Roster Dynamics

Updated: July 3rd 2019

Dynamics sounds like a very technical term that might intimidate some people.  It really should not.  Definitions of dynamics may include something as simple as a process of change or the properties which affect change.  With regards to roster value in the fantasy football realm, this article focuses on how selected properties change our roster value over time and how these forces are affected by different league settings.  In particular, we look at the following primary sources of roster value change in this article: rookie draft picks, free agent auction acquisitions, waiver wire additions, trades, and changes in player values.

Why do we care about how our roster value changes?  The aforementioned properties can have big implications for how we approach initial fantasy start-ups and our off-season team building.  How do we maintain a competitive roster year to year for example?  The following gives the basics for thinking about how your team changes in value and the consequences of such changes.

Rookie Draft Picks

Rookie picks effectively make up a roster’s “income stream” from year to year in dynasty leagues and they are a primary source of added value each year to rosters in RSO leagues.  Each team reliably obtains a number of these picks each year, the number associated with how many rounds are included in a league’s draft.  There is a random component to how valuable these picks are due to uncertainty of each team’s relative finish before the season ends, quality of incoming rookie class, and other factors.  Rookie picks also tend to be relatively more easily transferrable when compared to specific players.

Key Considerations:  While the number of picks each team gets is typically the same for every team, the expected value of those picks can be vastly different.  The value of rookie picks from bad or rebuilding teams will typically far exceed that of competitive teams because rookie pick value is typically weighted so heavily toward the top picks.

League size also has a big impact on rookie pick values.  Two competing factors influence the impact of league size.  Bigger leagues with more teams lead to more starting players needed in the league making each startable player and consequently each draft pick more valuable (Note this analysis also applies to leagues with deeper starting requirements which make draft picks more valuable than in shallower leagues).   On the other hand, bigger leagues mean the average draft position of rookie picks decreases.  For example, the average rookie pick spot in the first and second rounds would be 5.5 and 15.5 in 10-team leagues where they would be 10.5 and 30.5 in 20-team leagues.  That is a huge discrepancy in values for random picks.  This latter effect dominates the earlier because the value of later draft picks drops so dramatically when compared to the relatively small increase in value due to increased starting requirements.

Free Agent Auction Acquisitions

This is the staple of roster change in RSO leagues.   Salary cap not spent on current contracts and rookies are available for the free agent auction.  The available free agents, current team rosters, available salary cap dollars, and other factors may vary dramatically from team to team and year to year.  This means applying a unique strategy to your free agent auction each year.

Key Considerations:  The number and length of available contracts in league settings has a big impact on the available player pool as the league moves forward each season.  A higher number of contracts available each year naturally leads to less players available for future free agent auctions as your league progresses.  This decrease in the supply of talent may eventually increase the prices of players during the free agent auction and trades.

In-season Free Agent and Waiver Wire Additions

Typical dynasty leagues setup a blind bidding pool for unrostered players with bidding periods taking place during the off-season and in-season.  For RSO leagues, whatever salary cap dollars not spent in the free agent auction are now available during the season for players not on contract and the waiver wire for claiming dropped player contracts.  The key implication of this is that a team’s yearly auction strategy directly impacts in-season additions.  Spending more cap dollars in the free agent auction reduces the cap available for in-season additions.

Key Considerations:  Many view roster size as the key component in waiver wire strategy.  The available player pool decreases as roster sizes grow larger.  Teams are more able to hold speculative players such as running back handcuffs and development rookies.  This provides less incentive to not utilize your salary cap dollars in the free agent auction.

There are a couple of arguments for holding more of your cap dollars to address in-season additions in certain situations.  First, many RSO startups and free agent auctions occur prior to NFL rosters and depth charts being set which means RSO teams speculate on which players win NFL battles for the last starting wide receiver or backup running back.  An RSO owner who spends more of their cap during the season may have an information advantage in many instances as NFL depth charts are mainly set at this point.  Second, more available in-season cap dollars gives an RSO team more flexibility in trade negotiations.  Teams up against the salary cap may be forced into including assets they do not want to give up as a way to make the trade work for cap purposes.

Trades

If rookie picks are the building blocks of fantasy teams, trades represent the transformation process for fantasy rosters in which we make our roster into the type we want.  We may divide trades into a few broad categories or combination of them.  Inter-positional trades involve exchanging players from one position group to another, such as trading a running back for a wide receiver.  Inter-temporal trades concern moving value in one time frame to another, for example a team trading cheaper rookie picks or a longer-term player in exchange for a more expensive shorter-term player.  A less common scenario, intra-positional trades, sees teams trading players from the same position group.  RSO leagues offer another alternative.  Salary cap space itself is an asset in RSO leagues.  We may therefore see trades in which one team gives up assets in order to gain salary cap space such as giving rookie draft picks in exchange for that team taking on a bad contract.

One thing we should note is that trades are not a zero sum game.  Both teams in a trade may increase their short-term winning chances by upgrading one position group at the expense of another position of strength.  A rebuilding team may sacrifice short-term production, which has zero or negative value to that particular team, in exchange for longer-term assets such as rookie picks.

Key Considerations:  View the league positional starting requirements.  One of the reasons I prefer leagues with increased quarterback and tight end values is that it opens up another world for trading.  Many basic fantasy leagues have so little separation between the values of most tight ends and quarterbacks that they are rarely more than simple “add-ons” for trades between other positions.  There exists no real motivation to make trades centered on wide receivers or running backs in exchange for tight ends or quarterbacks given the supply differences between the positions.  Adding value to quarterbacks and tight ends (by adding more starting spots to those positions for example) greatly increases the potential trade activity in many leagues.

Changes in Player Values

A funny thing happens in fantasy football when looking at player values.  Players are continuously depreciating assets meaning they are always losing production value.  Each year or game played is one more taken off the lifetime value of that player.  We just do not necessarily know ahead of time what that future production value will look like.  The market or trade value of a player, however, may see drastic ups and downs on a weekly basis.  New information such as injuries, suspensions, coaching, and surrounding depth charts makes a big impact on how the fantasy community views a player’s future production.

Key Considerations:  Maximize the difference between production value and trade value by acquiring players at valleys or trading away players at peaks in market value.  This requires anticipation of changes to a player’s situation such as moving up a depth chart or potentially moving teams to one with better surrounding talent.  We also must consider the sustainability of recent production factoring in the natural ups and downs of statistical production which happens to all players.

Main Takeaway

It is never easy maintaining a consistent winner year to year in fantasy football.  That task becomes even more difficult in deeper competitive leagues as the number of teams gets larger and larger.  This is particularly true in startups.  The primary avenues of adding roster value no longer produce enough talent to continuously improve your team as leagues get deeper with more teams. Rookie picks become less and less valuable.  The free agent pool eventually shrinks to players with little value.  The waiver wire becomes practically barren.   The focus of teams must move more toward trading for value and acquiring players which can reasonably see upticks in market value to trade later or accumulating those with market values below anticipated production levels.    


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 2019 Value Targets

Updated: May 30th 2019

Sometimes the fantasy community is slow to catch on.  Maybe fantasy footballers have not had the time to evaluate new coaches, rookies, and players in different situations.  That makes early season auctions some of the most potentially profitable for those willing to do the homework.  Below you will find a number of players with secure roles and ability to easily outperform their cost.  The FantasyPros ADP at time of this writing is listed to give the reader an idea of relative price point.  The reader should make an attempt to acquire these players if valued by owners near the market worth before the consensus catches on.

Quarterback

Kyler Murray, QB22

There is a lot to like about Murray’s fantasy prospect, even as a rookie.  The overall number one pick should start immediately.  Arizona invested heavily at wide receiver in the NFL draft with two receivers in the first four rounds.  David Johnson provides a strong presence in both the run and passing game.  The Kliff Kingsbury spread offense will likely feature one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL.  The big question is whether the offense works in the NFL against top-level athletes and if the offensive line can do enough to make it possible.

Why the consensus is too low:  People underestimate his rushing upside and the general uncertainty of this offense at the NFL level scares some.  The consensus projection puts Murray around 460 rushing yards at 4.6 yards per carry.  Those numbers should be closer to his floor than his projection.  Murray reportedly runs the forty-yard dash in the 4.4 second range and rushed for 1,000 yards last year at Oklahoma.  The Arizona offensive line should be better on the injury front however no major investment was made in the draft or free agency for the worst offensive line in football.  Murray will be scrambling a lot and his physical tools should ensure efficiency.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB21

Oh how the fantasy community darlings have fallen.  Just a year ago, Garoppolo was a low-end QB1 for many fantasy gamers.  You can now buy him as a borderline QB2/3 after an ACL-tear finished his season in his third game with some commentators deeming him injury-prone.  The 49ers invested heavily in skill players this offseason taking two wide receivers in the first 67 picks.  They also signed speedster running back Tevin Coleman to bolster a solid backfield.  We have not even talked about how George Kittle broke the receiving yardage record for tight ends yet.

Why the consensus is too low:  Shanahan cures many ills.  San Francisco racked up a respectable 3,867 passing yards (15th) at an impressive 8.0 yards per attempt (9th) despite playing with backup quarterbacks most of the season, losing top running back Jerick McKinnon before the year started, with speedster wide receiver Marquise Goodwin in and out of the lineup.   The defense also gave up the fifth most points in the league in 2018.  Garappolo is going to throw the ball a lot in 2019 with a vastly improved skill-player core and he is going to be efficient doing it.  Don’t be surprised if he ends up top-5 in passing yardage.

Others to consider:  Lamar Jackson (QB17) and Josh Allen (QB21) racked up big rushing totals last season in different ways which led to some big fantasy production.  Baltimore designed many rushing plays for Jackson where Allen mainly scrambled on passing plays for his rushing.  Jackson provides the higher weekly floor and additional injury-risk due to the amount of carries and relatively lean frame.  Allen is the more volatile play but one with far more upside as a passer and further developed than Jackson.

Running Back

Kalen Ballage, RB55

The situation in Miami looks bleak on its surface with a new quarterback and an offensive line among the worst last season.  Looks can be deceiving.  The Dolphins spent significant capital upgrading the offensive line in the draft and Rosen or Fitzpatrick could easily be an upgrade over Tannehill.  Ballage is a size-speed specimen who will be the big-back part of the committee to Kenyan Drake.  Backs priced similarly to Ballage include receiving specialists, backups, and guys hoping to make the roster, not players who reasonably might lead a committee.

Why the consensus is too low:  Many believe Drake will be a workhorse back.  This idea goes back to when Drake filled the primary back for part of a season after trades and injuries forced him into the role.  He is a rail thin (6th percentile BMI) back built more like a receiver.  Ballage, at almost 230 pounds, is far better equipped to handle the rigors of heavy workloads.  Gore led the backfield in carries last year.  Don’t be surprised if Ballage does this season.

Latavius Murray, RB40

I will keep this short.  Murray takes over for Ingram as the compliment to Kamara in New Orleans.  Ingram just had his worst fantasy season in the last five years and ended as the PPR RB29 in per game scoring.  Murray comes with a rock hard floor and elite handcuff potential in one of the league’s top offenses.  His NFL contract likely ensures he will be with the Saints at least the next two years.

Why the consensus is too low:  Do we think undrafted free agent Devine Ozigbo or former Lions 7th round pick Dwayne Washington are threats to Murray’s workload?  Is New Orleans planning to change a top-4 scoring offense each of the last two seasons to dump more bodies into the backfield or increase Kamara’s touches even more?  I can’t come up with a legitimate reason that Murray is this low.  He is one of the best values for teams in need of cheap running back help.

Others to consider:  Tampa Bay’s offensive line is an absolute mess.  However, the price point of Peyton Barber (RB42) and Ronald Jones (RB52) make the Bucs’ tandem an intriguing gamble.  It is rare locking up a backfield this cheap on a team projected for plenty of scoring chances and high yardage.

Wide Receiver

Curtis Samuel, WR51

Samuel showed well as the season progressed after returning to health and Devin Funchess being relegated to a more minor role.  He displayed above average route running and tremendous after-the-catch ability.  The receiving options are rapidly dwindling in Carolina.  Funchess left in free agency while Greg Olsen proved a shell of his former-self last year.

Why the consensus is too low:  Injuries prevented Samuel from developing quickly.  Remember he converted from a hybrid receiver/running back in college so Samuel was always going to take some time to transition to a full time receiver.  Samuel should attain top-three target status in Carolina along with D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey.

Marvin Jones, WR39

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong last year in Detroit.  Matt Stafford lost his two top receivers, Jones and Tate, to trade and injury.  Matt Patricia’s offensive philosophy proved nearly unwatchable as the attempted transition to more running decimated the passing attack which never saw consistency throughout the season.   New offensive coordinator likely continues the transition to a more run-based offense.  So what’s to like?

Why the consensus is too low: There’s just not much left in terms of reliable receivers in Detroit.  Kenny Golladay and Jones are it.  The next best options are probably new slot receiver Danny Amendola and a rookie tight end.  We also expect positive regression from Stafford who performed at his worst level in a long time.  Jones did not connect as well with Stafford last year but still registered one of the highest percentages of air yards before his injury.  He will be targeted for big plays throughout the season and command a fairly large chunk of Stafford’s targets.

Others to consider: The most expensive receivers from the Buffalo and Miami are currently John Brown (WR59) and Kenny Stills (WR66), respectively.  You don’t necessarily have to prefer these receivers.  The likes of Robert Foster, DeVante Parker, and others are even cheaper on the Bills and Dolphins.  If you expect Josh Allen making a second year jump and Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick playing competently, then someone on these receiver cores is going to be a solid value.

Tight End

Jordan Reed, TE21

Washington was a mess last year.  Alex Smith performed at his lowest level in many years coming off of a breakout campaign in Kansas City.  That weak production carried over to Reed who had his worst catch percentage of his career by almost 10%.  Whoever wins the starting quarterback is very unlikely to be much worse for the fantasy receiver prospects than Smith.  Injuries remain an issue for Reed who has not played a full season in his career.

Why the consensus is too low: A tight end typically must be one of the focal points of an offense or have high touchdown upside from playing with a top quarterback.  Reed is one of the only tight ends in the league who is the top receiving threat on their own team.   He averaged at least six targets per game over the last four years.  Reed does not have to play a full season to be worth this price.

Others to consider:  Andrew Luck targeted Jack Doyle (TE23) at a moderately high rate over the last two seasons and he played a higher snap rate than breakout Eric Ebron last season.  Tyler Eifert (TE31) carries a massive injury history.  He also must only play a handful of games to make buying him worth the cost.


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 2019 Free Agency Look: RBs

Updated: February 10th 2019

The running back position is fairly deep in this free agent class.  The group offers a diverse skill-set with three-down players among the best at the position and a deep group of backs with a history of solid rushing production.  Most of the proven players available are in the older age range for running backs and many of the younger ones have significant question marks.   Overall, though, this is a good group for teams not wanting to use draft picks on running backs.  The following list does not cover every free agent running back.  It does give the reader a brief overview of most free agent running backs with a chance to have significant roles with teams.

Tier 1 – Every-down Backs

Le’Veon Bell

Bell fits the mold of an every-down back in today’s NFL as well as anyone with prototypical size and incredible receiving ability.  Many would consider him one of the better slot receivers in the game.  He accumulated at least 75 receptions in different three years.  Still, a running back with three 1,800 scrimmage yard seasons should not have this many questions going into free agency.  Bell has significant past injury issues, a suspension, and over 1,500 touches already in his career.  Another issue is that every running back replacing Bell in recent memory, from DeAngelo Williams to James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, sustained success in the Pittsburgh backfield.  Teams will wonder how much of his production was due to the surrounding talent and scheme.  Part of Bell’s allure is the ability to continuously stay on the field during a game but one of his main complaints in Pittsburgh was the extensive usage.  He just sat out an entire year, refusing to play for $14.5 million after turning down a big contract extension offer from the Steelers.  Clearly Bell is looking for a huge payday.  What happens if the market does not develop as he is hoping for?  Ultimately, I do not think any of the questions will matter.  There are teams with loads of cap space for 2019 including the Colts, Jets, and Bills with the most cap room.  Someone will likely pay big money for the top back available.

Kareem Hunt

This one comes with a big asterisk.  Hunt was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list after a video surfaced showing an ugly incident at a hotel and released by Kansas City.  The league is investigating this episode and other instances of alleged violent off the field behavior.  He will be suspended at some point, reportedly before free agency begins.  The early reports indicate Hunt playing in 2019 with multiple teams reportedly already showing interest in signing him.  There is a lot to like about the former Chief on the field.  Hunt won the rushing title in 2017 as a rookie and averaged over 100 scrimmage yards per game in his career.  He displays some of the best ability to take hits and stay on his feet in the NFL leading to a lot of missed tackles.  Hunt also turned himself a good receiver and pass blocker making him a good all-around back.  His contract situation will be interesting to follow.  Hunt has only two accrued years meaning any team signing him to a 1-year deal would have rights to Hunt in 2020 as a restricted free agent or as an exclusive rights free agent if Hunt’s upcoming suspension prevents him from earning an accrued season in 2019.  This makes for a potentially cost-friendly contract for a team willing to sign Hunt.

Tier 2 – Combo Back

Tevin Coleman

The thing a player wants in free agency is a skill-set that separates him from the pack.  Coleman is the only high-profile running back this year with true “home run” speed, the type of player who can take it the distance from any point on the field.  He also distances himself from most other backs as a plus route runner out of the backfield or lined up wide as a receiver.  These talents helped Coleman average an incredible eleven yards per reception over his career and at least four yards per carry in every season.  With the emphasis on the passing game for today’s NFL, his receiving ability combined with game-breaking jets probably get Coleman paid more than many predict.  He does not fit every running scheme.  He does not excel as an inside-heavy rusher as he does not possess the size to consistently push piles and brake tackles.  Coleman will not get 350 touches in a season.  Part of his draw on the free agent market will be that he touched the ball only a little over 600 times in his NFL career.  A team which exploits his outside running capability and heavily utilizes his receiving skills obtains a dynamic playmaker however who can lead a running back group.  He will be the target of many teams not wanting to pay Bell’s asking price.

Tier 3 – Rushing Down Backs

Mark Ingram

Good all-around rusher who developed quality hands for screen plays and quarterback check downs with the Saints.  Long history of solid production.  His best option is staying in New Orleans but could lead a committee elsewhere.  29 years old with only about the same number of touches in his career as Bell.

Jay Ajayi

One of the better tackle breakers in the game when healthy with nice combination of power and decent long-speed.  Career filled with knee concerns and that was before he tore his ACL.  Will the market develop for someone not fully healthy by the time free agency arrives?

C.J. Anderson

Big bodied back who showed spurts of really strong play with Denver and produced a huge end of year for the Rams after being cut by Panthers and Raiders.  Will it be enough to lead to a committee next season?

Latavius Murray

Large between the tackles runner with good breakaway speed once he hits his stride.  It makes a lot of sense for Minnesota to re-sign Murray given Dalvin Cook’s extensive injury history.

Adrian Peterson

The future hall of famer put up a bounce back campaign in 2018 showing off a little of the speed and power showcased throughout his early career.  He offers practically nothing as a receiver.  How much interest will develop for a one-dimensional 34 year old running back?

Frank Gore

The ageless wonder played very well in 2018.  He would like to stay in Miami.  The Dolphins have two young running backs on cheap rookie contracts for a rebuilding team where the need for an older veteran may be minimal.

The Raiders Backs

Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin (UFAs), and Jalen Richard (RFA) are all free agents.  Richard was excellent as a receiving specialist.  My first instinct is that Oakland signs Richard to a long-term deal and brings back one of Lynch or Martin depending on if Lynch retires.  Martin was serviceable replacing Lynch but graded out worse than the older back.

Tier 4 – Potential backups and role players to keep track of

T.J. Yeldon

Three down NFL size back with very good hands but average, at best, everywhere else.  Plays with the power of someone 20 lbs lighter and not much wiggle or speed with the ball.  Yeldon was one of PFF’s lowest graded qualified backs in 2018.  Reports of bad influence in locker room.  Solid do-it-all backup for teams which relies primarily on one back.

Jeremy Hill

Hill looked very good this preseason earning the big back role for New England before tearing his ACL in his first game with the Patriots.  Unlikely a team prioritizes running back recovering from knee surgery.

Bilal Powell

Underrated runner and receiver capable of receiving back or committee role.  Undersized and unknown recovery time from neck injury for player with long injury history.

Darren Sproles

The smaller dynamo says he might be back for another year.  He will be on the PPR radar if he plays depending on who the Eagles bring in at running back.

Ameer Abdullah

Smaller athletic back with 2nd round draft pedigree who never worked out with Detroit.  Will a new team be able to find a role?

Spencer Ware

Big, thick rusher who performed well throughout his time with Kansas City including a very good 2016.  Possible product of system as almost every rusher, given the chance, performs well in Kansas City.

Ty Montgomery

There are always potential spots on teams for former college wide receivers with running back size.  May always be a jack-of-all-trades player with no defined role or consistent usage.  Struggled with injuries throughout his time with Green Bay.


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 2019 Free Agency Look: QBs

Updated: January 18th 2019

As usual, there is no shortage of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL.  Jacksonville and Miami very likely look for immediate change while Denver and the New York Giants need fixes very soon.  Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury unfortunately creates uncertainty in Washington. Tampa Bay and Tennessee probably stick with what they have in 2019 but the future appears murky, at best, for Winston and Mariota.  Oakland and Cincinnati are lower probability bets for quarterback moves where Carr and Dalton continue as mediocre options.  New England, Pittsburgh, and the Chargers may soon address their respective long-term situations.

We should be clear right from the start.  This is not a good year for teams with quarterback needs.  The draft class does not rate anywhere near 2018’s lot and the free agent group does not have a single plug-and-play starter.  Teams might decide to stick with what they have in many cases as they do not view available quarterbacks as significant upgrades.  The reader could see many teams just “taking their lumps” next season in preparation for 2020.

Free Agents

Teddy Bridgewater

The fact that this article begins with Bridgewater says all you need to know about the 2019 free agent quarterback class.  Bridgewater does not possess much upside but has long-term competent NFL starter potential.  That is enough to put him ahead of most of the other quarterbacks on this list for many NFL teams.  We have seen nothing from Bridgewater which suggests he will be much of a fantasy option for any of the potential suitors.  New Orleans might convince Bridgewater to sign a longer-term deal to remain with the Saints as their long-term option at quarterback.

Tyrod Taylor

Taylor shot out of nowhere in 2015 for Buffalo finishing as the 7th highest rated passer after years on the bench in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, Taylor has seen a steady downward trajectory to his career ever since seeing his yards per attempt, QBR, and passer rating fall each and every year from his first starting season.  The run culminated with a disastrous 2018 in which he was benched for Baker Mayfield after four games.  Still, there is potentially a spot for Taylor as a starting quarterback.  We can forgive any player’s stint with Hue Jackson in Cleveland.  Taylor plays a very conservative style which minimizes turnovers and makes enough plays with his legs to extend drives occasionally.  Jacksonville, for example, seems a particularly attractive spot for him where the defense will be counted on to win games.  Taylor’s rushing ability can mean big fantasy points so he needs to be on the radar, especially in deeper leagues if a team signs him as a starter or injuries occur.

Sam Bradford

The downside of Bradford is readily apparent.  He can not stay healthy.  Bradford appears molded from the most brittle substance on the planet.  The odds do not appear good that he will get a starting job in 2019.  Still, coaches around the league seem to like him as he continually gets starting chances with multiple teams.  His career trajectory pointed upward until his 2017 injury.  Like Taylor, we need not diminish Bradford too much for an ugly 2018 in which no offensive skill player on Arizona had much of a chance given the coaching staff and offensive line deficiencies.

Potentially Available in Trade or Release

Nick Foles

The Philadelphia legend probably earns top pick among NFL teams if he becomes a free agent.  Foles’ career may be best described as inconsistent.  He had one of the all-time amazing years in 2013 with an incredible 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio and led Philadelphia to the Super Bowl title in 2018 during a great post-season run.  He ranged from a solid starter to a bottom-end option during the various games for three teams over the rest of his time in the league.  His contract presents lots of options.  The Eagles could pick up the $20 million salary option for 2019 forcing Foles to give back $2 million to buy his way into free agency or setting up a potential trade.  This move proves potentially problematic tying that much money to a backup quarterback.  The more likely option allows Foles to hit free agency capitalizing on his recent post-season success to a starting job in 2019.

Joe Flacco

Flacco parlayed the Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl title into an enormous contract which has been a disaster for Baltimore.  The contract had to be reworked for cap purposes extending the contract further out leading to continual cap problems for Baltimore.  In return, the Ravens received mostly bottom-level quarterbacking keeping Baltimore in that ugly middle-tier of teams despite having a strong defense most years.  His contract is reasonable with no guarantees left and a $18.5 million salary for 2019.  The question is what type of team would be interested in Flacco?  He won’t be the long-term answer for any team, would just delay the inevitable for teams not really in the super bowl hunt, and is not a significant upgrade on the host of marginal starters floating around he might replace.  Flacco possesses very little fantasy relevance wherever he ends up.

Current Starters

A new group of potential quarterbacks emerge if teams decide to move on from their current starters.  The Dolphins fired Adam Gase which could mean the end of Ryan Tannehill in Miami.  He displayed some quality throws occasionally with good athleticism but comes with immense injury baggage and struggles with pocket awareness.   The most likely scenario for Eli Manning is retirement or the Giants convincing themselves once again they are not as far away from contention as they actually are with Manning returning again for 2019.  Blake Bortles is almost certainty done in Jacksonville following multiple benching.  He also almost certainly will not be starting for any other team in 2019.  One great season convinced Denver to give Case Keenum a solid contract and ignore the rest of his career.  His masquerade as a starter in the NFL may end sooner than later.


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

Mid-Season Quarterback Stories

Updated: October 31st 2018

Numerous interesting stories exist at the midway point in the NFL season from Patrick Mahomes emergence to the uptick in offensive production across the league.  This article looks at a few quarterback situations in flux and what that means rest of season for your fantasy team.  The writing concentrates on the Bortles scenario and how Jacksonville arrived in the place they are, with lessons learned from how they handled his contract.

The Blake Bortles Saga

Jacksonville benched Blake Bortles week 7 in a move which clearly foreshadows the end of his time as starting quarterback for the Jaguars sometime in the near future.  The question remains how did the Jaguars get to this point with Bortles still as their starting quarterback and significant money left on his contract?  A calamity of faulty reasoning and different biases supply a big piece of the answer and give examples for NFL teams and RSO GMs of what not to do to get in this type of trouble.

  1. Jacksonville picks up Bortles’ 5th year option. This act set in motion future events for the Jaguars with relation to Bortles. General manger Dave Caldwell picked up Bortles’ option under two primary reasons.  First, Caldwell contends the $19 million option was a relative bargain at quarterback.

“I think that slots him as the 16th highest quarterback next year, right around the median,” Caldwell said. “If he was to get the franchise tender that puts him at the third or fourth or fifth ranked quarterback depending on who gets new deals next year.”

The obvious question that comes to mind is what possible reason would the Jaguars have in franchising Bortles?  No other NFL team was going to give Bortles anything remotely close to $19 million per season, much less the expense of a franchised quarterback.  The odds that another team would have even given him a starting opportunity were extremely low at the time.  It is clear Caldwell misevaluated Bortles value, both on the open market and to his own team.  The fact that Bortles was Caldwell’s first pick for Jacksonville likely influenced his decision to pick up the option.

The second reason given by Caldwell for picking up Bortles’ option is his relatively cheap two-year salary with the extension.

“We look at two-year values on our contracts,” Caldwell said. “I think this year he’s scheduled to make about $3.2 million in cash, and then the $19 million next year is just a little over $22 million, it’s a two-year, $11 million average on what is considered a new deal, and that puts him not in the Top 16 of quarterbacks.”

This classical error may be seen across the business world.  The final year of Bortles’ rookie contract was already locked in and should have had no bearing on the new decision to pick up his option.  What the deal averages out to when including old contract numbers is irrelevant.

Lesson for RSO GMs:  Take your ego out of decisions when franchising or extending players.  Do not let the fact that you drafted a player influence your decision on future contracts and his worth.  Examine the player’s expected value in your league to determine an appropriate salary and be prepared to move on if the franchise tag or extension price is too high.

  1. Jacksonville signs Bortles to three-year extension. Caldwell doubled down on the option mistake by signing him to a three-year $54 million extension following the season. The extension, in part, stems from the option by reducing the $19 million cap hit to a more reasonable $10 million in 2018.  This came at the cost of $16.5 million in dead cap for 2019 which makes releasing Bortles in 2019 an expensive option.  Cap room was not the only reason for the extension however.  Jacksonville believed Bortles made significant progress in 2017 and was a piece of Jacksonville’s future.

“Blake’s growth and development last season was a key to the success we had as a team,” Jaguars executive VP Tom Coughlin said in a release from the team. “Blake has proven, with toughness and dependability, that he can be the leader this team needs going forward. Along with this contract come high expectations that he will continue to improve and help our team accomplish its ultimate goal.”

So how did Jaguars management get fooled into believing in Bortles long-term?  The answer is Bortles performed well near the end of the year in 2017.  He was averaging a very Bortles-like 58% completion percentage and 6.4 yards per attempt to go with 12 touchdowns and 8 interceptions through 11 weeks last season.  He followed that up the next four weeks averaging a robust 9.1 yards per attempt with a 69% completion percentage to go with 9 touchdowns.  Bortles also finished the season with an impressive outing versus New England in the AFC championship game.  How did he accomplish this upgrade in play?  The Jaguars faced incredibly soft passing defenses during those games with Football Outsiders’ 21st, 25th, 28th, and 32nd ranked pass efficiency defenses to go along with a Seattle defense decimated by injuries at the end of season.  The Jaguars saw progress where in reality Bortles simply faced lower-end pass defenses and took advantage of the matchups.  They ignored the long body of work and let a handful of games dictate their outlook.  Jacksonville is now stuck in an ugly situation with no long-term answer at quarterback and the short-term solution is unenviable at best on a team which just missed the Super Bowl last season.

Lesson for RSO GMs:  Do not let recency bias distort your view of players too much.  Relying on players based on a handful of recent games while ignoring everything before can lead to disaster for your fantasy team.

Rest of Season Fantasy Outlook: Bortles was a lower-end streaming option before the benching.  He is almost impossible to trust now, even as a streamer, given that he may be benched in any game.  Look at Bortles as an emergency starter in 2QB and superflex leagues.

Jameis Winston

Bortles was not the only quarterback benched recently.  Winston got the hook after a disastrous four interception game versus Cincinnati last week.  The Bucs have already named Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was benched for Winston earlier, the starter next week.  No one really knows after that.  Winston might relieve Fitzpatrick next week if he struggles or at some future week if Tampa Bay is eliminated from contention.  Tampa Bay put the fifth year option on Winston which is guaranteed for injury only.  This means he also might never see the field again in Tampa Bay if they have determined he is not part of their future in order to eliminate injury risk.

Rest of Season Fantasy Outlook:  Chaotic. Impossible to predict.  What we do know is tremendous weekly upside exists for whoever throws the ball.  Tampa Bay averages 376 passing yards per game (58 more than the next highest team) with a stable of high-end receiving threats and a defense among the league’s worst.  The upcoming schedule is also great for Tampa Bay passers.  Definitely grab Fitzpatrick if he is on your waiver wire.  The upside is so high that I would not mind having both him and Winston on my roster.  The main problem lies in the fact that either may be benched on any given week possibly ruining you fantasy week.

Eli Manning

Career finishes rarely end well for NFL star players.  Their skills diminish quickly toward the end and they almost never are able to make an accurate assessment of their lower abilities.  Manning is no different.  Manning is a statue in the pocket with non-existent movement skills who freezes up anytime pressure presents itself playing on a team which really struggles protecting the passer.  In this case, the organization failed miserably in evaluating Manning and a New York roster which won three games last season.  Management vastly over-estimated this roster and the ability to play competitive football weekly.  No realistic backup plan exists for Manning and the quarterback spot.

Rest of Season Fantasy Outlook:  Manning is a lower-end starting option in two QB leagues.  The Giants season is virtually over already which means they may want to get a look at younger quarterbacks on the roster.  Be prepared with other options if you are counting on Manning in your league.


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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RSO Extension Targets

Updated: October 3rd 2018

An important stage begins for the RSO fantasy season.  RSO GMs may extend players in the final year of their RSO contract, starting in week 5 and ending in week 13, for those leagues in which the contract extension option is enabled.  Player extensions were designed to force difficult decisions on RSO GMs.  This article helps with the process by looking at a few key considerations, recommending targets for extension, and determining the best time of year to extend.

We ignore young players still on rookie deals (post-2015 draft) in most leagues as they can’t be extended but be sure to check your league for young undrafted players.

Key Extension Considerations

Extension values fluctuate through the extension period.   Weekly performances drive contract values up or down on a weekly basis.  A monster game increases extension costs while a poor week potentially lowers contract prices.  This means a player’s week 5 offered extension contract may be substantially different from the week 13 offer. The decision of when to extend a player may cost or save your team significant cap room.

Extension terms are specific to your league.  League settings such as scoring rules, rosters, and positional starting requirements impact extension offers.  Contracts in your league also influence extension offers.  Put another way, not only does projected player production impact extensions but also how your league values players across position groups.  This may set up considerable savings toward certain types of players in your specific league.

Players do not accept pay cuts on extensions.  This necessitates that players coming off cheap rookie contracts, cheap speculative deals, or coming back from injury are more likely extension targets than top-level veteran players on near-market level deals even if the veteran is having a down year.

Quarterback Targets

Russell Wilson

There are some relatively cheap Wilson contracts out there after he played hurt in 2016.  He currently ranks, at best, as a low-end QB2 under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.  Focus on the run game has, somewhat predictably, led to a stagnant offense rating just 26th in passing yards.  On the surprising side, Wilson’s rushing attempts have been almost completely cut-off.  Wilson has the same number of rushing attempts (11) as a one-legged Aaron Rodgers and immobile Joe Flacco plus less yardage than the stuck-in-mud Matt Ryan and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

This is likely one of the lowest points at which you will ever be able to extend Wilson after performing near his fantasy floor.  The Seattle offensive coordinator will be forced to evolve to the modern NFL or likely be done in short order.  There is even an out in Wilson’s contract for Seattle to move on after this season if it wants to go in another direction than Wilson.  It could be a long 2018 but if you can acquire the passing and rushing talent of Wilson on the cheap it could be well worth it going forward.

Derek Carr

Most would consider the career of Derek Carr somewhat mixed, at best, to this point.  He boasts one of the least efficient rankings of any quarterback during his time and has never been much of a fantasy asset.  That could change with new coach Jon Gruden.  Carr threw for the fourth most passing yards in the league so far to go along with career bests in efficiency and completion percentage.  Carr currently ranks next to Wilson as a bottom-end QB2 in fantasy thanks to some big interception totals early but his volume and efficiency supports higher possible fantasy production.  The defense might yield extreme points for a long time forcing Carr into big volume for the foreseeable future.

Running Back Targets

Devonta Freeman

This one is easy.  Tevin Coleman hits free agency next year and Freeman takes over as the bigger part of the rushing committee when he returns from his knee injury.  Freeman’s role possibly increases next season with Ito Smith as his compliment in comparison to Coleman.  Lock Freeman up prior to his return.

Giovani Bernard

This move certainly falls into the speculative, but cheap, class of extensions.  Bernard’s NFL contract runs through the 2019 season so why extend a backup player?  First, Bernard has performed at a high level whether as the main back or in a more complimentary role.  Second, Cincinnati drafted Bernard’s likely replacement as Mixon’s backup in Mark Walton this year. Third, the Bengals have a cheap out on Bernard’s contract following the 2018 season.  Will they really spend $4.5 million on a backup running back in 2019?  Possibly but it might be worth the price to find out.  Wait as long as possible for an extension here.  Bernard falls back into the backup role when Joe Mixon returns lowering his value as the season goes on.

Wide Receiver Targets

T.Y. Hilton

This extension comes with more risk than others.  2017 saw a down year for Hilton and he checks in as low level WR2 in 2018.  Concerns exist as to Luck’s shoulder moving forward and Hilton is at the stage where receiving production sometimes falls off.   One must consider that Hilton averaged 81 receptions and 1250 yards the previous four seasons prior to 2017 with Luck though.  He is a potential big hit if Luck’s shoulder continues to strengthen.  Hilton likely misses the upcoming Thursday game so feel free to wait a week before extending.

Allen Robinson

The case for Robinson is similar to Hilton’s but with some key differences.  Robinson lost 2017 to an ACL-tear and his production in 2018 has also so far been modest.  Robinson presents a murkier picture when compared to Hilton however.  Robinson produced only one notable season in his career and the quality of his quarterback, and offense in general, remains a big mystery going forward.  One might expect a better connection with his quarterback as he gets more reps and Robinson is just entering his athletic prime years.  This could be a low point to extend Robinson if you believe in the talent and offense going forward.

Tight End Target

Vance McDonald

Reliable options at tight end stay extremely limited.  Ertz might be available for a reasonable extension in your league but I will discuss another player.  McDonald struggled with injuries, drops, and poor quarterback play in San Francisco.  The injury issue has not disappeared in Pittsburgh but we have seen his receiving ability shine when on the field for the Steelers over the last two seasons.  McDonald is the clear top receiver at tight end for Pittsburgh.  He should be a relatively cheap extension whose value could spike by the end of the year if he remains (mostly) healthy.

Players from 2015 Rookie Drafts

Consider this a reminder that 2018 is the final season of four year rookie deals for Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, David Johnson, Tevin Coleman, Amari Cooper, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota among others.  Gurley and Gordon currently rank top-3 in RB scoring and are solid extension candidates to center your team around.   There value is unlikely to grow much so you can gamble on extensions later in the year.  Johnson represents a quality buy-low extension option.  His NFL contract essentially locks him in through 2020 and the first few weeks of the season have been mediocre under a new coaching staff.  Extend him immediately.  His role could grow as the season moves on.  Look no further than Coleman for next year’s McKinnon, a running back who saw a big value spike in free agency.   His abilities work in the run and passing game.  Hold off on an extension until later in the year when Freeman comes back and Coleman assumes the smaller part of the committee.  Cooper is coming off one of his signature “boom” games in week 4 but has mixed results so far currently sitting as the WR34.  He is one of the riskier extension candidates but someone still extremely young with potential for more consistency.  Winston ranks among the most turnover-prone players in the league.  He improved each season as a quarterback however.  There might not be a better time to extend Winston coming off of suspension and a rusty two interception performance to start the season.  It is difficult to judge Mariota in his career given the coaching staff he played with.  His play has been maddeningly inconsistent with shoddy accuracy at times while injuries plagued his career.  Mariota possesses all the physical tools necessary for a successful quarterback. A new coaching staff may bring his best out.

Injured Players

San Francisco supplies the poster-child for capitalizing on injured players where the QB1, RB1, and WR1 have all been injured with two of them lost for the year.  Jimmy Garappolo, Jerick McKinnon, and Marquise Goodwin could all come in as cheap extensions for your league with big upside next season.


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