RSO Roster Construction: Positional Variation

Updated: August 5th 2020

The question of optimal roster construction remains a mystery to many in RSO leagues.  How much should I allocate to different position groups?  How is the allocation distributed within each position?  How much should go to projected starters versus backups?  There exists practically near-limitless player combinations available to RSO teams and we can’t hope to cover any reasonable fraction of those.  A previous article compared rosters based on allocation of cap to different tiers of players.  This article gives a few examples of what various rosters can look like based on allocation of salary cap to different position groups.  We utilize average salary data taken from 2020 RSO startup auctions in order to construct 20-player rosters fitting near the RSO salary cap limits.  Note rookies are not included in rosters due to very small auction samples.  I assume 1QB/1SF/2RB/2WR and 1 or 2 flex spots in the starting lineup for this exercise.   I also allocated the same number of roster spots at each position for all rosters as a consistency measure.

The goal of this article is not to recommend individual players or even which type of roster construction is best.  League settings and conditions will have a big impact on the type of roster you desire on auction day.  The article does provide a starting point in evaluating different types of roster builds and the sort of trade-offs one must take into account when choosing how your team is constructed by examining a few rosters with differing cap distributions among players.

Running Back Heavy Roster

 

This roster allocates about 60% of cap space to the running back position.  It features two top-five RBs along with multiple other backs whom possess high-end workload potential.  The team relies on lower-tier starting options at both quarterback and tight end likely utilizing a weekly matchup-based approach for each.  Running back-heavy squads wish to capitalize on a few key areas.  One, top running backs outscore their correspondingly ranked top wide receivers, even in a PPR scoring system.  Typically the switch-off point where wide receivers start outscoring their running back counterparts occurs roughly in the 6-10 ranking range for PPR leagues. A team spending heavy on running back maximizes chances of hitting on a high-value player which wide receivers and tight ends can’t hope to compete with in terms of potential scoring and positional advantage.  Two, wide receiver depth makes spending less at that position a more viable strategy as quality reliable starting options  are readily available at price points one would pay for backup running backs and backs with unknown roles.  Three, heavy running back spending also mitigates more scoring variation at the position due to issues like higher dependency on surrounding players and coaching schemes.  A team is in a better position to make up for injuries and misses at the position.

There are also a few disadvantages with this strategy.  High-end running backs are typically the most expensive players in RSO leagues.  Investing in the top backs necessarily means less cap room for other positions compared to when a team pays for top players at other positions.  Lower-end tight ends and quarterbacks can provide passable options to fill your starting lineup but very rarely provide much upside. Also, elevated injury-risk at the position leads to more volatility from a season-long perspective.  In particular, the accumulation of volume and hits may lead to injury and/or underperformance of running backs toward the end of the fantasy season and playoffs when those big point totals are so valuable.

Wide Receiver Heavy Roster

 

The wide receiver heavy example consists of the same tight end and quarterback groups but allocates about 60% cap space to wide receivers.  The goal of this roster construction varies from the RB-heavy roster.  Instead of taking swings on more volatile high-risk, high-reward running backs, the team tries to accumulate more of the smaller, but more reliable and consistent, victories at wide receiver.  The team reduces injury-risk by not heavily investing in running backs and is still able to acquire running backs with potentially big roles and others with chances to eventually gain roles as injuries or underperformance hit other teams’ starting running backs.  This strategy becomes more viable as starting spots open to wide receivers increases in order to take advantage of all those accumulated small wins.

The most glaring issue with this strategy is that the running back puts you in a “cover your eyes and hope” position.  Questions with regard to the player, surround talent and coaching, and/or role in offense naturally increase as the contract price decreases.  The rate of questions to price is much sharper at the running back position which leads to vary questionable starting options.  The limited player pool of viable starting running backs also makes trading for one potentially very expensive.

Quarterback / Tight End Heavy Roster

 

There are some very pleasing traits to a team-build emphasizing the quarterback and tight end positions.  A team won’t have to devote as much cap space to get upper-end talent at the positions because teams typically only start 2 quarterbacks and 1 tight end weekly in superflex leagues.   This allows cap space spread out more uniformly among the various positions which may result in a more balanced starting lineup with no true weakness. This roster-type should offer a consistent weekly edge at quarterback and tight end, even in bye weeks and when injuries occur, while having an extra high-end tight end provides a potentially useful flex option.

Depth at the key fantasy positions of running back and wide receiver could be an issue with this type of team build.  There is not much room for many injuries or underperformance at those positions on a team like this.  Another issue is whether there is enough value to be extracted from paying a premium at quarterback.  The fantasy community is not particularly great at finding significant value at the position.  A previous article found RSO owners spending premium amounts of salary at quarterback did not result in much more expected production at the position.


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

RSO Roster Construction: Player Tier Variation

Updated: July 18th 2020

The question of optimal roster construction remains a mystery to many in RSO leagues.  How much should I allocate to different position groups?  How is the allocation distributed within each position?  How much should go to projected starters versus backups?  There exists practically near-limitless player combinations available to RSO teams and we can’t hope to cover any reasonable fraction of those.  This article gives a few examples of what various rosters can look like based on allocation of salary cap to different tiers of players.  We utilize average salary data taken from 2020 RSO startup auctions in order to construct 20-player rosters fitting near the RSO salary cap limits.  I assume 1QB/1SF/2RB/2WR and 1 or 2 flex spots in the starting lineup for this exercise.   I also allocated the same number of roster spots at each position for all rosters as a consistency measure.

The goal of this article is not to recommend individual players or even which type of roster construction is best.  League settings and conditions will have a big impact on the type of roster you desire on auction day.  The article does provide a starting point in evaluating different types of roster builds and the sort of trade-offs one must take into account when choosing how your team is constructed by examining a few rosters with differing cap distributions among players.

Top-Tier Heavy Roster

Top-tier Heavy Roster Example

This roster paid a premium for top-tier players, holding one at each position.  The top-4 players combined for about 75% of the salary cap.  These top-tier players show the most certainty in production which means this roster construction profile puts most of the cap dollars in highly reliable players.  The hope for this type of team resides in exploiting the consistent week-winning upside of the high priced players while getting just enough production from lower priced players.  The team has potential for extremely high weekly production in shallow leagues if it gets lucky and hits on one or two low-priced, low-probability players.  That strategy gets murkier as the number of required starters increases when more “hits” on questionable players are needed to produce a winning lineup.

The main issue with a team constructed this way is that many roster spots are filled with minimum salary and other low-cost players with very small odds of significant fantasy production.  There is little chance of seeing significant value increases from these players.  Most trades will necessarily involve moving one of the prized star players to help alleviate any team deficiencies.  Any injury or underperformance of your star players is also a major issue for a team like this as there simply isn’t going to be a viable replacement in most cases.

 

Starter Heavy Roster

Starter Heavy Roster Example

This roster variation divests cap dollars away from the very top-tier players.  Most of our salary is still allocated to the starters but is more evenly divided among them.  We can see that secondary and tertiary starters see significant potential upgrades over the previous top-tier heavy roster both in upside and certainty.  The main question for teams utilizing this strategy is how they view the secondary starters.  The move away from the top-paid players may well be worth the cost if an owner sees potential top-tier production in the next tier of players.

Balanced Roster

Balanced Roster Example

This distribution notably puts more cap dollars in potential flex starters and bench players.  The flatter cap distribution approach displays two primary benefits.  First, the roster offers enhanced injury mitigation.  Unavailability of even the best players on this roster will potentially have a more diminished effect.  The statistical projections between players are less as the salary gap narrows.  There is a certain amount of “plug and play” replacement aspect here.  Second, this type of roster construction acknowledges the inherent randomness in statistical production.  New coaching, surrounding personnel, schemes, schedules, etc. have major impacts on the fantasy performance of players.  Dividing money to more players allows additional chances on players with reasonable chances of significantly out-producing respective salaries.   There exists a good chance one of the backups produces at starter-quality as a replacement for an underperforming projected starter.

The downside to this build is a team will usually not have the potential weekly upside using this roster methodology compared to more concentrated distributions.  Even when many of the questionable players exceed expectations, they are unlikely to achieve truly top-tier production levels and many may not make your starting lineup.  This becomes less of a concern as in deeper leagues as more of the “hits” can be utilized on a weekly basis.

 

Key Implications

  1. Highly concentrated cap teams attain more viability in leagues with shallower starting requirements. Flatter cap distribution among players finds its strength in deeper leagues as lower-tier players have more value.
  2. Injury and production risk decrease as we flatten the cap distribution. The risk is actually lower that key players underperform in a more concentrated distribution due to fewer key players but the harm done to a team is substantially higher when underperformance does occur. 

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

2020 Quarterback Manifesto

Updated: May 20th 2020

I’ve recently had the pleasure of collaborating with a few dynasty newcomers in my 3 RSO leagues.  In doing so, I have found their hunger for insight invigorating.  It’s caused me to push my own boundaries as an analyst.  Try as I may, I cannot cover everything these guys need to know in one offseason.  Learn by doing, right?  I hate giving them vague advice like, “Zig when people zag” or “Forget groupthink and do your own due diligence.”  I have to be able to offer them (and RSO readers) more.  So for me, this article goes beyond just breaking down quarterbacks.  It’s a template for changing the way you attack fantasy.

Years ago, I found myself constantly arguing with friends over the Aaron Rodgers’ “Sit and Learn” myth.  I call it a myth because until Pat Mahomes burst out on to the scene in 2018, the list of 1st-Round QBs that sat as rookies post-Aaron Rodgers’ 2008 breakout consisted of Tim Tebow, Blaine Gabbert, Johnny Manziel, and Paxton Lynch.  Not exactly the who’s who of NFL careers.  It took 10 seasons to find a second qualifying case for this gabage sentiment, and yet NFL pundits beat us over the head with it week after week, year after year.  As a result, many owners missed out on the Jared Goffs and Josh Allens, fearing that they might be wasting a pick/roster spot.  1st-round rookie QBs play Year 1 (except for you Jordan Love).  It may be 7 games like Lamar Jackson and Dwayne Haskins.  It may be 14 games like Daniel Jones and Baker Mayfield.  Whatever the case, buying into this realization and investing accordingly will always give you an edge from a cap perspective.

I understand this is old news for a lot of you veterans that could not wait to grab Tua and Herbert in your Rookie Drafts.  Hopefully, this next insight will be a bit more compelling.

Lamar Jackson threw a touchdown pass on 8.98% of his attempts last year.  Why not just round it up to an even 9% you ask?  Well, because since the merger, Peyton Manning is the only person to have ever surpassed that threshold.  He threw 49 TDs on a mere 497 pass attempts (9.86%) in 2004.  Despite all the monster QB seasons that came in the 15 years since then, Lamar’s 36 TDs on 401 attempts ranks the closest.  Here’s a list of the Top 10 seasons according to TD to Pass Attempt Ratio.

Name Year TDs Ratio
Peyton Manning 2004 49 9.86%
Lamar Jackson 2019 36 8.98%
Aaron Rodgers 2011 45 8.96%
Tom Brady 2007 50 8.65%
Pat Mahomes 2018 50 8.62%
Nick Foles 2013 27 8.52%
Dan Marino 1984 48 8.51%
Peyton Manning 2013 55 8.35%
Russell Wilson 2018 35 8.20%
Randall Cunningham 1998 34 8.00%

The TD to Pass Attempts Ratio helps us pinpoint efficiency.  Contemplate Rodgers vs Brady vs Brees for this upcoming season.   Deciphering which one of these old-timers we may want to invest in becomes much easier once we focus our attention to efficiency.  Rodgers has the biggest arm, while Brady boasts the best weapons.  Brees, however, is the clear-cut choice due to his 7.1% TD rate last year (3rd highest).  Observe what a difference this made in terms of fantasy points per game.You will notice Peyton Manning is the only player who has eclipsed 8% multiple times in his career, and the second instance came 9 years later in 2013.  This data can be beneficial to us in a couple of ways.  For starters, Lamar’s absurd scoring efficiency through the air is bound to come down in 2020 (more on that later).  35-36 TDs may be repeatable, but it will require a hell of a lot more throws moving forward.  So the first question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you envision Lamar increasing his pass attempts to say 480+.  If you do not, you should probably forget about him returning to this mark.

2018 TD/Att Ratio 2019 TD/Att Ratio 2019 Points Per Game PPG Ranking
Drew Brees 6.5% 7.1% 20.4 7th
Aaron Rodgers 4.2% 4.6% 17.4 13th
Tom Brady 5.1% 3.9% 16.5 16th

Back to Lamar.  Earlier I referrenced how disproving the “Sit and Learn” rookie myth provided clarity for dynasty leagues.  I would like to now PROVE a QB trend that should have a similar impact.  In 2018, Patrick Mahomes threw for 5100 yards and 50 TDs.  Public opinion varied on how he would follow it up.  Most expected at least a mild step back.  I, on the other hand, was placing small bets with friends that even with Tyreke Hill eluding a suspension, Mahomes would not exceed 36 TDs.  Now I hardly expected him to be reduced to nearly half his production (26 TDs).  I was more in the 32-34 range.  I did predict a massive regression, though, and here is why.

I call it the “Matt Ryan Rule”.  It’s simple.  Big seasons are followed up with considerable regression.  To prove it, I have provided a list of all the 34+ Passing TD seasons in NFL history, as well as their respective fantasy totals.  Also included are the follow-up seasons’ stats and Regression %.  Of the 51 season sample size, only 3 QBs managed to improve upon their big year fantasy output.  Another way of putting that is 94.1% of these QBs experienced some level of regression.  The average regression rate was 31.7%, which indicates these follow-up seasons as a whole range from significant dropoffs to absolute busts.

I know what you are thinking.  These passing trends do not account for the 1200 yards and 6 TDs Lamar just ran for, and therefore can not be applied to him.  Fair enough.  While we are at it, let’s disect history’s most notable QB rushing seasons.  Our metrics of qualification can be 500+ yards or 6+ Rushing TDs.

The running results are a bit more positive with 7 of the 44 QBs improving in their fantasy production via running.  Ultimately, though, it is a similar diagnosis.  84.1% of the follow-up seasons experienced some form of regression, and the average regression was 23.9%.  To sum it up, the safe bet is Lamar Jackson is neither throwing for 35-36 TDs, nor is he rushing for anywhere near 1200 yards in 2020.  I have him projected for 3500 passing yards with 26 TDs & 9 Ints. On the ground – 810 rushing yards with 6 rushing TDs & 4 Fumbles.  Those are still Top 5 QB numbers, but that represents a 16.5% regression.  If you are satisfied with that level of production on the final year of his rookie contract, power to you.  I, however, would consider shopping him around.  Perhaps someone in your league will throw you 3 future 1st-round picks, with plans to later tag and extend Lamar in the offseason.  Whatever you do, do not drop 30+ mil on him in the event that he is available in your auction (for leagues entering their 1st season).  Regression is coming.

The same can be said for Dak Prescott.  The man went from 3900 yards in 2018 to 4900 in 2019…on just 32 more completions.  I love Dak’s development through 4 seasons, and his WR trio is the best in the league in my opinion.  The Cowboys expeirenced a lot of stat padding in garbage time, however.  CeeDee Lamb and Blake Jarwin may have more upside than Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, but that is still a combined 118 receptions, 1,350 yards, and 25 years of experience that just left the building.  On top of all this, Zeke Elliott could easily lead the league in rushing once again.  All in all, I have Dak projected for 4300 yards with 25 TDs and 12 Ints, while adding 300 yards and 4 TDs on the ground.  This stat line represets roughly an 8% regression.  That forecast really shouldn’t scare you considering Dak has recorded 29, 28, 28 and 33 total TDs in his first 4 seasons.  I would pay Dak less than Wilson but more than Watson for what it’s worth.

 

So, if Lamar and Dak aren’t throwing for 30 touchdowns this season, who is?  I would like to close with 5 cheap QBs I believe can accomplish this feat in order of probability:

1).  Derek Carr will never receive the “Doing it with nobodies” credit the league showered Tom Brady and Andrew Luck with every year, but his 4,000+ yards & 21 TDs in 2019 is the new standard with which I measure those type of overachieving seasons.  Carr’s “veterans” consisted of Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones and Jalen Richard.  Darren Waller was embarking on his 4th season, but only had 18 career catches.  Aftert that it was all rookies, albeit some good ones: Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau and Keelan Doss.  Such an uninspiring group, and yet Carr completed 70.4% of his passes (2nd only to Brees).  Observe below how his compared with 3 of the biggest names in the league.

Pass Yards Pass TDs Ints Comp %
Pat Mahomes 4031 26 5 65.9
Aaron Rodgers 4002 26 4 62
Tom Brady 4057 24 8 60.8
Derek Carr 4054 21 8 70.4

Carr’s perseverance last year proved to Gruden he is not only the right man for the job, but that this team is ready to compete for a playoff berth under his leadership.  He and Mike Mayock’s draft selections in April reflected that.  Henry Ruggs adds explosiveness to the offense.  Even if Carr cannot connect on vertical passes, Ruggs can take intermediate work in stride and turn it into chunk plays.  Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden bring strong run after the catch ability to the table as well.  We round out the offensive offseason additions with Nelson Agholor.  His hands are shaky at times, but he does have 2 60+ catch and 700+ yard seasons under his belt.  It’s a raw group, but it’s talented and I believe the Raiders and Broncos are both trying to out-offense the Chiefs for that division.

Projections:  4200 yards – 28 TDs & 10 Ints, 90 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 3 fumbles

2).  Ryan Tannehill started 10 games last year.  He threw 2 or more TDs in 9 of them.  I admit, it’s easy to fall into this trap of thinking, “Well, Henry might rush for 2,000 yards this year, and who’s the #2 after A.J. Brown?”  However, I have seen time after time a team exceed passing expectations due to a stout running game.  That is when play action is most lethal.  In 2014, Demarco Murray led the league in rushing with 1845 yards on 392 carries.  Tony Romo managed to throw 34 TDs on just 435 pass attempts.  That’s a 7.8% TD rate.  Ryan Tannehill finished 2nd in the league last year with a 7.7% TD rate.   In 2007, we witnessed a similar occurence with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Willie Parker and Najeh Davenport combined for 428 carries for 1,815 yards.  That was hands down Big Ben’s most efficient season of his career.  He threw 32 TDs on just 404 pass attempts – 7.9% TD rate.  His top 3 pass catchers were Santonio Holmes with 942 yards, Hines Ward with 732, and Heath Miller with 566.  That’s the kind of season we can project for the 2020 Titans.

Projections:  3800 yards – 27 TDs & 11 Ints, 240 yards rushing – 3 TDs & 2 fumbles

3).  In the last 2 seasons, we have witnessed a 2nd year QB without much experience take over the league I’m not predicting an MVP caliber season, but I do believe Drew Lock is poised to somewhat follow in Mahomes and Lamar’s footsteps.  Full disclosure: I would prefer to talk about Daniel Jones or Kyler Murray here, but I don’t think they are very accessible.  From my experience thus far, their current owners aren’t interested in moving them.  Lock, on the other hand, can likely be acquired for say a future 2nd round pick.  I think many will be surprised to see just how well Lock performed in his 5 starts last year:

Week Opponent Result Comp % Yards TDs Ints QB Rating
13 Chargers W 23-20 64.29 134 2 1 84.5
14 Texans W 38-24 81.48 309 3 1 136
15 Chiefs L 3-23 45 208 0 1 50.8
16 Lions W 27-17 75.76 192 1 0 99.6
17 Raiders W 16-15 60.71 177 1 0 90.9

Lamar Jackson went 6-1 as a rookie with an 84.5 QB rating.  Drew Lock went 4-1 with an 89. 7 QB rating.  One of my favorite stats regarding Lock’s rookie campaign…he hit Courtland Sutton 4 times for 72 yards and 2 scores in his 1st NFL start & Noah Fant 4 times for 113 yards and a TD in his 2nd.  That answers the question of whether he can find his playmakers.  His completion percentage (64.1%) and his lack of Ints (3) also addresses any turnover concerns.  All that’s left to do is build around him, and did John Elway ever.  Melvin Gordon may be limited as a runner, but his 1680 yards, 11 TDs and 8.8 ypc as a receiver the last 4 years make him a perfect fit for a young QB.  Add Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam to the mix and Lock will now have freedom to make his own reads and exploit mismatches.  Commence “Operation Beat Chiefs 38-35 Twice a Year”.

Projections:  3700 yards – 25 TDs & 12 Ints, 210 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 4 fumbles

4).  You will have to forgive me for this one.  I can’t help but draw parallels between players sometimes.  In 2001, Drew Bledsoe signed a 100 mil contract with the Patriots at age 29.  He went down late in Week 2, and was replaced by 6th rounder Tom Brady.  Brady recorded an 86.5 QB rating through 14 games, and Bledsoe was subsequently traded to the Bills that offseason.  Fast forward 18 years.  Nick Foles signed an 88 mil contract with the Jaguars at age 30.  He went down in the first half of Week 1, and was replaced by 6th rounder Gardner Minshew.  Menshew recorded a 91.2 QB rating through 14 games, and Foles was subsequently traded to the Bears this offseason.  Now, by no means am I calling Menshew the next Tom Brady.  I just find the similarities interesting, especially considering Brady went on to throw for 3,764 yards and 28 TDs in his 2nd year as a starter.  That’s exactly the sort of ceiling I envision for Menshew in 2020.  For starters, the Jags hired Jay Gruden as the new offensive coordiantor.  Let’s take a look at his QB resume.

Year  Experience Comp % Pass Yards Pass TDs Ints QB Rating
Andy Dalton 2011 Rookie 58.1 3398 20 13 80.4
2012 Year 2 62.3 3669 27 16 87.4
2013 61.9 33 20 20 88.8
Kirk Cousins 2014 5 starts as RG3’s backup 61.8 1710 10 9 86.4
2015 Year 2 69.8 4166 29 11 101.6
2016 67.0 4917 25 12 97.2
2017 64.3 4093 27 13 93.9

Although he hasn’t had much success in the win column, Jay has long been regarded as a QB whisperer.  The additions of Tyler Eifert, Chris Thompson and Laviska Shenault Jr. will go a long ways in maintaining said reputation.

Another factor that plays into Menshew’s chances of ascending in 2020 is Leonard Fournette’s extreme mediocrity.  Buga found the endzone 3 times on 341 touches last year.  You can say he got unlucky in terms of goal-line opportunities.  That’s fine.  There is no denying his ineffectiveness in the passing game, however.  Let’s compare his numbers to the rest of the Top 10 Targeted RBs last year:

Fournette’s 6.9 ypc was tied for 3rd to last in this group, while his 5.2 yards per target fell short of everyone but Tarik Cohen (heads up to you Kamara owners out there as well).  The days of playing tough defense and grinding with Leonard Fournette are over.  The Jags gave up 26.5 points in the final 6 games last year.  Neither that unit, nor Leonard Fournette and his chronic ankles, are special.  The culture of this team is about to flip.  Fade Fournette and invest in Menshew long term folks.

Projections:  3900 yards – 25 TDs & 13 Ints, 360 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 5 fumbles

5).  What goes for the Jags also applies to Sam Darnold, Le’Veon Bell and the Jets.  It is time to evolve.  Bell is clearly not the runner or receiver he was in 2014 and 2016.  He and the Jets backfield accounted for 3 rushing TDs in 2019.  He didn’t do much with his 78 targets either.  If the Jets are going to score in 2020, it is going to be up to Darnold.  Chris Herndon is back.  Remember him?  He caught 39 passes for 502 yards and 4 TDs as a rookie in 2018.  Mark Andrews hauled in a similar 34 receptions for 552 yards and 3 TDs that same year.  I absolutely believe Herndon was poised for a Mark Andrews type of breakout before his 4 game suspension to start the season disrupted everything.  His prescence will be felt immediately this year.  As for the new WRs, I cannot promote Breshard Perriman and Denzel Mims too much, aside from the fact that they possess size mismatches at 6’2 215 lbs and 6’3 207.  This trio of big bodies, along with Jamison Crowder and what’s left of Le’Veon must be enough for Darnold to take that next step.

Sam threw 2 or more TDs 6 times out of 13 last year.  Baker Mayfield only managed 6 out of 16, and yet he wound up with 22 TDs.  I think that is very encouraging for all these young QBs.  You can play horrendous, backyard football, consistently fail to get a Top 5 WR the ball, and struggle with Ints all year, and still somehow finish with just 2-4 less TDs than Brady, Rodgers and Mahomes.  Darnold will never play as poorly as Baker did last year.  I think if he can give us a full 16 game season, 30 TDs is within reach.

Projections:  3800 yards – 24 TDs & 15 Ints, 150 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 3 fumbles

 

So this offseason, don’t sweat it if the Lamar, Dak or Mahomes owners talk.  Our focus is on depth and balance, not a big name QB.  Go sign/trade for 2 of the QBs on this list.  Pair them with a Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff or Drew Brees and I promise you will be in a better position than the rest of the league.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano

Your RSO Guide

Updated: May 25th 2020

 

Your Ultimate Fantasy Experience:

Prove you have what it takes to create a real Dynasty. Reality Sports Online provides YOU the space to prove and show off your football fortitude. This isn’t just playing normal fantasy football; RSO is the complete GM experience. You will build your team, scout rookies, decide when to use multi-year contracts, nail the draft, and trade like a boss. RSO is your one shot, will you take it?

Managing your salary cap:

The beating heart of every dynasty is roster construction. Will you build around a dependable veteran QB or be the next team to draft a young stud and go all-in while you have him on a rookie deal? Like everything at RSO, the salary cap is authentic. As a GM you will have to work the real NFL salary cap. Find under-valued vets to fill gaps in your roster. As GM you decide who to offer contracts, and whether those are 1 to 4 years long. Offer aging vets a big dollar deal over a single year, or sign the next breakout guy to a 4-year deal on the cheap right before their big year. As an RSO GM you will need to balance winning now while also building for the future. This is much easier said than done. Are you one of the greats?

Sitting in the GM Chair:

Build the team you want. Your guys, your way, on your terms. You sit in the big chair now. Your RSO league follows the NFL schedule. You’ll need to navigate free agency, nail the draft, and manage your team’s run to the championship. Your passion drives you to win, but not just once. In your chair, you must be preparing for long-term success. Which contracts are expiring? Are you drafting to fill those roles, re-signing, or trading for new talent? You’re not just looking at this year or the next. You have ten fingers, and each one needs a championship ring. Do you have what it takes?

How RSO makes your league authentic

Free Agency Auction Room:

Our innovative Free Agency Auction Room facilitates as many as 32 fantasy owners to compete against each other to negotiate with and sign athletes to single or multi-year contracts, live-online in real-time. When the owners are negotiating with a given player, that player fields and contemplates contract offers of various lengths and amounts instantaneously, with a proprietary algorithm acting as artificial intelligence (the player’s agent). The algorithm factors in many of the same variables that NFL players and agents use when selecting the most desirable contract offer, which include the total amount of the contract, guaranteed money, per year average, and contract length. As fantasy owners submit various offers, our software automatically calculates the next best available minimum offer for each contract length and displays the offers on the screen across different “Offer” buttons so that each GM can easily choose to submit a better offer. Essentially, we have taken the NFL Free Agency process, which lasts 3-4 months, and condensed it to a teeth-clenching, adrenaline-filled few hours.

Rookie Draft:

The Rookie Draft is designed to offer GM’s the most realistic front office experience possible. The number of rounds and the length of contracts for the Rookie Draft are configurable league settings. The Commissioner can choose a Rookie Draft from one (1) to five (5) rounds and rookie contract lengths of three (3) or four (4) years. And, just like the NFL first-round picks are eligible for a fifth-year option (that is how serious RSO takes your authenticity). Each draft slot comes with an associated contract, based on real NFL contracts. The first selection earning more than the second, all the way to Mr. irrelevant earning the least.

If you haven’t yet, start your team now

https://realitysportsonline.com/RSOLanding.aspx find an existing fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online join a fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online

Establish your Dynasty. Now.

Good things come to people that wait. Yes, yes. Now, onto the winning.

“RSO’s format can have that kind of feel at first and the learning curve seems a lot steeper than it really is. Once you spend a few minutes learning the rules and trying out the draft room, you realize the process is not only intuitive, but it might be one of the most promising ways to run a league that I have seen yet.” – Matt Waldman

Tip 1: Know. Your. Rules!

RSO has thousands of variables, all designed to let you and your league set up YOUR perfect GM experience. Is your league a superflex, ppr, first-down points, IDP, and how many roster spots will you have? Here is a quick checklist for you:

  1. Review your scoring settings
  2. how many roster spots (active & bench)
  3. Is the practice squad turned on for your league?
  4. what are your league rules of the IR spot?
  5. How many contracts do you get? (league settings allow for 1-9 different contracts of each length)
  6. What are your league trade limits and deadlines?
  7. League calendar. When / what do you need to be prepared for

Tip 2: Prepare for your first free agent auction room

You want those ten championships? You need to get the first one, first. Who will you offer long-term deals vs single year contracts? How will those affect your budget this year, or the next? Jump over to the RSO mock draft area and see what your team could look like. Offering Tom Brady 15 million for 1 year may make sense in 2020, offering him that deal for 4 years could make you look really dumb.

“It’s not the will to win that matters – everybody has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” – Bear Bryant

Your step-by-guide for first-year success:

  1. Run through one partial mock draft to understand how the process works
  2. Breakdown each roster spot on your roster. How important is your RB2, your fourth WR? Allocate a percentage of your budget to each roster spot. Once you’ve tinkered with those percentages multiply them out by the salary cap to see about how much you are willing to spend on each position.
  3. If your league is conducting a rookie draft prior to your auction draft you will have a few contract values locked in. Make sure you subtract those from your salary cap, and because rookie contracts are usually cheaper than veterans you can readjust your available salaries.
  4. Compare your budgets against RSO suggested contracts for 2020. This is a proxy for ADP. RSO is unique; it’s not an unrealistic dynasty league where players are kept forever, and it’s not a simple redraft league where everyone in your franchise is a one-year rental. There are also thousands of variables including team size, starting line-up alternatives, scoring, etc. Use these suggested contracts as a starting point, a range of expectations relative to the other players on the list.
  5. Run through another mock draft, this time with your handy positional budgets, and see if what you came up with is feasible.
  6. Now you’re ready to tackle your first veteran auction. Feel that excitement? Are the butterflies ravaging your stomach? Good! You are prepared, you know what to do, how to do it, and now all that’s left is to crush it. Remember to be flexible though. You may want player X, and that guy goes way too high and you may have to bail. Player Y may be going for way too cheap, take advantage of the situation. You are the GM: your team, your terms.

* P.S. These are some handy non-football strategy tips for your draft

  1. Do you have beverages handy? If you cannot get to the fridge and back in 15 seconds you may want to pack a cooler for down by your feet.
  2. Bathroom breaks, have you asked the commish about a schedule?
  3. Psychology – Who can you drive up the cost on, who will call your bluff?
  4. Rember the infamous words of DJ Khaled, all you do is win, win, win!

Tip 3: Your first rookie draft

General managers are instrumental in rookie drafts. This is just important for your RSO franchise as it is for any NFL team. GM’s aren’t at games scouting individual players, their job, your job is to assess all the available data in order to come to direction and consensus.

Utilize different tools, scouting reports, and strategy assessments in order to create a successful plan. THE place to start is Bernard Faller’s two-part data-driven strategy break-down specific to RSO leagues. He broke down draft pick values and other considerations vital to set your franchise up for a true Dynasty.

Tip 4: Looking ahead; future team construction

Have you ever been in the position of desperately needing something? Like a car being totaled and going to a car lot knowing you have to purchase a vehicle this weekend. You are at the mercy of that day’s stock: only a few color choices, years, and mileages are available. If so, you probably look back and realize you didn’t get exactly what you wanted, and if you did you paid too much for it.

Don’t let that happen to your team. Come on GM, be better than that. You have a stud WR, and another that is pretty good but aging out of solid production. Don’t wait for that aging vet’s contact to expire before you start shopping. Do you want another top-ten guy? Do you want to go young and draft a replacement? If so, start getting your roster in order now. Maybe you know you’ll have to flip that vet and a second-round pick to move up in the first round and get your new guy. Maybe you spend a little more on a 26-year-old free agent with an upside that only you are seeing right now.

Whatever your decision is you will need to think about what your team will need in a year, two, even three from now. Ensure you’re franchise has the assets in place to secure talent. That is the job of an NFL GM, that is the power RSO places in your hands as GM. The big chair is yours, you answer to nobody. Can you succeed?

Tip 5: Know your rules

Yes, tip 5 is the same as 1. It is THAT important. In a superflex the QB spot is way more important. Full ppr, half, WR only ppr, all of these will dramatically change how you value slot receivers vs downfield threats; or if you can build an RB core of satellite backs getting 30 yards rushing but 8 catches for another 40 each week. Knowing all the ways you can zig when everyone else is zagging is a key component of your GM tenure. As you sit in your big chair and see the league moving towards small quick coverage linebackers, will you load up on huge guards and a fullback to punish them? As the league shifts back will you spread them out and go downfield? Will you stay ahead of everyone to cement your dynasty?

Your waiver wire, and maximizing your practice squad

Waiver Wire:

The details: When a player is waived, he is placed on waivers for a designated period (1-day is standard but check your league settings). During this time, all other GM’s have the opportunity to place a waiver claim on that player and the associated contract. If the player is assigned to a new team via waivers, the acquiring team becomes responsible for the remainder of the player’s contract (including guarantees), and the team that placed the player on waivers receives no additional cap charge beyond games for which the player has already played. When a player is waived each team gets a shot at signing him for the value his existing contract. That order goes in reverse of current-season rankings, just like the NFL. When all GM’s pass on that contract the player is moved into free agency. Every GM who wants offers him a blind bid contract. The player will sign the best-offered contract (minimum is 500k).

Be the Boss: Don’t automatically pick up big names of the waiver. What is their contract status? Why is the GM dropping them? Big names will hit the waivers. Sometimes, that is simply because another GM mismanaged their cap and you have the opportunity to reap the rewards. Other times the player is not living up to expectations and the former GM is just shedding the contract. Use your resources to assess the situation and your football fortitude to expertly decipher the best move.

Keeping cap room: You will need to keep 2-3 million dollars of cap space handy for exactly these reasons. Don’t be stuck on the sidelines when a valuable player goes for peanuts because you don’t have enough capital to even bid. Injuries happen, and opportunity will arise. Ensure you, as the GM, keep your team nimble and able to react by preparing for the unknown.

Practice Squad:

Adding practice squad players (PS):

  • Players can’t be added to the practice squad prior to or during the auction, it’s exclusively post-auction/in-season.  This, of course, means that there are no multi-year contracts on the practice squad
  • Players can only be added through the same process as normal FAAB adds, except now on the Add/Drop page there’s a radio button to select ‘Active Roster’ or ‘Practice Squad’ for those players that are eligible.
  • To mimic the NFL as closely as we could, a player must have been in the NFL for two full seasons or less (so players going into their third season are eligible, those going into their fourth aren’t).  We also added a ‘Practice Squad’ filter on the Player/FA page so you can see who all is available that is eligible.

Activate Player:

To activate a player on your practice squad, you simply go to your lineup page and select ‘Activate’ from the dropdown menu.  This will pop-up a confirmation screen that tells you the contract terms of activation and you can select to continue or cancel.  You do need to have an open active roster spot for this option to appear.  There is no method for deactivating a player from the active roster to the practice squad.  The only way to add players to the practice squad is listed above.  This also means that rookies that were drafted in your league can’t be put on the practice squad.

Poaching Players:

In the NFL, Practice Squad players can be signed by any team to their active roster so we naturally built something in as well.  You can attempt to poach a practice squad player from someone else’s roster to your active roster from that team’s contracts page (can’t however poach a player that is locked for the week).  Click the ‘poach’ button and then you’ll submit what is basically a FAAB bid to acquire that player.  However, the team that currently owns them does get the right to match your request first.  When you submit that request, it will send an email to the current owner of the player stating that someone is trying to poach the player and the contract terms.  They then have your FAAB Wait period league setting worth of time to activate the player to their own active roster.  If they do that, the poach request fails and if they don’t then the poach request will process.

Off-Season: Practice Squad players will be cleared off your rosters in February when we roll the site over for the new season.  They are not eligible to be tagged or extended in any way.

 

Being vigilant:

Will you find that undrafted free agent and sneak him onto your practice squad? As GM, will you have the acumen to pick up extra depth at RB, so that when bye week hell combines with a couple of injuries you can plug that TD vulture into your lineup and get those final 6 points, leading to that one extra win your team needed to squeak into the playoffs? Your team, your way, your terms. Welcome to the big leagues.

Race to the Ring: in-season management

You’ve signed veterans, drafted rookies, and filled your practice squad. Preseason is over, kickoff is around the corner. It’s time to watch your team dominate week 1, but then what?

The best GM’s work to improve their teams through trades, foresight, and knowing who to start.

Trades:
Reality Sports Online facilitates trades for players and trades for draft picks up to two (2) years in advance. For example, teams may trade a current player for a draft pick in a future year’s Rookie Draft. Any teams involved in trades are responsible for the remaining value of the contracts of the players or picks they acquire and are absolved of responsibility for the remaining value of the contracts of the players or picks they trade. So, trade wisely!

In-season free-agency:
Each week during the NFL season, players that are Free Agents are subject to blind offers from team owners for a designated period (1 day (Tuesday) standard). The player will sign with the team that offers the player the most valuable contract, and if no offers are made within the designated period, then the player will sign any $500,000 minimum offer made by any team in the subsequent days of the week (i.e. these players are first come first serve). Once the NFL games commence, players will lock and cannot be signed again until the following week.

Injured Reserve:
Commissioners can decide how many injured reserved (“IR”) spots are allowed per team. Unlike other fantasy leagues where players can only be put on IR if they are actually injured in real life, RSO teams can place any player on IR whenever they want provided they have not already used their allotted IR spots. However, when a player is placed on IR, he must remain there for the entire season. When a player is placed on IR, the team will only owe him 50% of his remaining contract for the year, thus allowing him to use the extra money to sign other free agents to replace the player placed on IR. If leagues want to implement IR-DFR (designated for return), they can do so by allowing the Commissioner of the league to utilize his Commish Tools to remove a player off of IR.

Foresight:
With great power comes great responsibility; only the best GM’s will ever achieve dynasty status. Preparing for what is likely to happen next allows GM’s like you to create trade leverage, turning your third-round rookie pick into a late first by out-flanking GM’s focused only on the now. You took the handcuff, and with a single promotion/injury you act and move up those draft rounds. Foresight will move your franchise into the Hall of Fame. Legend. Dynasty status.

 

If you haven’t yet, start your team now

https://realitysportsonline.com/RSOLanding.aspx find an existing fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online join a fantasy football dynasty league at reality sports online

More Analysis by Chris Collet

IDPs 101: How to Build Your 2020 DL Core

Updated: April 23rd 2020

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than for illumination.
Andrew Lang, Scottish Novelist

Its Draft Week folks!!!  Talk about couldn’t have come any sooner too.  My fantasy circles were particularly chatty this weekend.  It got me thinking – aside from how grateful I was to have a temporary distraction from the daily stresses of the Coronavirus, I couldn’t help but wonder how we all got here.  I’m speaking in regards to my friends becoming the Dynasty nuts they are today.  It really was not too long ago I was drafting with owners who would try their best to select all Bucs’ players, or they based their decisions on whether or not someone played in the SEC.  Of course, now it seems like every owner keeps a finger on the pulse of the league year round.  We’ve got guys arguing about snap counts and average completed air yards in mid-April.  It’s beautiful!

Throughout this evolution, I have noticed a trend amongst our fantasy community as a whole.  We are all perfectly capable of taking a stance on a player & backing it up with numbers.  Whereas, we Saints’ homers used to proclaim Cam Jordan the best DE in the league simply out of Who Dat loyalty, we now back up our boasts with data (i.e., Jordan’s 40 sacks the last 3 seasons are the most of any DE in that time frame).  However, the problem is most owners are only interested in pursuing the numbers when it’s time to argue about their favorite players or the biggest names.  There is so much unrealized insight out there.  My hope is that this article can act as a springboard for reshaping your relationship with statistics, and ultimately regaining the edge you had back when your competitors were drafting Kevin Faulk in the 4th round because he went to their high school.

Take a look at some of these names:

Landon Collins – recorded 5 Ints and 4 Sacks in 2016.  He has since logged 2 Ints and 1 sack in 42 games.

Geno Atkins – 9+ sacks in 4 straight seasons. He finished with half that number last year.

J.J. Watt – only managed 4 sacks in the 8 games he played in 2019

Khalil Mack – failed to reach double digit sacks for the 1st time in 5 years.

We see this kind of stuff every season.  Big names will eventually let you down at every position, and IDPs are especially volatile.  I understand the frustration.  You signed the best IDPs in the game and it didn’t work out.  What more could you possibly do?

For starters, you must step off that carousel.  Chasing today’s biggest names will rarely yield tomorrow’s best results.  I challenge you all to try this instead.  Forget the names altogether and focus on the odds.  Therein lies my goal.  To provide RSO readers with actionable odds they can use in building their Defensive Line core this offseason.

I approached this challenge from 3 different perspectives.  The 1st – Based off the last 10 years, what are the odds of success for DL rookies in Years 1, 2 and 3?

I categorized these rookies into 3 subgroups: Top 10 Selections, 1st Rounders 11-32, and 2nd Rounders.  I determined success by the scale with which most of my RSO leagues score IDP production (1 point per Tkl, 0.5 per Assist, 2.5 points per Half-Sack, 7 points per FF or FR), along with an arbitrary target of 80 points.  Here’s what I found.

Top 10 Picks 11-32 2nd Round
Year 1 40.0% 13.2% 7.7%
Year 2 46.7% 24.5% 14.6%
Year 3 40.0% 33.3% 17.0%
1 of 3+ 86.7% 42.2% 29.8%
2 of 3+ 66.7% 24.4% 10.6%
3 of 3 20.0% 8.9% 0.0%
0 of 3 33.3% 60.0% 63.8%

The Top 10 consist of 20 players: Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Tyson Alualu, Marcell Dareus, Dion Jordan, Ezekiel Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler, Leonard Williams, Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, and then 2019’s Draft Class – Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Allen and Ed Oliver – whom only qualify for Year 1 figures.  Of the 15 players that came before them, only Ezekiel Ansah, Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett (more on these 2 later) have attained our definition of fantasy relevance all 3 years.

The sample size for Picks 11-32 (53) and 2nd Rounders (52) are much bigger.  As you can see, the odds increase with each season.  Also, both subgroups experience a steep descent from its antecedent.  This table’s 2 biggest takeaways:  At 40%, the Top 10 picks are 3 times more likely to be relevant their rookie season than the 1st Rounders 11-32 are.  The same holds true with the 2 out of 3 or greater successful seasons stat.  The Top 10’s 66.7% is also nearly 3 times the success rate of the remainging 1st Rounders.  This is useful information, but I was not satisfied with stopping here.  This brings us to the 2nd method of inquisition.

Let’s simplify things.  The DL position is predicated on getting to the QB right?  Therefore, Sacks are a powerful metric for which we can base our research.  I gathered all the DEs/DTs that recorded 7.5+ sacks in the last 10 seasons.  I then documented which year in the player’s career the feat was achieved.  Below is an example from 2010.

Name Year 
John Abraham 11
Jason Babin 7
Charles Johnson 4
Justin Tuck 6
Osi Umenyiora 8
Jared Allen 7
Chris Clemons 7
Robert Mathis 8
James Hall 11
Trent Cole 6
Dwight Freeney 9
Ndamukong Suh 1
Carlos Dunlap 1
Raheem Brock 9
Cliff Avril 3
Chris Long 3
Justin Smith 10
Mario Williams 5
Ray Edwards 5
Israel Idonije 7
Julius Peppers 9

Here are the results tallied up from seasons 2010-2019.

Year of Career Total
1 13
2 20
3 30
4 31
5 32
6 21
7 22
8 21
9 20
10 14
11 10
12 2
13 1

Only 13 players reached the 7.5 benchmark in year 1, 3 of which occured in 2019 (Josh Allen, Nick Bosa, and Maxx Crosby).  In Year 2 we observed a rate similar to that of Years 6-9.  Then we reach our sweet spot in Years 3-5.  I was pleaseantly surprised with how clean of a trend we wound up with here.  It energized me.  I had to know what sort of results would emerge from combining the previous 2 research methods.

The 3rd Perspective – How did each player on the list above fare sackwise in Years 1, 2 and 3?  With 92 qualifying Defensive Lineman, we had a total of 50 1st/2nd Rounders.  Here are the players of note:

3 of 3
Top 10
3 of 3
Picks 11-32
2 of 3
Top 10
2 of 3
Picks 11-32
2 of 3
2nd Round
Ezekial Ansah Dwight Freeny Myles Garrett Cam Jordan Osi Umenyiora
Aaron Donald Joey Bosa Robert Quinn Calais Campbell
Khalil Mack J.J. Watt Frank Clark
Andre Carter Jason Pierre-Paul Jabaal Sheard
Julius Peppers John Abraham
Mario Williams
Ndamukong Suh

 

 Total 3 of 3 2 of 3 1 of 3 0 of 3 2 of 3 1 of 3
Top 10 16 1 7 6 2 50.0% 87.5%
Picks
11-32
21 2 5 7 7 33.3% 66.7%
2nd Round 13 0 4 5 4 30.8% 69.2%

Our sample size decreased significantly here, but we are still able to recognize the Top 10 picks’ irrefutable edge.  So what does it all mean Basil?

Let’s assume this is your league’s first year, and you are operating with a 30 man roster that starts 2 DL.  In this scenario, I would want to roll with 4 guys.

I would start by making an aggressive push to lock up a Top 10 selection in the Rookie Draft, which this year figures to be Washington’s Chase Young.  If I have to move some picks around to lock him up, so be it.  I’m then targeting players entering Years 3, 4, 5 in the Auction since that range has the best odds.  Myles Garrett or Joey Bosa are Priority 1, and  I am willing to spend as much as 10 mil a year for one of them.

After that we have a couple of solid options at DT in Chris Jones and DeForest Buckner.  DTs often enjoy discounts since sacks are harder to come by at that position, and this pair endured a combined 11 sack dropoff in 2019.  I would want to add one of them or Yannick Ngakoue, who is severly underated.  Fun fact.  Yannick is 1 of 2 players from our list, not drafted in the 1st 2 Rounds who recorded 7.5+ sacks in all 3 of his first seasons.  The other was Jared Allen.

Finally, I am targeting a potential breakout player that has shown glimpses and will be acquired on the cheap.  Guys like Sam Hubbard, Jonathan Allen, Derek Barnett, Shaq Lawson, Matt Ioannidis, and Marcus Davenport all fit the bill.

Finding success in RSO leagues is all about planning and execution.  Although I will respect and even fear your trio of Cam Jordan, Aaron Donald and Melvin Ingram some weeks, I know the odds are in my favor to finish the year with a top DL core.  I challenge you to take a similar apporach this season.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano

Running’s Back – Here’s Who Is Good At It

Updated: March 24th 2020

Some of the best business advice I ever received came from my Uncle one day upon discussing the stock market.  He said, “Grant, there are 3 keys to making it in this arena.  You have to be aggressive, you have to be lucky, and you have to be disciplined.”  Now I think most would agree that the first two are a given, but just how does one practice discipline on Wall Street?  After all, isn’t it basically Roulette on your laptop?  The answer is both big and simple.  I’m not kidding…that’s literally the answer.  Big data becomes a simple model/message.  You do the work combing through the annals of history, whether that be the last 3-12 months of the Oil and Gas sector, or say the 2019 NFL Season, and then you convert it into some concise, actionable strategy that gives you an edge over the rest of the field.  Straying from your edge reverts you back to just another gambler.  Staying discipline by ALWAYS implementing your model gets you in the green, or for our purposes, in the dance for your fantasy playoffs.  Let me show you what I mean.

Here are the NFL’s 2019 Top 25 Runners based on a composition of 1st Down Efficiency and Yards Per Carry Metrics.  I emphasize Runners because this list does not factor in the receiving aspects of the Running Back position.  Our focus is on measuring true efficiency & effectiveness; receptions are often a product of game script.  Therefore, players like James White and Austin Ekeler have been left off the list.  Same goes for Christian McCaffrey.  He’s the best in the bizz and we don’t need to poke holes in his game.  There are 13 metrics and they each feature Yards Per Carry and 1st Down %:

Attempts 1-10, Attempts 11-20

1st Half Attempts, 2nd Half Attempts

1st Quarter Attempts, 2nd Quarter Attempts, 3rd Quarter Attempts, 4th Quarter Attempts

Score Margin:  Attempts when the margin is within 0-7, Attempts when the margin is within 8-14, and Attempts when the margin is 15+

Attempts when Ahead, Attempts when Behind

If we aren’t going to log in the countless hours breaking down individual game film to spot specific reads, schemes and personnel, I believe this offers the next best way to get a well-rounded evaluation on how these RBs perform in various situations.  Our benchmarks are 4.5 Yards Per Carry and 21.54% 1st Down Rate (the average conversion rate for these 25 RBs).  We are fading anything sub 3.9 YPC or 18.54% 1st Down Rate.  The numbers in each category are Rankings.  Here are the results…

Overall Name 1st Down YPC
1 Derrick Henry 7 3
2 Chris Carson 2 10
3 Ezekiel Elliott 4 8
4 Mark Ingram 3 6
5 Nick Chubb 14 1
6 Devin Singletary 5 4
7 Dalvin Cook 8 16
8 Marlon Mack 1 16
8 Aaron Jones 9 7
10 Josh Jacobs 13 5
11 Carlos Hyde 11 12
12 Leonard Fournette 15 8
13 Todd Gurley 10 22
14 Melvin Gordon 6 20
15 Saquon Barkley 16 10
16 Ronald Jones 19 18
17 Miles Sanders 24 2
18 Alvin Kamara 21 12
19 Adrian Peterson 20 14
20 Joe Mixon 18 19
21 Sony Michel 12 23
22 Phillip Lindsay 22 15
23 David Montgomery 17 21
24 Devonta Freeman 23 24
25 Le’Veon Bell 25 24

 

Takeaways:

Although the usual suspects round out the Top 5, it doesn’t take us very long to see how applying these metrics can shake up the natural order of things.  Yes that is Devin Singletary chillin’ in the #6 spot.  He missed 4 games and was sharing reps with the Little Fundamental – Frank Gore.  As a result, many of us overlooked a stellar rookie campaign.  Devin was pegged as Maurice Jones Drew 2.0 in some circles, and he backed up those comparisons with a top 5 finish in 1st Downs Conversion Rate.

Nick Chubb is hands down the best runner of the football.  However, due to his team’s poor play-calling, his perceived limitations as a 3rd Down Back, and the Browns embarrassment of riches at the WR position, Chubb only finished 14th in 1st Down Conversion Rate.  Meanwhile, guys like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon put up pedestrian YPCs, but were leaned on heavily to extend drives.  The correlation between 1st down conversions and touchdowns is very strong.  Gordon has 18 rushing TDs in his last 23 games started, while Gurley has 29 of his last 29.  Nick Chubb….16 rushing TDs in 32 games thus far.

I’ve highlighted Carlos Hyde (245 carries for 1070 yards 6 TDs) and Josh Jacobs (242 carries for 1150 yards 7 TDs) because they essentially had the same production, and I’m not sure many owners are privy to that comparison.  Of course, there is no way of knowing where Hyde will be in 2020 or how he will be used, but the perception that he is a one-trick pony plodder,  while Jacobs is a 1st rounder, All-Purpose Back is CURRENTLY incorrect.  Jalen Richard ate just as much into Jacobs (20 catches) receiving opportunities as Duke Johnson did to Hyde (10 catches).

On the other end of the spectrum, Miles Sanders (179 carries for 818 yards, 509 receiving) and Alvin Kamara (171 carries for 797 yards, 533 receiving) are on the field for 3rd Downs, but usually do so in the role of receiver due to their steady QB play.  Sanders touchdown upside may always be limited.  After Kamara’s descent from 14 to 5 TDs this season, I’m not sure the same can’t be said for him.  All I know is TODAY, Miles Sanders should absolutely be viewed in the same light as Alvin Kamara.  They are the same player to me.

I know I said we wouldn’t let receptions interfere with our metrics, but I just want to clarify something.  Marlon Mack and Dalvin Cook are counterparts using this scale.  Very similar rushing production.  However, Cook caught 40 more passes than Mack.  As long as that trend continues, Cook “should” outpace Mack in fantasy production.  I emphasize should because most folks do not realize Marlon Mack led the league in 1st Down Efficiency.  That’s a stat that correlates extremely well with projected redzone and goal-line attempts.  With Philip Rivers now at the helm, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Mack lead the league in touchdowns this year.

So I gave you all a tiny taste of the data and some important takeaways, but what’s this mysterious model I teased earlier?  Value is the name of the game, same as it’s always been.  You will be hard-pressed to find a 2020 redraft league in which you could acquire Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Josh Jacobs and Mark Ingram, but I am here to tell you it is possible.  You simply have to target smaller names that play just as big.  Substitute Marlon Mack, Miles Sanders, Carlos Hyde (hypothetical in which he has a similar workload with his new team) and Devin Singletary, and you have got a stable just as good, yet far more realistic.  This is a battle tested fantasy model that I strongly encourage everyone to consider, especially after the Saquon Barkley, Leveon Bell, James Connor, Devonta Freeman and David Johnson debacle we witnessed last year.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano