Make The League Great Again

Updated: August 12th 2016

Many activities in life require an update to keep things feeling fresh. The same needs to be done in fantasy football. A league, especially a dynasty league that shuts down in January and stays stagnant till August will often fold after a few seasons. Of course, it is up to each individual owner to keep active and always look for trades and offseason information to make the league active year round. However, the commissioner of a league cannot leave this to chance and needs to look for ways to keep up the excitement.

Below is a list of ideas that I have seen implemented in other leagues that add creative flare to making fantasy football as exciting as possible.

Spread Out the Offseason

I have a friend and owner in the league that I commission who has branched out to other leagues in the last year. The one major annoyance that he has noticed is that the rookie draft and auction draft are lumped together the same day; or over a weekend in the middle of August. While there’s nothing wrong with waiting to collect all the necessary information to conduct a draft waiting till the preseason starts leaves 7 months of dead air for conversation. Especially in newer RSO leagues that only have between 8 and 12 players moving with each team into the new year, this doesn’t leave a lot of options for offseason trades as most players are sitting locked in free agency. Ideally, you want to conduct your rookie draft sometime between May and June. The free agency auction should be conducted between June and before week 1 preseason in August. This benefits the league by allocating players earlier in the offseason which allows for values to fluctuate over several months as depth charts are shaken up. It also creates more offseason trading due to these changes as well as with injuries.

Triple Crown Rebirth

The goal of dynasty football is to not only win a championship but to win multiple championships to create a dynasty team. However, unlike real NFL owners who have billions of dollars invested in their teams, fantasy owners are rarely bound to their team year over year. Triple Crown Club LogoA league that becomes unbalanced faces a high turnover rate which can damage the league’s playability. To offset this possibility leagues can have the option to have a total reset of rosters should any team win the league three straight years. This means throwing all the players back into free agency and starting from scratch the next offseason. The likelihood of this, especially with how the contract and salary cap structure of RSO helps creates greater parity, is very slim. However, this could be an ultimate prize for owners to strive for. It would create a very strong buzz should any team repeat as champion as owners need to be aware that their team could be blown up should the owner win a third time. This would also alter the trading strategy of the league as a whole as well as the auction values for an owner looking to complete the sweep.

*Bonus* For those of you who have season-ending payouts for standing finishes you can take a couple of dollars each year and put it towards repeat and triple crown winners. Think of it as the Jackpot in Wheel of Fortune where if nobody wins then it just keeps growing until it is paid out. This helps keep owners in the league since they are paying for future riches while also offering a bonus incentive for people to strive for.

Offseason Roster Expansions

This is one that my co-commissioner and I discussed this offseason. In the NFL offseason the roster size of each team balloons to 90 players and then shrinks back down to the 53 man active roster by week 1. If we play on RSO to create the closest experience to being an NFL GM then one should have the roster flexibility that they have during the offseason. Therefore, from the rookie draft through to the 3rd (or 4th) week of the preseason the roster size would be greater than that of the regular season. Depending on your current roster limits and league size a sufficient amount of added roster slots would be somewhere between 10-20% to still allow there to be adequate free agent acquisitions available. The point here is to accomplish three things:NFL Training Camp Logo

  • To simulate the necessary roster selections that GM’s face closer to the regular season whereby one must choose to hold onto a preseason darling or drop them and allow the possibility of another owner scooping them up.
  • To allow for owners to have flexibility when making uneven offseason trades that would otherwise put them over roster limits (i.e. 2 for 1 trades or player for picks trades).
  • To generate low-cost trades for conditional picks and players. If one isn’t able to hold all of their players or favors one over another, they may be able to move them during the “cut week” for conditional 3rd and 4th round future picks.

Preseason Cut Discounts

The second suggestion specifically for RSO leagues would be to offer a second cut “discount” period closer to the start of the regular season. Each offseason in the NFL there are usually a few veteran players during OTAs and training camp that don’t fit with the current roster and are subsequently released.Breaking News NFL The RSO platform already offers a discount before the start of the free agent auction whereby an owner can opt out of an existing contract by paying only 50% of future years’ salaries. However, if you want to implement or already implement an early draft date like I suggested above there are often changes to a player’s value before the start of meaningful games in September. Players who you thought might have major roles on your team can be overshadowed by incoming free agents. Also, injuries and preseason sleepers can usurp roles that you wouldn’t have otherwise foreseen when bidding in July.

Therefore, before the final week of the preseason owner can have the option to release players once again without having to pay their full contract. To reduce the cap charge to between 75-85% (equal to cutting a player of $10M but being charged $7.5M while freeing up $2.5M) could offer the opportunity for owners to open up some much-needed room to add players during the season or to accommodate trades.  When implemented with the aforementioned roster expansion this would also be a great way to hold potential project players over team veterans. Finally, this can also help with restocking the free agency cupboard, and keep everyone on their toes by having unforeseen cuts right before week one.

The most important thing to having a healthy league is to keep up the activity as well as to inject new ideas and themes each year. Make suggestions to your commissioner on activities or policies that you would like to see added to your league. If you are a commissioner, make sure to keep an open communication with all your league mates to ensure that you are creating a league that is enjoyable for everyone and stays fresh year after year. If you like any of the suggestions above or have a unique idea that you have or would want to implement in your leagues share your ideas with us on Twitter @RealitySportsOn or @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

2018 Player Rankings

Updated: August 7th 2016

You’re probably thinking, “Did I read that right? 2018 rankings?”  Yes, yes you did.  In dynasty leagues, we often project a player’s long-term upside by evaluating the perceived ceiling for that player.  But rarely do we give much thought to when that career year may occur.

When participating in a start-up draft or auction, I’ll typically target players that should have at least 3 production left or will enter their prime within the next 3 years  – call it my “Rule of 3”.  For example, I’ll rarely draft or bid on a running back over 30 years old like Adrian Peterson, but likely also won’t target a quarterback like Carson Wentz who may not even start in the NFL during his rookie year.

Having a three year plan in dynasty is as important as planning for the upcoming season. Having your team projected to finish .500 is not where you want to be.  If in contention, I’m always going to seek opportunities to buy.  If I realize by-mid season or before that a championship isn’t probable this year, I’ll reach out to each owner in my league and shop the players least likely to help me in future seasons.  Taking a small step back could result in your team take a huge step forward in the years to come. With all that said, let’s dive into my WAY TOO EARLY rankings for the 2018 season…

Quarterbacks

1) Andrew Luck
2) Russell Wilson
3) Cam Newton
4) Derek Carr
5) Aaron Rodgers
6) Jameis Winston
7) Marcus Mariota
8) Blake Bortles
9) Jared Goff
10) Matthew Stafford

*We’re seeing the dawn of a new era for the elite fantasy quarterbacks.  For plenty of years, we grew familiar with seeing Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees occupy the top tier of quarterbacks.  It’s now time for a similarly prolonged stretch for Luck, Wilson, and Newton.  Baring injury, I don’t see anyway these quarterbacks aren’t top 10 in 2018.

Running Backs

1) Ezekiel Elliott
2) Leonard Fournette
3) LeVeon Bell
4) Todd Gurley
5) David Johnson
6) Nick Chubb
7) Derrick Henry
8) Lamar Miller
9) Dalvin Cook
10) TJ Yeldon

*What is there not to like about Ezekiel Elliott?  He’s one of the best running back prospects to enter the league in a long time, plays behind the best offense line in football, and excels as a receiver and in pass blocking.  He should be a true three down back for an offense that will give him as much work as he can handle.  See, DeMarco Murray‘s workload in 2014.  Derrick Henry should take over for DeMarco Murray as the Titans‘ primary ball carrier in 2017, if not sooner.  He should immediately become a top 10 RB once given 250 carries in a season as a potential touchdown machine.  However, Henry won’t be too involved in the passing game and should be lowered slightly in rankings for PPR leagues.

Wide Receivers

1) Odell Beckham Jr.
2) DeAndre Hopkins
3) Amari Cooper
4) Sammy Watkins
5) Allen Robinson
6) Keenan Allen
7) Julio Jones
8) Mike Evans
9) Brandin Cooks
10) Donte Moncrief

*This group of wide receivers is special.  Pay what it takes to acquire any of them…you won’t regret it while they’re filling up the stat sheet for the next 5+ years.

Tight Ends

1) Rob Gronkowski
2) Jordan Reed
3) Tyler Eifert
4) Zach Ertz
5) Ladarius Green
6) Travis Kelce
7) Coby Fleener
8) Clive Walford
9) Hunter Henry
10) Austin Hooper

*It’s Gronk and everybody else.  I’m a huge fan of Jordan Reed who’s basically a 6’2″ wide receiver playing the tight end position, but his injury history scares me.  He could be #1 or #2 on this list or could just as easily fall completely outside of the top 10.

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO!  Would love to hear who you think I am too high on or should have included in my Top 10s!

My next article will explore the likelihoods that rookie QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs put together a top 10 season within their first 3 years in the NFL.  Look for that to drop later this month!

Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

SOS Targets

Updated: August 7th 2016

Fantasy players frequently must choose between players they have rated closely for the upcoming season. Looking at the schedule of those players might assist us making the choice between them.  Knowing the schedule helps fantasy owners because good defenses tend to give up less fantasy points to opponents than poor defenses do.  Strength of schedule (SOS) is not the overriding trait that determines player value but provides one factor we should consider.  Defensive personnel and coaching changes must also be taken into account.  I give a few examples of similarly ranked players I am targeting and avoiding below, in part due to SOS.

*SOS ranks listed below were taken from Scout Fantasy SOS at the time of writing.

*Running back ranks listed below were taken from Fantasy Pros PPR ADP at the time of writing.

Fade Ryan Tannehill (QB22, SOS: 28th), Target Jay Cutler (QB25, SOS: 6th)

Both Tannehill and Cutler present fine cheaper options for backups/streamers in 1QB leagues or second starters in 2QB leagues. New Miami head coach, Adam Gase, is widely considered a coaching guru for his work with Manning in Denver and Cutler in Chicago (though Manning is Manning and Cutler’s “resurgence” was somewhat overblown).  The fantasy results for Cutler, however, were not particularly good with Gase as the offensive coordinator.  Cutler lost 78 attempts resulting in a reduction in yardage and touchdowns from the previous season.  Cutler ended the season as just the 27th ranked fantasy quarterbacks in PPG.  Tannehill could likewise see a reduced workload this season with Miami emphasizing the run game more.

Miami’s schedule also projects poorly for its quarterback. Tannehill faces one of the more difficult intra-division schedules in the league for quarterbacks with the Jets, Buffalo, and New England all projecting as bad matchups.  The out of division schedule also includes tough games against Cincinnati, Seattle, and Arizona.  The fantasy playoff schedule only makes matters worse for Tannehill with poor matchups from week 14 on.

Chicago and Cutler receive a “cupcake” schedule by comparison playing the NFC East as its intra-conference division and the AFC South for its inter-conference division. The Bears play just three games (two against the Packers and one versus Houston) against defenses with defensive passer ratings inside the top 14.  We should also remember Cutler played last season without all of his receiving weapons for a good portion of the year.  Chicago’s top five expected targets going into the season (Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, Kevin White, and Eddie Royal) all missed significant time due to injury.  Expect a nice bounce back campaign from Cutler this season.

Fade Carlos Hyde (RB17, SOS: 25th), Target Ryan Mathews (RB24, SOS: 15th)

You can read my bold prediction for Ryan Mathews, but I will concentrate on Hyde here.  The third year running back faces a tough challenge this year.  San Francisco projects as one of the worst offensive teams in the league with questions at quarterback and lack of playmakers at wide receiver.  The offensive line also graded out as one of the worst run-blocking units in the league last year.   Game flow may reduce the expected Chip Kelly induced bump in volume for Hyde with the 49ers predicted to be behind in so many games.  Hyde provides very little in the passing game with just 23 receptions in 21 career games averaging a meager 5.3 YPC.

The schedule does not present any favors to San Francisco either.  Hyde and the running attack face multiple “avoid” matchups including Seattle (2), Arizona (2), Carolina, and the Jets.  The beginning of the year is particularly brutal with the Rams, Carolina, Seattle, Dallas, and the Cardinals in the first five contests.

Hyde is a player to avoid in fantasy at his current price. The situation in San Francisco offers little scoring opportunities and probable game script dictates a projected workload that is less than many expect.  The bad offensive line and tough schedule should keep Hyde’s efficiency low.  Hyde’s lack of prowess in the receiving game and the situation around him present an atrocious weekly floor and a low ceiling that fantasy player should not want a part of.

Fade Tyler Lockett (WR34, SOS: 17th), Target DeSean Jackson (WR38, SOS: 8th)

The Lockett hype exploded this offseason along with his cost. There is a lot to like about Lockett including smooth acceleration and easy separation from defenders.  Target volume works against Lockett however.  He will likely need another thirty targets on the season to move into the consistent WR3 core.  Part of the narrative is that Seattle will abandon their run-first mentality and start airing out the ball more.  Don’t count on it.  Seattle is the only team that has maintained a run percentage greater than 50% over the last two seasons.  The Seahawks are unlikely to suddenly become a pass dominated offense, particularly with the incredible defense they possess and after taking multiple running backs in the draft.  Russell Wilson, who had an outstanding season last year, could see a small jump in attempts to cross the 500 threshold but probably will not see a big boost in attempts

There are not many unaccounted for targets from last year especially if Jimmy Graham comes back from his patellar injury. Seattle re-signed fellow wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to long term deals this offseason.  The Seahawks also drafted running back C.J. Prosise in the third round who is expected to be a major contributor in the passing game.

Desean Jackson has conversely seen his draft capital sink to the WR4 range after an injury-plagued 2015. He provides one of the better values in fantasy football this season.  Jackson is still the preeminent deep-threat in the NFL with smooth, top-end speed that few corners can match.  There should be plenty of volume for Jackson with Washington expected to rely heavily on the pass next season.  There is very little talent in the backfield with Washington seemingly committed to Matt Jones, one of the worst graded running backs from last season, as the lead back.  Washington’s faces a few tough matchups in 2016 as a division winner, but generally sees an easy schedule versus the pass with divisional matchups against the NFC North and AFC North.

Lockett’s price is not bad, but does not really compare to the exceptional value of DeSean Jackson this year. Jackson has proven to be a borderline WR2/3 throughout his career, even with low target numbers.  A fantasy owner who invests in Lockett bets that he makes the jump to what Jackson already is and pays a premium to make the gamble.  Do not be that owner.  Look for Jackson to take advantage of a favorable schedule and produce somewhere around a 60 reception, 1000 yard, 6 TD stat line with upside for more.


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

Value and Style

Updated: August 7th 2016

I invited one of the best people I have ever met to a formal dance in high school.   I did this based on potential, and comfort.  If this was a fantasy pick we are talking a low-cost proposition in terms of social capital.  No boom or bust, I was her friend, and she knew we would remain so for a long time.   What she could not have known, nor could I, was how much better a high school dance was when enjoyed among friends, rather than spent in a desperate reach for whatever it is that socially awkward high school boys think they are reaching.   The dance of course is a monetary proposition.  Tux, dinner, limo.   My friends lacked money, but not ingenuity.   We decided to roll in our own unique style to spend money on something besides our wheels.   While many of our classmates took to the phones to order all manner of limos: stretch limos, Hummer limos, etc.  We took to the local grocer to get cardboard boxes and paint.   Hours later we had “pimped my ride” and my parents’ rusted Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon  took on the character, or at least caricature, of a limousine with a duct tape and cardboard body work semi-intact.  Our dates emerged in their formal dresses to their “players” in our ill-fitting, garish tuxedos and rolling Station Wagonosine.  Before the dance started we were hardly the most sought out dates, but when we tossed the keys to that beast to the Valet, we had truly arrived.  Limousine style at station wagon prices.

In the first article in the series we looked at the last tier of the top 100 players being selected in dynasty snake drafts through June.   With this sense of the best 100 players from the larger dynasty community, these articles will continue to offer you specific insight into how the players are valued in the RSO community so you can target great contracts in your offseason housekeeping.   The bottom of the 100 offered value to be found the WR position, but potential breakouts at TE provided the best trade targets.  This group of ten is headlined by a young QB being drafted 8th overall at the position, but the primary lesson to be learned is in a game of king of the Hill.  Just as we came to understand that holding out for late value in tight ends may be the way to go after the premier players come off the board, this tier reinforces and highlights a noteworthy aspect of RSO:  don’t overpay for running backs.

Jeremy Hill is almost universally owned across RSO leagues.   This ownership does not come cheap.  To secure the services of the young Bengal owners dropped contracts averaging 2.8 years and 52.29 million dollars.  He lead the league in rushing touchdowns in both 2014 and 2015 with 11 each year. By all means he is a qualified NFL success. Yet, his is a cautionary tale for GMs falling in love with the breakout of first year backs like David Johnson and Thomas Rawls.  Most owners view the return on their massive investment as dubious, because the Bengals have invested heavily in Gio Bernard in the offseason, and in RSO leagues Gio checked in last year at a purchase price of 8.19 million over an average contract length of 1.7 years.   This comparison allows you to evaluate what you are likely to pay at auction for the other backs in this tier: Duke Johnson, Ajayi, and Abdullah.

The young Duke offers the best comparison, slated to play the Gio role in Hue Jackson’s Cleveland odyssey is far less widely owned than either Bengal.   He is valued only fractionally differently by the broader dynasty community, and RSO GMs have him contracted for a nearly identical span (2.4 years) however, the young Brown Duke bears a price tag south of 5 million dollars, likely reflecting the low rookie draft capital and depressed contracts he commanded coming out of college.   Most owners are not selling at that price.  However, Duke and his truly sorry running mate, Isaiah Crowell are available at auction in a high percentage of RSO leagues.   Here is where you can make an informed investment.  Last year in the same time frame Joseph Randle slotted  at the 81st player taken in June ADP.  Randle’s cost in RSO: an average of 14.3 Million dollars over 1.8 years.    That contract is about 7.9 million per year.   If Duke, Ajayi, and Abdullah have lower price tags than that, the obvious play is to move on them while they still face relative ambiguity in their backfields.   However, the surprising find in this analysis is that Isaiah Crowell may actually be the cardboard-bedazzled RB to own.   He will be virtually free, and after seeing his possible range of comparables from Hill to Gio to Duke to Abullah, compare those names to the non-RBs in this tier.  Wouldn’t you rather spend that precious cap money on something besides the dubious wheels of Cincinatti, Cleveland, and Detroit?

(all Data courtesy of My Fantasy League. Trade calculator values are derived from current average draft position and historical trade market via the Rotoviz Dynasty ADP App):

81 Hill, Jeremy CIN RB 26 81.1
82 Johnson, Duke CLE RB 27 81.6
83 Crabtree, Michael OAK WR 43 82.4
84 Bernard, Giovani CIN RB 28 83.7
85 Ertz, Zach PHI TE 6 84.7
86 Boyd, Tyler CIN WR 44 84.8
87 Ajayi, Jay MIA RB 29 85.6
88 Abdullah, Ameer DET RB 30 86.2
89 Funchess, Devin CAR WR 45 91.1
90 Roethlisberger, Ben PIT QB 8 89.7

Bio: Luke @FantasyDocOC is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

More Analysis by Luke O'Connell

Guide to Starting RSO League

Updated: July 22nd 2016

Thinking of starting a Reality Sports Online league, but aren’t sure of what settings may create the best experience?  You’re in the right spot!  This piece will walk through the settings that I believe to be ideal for creating a new RSO league!

ROSTER REQUIREMENTS

Number of teams: 10
Roster Spots: 15
IR: Unlimited
I typically avoid 10 standard team leagues as the player pool is not deep enough for my liking, but I’m very fond of the format presented here.  These settings provide a balance of increasing the size of the player pool, while still forcing owners to face difficult lineup decisions on a week-to-week basis.  All of the leagues that I run offer unlimited IR slots.  Once you’ve designated a player to the IR in RSO leagues, they cannot be removed from that slot until the following season.  Placing the injured player on the IR saves you 50% of the player’s cap hit and frees up a roster spot.  Losing a player for the entire season is enough of a disadvantage to not also have to burn a roster spot and their full cap hit for the remainder of the season.

STARTING LINEUP

QB
QB
RB
RB
WR
WR
WR
TE
RB/WR/TE
RB/WR/TE
Bench
Bench
Bench
Bench
Bench
I’ve grown to be really fond of the 2QB format.  Quarterback may be the most important position in all of sports, but it’s far from that in standard fantasy football.  The strategy of drafting a QB late continues to gain momentum.  As the NFL has become more of a passing league, many QBs (not just the elite few) have seen an increase in production.  2QB or even Superflex leagues that feature an offensive player position to be filled with any QB/RB/WR/TE create a greater demand for QBs as they are the highest scoring position in fantasy football.  Forcing your league to start 20 quarterbacks makes the elite more valuable and eliminates the possibility of landing top 10-15 QBs at the end of your draft.
I’ve also eliminated the kicker and DEF/ST positions as I find them to be less strategic and more random positions to draft and evaluate on a week to week basis.  For more on my push to retire the DEF/ST positions, please read my column titled #NoMoreDEFST.

SCORING SETTINGS

Passing TD 4
Passing Yards .04 per yard
Interception -1
Rushing/Receiving TD 6
Rushing/Receiving Yards .1 per yard
Reception 0.5
These scoring settings are fairly standard.  While I prefer PPR to standard scoring, I believe that 0.5 points per reception is the best way to play.  It rewards players for their involvement in the passing game, but doesn’t equate to the same value as 10 yards rushing or receiving.  Pass-catching running backs are elevated in this format, but not as drastically as they are in full PPR scoring.

HOW MANY LONG-TERM CONTRACTS SHOULD BE AVAILABLE TO EACH OWNER?

I’m a fan of the standard settings for long-term contracts in the Free Agency Auction – one 4-year contract, two 3-year contracts, three 2-year contracts, and unlimited 1-year contracts.  While more may seem appealing, it’s important to have quality players available in the Free Agency Auction every year.

STARTUP SCHEDULE

Once you’ve created a RSO league, you’ll need to schedule the Rookie Draft.  As a startup league, you have no previous season to use as a basis for the draft order. Randomly assigning the order can create an imbalance in your league since the difference between Ezekiel Elliott and Paul Perkins is drastic.  I recommend making players drafted in the 1st and 2nd round of the NFL Draft ineligible for your inaugural Rookie Draft.  These ineligible players would then be available in your first Free Agency Auction.  Proceeding with the rookie draft in a randomized order/snake format should level the playing field.

OFF-SEASON SCHEDULE

In all keeper and dynasty leagues, communication is very important to keep the league moving forward, to maintain interest, and to get input from all owners.  Sending bi-weekly or monthly emails, even throughout the offseason, has worked for many of my leagues.  During the season, you can post Power Rankings, discuss the Standings, or recent trade activity.  In the offseason, you can develop a plan to replace any non-returning owners, schedule Owners’ Meetings (possibly as a conference call) to discuss the direction of the league, and discuss the rookie draft and trade market as teams get their rosters for the next season.

If this format interests you, please reach out to me on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO!  I’ll be forming a new league with readers and my Twitter followers in August.  This is a great opportunity to try RSO for the first time!


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Bait and Switch: RBs

Updated: July 22nd 2016

A few notable running backs switched teams this offseason. The problem becomes how do we evaluate these running backs on new teams, with new coaches, new offensive lines, and a bunch of other new considerations?  The folks at Football Outsiders provide one tool that helps separate the offensive line’s contribution to the running game called Adjusted Line Yards (ALY).  I created another metric called Isolated Yards per Carry (ISO) to measure the running back’s contribution to the running game by subtracting the ALY from a running back’s YPC.  ISO and a host of other relevant factors give readers a sense of how these players might perform in their new locations.

*Running back ranks listed below were taken from Fantasy Pros PPR ADP at the time of writing.

Matt Forte, New York Jets, 12th RB

The former Bear takes his talents to New York signing a 3 year, $12 million contract after 8 seasons in Chicago. Forte has been one of the true dual threat players at the running back position over the course of his career averaging 1,075 yards rushing, 515 yards receiving, and 61 receptions per season.  He has used his excellent vision, patience, and cut back ability to exploit defenses over the years.  Despite Forte’s historical success, I will be avoiding Forte in fantasy leagues this year at his current cost as a low end RB1.

There are a number of factors working against Forte this season. His 8 seasons in the NFL and over 2000 carries have taken a toll on his productiveness as a rusher.  Forte earned the lowest ISO (-0.02) of any running back who has accumulated 300 carries over the last two seasons.  He is not going to give the Jets much more than what the offensive line gives him at this stage in his career.  Speaking of offensive lines, Forte goes from Chicago’s 7th ranked unit in adjusted line yards last season to the Jets 26th ranked unit in 2015.  New York’s line is not getting any younger with three projected starters who will be in their 30s next season.

The third part of our puzzle involves the Jets other running backs. New York resigned Bilal Powell to a new 3 year, $11.25 million contract which was virtually identical to Forte’s deal.  Powell produced one of the better under the radar seasons for any running back last year excelling as both a rusher and a receiver.  The former fourth round pick from Louisville collected 47 receptions in just 11 games while also displaying dynamic running ability and quickness, ending with the 8th highest ISO of any back with 50 or more carries.  The Jets also brought in Khiry Robinson from New Orleans who likely sees a substantial portion of the goal line work, an area where Forte has struggled throughout his career.

Overall, there is not much upside with Forte as the 12th RB off the board.  He probably does not approach his career averages in yardage and receptions plus the touchdown potential is rather small.  People seem to be generally discounting the workload his teammates will receive (I really like Powell as the 45th RB off the board).  Add in the fact that Geno Smith is currently the starting QB and this is a situation I will be avoiding.

Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars, 33rd RB

Sometimes the arguments against a player just turn to the bizarre. Such is the case for Chris Ivory who signed a massive 5 year, $32 million contract with Jacksonville this offseason.  I have heard many analysts suggest Ivory was signed as a backup to T.J. Yeldon or as a goal line back.  This argument is ludicrous.  Teams simply do not give this kind of money to a running back whom they project to be a marginal role player.  Ivory will certainly take many of Jacksonville’s goal line carries, an area the Jaguars and Yeldon were atrocious in, but he also provides so much more.  Another common argument is that the Jaguars had a bunch of excess cash they needed to spend and just decided to use it on Ivory.  Jacksonville was a team that won only 5 games last season and had needs across the board on defense and holes on the offensive line.  The team chose to put a large portion of the available cash into Ivory.  The last major detrimental point about Ivory is that he is “injury prone”.  This thought seems to have lingered from his first three seasons in the NFL when he missed significant time.  Ivory missed exactly two games the last three seasons combined and has little wear with less than 900 career carries.

So what does the former Jet bring to Jacksonville?  The answer is a productive, power back the Jags are sorely in need of.  He routinely breaks tackles, pushes the pile, and powers through defenses complementing Yeldon’s less violent, gliding style of running.  Ivory averaged a strong 4.6 yards per carry over his career and finished last season with an ISO of 0.75, good for 11th among backs with over 100 carries.  There is little risk with Ivory at his low end RB3 price (which is somehow lower than Yeldon’s).  You are paying for the bottom of probable outcomes as a 180-200 carry committee back with upside for much more as the primary back. Take this bargain where you can.

Lamar Miller, Houston Texans, 7th RB

The best move for fantasy value this offseason might be Lamar Miller moving to Houston. One of the few game breakers at the running back position, Miller is among the handful of lead backs in the NFL who can outrun safeties and corners once he gets to the third level.  This makes Miller a threat to score from any part of the field as evidenced by 85 and 97 yard scoring runs over the last two seasons.  His running style involves little dancing in the backfield, instead accelerating to top speed rapidly and gaining positive yards.  All of this speed comes in a prototypical 5’-10” 225lb frame that has been very durable, not missing a single game over the last three seasons.

The former Hurricane has also quietly been one of the most productive backs in the NFL over the last couple of seasons. Averaging 4.8 YPC despite playing for one of the worst rushing offensive lines in the NFL, Miller generated the largest ISO (1.04) of any running back playing the last two seasons and accumulating 200 carries over that span.  The 25 year old has also steadily improved in the passing game increasing his receptions and YPA over the last two seasons.  These skills will be put to good use in the Bill O’Brien led Houston offense which has been top 5 in rushing attempts (averaging 511) over the last two seasons and also uses running backs extensively in the passing games.  Miller is looking at a big workload increase with even a very conservative 50% volume share.

There are no sure things at the running back position when players switch teams, but Lamar Miller is one of the best bets to succeed for the near future.   He has tremendous physical skills, great proven performance, limited wear and tear, plus moves to a run-heavy offense that also throws the ball a lot to the running backs.  He should be a safe RB1 with legitimate top-5 upside.

Demarco Murray, Tennessee Titans, 19th RB

Murray’s moves to Tennessee from what was a disaster in Philadelphia.  New coach Mike Mularkey promises an “exotic smashmouth” style of football this year and the Titans bolstered that claim by adding Murray in free agency, first round draft pick offensive lineman Jack Conklin, and 246lb Heisman winning running back Derrick Henry in the second round.  Contradicting the heavy running claim is that Tennessee ran the ball only 172 times over the last 8 games (21.5 attempts per game) of 2015 when Mularkey was the interim head coach. The Titans were behind in too many games to effectively run a rushing dominated offense.  That situation is unlikely to change in 2015 as the defense is not good enough to support a run based offense.

Murray moved from one of the best offensive lines in Dallas to one of the worst in Philadelphia resulting in his YPC plummeting. At the same time, his production remained very similar.  While Murray’s YPC dropped from 4.6 with Dallas to 3.5 with the Eagles, his ISO remained nearly identical (0.30 vs 0.33).  Expect his yards per carry to increase closer to four next season in what will be a better offensive line than Philly.

Murray is priced fairly right now. He is in that large group of backs with questions about volume, workload split, and/or performance.  Tennessee’s schedule gives Murray the chance to establish himself as the lead back.  They will not face a single rushing defense ranked inside the top 10 against the run on a per carry basis from 2015.  Volume may be the problem in Tennessee.


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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