Auction Recap

Updated: September 8th 2018

Inside Access to the RSO Experts/Writers League War Rooms

While I haven’t been writing as regularly as in the past, I still love fantasy football as much as ever. I’m in what some would say too many leagues (and my wife might agree), but to me, there’s always room for one more. With the season now underway and all my auctions behind me, I can say that none were as enjoyable as the RSO Experts League Year 3 Free Agency Auction.  RSO auctions often require more strategic preparation than most leagues and that’s exponentially true when competing against some of the best analysts in the industry.

In year 3, the player pool was stronger than last year given that most players signed to 2 year deals in the startup reached free agency.

Teams had limited cap space and most are saddled with at least one bad contract.    Cap space and multi-year deals had to be used wisely. Since I haven’t won the league yet and have made my share of bad decisions, I’m not one to judge everyone’s auction and assign grades.  Instead, I’d like to take you inside several of the war rooms so you can hear from league members directly about their strategy entering the auction and thoughts on how it went.  Without further ado, let’s dive in…

Matt Papson

“I had $6MM in space to fill four roster spots. I could not use all of my multi-year contracts. I signed James White and Mike Wallace to one year minimums (not guaranteed). I signed TyGod and Joe Flacco to multiyear deals just to minimize 2018 salary. I have five starting quarterbacks and plan to win the league. The end.”

Bob Cowper

“Similarly to Pappy, I only had three spots and limited cash to fill them. I went into the auction knowing I needed a starting running back to pair with Leonard Fournette and I needed to add at least one tight end too. I was very happy with the deal that I got on Kenyan Drake (two years, $10m in 2018) because I think Drake will end up getting the biggest piece of the RBBC pie in Miami. Rookie Kalen Ballage might cut into Drake’s receiving production but if he manages 25 receptions he should finish as a top twenty back (he had 32 last season). Next, I turned my attention to the tight end position. I’ve been targeting George Kittle in leagues this season and didn’t mind going to $4m per year to secure him. Kittle’s production over the final five games of his rookie season, those he started with Jimmy G, puts him on pace for a 48-716-3 line for 2018. That would make him a borderline top ten option but I think we’ll see even better numbers. For my last spot, I was torn on whether I should add another TE or another QB. I already had five QBs but one is suspended (Winston) and two are rookies that won’t start the season barring injury (Darnold, Rudolph). Ultimately I figured I would trust Trubisky and Goff and add a TE instead. I didn’t love the other TE options after I was outbid on Trey Burton. I grabbed Cameron Brate on a minimum deal to pair with OJ Howard, figuring I might as well lock down the Bucs TE on the cheap.”

Bernard Faller

“The overall cap space in our league was somewhat limited with six teams having $40M or less in available salary and no team with more than $78M. My $55M in cap space and eight open roster spots with no major positional holes to fill meant I could hold out for value. Our league places a big premium on QBs with fifteen paid $17.8M or more in salary for 2018. Having Stafford ($9M) and Garoppolo ($2M) locked up for a combined $11M frees up a lot of cap space for high upside gambles and quality depth at RB/WR. Quality running back depth is always a main priority for me in shallow leagues given the high injury rate and uncertainty at the position. Starting RBs usually hold excellent trade value during the season due to the scarcity of high-end backs available.

Hill (4yr, $37M) was not one a player I actively looked for but he represented solid value for one of the most dynamic players in the league. One likely target for me going into the auction was the San Francisco offense. The consensus of major fantasy sites projects the 49ers as a top-10 passing offense but the top skill players are generally very cheap in auctions. I invested heavily signing McKinnon (2yr, $30M), Breida (3yr, $2M), and Garcon (1yr, $1M) to deals. McCoy’s (1yr, $10M) range of outcomes is probably the most polarized of any player. He is either going to be out of the league or touching the ball twenty times a game as the focal point of a bad Bills offense. My running back depth chart now includes Gurley, McCoy, McKinnon, Miller, and Ronald Jones which accomplished my goal of a quality, deep group with loads of upside.

I missed out on a reliable bye-week/injury replacement QB which was my main oversight in the auction. The depth at wide receiver for fantasy is outrageous. Robby Anderson, Tyler Lockett, and Garcon came at good values but I would rather add better quarterback and tight end depth which came cheap in the auction.”

Stephen Wendell

“Pretty simple for me…

1) Needed another QB because I feel like you have to have 3 starters in this league and I had two in Cam and Big Red. I wanted Brees but I felt like he got too expensive given his age and stage, so I bailed and waited for Matty Ice, at which point I was going to get him no matter what it cost. Beauty of the platform … start-up auction Matt Ryan probably does not make so much, but being one of 4-5 starting QBs in a Super Flex league in year 3 of the league, guy is going to get paid.

2) After that, did not have much more, and I was at my father’s birthday dinner, so I did my best to grab a few more guys I liked:

  1. a) Eifert for $1mm – great upside if he returns to TD machine form and good to stack with Dalton in good matchups
  2. b) Martavis Bryant at $500K – literally a free flyer which could payoff if he can learn the Gruden playbook
  3. c) Corey Clement 3 yr $9.5mm – love the Birds and think he could be Sproles 2.0 and ironically beat the OG Sproles out of the job he created. If not this year, then definitely by 2019, giving me a dynamic playmaker for 2 years on the cheap during what should be prime years for Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense.

For the record, these are my reasons now. At the time, I was just trying to grab some players I knew in between bites of she crab soup and great conversation with my family.”

Matt Goodwin

“Going in with $34mm in cap space, I knew that I’d have to build around my foundational pieces (OBJ, Brady, Hunt) and “paint around the edges”. So, I focused on maximizing value which is something that I feel like I’ve been able to do well in this league. I was focused on getting guys on multi-year deals for typically no more than $5 million average per year.

Succession Quarterback-Having already starting with two starting QBs, I wanted to make sure I had at least a third and a potential succession plan to Big Ben who is expiring after 2018 season. Taking a page from Bernard’s Jimmy Garoppolo deal last year as a backup who’d likely be starting the following season (or even this season), so I grabbed Nick Foles on a three year deal for 3 years, $8.0mm total.

Upside Starting Tight End-I also came in as one of the few teams needing a starting TE and I took the high variance Jordan Reed on a 1 year, $4.5mm deal to replace my injured Hunter Henry. I know Reed comes with risk, but I think Alex Smith is the perfect QB for him if he can stay healthy. And if he can’t, I only have him for a year as dropping some cap off my books in 2019 was important to me as well.

Swiss Army RB’s For Flex or Jay Ajayi Backfill- I’m in my second and final year of a pricey $25.5mm Jay Ajayi deal. While I have hopes that he’ll eat this year in the Eagles offense, I wanted to build my base of running backs for the future this year. I started that with Royce Freeman in the rookie draft at 2.02. He’s now going much sooner and I have the Broncos backfield locked up this season for cheap. I then focused on guys with upside in the passing game like Duke Johnson (2 years, $9.0mm) and Aaron Jones (2 years, $7.0mm) to be possible flex plays, starting running backs for me in 2019, or guys to count on if Ajayi falters or gets hurt.

WRs Who Can Take the Lid Off a Defense- I’ve made no secret on All About Reality that I’m a fan of WRs. I like high-upside ones who can take a lid off a defense and pairing them with PPR types. Having OBJ, Crowder, and Corey Davis already, I grabbed a few of my favorite potential breakouts in 2018 in Marquise Goodwin (we are not of relation) on a 3 year, $14.0mm deal based on faith in Jimmy G and the 49ers upstart offense. I then grabbed Kenny Golladay in a bidding war with Nick Andrews for 4 years, $22.0mm. There are a wide range of outcomes for Golladay, but I felt he had WR1 upside for a droppable contract cost and I did want to keep him away from Nick’s talent-laden team. Lastly, if Jordy Nelson has anything left in the tank, I have him for a 2 year, $1.0mm total deal.

Minimum Salary Guys- I always like to have some interchangeable pieces in spite of a deep bench in this league, so I grabbed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keelan Cole as minimum salary players who might be able to step in.

We’ll see where this thing goes as realistically the team with the best starters invariably wins the league, but I think a third straight playoff appearance is achievable and that my team has the upside to fly the flag if health and luck go my way as well.”

Kyle English

“Went into the auction with 63M in space and only 6 spots to fill…

– Wanted Melvin Gordon since he was the best available RB, but Luke wasn’t going to give him up. Bid him up and eventually let Luke take him for 2/64M which made him the highest paid RB in our league by over 5M/yr. I was then able to get who I thought was the second best RB in the draft in Devonta Freeman for 2/37.5M. Given the prices of those contracts, I’m very please with how that ended up for me and because I spent less I was able to get nearly every other player I was targeting.

– Got Chris Carson for 1/2.5M. Very surprised he went that cheap given the auction was after all the camp news about him looking like the starter. Honestly wasn’t expecting to target him but that’s a nice easy contract to add some more RB depth.

– Needed another QB in case Gruden’s Oakland experiment doesn’t go well for my Carr or Watson doesn’t come back as strong. Targeted Rivers and got him for 3/63M. That’s on the high side of what I’d like to pay, but since I didn’t blow it all on Gordon I was able to do it. Followed that up by targeting Bradford for 1/2.5M to pair with my Rosen which was an easy choice.

– Then went out and got Larry Fitz for 1/12M. I think the Cards will be playing from behind a lot and Fitz has been a PPR monster despite his age.

– Finished it off with the best TE in the auction in Delanie Walker for 2/12M to go with Olsen who I already have. Didn’t want to trust him solo after last season’s debacle.”

Nick Andrews

“Being in the championship game the last two years I felt confident that the core of my team would keep my window open at least another season. Having this mentality I wanted to maximize the final year that I have both Julio Jones and Le’Veon Bell, both on expiring deals after the 2018 season. I reacquired Drew Brees for $57MM/2yr to pair with Kirk Cousins who I had given my extension to earlier in the off-season. Having what I think should be two top 5 QBs in a superflex league hasn’t fail me in my first two seasons so I wasn’t concerned about having to pay up to reacquire Brees. I also needed a rotational guy for bye weeks and was able to add Blake Bortles on a small $9MM/3yr.

With the aforementioned Jones and Bell on expiring deals I wanted to focus my remaining multi-year deals on trying to acquire young replacements that wouldn’t eat up too much cap space. Once the bidding war for Kenny Golladay with Matt Goody was deemed too expensive for my plan I pivoted to other ancillary players that should be successful as bye week options. Nelson Agholor ($12MM/3yr), Tarik Cohen ($20MM/4yr), Isaiah Crowell ($3.5MM/2yr), Tyrell Williams ($500k) were low risk deals that I felt comfortable if they could produce would be great assets to have available to come off the bench.

Finally, I already had Kyle Rudolph locked in for another two seasons so for tight end I focused on upside with some guys that are getting good buzz leading up to the preseason. Ricky Seals-Jones on a $2MM/1yr was a “let’s see what he’s made of deal” where if he doesn’t pay off it’s not a big cap concern. I also was able to use RSO’s new feature of bidding against yourself by nominating and subsequently giving Jonnu Smith a two year, $2MM deal in the hopes that if he doesn’t full replace Delaine Walker this season he will by 2019.

Looking forward to our third seasons and hopefully there will be a third championship appearance for the Knightmare squad.”

Luke Patrick

“Papal Fallibility made a jump from worst-third and the core of the team and no dead money had me in a good position. Going into the auction three starting spots needed to be filled- RB2, WR3, and QB2. Melvin Gordon (64MM/2yr) on a short massive contract was my plan to fill the RB2 slot as he stood alone in a tier with for team built to win this season. Unfortunately, my fellow writers and other drafters were more savvy building depth and I backed down on my two QB targets (Matt Ryan/Drew Brees). This cost me Case Keenum Mark Ingram and Baker Mayfield’s rookie deal in a post draft trade for Cam Newton. Not dropping cash on the QB2 slot left me to secure my top WR on the board in Adam Theilen for a below market deal (51MM/3yr). The squad this year is textbook stars and scrubs. QBs: Russell Wilson/Cam Newton RBs: DJ/Melvin Gordon WRs: Keenan/Diggs/Theilen and TE: Kelce. My bench is wide and thin, populated by upside dart throws and RBs that can inherit big roles.

Dave Sanders

Despite having a solid core of Wentz (thru 2020 @~$21MM per), Mariota (thru 2020 @~$23MM per), Zeke Elliott (thru 2019 @ ~$23MM per), Dion Lewis (thru 2018 @ 500k per), Amari Cooper (thru 2018 @ ~$24MM per) and Rob Gronkowski (thru 2018 @ ~$24MM per, I’ve been mostly a middle of the pack team that has been on the fringe of playoff contention each year.  With Gronk, Amari and Zeke set to enter free agency within the next 2 years or become very expensive to retain, I knew that I needed to use my ~$20MM in cap space wisely and focus on immediate impacts over long-term value.

Before the auction, I identified several targets:

  • Rex Burkhead (have Sony Michel and wanted that pair) – signed for 2 years @ $6.5MM per.  It’s more than I wanted to spend, but I strongly believe that one of those RBs will finish within the top 10 in 2019 PPR scoring.  Which one?  I have no idea.
  • Josh Gordon – signed for 4 years @ ~$3MM per.  With cap situation, I didn’t have room to lock up a star player for multiple years and thought he might come cheap given the uncertainty that was especially heightened around the time of our auction on August 8th.  I feel a bit better about his status now, but he’s certainly no lock to remain on the field.  That said, the penalty for cutting him won’t be too detrimental if it doesn’t work out.  The upside, if he ever returns to form, could be massive.
  • Jarvis Landry – signed for 3 years @ ~$12MM per.  As soon as I landed Gordon, I turned my attention to Landry.  To me, he’s almost a Gordon handcuff.  If Gordon misses time in any of the next 3 years, Landry should see increase volume and possibly more downfield utilization.  At what I consider to be a below market deal for a PPR league, count me in!

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth look into our war rooms.  Stay up to date on the experts league by following #RSOexpertsLG on Twitter.

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Press Your Luck

Updated: September 4th 2016

When I was a kid, I used to love the Game Show Press Your Luck (Editor’s Note, this is my (Stephen’s) favorite game show of all-time). While I’m sure this makes it easy to guess my age, a young me loved the days on winter break or off from school when I was in front of a television with those hilarious whammies and contestants yelling, “Big Bucks! Big Bucks! STOP!” For those of you who have never seen the show, check out a link here.

While the Reality Sports Online Free Agent Auction offers way more substance than those sophomoric whammies, sometimes it becomes necessary to go against your initial instincts and press your luck to go all in on a player. What I mean by this is like the famous saying from the WWE’s Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase that “everyone has a price”, sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone bid wise to get the player(s) that makes you the league favorite.

Today, with many of you yet to have your auctions before the season starts, I will outline how I employed that strategy in two writers/expert leagues the past few weeks and in what situations/scenarios you should consider making bold moves. I’m predicating all of these scenarios based on you having adequate cap space to carry out this strategy without overextending yourself. Of course, another good strategy that sometimes works is making trades pre-auction so you don’t have to pay market prices for players you covet if most of the best players are under contract.

Scenario #1) Only One or Two Elite Free Agent Options Available in Your League

This very scenario occurred for me in my numberFire and friends writers league a few weeks ago (I hate to call anything an “experts” league because to me there’s always someone who I don’t know who I feel is an awesome fantasy player and to this point, a non-writer won the league last year). I was coming into this 10 team, third-year league with a team that has not gotten in done in the playoffs the past two seasons in spite of a combined regular season record of 19-7 and being the highest scoring team in the league the past few years. In my mind, my starting receivers of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were solid, but didn’t offer the upside to compete with the elite receiving options in the league. Most top receivers are concentrated on a few teams that in my opinion pose the biggest threats to me-ESPN’s Leo Howell’s team (Antonio Brown,Mike Evans, Allen Robinson), FantasyGuru.com’s Graham Barfield’s team (Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery) , and numberFire’s Tyler Buecher (Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks).

So, when I took inventory of this and found that Leo Howell would not be franchise tagging DeAndre Hopkins for a second straight year, I determined that my bidding strategy on Hopkins was to win him at all costs because it strengthens my position while weakening one of my chief competitors, one who has gone 24-2 the past two regular seasons.

My $91 million in cap space and the need really to only fill two flex positions in my starting lineup helped justify the massive expense on Hopkins, who by far was the best free agent available in this league and especially so at a position of need for me. So my pre-auction plan was to win Hopkins at any cost for four years-my pre-auction budget was around 4 years and between $140 million and $150 million total. However, Howell had plenty of cap space too and was targeting a return of Hopkins as well.

I ended up signing Hopkins to a 4 year, $171.5m deal which was the biggest contract I’ve seen in any of the three leagues I’m currently in. It sent some shock waves to the rest of the league (and a few Twitter followers) and honestly pushed my comfort zone somewhat because I do think Hopkins may experience some regression this season. However, it was definitely the right move for my team based on him being the premier option in the auction and fitting a team need.

Later in the auction players who are solid starters but not necessarily difference makers fetched big prices as a result of the Hopkins auction and teams being flush with cap space-for instance Randall Cobb received 3 years, $96.5 million and Jeremy Maclin signed for 4 years, $102 million. In essence, I may have set the market on receivers by my huge Hopkins bid and based on what happened afterwards, I’m happy that I added an elite option to my team that I hope puts me over the top.

Scenario #2) You Have Very Few Roster Spots Left

Especially in leagues where you have more than two rounds of rookie draft picks and carry roster sizes in the 20’s, by the time you get to a third-year auction, roster spots may not be plentiful when your auction rolls around. So, you might as well spend your cap space and get what you want, even if some of the pricing runs counter to what you are comfortable with. Sometimes that may involve you winning a player you don’t necessarily want via price enforcing, but more often than not, it will help you carry out a strategy.

For instance, RSO President and Founder Matt Papson and I got into a slight bidding war on Arian Foster, who he ended up signing for one year, $19.5 million. I’m sure that he was probably hoping to spend less, but he only had four roster spaces open coming into the auction for a team he took over and got value where he saw it. If Foster returns to previous year’s form, he fits well into Papson’s lineup (especially since he owns Jay Ajayi also).

But the key to me is that if Foster gets hurt again, Papson is still protected with only a one year deal. This is in and of itself a strategy-Papson is a chess-player and he may already be eyeing some of the 2017 free agents and his option value on Foster is huge. It also capitalized well on his bountiful cap space for very few roster spots.

While I’m advocating for spending your money in your auction, I’m not suggesting giving risky players multiple years on a big contract, however. Sometimes it is better to have the option value, even if the upside is lacking.

Scenario #3) Capitalizing on/Extending Championship Window

Let’s face it-not every team in your league is built to win for extended periods of time. You have to strike when the iron is hot. So if you’re only a flex player away from winning the whole freakin’ thing, go get your player and worry about the contract dollars on the back end later.

For me, furthering my example from #1, I arguably have the best and cheapest starting running back tandem in the league in picking Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley in consecutive rookie drafts. Since I only have this combination again this season (before franchise tags kick in) for a combined $7.7 million, winning time is now (or worst case next year). Heading into that auction, I also had Rob Gronkowski for another two seasons (before franchise tags) for around $15 million a year.

Taking into account Hopkins and the contracts I have, I feel that adding Hopkins extended my window to contend another two years beyond this year and leverages my Gronk and running back core.

Scenario #4) Your League Employs Late Round QB Strategy

If any of you reading this are doing multiple fantasy leagues and not following my numberFire editor JJ Zachariason, he is really one of the true visionaries in fantasy football these days. Plus, he works incredibly hard, is an overall nice guy, and offers tons of strategy and podcasts in terms of how to stream positions like quarterbacks and tight ends.

While the RSO format with multi-year contracts makes it a little more difficult to “stream” QB’s than a redraft league, there are certainly leagues which devalue QB play in your auction market dynamics. My numberFire writers league is exactly that. I mean, prior to Hopkins coming up for auction, I had to sit idly by while Aaron Rodgers was signed by defending champion Rory Ryan on a 3 year, $11 million contract. That may be counter-intuitive to some of you, yet that’s the Late Round QB strategy in full effect and while I would’ve loved to hope in that Rodgers bidding, I had to stay in my swim lane in order to be able to get Hopkins.

Basically that school of thought says to pay in auctions for wide receivers and running backs as QB play is usually not that differentiated (this works differently in two QB leagues). Anyways, if your entire league or most of it employs Late Round QB dynamics (or you at least do), you’ll have tons of money to spend on other players and if you combine that with only a few elite options in free agency and having few roster spots left, you’ll start breaking the bank for guys like C.J. Anderson and Michael Floyd who went to Leo Howell for 3 years each at $88 million and $72 million respectively-not a bad combined use of the money that would have otherwise went to Hopkins.

Scenario #5) You’re Typically Conservative 

If you have been in a league for a few years or start your first year auction super conservative, sometimes you have to throw your opponents for a loop. Some of your leaguemates have certain owners typecasted on who will bid on which players and then you hit them with a surprise left. When they look at your roster and see your biggest contract is $15 million a year, they don’t think you’ll go big on someone like Jamaal Charles. And then you do and he helps you big time.

The key is mixing in risk in years when you need that extra push to contend vs. not overextending yourself with players who may be dead money in other years. Who is in the free agent pool certainly matters and so does using player’s ages, sample sizes and gut instincts when awarding multi-year contracts.


numberFire Writer’s League Likely 10 man starting lineups

So as I went all in for Hopkins, here are the likely 10 man starting lineups for each team. Curious what everyone’s thoughts are. The league is 0.5PPR and starts a QB, Two RB’s, Two WR’s, TE, DST, K, FLEX, FLEX

University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) 

Dalton, Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Jordan Matthews, Kelce, Broncos, Crosby, Ryan Mathews, Baldwin

The Quickie Martin (Sam Hauss, numberFire)

Mariota, Doug Martin, Lacy, Nelson, Maclin, Fleener, Panthers, Walsh, Duke Johnson, Delanie Walker

Hospitable Takeover (Matt Papson, President and Founder, Reality Sports Online)

Wilson, L. Murray, Ingram, Beckham Jr., Edelman, Maxx Williams, Bills, TBD, Foster, Langford

Team: Great Odin’s Raven (Dan Pizzuta, numberFire)

Newton, David Johnson, Yeldon, Cooper, Watkins, Olsen, Texans, Tucker, John Brown, Emmanuel Sanders

Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire)

Fitzpatrick, DeAngelo Williams/Bell, McCoy, Julio Jones, Cooks, Reed, Eagles, Vinatieri, Marvin Jones, Desean Jackson

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online)

Rivers, Peterson, Jeremy Hill, Landry, Hurns, Graham, Rams, McManus, Cobb, Hyde

Team: Cleveland’s Award Tour (Matt Goodwin, Reality Sports Online & numberFire)

Roethlisberger, Gurley, Freeman, Hopkins, Decker, Gronkowski, Seahawks, Catanzaro, Demaryius Thomas, Diggs

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, ESPN)

Brees, Charles, C.J. Anderson, Antonio Brown, Allen Robinson, Ertz, Chiefs, Gostkowski, Evans, Floyd

Team: Funky Monks (Graham Barfield, FantasyGuru.com & Rotoworld)

Luck, Lamar Miller, Riddick, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Gates, Bengals, Hauschka, Jeffery, Fitzgerald

Team: Loss Aversion (Rory Ryan, Baylor University Law Professor)

Rodgers, Rawls, Gore, Hilton, Marshall, Bennett, Cardinals, Bailey, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith


Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter) and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally provided that reality! Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Hold’em or Fold’em: Part 2

Updated: June 5th 2016

When I wrote my first article here on RealitySportsOnline the goal was to help breakdown whether or not to tear down your team and start the rebuilding process. Now that NFL free agency and the draft have concluded we have a clearer picture of what our roster looks like. We can take a look ahead now at our own drafts and auctions to establish what our goals for 2016 should be. Hopefully you used my guide to evaluate your roster against those of your other league mates. If you haven’t already I’ll give a rundown of how to evaluate your league. Remember that just having a rough outline of whether you are making a run or not this season will give you a direction for preparing for your draft and auction. So let’s go ahead and get started!

Evaluating Your League

Recently I had a conversation with one of our readers about my last article which discussed a formula for valuing players in the auction draft.  He got me thinking about tiering players to create a value for a group of players rather than each one individually. This is where I will start our league-wide comparisons. Using the “base” system that I discussed we can break groups of players up into Elite, Great, Good, and Average. From there assign values to each group (1000, 500, 250, and 100 are nice round numbers to use) and sort the returning players onto each individual team and all expected free agent players into a “free agent” pool. Using an example from one of my leagues, where I adopted a team, you create a chart that resembles something similar below. The numbers within each box represent the number of players that fit within each of the tiers listed before. The totals are these players multiplied by the values given. I also included the free agent chart underneath that lists the number of players in each tier and at each position.

Team Talent 1

Team Talent 2

I have outlined my team in red here so that you can compare it to the others. Our league is pretty even in terms of talent with a couple outliers on either end. This is likely similar to your league where one or two teams clearly have the inside track to a championship, five to eight teams have a shot at making the playoffs and then one to three teams are a step behind the class and are likely to win only a handful of games. When doing your chart if you fall in the bottom third of team value you need to be in rebuild mode. If you are in the middle third you have the option to hold or rebuild now before everyone else in your tier starts their rebuild.

Finding New Building Blocks

Congratulations, you now have an outline for whether you are rebuild in 2016 or holding for another season. For rebuilders the next step is to determine how much of a rebuild your team needs. Your rebuild will be determined based on three factors: returning players, available cap room and auction pool value. For a fast track rebuild if you play in a league that starts fewer players (8-10) and your free agency happens to have a large number of ELITE and GREAT players this offseason you could potentially be a Cinderella team in 2016 just by building through one draft and an aggressive auction. This strategy likely only works however if you have a significant cap space differential from other owners and already have a couple of elite players retained for next season. More likely you will want to give yourself a window of 2-3 years to be a contender.

So if I say that it will take at least two offseasons to rebuild a team what does that mean for the players you currently have? Since RealitySportsOnline is different from other traditional dynasty league sites in that contracts limit the time that an owner can control any player, rebuilders can actually have an advantage. Similar to how other dynasty strategists suggest trading away veterans that are unlikely to be valuable assets when your team “makes the turn”, you can also move younger players on contracts that will be free agents in 2-3 years. Even with young players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins, if you’re not going to be contending with them until after their contracts have expired, you might as well strike while the iron’s hot and get value for them. For those of you that only have one or two standout players on their rosters this first step is much more beneficial than sitting on the player’s value for a couple of years.

Rebuilding in Year 1

But Nick, if we’re trading away all our elite talent what are we supposed to build around? Don’t worry you won’t be talent-less forever. Once you have moved your big names you should have a lot of cap space, draft picks and quality ancillary players. Not ideal for a team trying to win games but that’s okay because what we want is to have flexibility in free agency and to hold some good picks in next year’s draft.

Starting with your rookie draft preparation this season your strategy won’t change much from what you were likely already going to do. However, for those that do their draft away from the online draft room, if you are not in love with a player at your selection then consider moving out of the draft from that spot to a similar spot in future drafts. Remember that you’re not likely to compete this year so why not move the contract that you will be giving to a player a year out. Particularly considering how strong and deep the 2017 draft is shaping up to be. If you can trade a first pick this year for a first next year that could be a huge win.

With regards to your auction, the goal year one can be broken down into long and short term contracts. Long term contracts should only be given to low cost, young players (preferably WRs and QBs) that can generate value once your team comes around. Investing low cost 3-4 year contacts in players such as Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, John Brown, or Allen Hurns in the range of $3-5 million/year can offer a nice foundation player to have in the future. For the short term you want to purchase good value one year players that can offer midseason trade value to contenders. The goal is to not go crazy offering/accepting huge long term deals along with other league mates since you want to keep open your cap space in your second offseason of rebuild.

Preparing for 2017 and Beyond

Looking ahead to the 2017 offseason now you’ve likely won four or less games and have a top 3 pick along with several other picks accumulated from trading. All the players that were one year deals and became a bargain you likely traded them to contenders for either draft picks or more long term project players. Now is the year that you can pounce, especially if many of your league mates are locked in with their roster and cap space. You still want to use your long term deals only on players with high floors but you can begin to spend more. For those of you that are getting close to releasing your first class of rookies to free agency this is the perfect time for you to collect several of those players. Players like Kennan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Giovanni Bernard were likely allowing owners to benefit from their low rookie contracts and will not be able to afford them at their market value. This is why holding future cap space open is the key.

Now that you are collecting some elite talent and you haven’t lost all your future money you can implement the same strategy in year three. With the 2014 WRs coming available this year or possibly in 2017 depending on 3 or 4 year rookie contract lengths, at this point you should have collected enough elite and good players to compete with others in your league. As well you should hold a couple of players on rookie contracts that are less than market value, assuming you drafted well. From here on the goal to avoid having to go through a total rebuild again is to sell players in their second to last year of their contracts and continue to use long term deals only on high floor or lower cost players. Don’t be afraid of the one year deal on projected elite players as best case scenario the player is awesome and you get all your money back to buy them again the next year. If the player busts you get out from under them rather than having to pay half their salary for another two years.

Happy drafting and as always if you have any questions about draft or trade strategies you can find me @naandrews19 on twitter.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Hold'em or Fold'em: Part 2

Updated: June 5th 2016

When I wrote my first article here on RealitySportsOnline the goal was to help breakdown whether or not to tear down your team and start the rebuilding process. Now that NFL free agency and the draft have concluded we have a clearer picture of what our roster looks like. We can take a look ahead now at our own drafts and auctions to establish what our goals for 2016 should be. Hopefully you used my guide to evaluate your roster against those of your other league mates. If you haven’t already I’ll give a rundown of how to evaluate your league. Remember that just having a rough outline of whether you are making a run or not this season will give you a direction for preparing for your draft and auction. So let’s go ahead and get started!

Evaluating Your League

Recently I had a conversation with one of our readers about my last article which discussed a formula for valuing players in the auction draft.  He got me thinking about tiering players to create a value for a group of players rather than each one individually. This is where I will start our league-wide comparisons. Using the “base” system that I discussed we can break groups of players up into Elite, Great, Good, and Average. From there assign values to each group (1000, 500, 250, and 100 are nice round numbers to use) and sort the returning players onto each individual team and all expected free agent players into a “free agent” pool. Using an example from one of my leagues, where I adopted a team, you create a chart that resembles something similar below. The numbers within each box represent the number of players that fit within each of the tiers listed before. The totals are these players multiplied by the values given. I also included the free agent chart underneath that lists the number of players in each tier and at each position.

Team Talent 1

Team Talent 2

I have outlined my team in red here so that you can compare it to the others. Our league is pretty even in terms of talent with a couple outliers on either end. This is likely similar to your league where one or two teams clearly have the inside track to a championship, five to eight teams have a shot at making the playoffs and then one to three teams are a step behind the class and are likely to win only a handful of games. When doing your chart if you fall in the bottom third of team value you need to be in rebuild mode. If you are in the middle third you have the option to hold or rebuild now before everyone else in your tier starts their rebuild.

Finding New Building Blocks

Congratulations, you now have an outline for whether you are rebuild in 2016 or holding for another season. For rebuilders the next step is to determine how much of a rebuild your team needs. Your rebuild will be determined based on three factors: returning players, available cap room and auction pool value. For a fast track rebuild if you play in a league that starts fewer players (8-10) and your free agency happens to have a large number of ELITE and GREAT players this offseason you could potentially be a Cinderella team in 2016 just by building through one draft and an aggressive auction. This strategy likely only works however if you have a significant cap space differential from other owners and already have a couple of elite players retained for next season. More likely you will want to give yourself a window of 2-3 years to be a contender.

So if I say that it will take at least two offseasons to rebuild a team what does that mean for the players you currently have? Since RealitySportsOnline is different from other traditional dynasty league sites in that contracts limit the time that an owner can control any player, rebuilders can actually have an advantage. Similar to how other dynasty strategists suggest trading away veterans that are unlikely to be valuable assets when your team “makes the turn”, you can also move younger players on contracts that will be free agents in 2-3 years. Even with young players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins, if you’re not going to be contending with them until after their contracts have expired, you might as well strike while the iron’s hot and get value for them. For those of you that only have one or two standout players on their rosters this first step is much more beneficial than sitting on the player’s value for a couple of years.

Rebuilding in Year 1

But Nick, if we’re trading away all our elite talent what are we supposed to build around? Don’t worry you won’t be talent-less forever. Once you have moved your big names you should have a lot of cap space, draft picks and quality ancillary players. Not ideal for a team trying to win games but that’s okay because what we want is to have flexibility in free agency and to hold some good picks in next year’s draft.

Starting with your rookie draft preparation this season your strategy won’t change much from what you were likely already going to do. However, for those that do their draft away from the online draft room, if you are not in love with a player at your selection then consider moving out of the draft from that spot to a similar spot in future drafts. Remember that you’re not likely to compete this year so why not move the contract that you will be giving to a player a year out. Particularly considering how strong and deep the 2017 draft is shaping up to be. If you can trade a first pick this year for a first next year that could be a huge win.

With regards to your auction, the goal year one can be broken down into long and short term contracts. Long term contracts should only be given to low cost, young players (preferably WRs and QBs) that can generate value once your team comes around. Investing low cost 3-4 year contacts in players such as Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, John Brown, or Allen Hurns in the range of $3-5 million/year can offer a nice foundation player to have in the future. For the short term you want to purchase good value one year players that can offer midseason trade value to contenders. The goal is to not go crazy offering/accepting huge long term deals along with other league mates since you want to keep open your cap space in your second offseason of rebuild.

Preparing for 2017 and Beyond

Looking ahead to the 2017 offseason now you’ve likely won four or less games and have a top 3 pick along with several other picks accumulated from trading. All the players that were one year deals and became a bargain you likely traded them to contenders for either draft picks or more long term project players. Now is the year that you can pounce, especially if many of your league mates are locked in with their roster and cap space. You still want to use your long term deals only on players with high floors but you can begin to spend more. For those of you that are getting close to releasing your first class of rookies to free agency this is the perfect time for you to collect several of those players. Players like Kennan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Giovanni Bernard were likely allowing owners to benefit from their low rookie contracts and will not be able to afford them at their market value. This is why holding future cap space open is the key.

Now that you are collecting some elite talent and you haven’t lost all your future money you can implement the same strategy in year three. With the 2014 WRs coming available this year or possibly in 2017 depending on 3 or 4 year rookie contract lengths, at this point you should have collected enough elite and good players to compete with others in your league. As well you should hold a couple of players on rookie contracts that are less than market value, assuming you drafted well. From here on the goal to avoid having to go through a total rebuild again is to sell players in their second to last year of their contracts and continue to use long term deals only on high floor or lower cost players. Don’t be afraid of the one year deal on projected elite players as best case scenario the player is awesome and you get all your money back to buy them again the next year. If the player busts you get out from under them rather than having to pay half their salary for another two years.

Happy drafting and as always if you have any questions about draft or trade strategies you can find me @naandrews19 on twitter.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

7 Basic Auction Principles

Updated: August 13th 2015

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Long before Reality Sports Online existed, I was a HUGE proponent of fantasy auction drafts. I have always had an affinity for numbers, but my passion for auctions is simpler than that. Each owner has the opportunity to buy or sign any player. There’s no “luck of the draw” for draft slot, and every owner has the same probability of winning the league entering the auction as any other. I can craft the team I want, and I’m not bound by my slot. Every minute of the “auction draft” is action packed. This is how most snake drafts go for me: Wait a few minutes, try (and fail) to trade back, make a pick that I’m not thrilled with, wait a few minutes…wait a few more minutes, get upset because the player I wanted next was selected in the spot right in front of me, sulk, make an irrational frustration pick, and repeat.  I know for a fact that many fantasy owners are intimidated by auction formats. There’s no shame in admitting it… it’s one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to get fantasy owners to try our fantasy Front Office platform.

For anybody who isn’t familiar with Reality Sports Online, it’s a platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their team like an NFL General Manager. The platform features a Rookie draft, partially guaranteed contracts, real salary cap management, injured reserve, a franchise tag, and more. The platform’s greatest feature is the Free Agency Auction Room, which 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. If you’re an active fantasy auction advocate, or you’re just somebody looking for a deeper, more engaging fantasy experience, you should try the Reality Sports Online fantasy Front Office platform.

If you find yourself among the people hesitant to embrace auctions…there really is nothing to fear.  Managing a budget isn’t hard…you do it every day in life. Fantasy is a game of statistics. Fantasy owners are an intelligent and generally well-educated breed. Regardless of education, if you’re playing fantasy – you’re smart enough to do an auction. Try it. Once you do, you’ll never go back. Now, let’s get down to business.

Whether you’re building a team for multiple years in the Reality Sports Online Front Office format, or you’re laying it all on the line in a re-draft auction, there are a few guiding auction principles that can help you win your league. Building a great team via auction takes strategy, patience, discipline, and a knack for knowing when to break the rules. You can take some or all of the principles below and incorporate them into your auction strategy.

1.    Set your own pre-auction value for EVERY player (who is going to be purchased/signed for more than the minimum)

You may very well hate (in the fantasy sense) a player, because he’s overrated, injury prone, or because he plays for your team’s archrival. But, every player has some value to you. In an auction, you’re purchasing a player’s statistics. Every player’s value is relative to the cost associated with acquiring him. You might not want LeSean McCoy in 2015 as a Bill, and maybe you don’t expect DeMarco Murray to get enough touches with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles present, but you still need to be prepared to buy/sign them. There’s some price for every player at which you should be thrilled to acquire them. It doesn’t have to be an exact science for every player, but place a number on them where you’ll be happy with the purchase or signing. It’s a little tricky when you’re talking about a multi-year contract for Reality Sports Online, so in that case, just make sure you’re only giving guys that you’re “value-signing” a one-year contract. In 2015, I’m not excited about Matt Forte (or his real-life contract situation), Brandon Marshall (who can still play, but Geno-Fitz doesn’t excite me) or Drew Brees (it’s going to take a lot of C.J. Spiller screens & bubbles for a strong statistical year), but they’re all worth a below-market-price flier.

2.    Be the value enforcer

You’ll see as you read on that these principles are all similar, but while they’re all tied together and build on one another, they’re all distinct. Being the value enforcer is not a popular position in auctions. It’s best when you’ve got genuine multi-owner bidding wars for each player, but it’s not likely to happen for every player.  I generally like to sit back and wait in auctions for as long as possible (I never nominate a player I hope to land) before getting involved, but, in order to get value later in the auction, you have to make sure that owners are paying close to full price for top players. No matter what platform you use, the experts who assign the recommended values put a lot of time and effort into their analysis. Even if the values aren’t perfect, they’re in the right ballpark. Always make sure top players are going for at least 80% of their recommended value, and 90%+ if it’s a player on your fringe list. You can’t predict the order in which players will be nominated, so sometimes you’ll be forced to sign players early, but in general, I try to have more dollars remaining than at least half of the teams for the first half of the auction. In order to be able to get your value signings late, you need other teams to blow their wad early.

3.    Pay attention to other owner’s roster composition

Every auction is a puzzle. As every piece (or player) falls into place, the total picture becomes clearer, and it’s easier to place the remaining pieces. It’s important to take in all the context clues throughout the auction so you can deduct which owners might be genuinely interested in acquiring certain players/positions. Too many times fantasy owners laser-focus on their own team and goals and can’t see what’s unfolding in front of them. It can help to know when someone is just running up the price on you because they know you need a position. And, if you’re paying attention, you can do the same thing when you know other owners are desperate to acquire a certain position or player. Every extra dollar you force another owner to spend is a dollar you’re saving for yourself later.

4.    Let the auction come to you, don’t chase

Whether it’s a draft or an auction, it’s always important to have a strategy in place in advance (if it weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this!). For drafts, some fixate on getting X position in round 1 and Y players at X position by Z round. For auctions, many build positional budgets or allocations, and others say “I’m getting A, B, and C no matter what it costs”. Whatever strategy you enter the auction with, you have to be willing to deviate from it if the situation warrants a change of plans. Be flexible and willing to improvise. One of your top targets may have gone well over your budget, forcing you to bow out unexpectedly, or you may have acquired somebody you didn’t particularly want while enforcing value. Adapt and conquer. You don’t have to abandon your original strategy completely, but the more flexibility you have with your plan the more likely you’ll be able to find value.

5.    Seek & Find Value

In auction formats, particularly on the Reality Sports Online platform with multi-year contracts and guaranteed money, I’ve found that many experts like to employ a studs and duds strategy (most of the budget dedicated to a few “stud” players with the remainder spent filling out the roster with best available). With respect to multi-year contracts, that theory certainly has merit, and even in single-year auctions, many people can still make it work. I like to be contrarian when possible, though some would just call me stubborn. I’m a value guy. I love getting bargains on players. I get about as much joy as you could imagine getting a player for 50% off. Take a look at some of the 4-year contracts (each team gets one each year in standard settings) given out in my favorite fantasy league (the Matt Waldman Reality Sports Online Experts League; platform utilizes NFL Salary Cap):

First Name Last Name Pos Pro Team Age Contract Length Value
Cole Beasley WR DAL 26 4 $2M
Brock Osweiler QB DEN 25 4 $5M
Michael Floyd WR ARI 26 4 $13M
Nick Foles QB STL 26 4 $25M
T.Y. Hilton WR IND 26 4 $26.5M
Rueben Randle WR NYG 24 4 $29M
Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN 28 4 $36.5M

 

Sure, they’re not all major hits, but there are some deals in there that look awfully good heading into 2015. The point is, experts (and these are good ones) are willing to take a shot on value plays knowing they may strike out, and you should be willing to as well. I particularly consider myself a value-seeker when it comes to Quarterbacks. I’d rather sign QBs 12, 14, and 16 for a combined $20M per year hoping one cracks the top 8 rather than invest $25M for a “Top 5” QB and still need to figure out my backup situation. I like building deep rosters and trusting myself with tough start/sit decisions each week rather than having clear-cut starters and bench players, and that’s true across all positions.

6. It’s Okay to Pay a Premium

Even though I just spent the last few paragraphs preaching value, there are also times when it’s okay to pay a premium. At the beginning, I told you to set a value for EVERY player – the amount you’d be willing to acquire the player for and be “happy” with your signing. But, I also told you that you needed to be willing to improvise and adapt. If you get beyond your happy place budget on a player that you really like, spend an extra 5-10% and trust your instincts. Last year for me it was Antonio Brown. There was no expert magazine ranking or online resource assigning a value to him higher than my own – I was getting him no matter what it cost – and owned him in every league I participated in. I “overpaid” versus pre-season values and projections, but it ended up working out okay. I’ll also say, particularly in Reality Sports Online leagues, you can afford to overspend on 1-year deals, especially after the mid-point in the auction. There may not be a better place to put those dollars to use later in the auction, so pick your spot and be aggressive.

7. Don’t click mindlessly

With everything we’ve covered so far, this may seem like a silly principle to close with, but don’t underestimate it. Auctions are fun, action-packed, and making a bid/offer is exhilarating. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Clicking is addicting. Once the bidding starts, I just can’t help myself.” It’s true, it’s always more fun being in on the action, but you know what else is fun? Winning! Be careful quick-clicking, because somebody else may have put in a manual offer/bid, and you may have absentmindedly just blown a quarter of your budget on Trent Richardson. Our auction software has safeguards for protection, like offer-rejection when there are clicks milliseconds apart and your offer would have been $1M higher than you intended, and a rewind for egregious errors, but some Commissioners are ruthless dictators that make you sleep in the bed you’ve made. Once a player gets beyond your value-enforcer level, just stop clicking and let the other owners duke it out. Only harm can come from a meaningless click.

Matt Papson is the creator and co-founder of Reality Sports Online (www.realitysportsonline.com; @RealitySportsOn), an innovative fantasy Front Office platform that lets fantasy owners emulate the experience of an NFL General Manager. Prior to launching Reality Sports Online, Matt was formerly a Junior Salary Cap Analyst and Pro Personnel Intern for an NFL team. He’s passionate about football, entrepreneurship, pivot tables, golf, and the beach. You can follow him on Twitter @RealitySportsMP

More Analysis by Matt Papson