Uncommon Scoring Rules: Points for Completions and Incompletions

Updated: June 7th 2020

The All About Reality Podcast league inspired me to examine a few fantasy scoring rules not used in most leagues but are becoming more popular to various degrees.  This article focuses on the effects of adding (subtracting) points for completions and incompletions utilizing data from the 2019 season.  The results may or may not surprise you but the reader might find details which could provide an advantage when entering into a league with one of these scoring settings.

Adding Points for Completions and Incompletions

The typical settings, when incorporated, involve adding (partial) points for completions and subtracting points for incompletions.  NFL starting quarterbacks almost always complete more than 50% per season with the median of the top-32 passers completing about 64% in 2019.  These completion percentages dictate that using these scoring settings adds fantasy points to the quarterback position.  Below the reader finds a chart of quarterback fantasy scoring for the top-32 passers comparing a standard fantasy scoring league with one which gives partial points for completions and incompletions.  ESPN refers to a 4 point per passing touchdown and 1 point per 25 passing yards league.  0.5COMP adds 0.5 points per completion while subtracting 0.5 points per incompletion and so forth for different weights.

QB Scoring with and without Completions

 

5COMP scoring added an average of 26% to the top-12 scorers and 28% to the top-24 quarterbacks.  While we generally see an increase for all quarterbacks, adding/subtracting points for completions/incompletions affects quarterbacks differently.   Derek Carr (43%), Drew Brees (41%), Phillip Rivers (40%), Matt Ryan (38%), and Jimmy Garoppolo (37%) saw some of the biggest gains in this scoring format.  Josh Allen (14%) and Lamar Jackson (16%) displayed some of the smallest increases among notable fantasy starters.  High volume, accurate quarterbacks receive the most help, relative to their peers, while quarterbacks who significantly rely on their legs for fantasy points are hurt the most.  The reader should also note that completion percentage generally decreases with depth of target.  We should not then be surprised that some of the quarterbacks showing the biggest increases in fantasy scoring when adding completion points were those with the lowest average intended air yards per attempt.

Maybe the more important question is how these scoring changes affect quarterback values.  As usual, the answer depends.  Notice from the above scoring chart how the slopes of the scoring curves look similar for both scoring formats presented.  This means the marginal points scored going from one quarterback to the next ranked one is similar in both formats.  Using VBD valuation, the total value of quarterbacks for 12-team, 1-QB leagues actually decreased slightly by adding completions/incompletions scoring in 2019.  NFL rules encouraging the passing game and many coaches moving to a lower depth-of-target approach have bunched mid-range quarterbacks into a somewhat similarly accurate group.  Combine with similar volume for many of these QBs and you get a very flat tier of quality options available in 1-QB leagues.

The calculation changes when you look at superflex and bigger leagues with the ability to use more quarterbacks in starting lineups.  Lower tier quarterbacks generally see less volume and throw for lower completion percentages.  This leads to bigger differentiation in scoring when using completion scoring formats when compared to standard formats as leagues start more and more quarterbacks.  Using our 0.5COMP scoring substantially increased the total value of quarterbacks in a 12-team superflex league when compared to the ESPN scoring, for example.  The table below details how total value (in points above replacement) at the quarterback position in 12 team leagues changed with different scoring settings and league formats.

Total QB Positional Values under Various Formats

 

Most notably, we see the value of quarterbacks for superflex leagues increasingly climb as more points are added (subtracted) to completions (incompletions).  Another big implication for superflex leagues is that quarterbacks become near must-starts in the superflex spot as completion scoring gets higher weights.  QB scoring attains such heights that other positional players available for use in a superflex spot simply can’t realistically contend with QB scoring.  For example, the QB20 scored 280 fantasy points in the 0.5COMP system which is more than the RB7 and WR2 in PPR leagues.  A team would have to be absolutely stacked at either the RB or WR position to competitively use one in the superflex position.

Key Implications

  1. We do not see much value added to the quarterback position due to completion scoring in smaller 1-QB leagues (at least in 2019). The deep middle class of NFL starters does not show the variation needed to create the differences in fantasy scoring for added value.
  2. Completion scoring adds significant value to quarterback position in deeper leagues like superflex formats, particularly where leagues weight completions higher. While the middle tier of NFL passers is relatively flat, the bottom tier demonstrates a considerable drop-off in volume and accuracy. This gives more separation from top and middle tier-starters in comparison to the lower-tier of quarterbacks.
  3. A superflex spot becomes a near must-start quarterback in completion scoring leagues. The increased quarterback scoring, notably at higher completion scoring weights, gives quarterbacks a big advantage over most non-quarterbacks.
  4. Completion scoring affects quarterbacks differently.  Accurate, high volume passers show the biggest increases in scoring while quarterbacks producing a big portion of their fantasy points through rushing see smaller increases.  Adjust your QB rankings accordingly.

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

Post NFL Draft Winners and Losers

Updated: May 2nd 2020

The NFL draft is finally over and the undrafted rookies are looking at each team’s depth chart to see where they have the best chance of making the final 53-man roster. Fantasy owners can also be analyzing each team’s depth charts to see where some of the biggest winners (or losers) can be found. Hopefully, you moved off of some key veterans before they bubble burst on their value.

Winners

Quarterback

Gardner Minshew – Jacksonville Jaguars

Rumors about the Jaguars taking one of the top 3 QBs at 9th if one was to fall to them was likely just a pipe dream to feed the fan base but there were serious questions about them maybe taking either Jordan Love at the start of the 2nd round or one of the other two QBs Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm in 3rd or 4th round. Love never made it there and the Jaguars passed on the other two, instead grabbing another sixth-round rookie, Jake Luton. There is a real chance that the Jaguars are drafting in the top 10 again next year and will take a quarterback in 2021 but for now, Minshew weathered the first storm and is QB1 on their depth chart.

Jarrett Stidham – New England Patriots

Similar to Minshew, the question seemed to not be if but when Jarrett Stidham would be supplanted by one of the rookie QBs. Like the Jags, however, New England passed on all of them and showed that they weren’t lying when they said they believed in Stidham as their starter. Much like with Minshew, it would be difficult to give more than a 2-year contract with the risk of another rookie coming in 2021 but these two (Stidham and Minshew) may be the two most underrated quarterbacks available in Superflex leagues next year.

Drew Lock – Denver Broncos

We knew that John Elway was high on Drew Lock’s potential and wasn’t going to give much in the way of competition for his job so his value as a starter next year was solid. Still, the Broncos went and drafted receivers in the first two rounds (Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler) and also grabbed combine speed freak Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round. Along with signing Melvin Gordon in free agency, John Elway has stocked the cupboard for Drew Lock moving forward. If the 2nd year QB doesn’t leap forward, both in the statistical and wins department it will be a huge letdown to the organization.

Running Back

Jordan Howard – Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were a top candidate to draft one of the first running backs of the board but instead focused on protecting their new franchise QB. Jordan Howard’s stock kept rising with each passing round that the Dolphins didn’t select a runner. Finally, on day 3 they acquired another RB albeit by trading their 5th round selection to the 49ers in exchange for Matt Brieda. Brieda has been a solid role player the last two seasons with San Francisco but he doesn’t pose as big of a threat to Howard’s value as any of the top rookies would have projected. Howard may become the new Frank Gore in RSO, gobbling up 1-year, $3M deals and being a surprisingly good depth player for savvy fantasy owners year after year.

Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars

It is ironic that being good at your job as a running back actually can make you a liability instead of an asset in the NFL. The Jaguars selected Fournette 4th overall in 2017 and while he has been overshadowed by fellow classman Christian McCaffrey, Fournette has over 3,700 total yards in his first three seasons. The team likely expects him to demand a lucrative paid day soon and were rumored to be shopping him before the draft. This decreased his fantasy value as the idea of him being traded to a team in more of a timeshare role would be likely. However, no team bought on the opportunity and the Jaguars never addressed the position in the draft. Now heading into 2020 the Jaguars once again do not seem to have a real threat to Fournette’s touches and targets. He should see a nice rebound in value and will be an RB2 with weekly RB1 upside again this season.

Wide Receiver

DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins

Similar to Jordan Howard, the risk of a first-round replacement was looming over DeVante Parker. Paker finally showed last year some of his talents as a former 1st round selection and earned himself a big payday because of it. Now with no rookie threat, Parker is the clear WR1 with only Allen Hurns and surprising talent Preston Williams coming back from his season-ending injury. We still have to wait and see whether Tua Tagovailoa starts game one or if Ryan Fitzpatrick will hold the reins till the rookie is fully acclimated but Parker should be the main target for either and will hopefully continue where he finished off last season.

Curtis Samuel & Robbie Anderson – Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers went all defense in Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach which bodes well for his starting receivers. D.J. Moore was already the alpha and his value was set regardless of if/where another receiver was brought in. For Curtis Samuel and Robbie Anderson however, any receiver drafted in the first 3 rounds probably would have crushed their fantasy prospects but it never happened. Expectations need to be tempered since new starting quarterback Teddy Bridgwater isn’t necessarily Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers in terms of elevating multiple fantasy-relevant receivers at the same time. However, for two players that had their value free falling the last two months, it could have been a whole lot worse.

N’Keal Harry – New England Patriots

Justin Jefferson was a sneaky interest rumored to be on the Patriots radar at pick 23 however, Minnesota snagged him one pick earlier so they reversed course and traded out of the first round entirely. Jefferson would have been a great compliment to Harry as a big slot receiver that could transition the team from the fan-favourite Julian Edelman. Regardless, with no competition being drafted and a second-year learning Josh McDaniel’s system if Harry can stay healthy he should see a solid rebound in his production. Grab last year’s WR1 while rookie fever is in full force.

Losers

Quarterback

Jacoby Brissett – Indianapolis Colts

People will point to Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz as big losers due to their team’s drafting high at the quarterback position. Both Rodgers and Wentz though still have massive dead money in 2020 and in Wentz’s case also 2021. The fan-based would also revolt if either were to be jettisoned for unproven rookies. The biggest quarterback value hit is instead Jacoby Brissett. Brissett was replaced for one year by Philip Rivers but now may be in jeopardy of losing the job in the long run too by the Colts drafting Jacob Eason in the fourth round. Maybe if he is traded to a team like the Patriots his value will return but for now, his 2020 value is that of a backup in the NFL and a waiver add in fantasy until further notice.

Running Back

Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions

Both of Kerryon Johnson’s first two seasons had been shorted due to injury but in his time on the field, he showed the ability to be the primary carrier in the Lions’ backfield. Unfortunately, that was not enough to prevent Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia from drafting who draft experts had as their RB1 De’Andre Swift out of Georgia. Swift is an every-down back who should immediately step in as the RB1 for Detroit. The best-case scenario for Johnson now is to have a role similar to Giovanni Bernard in Cincinnati or to what Tevin Coleman was to the Falcons as a change of pace RB2 that can be called upon in case of injury.

Darrell Henderson – Los Angeles Rams

Those who drafted Henderson last year were expecting him to carve out a role opposite to Todd Gurley and one day take over the starting job. Well, he didn’t provide much in the way value last year but with Gurley getting cut it seemed like his time was finally about to come. Then the Rams drafted Cam Akers in the second round and the bubble burst. Maybe the Rams learned this time around that it is better to use two running backs in complement with one another rather than riding one into the ground. That is what Henderson owners have to be hoping for otherwise, fantasy owner’s hefty investment will likely be a large blunder.

Damien Williams – Kansas City Chiefs

We knew that running back was a point of interest for the Chiefs but like the Patriots’ QB situation we weren’t sure exactly whether they felt it was as big a priority as the fantasy community thought it was. They showed everyone how important it was when they selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the final pick in the first round. Fantasy owners were praying that a team like Tampa Bay or Kansas City would take CEH as his skillset fit perfectly with what both teams do on offense. CEH’s selection all but likely puts him top 2 in rookie drafts, meanwhile, Damien Williams’ owners will be left holding bag to see if he can provide a few retro fantasy weeks before he falls back to fantasy obscurity.

Aaron Jones & Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers

The Packers’ drafting was perplexing but at least the RB selection was expected by this writer. I had a conversation with a league mate discussing Aaron Jones and his value and suggested the team was unlikely to see him as valuable as he sees himself and would likely draft a running back this year to compliment him and then move off Jones in 2021. Drafting AJ Dillion in the second round has that kind of vibe and with Dillion’s skillset being that of a power back Jones’ touchdown upside should dramatically fall back from his stellar 17 TDs in 2019. Jamaal Williams had minimal fantasy value before Dillon’s selection but now he should be a redundancy and likely a waiver-wire option to all but the deepest of leagues.

Wide Receiver

Michael Gallup – Dallas Cowboys

The first big surprise of the first round was the fall of CeeDee Lamb and the Dallas Cowboys selecting him with the 17th pick. Nobody should fault Jerry Jones for taking what was likely his best player available and keeping Lamb out of division rival Philadelphia’s hands. What it does do however is put a damper on what was maybe a rising sleeper in Michael Gallup. Gallup made great strides in his second season behind Amari Cooper and with the possibility of Cooper leaving via free agency his stock was slowly increasing. Cooper did eventually resign but this was seen as a good thing as Gallup was likely more valuable as a WR2 than a true WR1 in the Cowboy’s offense. Fast forward to today and it is hard to see Gallup being anything more than the fourth option behind Cooper, Lamb, and Ezekiel Elliot. He will still have his games but other than best ball formats it will be difficult to predict when his days will be.

Tyrell Williams – Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders were taking a receiver in the draft and likely it was going to be one in the first round. It was also probable that they took a second receiver later in the draft just due to the lack of depth at the position. However, taking three receivers in the first three rounds shows that Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden prioritized the position and felt that a total rebuild was in order. The only relevant carry over from the 2019 wide receiver room, Tyrell Williams will likely hang around the team for the 2020 season due to the uncertainty of training camps and the need for a veteran option. His surprisingly strong 2019 season, however, is likely to be the end of the road for his fantasy production.

DeSean Jackson – Philadelphia Eagles

After drafting Jalen Reagor out of TCU 21st overall it was believed that this should be the end for Alshon Jeffery and his time in Philadelphia. While I do think this will be Jeffery’s final season with the Eagles I think he can still be fantasy relevant in 2020. The receiver who is more immediately affected by drafting Reagor is DeSean Jackson. The 33-year old speed receiver has been banged up the past couple of years and played just one meaningful game last year. Reagor fits as his direct replacement with his blazing speed capabilities, therefore, making Jackson’s services redundant. The Eagles may hold onto Jackson through the 2020 season because of his dead money and cap space savings but it is unlikely his role is much more than for veteran leadership.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham – Chicago Bears

Rather than the quick death that Rob Gronkowski brought to his fantasy value by retiring last year, Jimmy Graham owners have been left holding the bag on a slow, painful decline to one of the best tight ends in fantasy over the last decade. His move to Chicago brought a sliver of hope that a guy like Nick Foles might be an upgrade at the position for the Bears and their offense could be at least moderate to fantasy value outside Allen Robinson. However, the Bears traded up in the second round to make their first selection of the 2020 draft tight end Cole Kmet. With the team prioritizing a rookie in their draft and having 8 other options on the depth chart it will be difficult to see Jimmy Graham being anything more than an extra tight end used for your primary tight end’s bye week.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Free Agency Movers

Updated: March 31st 2020

When we look lack back at 2020 free agency, the defining trait undoubtedly will be the number of starting level quarterbacks available, highlighted by Tom Brady.  The market was so saturated that former MVP Cam Newton and last year’s passing yardage leader Jameis Winston still do not have jobs.  In addition, former high-end running back performers, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, also move to new teams.  I take a look at some of the top contract players on the move in free agency and what their fantasy prospects entail.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady (Tampa Bay)

The nearly twenty-year run in Foxboro comes to an end as Brady leaves for Tampa Bay.  This is an obvious all-or-nothing scenario for 42 year old Brady and the Tampa Bay coaching staff.  Brady was among the league leaders in attempts last season with the Patriots.  The run game fell apart with a drastic reduction in run blocking.  Brady gets a big upgrade on skill position players in Tampa Bay.  Expect better efficiency on less volume in Tampa Bay.  There is a chance for a significant fantasy rebound from Brady if he shows last year was not a prelude to the end.  As for the relevant Patriots skill players, downgrade this season.  We do not know where the quarterback situation ends up with only Jared Stidham and Brian Hoyer on the New England roster.

So what can we expect the change in quarterbacks will have on other pieces in Tampa Bay?  Jameis Winston tied for the lead league in passing attempts last season, largely due to turnover-driven, negative game scripts highlighted by 30 interceptions.  He also led the league in passing yards while ranking second with 33 passing touchdowns.  This led to monster fantasy production from wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, the PPR points-per-game WR2 and WR4, respectively.  We should have already expected those lofty numbers to decrease with Winston.  Expectations definitely should be lowered with Brady.  Volume could be substantially lower.  Target depth also likely decreases significantly, overall.  Brady gives a slimmer of hope to O.J. Howard after significant regression in Arians’ new scheme.  He also raises the prospects for running backs with more scoring chances and more potential receptions.

Teddy Bridgewater (Carolina)

Carolina moved on from former MVP Cam Newton after a couple of injury-marred years.  The Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater as his replacement.  Bridgewater played the game-manager role for most of his career, typically throwing in low volume and low-ADOT passing schemes while avoiding much risk.  I would not consider him as more than a low-end QB2 and ideally as my QB3 in superflex leagues.  With that being said, Bridgewater is a major real-life upgrade over Kyle Allen.  Allen struggled at all level of the field, but was especially atrocious throwing at mid to deep levels of the field.  Bridgewater fits well with Carolina’s pass catchers who, as a group, have strong after-the-catch abilities.

Phillip Rivers (Indianapolis)

This is one of my favorite fits from free agency.  Familiarity with the head coach and offensive coordinator should ensure a relatively quick transition.  Rivers instantly improves the quarterback spot from Jacoby Brissett increasing the expected fantasy output of all skill players.  Top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and passing-down running back Nyheim Hynes likely are the biggest beneficiaries.  The position group for the Colts is a downgrade across the board with similar skills in many cases. The offensive line is a massive upgrade though.  It can be argued much of Rivers’ struggles last season began with the perpetually injured offensive line for the Chargers.  I see Rivers in the same upper-mid QB2 range for fantasy he has been for most of his later career.

Losing Rivers from the Chargers downgrades fantasy projections for all current players.  Either Tyrod Taylor or a rookie looks like the starter for 2020, and neither is someone that will increase volume or efficiency of the receivers around them.  Taylor brings rushing upside at quarterback but will be in danger of losing the starting spot at any time.

Running Backs

Todd Gurley (Atlanta)

Atlanta ranks as perhaps the best free agent landing spot for a running back.  First round talent exists everywhere on the offense.   Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the rest of the passing attack make one of the best bets for consistent high yardage and scoring opportunities.  The Falcons’ offensive line should be much healthier this year and a nice upgrade over the Rams’ aging unit.  The current depth chart also does not provide much competition with only Ito Smith and Brian Hill behind Gurley.  Gurley’s one-year deal makes drafting a running back very possible and his knee always brings up long-term questions. Put Gurley in the high-end RB2 mix with easy RB1 possibilities.

Melvin Gordon (Denver)

Denver made itself clear this offseason that they wanted to upgrade the running back group.  Gordon steps in as the lead back after signing a 2 year / $16 million contract.  Gordon produced a down campaign in 2019 after holding out for a significant period (typical for many players who come in late) and, as a result, did not get even the money Los Angeles offered.  Gordon likely forms a significant time-share with third-year burner Phillip Lindsay.  Denver figures to run the ball considerably behind a solid run-blocking line which should give Gordon plenty of opportunity.  The question is how efficiently 2nd-year starter Drew Lock can move the offense.  Gordon slots in as a borderline RB2/3 given the role and offense uncertainties.

Jordan Howard (Miami)

Howard lands with the Dolphins on a two-year deal for a team currently without much at the running back spot.  Miami is fully expected to take a running back in the draft but Howard should still have a role with most of the rookies.  People forget it was Howard, not rookie Miles Sanders, trending upward for the Eagles as the year rolled on before Howard’s season-ending injury.  The situation is much worse in Miami, though.  The offensive line ranks among the league’s worst and the offense will be headed by journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick or an incoming rookie.  Howard provides little in the receiving game.  He ranks as an uninspiring RB3 for fantasy.

Wide Receivers

Robby Anderson

Carolina adds some much needed depth to a wide receiver core without much behind star D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel.  Anderson brings very good deep speed in a thin-frame package while also providing a breakaway threat on crossing routes.  The former Jet averaged 14 to 15 yards per reception in each season.  He does not run a lot of different routes, won’t break many tackles after the catch, and won’t do much damage in the short to intermediate levels of the field.  The Panthers paid a premium for Anderson at $10 million per year and it is questionable how much Teddy Bridgewater can take advantage of Anderson’s skill set.   His lack of volume certainty puts Anderson in the WR4/5 range with upside if he can take the WR2 job.

Randall Cobb

One of the most curious decisions this offseason was the Texans trading superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for about a 2nd round pick and running back David Johnson.  Houston then gave Cobb a 3-year / $27 million contract.  There is plenty of opportunity for Cobb.  The Texans’ wide receiver group includes perpetually injured Will Fuller and deep-threat Kenny Stills.  Unfortunately, Cobb’s play really fell off the last few seasons.   He no longer has the juice that he once had many years ago.  Cobb should have a role as the slot receiver and there is value with DeShaun Watson at quarterback.    With that being said, Cobb is nothing but a cheap depth piece for fantasy.

Emmanuel Sanders

New Orleans might have found a worthy receiver opposite of Michael Thomas in Sanders.  He came back from a devastating Achilles tear quicker than expected and had a productive 2019 for the Broncos and San Francisco.  This is a smart addition for the Saints.  The question is how much consistent work Sanders gets on a team with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara soaking up targets plus Jared Cook, Tre’quan Smith, and Taysom Hill still involved.  He is worth a WR5 type of investment to find out with Drew Brees back.

Tight Ends

Austin Hooper

The former Falcon took a very common track for tight ends, slowly improving each year.  Hooper’s yardage and receptions increased every season, even last year despite playing in only 13 games.  He finished last season as the PPR points per game TE3.  Cleveland obtains a reliable consistent target but not one who dictates defenses or athletically challenges deep.  Hooper averaged between 9.3 and 10.7 yards per reception each of the last three years.  He figures to head 2-TE formations with David Njoku for the Browns after signing a huge $10.5 million per season contract.  Hooper slides to a borderline TE1/2 now.  There is too much uncertainty about his role on an offense with Beckham Jr., Landry, Chubb, and Hunt searching for volume.

Jimmy Graham

I will simply copy what I said about Graham when he signed with Green Bay:

The Seattle (Green Bay) experience was not kind for Jimmy Graham.  He never really fit in for what the Seahawks (Packers) wanted from him when he was healthy and it was painful watching Graham following his patellar injury.  Unfortunately he lost the burst and speed which made him one of the most dangerous receiving weapons in the league with New Orleans.  His great size and hands still let him maintain a role as a significant short-area threat.

It is difficult understanding what Chicago was thinking giving Graham significant money.  He is a role player at this stage and not a fantasy option in most leagues.


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 RSO Decisions: Franchise Tags

Updated: February 26th 2020

The Reality Sports Online Writer’s league started up for a variety of reasons including testing out new features out like the 5th year rookie option to see how they work in an actual league.  It also gave us a platform to talk about key decisions which occur in RSO leagues and discuss some of the inputs which go into the decision-making process of those decisions.  This article deals with one of those decisions crucial to RSO leagues; franchise tag use.  The reader will find some basic considerations going into the franchise tag decision and a few real-life examples of decisions members of the league are making going into the 2020 season.

League Situation

Settings

Starting Spots:  1 QB, 1 Open Flex, 2 RB, 2 WR, 2 Flex, 1TE. 24 Roster spots.  1st round rookie option enabled.  1 Franchise tag allowed. 2 practice squad spots. 10 teams.

Scoring:  PPR with passing TDs worth 4 points, 1 point per 25 passing yards, and -1 point per interception.

Some of the Top Potential Free Agents

QBs: Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, Minshew, Dalton

RBs: Gordon, Jones, D. Williams, Drake, Freeman, Coleman, Mostert, Hyde, Howard

WRs: OBJ, Evans, Robinson, Kupp, Woods, Boyd, Green, A. Brown, Edelman, J. Brown, Watkins, Parker, Sanders, Tate, Shepard, T. Williams, R. Anderson

TEs: Kelce, Henry, Hooper, Waller, Cook, Hockenson, Higbee, Everett, Olsen, Walker, Rudolf, Doyle

I categorize wide receiver and tight end as the deepest positions in the free agent pool with good depth and potential front line starters.  Tight end also happens to be one of the most needed position groups by teams in the league heading into free agency.  The available running backs produce many questions and the quarterback position is a graveyard of older QBs on the brink of retirement.

Cap Situation

The league has about $620 million in total cap space with four teams above $96 million.  The $620 million will rise as the new salary cap numbers come out.

Decision 1: Mike Evans ($34M) vs. Darren Waller ($10M)

Team Situation:

No better place to start with than a situation I am very familiar with, my own.  My team currently has the highest amount of cap space in the league for 2020 at $106M.  I also have three top-6 rookie picks to build around.  These attributes give this squad a lot of flexibility heading into next season.  The team has Tyreek Hill and Courtland Sutton locked in as the only starting wide receivers with Evan Engram in his final year of his rookie deal at tight end.

Analysis:

Waller might be the feel-good story in the NFL for 2019 overcoming drug issues with a 90 reception, 1,100 yard season after never reaching 100 yards in a previous season.   He is the focal point of the Raider’s passing attack.  Las Vegas (it is still somewhat odd to write that) likely adds another receiving threat to the wide receiver core this offseason.  Tagging tight ends in RSO is always interesting as they usually come at a low cost but are a low demand position with usable options readily available in shallow leagues.  Evans put up a 1,400 yard, 10 touchdown 16-game pace in 2019 despite injuries and sickness limiting his playing time/performance in multiple games.  That is the kind of upside which is likely not in Waller’s reasonable range of outcomes at tight end no matter how well he plays.  Neither team seems completely set at quarterback with both Jameis Winston and Derek Carr facing questions about their starting spots going forward.

 Decision:

I likely tag Waller.  His limited sample is a concern but he provides insurance against Engram’s lengthy injury issues at a relatively low cost.  He provides a legitimate flex option, especially during bye-weeks, as a strong potential TE1.  Waller should also be in high demand on the trade market by tight end needy teams, for which there are many in this league.  My cap space combined with Evans’ historic early production and upside makes this decision close despite the salary difference.  We will know more when the quarterback decisions are made for Tampa Bay and Las Vegas.

Decision 2: Melvin Gordon ($39M) vs Ryan Tannehill ($24M)

Team Situation:

This team currently sits at $35M of cap space with only a 3rd round rookie pick.  It has most of the starting lineup locked up on contract, including Chubb and Fournette at running back, with plenty of cheap bench depth.  Notable quarterbacks on contract include Prescott, Darnold, Trubisky, Mariota, and Taylor.

Analysis:

This situation presents a curious case as both options are NFL free agents this year.  We do not know for certain where they sign or even if they will be a starter for whichever team they sign with.  Gordon’s holdout decision in 2019 turned disastrous.  Austin Ekeler stepped up into the lead role in Gordon’s absence and responded as PFF’s fourth ranked running back and top receiving back.  Gordon struggled mightily in his return after a strong 2018, likely costing himself a lot of real money.  No team will give Gordon the money he was looking for and he might be out of a starting job if he is not willing to take less money.  Tannehill, on the other end of the spectrum, likely made himself a boatload of money.  The former Dolphin took over for a struggling Mariota and ran away with the Titans’ starting quarterback gig.  He led the league in passing yards per attempt by a whole yard (9.6 YPA) over 12 games!

 Decision:

This is an obvious “wait and see” decision to determine what the situation looks like later.  I still probably would not tag either of these players assuming starting jobs in their futures.  The team’s cap situation is not dire, but also doesn’t leave a lot of room for luxury buys.  This team’s QB2 situation has lots of potential options but can probably be described as murky at best.  Tannehill has never shown much of a fantasy ceiling and I would not want to bet on another outlier career season.  Gordon’s potential outcomes present a wider range depending on his landing spot.  His franchise tag number puts him at the top of market for our league.  That is not the type of gamble I like making on a running back in a new situation with a lengthy injury history.

Decision 3: Aaron Jones ($29M) vs Austin Hooper ($10M)

Team Situation:

Team three sits at a healthy $96M in cap space to go with the 5th overall rookie pick.  Much of the team’s starting lineup look locked up.  McCaffrey, Michel, and Hunt make up his primary running backs on contract, while Mike Gesicki remains as the only tight end under contract.

Analysis:

Jones produced the huge fantasy breakout many were waiting for in 2019.  He totaled over 1,500 combined yards with 49 receptions and 19 touchdowns finishing as the RB2. Jones remains in Green Bay for his final year of the rookie contract.  Expect his absurd touchdown total to fall this season as the offense progresses and the Packers likely adding more receiving weapons.  Hooper also produced his own coming out party finishing as the per-game TE3 with 75 receptions in just 13 games.  It looks like Hooper moves on from Atlanta this offseason given the Falcons’ limited cap space.  The situation Hooper lands in is unlikely to be as good as it was with Atlanta and Matt Ryan.

 Decision:

This seems like the easiest decision to me by tagging Jones.  He showed off a RB1 season last year and comes in at a reasonable cost.  The only issue which makes this a question is this team’s weakness at tight end.  Nobody wants to go into a season with Gesicki as their only tight end option, but there is plenty of time for free agency and the trade market to address the position.  Hooper’s uncertainty moving forward, even with a good landing spot, makes the choice easy.


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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Week 11: Prepping for the Playoffs

Updated: November 14th 2019

We are at the stage in the fantasy football season where most teams know if they are contenders.  If you are a contender, the time is here where playoff matchup considerations need to be examined.  The trade deadline is coming up for many leagues.  Below the reader finds a look at some NFL defenses worth targeting for your fantasy players and teams with good fantasy playoff schedules.  Now go win your league!

Target the pass and run defenses

Cincinnati

Things obviously did not go as planned when your team boasts a 0-9 record.  This is a team that failed in virtually every area of the field in 2019.  The Bengals give up the most total and rushing yards per game while giving up the fourth-most points per game.   The pass defense is not giving up as many yards but not because it is good.  Cincinnati ranks dead-last in Football Outsider’s DVOA against the pass.  Feel confident starting your fantasy players against Cincinnati weekly.

Miami

Miami mirrors Cincinnati in many ways.  Their efficiency metrics place them in the bottom-3 in the NFL for rushing and passing both for offense and defense.   They rank second to last in scoring.  Like the Bengals, game script may limit the total passing volume in some games because of how bad Miami is.  Do not worry.  The Dolphins play like a team which traded many top assets and clearly in rebuilding mode.

Others: Arizona gives up the second-most yardage and sixth-most points thanks to a sieve defense and a speedy high-volume offense.  Detroit has no real strength to their defense ranking bottom half of the league in yardage, scoring, and efficiency.

Target the pass defenses

Tampa Bay

The Buccaneers might exhibit the most polarized defense in the league.  They allow practically nothing on the ground as FO’s number one rushing defense.  Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the passing defense has not held out up well.  FO’s 27th ranked passing defense lets quarterbacks go wild, leading to the most points allowed for any team.  The Tampa Bay offense also typically does enough to keep pressure on opposing offenses.  Fire up your quarterbacks against the Bucs.

New York Giants

The 28th ranked passing efficiency defense giving up the third-most points makes for an enticing opponent.   Rookie, Dexter Lawrence, helped solidify the Giants run defense.  The defensive backs in New York have struggled all season on the other hand, particular rookie DeAndre Baker, and that is unlikely to change this season.  This passing defense is one to target.

Others: The Raiders have not solved their pass rush issues.  Happily start your passing game fantasy assets against a team giving up the third-most passing yards in the NFL.  The league gouged Atlanta, another team with problems putting pressure on the quarterback, for 8.2 yards per passing attempt so far.  We will see if the play-calling change after the bye helps moving forward.

Target the run defenses

Kansas City

The Chiefs made big acquisitions helping the pass defense including Frank Clark.  The defensive scheme invites runs over more efficient pass plays.  As a result, Kansas City allows over five yards per carry and the second most rushing yards while also giving up the second most rushing touchdowns.  The only questions for opposing offenses is whether they will be able to stick with the run long enough with Kansas City putting up their typical high-output points.

Carolina

Copy and paste the information from Kansas City.  The Panthers allow lots of rushing yards and lots of rushing scores while shutting down the passing game.  Most teams should stay competitive against Carolina to be able to utilize the run game significantly.

A few teams with good fantasy playoff schedules (Weeks 14-16)

Philadelphia (The Giants, Washington, Dallas)

The Eagles play all NFC East teams in the fantasy playoffs.   They even get Miami in week 13 as a bonus. None of these represent teams you should be afraid of starting your fantasy assets against in either the pass or run games.  Wentz, Ertz, Howard, and other Eagles have the chance for big performances during the fantasy stretch.

Cleveland (Cincinnati, Arizona, Baltimore)

The passing game for the Browns has not exactly worked according to plan.  With that being said, there is no better week 14/15 combo than Cleveland facing the Bengals and Cardinals defenses.  Nick Chubb is set up for a monster fantasy finish to the season and the Mayfield/Beckham/Landry combo possesses immense upside to take you into the championship week.

Miami (The Jets, Giants, Cincinnati )

No really feels comfortable starting any Miami player this year.  Quarterback Ryan “Fitzmagic” can turn into Ryan “Fitztragic” any game and the possibility of benching always exists.  The run game and offensive line are possibly the worst in the league.  Still, Miami faces maybe the easiest fantasy playoff schedule of any team against the pass.  Fitzpatrick and receiver DeVante Parker make for very cheap gambles in deeper leagues with great matchups every week of the playoffs.

Others:  New York Giants (Philadelphia, Miami, Washington); Jacksonville(Chargers, Oakland, Atlanta)


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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Week 9 Buys and Sells

Updated: October 30th 2019

The fantasy football world is full of buy/sell articles.  What are we actually looking at when those recommendations are made though?  First and foremost examine the fundamentals which dictate if fantasy stats are sustainable.  Is a quarterback’s efficiency corresponding to his touchdown rate?  Does a receiver collect enough targets to reliably post strong receiving totals?  Will a running back’s offense and usage consistently support fantasy output?  Another key consideration concerns changing situations.  When is a player expected back from injury or suspension?  Will another player possibly usurp usage from another?  While we can’t review every player, this and future articles during the season will give the reader a few potential buys and sells to get ready for future weeks.  Rankings are based off four touchdown passing PPR leagues.

Quarterback

Buy: Sam Darnold, QB34

We can classify Darnold’s recent play as disastrous.  Seven interceptions in the last two games and eight sacks last week has Darnold “seeing ghosts”.  He averages less than nine fantasy points per game so far this season which is less than a typical flex-type running back.  The surrounding situation also works against Darnold.  Many consider head coach Adam Gase one of the worst in the league and the Jets boast an awful offensive line to match.

So why take a chance on the Jets’ starting quarterback? We must remember Darnold is only 22 years old with only 17 games played so far due to injuries and sickness over his first two seasons.  This provides lots of room for growth as a quarterback going forward.  The youngster plays most of the bottom-level defenses in the NFL over the next six weeks including Miami twice, the Giants, Oakland, and Cincinnati.  This is buying Darnold at near basement-level with an upcoming schedule which could produce a big spike in his production.  Take the plunge on a player likely with a rookie RSO contract at a rock-bottom trade cost.

Sell: Phillip Rivers, QB16

2019 is a lot like River’s other seasons during his career.   He is among the the league leaders in passing yardage, stays healthy, and doesn’t add anything in the running game which makes for a solid QB2 or streaming option in fantasy leagues.  Rivers never really relied on arm strength but the lack of zip on his throws becomes more noticeable every year.  He is only signed through 2019 and at the age where retirement is a real possibility.  Rivers upcoming schedule also does him no favors.  Other than a couple of contests against the Raiders, he will not be a quarterback you will be excited about using in fantasy for the rest of the year.  Rivers has been one of the most consistently good quarterbacks in the NFL but it is time to sell him in fantasy leagues where he has value.

Running Back

Buy: Alvin Kamara, RB14

The Saints’ star running back has been excellent once again in 2019.  Kamara’s passing game usage is right in line with previous seasons and his rushing workload pace topped those first two years.  Touchdown regression hit him hard this season with only two scores to his name so far.  This accounts for Kamara’s somewhat down, but still excellent, RB8 per game scoring ranking.  Kamara is the de facto WR2 on a New Orleans team without much behind Michael Thomas making him virtually matchup proof and game script independent.

Latavius Murray exploded the last two weeks in Kamara’s absence scoring 32 and 36 points.  Certain owners might be in a pinch with New Orleans’ bye coming up and Murray’s performance without Kamara may foster concerns about some decrease in Kamara’s usage going forward.  These concerns might open a slight buying window to try and acquire the superstar running back.

Sell: Sony Michel, RB22

Michel was a buy earlier this year largely thanks to the schedule.  He rewarded those fantasy owners with solid weekly production due in part to lots of scoring chances.  It is time to move on for a variety of reasons.  Michel remains one of the least dynamic backs in the NFL ranking among the lowest in forcing missed tackles.  The Patriots do not utilize him in the passing game with only six receptions the entire season.  The New England offensive line is not dominating the line of scrimmage as in previous years.  Rex Burkhead returned to the lineup from injury in a limited fashion this week.  He gathered over ten touches per game before his injury with more diverse usage in the passing game than Michel.  His reps will only increase as the season goes on taking snaps from Michel.  New England’s upcoming schedule features games with much more competitive teams which will also limit Michel’s touches.

Wide Receiver

Buy: Robby Anderson, WR64

As usual, I like buying wide receivers for many of the same reasons as quarterbacks. Anderson’s price in many leagues will be about the same as a rock you found by side of the road.  The heavy part of New York’s season is over.  The Jets have a fantastic finishing schedule for the passing game.  Anderson showed big-game potential with Darnold to finish last season.  Look for some more down the stretch from the speedster this year.  He could be an excellent WR4 down the stretch.

Sell: Courtland Sutton, WR13

We have witnessed the second year breakout from Sutton many were hoping for.  The former SMU star has been the model of consistency with at least 62 yards and 4 receptions in all but one game for each.  The situation appears very murky now.  Denver is now faced with the prospect of playing an undrafted free agent quarterback who has never thrown an NFL pass , or eventually a developmental rookie quarterback coming off injured reserve whose own coaching staff said was “not a quarterback yet”, all behind one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines in the game.  Sutton is likely on a rookie deal in your RSO leagues with years left on his contract so don’t panic trade.  Understand, though, you can’t expect the same kind of game to game consistency you saw earlier this season going forward.

Tight End

Buy: Greg Olsen, TE11

Olsen predictably started slowly coming back from injury.  He looks better now but not up to the standards we are used to. Olsen ranks ninth in targets and tenth in receptions among tight ends.  Carolina’s bye is out of the way and the schedule does not have any team left which would cause you to bench Olsen.  You should understand this is not the same Olsen as in the past and the quarterback situation is not great no matter who starts for Carolina.  He does provide a relatively steady performer at the position and should come at a fairly cheap cost.

Sell: Austin Hooper, TE1

Practically no one predicted this.  Hooper emerged as the overall TE1 over the first half the season with an 84% catch rate and a 100 reception pace.  Atlanta performed far worse than expected with one of the bottom passing defenses in the league. This led to early negative game scripts throughout the mid-point of the season resulting in the most passing attempts in the NFL so far.  Negative game scripts likely remain for Atlanta but the competition changes drastically.  The Falcons faced a pass-friendly schedule so far in the season.  The remaining schedule ranks among the worst for passing offenses.  Look for both decreased volume and effectiveness from Hooper over the second half of the year.


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