How RSO Rookie Drafts Differ

Updated: August 30th 2016

After participating in several RSO rookie drafts, I began to think about how much these differ from standard dynasty league rookie drafts that are the industry standard throughout the fantasy community.  Rankings and Average Draft Positions that you’ll see on sites like Dynasty League Football are intended for standard dynasty leagues, where you can keep the selected rookies on your roster for an unlimited amount of time.  The presence of 3 to 4 year rookie contacts may create a market inefficiency with owners not shifting their draft strategy away from standard dynasty to match the uniqueness and realism RSO provides.  Retaining that player past their rookie contract will likely force that owner to pay the average of the top five salaries at that position, meaning that the player must become elite at their position by the end of their rookie deal to warrant the tag.  It’s worth noting that some leagues implement limits on the number of times a player can be tagged before he has to return to the free agent auction.  Sure, the player can be re-acquired in the free agent auction, but his cap hit will now be determined by the open market.

The Research

I set out to determine which positions should be prioritized in RSO rookie drafts by providing the best return on investment (ROI).  To do this, I created a sample of QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs that in the last three years (2013, 2014, 2015) posted a season that was “start worthy”.  For simplicity, I defined “start worthy” as players who finished among in the top 10 QBs, top 25 RBs, top 25 WRs, and top 10 TEs for the 2013, 2014, or 2015 seasons in standard scoring, data courtesy of Pro Football Reference.  The sample created a player pool consisting of 19 QBs, 47 RBs, 48 WRs, and 20 TEs.  With my sample pool selected, I began tracking how quickly each player put together a “start worthy” season by recording the results from their first four seasons in the league.

The Results

Start Worthy Chart

Quarterbacks

95% “Start Worthy” by year 4 – Before conducting this research, I expected quarterbacks to take longer to become “start worthy” and was surprised to see 18 of 19 did that in their first 4 seasons.  On average, it took these QBs 2.61 years to put together such a season, meaning this usually happened in years 2 and 3.  Those numbers alone may not mean a lot, but let’s see how it compares to other positions.

Running backs

1.91 years, the average time it takes a running back to become “start worthy” – For a variety of reasons (most of which I agree with), RBs are devalued in dynasty leagues.  However, I believe we should think differently about running backs in RSO as they typically become “start worthy” by year 2 at a ROOKIE SALARY!  This past off-season, I went out of my way to acquire additional second round picks to have more chances of hitting on one of these cost-effective productive young RBs.

Wide receivers

2.02 years, the average time it takes wide receivers to become “start worthy” – WRs are the stars of dynasty football, the prized assets that command huge trade returns.  Becoming “start worthy” by year 2 confirms that WRs are still very valuable in RSO, but might not hold as drastic of an edge over RBs as in standard dynasty leagues.

Tight ends

5% = the lowest % increase in becoming “start worthy” from year 3 to year 4 – By year 3, you may know what you have with your TE prospect.  80% of the sample put forth “start worthy” seasons by year 3, with only 1 TE waiting until year 4.  Important to note, TEs also took the longest time to produce an ROI with an average of 2.53 years to become “start worthy”.

What does this mean to RSO players?

Personally, I wouldn’t select a rookie QB in the 1st round of a rookie draft unless the format is 2QB or Superflex.  With that said, I do feel more comfortable with selecting the top QB prospects in the 2nd or 3rd round of rookie drafts after discovering that the breakout QBs almost always do so by their fourth season.  RBs and WRs should be heavily prioritized in RSO rookie drafts, given that they’re the quickest to produce “start worthy” seasons after entering the league.  While I’d give WRs a slight edge over RBs since they’re more consistent year to year, RBs close the gap a bit in RSO by becoming “start worthy” the soonest.  TEs, on the other hand, should be widely ignored in rookie drafts.  It frequently takes too long for these players to develop into starting caliber options.  Sure, there are outliers – Rob Gronkowski comes to mind.  But strategies built on the outcomes of outliers are doomed to fail.

To summarize, target RBs and WRs in your rookie drafts.  In trades, I’ll typically ask for a 2nd round pick to be added as a thrown in.  While mostly insignificant, I want more chances at hitting on a breakout RB or WR on a multi-year rookie contract.  The RBs and WRs that break out often do so by year 2, which makes it quicker to know when to cut bait on a bust and use the roster spot elsewhere.


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

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

One is the Loneliest Number

Updated: April 17th 2016

I have recently joined two new RSO leagues. For most when you join a new league you look at the scoring and rules to see if there will be any major discrepancies in terms of player value. Obviously certain RBs and WRs lose value in non-PPR leagues; while earning points for kick return yardage and touchdowns places slightly more value on those Swiss Army knife players. Most of the leagues that I have participated in, redraft or dynasty, feature some combination of half to full point PPR and start between two and four RBs and WRs with flex players mixed in. These are almost the new standard for fantasy football leagues. However one style seems to be less prevalent and sometimes actively avoided across the community, 2QB.

Starting two quarterbacks seems counter intuitive to some owners as they want the closest experience to being a real general manager in the NFL. That is why RSO owners choose the site since the salary cap and contracts are as realistic as possible. Therefore if you want the real experience why would you ever want to start two quarterbacks in fantasy when there is only one on the field? While it may not seem realistic, fantasy owners do need to remember what position is most important on the field, the quarterback. Depending on scoring formats of the top 20 scoring players in 2015, eighteen were quarterbacks!  Despite this, the smart owners know to not overspend in auctions, and to invest lower or no draft capital in the position. Fellow RSO writer Dave Sanders wrote an article explaining how to hold your dollars and picks for other positions instead of investing heavily in an elite quarterback.

Stacking the Deck

If we know that football’s most important position is now being undervalued due to an influx of usable options, how can we fix leagues to make quarterbacks more valuable in terms of contract dollars and trade value? Simple, you start two of them! The chart below shows the average points per game that the first ranked player earned over the 10th, 20th and 30th ranked player at each position. Since most leagues start more than one WR/RB this is why these two positions on most championship teams earn contracts in the $20-$30million/year range while the starting quarterback contract is between $8-$15million/year.

Position PPG 2015

To further illustrate my point that leagues should be 2QB as a standard I am going to use a formula that some of you may already be aware. I like to think of this formula as one similar to the WAR score (wins against replacement) that is frequently referenced in baseball. The principles are the same; the higher the score the better that player is against the average replacement player at his position. The use of this formula is to set contract values for each player in your free agency auction based on their expected fantasy points. In my next article I’ll breakdown the formula in more depth when I show you how to prepare your budget for your auction draft. For the purpose of this article I’ll just be showcasing the result comparing a 1QB vs. 2QB league.

2QB 4TD Contracts

Comparing four of the most valuable quarterbacks and two elite players at both running back and wide receiver shows the big disparity between the values. Elite skilled positions are at a greater premium and therefore command a greater amount of the annual salary cap. However, when owners become forced to use the 20th ranked QB (and up to 30th in the case of bye weeks, injuries, benching etc.) the point differential increases to the level of starting three RBs/WRs. The value of these elite quarterbacks then rises on average over 170%. When we make this same comparison in a league that uses six points for a passing touchdown instead of four the gap is almost completely lost. As seen in the chart below the values of the quarterbacks actually leapfrogs the running backs and rivals that of the wide receivers.

2QB 6TD Contracts

Now we see the most valuable position in football start to hold similar value in fantasy football as it does on the field. In a league with this format it would make it much easier to justify trading, drafting and paying for quarterbacks. Additionally, this helps leagues that lack trades because it creates opportunities for teams to have different strategies to build a championship team around. In the case of leagues bigger than 10 teams however, I recommend utilizing only one quarterback and offering a superflex position instead. This allows teams that are not able to have three starting quarterbacks on their roster to still compete each year since there would not be 36 starters each week to use.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews