   You get the picture.  What are defenders supposed to do?  Put their hand up as a stop sign and hope the quarterback falls to the ground out of fear?  There is simply no reasonable way for defenders to tackle quarterbacks without being at risk of penalty at this time.  The NFL has vastly overcorrected thanks to high-profile injuries at quarterback last season.  The recent Matthews’ penalty is just the most recent example of the problem that costs teams wins.  The NFL must make a decision as to whether quarterbacks are actual football players or porcelain dolls in need of protection at all costs.  Acknowledge the dangers of the sport and go back to calling the most egregious hits if it is the former.  Use a touch rule or flags to eliminate hitting of quarterbacks altogether If it is the latter.


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

Lessons and Narratives Heading into the Regular Season

Updated: September 2nd 2018

I want to give the reader a few final tips before the NFL season begins next week.  The article includes a key concept in determining potentially undervalued players and also examines some narratives thrown on the fantasy community.  You can use these in your final RSO auctions or evaluating potential roster additions and trades prior to week 1.  Here is hoping everyone has a great upcoming season.

Lesson:  Using Projected Offensive Shares

Finding an edge in fantasy football can be a struggle these days.  There are so many expert rankings and projections out there for the casual fan.  Let me give you a tip to show where one may find fantasy upside utilizing available player projections.  Passing in the NFL is a zero sum game.  What I mean is that all of a quarterback’s passing must be distributed to players on his team.  A quarterback who throws for more yards than another quarterback means his skill players necessarily accumulate more total receiving yards.  A simple concept but how does that help us?  The table below helps us with the question by examining the projections of skill players for three selected teams; San Francisco, Kansas City, and the New York Giants.

Notice right off Jimmy Garoppolo is projected for 400 more passing yards than Eli Manning with equivalent touchdowns and completions; and almost 500 more passing yards than Patrick Mahomes with another touchdown plus over 20 more completions.  Now take a look at the top projected skill players for each quarterback (the RB1, WR1, WR2, and TE1).  Interestingly, San Francisco’s top receiving targets mostly come at a significant discount and lower projection when compared to Kansas City and New York’s top players despite Garoppolo being projected for more passing totals than the other two quarterbacks.  The highlighted projected shares in the last columns can help us understand why.  The top 49er targets are projected for a far smaller portion of Garoppolo’s completions, yardage, and touchdowns than the equivalents from Kansas City and New York.  The San Francisco reception share is at least 15% less, the yardage share at least 17% less, and the touchdown share at least 19% less than the other two teams.

Table 1. Projected Offensive Shares from Fantasy Pros 8/27 Consensus Projections

What are the implications of these differences in shares among teams?  Most importantly, top targets on teams with low projected shares among them offer more upside as a group.  For example, the group of Goodwin, Garcon, Kittle, and McKinnon could reasonably earn another 10% of Garoppolo’s passing totals and still be well under the projected share of Kansas City and New York’s top players as a group.  Each player has the chance to increase fantasy production without decreasing other top player’s production.  Conversely, teams with projected passing shares highly concentrated in its top skill players offer little room for growth as a whole.  Teams like Kansas City and New York already have about 4/5 of the projected passing game production tied up in its top skill players.  There is not much room to add to that portion.  WR3s, WR4s, RB2s, TE2s, and other sub-package skill players will have roles in the offense which limit further production of the top players.  This does not mean that top players on these highly concentrated teams will not exceed projections, just that any increase must necessarily come at the expense of another primary target on the team.

The specific example above may not apply if you do not agree with projections about the quarterbacks in question but the key concept holds for whatever projections you do rely upon.  When you are looking for potential skill player upside beyond projections, examine projected offensive shares of key players for a team.

Narrative 1:  Wide receiver X was ranked Y in 2017.  He should finish around Y again in 2018.

The Reality:  2017 was a down year for passing across the NFL partly because of injuries to starting quarterbacks. Yardage and scoring should increase significantly in 2018.  Quarterbacks and wide receivers which remain stagnant in fantasy scoring will move down the rankings in 2018.

NFL passing has been trending upward for some time.  Rules making it harder for defenses to defend the pass and analytics demonstrating the value of the passing game have resulted in increased passing over the last decade.  That trend came to a crashing halt in 2017.  Total passing yardage in the NFL dropped 7.1% from 2016 to 2017 and was the lowest since 2010.  We saw the fewest passing attempts since 2011 and the lowest yards per attempt since 2010.  This down passing year contributed to total scoring for the league decreasing 4.6% in 2017.  Is this a new trend starting?  I highly doubt it.  A number of short term factors influenced the problems in passing across the league.  Green Bay (-25%), Indianapolis (-31%), and Arizona (-12%) all posted considerably less passing yardage thanks to injuries to quality starting quarterbacks for example.  The injury rate should subside in 2018, especially among the better quarterbacks, increasing passing yardage in the NFL.

The decreased passing transferred to wide receivers in fantasy.  Jordy Nelson and T.Y. Hilton, for example, went from WR1s in 2016 to unreliable fantasy assets largely due to Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck missing action.  The sliding of top wide receivers necessarily moved others up the rankings.  Golden Tate finished 2017 with almost identical fantasy output as 2016 but moved up the rankings four spots.  The chart below details the phenomenon in a more general way.  A player scoring 12 points per game in 2017 was a fairly decent flex option in most leagues ranking 28th in per game scoring.  That same player was barely usable as a bye week fill-in for the 2016 season ranking a whopping 14 spots below the same 2017 player.  Remember that 2017 was an anomaly in the passing game when valuing players for 2018.

 

Table 2.  Wide Receiver Fantasy Points per Game (PPG) Scoring in PPR Leagues, 2016 vs. 2017

 

Narrative 2:  Quarterback X targeted position Y a lot on his old team.  He will do so again on his new team.

The Reality:  Quarterbacks throw to players based on personnel talents and coaching scheme, not because of individual preference for a certain position.

Let’s examine two quarterbacks this narrative has been thrust upon, Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins.  The story goes these quarterbacks like throwing to tight ends and will continue to do so with their new teams.  There is no doubt Alex Smith utilized the tight end position extensively in his career with both San Francisco and Kansas City.  Both teams finished highly in tight end target percentage on multiple occasions.  However, we must look at who he was throwing to.  Smith had Vernon Davis, a top-6 overall draft pick who is one of the top athletes to ever enter the league, in San Francisco.  The Chiefs ranked 5th or better in tight end target percentage each of the last four years but that was with the super being known as Travis Kelce as the TE1.  Washington has also targeted tight ends heavily under Cousins, ranking top-10 in tight end target rate each of the last three seasons.  That was with Jordan Reed, one of the most dynamic receiving weapons at the tight end position, and the afore-mentioned Vernon Davis (when Reed is not healthy) primarily manning the tight end spot.

Kansas City ranked next to last in Smith’s first season with team, however.  Anthony Fasano was the TE1 that season.  This story plays out over and over again with quarterbacks and coordinators adjusting for personnel.  Tom Brady throws significantly to tight ends when he is Rob Gronkowski, not when the TE1 is Michael Hoomanawanui.  Greg Olsen has been a key target of Cam Newton’s for years, not so much for Ed Dickson last year when Olsen was injured.  One may expect Smith to heavily target Reed (at least when he is on the field) because he is a tremendous receiver, not because he happens to play tight end.  We should not expect the lumbering Kyle Rudolf to become a focal point of Cousins’ in Minnesota simply because Cousins previously targeted tight ends at a high rate.  Players matter.


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

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 18th 2018

The early RSO auction value examination concludes with the wide receiver position.  Receivers offer the most choices among fantasy positions with the deepest group of quality options available.  The problem with all that depth is the lack of clear separation in projection from one player to the next, especially as you move away from the top performers.  Let’s take a look at some of the top paid receivers in RSO leagues working through some of the good and bad situations to get a better grasp of players for the coming season.

The reader may find links to previous articles in the series below in preparation for upcoming auctions.

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: RBs

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: TEs

 

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

Top Targets (WR1-9)

The case for Brown is very easy.  He finished inside the top three wide receivers in PPR leagues since every season since 2012.   Hopkins garnered 151+ targets each of the last three seasons.  Apparently only Brock Osweiler can limit his fantasy success.  In case you forgot after an injury ruined his 2017 season, Beckham Jr. has never finished outside the top-4 in PPR points per game.  There is more volume competition in New York than ever before with second overall pick Saquon Barkley and second year phenom Evan Engram.  Thomas racked up an absurd 52% of the Saints receivers’ targets in 2017 on his second consecutive year with at least 92 receptions and 1,137 yards.  That percentage of the pie probably decreases in 2018 but an increase in New Orleans passing volume could balance the effect as the Saints went from one of the most pass happy teams to middle of the pack last season.  The inconsistency of Jameis Winston and random nature of touchdowns is in full view when one looks at Evans who scored 12 touchdowns in two seasons and five or less in his other two years.  He holds a decent floor with four 1,000 yard seasons to start a career.  Allen averages 163 targets, 112 receptions, and 1.396 yards per 16 games over the last three seasons and the Chargers lost potential breakout Hunter Henry already.  For whatever reason, Jones has never been a huge touchdown scorer finishing with just three TDs last year.  That means a potential discount for a player with four consecutive 80+ catch, 1,400+ yard seasons.  2017 also felt like a disappointing year for Green who saw his lowest standard PPG of his career.  Look for a rebound from Green and a Cincinnati offense who struggled last season with injuries and an underperforming offensive line where upgrades have been made this offseason.  Adams scored 22 touchdowns the last two seasons and gets back Aaron Rodgers.  This is still a player averaging below 12 yards per reception for his career with no 1,000 yard receiving seasons.

Potential WR1s with Risk (WR10-22)

Hill might count as the most explosive player in the NFL with six 50+ yard plays last season.  His relatively low volume combined with increased target competition and new quarterback makes for a risky WR1 option.  Robinson produced a huge 1,400 yard season in 2015 but the resume is barren otherwise. Uncertainty abounds returning from an ACL-tear with a young QB and unknown role in new offense.  Cooks posted three consecutive 1.000 yard seasons with Brees and Brady at QB.  No receiver in a Sean McVay offense (Washington or the Rams) amassed a 21% target share in any of the last four years.  Thielen and Diggs should dominate targets in Minnesota from new QB Kirk Cousins on what should be a quality passing attack.  Cooper ranked just 51st in receiving yards from a disastrous 2017 season despite a monstrous 210 yard game.  New coach Jon Gruden gives hope to those looking for a return to Cooper’s promising first two years.  Jeffrey played through a severe shoulder injury last year and might not be ready to start the season but remains one of the top targets in the Eagles passing attack.  The 21 year old Smith –Schuster impressed his rookie season gaining 75+ yards in 5 of his last 7 games.  He remains behind both Brown and Bell for targets in the Steelers’ offense but looks like a quality long-term investment.  Baldwin should dominate targets on a depth chart with little competition.  Questions surround the Seattle wide receiver going into season with a mysterious knee injury that will keep him from most of preseason.  Davis is a popular breakout receiver on a revamped Tennessee offense with new coaching staff.  Lot of competition for targets exists on a likely low-volume passing attack in Cleveland where Landry and Gordon will fight for main billing.  Landry’s prospects increase daily as Gordon remains away from camp.   The depth chart in Indianapolis behind Hilton is one of the shallowest in the league.  His top-level production possibilities remain tied to Andrew Luck’s health.

Lots of Quality Options, Upside, and Questions Left (WR23+)

Detroit boasts one of the most stable WR duos in Tate and Jones on a regular top-10 volume passing offense.  Thomas leads the Denver receiving core with what should be an upgrade at QB.  Fitzgerald posted 108+ receptions in three consecutive seasons and gets check-down machine Bradford at QB.  Kansas City paid Watkins a huge amount to be a big part of the offense but his role is uncertain given the other weapons for the Chiefs.  The Rams’ receiving core projects as a three-headed monster with similar target shares for Cupp, Woods, and Cooks.  Funchess’ role becomes unclear with the addition of rookie Moore plus the return of Olsen and Samuel.  Will Parker take control of a Miami receiving group previously predicated on short passing to Jarvis Landry?  Crowder heads a deep receiving group in Washington with lots of talent but injury questions and little on-field production.  Is Edelman the same player at 32 after a torn ACL and PED suspension?  Will Bryant find a meaningful role in a revamped Oakland offense?  Benjamin should be a target hog on one of the worst offenses in football.  Similar to Benjamin, Crabtree could head the receiving core for a low-upside, Flacco-led Baltimore offense.  Nelson goes from one of the most efficient passers in history (Rodgers) to one of the least efficient passers in his time in the league (Carr).  An owner can pay WR4/5 prices for Garcon and Goodwin on a projected top-10 passing offense.  Anderson is the top receiver for the Jets but could be hit with a suspension at any time.  Cobb remains a quality flex option as the WR2 on a Rodgers-led passing attack whenever he is healthy.  Questions remain on how long that may be.

Interesting Names outside the Top-50

Hogan (55) is the only returning starting receiver for New England from last year with Edelman suspended to start the year.  Sanders (59) suffered through bad QB play and ankle injuries in Denver last year but could achieve near-Thomas target levels.  It is conceivable Stills (60), Wilson (93), or Amendola (99) ends up leading the Dolphins in receptions.  Lockett (63) flashed explosive play-making ability at times in Seattle and the Seahawk receiving depth chart is very shallow, particularly with questions about Baldwin’s availability.  Matthews (68) might still be the number one target in Tennessee with a new, hopefully improved, offensive scheme.


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

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 2nd 2018

Our early RSO auction value examination moves to the tight end position.  The group is among the least valuable positions in most fantasy football leagues with very few reliable options.  What little value exists overwhelmingly resides in the top few options.  The combined duties of blocking and receiving for most tight ends make weekly fantasy consistency an issue.  The NFL has seen an injection of talent at the position in recent drafts, however, and we are left waiting to determine who will emerge.

The reader may find links to previous articles in the series below in preparation for upcoming auctions.

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: RBs

Average RSO Tight End Contracts

Set It and Forget It (TE1-3)

We have a new player atop tight end salaries for the first time in recent memory.  The dynamic Kelce finished each of the last two seasons as the overall TE1 accumulating 83+ receptions each year.  He carries more uncertainty going forward with brand new starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and increased target competition in the form of heavily paid Sammy Watkins.  No tight end provides the kind of advantage Gronkowski does on a weekly basis.  He possesses ridiculous yardage and touchdown upside from being tied to one of the best quarterbacks of all time and atypical usage with deep targets abound.  The entertaining “Gronk” has not closed a season outside the top-8 in points per game since his rookie season and only once during that time has he not ended as the overall TE1 or TE2 in PPG.  Health remains the primary concern for someone who has not played a full 16 games in the last 6 seasons.  The model of consistency award goes to Philadelphia Eagle Zach Ertz who comes at a discount compared to the top two tight ends but without their upside. His receptions ranged from 74 to 78 over the last three seasons while his yardage spanned from 816 to 853.  The touchdowns spiked in 2017 doubling his previous high to eight resulting in the TE3 scorer.  He is a candidate for negative touchdown regression correspondingly with his third year signal caller Carson Wentz.

Uncertainty Already (TE4-8)

Engram  produced one of the top fantasy seasons from a rookie tight end thanks in part to a rash of injuries to Giants’ receivers.  Volume likely drops significantly in 2018 with the return of Beckham and a more balanced offense including top pick Saquon Barkley.  Engram should see a spike in efficiency to counterbalance the reduced volume.  Offensive line deficiencies forced Engram to lineup as an inline tight end nearly 70% of the time and reduced his receiving usage to primarily low depth of target opportunities.  Offensive line upgrades this offseason should allow deeper routes and more usage at his natural move tight end spot where his ridiculous 4.4 forty speed and dynamic receiving skills can be better put to use.  Foot injuries doomed Olsen to his worst season as pro in 2017 but previously he posted three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.  A lot of changes occurred in the offseason with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the addition of 1st round wide receiver D.J. Moore plus the return of last year’s second round pick Curtis Samuel.  We have also seen time and time again how foot injuries linger contributing to other lower body problems and late-career (Olsen is 33) injuries are especially difficult to come back from.  Graham is not the same dynamic player he once was thanks to a serious knee injury but any receiver, particularly one with Graham’s receiving skill-set, holds massive touchdown upside in Green Bay.  The story for Reed never changes.  He remains one of the top options at the position when he plays finishing as the PPR TE1 on a per game basis in 2016 and 2015.  Unfortunately he never played a full season in the NFL.  Gesicki showed off an amazing athletic profile at the NFL combine and there are a lot of targets up for grabs in Miami.  Rookie tight ends rarely do much of anything.  Do not get sucked in.

 

Young Upside Plays and Low Upside Veterans (TE9-15)

The Browns hope last year’s athletic first round pick Njoku makes a big second year leap.  He must contend with another athletic player, Seth Devalve, for tight end targets with a low volume passer and a receiving group which added target-hog Jarvis Landry.  Rudolf exceeded 532 yards in a season just once while averaging less than 10 yards per reception over his career.  The huge tight end holds solid touchdown upside which keeps him the low end TE1 conversation.  An ACL tear already ended the season for Henry.  He is a strong long-term buy grading out very well his first two seasons in the league.  It is conceivable Burton, who Chicago paid a lot of money in free agency, becomes the focal point of an almost completely rebuilt Bears passing attack.  The undersized former undrafted free agent might also remain a limited-use niche weapon in the passing game.  Walker posted four consecutive 800+ yard seasons while never exceeding 7 touchdowns.  Look for mid to low TE1 numbers again on a team without much in receiving weapons.  The uber-athletic Kittle represents a cheap option for those looking to get a piece of the Garoppolo-led San Francisco offense on a team without much in redzone targets.  He ceded more work to running-mate Garrett Celek in the second half of the season, never seeing above 56% of the snaps in the last eight games.  The story of Eifert reads similarly to Reed.  He grades out as one of the top all-around tight ends when on the field and an unstoppable force near the endzone.  Unfortunately Eifert played just 39 games in his first five seasons and is not yet ready to go for training camp.

Cheap Flyers (TE16+)

The Indianapolis tight end battle will be fun to watch with Doyle and Ebron battling for targets and Andrew Luck seemingly set to return.  The Colts have practically zero proven receiving talent behind T.Y. Hilton and Luck has utilized multiple tight ends in the past so both could hold value.  Last year’s first tight end drafted, Howard, is likely blocked from big fantasy relevance this season with fellow tight end Brate in the picture and a strong receiving core for Tampa Bay but both tight ends could be stream-worthy.  Cook led the Raiders in receiving yards last season and Oakland lost target-hog Michael Crabtree.  The situation is murky with the addition of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to go along with a new Jon Gruden offense.  McDonald is easily the best receiving tight end in Pittsburgh and got more involved at the end of the year culminating with a 112 yard eruption in the playoffs.  Injuries and questionable hands have limited effectiveness over his career.  The best receiving option in Buffalo might be Clay who has over 500 yards in five consecutive seasons.  Buffalo could produce the most ineffective offense in the league with a rookie or backup level QB at the helm and Clay has not played a full season in five years.  Seals-Jones has a golden opportunity with the Arizona tight end spot up for grabs.   Jermaine Gresham is coming off an Achilles tear opening the door.  The former wide receiver found some limited receiving success last season but his prospects going forward will largely depend on if he can make himself into a competent blocker which would allow him to stay on the field for more snaps.


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

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: July 21st 2018

Our early RSO auction value examination moves to the running back group.  No other position offers the immense value upside possible with running backs or the basement-level downside associated with uncertainty in many backfields.  The investments an RSO owner makes at the position will go a long way in determining the success of their team.  The reader may find links to previous articles in the series below in preparation for upcoming auctions.

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Average RSO Running Back Contracts

Potential Workhorses (RB1-10)

The expectations for Barkley are unbelievably high (probably too high) and it is shown in his contracts.  We must keep in mind the very small sample of rookies in RSO auctions, and one auction really distorted his price upward but even without that auction, Barkley still ranks as one of the highest paid players in RSO auctions.  Gurley, Bell, Johnson, and Elliott all bestow 2,000+ yard and 350+ touch upside for lucky owners.  Gurley likely sees some regression after one of the biggest fantasy seasons in recent memory.  Bell might start slow if he shows up late again due to his ongoing contract negotiation with Pittsburgh and has longer term question marks after this season.  Johnson carries increased downside with a bad offensive line and new quarterback at the helm in Arizona.  Elliott does not have the same type of upside as the other three in this group for PPR leagues.

Second year players fill six of the next seven highest contracts.  Kamara does not fit cleanly in this group of players but should see a slight increase in workload following Mark Ingram’s suspension.  His volume ceiling remains closer to 250 compared to the 350+ the top backs absorb which, combined with likely touchdown and efficiency regression in 2018, keeps him out of the top tier backs.  Hunt led the league in rushing last year, the second year in a row a rookie (Elliott in 2016) has pulled off the feat.  He remains a key piece for the Chiefs but the offense is riskier with second year Patrick Mahomes taking over at quarterback for the first season as NFL starter.  Cook returns from an ACL-tear after playing only four games last year.  Jerick McKinnon moving to San Francisco vacates a big chunk of receiving work in the backfield which is good news for Cook when he is healthy.  Fournette is the focus of the Jacksonville offense and the Jaguars added top free agent lineman Andrew Norwell to the mix this offseason.  He struggled with lower body injuries the last two seasons.  Gordon‘s 16-game average over the last two seasons is 297 carries, 1,650 total yards, 54 receptions, and 13 touchdowns.  His offensive line run blocking is near the bottom but could improve with some positive injury luck though the perpetually unlucky Chargers have already lost Hunter Henry for the year.

Committees, Rookies, and Bad Situations (RB11-26)

McCaffrey’s workload was very similar to Kamara’s last year and was near the top of backs with a 70% snap rate.  He gets a big PPR boost.  Mixon possesses one of the best all-around skill-sets of any young back.  The offensive line is a mess despite key offseason additions and underrated Gio Bernard will take significant work, particularly in the receiving game.  Freeman ranked no lower than 14th in PPR PPG the last three years though dropping significantly each year.  Fellow back Tevin Coleman’s significant presence limits Freeman’s touches.  No legitimate early down competition exists for Howard in Chicago.  New head coach Matt Nagy will employ a more pass-heavy scheme which favors fellow back Tarik Cohen as Howard is one of the worst pass catching backs in the league.  McCoy should rank as one of the top volume backs in 2018 with significant receiving work.  The Bills offensive situation is among the worst in the league after losing three quality offensive linemen, a complete unknown at QB, and limited receiving weapons.  The current allegations against McCoy make him a massive risk.  McKinnon lands in a great scheme which fits his skill-set superbly.  He may not receive the huge volume in San Francisco of other running back touch leaders.

This is the point where RSO owners start paying for the non-Barkley rookies.  Guice, Penny, Chubb, Jones, and Michel find themselves among the next nine highest contracts.  Guice should dominate rushing down work behind a good offensive in what should be a balanced offense for Washington.  Receiving specialist Chris Thompson limits his receiving game work.  Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said the team envisions Penny, a great size/speed specimen, as a “three-down back” after taking him in the first round of the NFL draft.  Penny was horrific as a pass protector in college and plays behind a very questionably Seahawk offensive line.  Chubb, a strong stout north south runner, will battle Carlos Hyde for work in Cleveland.  Like Guice, Chubb’s role will be limited with pass-catching specialist Duke Johnson on hand if he takes the early down spot.  The explosive Jones benefits from very limited competition in the Tampa Bay backfield.  His relatively slight stature may result in limited touches on a weekly basis.  Michel has a great all around skill-set for a great New England offense.  His role is uncertain in a deep, diverse running back group and he must clean up his fumbling issues from college.

The Titans’ new staff handpicked Dion Lewis who probably fits the new offense better than Henry.  Henry will have a significant role but is more game script dependent than Lewis.  Ingram’s upside is RB1 production once back from suspension.  The downside is a trip to Sean Payton’s doghouse and complete fantasy irrelevancy (See Willie Snead last year) with his suspension replacements showing well.  He is a risky buy.  Not a lot of talent exists behind Ajayi in Philadelphia with Corey Clement and a 35 year old Darren Sproles returning from an ACL tear as the top competition for touches, plus averaged 5.8 YPC behind a great OL there.  The Eagles have shown a penchant for using deep committees under head coach Doug Pederson no matter the personnel.  Opportunity exists for Drake who displayed true excellence following Jay Ajayi’s trade and heads a depth chart with only 35 year old Frank Gore and 4th round rookie Kalen Ballage.  Drake is a very lean back with extensive injury history and only held consistent fantasy relevance after Ajayi moved and fellow back Damien Williams was injured.  Miller logged one of the highest snap percentages in the league (69%) among running backs in 2017 and should see increased touchdown opportunities with better QB play.  Houston’s awful running scheme and league-worst offensive line, which did not add significant pieces in the offseason, caps efficiency and yardage total.

Question Marks (RB27+)

Collins came out of nowhere becoming one of the better rushers last year for Baltimore. Overall usage may be limited by more complete backs on roster, Allen and Dixon.  Freeman should dominate touches in Denver with a solid all-around skill-set.  The Broncos have a strange fascination with Devontae Booker in a questionable offense with new quarterback.  Johnson’s role in Detroit’s committee ranks among the most difficult to forecast.   Riddick projects as the better pass-catcher with Blount taking a lot of short yardage work.  The Indianapolis backfield’s fantasy value largely depends on the health of Andrew Luck.  New head coach Frank Reich likely uses a committee approach consisting of rookies Hynes and Wilkins with second year pro Mack.   No Green Bay running back ranks higher than 37th in average salary for a high scoring Rodgers-led attack.  That situation will change with word of Jones’ suspension as Williams will look to cement his place at the top of the depth chart.  Crowell walks in with the upper-hand for a low-upside early down job on a poor New York team with bad offensive line.  All kinds of questions exist for the new Jon Gruden Raiders.  That uncertainty extends to the Oakland ground game where RSO owners are not buying into any of the current backs.  32 year old Lynch leads a group which added Doug Martin to the mix this offseason.


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.

 

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Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Updated: July 4th 2018

My annual look at early RSO auction values begins at the quarterback position in 2018.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.

Average RSO Quarterback Contracts

Paying up (QB1-10)

Aaron Rodgers once again comes in as the most expensive quarterback.  The Packers lack any real speed threat at wide receiver which could hurt his efficiency somewhat but he is the best pure passer in the business.  Wilson seems an easy choice between him and Watson or Wentz at their similar contracts.  I detailed the potential pitfalls for Watson and Wentz coming after their super seasons in 2017.  No one should be paying for Luck at his QB7 price point given his substantial injury risk.  Newton and Brady provide similar upside at comparable cost without the risk.  The top-10 finishes with an interesting group of quarterbacks.  Cousins finished as a QB1 each of the last three seasons and now moves to a Minnesota team this year with arguably better receiving weapons.  The Vikings feature a far superior defense and better running game which might limit Cousins passing volume.  We only have seven starts over the last two seasons to evaluate Garoppolo from but that sample is truly extraordinary.   He completed 68% of his passes, averaged over 280 passing yards per game, and owns a monstrous 8.7 yards per attempt over that span on his way to a 7-0 record without a single poor start.  His quick release and consistent down-to-down play are easily evident on tape and only confirm the statistics.  Brees produced his worst fantasy season in recent memory thanks largely to a massive drop-off in passing attempts.  While we likely are through with the upper-600 yearly pass attempts which were previously routine, look for a bump in yardage and touchdowns this season.

The Value Tier (QB11-20)

This tier of players gives us both some nice reliable options and younger quarterbacks with upside but lots of question marks.  The tier is bookended by two second year pros.  Mahomes possesses an arsenal of quality receiving weapons in KC and a cannon for an arm with good athleticism. Will Reid be able to reign in his poor decision making and inconsistent accuracy?   Trubisky enters his sophomore year with a year of experience under his belt and new head coach Matt Nagy from the Reid coaching line.  Chicago undoubtedly upgraded the receiving options but one-year wonder Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, and rookie Anthony Miller are largely unproven.   Stafford represents a safe floor with no less than 4,200 passing yards in each of the last seven seasons.  Prescott looked like a rising young star his first year and a half with a super offensive line and run game.  He looked like a backup-level quarterback the second half of last season who completely fell apart when the offensive line took an injury-hit and Elliott missed time.  Goff went from one of the worst rookie seasons ever to one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league under Sean McVay.  Mariota and Winston enter the the final year of their rookie deals showing flashes of starting-level talent but neither living up to their lofty draft status so far.  Winston starts the year with a three-game suspension and will try to reign in his mistake-prone tendencies.  Mariota gets a new head coach but questions remain whether he is simply a quality game-manager.  Roethlisberger and Ryan give us good value at the 16th and 17th spot.  The Steeler quarterback has received a physical beating over the years but is still a quality fantasy and real-life producer at the position when on the field.  Ryan is a good bounce-back candidate who should see big boosts in yardage and touchdowns.  Carr has been one of the least efficient starters in the league over his four years in the NFL.  His contract could be cut following 2018 if things go poorly in the first year of the Gruden regime.

Going Cheap (QB21+)

Our rookie quarterbacks start coming off the board now (Note there was a limited sample of auctions with rookies as most went in rookie drafts).  Rosen leads the way soon followed by Mayfield, Jackson, and Darnold while Allen is an afterthought near the bottom of our top-40 list.  Jackson is a quality stash on your roster.  He has, by far, the most work to do to become an NFL-ready quarterback but is capable of 1,000 yard rushing seasons which translates to massive fantasy upside.  Allen probably ends up on a lot of my rosters at his next-to nothing cost.  Quarterbacks drafted that high almost always make it through their rookie contracts as starters, even bad ones (see Blake Bortles), and his athleticism with unworldly arm strength give him underrated fantasy possibilities.  Smith just posted his best season as a pro at the age of 33 and moves to pass-friendly Washington where Kirk Cousins posted multiple QB1 seasons.  The system and lots of receiving talent make a Rich Gannon-type late career finish possible.  No quarterback provides more value than Rivers if you are not spending big at the position.  He finished 8th or better in passing yards each of the last five seasons with four top-5 finishes and 12th or better in touchdowns with three top-5 finishes.  Taylor, Bradford, Flacco, and McCown/Bridgewater are wild cards who all have 1st round rookie picks drafted by their teams behind them.  The amount of games played this season by each largely depends on team circumstances where competitive teams probably keep the veteran in.  Injury concerns also follow Bradford.  Bortles, Manning, Tannehill, and Dalton all surprisingly enter the year with no significant competition, either through the draft or free agency, to replace them.   They each should be safe for another season.  You will not feel particularly good riding anyone of them each week but some combination of the four could make for an intriguing super-low cost weekly matchup-based unit for your team with all pricing in QB30+ territory.


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