Feeling Better about RSO Contracts

Updated: October 3rd 2020

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

 

Quarterback

Josh Allen, QB7, $16M / 3 years

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

Jared Goff, QB16, $11M / 2 years

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

 

Running Back

Austin Ekeler, RB13, $23M / 3 years

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

Kareem Hunt, RB29, $9M / 2 years

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

Wide Receiver

Stefon Diggs, WR20, $15M / 3 years

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

Diontae Johnson, WR41, $6M / 2 years

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

Tight End

Hunter Henry, TE7, $9M / 2 years

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


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

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2020 RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 30th 2020

My annual look at RSO auction values moves to wide receivers.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished this year.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.  Provided fantasy stats and rankings utilize PPR scoring.

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

Top Plays

It is no surprise Thomas sits at the top.  He caught 45 more balls than any receiver last season and easily finished as the WR1.  Houston traded Hopkins to Arizona but it has not deterred RSO GMs from paying him as the overall WR2.  There’s unacknowledged downside at this price as receivers moving to new teams have not finished up to expectations very often.  Mahomes to Hill blends upside to potentially win fantasy weeks and decent target load.  A significant injury history with smaller stature adds week to week uncertainty.  Adams’ target load might be one of the few volumes which rival Thomas as next to nothing of a legitimate threat on Green Bay exists.  He does not offer upper-level efficiency and a disproportionate amount of his production historically comes from touchdowns.  Godwin and Evans both produced top-4 per game fantasy production in 2019.  What this offense and target distribution looks like is anybody’s guess with Tom Brady replacing Winston and Tampa Bay bringing in future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski.  Jones is among the most consistent yearly performers and the team is set up for big offensive production.  His efficiency notably dipped slightly last season for the first time.

Young Upside Receivers

Smith-Schuster produced a 1,400-yard second season at the age of 22 after an impressive rookie year.  That work was done with Antonio Brown as the Steelers’ WR1.  It’s questionable if JuJu can attain close to those heights without someone to take away top corner coverage.   We saw two quality back to back fantasy seasons from Golladay.  Matt Stafford depth of target in 2019 was incredibly high and Marvin Jones was injured for significant portions last year.  Golladay is a safe bet but may be priced near his ceiling.  Moore, Brown, McLaurin, Chark, and Sutton all could be excellent long-term alpha receivers who possess high upside potential with short-term questions concerning quarterbacks, volume, and/or new coaching staffs.  Metcalf, Ridley, and Cupp are secondary options attached to quality, stable quarterback situations who could be, or have been, closer to 1B type receivers for their teams.  Each has limitations in their respective skill-sets which likely limit the fantasy ceiling of each but also quality abilities in one or more areas which boost potential scoring.

Discount and Volatile Veterans

Hopefully Beckham returns to full health after playing last year injured.  Cleveland’s projected passing schedule eases this season.  Questions abound with a new coaching staff, Mayfield’s quarterback abilities, and whether injuries depleted the crazy upside of Beckham.  Cooper posted 1,000 yard seasons in four of five seasons in the league and is still only 26. He is consistently one of the most inconsistent week to week wideouts, destroying bad corners and completely taken out of the game by good defenders.  While many consider Diggs and Allen among the top receiving talents in the league, both receive significant passing downgrades at quarterback.  Thielen struggled with injuries last year and is already 30 despite limited seasons in the NFL but had two quality years previously.  He maintains a stronghold on the WR1 spot and keeps quarterback continuity in Minnesota.  Woods might be the best wide receiver value in RSO leagues at WR26.  Woods ranked WR17 and WR14 in per game fantasy points the last two seasons despite limited touchdown luck and Brandin Cooks left the Rams through trade.  The story for Lockett mirrors that of Russell Wilson in a certain way.  Hyper efficiency as the number one target for Wilson makes a weekly fantasy starter but a potential lack of throwing volume in run-heavy Seattle limits the ceiling.

Rookies

Lamb comes in as RSO’s highest-priced rookie receiver and someone I see as the most complete rookie receiver.  His opportunity may be limited short-term in a very good Dallas receiving group.  Many consider Jeudy the best rookie separator.  He lands with a strong WR1 talent in Sutton and Lock is a huge long-term question mark at quarterback in Denver.  Ruggs and Raegor land in spots with immediate fantasy production possibilities and are the most explosive rookie wide receivers in the class.  Raegor’s landing spot tied to Carson Wentz could prove an excellent long-term match.


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

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2020 RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: August 30th 2020

My annual look at RSO auction values moves to running backs.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished this year.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.  Provided fantasy stats and rankings utilize PPR scoring.

Average RSO Running Back Contracts

Top Five

Barkley, McCaffrey, Elliott and Kamara are high-end talents with extreme workloads in the rushing and/or receiving game without many significant questions.  No need to discuss them in much detail here.  One interesting player in this group is Joe Mixon who joins the top running backs at RB5 in RSO startup auctions just below Kamara.  The argument for the Cincinnati RB1 is not hard to make.  He has one of the best all around skill-sets of any back in the league including being a fantastic receiving prospect out of Oklahoma.  Mixon accumulated 1,400+ scrimmage yards over the last two seasons despite playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.   The Bengals upgraded at QB, in many people’s views, with the selection of number one overall pick Joe Burrow.  There are a number of concerns, both long and short-term.  The offensive line should be better and healthier but most would still consider it a bottom-level group.  Cincinnati has limited Mixon’s receiving work, mixing in Gio Bernard.  Mixon is also in the final year of his rookie deal and the running back market could be saturated with free agents and incoming rookies to take jobs.  In the end, Mixon provides the ultimate bet on talent versus situation.

Second Tier

Cook looks like one of the best running back when on the field and broke out with a RB2 per game finish in 2019.  He also missed a lot of games in the NFL due to injury with a lengthy history of shoulder problems dating back to college which may indicate structural issues.  Like Mixon, Cook is in the final year of his rookie deal with no long-term contract done.  Henry, Chubb and Jacobs obtained PFF’s #6, 1, and 2 rushing grades among running backs, respectively.  Each was also among the bottom of PFF’s receiving grades for RBs.  Henry is a known zero as a route runner and Kareem Hunt likely limits the volume Chubb receives in the passing game. Jacobs presents the most hope for increased receiving production among this group given his collegiate record and the fact he was playing with a broken shoulder for much of his rookie season, but having mainly receiving specialists as his potential backups gives pause.  Sanders accumulated over 1,300 yards as a rookie and finished strong in the fantasy world after an injury knocked out Jordan Howard.  His real life play did not match his statistics as he ranked as only PFF’s RB50 and was losing work to Howard while being outplayed before Howard’s injury.  CEH is set up perfectly for a huge rookie season with Kansas City in the NFL’s best offense after presumptive starter Damien Williams opted out this year.  We don’t know what his role necessarily will be and perhaps KC limits his work as a rookie.

Third Tier

We are already at the point with running backs where significant questions exist with regards to roles.  Jones broke out as the RB2 in 2019 thanks, in part, to 19 total touchdowns and has been an efficient producer throughout his career.  The Packers have always limited his touches and added massive 2nd round thumper A.J. Dillon to the running back mix which likely caps Jones’ touches.  Jones is another quality back in the last year of his rookie contract.   Ekeler racked up 92 receptions and just under 1,000 receiving yards last year.  The Chargers consistently used a committee approach with departed Melvin Gordon and moving from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor and/or a rookie at quarterback is likely a huge loss to the receiving work of Los Angeles running backs.  Taylor, like formerly mentioned Edwards-Helaire, is set up for a big rookie season, with a tremendous offensive line and many projected run-heavy game scripts.  The Colts talked up a three-heady committee all offseason which could limit Taylor’s usage, particularly early in the season.  Drake flashed big-time rushing ability throughout his career and finished with a huge 2019 after the trade to Arizona.  He is a thin running back who struggled with injuries going back to college and most of his work last year occurred with the corpse of David Johnson and Chase Edmunds (who also flashed) injured.

Former Stars and Rookies with Potential Workhorse Roles and Questions

Gurley lands in a high-output offense with no real competition for touches.  His weekly status due to knees remains unknown.  Fournette should maintain a workhorse role with Jacksonville.  The Jaguars offensive line and overall team could be among the worst in the league leading to touch and production issues.  What role does Gordon have in Denver with Lindsay still available?  He also has extensive knee issues.  Bell’s 2019 is a perfect example of running back situation dependency after moving to the Jets bad offensive line and finishing with an awful 3.2 yards per carry. David Johnson lands in a spot with tons of vacated touches at running back.  The Texans’ inside-heavy, early down thumper role does not really fit his skills and he’s probably not the best DJ in Houston at this stage.  Baltimore, Detroit, and LA spent high draft capital on Dobbins, Swift, and Akers respectively so expect a big role eventually, though when that happens is somewhat in question.

Committee Backs

Mostert exploded down the stretch last season for the run-heavy 49ers but is a career special teamer who will have limited passing game chances.  Does Hunt maintain the passing down role for Cleveland with a new coaching staff in town?  He is an interesting long-term investment with demonstrated three-down ability.  How long do Ingram, Mack, and Johnson keep fantasy relevancy with the afore-mentioned rookies ready to step in?


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

2020 RSO Contracts: QBs

Updated: August 21st 2020

My annual look at early RSO auction values begins at the quarterback position.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished this year.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.  Provided fantasy stats and rankings utilize ESPN scoring.

Average RSO Quarterback Contracts

Upper Tier

Mahomes and Jackson make up the top-tier of RSO quarterbacks, by a wide margin, with GMs making massive investments in the two.  Maybe no QB started off their first two seasons in the NFL as well as the Kansas City quarterback.  Mahomes still produced non-Jackson upper-level quarterback numbers while in the lineup despite dislocating a kneecap in 2019.  He retains one of the best supporting casts and coaching teams in the NFL.  Jackson essentially inserts a free RB2 in the lineup and easily finished 2019 as the top fantasy quarterback.  His improvement as a passer from his rookie season, where he was among the least accurate passers in the league, was nothing short of amazing.  His 27.2 points per game was 32% higher than the second-highest scoring quarterback.

Second Tier

Plenty of quality every-week starting options exist outside of Jackson and Mahomes at a sharp price discount.  Murray, Watson, Wilson, and Prescott all possess rushing and scrambling abilities which boost their weekly output.  The oddball out of this group is Murray who is more of a projection at this point, but one with tantalizing rushing and offensive volume upside.  He played a solid rookie season with little notable proven talent on offense against one of the most difficult passing schedules.  Murray’s schedule projects as one of the more difficult again in 2020 but the supporting cast is a year older and added former Houston star receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  The afore-mentioned loss of Hopkins may not reasonably help the Texans but might increase Watson’s rushing attempts. The addition of Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks should also dampen Hopkins’ loss somewhat.  The only question surrounding Wilson is volume which limits the chances of reaching true top-tier production.  Prescott put together his best season as a pro in 2019 finishing as the QB2 and Dallas stole CeeDee Lamb in the draft.   Dallas was one of the most opponent-strength sensitive teams meaning they tended to crush lesser competition while struggling against quality units more so than other teams.

Low-End Fantasy Starters

Quarterbacks like Wentz, Brees, and Ryan provide relatively cheap and quality starting options in known situations with great surrounding talent but without the rushing upside of quarterbacks in the second tier of RSO auctions.  Boost them up your rankings in fantasy scoring formats which more heavily weight passing statistics.  I expect a big boost from Wentz, in particular, for 2020.  Injuries decimated the Eagles’ receiving core last season removing most of the deep speed element, while forcing players off the street like Greg Ward into the lineup.  The addition of first round draft pick Jalen Raegor and hopeful health of DeSean Jackson should alleviate some of those issues.  Brees finished as the QB5 and QB7 over the last two seasons in points per game and the Saints added Emmanuel Sanders to solidify the receiving core.

Wild Cards and Questions

I like Josh Allen and his rushing game as a great weekly matchup play, especially with the addition of Stefon Diggs to the receiving core.  I don’t like Allen’s current cost in RSO auctions with his demonstrated passing inconsistencies.  Tom Brady gets a big upgrade in receiving weapons for Tampa Bay with a coach who airs the ball out.  Is it enough to overcome old age after a remarkably unremarkable 2019?  Do we see Baker Mayfield, who failed to deliver on the hype last year, emerge under new coach Kevin Stefanski who utilized a relatively run-heavy offense in Minnesota?  What is the health status of Stafford (back), Roethlisberger (arm), and Cam Newton (all over)?  When do we see first-round rookies Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa get a chance at the starting lineup?

Value Weekly Matchup Plays

Jimmy Garoppolo owns one of the highest completion percentages to start a career while also being among the most efficient quarterbacks.  The 49ers also project with one of the easiest schedules to start the season and during the fantasy playoffs.  A receiving group with practically no experience in San Francisco and potentially limited volume due to run-oriented scheme and great defense raises volume concerns.  Gardner Minshew posted quality numbers last year with many comparing him to Kyler Murray. Minshew ranked just 29th in ESPN’s QBR and 22nd in Football Outsider’s DVOA which highlights how one of the most pass-friendly schedules in the NFL inflated his numbers during the 2019 season.  The plus side is Jacksonville, once again, projects with one of the easiest pass schedules, particularly during the first half of the season.  Cousins and Rivers represent cheap reliable low-upside options.  Tyrod Taylor gives weekly rushing upside on a team with good receiving weapons for as long as he remains the starter.


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

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RSO Roster Construction: Positional Variation

Updated: August 5th 2020

The question of optimal roster construction remains a mystery to many in RSO leagues.  How much should I allocate to different position groups?  How is the allocation distributed within each position?  How much should go to projected starters versus backups?  There exists practically near-limitless player combinations available to RSO teams and we can’t hope to cover any reasonable fraction of those.  A previous article compared rosters based on allocation of cap to different tiers of players.  This article gives a few examples of what various rosters can look like based on allocation of salary cap to different position groups.  We utilize average salary data taken from 2020 RSO startup auctions in order to construct 20-player rosters fitting near the RSO salary cap limits.  Note rookies are not included in rosters due to very small auction samples.  I assume 1QB/1SF/2RB/2WR and 1 or 2 flex spots in the starting lineup for this exercise.   I also allocated the same number of roster spots at each position for all rosters as a consistency measure.

The goal of this article is not to recommend individual players or even which type of roster construction is best.  League settings and conditions will have a big impact on the type of roster you desire on auction day.  The article does provide a starting point in evaluating different types of roster builds and the sort of trade-offs one must take into account when choosing how your team is constructed by examining a few rosters with differing cap distributions among players.

Running Back Heavy Roster

 

This roster allocates about 60% of cap space to the running back position.  It features two top-five RBs along with multiple other backs whom possess high-end workload potential.  The team relies on lower-tier starting options at both quarterback and tight end likely utilizing a weekly matchup-based approach for each.  Running back-heavy squads wish to capitalize on a few key areas.  One, top running backs outscore their correspondingly ranked top wide receivers, even in a PPR scoring system.  Typically the switch-off point where wide receivers start outscoring their running back counterparts occurs roughly in the 6-10 ranking range for PPR leagues. A team spending heavy on running back maximizes chances of hitting on a high-value player which wide receivers and tight ends can’t hope to compete with in terms of potential scoring and positional advantage.  Two, wide receiver depth makes spending less at that position a more viable strategy as quality reliable starting options  are readily available at price points one would pay for backup running backs and backs with unknown roles.  Three, heavy running back spending also mitigates more scoring variation at the position due to issues like higher dependency on surrounding players and coaching schemes.  A team is in a better position to make up for injuries and misses at the position.

There are also a few disadvantages with this strategy.  High-end running backs are typically the most expensive players in RSO leagues.  Investing in the top backs necessarily means less cap room for other positions compared to when a team pays for top players at other positions.  Lower-end tight ends and quarterbacks can provide passable options to fill your starting lineup but very rarely provide much upside. Also, elevated injury-risk at the position leads to more volatility from a season-long perspective.  In particular, the accumulation of volume and hits may lead to injury and/or underperformance of running backs toward the end of the fantasy season and playoffs when those big point totals are so valuable.

Wide Receiver Heavy Roster

 

The wide receiver heavy example consists of the same tight end and quarterback groups but allocates about 60% cap space to wide receivers.  The goal of this roster construction varies from the RB-heavy roster.  Instead of taking swings on more volatile high-risk, high-reward running backs, the team tries to accumulate more of the smaller, but more reliable and consistent, victories at wide receiver.  The team reduces injury-risk by not heavily investing in running backs and is still able to acquire running backs with potentially big roles and others with chances to eventually gain roles as injuries or underperformance hit other teams’ starting running backs.  This strategy becomes more viable as starting spots open to wide receivers increases in order to take advantage of all those accumulated small wins.

The most glaring issue with this strategy is that the running back puts you in a “cover your eyes and hope” position.  Questions with regard to the player, surround talent and coaching, and/or role in offense naturally increase as the contract price decreases.  The rate of questions to price is much sharper at the running back position which leads to vary questionable starting options.  The limited player pool of viable starting running backs also makes trading for one potentially very expensive.

Quarterback / Tight End Heavy Roster

 

There are some very pleasing traits to a team-build emphasizing the quarterback and tight end positions.  A team won’t have to devote as much cap space to get upper-end talent at the positions because teams typically only start 2 quarterbacks and 1 tight end weekly in superflex leagues.   This allows cap space spread out more uniformly among the various positions which may result in a more balanced starting lineup with no true weakness. This roster-type should offer a consistent weekly edge at quarterback and tight end, even in bye weeks and when injuries occur, while having an extra high-end tight end provides a potentially useful flex option.

Depth at the key fantasy positions of running back and wide receiver could be an issue with this type of team build.  There is not much room for many injuries or underperformance at those positions on a team like this.  Another issue is whether there is enough value to be extracted from paying a premium at quarterback.  The fantasy community is not particularly great at finding significant value at the position.  A previous article found RSO owners spending premium amounts of salary at quarterback did not result in much more expected production at the position.


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

RSO Roster Construction: Player Tier Variation

Updated: July 18th 2020

The question of optimal roster construction remains a mystery to many in RSO leagues.  How much should I allocate to different position groups?  How is the allocation distributed within each position?  How much should go to projected starters versus backups?  There exists practically near-limitless player combinations available to RSO teams and we can’t hope to cover any reasonable fraction of those.  This article gives a few examples of what various rosters can look like based on allocation of salary cap to different tiers of players.  We utilize average salary data taken from 2020 RSO startup auctions in order to construct 20-player rosters fitting near the RSO salary cap limits.  I assume 1QB/1SF/2RB/2WR and 1 or 2 flex spots in the starting lineup for this exercise.   I also allocated the same number of roster spots at each position for all rosters as a consistency measure.

The goal of this article is not to recommend individual players or even which type of roster construction is best.  League settings and conditions will have a big impact on the type of roster you desire on auction day.  The article does provide a starting point in evaluating different types of roster builds and the sort of trade-offs one must take into account when choosing how your team is constructed by examining a few rosters with differing cap distributions among players.

Top-Tier Heavy Roster

Top-tier Heavy Roster Example

This roster paid a premium for top-tier players, holding one at each position.  The top-4 players combined for about 75% of the salary cap.  These top-tier players show the most certainty in production which means this roster construction profile puts most of the cap dollars in highly reliable players.  The hope for this type of team resides in exploiting the consistent week-winning upside of the high priced players while getting just enough production from lower priced players.  The team has potential for extremely high weekly production in shallow leagues if it gets lucky and hits on one or two low-priced, low-probability players.  That strategy gets murkier as the number of required starters increases when more “hits” on questionable players are needed to produce a winning lineup.

The main issue with a team constructed this way is that many roster spots are filled with minimum salary and other low-cost players with very small odds of significant fantasy production.  There is little chance of seeing significant value increases from these players.  Most trades will necessarily involve moving one of the prized star players to help alleviate any team deficiencies.  Any injury or underperformance of your star players is also a major issue for a team like this as there simply isn’t going to be a viable replacement in most cases.

 

Starter Heavy Roster

Starter Heavy Roster Example

This roster variation divests cap dollars away from the very top-tier players.  Most of our salary is still allocated to the starters but is more evenly divided among them.  We can see that secondary and tertiary starters see significant potential upgrades over the previous top-tier heavy roster both in upside and certainty.  The main question for teams utilizing this strategy is how they view the secondary starters.  The move away from the top-paid players may well be worth the cost if an owner sees potential top-tier production in the next tier of players.

Balanced Roster

Balanced Roster Example

This distribution notably puts more cap dollars in potential flex starters and bench players.  The flatter cap distribution approach displays two primary benefits.  First, the roster offers enhanced injury mitigation.  Unavailability of even the best players on this roster will potentially have a more diminished effect.  The statistical projections between players are less as the salary gap narrows.  There is a certain amount of “plug and play” replacement aspect here.  Second, this type of roster construction acknowledges the inherent randomness in statistical production.  New coaching, surrounding personnel, schemes, schedules, etc. have major impacts on the fantasy performance of players.  Dividing money to more players allows additional chances on players with reasonable chances of significantly out-producing respective salaries.   There exists a good chance one of the backups produces at starter-quality as a replacement for an underperforming projected starter.

The downside to this build is a team will usually not have the potential weekly upside using this roster methodology compared to more concentrated distributions.  Even when many of the questionable players exceed expectations, they are unlikely to achieve truly top-tier production levels and many may not make your starting lineup.  This becomes less of a concern as in deeper leagues as more of the “hits” can be utilized on a weekly basis.

 

Key Implications

  1. Highly concentrated cap teams attain more viability in leagues with shallower starting requirements. Flatter cap distribution among players finds its strength in deeper leagues as lower-tier players have more value.
  2. Injury and production risk decrease as we flatten the cap distribution. The risk is actually lower that key players underperform in a more concentrated distribution due to fewer key players but the harm done to a team is substantially higher when underperformance does occur. 

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