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.

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2020 All About Reality Podcast League Rookie Draft

Updated: May 20th 2020

The All About Reality Podcast league graciously allowed the posting of their RSO rookie draft this season while also providing thoughts about their picks and strategy.  This draft is presented because it presents a league size for which many of you may not have played along with a couple of scoring rules not used in most leagues.  The article features analysis of the picks by the RSO GMs and takes by the author.

The league is a 16-team superflex PPR format with QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/FLEX/FLEX/SFlex starting requirements.  Roster sizes are limited to 20 spots plus I.R.  Scoring rules add additional significant twists with 0.5 points for all first downs, 6 points per passing touchdowns, and 0.5 points per completion / -0.5 points per incompletion.  The reader may find the RSO Writer’s League rookie draft as a comparison point for a 10 team superflex league.

Some Notes on the League

 Quarterbacks are King:   Quarterbacks become extremely valuable in almost any 16 team superflex league.  Not every team will field two starting quarterbacks and most will be limited to two.   Many teams may find starting just one quarterback on a given week difficult as byes and injuries take hold.  Quarterbacks accelerate to a higher stratosphere of value in this particular league.  The scoring settings result in most of the worst starting quarterback options producing near top-10 running back / wide receiver point levels.  A team likely finds itself in a lot of trouble if it does not have two starting quarterbacks.

Deep League, Shallow Benches:   The league rosters 320 players in total (excluding I.R. spots, etc) while starting 160 players on a weekly basis.   The 10 starters limit each team to just 10 spots for reserves, a fairly low ratio of bench players to starters.  The low level of reserves makes holding developmental players not expected to contribute in the near future expensive in terms of roster spots.   The decision to invest heavily in rookie contracts becomes complicated.  It frees up a lot of cap space to pay up for premium free agents, but there will not be many of those types of players available in a league this deep.   The ability to trade rookie contracts to teams in need of cap space should also not be underestimated in a league with many teams potentially running with little cap room.

 

Team Analysis

McAfee’s Canal Swimmers (Tyler Houston and Kyle Thompson) are hoping to have a comeback season after nosediving in the 2019 season. From 2nd place to dead last, the team has decided to build around (potential) future Hall of Famer, Joe Burrow. After trading the second pick this year for picks 5 and 7, we had picks 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 18. We were able to surround Joe Burrow with some great talent including: Justin Herbert, Deandre Swift, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Michael Pittman. We traded up from pick 18 to pick 15 to snag a falling Henry Ruggs and then got Michael Pittman with the 17th pick. Overall, we think this draft was great for us and with 4 more first round picks next year, we look forward to another monster class for the Canal Swimmers.

My take:  McAfee’s got great value taking the first three wide receivers selected in the NFL draft with 8, 9, and 15.  Trading out of the two spot is fascinating in what ends up as Tua for Herbert and Swift.  There is a lot of boom/bust quality with Herbert as a big, athletic passer with very good arm talent and good pre-snap smarts but sporadic accuracy at times and hesitant post-snap decision-making.  Herbert was one of the biggest value jumps when compared to the Writer’s League draft.  Talent isn’t the biggest concern with Swift as a consensus top-2 running back pre-draft.

 

RSO PodFather (Devonte Cleveland) – In a Superflex league that has no QB depth, Tua was an obvious choice as a franchise cornerstone at 1.02. Mims at 1.16 was during a period of a heavy receiver run and he is someone who with the Jets’ weak WR corps should see the field immediately. Claypool at 2.15 provides a big target for Big Ben towards the end of the draft.

My take: The ultra-accurate Tua could easily be worth the premium to trade up for if the health concerns are merely the randomness of injuries in effect, especially given the power of top quarterbacks in this league.  Mims and Claypool annihilated the combine and have huge catch frames but did not always play to their timed speed on the field.

 

Pontifex Minimus (All About Reality podcast co-host Luke Patrick) – At 1.03/1.04 Pontifex Minimus approached the draft comfortable with any player in a top tier of Taylor/CEH/Burrow and Tua. Two flex spots sat open in my starting lineup, so the fact that Taylor and CEH fell made for a fairly straightforward draft day.

My take: These picks look standard for a team confident in their quarterback situation.  The only question is whether the extreme quarterback scoring makes passing up on a top-6 overall pick in the NFL draft at QB a mistake.

 

The Teal Curtain (Curtis Burleson) –  My strategy was to stick to my board and take the best available. At 1.15 I had six players that are an coin flip difference to me. So I traded back only enough to let the draft decide for me and get him cheaper. Also to obtain another pick for the chance to get Jordan Love. With Jordan Love gone I ultimately ended up with Bryan Edwards, who I’m still pretty excited about.

My take: Teal took a shotgun approach with six picks in the draft.  Edwards is a great value pick with an outstanding analytical college profile who likely fell in the NFL draft due to injuries.  Vaughn and McFarland feel like reaches at running back due to league scarcity, especially with the wide receiver talent left on the board.

 

The Fantasy Affliction (Tim Aylesworth) – I came into the draft with a simple plan, almost threw it out the window, then stuck to the plan and won the draft. After a few attempts to trade up for Herbert (and throw my whole plan out the window) I settled for Akers, the last elite member of the top 10 tier, as I expected all along. At 1.13, I felt really fortunate to have Reagor, the WR who landed in the best position to contribute right away, fall to me.  In the second round, I get my guy Hurts even after trading down! Not only do I think he is the most underrated QB in the class, but he gives me insurance for my starter Carson Wentz.  Then, I was out of picks, but trade back in to get Gibson, a David Johnson clone, and the back up to my perennialy injured RB Derrius Guice.

My take: Tim did a nice job of capitalizing on player tiers by getting Akers and Raegor at relatively cheap prices.  Hurts seems very expensive at this spot, in terms of other potential players and a roster spot, for a player who is unlikely to be anything more than a backup with possible gadget duties during his rookie contract.  This willingness to expend significant draft capital on backup quarterbacks to lock down a quarterback spot might be one of the biggest differences in moving to a 16-team superflex.

 

The Waterboys (Bobby Hoyt) – After attempting to trade up multiple times in the early portion of the draft for a top running back to no avail, I seriously thought about taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn here due to my barren RB core. However, I loved Justin Jefferson going into this draft, feeling like he could be a significant week one producer in Minnesota, and I ultimately decided that picking my highest rated player over positional need was the way to go.  In the second round, as I watched Aiyuk (a guy I had a first-round grade on and a Daniel Jeramiah favorite) continue to slip deeper into the second-round, it seemed like giving up one of my three 2021 second-rounders to move up from 2.15 to get him was a simple choice. Although, I did have a little trepidation about picking another wide-out over a running back, and I briefly thought of drafting Zack Moss instead. Again, I happily decided to take value over need–thus, feeling like my receiving core acquired a substantial shot in the arm at the conclusion of this draft.

My take: Aiyuk continues to present great value throughout rookie drafts.  There just aren’t many years a first round receiver falls this far.

 

Lucha Vikings (Ryan Swenson) – QB is so highly coveted in this league, and although I was desperate for RB help I didn’t love the options available, so I grabbed a 1st round QB in Love that will no doubt be a starter at some point in his career. With my other pick, I’m sure this was looked at as a big head-scratcher, but I simply believe in the talent and leadership of Jake Fromm, and since Josh Allen is a featured player on my team it felt good to secure a backup I LOVE.

My take: There are a lot of ways Love could turn out.  My belief is Love sees the field by year three.  That makes him easily worth the gamble at this price.  On the other hand, it is difficult making an argument to use a roster spot and draft pick on a 5th round quarterback you hope just makes the active roster as a backup for Buffalo.

 

Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna Davis) – After a few unsuccessful attempts to trade up in the draft, I took Zack Moss. He punishes defenders, is a satisfactory blocker, and has the ability to catch the ball. The value was worth the wait.

My take: Moss should have an immediate place in Buffalo alongside Singletary.  While an injury would likely be required for Moss to assume a large portion of the work, running backs with consistent shared roles have increased usefulness in a deep league.

 

Bortles Popped (Stephen Boviall and Brennan Emenhiser) – The NFL rookie draft crippled our running backs…Mack and Damien WiIliams. We HAD to get a running back. Eason is the player I was supposed to pick at 2.11 but there was some miscommunication. However, since I’m a genius, we got Eason anyway.

My take: Bortles did not even mention Kelley but he is one of my favorite late rookie picks going in drafts.  He possesses size the Chargers’ other backs don’t have and there is an immediate opening for a rushing down role on a team which uses multiple backs.

 

House Stark (Ashley Swinney) – I was just looking for guys I may be able to start if I’m in a pinch. I feel Bowden Jr. will have opportunities to make a big time play and hopefully Evans will see some field behind Henry.

My take: While unlikely to ever assume a lead role, Evans has serious juice with the chance to immediately contribute on passing downs.  I am not sure what the plan is for Bowden in Las Vegas.  He might end up as one of those “jack of all trades” players without a defined role needed to become a fantasy contributor, better for real life than fantasy.

 

Brian Brennan’s Stadium Shakers (All About Reality podcast co-host Matt Goodwin) – Having no picks in either round is a psychological blow. I tried to trade in when Lamb fell, when Pittman was still on the board, and towards the end to nab Eason in this highly shallow QB pool in a 16 team Superflex league. None of that worked. However, I was able to trade two future 2nds which I figure will be back end of the draft for Dillon. I feel he will be part of a rotation in 2020 and goal line packages and will have an increased role when one of or both of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams move on in free agency.

My take: Dillon is one of the top values in this draft and many others.  There is a clear path to a significant role next year and a road to lead duties.

 

 

 

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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Early 2019 RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 26th 2019

My annual look at early RSO auction values finishes with the tight end group.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished.  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 number of auctions for any particular player may also be limited this early in the RSO season.  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.

Average RSO Tight End Contracts

Tiers of One at the Top

The fantasy football realm tended to treat the top-3 tight ends (Kelce, Kittle, and Ertz) as a tier of their own early in the offseason.   There were very real reasons for this grouping.  Each earned at least 136 targets with two of the trio receiving at least 150.  Each caught at least 86 passes with two racking up 103 or more.  Each accumulated 1,163 yards with two breaking the 1,300 yard barrier.  In other words, 2018 was a historic season at the top of the tight end group.  Each tight should continue as a main piece of their respective offenses, while maybe not at the historic paces of 2018.  Each faces additional long or short –term concerns going forward.

RSO GMs made very clear price distinctions between the three, however.  Kelce heads the group at over $5 million more than the next tight end.  The Kansas City star should be locked in for another great year.  The only concerns center on the longer-term.  He is already 29 (The age Rob Gronkowski just retired at) and turns 30 in just a few months.  Kelce also dealt with injury issues recently including multiple concussions and “cleanup” procedures on his shoulder and knee.  Kittle faces much more target competition at both wide receiver and running back in 2019.  He also goes from a tight end friendly environment primarily with backup quarterbacks whom were among the league’s lowest depth of average target to a quarterback that targets deeper receivers more consistently.  Ertz is another high-end tight end facing new offensive options vying for receptions.   The addition of DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia brings a legitimate 3rd wide receiver option to Philadelphia and second tight end Dallas Goedert looks like a bigger piece of the offense in year two.

Hunter Henry also separated himself from the next tier in cost, receiving a sizeable premium in RSO auction prices.  He posted strong PFF grades his first two seasons in limited usage.   We still do not know how well  Henry integrates into the Chargers offensive game plan as a full time player and how far back he is after missing 2018 due to injury.

 

The Class of 2017

Three former 1st round picks from the 2017 draft class highlight the next tier of tight ends.  We start with Howard and Engram who saw huge 2nd year jumps in 2018.  Both finished as top-6 PFF-graded tight ends last year.  Howard is on a Tampa Bay offense many project as one of the top yardage-gainers for 2019.  Engram has been a top-5 fantasy tight end without Odell Beckham in the lineup during his first two years.  Each has dealt with injury issues the first two seasons of their careers.  Howard remains the likely third option in Tampa Bay.  Engram probably garners something near a co-number one type target share in New York but with some combination of Eli Manning and rookie Daniel Jones at the quarterback for the near future.  David Njoku is taking a little more time along the development curve.  That makes sense given he was only 20 years old when drafted.  The athletic specimen for Cleveland is attached to what many consider one of the top young quarterbacks in the league.  The question is whether Njoku can become a large enough part of the offense to justify his price.

We should keep an eye on a couple of veterans in this pricing tier.  Jared Cook set career highs in most categories last season at the age of 31.  He transfers to New Orleans adding a much needed target for Drew Brees on a team without much in the way of reliable receiving options outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.  Eric Ebron* also had a career season after signing with Indianapolis last year.  He scored 13 touchdowns after never scoring more than 5 in his career previously.  His role likely diminishes in 2019, along with the number of his touchdowns, after the additions of Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell to go along with the return of Jack Doyle.

*Andrew Luck’s retirement was just announced.  This news significantly downgrades the upside of Ebron for 2019.

 

Others to Watch

The Pittsburg Steelers traded Antonio Brown this offseason and that opens up a bunch of opportunity for Vance McDonald on a high-volume passing team without much in reliable receiving options outside of Juju Smith-Schuster.  Chris Herndon showed good chemistry with Sam Darnold and played well as a rookie, something rare.  He likely comes at a discount with a four-game suspension to start the season.  Greg Olsen, Jack Doyle, Delanie Walker, and Jordan Reed represent extremely cheap older veterans who, while not league winners, could potentially prop up your fantasy team on a weekly basis.  The talk of Raiders camp, outside of the Antonio Brown’s behavior, has been Darren Waller.  Linebackers and defensive backs consistently struggled covering the uber-athletic former wide receiver this offseason.


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

Early 2019 RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 14th 2019

My annual look at early RSO auction values turns to the wide receiver group.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished.  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 number of auctions for any particular player may also be limited this early in the RSO season.  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.

 

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

Safety and Depth at the Top

From holdouts to health to usage to surrounding talent, the running back position presents question marks for many of the most costly RSO contracts in 2019.  The argument for putting your big RSO cap dollars in wide receivers relies on their relative safety.  Grabbing Hopkins, Adams, Beckham Jr., Thomas, Smith-Schuster, Evans, Jones, or Allen assures a dominant, high-volume receiver attached to efficient passing offenses.  Maybe just as impressive is the depth of top receivers available.  For example, T.Y. Hilton goes off the board at WR16 as the top receiver for Andrew Luck after finishing 2018 sixth in yards per game.    An RSO GM wanting a reliable high volume pass catcher should have no problem finding one in most leagues.

The top paid wide receivers are not completely devoid of risk, however.  Brown and Green are dealing with lower-leg injuries already with Brown also bizarrely threatening retirement based on his choice of helmet.  Amari Cooper remains one of the most volatile receivers in all of football attached to a low-volume pass offense which is difficult to stomach at his price.  The Minnesota tandem of Diggs and Thielen face their own questions going into 2019.  Diggs was among the most inefficient wide receivers of the heavily targeted players last season.  Thielen’s production fell off a cliff the second half of 2018.  Minnesota probably transitions to a more run-heavy approach potentially reducing volume to both.

Who Steps Up?

While there is a good amount of quality top-end targets, not every team’s target share is set and not every offense racks up big yardage.  Many young pass catchers have the chance to move up the ranks of receivers.  RSO GMs priced Corey Davis aggressively so far as WR17.  The former top-5 pick improved in his second season and appears locked in as the top target for Tennessee.  The problem for Davis is the limited upside in the Titans’ pass attack.  Tennessee ranked no better than 28th in pass attempts the last three seasons and is going with quarterback Mariota yet again in his 5th year.  The Titans also spent high draft capital on A.J. Brown and gave a big contract to Adam Humphries.  There is a lot of preseason buzz, both good and bad, about Dante Pettis in San Francisco on potentially a breakout offense.  The slight receiver must stay healthy and battle a host of other good receiving options at multiple positions for targets.

Joe Flacco’s ability to throw with velocity downfield represents a much better match for Courtland Sutton’s strengths in his second year over the weak-armed Case Keenum.  Flacco is still Flacco, one of the most inefficient quarterbacks in the NFL over the last few years, and Emmanuel Sanders looks ahead of schedule coming back from a late season Achilles tear.  New York will look for more consistency from Robby Anderson, to go along with the growth of 22 year old quarterback Sam Darnold, after displaying flashes in his young career.  The Jets made significant investments among the skill-position group with the additions of Bell at running back and Crowder at wide receiver.  The Arizona Cardinals project as a far more up-tempo passing offense in 2019 with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and second year pro Christian Kirk seems to be a big part going forward.  As dynamic as the offense could be, we must consider the possibility that a first year head coach with a rookie quarterback leading a new offense might have trouble adjusting to the NFL.

Upside NFL WR2s and WR1s in Questionable Situations

The Bears employ a diverse offensive scheme adjusting significantly each week under Matt Nagy which makes predicting the target distribution questionable at best.  Allen Robinson is one more year away from his ACL tear and second round pick Anthony Miller looks for a second-year jump after playing with shoulder injuries for most of his rookie season.  Some people forget about Marvin Jones after his injury-marred 2018. Despite new Lions coach Matt Patricia attempts to set offensive football back thirty years in 2018, Jones ranked top-10 in air yards while on the field and might be closer to the 1B in Detroit than his RSO price suggests.

Aaron Rodgers’ second receiving option provides significant possible fantasy value.  Geronimo Allison could be that piece seeming fixed in the starting slot spot.  Marquez Valdez-Scantling appears locked in as the second outside wide receiver opposite Devante Adams and comes at a discount so far in comparison to Allison.  Panthers’ wide receiver Curtis Samuel has been the talk of training camp in Carolina routinely destroying attempted coverage by defensive backs.  Many analysts believe he is the better receiver opposite D.J. Moore.  The afore-mentioned Emmanuel Sanders instills excellent value on RSO rosters if he is indeed fully healthy.  It would be an extremely quick recovery from an Achilles injury.  Pittsburg is another team for which the second receiver might carry significant fantasy value.  RSO GMs are paying the most for James Washington early.  He faces lot of competition in former Colt/Jaguar Donte Moncrief who currently heads the depth chart while many consider rookie Diontae Johnson the best replacement.

Others Outside the Top-50

DeSean Jackson will put up some big games this season with Carson Wentz without the need for big target loads.  Move Tyrell Williams up your boards this based on the wild news surrounding Antonio Brown.  Somebody has to catch passes in Oakland.  Do not be surprised if Jamison Crowder leads the Jets in receptions.  We won’t see a high volume passing offense in Buffalo.  The speedy John Brown, however, best fits the relatively high-volume, high-target depth throws Josh Allen makes.


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

Early 2019 RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: July 31st 2019

My annual look at early 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.  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 number of auctions for any particular player may also be limited this early in the RSO season.  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.

Average RSO Running Back Contracts

The Next Four

Elliot, Barkley, McCaffrey, and Kamara form the top tier of virtually every ranking for running backs in 2019.  Elliott is always a danger for off the field incidents and Kamara has longer term question marks once (if?) Brees retires but the group poses no significant short-term question marks.  The question marks come quickly after.  The next four rushers present three-down backs with unknowns.  Bell took a sabbatical last season from the NFL forfeiting about $14.5 million in the process.  He goes from one of the most prolific offenses and top offensive lines in Pittsburg to a New York team with a second year quarterback, one of the worst offensive lines in the game, and Adam Gase as the head coach.  The all-around talent for Mixon and surrounding skill players is not the issue in Cincinnati.  His dreadful offensive line from last season is after already losing its top-two projected starters this season.  Gordon’s knee injury history is similar to Todd Gurley’s and he is threatening a holdout after not securing a long-term contract so far.  Expect Gordon’s RSO contracts to start sinking quickly.  Johnson only registered as PFF’s 51st running back in 2018 thanks, in part, to dismal surrounding talent and a new coaching staff not up for the challenge.  His usage and effectiveness are among the highest variance for running backs due to what is, in effect, an experimental college offense transitioning to the NFL.

Injury Concerns Result in Bargain Prices (Sometimes)

Fantasy gamers discussed Todd Gurley’s knee issues ad nauseam this offseason.  RSO GMs listened.  The RB1 in points per game each of the last two seasons is going off the board as the 13th highest paid running back.  Nagging lower-body injuries combined with an awful situation in Jacksonville also lowered the price of Leonard Fournette considerably from last year.   A substantial upgrade at quarterback, much healthier offensive line, and new offensive coordinator give Fournette significant upside at his cost with 300-plus touch upside.   Many considered Guice a borderline RB1 going into last season before tearing his ACL.  A lot has changed in a year.  Future hall of famer Adrian Peterson came back from the dead for an impressive late career campaign and signed an extension.  Washington also drafted former Heisman runner-up Bryce Love, falling to the fourth round after an injury filled 2018 and eventual tearing his ACL late in the year.

Surprisingly, the injury issues associated with Cook and Johnson apparently are not affecting their costs as both hit the boards as top-10 running backs so far in RSO leagues.  Both have massive injury histories including, most notably, multiple shoulder surgeries plus knee, ankle, and hamstring injuries.  Expect Johnson’s price climbing to even higher levels with news of pass-catching specialist Theo Riddick’s release from Detroit.

Young Featured Backs

Chubb, Jones, Mack, and Michel present cases with many of the same strengths and limitations.  All young backs play on projected upper level offenses with quality quarterbacks.  Their respective teams utilized each as primary running down backs with limited passing game usage.  Jones offers a bit more upside in this group because Green Bay does not possess a true receiving down back, albeit under Aaron Rodgers at quarterback who has never utilized running backs extensively in the passing game.  Duke Johnson (Cleveland), Nyheim Hines (Indianapolis), and James White (New England) give each team a strong, complementary passing down option.  Michel’s knee issues and New England drafting 3rd round running back Damien Harris depressed his price somewhat.

The Battle for Touches

While we have a good feel for the depth chart of most teams, not all backfields share as clear of picture.  The explosive and undrafted Phillip Lindsay dominated touches last year for Denver but faded to end the year failing to hit 50 rushing yards over the last three games.  Look for Royce Freeman gaining more looks to keep Lindsay fresh in 2019.  Barber won the starting spot battle in Tampa Bay last year but may have lost the war after displaying backup level skills.  It might be the last chance for Ronald Jones after an ugly rookie season in which the 20 year old was not prepared for the NFL and struggled with hamstring injuries for much of the year.  Philadelphia remains an enticing but disappointing fantasy situation for running backs as committees have dominated recently.  Will Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, or any of the other backs receive enough work to break the mold?  San Francisco possesses three talented backs in Coleman, McKinnon, and Breida on what should be a good offense.  We do not know if any of them receives enough consistent work to hold strong fantasy value.  The Bills running back room is a mess you may feel free to avoid on a team not likely to be among the higher scorers in the NFL.

Outside the Top-50

The afore-mentioned Hines racked up 63 receptions and is the receiving downs back for an Andrew Luck-led offense.    Kalen Ballage is a size-speed specimen with impressive receiving ability who will form a committee with Drake in Miami.  C.J. Anderson should carve out a significant role in Detroit where former New England coach Matt Patricia wants to run the ball as much as possible.  Jalen Richard ranked 7th in receptions among running backs in 2018 and is extremely cheap after Oakland spent a 1st round pick on Josh Jacobs.


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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Early 2019 RSO Contracts: QBs

Updated: July 23rd 2019

My annual look at early RSO auction values begins at the quarterback position in 2019.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished.  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 number of auctions for any particular player may also be limited this early in the RSO season.  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.

 

Average RSO Quarterback Contracts

Is Russell Wilson elite in the fantasy realm?

The argument for Wilson as an elite quarterback needs little discussion.  He consistently ranks among the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, limits turnovers, and adds a rushing element to his game which keeps opposing defenses off balance.  RSO GMs made Wilson the 5th highest paid quarterback to match his football talent.

Wilson’s fantasy prospects leave some questions left unanswered though.  The Seahawks transitioned to a more run-heavy approach in 2018 which severely limited Wilson’s volume.  He ranked 20th in passing attempts and 28th in passing yards per game despite his top-10 efficiency.  Wilson also posted his lowest rushing yardage ever thanks to the lowest rushing attempts in his career.   His fantasy season was essentially saved by a ridiculous (and unsustainable) 8.2% touchdown rate which made Wilson the 11th ranked fantasy quarterback in points per game last season.  This is the problem for RSO GMs.  His combination passing/rushing skill-set presents a fantasy ceiling as one of the highest scoring quarterbacks in the NFL.  On the other hand, that ceiling is unattainable if Seattle’s offense remains one of the most run-heavy in the league.

The Baker Mayfield train left the station.

The hopes for Baker field are stratospheric after one of the better rookie seasons ever at quarterback in 2018.  Adding one of the best wide receivers in Beckham Jr. only expands expectations further.  The Browns were already stocked with solid young talent at the skill positions including David Njoku at tight end, wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway, plus running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.   If you want Mayfield at this stage, you probably must pay top-end prices.

Lamar Jackson and Jimmy Garoppolo no longer qualify as value buys.

I listed Jackson and Garoppolo as values earlier this offseason based on broader dynasty community prices where both were going off the board as lower-end QB2s.  RSO GMs are having none of that with the duo coming in at QB9 and QB10 going just ahead of Matt Ryan, who put up two overall QB2 fantasy season in the last three years.  The expectations for Jackson and Garoppolo are beyond just good bets at this stage.  If you want either of them on your RSO squad, you likely invest starting quarterback salaries.

The RSO community shares some concerns about Cam Newton’s health.

Fantasy players in general held many legitimate questions surrounding Cam Newton’s shoulder health.  Newton struggled with throwing shoulder injuries the last two seasons resulting in on-field problems.  We just saw Andrew Luck forced to miss an entire season two years ago with a similar injury.  Predictably, the question marks drove Newton’s price down to the QB13 so far this season which is fairly cheap given his multiple top-10 fantasy performances.  The more interesting part of his contract data is the 2.1 average years suggesting some serious long-term questions either about the shoulder or his accumulation of hits due to his physical running style.  Newton presents a possible bargain with reports that he is on track for 100% status before the season starts.

Which quarterbacks survive beyond 2019?

Winston, Flacco, Carr, Dalton, and Mariota all have NFL contracts which expire after 2019 or contain little to no dead money.  Brees, Rivers, Brady, and Manning could retire at any point now.  Miami is very likely in the quarterback hunt during next year’s draft and Detroit is another possibility if things go poorly again in 2019.  All of this information suggests significant turnover at the quarterback position over the next few years with many quarterbacks retiring, transferring teams, or being relegated to backup quarterback duties.  Oakland, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Denver are all projected bottom-10 in wins for 2019 according to many betting platforms which puts them all squarely in the “possibly draft a quarterback” group next year.  Tennessee’s constant middle-of-the –pack finishes suggests a possible free agent landing spot for one of the quarterbacks if Mariota does not improve on his mediocre, injury-riddled performances so far.  The RSO market shares this uncertainty with most of these quarterbacks getting short-term deals.

Going cheap at quarterback remains a viable option.

Options remain plentiful for fantasy teams looking at cheaper quarterbacks to rotate on a weekly basis in single QB leagues or in need of a second starter for 2QB leagues.  The veteran quarterback group of Roethlisberger, Cousins, Rivers, and Brady all finished at QB14 or better in fantasy scoring for 2018.  They provide solid weekly floors at the position for bargain prices.   There are also a number of options with the upside to improve on 2018.  Allen ended the season as one of the highest scoring fantasy players over the last month thanks in large part to his scrambling ability.  Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and J.J. Nelson furnish Carr a greatly improved wide receiver core with a drastic increase in game speed over what was in Oakland last season.  Stafford lost his two top receivers to injury and trade in 2018 plus reportedly played injured while in a new offense emphasizing the run.  Dalton played in only 11 games last year and gets back one of the best skill position groups in the NFL.


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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