2018 NFL Free Agency

Updated: February 18th 2018

Welcome back! With the NFL free agency just around the corner and the RSO and the site reopened, it is time to start watching who is a free agent or a potential cut candidate before the official offseason kicks off. There will be a few windows between now and March to either sell a player before he moves into a worse situation or buy a player before he joins a prolific offense. Here is a preview of each position’s key free agents as well as some player who could be cut before or during the offseason. Similar to last year I will be picking players that relocate to feature in the Free Agency Expectancy article series done throughout the offseason.


QB FAs QB Cuts
Drew Brees Eli Manning
Kirk Cousins Tyrod Taylor
Sam Bradford Ryan Tannehill
Josh McCown Mike Glennon
Case Keenum
Teddy Bridgewater
Blaine Gabbert
Jay Cutler
A.J. McCarron

The fireworks have already started with regards to the quarterback market with Alex Smith being dealt to Washington which should signal the end of Kirk Cousins in the Capital. Without knowing whether or not Drew Brees is going to seriously test free agency we have to assume that Cousins will be the one who will receive the largest contract. We haven’t seen a healthy, young(ish), competent QB hit the market in years so it will interesting to see how teams will court him. There should only be a handful of teams that don’t take a serious look at their starter and wonder if Cousins could be better. For the rest of the available and possibly available QBs, it’s a mixed bag in terms of fantasy relevance. Not sure many will have an impact outside of 2QB league but we’ll see where they land.

Running Backs

RB FAs RB Cuts
Le’Veon Bell DeMarco Murray
Carlos Hyde Doug Martin
Jerrick McKinnon Adrian Peterson
Dion Lewis Chris Ivory
Isaiah Crowell Mike Gillislee
Alfred Morris
Eddie Lacy
Jeremy Hill
LeGarrette Blount
Frank Gore
Rex Burkhead
Charles Sims
Thomas Rawls – RFA
Alex Collins – ERFA

Much like last year, I don’t expect Le’Veon Bell to hit the market, whether it is another year on the franchise tag or Pittsburgh comes to a long-term deal with him. Carlos Hyde would likely have the most upside of any free agent but he does have a history of injuries. He could find himself in a similar situation as Latavius Murray was last year where a team signs him but transitions to a rookie later in the season. After those two it would be hard to trust any RB to be more than an RB3-4 on a week-to-week basis. With another incoming rookie class that is extremely talented and super deep at the position, it will be tough for anyone to feel confident acquiring these available players. At best some will be able to share the backfield with a rookie or one another veteran. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

Wide Receivers

WR FAs WR Cuts
Jarvis Landry Jordy Nelson
Allen Robinson Brandon Marshall
Danny Amendola Randall Cobb
Paul Richardson Dez Bryant
Marqise Lee Emmanuel Sanders
Jordan Matthews Allen Hurns
Sammy Watkins Jeremy Maclin
Terrelle Pryor
Donte Moncrief
John Brown
Mike Wallace
Kendall Wright
Jeff Janis
Cameron Meredith – RFA
Quincy Enunwa – RFA
Tyrell Williams – RFA
Willie Snead – RFA
Brandon Coleman – RFA
Josh Gordon – ERFA

There are some big names available in the receiver market as well as some bigger names on the cut list which could make for savvy buy/sell opportunities between now and March. If Allen Robinson finds a new team with an efficient QB he will see his value spike back up to the mid WR1 conversation that it was a couple years ago. Same goes for Jarvis Landry who had good production in Miami with less than efficient offenses the last two seasons. If either or both Packers receivers are booted from Aaron Rodgers’ offense their value will crater. I would be selling both of them over the next three weeks before the trade value completely falls out from under them. Overall, this is the position group to watch throughout the offseason. Lots of moving pieces may create incredible value for a number of these players.

Tight Ends

TE FAs TE Cuts
Jimmy Graham Julius Thomas
Austin Seferian-Jenkins Eric Ebron
Tyler Eifert Vance McDonald
Antonio Gates C.J. Fiedorowicz
Benjamin Watson
Trey Burton
Cameron Brate – RFA  

Tight ends lag behind again as there are very few fantasy relevant options that will hit the open market and the ones that are available are extremely risky. Jimmy Graham started to be productive in Seattle last season with the offense needing to open up and carry their surprisingly weak defense. If he stays in Seattle he could be reconsidered in the top 3 conversation again for TE value. Until we know for sure his value is in flux. The rest of the group is either seriously flawed, injury prone or contemplating retirement which doesn’t bode well for fantasy value. Hopefully, the youth movement comes to blossom soon for this position otherwise it could be a wasteland if Gronk is serious about his retirement.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

FA Expectancy: Kyle Shanahan

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Kyle Shanahan – HC, San Francisco 49ers

I want to take a different approach to my FA Expectancy than I normally do and look at new 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. More specifically, I want to see what type of coach he is and what his presence brings to the 49ers from an offensive standpoint. I also want to examine what his departure means for several high profile Falcons’ players.

A Team Saviour?

Shanahan began his coordinating career in Houston with the Texans from 2008 till 2010. His two seasons with the Texans he executed a balanced offense with 21 and 29 passing TDs to 16 and 13 rushing TDs respectively. In 2010 Shanahan was hired as the offensive coordinator underneath his recently unretired father, Mike, in Washington. For the first two seasons, they were a terrible offense. Led by Donovan McNabb (2010) and Rex Grossman (2011) they averaged only 18.5 points per game and failed to score 10 rushing TDs in either season. Then in 2012 Washington infamously traded for Robert Griffin III and the offense exploded around him and fellow rookie Alfred Morris. The Shanahan’s did an excellent job of keeping the offense simple and allowed both Griffin and Morris to control the game one the ground. The team finished with 22 rushing TDs (2nd overall) and averaged over 27 points per game, good for 4th overall.

Unfortunately, the offense took a step back in 2013 finishing average to below average in offensive statistics. This was likely due to the injury that Griffin suffered in the playoffs the season before as he became unable to execute the scramble drill that allowed the offense to make big, downfield plays. Both Kyle and his father were fired at the end of the season. Kyle became the offensive coordinator in Cleveland for the 2014 season and while awful in the passing game the team did have success running the ball, ranking 4th with 17 rushing TDs.

In 2015 Shanahan moved to join the newly hired Head Coach Dan Quinn in Atlanta. Quinn was the defensive coordinator of the Legion of Boom Seahawks that went to two Super Bowls and combining him with Shanahan was praised throughout the league. The team went through growing pains in their first season after starting off undefeated through the first month but failed to make the playoffs. Much like their record stated the offense was average with rankings of 21st in scoring, 23rd in passing and 13th in rushing. Then the offense exploded last season finishing top 3 in all three categories on their way to the team’s second Super Bowl appearance. The day after the Super Bowl Shanahan used his success to land the head coaching job in San Francisco, a team that was 27th in scoring in last season.

Having laid out his 8-year career as an offensive coordinator the below graphs show how Shanahan led offenses have done since 2008. For context, I have also listed the QB-WR-RB combo that led each team.




Kyle Shanahan Offensive Standings
2016 ATL 33.8 1 22.8 38 2T 24.6 20 3T 13.8
2015 ATL 21.2 21T 22.8 21 23T 26.3 13 13T 11.4
2014 CLE 18.7 27 22.6 12 32 25.2 17 4 11.9
2013 WAS 20.9 23 23.4 20 24 25.1 14 13T 12.8
2012 WAS 27.3 4 22.8 24 13T 23.7 22 2 12.5
2011 WAS 18 26 22.2 19 23 23.3 8 26 12.5
2010 WAS 18.9 25 22 21 22 23.5 9 24T 12.5
2009 HOU 24.3 10 21.5 29 5T 22.2 13 18 13.4
2008 HOU 22.9 17 22 21 13T 20.2 16 11T 14.9
AVG   22.9 17.1 22.5 22.8 17.4 23.8 14.7 12.7 12.9


Featured Starters
2017 Brian Hoyer Pierre Garcon Carlos Hyde
2016 Matt Ryan Julio Jones Devonta Freeman
2015 Matt Ryan Julio Jones Devonta Freeman
2014 Brian Hoyer Andrew Hawkins Terrance West
2013 Robert Griffin III Pierre Garcon Alfred Morris
2012 Robert Griffin III Josh Morgan Alfred Morris
2011 Rex Grossman Jabar Gaffney Roy Helu
2010 Donovan McNabb Santana Moss Ryan Torain
2009 Matt Schaub Andre Johnson Steve Slaton
2008 Matt Schaub Andre Johnson Steve Slaton


Suffice to say that other than last year’s juggernaut Falcons and a magical season from a pair of rookies in 2013 his offenses have been pretty pedestrian. Matt Kelley of RotoUnderworld discussed how backward it is to assume that coaches who have had generational talents at a position are somehow going to make mid-tier to mediocre talent into fantasy stars. He even specifically talks about this infatuation with Kyle Shanahan and his Coach Klein-like advantage of motivating and play calling. If you want to listen to his full discuss you can find it here. Be warned that it does include some NSFW language.

What to Expect in San Francisco?

Football wise the 49ers were in complete shambles last season which is reflective in their two wins and 31st overall finish. Shanahan and new first-time General Manager John Lynch brought in veterans Brian Hoyer and Pierre Garcon, both of which Shanahan has worked with in the past, to have some stability in the passing game. I have already looked into the passing game in my Pierre Garcon article and discussed how Hoyer and Garcon can have appeal as low-cost options in 2017. Looking deeper into past seasons my 2017 prediction would be that the offense will fall somewhere between Shanahan’s 2013 Washington team and his 2014 Cleveland Browns. This would suggest that passing TDs would be hard to come by and therefore Garcon will need to rely heavily on collecting targets to hold WR3 value.

As we can see from above other than Matt Ryan the options at QB have been below average at best. This, along with the reputation his father had to turn any athlete with two legs into a 1,000-yard rusher, may be an indication as to why most Shanahan led offenses lean more heavily on the run. For those that are concerned that negative game script will force Shanahan to have to pass more frequently it has shown that even with mediocre teams Shanahan has always stuck with his running game. There is definitely fantasy appeal to having a Shanahan led backfield.

The question now becomes, “Who will be the primary back once the season opens”? They inherited Carlos Hyde who has been a workhorse back when healthy and also drafted Joe Williams in the 4th round. Apparently, Shanahan was adamant that the team take Williams for him to use in his offense. This has many thinking that Williams is the guy to own in San Francisco which has moved his rankings to the mid-second round in rookie drafts believing that his time will come sooner rather than later. But there has been news out of San Francisco that undrafted RB Matt Breida is looking better than Williams in practice and again Matt Kelley (in a separate discussion) mentioned back in May about how he was skeptical about Williams being ahead of Brieda on the depth chart come week 1. Have a listen here if you want the 3-minute conversation (again NSFW). Because of this for 2017 you want to stay the course with Carlos Hyde and try and acquire him from any panicky owners that don’t think he will return his usually RB2 value.

Will Atlanta suffer a Super hangover without Shanahan?

Other than Shanahan leaving the offense stays relatively the same. They still have Julio Jones who is top 3 of everybody’s receiver rankings. They still have Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman who make up one of the best 1-2 backfield combos in the league. And they still have Matt Ryan who is an ascending QB talent in the prime of his career. Regression probably is expected but that’s what happens when you have a record setting offense. Hopefully, not as bad as Cam Newton and Carolina last year but regression is expected nonetheless. Let’s be clear though that it won’t be because of Shanahan leaving. Remember that the team was middle of the road with Shanahan in his first season, statistically so we should expect the team to be somewhere between their mediocre 2015 season and their outstanding 2016 season.

If you are looking to acquire value from this team out of the previously mentioned players I would be trying to acquire Tevin Coleman. Devonta Freeman’s contract ends after this season and depending on what he is asking for it might be more economical if the Falcons let him go and draft another RB to pair with Coleman. This could open up the whole backfield in a strong offense to Coleman making his 2018 stock skyrocket. Worst case scenario Freeman signs a new contract and Coleman is in the same place he is now, a mid RB2 value in PPR leagues.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Fantasy Doc OC’s Gameplan #1

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”Robert Louis Stevenson

Rarely as fantasy players do we get to witness the marriage of the very worst to the very best.   The romcom equivalent of the bride and groom at the altar destined for unspeakable calamity until the voice of reason crying from the congregation to “stop.”   This year we get a fantasy union of striking proportions and no one is screaming any objections just yet. This year’s most eligible bachelor comes in the form of an offensive coordinator-turned head coach.  His blushing bride, the worst offense if football. My contention is that offensive coordinators are one of the most crucial, least evaluated variables in fantasy production.   There is little glamour to be found in glitchy microsoft pads or dapper headsets that make up the tools of the offensive coordinator’s trade, but I will attempt to offer some predictive claims based on the scoring opportunities   This series of articles will dive into the potential impact of new playcallers on your fantasy players.  Consider two teams:

Team A: Finished dead last in the league in 2016.  The percent of team’s drives ending in an offensive score at 21.8%

Team B: Topped the league in the same category with a staggering 52.9% of its drives ending with an offensive score.

The good news is fantasy players have every reason to hope that a coordinator that pops off at a better rate than Steph Curry in the bay area will be able to pan some fantasy gold.   The 49ers are team A in the scenario above, and team B is your NFC Champion Falcons.   Kyle Shanahan’s best performance was amplified by the steady hand of Matt Ryan, the breathtaking talent of Julio Jones, and one of the league’s deepest backfields.   It is a fool’s errand to attempt to parse exactly how much is Shanahan and how much production stems from the array of talent at his disposal, but consider his scoring performance across three franchises and his other five seasons at the helm of the offense:


Overall Offense/Percent of Scoring Drives

17th overall/34.5 %


27th overall/28.0 %


27th overall/ 27.6

6th overall/39.3

21st overall/30.9

Shanahan comes out at a six year average of 35.53% despite being tethered to the QB play of luminaries like Donovan McNabb 2.0, RG3, Brian Hoyer, and Johnny Manziel.   So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he can work with the QB Hoyer/TBD of the SF 49ers.  35.53 would represent a 60% improvement over the scoring output of the 2016 49ers and would have been good for 18th in the league last year, nestled firmly between the Bengals and Ravens.  If, however, you want to strip 2016 as an outlier not truly indicative of Shanahan’s prowess, you are left with a scoring percentage of 32% over five seasons, pushing Shanahan down into the 2016 territory of the Bucs and Texans, but still a nearly 50% increase in production for the 49ers.  At the team level this suggest that the 309 total points produced by the 49ers could jump significantly.   Couple this with the Shanahan tendency to turn to his running backs in the red zone, and one player stands out as most set to benefit from Shanahan’s alchemy: Mr. Carlos Hyde.

Hyde’s new Dr. Jekyl engineered 18 high-leverage rushing attempts for Devonta Freeman inside the opponents 5 yard line, and targeted him 6 more times inside the 10, for a total of 24.   All year Carlos Hyde saw 6 rushing attempts inside the 5 and exactly 1 target inside the 10 yard line.   Hyde was able to ride significant volume in the Chip Kelly’s attack to a RB18 overall finish in PPR scoring formats 14th in standard.  Two more scores would have vaulted Hyde into RB1 status on the season.  It is time for RSO GM’s to follow Kyle Shanahan, fantasy prospector, out West to pan for the fantasy gold of a top 10 running back.

Luke @FantasyDocOC is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. He writes OC’s Gamplan for Reality Sports Online.  Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

More Analysis by Luke O'Connell

2017 Top 25s: QBs and RBs

Updated: July 16th 2017

Since RSO has rolled over to 2017, now’s the perfect time to revisit your rosters and start planning for the next season!

Do you have any players on your team that warrant a franchise tag?  Is it time to shop a player who’s 2016 didn’t meet your expectations and now burdens you with a high salary contract?  My “way too early” PPR rankings, known as my 2017 Top 25s, are here to help with those decisions!

In part 1 of my 2017 Top 25s, I’ll explore the quarterback and running back positions:


Top 25 QBs for 2017

Aaron Rodgers is in a tier of his own, making him an elite asset in Superflex and 2QB leagues. Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo are two of the most intriguing names on this list. Over the next few months, we should find out where they’ll play in 2017. If either lands in Denver or Houston, expect their values to rise even higher up this list.

Top 25 RBs for 2017

Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson form the elite trio of RBs that should command the highest AAV (average annual value) of any players in free agency auctions. Rookies Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette could be RB1s in the right situation. Coming off major injuries, veteran RBs Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson just missed the top 25. If they appear healthy as the season approaches and have promised roles, both could be underrated RB2s that will be undervalued in many free agency auctions.

My recommendation

Take an hour this weekend and send out personal emails to all of your fellow owners. Get the trade conversations started because they likely won’t come knocking down your door to acquire one of these players you’re looking to vanquish from your roster. Explain what you’re looking to accomplish, who interests you on their team, and provide an idea of how a potential deal could be reached. If you’re in an active league, you’ll be surprised at the quality of responses you receive.

I followed this recommendation last year, revamped one of my teams almost from scratch, and ended up winning the league.  Have a few minutes?  Read my article on Pressing the Reset Button to find out more about how this strategy can work for you.

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

5 Overlooked 2016 Performances

Updated: July 16th 2017

While 2016 produced more fantasy football content than ever, I believe these 5 players performances flew under the radar.  This piece will highlight the productive seasons of Pierre Garcon, Cole Beasley, and Carlos Hyde, while exploring Breshad Perriman and Dorial Green-Beckham‘s second seasons in the NFL.  Let’s dig in…

Carlos Hyde RB SF

2014  83 carries – 333 yards – 4.0 YPC – 4 TDs

2015  115 carries – 470 yards – 4.1 YPC – 3 TDs

2016  217 carries – 988 yards – 4.6 YPC – 6 TDs

Being a member of a dreadful 49ers team has not prevented Carlos Hyde from being a productive fantasy asset.  Though an arbitrary measurement, he’s one of eight running backs since 1970 to average over 4 yards per carry in each of his first three seasons (min. 80 carries per season).  Others include Herschel Walker, Thurman Thomas, Fred Taylor, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart.  For San Francisco, there’s nowhere to go but up.  If the 49ers become more competitive, Hyde could vault himself into a weekly RB1 lock.

Pierre Garcon WR WAS

2013  113 receptions – 181 targets – 1,346 yards – 11.9 yards per rec – 5 TDs

2014  68 receptions – 105 targets – 752 yards – 11.1 yards per rec – 3 TDs

2015  72 receptions – 111 targets – 777 yards – 10.8 yards per rec – 6 TDs

2016  79 receptions – 114 targets – 1,041 yards – 13.2 yards per rec – 3 TDs

2016 was Pierre Garcon‘s best season since his 181 target outlier season in 2013.  On 3 more targets than 2015, Garcon improved his Y/R by nearly 2 1/2 yards and increased his catch percentage by almost 5%.  Garcon enters free agency as one of the best available receivers.  Regardless of where he signs this off-season, Garcon has re-established himself as a fantasy relevant player and someone I’d offer a 1 or 2 year RSO contract.

Cole Beasley WR DAL

2014  37 receptions – 49 targets – 420 yards – 11.4 yards per rec – 4 TDs

2015  52 receptions – 75 targets – 536 yards – 10.3 yards per rec – 5 TDs

2016  75 receptions – 98 targets – 833 yards – 11.1 yards per rec – 5 TDs

Cole Beasley quietly finished the 2016 season as the #33 WR in PPR scoring, according to ESPN Scoring Leaders.  With a career-best and team-high 98 targets, Beasley‘s role expanded from valuable role player to the team’s #2 WR.   In my opinion, there’s no reason to expect his role to diminish as he enters his age-28 season because Dallas has many needs to address on the defensive side of the ball this off-season.

Breshad Perriman WR BAL

2015  n/a

2016 33 receptions – 66 targets – 499 yards – 15.1 yards per rec – 3 TDs

While Perriman‘s dynasty value is at an all-time low, his 2016 season encouraged his owners as he was able to suit up for all 16 games.  Playing third and sometimes fourth banana in Baltimore, Perriman finished 2016 with 499 yards.  The yardage may not seem impressive, but Perriman flashed his upside with several big plays.  Let’s not forget he ran a 4.24 at the 2015 NFL Combine.  His potential remains the same as when he was drafted.  Sure we have more awareness of his injury history, but I consider this to be a great time to buy Perriman.  He should enter next season as one of Baltimore’s best options in the passing game and can hopefully take that next step after participating fully in OTAs and training camp.

Dorial Green-Beckham WR PHI

2015 w/ Titans 32 receptions – 66 targets – 549 yards – 17.2 yards per rec – 4 TDs

2016 w/ Eagles 36 receptions – 74 targets – 392 yards – 10.9 yards per rec – 2 TDs

With plenty of opportunity on an Eagles team dearth of receivers, Green-Beckham failed to earn a prominent role in Doug Pederson’s offense.  This is best exemplified by his 13% target share in the 15 games he played last season.  Green-Beckham‘s yards per reception plummeted from 17.2 to 10.9 after failing to show much route versatility besides the slants he so frequently ran.

Among 2nd-year receivers with 70+ targets, Dorial Green-Beckham has the 9th lowest Yards/Target since 1970.  As the Eagles look to bolster Carson Wentz‘ supporting cast, DGB is no lock for a prominent role in 2017.

*All stats from www.pro-football-reference.com

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

What's a Rookie Draft Pick Worth?

Updated: July 10th 2015


I love mid 90’s hip-hop. Admittedly, this does date me a little bit. From groups like A Tribe Called QuestDe La Soul, and The Roots to artists like Nas and Ice Cube, I sometimes long for hip-hop to return to the witty lyrics that drew me to it. In that timeframe, many rappers seemed to have at least one lyric in their repertoire about “Making a dollar out of fifteen cents”.

After much thought and seeing several rookie draft trades for Reality Sports Online leagues being tweeted on Twitter and a few in my own leagues, I’m after the holy grail of figuring out what a rookie draft pick is worth, trying to turn my fifteen cents into a dollar. I think the answer really is “it depends”. However, let’s dig deeper as the value of rookie draft picks really depends on your team situation and some other pivotal factors.

1. Your Team Situation Means Everything to How You Value Rookie Draft Picks

For those owners who are sitting at the top of their rookie drafts (top three picks) either due to trades or a season that didn’t go as planned last year, these high draft picks are invaluable. Basically it is your way of choosing your groceries in a setting where nobody else gets a crack at these guys. On the contrary, in the Free Agent Auction, the only thing precluding a team from bidding on certain players is cap space.

If you are sitting atop this perch heading into your 2015 Rookie Draft, guys like Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon, and Todd Gurley should be atop your lists. If you are luke-warm on players like this, certainly don’t act that way. You want to hit a home run at the top of your rookie draft and get a star on a 3 or 4 year deal on the cheap that is the foundation for your future success. Aren’t convinced that you can trust Cooper on the Raiders or that Gurley will contribute this season? Move the pick then, but don’t undersell (more on this later).

If you are sitting towards the back of the rookie draft because your team is potentially a Top 3 team in a 12 team league, unless there is a player you are super high on that you believe will make an impact this year (most important factor as championship windows don’t last long in leagues like this) and going forward, consider moving your pick to a team you don’t expect to contend. This may yield a player that will help you this season in your quest to let your championship flag fly forever. Think of a scenario like this one: what if someone offered you Keenan Allen with two years remaining at $8.0m a year for Rookie Pick 1.10. I’d take Allen in a heartbeat in this scenario as a contender, especially in a PPR league.

Another idea if you are a top 3 team in expected league standings (not top 3 draft pick owner) is to package your 2015 1st rounder and your 2016 1st rounder (assuming you are confident you’ll finish high) to a team in rebuilding mode for one of their stud players. Yes, you may be sacrificing the future a bit, but if you are getting another star on a fairly-priced market deal, it is worth taking the bird in the hand for two draft picks that are essentially worse than 50-50 probability of those back of the first round rookies panning out. Think about it-if you can have someone like Antonio Brown with two years left at $18 million a year approximately and what you had to give up was 1.09 this year, 1.12 next year (let’s assume you win the championship) and Brandon Marshall, you shouldn’t blink twice on this.

Essentially the draft pick this year, according to our own Bo Wulf’s RSO Rookie Draft Rankings, is someone like DeVante Parker. While Parker has potential, he is not a sure-fire superstar like Brown is. For more visibility into the Average Draft Position of the Reality Sports Online Rookie Draft from 2014 and currently through 2015, please see the tables following the next paragraph.

Of course, don’t send this package for someone who isn’t worth it, or who constrains your ability to spend cap space in the auction. Say this same deal is available for Julio Jones, who just happens to cost $25 million a year. Then you’ll have to think more about it, realizing though that you are clearing some cap space by virtue of trading your first rounders as well.

AvgPick FirstName LastName Pos ProTeam
2.28 Sammy Watkins WR BUF
3.16 Mike Evans WR TB
4.66 Bishop Sankey RB TEN
5.67 Brandin Cooks WR NO
6.44 Johnny Manziel QB CLE
7.04 Eric Ebron TE DET
8.45 Carlos Hyde RB SF
9.42 Odell Beckham Jr. WR NYG
10.58 Kelvin Benjamin WR CAR
12.57 Teddy Bridgewater QB MIN
12.70 Marqise Lee WR JAC
13.73 Jordan Matthews WR PHI

And now for the 2015 Rookie Average Draft Position through July 7, 2015:

AvgPick FirstName LastName Pos ProTeam
1.31 Todd Gurley RB STL
2.33 Amari Cooper WR OAK
3.37 Kevin White WR CHI
3.89 Melvin Gordon RB SD
6.17 DeVante Parker WR MIA
6.99 Nelson Agholor WR PHI
8.33 Breshad Perriman WR BAL
8.58 Tevin Coleman RB ATL
8.63 T.J. Yeldon RB JAC
10.50 Dorial Green-Beckham WR TEN
10.64 Ameer Abdullah RB DET
12.86 Jameis Winston QB TB

What you should notice from both years is that the top four picks from each year essentially comprise a tier. I’d agree with how the 2015 tier has been slated thus far as those four players were the highest WRs and RBs taken, which are the most valuable positions in a league like this for rookies.

Beyond that first tier, the remainder of the round is filled with running backs who have training camp battles to win significant playing time, wide receivers who figure to be at best the second option on their teams this season, and guys like Green-Beckham and Jameis Winston who have character concerns.

So, if you are picking past pick four (which may have worked well in 2014 as you can see), you may want to either trade up, trade down, or pay attention to some other strategies noted in this article.

2. Packaging A High Rookie Draft Pick is the Perfect Way to Dump a High Salary on Someone Else

In the third year of Doug Martin on a huge deal and having buyer’s remorse? Probability is that your team may also own a top three pick too based on the lack of cap flexibility you may have by owning Martin and frankly how disappointing the player you once viewed as your lynchpin has been. If this is you, move your high rookie pick and Doug Martin to another rebuilding team or interested party. Try to get something in return for it, but know that you can also make this deal now in Reality Sports Online leagues for nothing in return. Yes, the beauty of a league like this is that cap space is an asset, and a huge one at that.

So in other words, congrats, you just saved yourself $30 million to spend in your upcoming auction. Yes, you lost out on a rookie draft pick that might turn into a stud and dumping Martin for essentially no player in return is admitting a mistake you made a few years ago (don’t worry you’ll get over it quickly). However, a star free-agent is already proven so you are paying for certainty here.

3. How Many Years Are Your Rookie Deals?

I’m in two separate Reality Sports Online leagues and one has 4 year rookie deals and the other has 3 year rookie deals (my writer’s league). In the writer’s league last season, I picked Carlos Hyde in our Year 1 Rookie Draft at 1.06 of a 10 team league. While I was pretty sure Hyde would be the guy in San Francisco last season, I moved him at the trade deadline last year for C.J. Anderson and what turned into 1.01 of the 2015 Rookie Draft. The point is, I had already lost a season of Hyde not being productive and with only two seasons to go of Hyde, I decided that my mentality is way different in my league where rookie deals are 3 years instead of 4. This is all part of building your rookie draft strategy based on your league dynamics.

In the 3 year rookie drafts, I encourage you to trade up if there is a player you like and get the guy you think is going to contribute from the get go. In 4 year rookie drafts, you can be a little more patient. So while I love a guy like Gurley as perhaps the next Marshawn Lynch, I want the clean bill of health before the season if I’m picking him in the top three because my team is in contention now and I can’t afford to wait until the midseason to contribute if the Rams bring him along slowly from his ACL injury.

This also means that is you are in the middle of the first round in a 10 or 12 team league, trading down may yield a player that is the same as the guess you would be making with that pick. Basically, not everyone is going to be this year’s Jeremy Hill.

4. Pick 2.01 is the Best Pick in the Rookie Draft and it Isn’t Close

Unless you are in a massively sized league, the first pick of the second round is the best value in the rookie draft and it isn’t close. Since the Reality Sports Online rookie draft is based on the NFL wage scale, you are getting millions of dollars of discount from the end of the first round to the beginning of the second in a traditional 10 to 12 team league. In a 10 team league the 2015 salary in a 4 year rookie deal league for pick 2.01 is $1.3 million compared to 1.10’s value of $3.2 million and that differential basically extends for another three years.

So the thought is once the known rookie starters are gone, you are taking a chance on your pick anyways. Essentially you are then treating these rookies as commodities, and a guy like Duke Johnson isn’t materially different to you than Ameer Abdullah. The difference is Johnson can totally flame out at $1.3 million a year and you’d live with it much easier than if Abdullah busted at $3.2 million. Basically, buy low at 2.01. Those who did that with a player like Allen Robinson in the 2014 Rookie Draft may have the last laugh this season.

5. Know Who Is Available in Your Free Agent Auction for the Next Two Years

If seven of the top ten scoring running backs are heading into free agency this year in your league, suffice to say you may be more excited about the prospect of Arian Foster wearing your team colors than T.J. Yeldon. Plan your strategy with that in mind, especially if you have the luxury of having significant cap space to chase these free agents. Then, if you hold onto your rookie draft pick, perhaps take a wide receiver (generally to me the ones with the highest success rate that you want on long-term deals) in the first round and grab your running back in free agency.

6. Other Things of Note With Rookie Draft Trades

While I’d like to think that the owners in your league (and mine) will stick around forever, the reality is that owners turn over in leagues. If you are in leagues where owners are trading future year rookie draft picks (like 2016) now, make them put some “skin in the game” for doing so to ensure the future continuity of your league. Figure out what that means to your league whether it be website fees, league dues, etc. The last thing you want is an owner who in their head is already gone from your league the following season causing their replacement owner to inherit a mess by trading future rookie draft picks.

Conversely, if there is an owner in your league obsessed with stockpiling rookie draft picks, they clearly are carrying out some type of strategy of what to do with those. At one point when our offseason began in my 12 team, four year rookie draft pick league, one owner had accumulated five of the twelve first round rookie draft picks (2015 Rookie Draft Picks 1.03 through 1.07). That owner has been very active in our league offseason, already having made three trades,including the following:

1) Traded Odell Beckham Jr. (last season’s 1.10) in exchange for 2015 Rookie Draft pick 1.01 and Brandin Cooks (2014 season’s 1.02)

2) Traded Doug Martin (2 years remaining, $69.2 million), 2015 Rookie Draft pick 1.03, and 2015 Rookie Draft pick 1.07 in exchange for Giovani Bernard (2 years remaining, $29.7 million)

3) With same team he traded Martin to, traded 2015 Rookie Draft pick 1.04 and Martavis Bryant (1 year remaining, $1.5 million) in exchange for 2015 Rookie Draft pick 1.07, Demaryius Thomas (2 years remaining,$48.3 million ), Justin Hunter (3 years remaining, $15.6 million) and Kendall Wright (3 years remaining, $21.5 million)

From these examples above, you can see that this owner (and the owner he made two trades with) did a little bit of draft pick accumulation and salary dumps all in two deals. Clearly the team that traded Thomas and obtained 2015 Rookie Draft Picks 1.03 and 1.04 and took on Martin’s huge salary is in rebuild mode. He may cut Martin and recoup 50% of his salary for 2015 and 2016, but there is no rush to do that until right before the rookie draft if he doesn’t try to move Martin in another trade.

The one owner who has made these trades did get rid of Beckham Jr. who is on a hugely cheap contract, but netting Cooks and Rookie Draft pick 1.01 in the deal gives him the ability to choose who he wants atop the draft. He salary dumped Martin for a more productive player and got a top receiving option in Thomas while not taking on huge commitments in Hunter and Wright. And by the way, that owner still has four 2015 first rounders, 1.01, 1.05, 1.06, and 1.07 (which puts me a little on edge as I have 1.08). This certainly means this owner has lots of flexibility heading into both the rookie draft and the auction to get impact players.

What do you think of these deals? I’d be curious to know.

7. Some Rookie Deals Other Reality Sports Online Owners Have Made This Offseason

As part of my research, I asked other Reality Sports Online owners to chime in on Twitter to see what deals they have made in the offseason involving rookie draft picks. A few of you chimed in with deals such as these (a big thanks to all those who responded):

Tim Breemersch took advantage of the fact that there was a huge Raiders fan in his league and after picking Amari Cooper at 1.02 in his rookie draft, was offered Kevin White (drafted at 1.04) plus a 2016 1st rounder for Cooper and a 2016 2nd rounder. That’s a good way to appropriate value as both receivers are projected to be among the best at their position as rookies.

Others like Chris Cangialosi made his draft pick trade at last year’s deadline, sending Mark Ingram on a one-year deal to a contender for the rights to a 2015 first rounder which turned into Rookie Draft pick 1.10.

8. Do Things On Your Terms

Echoing De La Soul’s: Buhloone Mindstate, which had the theme of “We might blow up, but we won’t go pop,”, come up with a strategy for your rookie draft and stick with it based on whether you think your team is in rebuild mode, top three mode, or somewhere in between. Don’t get so obsessed with these rookie picks that it clouds your ability to nab an established player that will help your team more or an opportunity to dump 100% of a cap-killer to afford you the ability to take many different paths in the auction.

Stay thirsty my friends and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @mattgoody2


More Analysis by Matt Goodwin