Feeling Better about RSO Contracts

Updated: October 3rd 2020

There are always a number of variables surrounding players for which we do not have all the answers going into the season.  The play of surrounding players, coaching schemes, health, and other factors dictate much of a player’s fantasy production.  With a few weeks of the NFL finished, we can now get a feel for how some of those variables will work out.  The article examines a number of RSO contracts, using average startup data from many leagues this offseason, for which we can now feel more confident about based on usage and surrounding circumstances through three weeks of the NFL season.

 

Quarterback

Josh Allen, QB7, $16M / 3 years

I was not in love with Allen’s price tag as a player I viewed as a high upside matchup play rather than an every week starter due to low projected passing volume and efficiency.  Allen destroyed expectations so far as the fantasy QB2.  While he still commands a large volume of rushing attempts, Allen also saw his passing jump considerably in 2020. The Buffalo quarterback ranks 2nd in passing yards and yards per attempt, while also sitting at 7th in passing attempts.  Those numbers represent big passing volume and efficiency jumps so far.

Jared Goff, QB16, $11M / 2 years

The book on Goff seems mainly written at this point.  He can produce some of the most consistently accurate throws in the league when given a relatively clean pocket.  His results become far sketchier when pressure exists, forcing him into off-script plays for which he does not have the athleticism or arm strength to make on a regular basis.  Head coach Sean McVay has this offense clicking using more of a run-based approached with a big increase in play-action passing off of it, which has resulted in a much more efficient passing attack.  This scheme also helped the offensive line, in particular seeing a vast decrease in pressure on their quarterback.  Goff currently ranks as the most efficient passer in the NFL.

 

Running Back

Austin Ekeler, RB13, $23M / 3 years

Not many people questioned Ekeler’s skills.  He graded as one of PFF’s top running backs over the last couple of years with a great athletic profile which translates to the field and outstanding skills in as a receiver. The main questions concerning Ekeler revolved around what his role would be and how much Tyrod Taylor would dampen his production.  The early results are encouraging.  Despite a nearly 50/50 split in carries with rookie Josh Kelley, Ekeler ranks 12th in rushing attempts while remaining one of the most targeted running backs in the league.  Taylor is already injured and the early returns from rookie quarterback Justin Herbert look ready to boost Ekeler’s fantasy ceiling.

Kareem Hunt, RB29, $9M / 2 years

This is another scenario where situational concerns brought questions.  Most RSO GMs bought Hunt, in part, as a gamble he would land a starting gig next season.  Those hopes were likely dashed when Hunt signed an extension with the Browns.  Cleveland brought in Kevin Stefanski and Hunt remains behind star running back Nick Chubb.  The run-heavy Stefanski offense and the offseason additions to the offensive line appear to alleviate many of the concerns.  Hunt produces stand-alone value, ranking 21st in carries, as the fantasy RB14 despite playing second-fiddle to Chubb and possesses elite fantasy upside as his handcuff.  All systems go on this contract.

Wide Receiver

Stefon Diggs, WR20, $15M / 3 years

One of the best route runners in the game, questions surrounded whether there would be enough volume in Buffalo for sustained weekly production.  The history of high-end receivers switching teams also does not inspire confidence.  Injuries and inconsistent volume plagued Diggs in Minnesota.  The changing of the Bills to a more pass-happy offense helps solidify Diggs’ place among wide receivers.  The evolution of Allen helped propel Diggs to the fantasy WR4 through three weeks.  This RSO contract appears much safer right now.

Diontae Johnson, WR41, $6M / 2 years

The offseason darling skyrocketed up auction boards after a great rookie season in which he routinely made defensive backs look silly.  Many unknowns still existed however. Was his rookie season just a small sample outlier playing with bad NFL backup quarterbacks and a injury-plagued season by star wideout Juju Smith-Schuster? Would Roethlisberger come back healthy, and if he did, would revert to Smith-Schuster as the primary target?  Those questions seem mainly answered so far.  Johnson amassed a whopping 23 targets the first two weeks before injury in week three.  The injury and Pittsburgh’s unexpected game move in week four might even provide a buying window.

Tight End

Hunter Henry, TE7, $9M / 2 years

Henry represents another player who performed great while on the field, however injuries and the afore-mentioned quarterback situation for the Chargers raised issues this offseason.  He also is playing on the franchise tag this season with no long-term contract in place. The results speak for themselves so far this year. Henry is a main cog in the Los Angeles passing attack ranking fourth in receptions among tight ends through three weeks this season.   He seems like a lock to earn a new contract if he stays healthy throughout the year.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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