Best Values – Writers' League

Updated: September 7th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


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.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Best Values – Writers’ League

Updated: October 16th 2016

Values.  Even in a league comprised of the RSO founders and writers, there are plenty of players that sign for below their projected values.  Many factors contribute to this, including the timing of player nominations, each team’s roster construction, and each team’s remaining room under the salary cap.

As the auction progresses, owners throughout the league felt regret as several players slipped through the cracks for reasonable, team-friendly deals.  After the draft, several owners shared with me which players they felt were the best values in the auction.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (4 years, $72 million) Ice Cold Bruschis

“Didn’t realize it during the action, but after the fact this looks like a steal.  He’s still the 5th highest paid QB on a per year basis and the 6th highest in 2016, but he’s almost 9M/yr cheaper than the #1 QB Wilson and a solid 3-4M/yr lower than the other top tier QBs of Luck, Cam, and Brees.  Add in the fact that he’s the only QB locked in for 4 years in this superflex league and this buy looks great.  I personally went into the auction with the strategy of not wanting to target the top QBs, but in hindsight I should have gone after Rodgers at this value.” -Kyle English

“A-Rod also really good to have locked up for 4 years. He will probably have a huge year this year now that Nelson is back in the fold.” -Stephen Wendell

Ben Roethlisberger (2 years, $25 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Ben at 2/$25M was my favorite multi-year QB deal” -Matt Papson

Derek Carr (3 years, $21.5 million) Like The Language

“Derek Carr is a nice flyer at $7.2M per year for the next 3 years. I was already set at QB by the time he came available so I could not get involved.” -Matt Papson

“I am big on Carr and love that contract as well. He will be able to use or trade that at some point this year.” -Stephen Wendell

Blake Bortles (2 years, $18 million) Like The Language

Love the Blake Bortles contract. In a 2 QB league, he is going to be a valuable starter for Kyle’s squad for many many weeks.  -Stephen Wendell

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (3 years, $45.5 million) New York Knightmare

“Bell was unbelievably cheap, even with his recovery. I wasn’t prepared to absorb the risk that comes with him, but this has the chance to be the best overall deal signed at the end of the year.”  -Matt Papson

LeSean McCoy (2 years, $22 million) BallinOnABudget

“I fully expect McCoy to deliver big value on this contract.  He is the lead back in a run-heavy Buffalo offense and a dangerous receiving option out of the backfield on a team without many receiving weapons.  McCoy missed some time last year and was one of the first running backs nominated in the auction, which probably explains his low valuation in our league as owners  were waiting on the running back position.” -Bernard Faller

“Matt’s Shady contract could prove to be really good…in a PPR league, I just think he is so undervalued. I bowed out of that signing too early…as an Eagles fan, the whole Shady thing is tough to get through.” -Stephen Wendell

“I’m not a huge McCoy fan in general but given the turmoil his backups are going through, I think it’s safe to say McCoy is looking at 300+ touches this year if he can stay healthy (which he did in 2013 and 2014 don’t forget).  McCoy’s 2016 salary is lower than guys like Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Matt Forte – all three have their own injury histories and I would argue neither has as high a ceiling as McCoy.”  -Bob Cowper

Devonta Freeman (2 years, $26 million) New York Knightmare

“Freeman and Bell are both on solid contracts, though I like Freeman signing more than Bell. The discount was there for Bell for obvious reasons but 4 years is a lot to commit to him given his off the field issues and the age of Big Ben…he goes down and that offense really changes.” -Stephen Wendell

Jeremy Langford (1 year, $4.5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Jeremy Langford signing could prove to be a great bang for the buck this season at $4.5mm. Forte was not just a fluke catching dump off passes in the freezing cold all those years in Chicago. Langford will score a bunch of fantasy points…don’t get me wrong, I hate the Bears and Cutler, but this is a good singing I think.” -Stephen Wendell

Thomas Rawls (1 year, $5 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“Rawls at $5MM looks like great value in retrospect. I remember being upset he went for that little.” -Stephen Wendell

Wide Receivers

Josh Doctson (3 years, $3.5 million) Suck It Trebek

“My favorite contract in this league is Suck It Trebek’s (Bernard’s) signing of Josh Doctson for 3 years, $3.5m. Basically, even if Doctson sat out the entire season in 2016, he has the potential to be a superstar and runs the entire route tree. Doctson can win against all types of coverage, especially in the air on a Washington offense full of weapons. Bernard will benefit from this late-auction deal big time in the future years and potentially in OBJ type form if Doctson comes back to full health at some point this season. I personally would have bid higher and had the money to do it or even price enforce a bit, but I was saving my last multi-year deal (only had my 2 year deal left) for Sterling Shepard with OBJ already in tow and being fairly receiver heavy.” -Matt Goodwin

“At the point in the draft where he was selected, many of us were low on salary cap room and/or multi-year contracts. Still, this is incredible value given the contracts many of the other high-upside wide receivers and was a lesson in patience for my trigger-happy bidding style.” -Jaron Foster

Kelvin Benjamin (3 years, $50.5 million) Save Us Carson Wendtz & Kevin White (3 years, $34 million) $7 Worth of Hoobastank

“The receivers got the bulk of the multi-year deals in this league, which is to be expected, but there was some craaaaaazy cash flying around in Free Agency. In the end, I think Kelvin Benjamin and Kevin White have a chance to be really special players for a while.” -Matt Papson

Jeremy Maclin (4 years, $24 million) BallinOnABudget

“I mean just look at this numbers last year to know how good this signing was by Papson – don’t love the length but it is an easy cut decision in 2 years if need be.” -Stephen Wendell

“My value pick has to go to Matt “Papi” Papson and his Jeremy Maclin $26M/4years contract. As his team name would suggest (BallinOnABudget) Matt seemed to be looking for value rather than bidding wars and he definitely found one here. Maclin was quietly one of the most consistent WRs last season and looks comfortable as Andy Reid’s number one option. We will see what his value holds in the fourth year of the contract, he’ll be 31, but at an average salary of just over $6 million he is a significant discount to some of his other WR2 brethren.” -Nick Andrews

Laquon Treadwell (2 years, $6 million) Like The Language

“Treadwell’s contract looks pretty good for that amount of time. He is going to be good.”  -Stephen Wendell

Marvin Jones (1 year, $3 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“Jones at that value has a chance for a special year in a Megatronless Detroit.” -Stephen Wendell

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (2 years, $8 million) Bro-lo El Cuñado

“The Ertz contract was easily the TE value of the night. I must have been asleep at the controls for this one.”  -Matt Papson

Let us know on Twitter about some of the best/worst contracts in your RSO league.


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.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Value Town: TEs

Updated: June 10th 2016

Most people like a deal. Receiving good value for that new phone, TV, car, or any other item allows us to put our hard earned resources into other things we value.  Obtaining good values on players in Reality Sports Online (RSO) leagues is a must when putting together a winning team.  The Value Town series examines the good and bad buys from the 2015 season in RSO leagues plus the overall state of positional groups in an attempt to get owners ready for the upcoming 2016 season.

This article examines the tight end position group from 2015. You can find more information on methodology, assumptions, and definition of terms in the first article of the series here.

State of the Tight End Position

The tight end position remains simultaneously one of the most consistent and fluid positions. The elite of the position has not changed as Rob Gronkowski finished as the overall TE1 once again, the fifth straight season in which either Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham has finished as the top tight end.  Greg Olsen continues providing solid value finishing as a mid range TE1 for the fourth consecutive season.  Several young talented young players joined the TE1 ranks including Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert, and Zach Ertz.  Reed led all tight ends in fantasy points per game while Eifert dominated the red zone topping the position with 13 touchdowns in only 13 games.  The “old” players proved the NFL is not just a young man’s game as six players in their 30s finished in the top 12.

Tight End Values

The Good

Gary Barnidge –  Average Salary: $0.5M, Approximate Value: $23M

Barnidge wins the “Best Value” award for any player in 2015 with a top four finish at the position from a guy who was likely claimed off waivers in your league. His 79 reception/1,043 yard/9 touchdown performance was one of the few bright spots on a Cleveland team that went through multiple quarterbacks and struggled on offense all year.  The 30 year old also takes my “Where did that come from?” award with a season that accumulated more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than his previous eight seasons combined in the league.  Barnidge was rewarded for his impressive year with a three year, $12 million contract in the offseason.  He provides one of the few veteran presences on a team who just drafted four receivers.

Jordan Reed –  Average Salary: $1.2M, Approximate Value: $31M

We were finally able to see what a (mostly) healthy Reed could do in 2015 as he broke out with an impressive 87 reception/952 yard/11 touchdown season in fourteen games. The often injured star has played only 34 games in his three year career suffering through a variety of injuries including multiple concussions.  His hands, athleticism, and fluidity as a receiver make him a matchup nightmare when on the field though, resulting in an incredible 0.76 reception to target ratio throughout his career.  The Washington tight end was also rewarded with a contract extension in the offseason and should remain as the focal point of the emerging offense.

Ben Watson –  Average Salary: $0.6M, Approximate Value: $11M

Another veteran who made his presence felt is the well traveled Ben Watson. The thirteen year veteran took full advantage of the high powered New Orleans offense on the way to his best statistical season in the NFL.  His season was highlighted by a 9 reception, 147 yard performance against the Giants.  The 35 year old takes his talents to a crowded Baltimore depth chart in 2016.

The Bad

Jimmy Graham –  Average Salary: $13.8M, Approximate Value: $5M

The Saints traded Jimmy Graham to Seattle prior to the 2015 season in one of the biggest moves of the year.   Events did not quite go as expected by many with Graham producing as only a low level starting option for fantasy teams while he was in the lineup.  The Seahawks certainly utilized their new tight end, probably more than many realized.  His 74 targets in only 11 games was second on the team for the entire 2015 season and easily eclipsed Seattle’s tight end targets from all of 2014.  The one area in which Graham truly disappointed fantasy owners was in the touchdown department of which he managed only two on the season.

Graham suffered a patellar tear in week 12 ending his season. His prospects for the 2016 season are somewhat in doubt.  Seattle is hopeful he will be ready for week 1 this season but he could easily be placed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the year.  We simply do not have many examples of players with this type of injury and fewer yet who have made a full recovery (You can read more about his road to recovery here).

Jordan Cameron –  Average Salary: $3.3M, Approximate Value: Not Worth a Roster Spot

Many people were excited at the prospects of Cameron moving to Miami last season. The former Brown was expected to be an integral part of the offense going forward.  Cameron proved to be a disappointment. He was targeted more than seven times per game over the first five weeks but only managed an abysmal 5.5 yards per target over that span.  The Dolphins eventually decreased Cameron’s role and he did not eclipse 35 yards or 5 targets in any game for the rest of the season.

Looking Forward

Greg Olsen continues as a rock at tight end and Gronkowski is simply one of the best to have ever played at the position (although with his own substantial injury history). However, there are more questions than answers going forward which is not unusual for the tight end position.  Will the likes of Barnidge, Walker, and Watson build upon career years in their 30s?  Will young and talented, but often injured, stars such as Reed and Eifert stay healthy for an entire season (I write this as Eifert recently had ankle surgery)?

The position remains as fluid as ever. I could make legitimate arguments for why a large number of tight ends including Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Ladarius Green, Eric Ebron, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins could join the starting fantasy tight end ranks in 2016.  Fortunately, the tight end position is a good place to take multiple cheap gambles in RSO leagues.  Only five tight ends averaged over $5 million in RSO auctions for the 2015 season with the 6th through 20th ranked salaries averaging about $2.5 million.   This allows for a lot of value upside at the position and not much downside with the cheap salaries.


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

Squeeze Every Penny

Updated: June 5th 2016

Let me start this article by raising a glass to the creator at Twitter who added the poll option to tweeting. Since this feature has been added, the ability to quickly skim through @dynastytrades feed to vote and see the results of fantasy football trades, has been an incredible resource. If you are not already following them you should be. However, be careful when reading these polls that they don’t offer exactly approximate value of players in the context of YOUR league. As I have said in previous articles owners have tendencies towards certain players and team philosophies that can alter the value of these players. Even entire leagues can have a style that can alter how one participates in their auctions. One league can be very bullish in their contract signings while another can be coyer when spending large cap figures on single players. Regardless of your league setup however, there is a way that you can quantify how much each player should receive. I will breakdown how to understand and use this formula for not only your auction drafts but also to compare the values of players that are already currently owned.

Please note there are two factors that prevent the formula from being applied universally across all leagues. The first is that the point values are inputted at the discretion of the user and different lists could yield different results. Some users simply like to apply the point totals for last season, others like to use predicted point totals that are released from various fantasy sites. Whichever YOU chose,  just be sure that you feel comfortable with the values as these are the drivers for all the contracts. The second variable is the league settings, including roster sizes and number of starters at each position. It should be pretty easy to understand that the more players that are started and the larger the roster size the more money that needs to be spread throughout each roster. This will reduce the max dollars that the elite players should receive when compared to smaller rosters.

Preparing Your Chart

Once you find a database for every player’s fantasy point total that you are comfortable with, organize them into each individual position so that you can create a baseline and margin scores. Again make sure that the database values that you are using were calculated based on your league’s scoring settings. There is a big difference between half, full and non PPR scoring as well as TE premium and 6 points/passing TDs that will drastically change the values for certain players. From here you can place each player and their fantasy point value in a chart that goes in descending points order along with 6 extra columns labeled as below. This example is for the QBs in my 10 team 0.5 PPR home league which starts 1QB, 3RB, 4WR, 1TE, 2FLEX, 1K, 1DST and has a roster size of 26.

Auction Chart 1

A tip here would be to use Microsoft Excel so that you can input all the formulas and save some time. Either way, now that you have the information entered you can create the VORP score (Value Over Replacement Player) for each player. For each of the BASE values they will be equal to the number of starting players in your league times the appropriate multiplier (1.75, 1.5, 1, 0.5). In my example that would be values of 18, 15, 10 and 5. These values are what you are going to be comparing each player against to calculate their margin score. For example, in the Base x1 to determine Aaron Rodgers’ margin you would compare his points versus that of the 10th ranked QB (Andy Dalton) and subtract his points from Rodgers (304.58-269.3=35.28). You would follow the same process to fill out the rest of the chart where comparisons would be made against the 18th, 15th, 10th and 5th ranked players. This is also why you may have noticed that I did not include every QB available. Every player that ranks lower than your Base x1.75 value, in this case the 19th ranked QB and lower, should only receive the minimum bid at auction. Now you will have a chart now that looks like this. I also included the margin value which is the sum of these base values.

Auction Chart 2

Applying the Math

Once you have done this for every position you can then calculate the contract values. This requires a formula that will be the same for all positions and will yield a multiplier to calculate contract values.

Contract Multiplier = (∑QB Margins+∑RB Margins+∑WR Margins+∑TE Margins)/[(Salary Cap -Roster Size*Minimum Bid)*Number of Owners]

This may seem like a daunting formula but it is simple when broken down. First, multiply the number of rostered players you must have in your league by the minimum auction bid of $500,000. Subtract that number from the salary cap value of $155,270,000 for this year. This difference becomes the “fun money” that you have to spend after accounting for filling out the roster with minimum bid players. Multiply this by the number of teams in the league and you have the entire league’s “fun money”. This number will likely be in the billions of dollars!

The numerator part of the formula takes all of the margins for each position and adds them together. Notice that I did not include a sum for kickers or defenses as I believe in only spending the minimum. Let other owners in your league spend the extra money so that you have more to use on positions that matter. Finally, divide this sum of all position margins from the billions of dollars available in total league “fun money”. This value will be very small, likely a number with four to six 0s after the decimal. For my example this number comes out to 0.00001456 or 1.456e-5.

You now have your multiplier to compare players’ values against one another. Divide an individual player’s margin by the contract multiplier and a dollar value will appear as your contract value. Don’t forget to add back $500,000 to account for the minimum bid value that comes with each player with a value equal to 0. Doing this for every position will yield a completed chart as below.

Auction Chart 3

For those of you that participate in IDP leagues the same formula can apply. You simply would need to do the same margin charts for all defensive positions and apply their sum margins to the numerator.

Hopefully you have stayed with me throughout this impromptu math session. The key to staying focused in your auction is to be prepared. Every owner is entitled to conducting the auction in their own manner, however, too often I have seen owners come in knowing that they want a collection of players and are willing to pay whatever to acquire them. Having a sheet prepared of all the approximate values for each player helps see the whole field instead of getting locked in with blinders. I know math and computers are not everyone’s strong suit so if you have any questions about the chart or want help setting up yours you can find me on twitter @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Value Town: RBs

Updated: May 18th 2016

Most people like a deal. Receiving good value for that new phone, TV, car, or any other item allows us to put our hard earned resources into other things we value.  Obtaining good values on players in Reality Sports Online (RSO) leagues is a must when putting together a winning team.  The Value Town series examines the good and bad buys from the 2015 season in RSO leagues plus the overall state of positional groups in an attempt to get owners ready for the upcoming 2016 season.

This article examines the RB position group from 2015. You can find more information on methodology, assumptions, and definition of terms in the first article of the series here.

State of the Running Back Position

2015 will be remembered as the year of the injury for running backs. The top seven scorers on a points per game (PPG) basis all missed games at some point during the season, including fantasy stars Jamal Charles, Arian Foster, and LeVeon Bell.  The group totaled forty-nine missed games averaging seven games per player.  This high attrition rate among the best running backs had profound consequences throughout the fantasy world.  Running backs contributed just twenty-three percent of the total replacement points in fantasy leagues, a decrease of more than thirty percent from 2014. On a per starter basis, running backs only eclipsed quarterbacks last season.   The high injury rate meant that many RSO GMs who spent heavily on running backs in 2015 did not enjoy a great year.

The mass injury rate presented opportunities for many other running backs waiting for their chance. The Pittsburg running game never missed a beat following Bell’s knee injury as DeAngelo Williams, at 33 years old, played like a man a decade younger.  Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West formed a potent combination helping Kansas City roll to the playoffs without Charles manning the lead back role.  Many rookies including David Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, and Jeremy Langford flashed potential starting ability when given touches.  Adrian Peterson returned to form in 2015 as one of the best backs in the league following his year-long suspension.  DeVonta Freeman took control of the Atlanta backfield following rookie Tevin Coleman’s early season injury issues and never looked back ending 2015 as the top scoring running back.

Running Back Values

The Good

DeVonta Freeman –  Average Salary: $2.6M, Approximate Value: $44M

Freeman exploded on the fantasy scene in 2016 ending as the RB1. His breakout campaign was highlighted by a four week stretch of thirty-plus point performances including nine touchdowns during that span.  Freeman’s rushing faded down the stretch, averaging a miniscule 3 yards per carry in his last seven games.  Expect more carries to go to Coleman next season but Freeman will still have value catching a lot of balls out of the backfield.

DeAngelo Williams –  Average Salary: $1.9M, Approximate Value: $17M

Williams was picked up by many Bell owners given Bell’s early suspension. Williams rewarded his owners with over 20 fantasy points per game when Bell was not in the lineup which would be among the league leaders.  Expect DeAngelo to be a popular handcuff again with his great 2015 play and Bell’s injury history.

Passing Down Backs

Cheap passing down backs, once again, provided a lot of value for those owners who chose to put most of their resources into other position groups. Dion Lewis (RB5 in PPG) and Danny Woodhead (finished as the RB3) vastly overproduced their low salaries while many others including Gio Bernard, Bilal Powell, and Charles Sims provided adequate cheap production.   Bargains galore will be found again in this group for 2016.

The Bad

Eddie Lacy –  Average Salary: $18.4M, Approximate Value: Replacement Level

Considered by many to be the safest running back for 2015, Lacy was outplayed by and eventually lost snaps to his teammate James Starks. The entire Green Bay offense regressed in 2015 and with it much of Lacy’s production.  I would bet on a bounce back campaign next season from a trimmed down Lacy with an improved Green Bay offense.

Demarco Murray –  Average Salary: $16.3M, Approximate Value: $8M

Just a disaster from the first snap, Murray never fit in Chip Kelly’s lateral running system. Philadelphia’s offensive line never seemed to be on the same page early in the season after losing two guards in free agency resulting in Murray being hit in the backfield on too many occasions.  Murray’s move to Tennessee and the Titans drafting Derrick Henry in the second round of the NFL draft put a lot of uncertainty in Murray’s 2016 value.

Jeremy Hill –  Average Salary: $15.6M, Approximate Value: Replacement Level

C.J. Anderson –  Average Salary: $15.1M, Approximate Value: Replacement Level

Two of the most hyped young running backs coming off of terrific second halves in 2014 disappointed many RSO owners this past season. Anderson and Hill were both outplayed by their smaller teammates early in the season.  Anderson was limited somewhat due to injuries and Hill was subject to a brutal defensive S.O.S against the run.  Gio Bernard will continue to be a big part of the Cincinnati offense and Devontae Booker could provide competition to Anderson’s touches, but I would expect both to have more consistent years in 2016.

Looking Forward

Uncertainty and transition are the overriding themes for 2016. Many of the top fantasy stars from previous years, including Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, and Marshawn Lynch, are at or near the end of their careers.  How many of the young up and coming backs like David Johnson, Thomas Rawls, and Matt Jones will take over dominant roles as their teams featured backs?

What has not changed? The NFL has seen a steady decline in rushing yards over the last few years and that is unlikely to change.  Examining Tables 1 and 2, we see that the performance of top running backs did not change very much.  Both fantasy PPG and yards per attempt were very similar in 2015 throughout the distribution of starting running backs.  The lack of value in the running back position was clearly caused by the unsustainably high injury rate in 2015, not by a sudden loss in effectiveness.  This may present RSO owners with the opportunity to buy high end running backs at value prices from owners scared off by all of the injuries to the top running backs.

Year RB1 RB6 RB12 RB18 RB24
2015 21.09 16.95 14.52 12.8 12.24
2014 23.16 17.04 14.45 12.95 11.3

Table 1. Fantasy PPG

Year RB1 RB6 RB12 RB18 RB24
2015 5.6 4.8 4.5 4.3 4.1
2014 5.4 4.8 4.6 4.2 4.0

Table 2. Yards Per Attempt


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

Value Town: WRs

Updated: March 31st 2016

Most people like a deal. Receiving good value for that new phone, TV, car, or any other item allows us to put our hard earned resources into other things we value.  Obtaining good values on players in Reality Sports Online (RSO) leagues is a must when putting together a winning team.  The Value Town series examines the good and bad buys from the 2015 season in RSO leagues plus the overall state of positional groups in an attempt to get owners ready for the upcoming 2016 season.

This article examines the WR position group from 2015. You can find more information on methodology, assumptions, and definition of terms in the first article of the series here.

State of the Wide Receiver Position

The wide receiver position continues to be the single most important position in fantasy football for the majority of leagues.  Those RSO owners who invested heavily at the WR group were probably rewarded with a very successful season in 2015.  WRs contributed the most replacement points among all positions, a staggering 56 percent of the total which was a three percent increase from 2014. This was almost two and a half times the next highest position group of RBs.  WRs also saw the highest replacement value on a per starter basis.  Twelve of the top thirteen highest scoring non-QBs were WRs.  Twenty-two wide receivers exceeded the 1,000 yard plateau in 2015.

2015 produced storylines from both the veterans and emerging stars. Antonio Brown and Julio Jones both challenged Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving record of 1,964 yards but ultimately fell short. Antonio Brown’s perpetual dominance of the WR position is something we have not seen for a long time.  Brown has finished as the WR1 the past 2 seasons in PPR leagues and narrowly missed out in 2013 finishing as the WR2.  Injuries to star receivers Dez Bryant and Jordy Nelson helped make way for emerging stars DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson to join the WR1 ranks.  2015 will also be known as the year Calvin Johnson retired at the relatively young age of 30 (joining another former superstar Lion in Barry Sanders retiring early).  Calvin displayed a rare combination of size and speed and was one of the most physically dominant receivers to ever play in the NFL.  The former Detroit Lion is practically a given to make the hall of fame despite his shortened career as one of the best to ever play at the position.

Wide Receiver Values

The Good

Allen Hurns –  Average Salary: $1.1M, Approximate Value: $19M

Allen Robinson –  Average Salary: $5.1M, Approximate Value: $37M

The “Allen brothers” joined Blake Bortles producing one of the more prolific passing offenses in the NFL. Both receivers displayed big play ability with each scoring at least 10 touchdowns and averaging over 16 yards per reception.  Robinson received about 50 percent more targets than Hurns over the season, but Hurns was actually the more efficient receiver gaining more receptions, yards, and touchdowns per target.  With Robinson at only 22 years old and Hurns at 24, this young tandem of receivers should grow with Blake Bortles and produce quality seasons for many years to come.

Eric Decker –  Average Salary: $2.6M, Approximate Value: $27M

Brandon Marshall –  Average Salary: $5.8M, Approximate Value: $48M

The Jets receivers were a mere afterthought in many fantasy circles coming into 2015 with the prospects of playing on a bad team with a bad quarterback situation. Marshall was coming off a disappointing injury filled season in Chicago with many thinking he was in decline at the age of 31.  Decker also saw a significant production drop in 2014 moving from the high flying Peyton Manning led Denver offense to the dysfunctional Geno Smith led Jets offense.  One punch changed everything as Geno Smith was taken out of starting spot by his own teammate.  Insert Ryan Fitzpatrick and the rest is history as the Jets increased their win total from four in 2014 to ten in 2015. With competent quarterback play, the Jets receiving duo thrived as the focal point of the Chan Gailey passing attack.  Decker and Marshall combined for over 300 targets and 26 TDs.  Marshall produced his best fantasy season topping 1,500 yards and 100 receptions.  The pair also displayed a high weekly fantasy floor as the only two receivers in the NFL to have ten or more fantasy points every week.  Look for another strong year from both in 2016 if Fitzpatrick is resigned.

Doug Baldwin –  Average Salary: $1.2M, Approximate Value: $28M

Baldwin came out of nowhere to produce one of the historic statistical stretches by a wide receiver in the NFL. The Seattle receiver scored a ludicrous ten touchdowns from weeks twelve to fifteen!  To put the number in context, that four week total doubled Baldwin’s previous high of five touchdowns for any previous season.  To make matters worse for fantasy owners, Baldwin was not used for a significant portion of that stretch by many teams because of his lackluster performance up to that point in the year.  Expect negative touchdown regression from the speedy slot receiver in 2016.

Other Good Values: Julio Jones, Larry Fitgerald, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and Kamar Aiken

The Bad

Devante Adams –  Average Salary: $6.4M, Approximate Value: $0

Randall Cobb –  Average Salary: $15.7M, Approximate Value: $10M

Those RSO owners investing heavily in the Green Bay offense most likely had their season end poorly in 2015. Many underestimated the effects of losing Jordy Nelson due to a preseason ACL tear.  The expectations for Adams were extremely high going into the season.  The second year receiver proved to be grossly inadequate in replacing Nelson on the outside, failing to gain separation on his routes and doing next to nothing after the catch.  He averaged an incredibly low 5.2 yards per target that was the worst of any wide receiver with his target load.  Adams will have to greatly improve in the offseason if he is to see any significant playing time in 2016.  The lack of Nelson also had a detrimental effect on Randall Cobb.  Teams consistently provided over the top help against Cobb with Green Bay having no receiver on the outside able to command safety help.  Cobb also had a preseason shoulder injury which seemed to limit him somewhat, especially early in the year.  Expect a bounce back 2016 from a fully healthy Cobb and Nelson.

Charles Johnson –  Average Salary: $4.0M, Approximate Value: $0

Mike Wallace –  Average Salary: $4.1M, Approximate Value: $0

There were high hopes for the Vikings receiving pair based on the expected leap by Teddy Bridgewater. This did not happen.  Minnesota ran a ground-based attack focused on Adrian Peterson with limited receiver targets.  Wallace and Johnson were terrible fits for a quarterback who struggles throwing the deep ball.  Wallace is a much better fit in Baltimore this year but do not expect much from Johnson who is stuck with Bridgewater again.

Rookie Receivers

Our expectations for the 2015 rookie class might have been somewhat distorted based on the immediate production of Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., and Kelvin Benjamin in 2014. Nine receivers were selected in the top forty-one picks of the 2015 NFL draft.  Only Amari Cooper provided any benefit to RSO owners.  Injuries took their toll on the group as Kevin White and Breshad Perriman never saw the field last season.  The sophomore receivers should be exciting to see in 2016. White and Perriman should see their first action while DeVante Parker and Dorial Green-Beckham could produce breakout campaigns.

Other Bad Values: Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson, Desean Jackson, and Andre Johnson

Looking Forward

NFL rules restricting physical defensive backs and offensive coordinators emphasizing the passing game have made the wide receiver field deeper each year. The NFL emphasis on player safety ensures this will not change any time soon.  Receivers gained a bump in value in 2015 due to an extraordinarily high injury rate for the elite level running backs.  Expect RSO owners to increase spending in 2016 for the more reliable, less injury prone position which was generally undervalued in 2015.  There should be considerable value available for WR2 and WR3 type players.


 

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