Free Agency Fallout: Running Back Edition

Updated: March 31st 2020

What a wild first week that was!!!  With Tom Brady and Philip Rivers headlining, it was anticipated that the QBs would be the biggest dominoes in this year’s free agency.  To a degree, that was true.  These deals, along with the Teddy Bridgewater signing (Carolina) and the Nick Foles trade (Chicago), have certainly shaken up the league.  However, for us fantasy-folk the real action lies in the RB market, and this year provided some seriously high-profile names.

We are going to rank these RB relocations and explore what we can expect from them in 2020, but I would like to first preface this breakdown with the following anecdotes.

  • They say it’s a “Passing League”, but there were only 5 QBs that surpassed 4,200 yards in 2019. The previous 6 years resulted in 10, 5, 11, 9, 9 and 9.
  • Of the 32 projected starting QBs: 5 will be playing at age 37+, 9 have a season or less of experience under their belt, 5 play on conservative run-first teams, and 2 are running QBs.
  • 15 running backs surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in 2019. The previous 4 years resulted in 9, 9, 12 and 7.
  • Of these 15 running backs, 13 were guys still on their rookie deals. Carlos Hyde and Mark Ingram were the other two.

We’ve got two trends going here.  The level of passing took a bit of a hit in 2019, and I believe we will see even further regression due to age and inexperience.  It seems now more than ever that teams will be relying on the run.  Meanwhile, we know being a running back today isn’t what it used to be.  They are the comets of the sports world.  3-4 years of stardom and then they are lucky to be sharing the ball in a committee.   Therefore, since all 4 of these RBs are entering the second act of their career, and doing so in a new city, I thought it best to focus on their respective play caller’s history in order to map these projections.  Let’s begin.

#4.  Todd Gurley:  The Falcons signed an ex-Ram…high-profile, physical RB who thrives in the passing game.   Sound familiar?  We witnessed this before with Steven Jackson in 2013.  Dirk Koetter was the Offensive Coordinator then and has since reclaimed his role.  Here’s a look at his RB usage over the years:

Year Name

Attempts

Rush Yards

YPC

Rush TDs

2012

Michael Turner 222 800 3.6

10

2013

Stephen Jackson (12 games) 157 543 3.46

6

2014

Stephen Jackson 190 707 3.72

6

2015

Doug Martin 288 1402 4.87

6

2016

Doug Martin (8 games) 144 421 2.9

3

2017

Doug Martin (11 games) 138 406 2.9

3

2018

Peyton Barber 234 871 3.72

5

2019 Devonta Freeman 184 656 3.6

2

Barring the Doug Martin outlier in 2015, we can see a clear trend of ineffectiveness amongst what is a solid group of names.  I think we can expect a similar outlook for Gurley.  On a side note, Jaquizz Rodgers (5’6 205lbs) spent 6 years with Koetter (3 in Atlanta & 3 in Tampa Bay), and had a considerable workload for all of those years.  At 5’9 195 lbs, Ito Smith compares favorably to Rodgers and could assume that role.

Projections:  215 Atts, 796 Rush Yards, 3.7 YPC, 30 Rec, 210 Rec Yards, 8 Total TDs

 

#3.  Jordan Howard:  Aside from the shuffling of veterans and the usual depth-based signings, there really is only one team that was in desperate need of a running back – Miami.  Many will fade the Dolphins backfield in 2020, but I believe there is cause for optimism.  Dolphins’ brass has replaced first year Offensive Coordinator Chad O’Shea with a former Head Coach in Chan Gailey.  Let’s dive in to his past RB usage.

Year Name Rush Attempts Rush Yards YPC Rush TDs

2008

Larry Johnson 193 874 4.5

5

2010

Fred Jackson 222 927 4.2

5

2011

Fred Jackson (10 games) 170 934 5.5

6

2012

C.J. Spiller 207 1244 6.0

6

2015

Chris Ivory 247 1070 4.3

7

2016

Matt Forte 218 813 3.7

7

Aside from Spiller, this list is composed of big, physical backs.  Chris Ivory stands out in particular.  He was the exact same size as Howard at 6’0 224 lbs and had a very similar skill-set.  Interestingly enough, these backs all had smaller, change-of-pace counterparts.  Larry Johnson had Jamal Charles, Fred Jackson had C.J. Spiller, and Chris Ivory and Matt Forte both shared backfields with Bilal Powell.  Expect the Dolphins to draft a dangerous 3rd down option like D’Andre Swift, in an attempt to recreate the Eagles pairing of Howard and Miles Sanders.

Projections:  230 Atts, 966 Rush Yards, 4.2 YPC, 8 Rush TDs, 24 Rec, 190 Rec Yards

 

#2.  Melvin Gordon:  The Royce Freeman experiment is likely over, and the Broncos were in need of a 3rd down receiving back (a role Philip Lindsay is surprisingly lackluster in).  Melvin Gordon delivers on both fronts.  Philip Lindsay appears to be the better runner (Gordon has averaged less than 4.0 yards a carry in 4 of his 5 seasons) and you would think he would continue to see 10-12 carries a game.   Let’s see if Offensive Coordinator’s Pat Shurmur’s past supports that notion.

Year Name Rush Atts. Rush Yards YPC TDs Recs. Rec. Yards

2012

Trent Richardson 267 950 3.6 12 51

367

2013

Lesean McCoy 314 1607 5.1 11 52

539

2014

Lesean McCoy 312 1319 4.2 5 28

155

2015

DeMarco Murray,

Ryan Mathews

193

106

702

539

3.6

5.1

7

7

44

20

322

146

2017

Latavius Murray,

Jerick Mckinnon

216

150

842

570

3.9

3.8

8

5

15

51

103

421

2018

Saquon Barkley 261 1307 5.0 15 91

721

2019

Saquon Barkley 217 1003 4.6 52 438

8

Melvin Gordon is no McCoy or Barkley, but he is a genuine dual-threat RB .  Of the various ways in which this could play out, the Broncos backfield will most likely resemble that of the 2015 Eagles’, with Gordon assuming the DeMarco Murray role.

Projections:  182 Atts, 728 Rush Yards, 4.2 YPC, 48 Rec, 410 Rec Yards, 10 Total TDs

 

#1.  David Johnson:  After a 2,100 yard breakout year, Johnson sat out the entire 2017 season with a dislocated wrist.  He returned in 2018, but experienced a very steep decline in production.  Finally last year, he got off to a slow start, injured his ankle, and wass ultimately benched in favor of Kenyan Drake.  Fantasy owners everywhere have got to believe the Cardinals trade just sealed David Johnson’s fate as the hungriest man in the NFL.  Let’s see what kind of effect Bill O’Brien’s offense can have.

Year Name Rush Atts. Rush Yards YPC TDs Recs. Rec. Yards

2014

Arian Foster 260 1246 4.8 13 38

327

2016

Lamar Miller 268 1073 4.0 6 31

188

2017

Lamar Miller 238 888 3.73 6 36

327

2018

Lamar Miller 210 973 4.63 6 25

163

2019

Carlos Hyde 245 1070 4.37 6 10

42

2014 marked the end of Arian Foster’s illustrious run (28 years-old at the time), as well as the beginning of Bill O’Brien’s NFL Head Coaching career.  All 3 former Texans had a similar stature to Johnson, but the Foster comparison is scary.  At 6’1 227 lbs, Foster was surprisingly gifted in the passing game, totaling 119 receptions for 1221 yards in his first 2 seasons as a starter.  The 6’1 224 lb David Johnson (28 years-old) recorded 116 receptions for 1336 yards in his first 2 seasons as the starter.  I suspect a healthy Johnson follows in Foster’s footsteps for one final glory year in H-town.

Projections:  255 Atts, 1122 Rush Yards, 4.4 YPC, 44 Rec, 420 Rec Yards, 10 Total TDs

More Analysis by Grant Viviano

Early RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: August 6th 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information. This week I move to one of the most volatile positions in fantasy football, running back, where increased injury rate and player turnover make long-term decisions extremely difficult.

Top of the Market

No shock here.  Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell are the three highest paid running backs in RSO leagues and also atop the overall player salaries.  There is not much of an argument to be made about why they do not belong here.  Each is a proven game changer at the position and potential league winner capable of putting up 2,000 total yards with extraordinary potential touch volume.

The only issue which concerns me is the lengths of contracts where each is averaging nearly four years.  I do not have much of an issue with Zeke given the dominant offensive line mostly locked up with long term deals and a quarterback who was excellent as a rookie, but questions linger about his off-the-field behavior.  I am a little more skeptical of Bell and Johnson though with situations more in flux and extensive workloads which increase injury risk.  Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger could retire any year moving forward with no real alternatives on the rosters leaving a possibly dicey quarterback situation for each.  Bell also has multiple suspensions, major injury issues, and is not signed to a long-term contract with Pittsburg (and will not be until after the season, if at all).

The Rookies

The rookies listed in the table all came from one auction as most rookies will go in rookie drafts instead of auction, so do not put too much stock into the results.  I believe it is a useful reminder, however, of inflated rookie prices which can occur in startup auctions.  Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook all landed maximum term contracts in the auction with average salaries that would place each in the top-14 among running backs without playing a down in the NFL.  This is just a reminder not to go overboard with rookies in your auction.

An Important Tier Break

For those owners who like to invest in two heavy volume running backs for your starters, remember the name Lamar Miller.  He is the last player on the list before a major tier drop, coming off the board as the RB15 in average salary.  The main reason for this big tier break is certainty of volume.  Forgetting the rookies, I have every back priced above Isaiah Crowell projected for 270+ touches over the course of a full season.  I do not have any other back projected for over 250 touches.  The primary problem for these other backs centers around 1) uncertainty of role (example: Spencer Ware) or 2) playing on projected bad teams limiting workload (example: Carlos Hyde).

Top Buys

C.J. Anderson heads my list of top running back buys this season.   The Denver back is virtually assured the the lion’s share of carries with last year’s bust Devontae Booker (already injured), late rounder De’Angelo Henderson, and former superstar Jamaal Charles (still returning from injury and on the roster bubble) as the only competition.  Anderson averaged 18 touches per contest through 7 games last season before injury ended his year and was the RB12 during that time.  The Broncos improved their offensive line in the offseason and will want to rely heavily on the run game no matter who ends up starting at quarterback.  Anderson is a steal as the RB26.

Bilal Powell (RB35), Danny Woodhead (RB37), and Theo Riddick (RB42) provide cheap useful starters, particularly in PPR leagues, for those teams taking a wide receiver-heavy approach.  Each has standalone value and a lot of upside should the other committee back on their respective team go down with injury.

Top Avoids

The narrative surrounding Ty Montgomery (RB22) has amused me to no end this offseason.   Montgomery started 12 games, including three in the playoffs, once bruiser Eddie Lacy went down with injury.  The converted wide receiver rushed for more than 11 times once and accumulated more than 60 rushing yards once in his 12 starts.  Those games were with James Starks (likely done in the league) and Christine Michael (who has been cut more times than we can count) as the only real competition for touches.  Green Bay was even giving Aaron Ripkowski touches.  Now the story is that Montgomery will take over a far bigger role after the Packers drafted multiple running backs with far more talent than last year’s backs? Montgomery is the classic perceived “great situation” case boosted by small sample efficiency stats which were propped up on two games against a Chicago defense decimated by injuries.

I am a big fan of C.J. Prosise and the multi-dimensional skill-set he brings.  I am not paying starter money on a short-term contract for a player likely needing multiple items going his way to take over the primary back role.  Grab Prosise on a cheaper longer-term contract if possible in your league as a nice lottery ticket.

 

Average RSO Running Back Contracts


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

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

Preseason Predictions Revisited

Updated: May 28th 2017

During training camp five of the RSO writers took on the challenge of looking ahead to the 2016 season and planted our flags on who we expected to take home end of season awards. We also made one BOLD prediction on something happening this season that others were skeptical about. With the fantasy season now behind us let’s revisit these predictions and see how we did.

Comeback Fantasy Player of the Year

Goodwin: Victor Cruz – Cruz was on a role the first month of the season scoring double-digit fantasy points in his first four games. Unfortunately, the fairy tale ends there as he only reached those numbers twice in the final eleven games. All the while rookie Sterling Shepard began to find traction and looks like him and Odell Beckham Jr. could be forming a nice 1-2 combination for Big Blue in 2017. We may have seen the last of the salsa dance.

Luke: Tony Romo – Poor Tony. The butt end of every football joke couldn’t even make it to regular season healthy. An injury to his back in the third preseason game led to a rookie QB from Mississippi State named Dak Prescott having to start the first half of the season. He, along with fellow rookie of the year candidate Ezekiel Elliot, revitalized the Cowboys and now is the new face of what Dallas fans hope will be a Super Bowl Champion. As for Romo barring an injury to Prescott in the playoffs, 2016 will be his final season in Big D.

Bernard: Eddie Lacy – The Packers took a little while to get the steam train rolling but after a guaranteed turnaround from front man Aaron Rodgers they are one win away from being the NFC North Champs. But while everyone else in green and gold is having a comeback season Lacy remains the same as 2015 Eddie Lacy. He started off the year slow, with only one double-digit performance before injuring his ankle in week 6. In his contract year and having two stinker years on his resume it’s likely a change would be good for both the Packers and Lacy.

Jordy NelsonDave: Jordy Nelson – People wondered if Nelson was the glue that held the Packers together and sure enough they were right. He had over 15 points in 12 of his 15 games and averaged 26 points in the playoffs. He is the PPR WR2 and looks to be back to full health. Anyone who was able to grab him or Rodgers for a discount was mighty pleased with Nelson’s return.

Nick: Dez Bryant – As expected there were a lot more “Xs” being thrown up in Dallas this season but it might not have as much as what Bryant owners were expecting. Bryant missed games due to injury from weeks 4 through 7 which might have put owners in a big hole going into the second half of the season. He was able to manage over 15 points/game in his 12 games played but anyone who made the playoffs with him was likely bounced early with a 2 point stinker against the Giants in week 14.

Overvalued Player of the Year

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls – Coming into the season everyone was giving their two cents on which 2015 breakout running backs were good and which were a mirage. Turns out that Goody got this one right as Rawls couldn’t shake the injury bug that ended his 2015 season and missed a significant amount of time in 2016 due to various other injuries. His lone 2 touchdown game against Carolina in week 13 was the only week he eclipsed more than 12 fantasy points but that was likely too little too late for owners. It will be interesting to see whether C.J. Prosise has passed Rawls on the depth chart when training camp opens in 2017 and what sort of role Rawls will have moving forward.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo BillsLuke: Le’veon Bell – Those who stuck with Bell through both the suspension and the injury concerns were likely treated to a fantasy championship this season based on his performance and consistency. Once returning from his three-game ban Bell scored 18+ points in 12 of 13 games including a 50 burger in week 14. There is still concern over the long term contract situation in Pittsburgh but owning Bell in 2016 was like printing money.

Bernard: Donte Moncrief – Touchdowns are a hard thing to predict year over year but Moncrief was one of the most consistent players in 2016. He scoring one touchdown in 7 of his 8 games played and average 12.8 points/game played. The emphasis though is “games played” as he missed 7 games throughout the season. Meanwhile, T.Y. Hilton played in all 15 games for the Colts, averaged 17.2 points/game and had four games where he scored over 26 points. If he can stay healthy Moncrief could be a sneaky buy-low for 2017.

Dave: Jordan Matthews – Depending on your expectations of Matthews he was either an incredible asset to have or the bane of your fantasy lineups. Those who saw Matthews as their high-upside WR2 with WR1 potential would have been disappointed with his inconsistent production. But using him as a Flex or WR3 was a nice safe blanket to have averaging 12.2 points/game. Where he likely hurt you though was the last two weeks where he only offered 11.9 points total for weeks 15 & 16. Still, in leagues with more than two starting wide receivers or large flex options Matthews was a low-cost option to fill out an open slot.

Nick: David Johnson – This is simply egg all over my face. Not only did David Johnson not bust the way I had predicted he became the most consistent player for 2016 while also becoming the first player since L.T. to go over 400 fantasy points in a season. Johnson never scored less than 16 PPR points in any game and had 10 games with over 25 points. Both he and Ezekiel Elliot will be considered 1 and 1A in terms of dynasty rankings heading into 2017.

2016 BOLD Predictions

Goodwin: Charles Sims will outscore Doug MartinDavid Johnson

Sadly, both Martin and Sims were a huge disappoint despite the Bucs taking steps forward this season to being playoff ready. Both had injuries reduce their playing time to the point that Jacquizz Rodgers was the Bucs leading rusher with only 485 yards. For this prediction though Sims (69.9) failed to outscore Martin (87.5).

Luke: David Johnson will be the RB1

Luke clearly saw something that I did not and accurately predicted Johnson to be the RB1 for 2016. Johnson did one better by being the highest scoring fantasy player with 406 points.

Bernard: Ryan Mathews will be a top 10 RB

Mathews was plagued with injuries and inconsistency throughout 2016. His first month offered a promising return for those who took a chance on him in free agency however Darren Sproles ended up being the highest scoring running back in Philly. Mathews failed to be even an RB2 for the season.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will NOT be a top 10 RB

Whether Dave was expecting Peterson to succumb to a season-long injury or not he nailed Peterson failing to make the top 10 running backs. It was another tough year for Peterson owners who were trying to milk one more good season before the end of a stellar career. While he is not going to be retiring this season his days in Minnesota are likely over due to salary and performance not lining up. This was also probably Peterson’s last chance to be an every-down back in the NFL.

Nick: Giovanni Bernard will have the most receptions and scrimmage yards for an RB

This was looking to be a good prediction before his injury midway through the season. No, he wasn’t going to be leapfrogging David Johnson in what is a stellar year for him but Gio was doing well catching almost 40 passes out of the backfield and adding another 330 yards in the air. He received a four-year contract extension before training camp which should prevent him from rushing his rehab and risking further injury. If he can return in a similar capacity to Jordy Nelson this year, Gio could be an excellent buy-low candidate during drafts.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Most Frequently Franchised in '16

Updated: October 13th 2016

Back in May, we took a look at the most frequently cut players in 2015 to learn some lessons in advance of our free agent auctions.  Now that we are in season, I thought it would be useful to look at which players were most frequently franchise tagged in 2016.  In my experience, Week 6 seems to be the time when struggling owners first commit to being a seller rather than a buyer for the rest of the season.  Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you can gain some valuable insight by looking at last year’s franchise tag trends.  I personally did this in my home RSO league – I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold onto him, so I sent my tagged David Johnson to the second place owner for Theo Riddick, a 2017 First and a 2018 Third.

Here’s the list of the top seven most frequently franchise tagged players for 2016 and my takeaways:

  1. Thomas Rawls
  2. Jordan Reed
  3. Rob Gronkowski
  4. Antonio Brown
  5. Tyler Eifert
  6. DEN Defense
  7. Greg Olsen

Make an Offer for a Top TE

Four of the top seven spots went to TEs which shouldn’t be a surprise as Reed, Gronk and Eifert are all injury risks while Olsen is getting up there in age – offering a multi-year deal to these guys is risky.  If you’re making a championship run, take a look at the TE position of your league’s worst teams.  If one of them is holding Olsen, Reed or Gronk, make the offer now without hesitation.  It will help you this year and gives you a viable franchise tag option next year (TE tends to have the most value with so many low priced guys who bring down the average).  Olsen is by far the TE1 in PPR scoring with Reed in second.  Gronk is far down the list due to injury but if anything that might help you get him slightly cheaper.  Zach Miller, Kyle Rudolph and Travis Kelce are averaging 2-4 points per game less than Reed and 7-9 less than Olsen (I’m discounting Martellus Bennett whose 3 TD game buoys his stats and is unsustainable).  Five points or so most certainly will be a factor at some point for you in the playoff push.

Antonio Brown May Be Available in 2017

I was surprised to see Brown on this list.  In both of my RSO leagues he’s on a long term deal so part of me assumed that would be the case across the board.  If you’re doing poorly in 2016 and have an eye to 2017, check on Brown’s contract status.  If he’s franchised in your league, there is a chance he becomes available in free agency (unless of course the owner tags him again so take a look at their 2017 cap space and draft picks to determine if they can make it work) and you can pounce on him.  While others in your league are concentrating on 2016, offload some win-now players on multi-year contracts;  you’ll get picks in return and reduce their 2017 cap space to give you a better shot at the top free agents, including guys like Brown.

Don’t Franchise Tag Jordan Howard!

Granted, Howard was probably drafted in your rookie draft but the point is this: franchising a RB who succeeded as a rookie is a bad idea.  Sure you could end up like me, who used it on David Johnson, or you could end up like all of the Thomas Rawls owners.  Take a look at last year’s top ten rookie RBs in rushing yards if you need a reminder of how quickly the shine can fade:

  1. Todd Gurley
  2. Thomas Rawls
  3. TJ Yeldon
  4. Melvin Gordon
  5. Ameer Abdullah
  6. David Johnson
  7. Jeremy Langford
  8. Karlos Williams
  9. Buck Allen
  10. Matt Jones

At best, half of that list is not startable and a few are droppable.  If any of this year’s valuable rookie RBs are still available, by all means pick them up and ride them for all they are worth this season but don’t make the mistake of franchising them next year, even if they explode late in the season.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Most Frequently Franchised in ’16

Updated: October 17th 2016

Back in May, we took a look at the most frequently cut players in 2015 to learn some lessons in advance of our free agent auctions.  Now that we are in season, I thought it would be useful to look at which players were most frequently franchise tagged in 2016.  In my experience, Week 6 seems to be the time when struggling owners first commit to being a seller rather than a buyer for the rest of the season.  Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you can gain some valuable insight by looking at last year’s franchise tag trends.  I personally did this in my home RSO league – I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold onto him, so I sent my tagged David Johnson to the second place owner for Theo Riddick, a 2017 First and a 2018 Third.

Here’s the list of the top seven most frequently franchise tagged players for 2016 and my takeaways:

  1. Thomas Rawls
  2. Jordan Reed
  3. Rob Gronkowski
  4. Antonio Brown
  5. Tyler Eifert
  6. DEN Defense
  7. Greg Olsen

Make an Offer for a Top TE

Four of the top seven spots went to TEs which shouldn’t be a surprise as Reed, Gronk and Eifert are all injury risks while Olsen is getting up there in age – offering a multi-year deal to these guys is risky.  If you’re making a championship run, take a look at the TE position of your league’s worst teams.  If one of them is holding Olsen, Reed or Gronk, make the offer now without hesitation.  It will help you this year and gives you a viable franchise tag option next year (TE tends to have the most value with so many low priced guys who bring down the average).  Olsen is by far the TE1 in PPR scoring with Reed in second.  Gronk is far down the list due to injury but if anything that might help you get him slightly cheaper.  Zach Miller, Kyle Rudolph and Travis Kelce are averaging 2-4 points per game less than Reed and 7-9 less than Olsen (I’m discounting Martellus Bennett whose 3 TD game buoys his stats and is unsustainable).  Five points or so most certainly will be a factor at some point for you in the playoff push.

Antonio Brown May Be Available in 2017

I was surprised to see Brown on this list.  In both of my RSO leagues he’s on a long term deal so part of me assumed that would be the case across the board.  If you’re doing poorly in 2016 and have an eye to 2017, check on Brown’s contract status.  If he’s franchised in your league, there is a chance he becomes available in free agency (unless of course the owner tags him again so take a look at their 2017 cap space and draft picks to determine if they can make it work) and you can pounce on him.  While others in your league are concentrating on 2016, offload some win-now players on multi-year contracts;  you’ll get picks in return and reduce their 2017 cap space to give you a better shot at the top free agents, including guys like Brown.

Don’t Franchise Tag Jordan Howard!

Granted, Howard was probably drafted in your rookie draft but the point is this: franchising a RB who succeeded as a rookie is a bad idea.  Sure you could end up like me, who used it on David Johnson, or you could end up like all of the Thomas Rawls owners.  Take a look at last year’s top ten rookie RBs in rushing yards if you need a reminder of how quickly the shine can fade:

  1. Todd Gurley
  2. Thomas Rawls
  3. TJ Yeldon
  4. Melvin Gordon
  5. Ameer Abdullah
  6. David Johnson
  7. Jeremy Langford
  8. Karlos Williams
  9. Buck Allen
  10. Matt Jones

At best, half of that list is not startable and a few are droppable.  If any of this year’s valuable rookie RBs are still available, by all means pick them up and ride them for all they are worth this season but don’t make the mistake of franchising them next year, even if they explode late in the season.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper