Mastering Year 2 On RSO

Updated: August 21st 2015

Chasing Quarterbacks is one strategy not to follow in your second year league.

Chasing Quarterbacks is one strategy not to follow in your second year league.

This article is dedicated to those owners in their second year of their Reality Sports Online leagues. If you are in your first year of your Reality Sports Online league, my high level advice is to not get too caught up in the hype of the auction. Make sure you are spending your big dollar contracts on players as close to birds in the hand as possible. If you ask anyone who plunked 3 years and $85 million on Trent Richardson a few years ago, they’d tell you the biggest objective in year one is basically what I tell my young kids-“don’t wet the bed”. Matt Papson’s  7 Basic Auction Principles and Bo Wulf’s Four Years of Commitment are essential reading for the rookie Reality Sports Online GM.

If you are in your third year, you have things pretty much figured out by now and are looking forward to some of the two-year studs from your rookie season being available in the auction. Teams in rebuild mode are hyped about rookies and sleepers and championship contenders are going all out to win the league for the first (or maybe even second or third) time.

To me, the second year is the most difficult year in terms of team strategy. Several of the top players are still locked into multi-year deals, so there may be slim pickings in your auction. The rookie draft is really the only way to get a player you want without competitive market dynamics but if you’re in the back of the draft that may not even be possible.

So let’s walk through some scenarios of potential challenges a second year owner may face. I won’t go too deep into rookie draft strategy, because let’s face it, I essentially did my best to drop the mic with my What’s A Rookie Draft Pick Worth? article a few weeks ago.

1) Don’t Go Chasing Quarterbacks

The best part of being one of the potential owners who doesn’t have a quarterback locked up long term is that your counterparts do. While some of them may try to price enforce to make sure that you are having to pay fair value for your quarterback, if you get into the scenario where you and maybe two other owners in a 10-12 team league is searching for a signal caller, it doesn’t necessarily matter which one you grab, so long as you get them on a good contract. Those other price enforcer owners know they don’t want to get left holding the bag on two starting quarterbacks, especially if your league doesn’t have many teams that trade often. This strategy landed me Russell Wilson on a 3 year, $26 million deal as I was one of two teams out of twelve needing a quarterback.

Additionally, if you are one of these owners who had a one year contract quarterback last year and there are plenty of suitable starters in the free agent market, franchise tagging a quarterback is essentially bidding against yourself. I don’t care if you can have Drew Brees for another year, don’t bid against yourself when Ben Roethlisberger will be just as good and a fraction of the cost.

So make it one of your top priorities to get a quarterback you are happy with on a term and contract value you are good with. There should be no shortage of those candidates this year as in most leagues, you’ll only need to start one quarterback.

2) If You Didn’t Have a Strategy in Year One, Figure Your Strategy For Year Two Out Quick

You may have taken year one to get acquainted with the platform and didn’t want to wet the bed. Year two is when you start formulating your multi-year plan on how your team can capitalize on its championship window, whenever you see that being. The offseason is the ideal time to do that and you may still have a few days left to shape that strategy with your franchise tag and before your rookie draft.

The type of moves that teams may take depends on where you finished last year and what talent remains on your team. However, there are several tactics that a team can use to rebuild on the fly. The first of which is to trade a high-priced player. Burned by Adrian Peterson last year, turn his big salary into free cap space and a draft pick and use that money to get three guys who can help you over the long term.

3) Don’t Be Afraid Of One Year Contracts

Just because Reality Sports Online leagues are customizable in the number of multi-year deals you may offer in your auction doesn’t mean you need to use them all or every one you use needs to be on a marquee player. Year two may not have that deep of a free agent pool in your auction, but I guarantee you that year three will. My upcoming third year league has 7 of the top 10 ten scoring running backs available heading into the auction. To take advantage of a similar situation next year, second year owners may want to keep their future year cap flexibility open and not overcommit on a second year free agent crop that frankly may not be that appealing.

Basically, most of the players entering free agency are players that other teams weren’t confident enough to sign to multi-year deals in your first year of the auction or guys picked up during the season on free agent deals. While some of those players like Justin Forsett and C.J. Anderson may have been franchise tagged or will be the marquee free agents this year, they do come in with question marks based on not having the proven track record others on multi-year deals may have. So the question, similar to the ABC Show, becomes “What Would You Do?” if you had to choose between signing Forsett to a two year, $30 million deal or grabbing Lamar Miller on a one year deal for $17 million. I’d take Miller (who is a 2016 NFL Free Agent), who will most likely be both more productive and give you a flexible cap for 2016 without batting an eyelash.

Another strategy on the one year players is to follow the “Old Guys Rule” strategy. Other owners may not think much of Frank Gore or Andre Johnson, but the two former teammates from “The U” are perfect one year candidates who buy you a share in the explosive Colts offense. So if you have a solid core that already screams playoff contender, you can paint the edges with older players and contend if you don’t have the budget or inclination to go after the big names in second year free agency.

4) The Franchise Tag May Be Your Friend

If you are in Year Two and the contracts doled out in year one at certain positions isn’t overly ridiculous (or even if they are), if you are one piece away from a championship in your head, go for the gold, especially in a year where the pickings are slim in free agency. I’ve already tackled Franchise Tag strategy deeply in my Giving Up the Franchise? article.

This period may have passed in some of your leagues or is rapidly approaching. Trading for someone else’s franchise tagged player is certainly a possibility as well and those teams looking to rebuild may be able to get something for a player they were planning on not getting anything for by doing this. Just make sure you hammer out your details and look into the website platform timing to execute the trade around the restrictions and trade deadlines between the period three days before the rookie draft and three days before the free agent auction.

5) Use One Multi-Year Deal on a Developmental Player

The tendency in formats like this is to grab studs on long-term deals and combine those with your rookies to have the best chance of winning a championship. However, there are multiple ways to win the championship and one strategy I really like is to use at least one of your multi-year deals (assuming an allotment of 3 two-year deals, 2 three-year deals and 1 four-year deal) on a developmental prospect who either didn’t get picked in your rookie draft or a free agent.

You’ll have to do your homework on who those players are for you. Last year, I used my second year multi-year deals on Lance Dunbar (2 years, $4.5 million), Aaron Dobson (3 year, $8.5 million) and the undrafted in our two-round rookie draft Teddy Bridgewater (2 years, $1.5 million). As I mentioned before I already had Wilson as my starting quarterback and was able to trade Bridgewater and Larry Fitzgerald early last season for a one year Alshon Jeffery rental.

While those players may not jump out at you and other than Bridgewater didn’t really pan out last year, they didn’t cost me much and both Dunbar and Dobson have potential to play significant roles in excellent offenses this year. If I need to drop them, I can do it without much hesitation, but they also offer upside.

Conversely, some of my league mates were getting into long term deals with players like Reuben Randle for 4 years and $25.0 million. While others were successful in nabbing DeAndre Hopkins on a four year deal for $28.5 million (we essentially didn’t have a rookie draft in year one so owners could get a good feel for the league, something I’d actually advise against which made Hopkins available in 2014), those home runs were few and far between in last year’s auction. That’s what happens when guys like Toby Gerhart and Shane Vereen fetch big dollars in free agency as some of the top second-year free agent players available.

These are really just some examples as full disclosure, I did not win my league in my second year as I lost in a playoff game in which Julio Jones destroyed me. I still retain a core that I’m super excited about for the next two years, years which I basically consider my championship window.

Basically, year two is about cementing your strategy and executing on it. Figure out when your championship window is and go get it! Thanks for reading and I’m really appreciative of all those who reach out to me with questions/comments on Twitter @mattgoody2

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