2017 Top 25s: WRs and TEs

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!

If you missed part 1, I explored quarterbacks and running backs.

In part 2 of my 2017 Top 25s, I’ll finish by examining the wide receiver and tight end positions:


Top 25 WRs for 2017

While several of the top WRs didn’t pan out in 2016, I wouldn’t shy away from a WR-heavy strategy in 2017. The top 7 in my rankings have shown year-over-year consistency, which should ease the minds of those recently burned by Hopkins and Robinson. In 12 team leagues, I’d want to leave the auction with at least 3 WRs from this list. since the depth from 13 to 25 is much stronger at WR than it is at RB.


Top 25 TEs for 2017

In 2017, I plan to target Gronkowski, Kelce, and Reed with AAV (average annual values) over $10 million per season. If I strike out on the three of them, I’m likely to wait and select 1-2 TEs from the 9-18 range of my rankings and hope that one can turn into someone I’m comfortable starting on weekly basis.

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

Hold’em or Fold’em: Part 3

Updated: October 17th 2016

Fantasy football has to be one the most gut-wrenching hobbies to have. You can spend months studying, analyzing and preparing for the season and have it all over before the leaves start to turn. With the amount of injuries that have plagued some owners, there is a chance that even those who started off well may also be in selling mode. Seriously, if someone went into the season with the core of their team being Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Ameer Abdullah, Charles Sims, Sammy Watkins, Kennan Allen and Eric Decker one would say that they had a decent chance this season. Yikes!

Now that we have five weeks of football to gauge our team, we can look back at our rebuilding process for those that used my offseason rebuild article. For those who might be thinking about starting their rebuild this year, you can look to parts 1 and 2 on the basic fundamentals. In part three we are going to look at evaluating our team as it is right now and what to do with the rest of the 2016 season.

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Seasonal records are a hard stat to judge a fantasy team by since they have no way to defend their scores. One may have their best statistical output any given week only to have it be counted as an “L” due to what we will call the “Julio effect.” Therefore, looking at a team’s weekly points for and against will offer a greater understanding of who they really are. For teams that are 4-1 or 3-2, are you winning games against teams that are weaker? Are your points for significantly lower the other teams that have strong records? For teams that are 2-3 or 1-4, have you been playing against the weekly high scorers? Are your “points for” still competitive with the teams at the top of the standings? RSO has a great tool built right into the standings page to measure exactly how your team is against the rest of your league. If you go to Standings, then Breakdown, the site gives you an overall record against each opponent for every week. If you really want to have a record to brag about to your league mates then this is the one that you should be using. For instance, I am 3-2 in one of my leagues where I thought I had one of the strongest teams. When I look at the breakdown records it shows that against all opponents each week I have a 49-6 record as well as the highest points for. This indicates to me that I have had two games where my opponents had gangbuster weeks and I shouldn’t be concerned. You need to look at each of your teams as it pertains to the rest of its league and answer these questions before making any moves involving pushing ahead or selling the team this season.

How to Move Forward

Now that there is a guide for whether you are likely in or out this season you can start to plan ahead for the next 8-9 weeks before the playoffs. Let’s start with the contenders. If you are in- go ALL in. Find the good players on teams that are well behind the 8 ball and start making offers. Ideally, you would want to look for guys that are on one year/final season deals or ones that are older veterans and are not likely to be in that owner’s future plans. Don’t try and low ball them with players they won’t use. This won’t happen in an experienced league. Instead offer rookies, picks or longer contract players that will hold value into 2017. A perfectly reasonable starting point for a contending team to offer a rebuilder would be Derrick Henry and a 2017 1st for Le’Veon Bell.

For everyone else, look to the players that still have strong value in your line-up and start shopping them around. The worst thing is waiting until after the other rebuilders flood the market with usable talent to fill the needs of the few contenders. Or worse you could be waiting to see if you have a chance and then your player gets injured; not only crushing your chances of winning but also decreasing their value in a trade. In season is the best time to acquire picks because most owners are focused on winning, and they are willing to put future rewards on hold. While not the opposite of contenders, rebuilding owners should target: draft picks, injured/slumping players, and risk/reward contracts. Depending on the length of the rebuild or available cap space a fourth player to target would be the bad contract players.

Ultimately your goal for this season is to hold as many draft picks as possible, clear all cap space of players that hold their maximum trade value and acquire talent that might be useful in the next year or two. The big thing to take away from here is that when shopping players don’t ask for players that are a key part of that team’s starting line-up unless you are giving up something better. A great example would be to offer players that have already had their byes so the new owner can just plug-and-play them for the rest of the season. Meaning shares of Ryan Mathews, Jamaal Charles, Doug Baldwin, Jeremy Maclin, Eddie Lacy, and Drew Brees are easy selling points to a contender for a 2nd round pick and a project player.

Hopefully, I have helped lay the groundwork for what should be a busy month of buying and selling players. If you complete any big trades using this strategy make sure to tweet @RealitySportsOn to have yourself featured in our trades of the week. Also, if you have any questions about whether an offer is good enough make be sure to ask any of the RSO writers on their thoughts.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews


Updated: July 7th 2016

In the Zone

First off, I’d be remiss as someone born and raised in Cleveland to not talk about the first championship in 52 years as the Cleveland Cavaliers became part of history in coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors. Watching the final four and a half minutes of the game and seeing the Cavs hold the Warriors scoreless was very similar to my waiting out my semi-final playoff matchup in my main Reality Sports Online league last year. While that one didn’t go my way on the final play as I’ve written about before on a Drew Brees dumpoff to Tim Hightower, this one did and it was beyond my wildest expectations.

Outside of family events, this by far was the best event I’ve experienced and all the better that it was on Father’s Day as a I hit the floor in a sea of emotions when the buzzer sounded like I played in the game. In many ways I’m still celebrating this team as The Chasedown and The Three replace The Drive, The Fumble, The Blown Save, The Move. Suffice to say, I cannot wait until the championship gear we ordered shows up on my doorstep and am grateful to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Cavs for providing me the freedom to watch sports with no nervousness that the worst will happen going forward.

With that aside, it is time to talk a little bit about some wide receivers and tight ends that I like for 2016. I’ll stay away from the obvious names that may not be available in your auctions or will command top dollar. Writing articles like this are certainly bittersweet for me because I feel like I’m giving people in my leagues insight into potential targets of mine, but the beauty of Reality Sports Online marketplace pricing makes value fairly subjective. Before I jump in, one of the best in the business at dissecting wide receivers for fantasy football is NFL.com’s Matt Harmon through his Reception Perception series. If you are serious about contending in your league, Harmon’s strength is dissecting the route tree receivers run and the success and advanced metrics that support predictive analysis.

1) Tyler Lockett & Doug Baldwin, Wide Receivers, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Lockett did a little bit of everything last year for the Seahawks and when Russell Wilson started airing it out in Seattle in Week 11, Lockett became a serious threat as a receiver, including catching 30 of his 40 targets for 444 yards and five touchdowns in seven games. As Harmon pointed out in Reception Perception, the Seahawks love taking deep shots with Lockett as the “nine” route was the route that the Seahawks ran the most with Lockett in his sample. The Seahawks targeted Lockett two to three times a game down the stretch and while some of those lacked success, Wilson works tirelessly with his receivers in the offseason so you can expect Lockett to be the recipient of amplified targets based on his ability to beat different coverages with frequency.

In leagues that factor in return yardage, Lockett is even more valuable. My fellow league-mate and USA Today Network’s Ryan Bonini recently compared Lockett to Randall Cobb and I think he could be right in terms of his rookie to second year ascension.

Further, if you are one who thinks the Seahawks will turn into a ground and pound team again at the beginning of the season and are paying $20 million plus to Thomas Rawls in your leagues, you may want to rethink that decision based on Doug Baldwin’s recent four year, $46 million ($24 million guaranteed) extension.

To me, this contract extension signals the Seahawks transition to being a passing team. Drafting C.J. Prosise, who excels as a pass catching running back as a former college receiver shows that the team wants to surround Wilson with the full arsenal of aerial weapons, as well as highlights that they are not fully invested in Rawls, who is coming off a significant ankle injury after being an undrafted rookie success last season. Look, I’m not sending Rawls to Siberia; however, I think his sample size is still small enough that in spite of an astronomical yards per carry last season that the Seahawks don’t have much capital invested in him, which makes him a scary dynasty asset to predict (think C.J. Anderson last season).

Back to Baldwin. In the same post Game 11 stretch as Lockett, Baldwin amassed 40 receptions on 53 targets for 590 yards and 11 touchdowns. Talk about crazy efficiency, but also note that Baldwin went bananas in a four game stretch with multiple touchdowns in each of those in the midst of your fantasy football playoffs.

Those in the fantasy football community talk about regression frequently and those who don’t understand the term automatically associate it with something bad. However, it more refers to statistical deviation and performances regressing to a mean or average. Surely, Baldwin’s touchdowns should come down this year or get closer to his career averages (29 total touchdowns in five seasons); however, would you really complain if he scored eight touchdowns for your fantasy squad this year as a top 24 wideout?

Based on the Reality Sports Online data I’ve seen, it is likely that Baldwin is a free agent in your auction and while others pursue some bigger names like T.Y. Hilton and Keenan Allen, Baldwin figures to perform on a similar level for a boatload less money. Ride the continued perception of the Seahawks ground game to get their wideouts on the cheap.

2) Coby Fleener, Tight End, New Orleans Saints

For fantasy owners seeking a quote to bank on for getting a steal at the suddenly declining tight end position, “He’s Always Open” is hopefully not the “We’ll run him until he throws up” quote from yesteryear (C.J. Spiller on Buffalo). However, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees uttered these words recently about new free agent signing Coby Fleener after playing the NFC South last season and watching lots of film on Fleener.

Early returns are that Fleener’s getting open in practice too, for what’s that worth. It may not matter. When a tight end like Benjamin Watson has 74 receptions on 110 targets for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns at age 35, following Jimmy Graham’s run in New Orleans, it is clear that the system produces opportunities for tight ends. In Indy, Fleener was forced to block and was inconsistent without Andrew Luck.

If there were any doubts in how New Orleans values the position, Fleener’s 5 year, $36 million contract with $18 million guaranteed should quell those questions. Now, the only question becomes whether or not a player with a history of drops makes the most of always being open. To me, the smart money in your auction is to take the chance on Fleener on a one to two year deal around $5-6 million a year. Assuming health, your reward should be a Top 8 tight end with upside.

3) Daniel Braverman, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears

File this one in the rookie sleeper category, but Chicago’s Daniel Braverman is a slot wide receiver who shows an uncanny ability to get significant yards after the catch and catch the ball in traffic. If you aren’t aware of him, he left Western Michigan after his junior season in which he caught 108 balls for 1,367 yards with 13 touchdowns. The 5’10, 177 lb. Braverman runs a 4.47 40 yard dash and was a 7th round selection of the Chicago Bears.

His story is compelling as he grew up in South Florida playing with an incredible work ethic and a chip on his shoulder because he was often overlooked among 5 star recruits. Braverman is the protege of former NFL wideout and fellow Miami University alum Sly Johnson who has been his mentor since 7th grade in South Florida. You certainly want to root for a guy as a fantasy owner who has overcome his mother leaving Braverman and his father at a young age.

When you watch tape of Braverman like this game against Ohio State and you see plays that show a little bit of Golden Tate, a splash of Julian Edelman (perhaps it is the Jewish receiver connection), and some Cole Beasley. He shined in two games against top ten opponents Michigan State and Ohio State, finishing the former with 13 catches for 109 yards and the latter with 10 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, showing the ability to break free over the middle while running all sorts of routes. Braverman also handled some punts and kickoffs which would add to his fantasy value.

What makes Braverman attractive to me are the targets that exited with Martellus Bennett, as well as Marquess Wilson’s foot injury landing him on the PUP list to begin the season. Add in the fact that Eddie Royal is 30 years old and we all know what he brings, and this brings unique opportunity for Braverman who seems like the type of player that will work his way into playing time and then play well enough to never relinquish it. Word is he’s already seeing some snaps with the 1’s while Royal has been out.

For a price of a third round rookie pick or a flier multi-year deal in your free agency auction, there’s significant value to be had on Braverman and I’m all in on the Braverman Express.

Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter) and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally provided that reality! Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Ups and Downs of the RSO Playoffs

Updated: December 24th 2015


They say it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. To win Reality Sports Online league titles, it seems like you have to be a bit of both. Hit on your rookie draft picks, don’t spend big dollars on busts and get your multi-year deals right, don’t have player injuries and then have it all align in the playoffs.

So, after being in my main league for three years and the Writers League for two years, I can honestly say I haven’t won a championship and am still after that holy grail. As someone who is their own worst critic, and who writes strategy pieces for the website, that makes me feel like a little bit of a fraud. I know I’m beating myself up on this, but let me share my two league circumstances with you this year.

I welcome any of you who suffered a similar loss to Tweet me or contact me as some form of therapy. I have writing about this experience as my therapy, so let me be the one you vent to after reading this if you are in the same boat as me.

First, I’ll start with my Writers League with folks who I write with at Reality Sports Online and numberFire mainly (some have moved onto other sites like Rotoworld and ESPN). I finished 11-2 in the regular season with the highest scoring team by far. That earned me the #2 seed and a matchup against my friend @GrahamBarfield, the #3 seed in the league, while 12-1 #1 Seed @LeoHowell8 played upstart first-year owner and Baylor Law Professor and late summer league addition #4 seed (brought in via Twitter to compete against writers) @RoryRyan in the other playoff matchup.

Buoyed all season by a Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski stack, Devonta Freeman and Eric Decker, my team was stacked and I have most of these players (and Todd Gurley, Demaryius Thomas) for several more years. In round one however, I went into Monday Night Football with a 16 point lead and Graham having Lamar Miller remaining. Miller scored two touchdowns by halftime and my highest-scoring team in the league (and second highest among 10 teams that week) was toast.

On the other side, Howell, who has lost exactly two regular season games in two years in the league, put up a dud and lost to Ryan, who inherited one of the worst teams in the league mid-summer, was awarded T.Y. Hilton by the league on a two year, $40.0 million contract and left to his own devices to turn the rest around. He slid into the playoffs behind some good moves and then, wouldn’t you know it, won the whole thing while Howell and I put up very high totals in the third place game.

Rory Ryan Shocks the Writers League

Basically, Ryan capitalized on being healthy and opportunistic,  and a few solid moves. Here’s his summary of what lead to his success (in his words):

“As I looked around the locker room before the championship match, I decided we needed to do something unusual. We went around the room and introduced ourselves–as six of the ten starters were waiver-wire pickups. As I drove my family back from the Polar Express train ride during Monday’s finale, I kept getting SiriusXM updates that were good. Then better. Then — victory. To say the team I inherited was in “rebuilding mode” would be an understatement. But we were able to scrape out just enough wins and ride a whole lot of luck to the title. “

“Although (to quote Nuke Laloosh) “winning is like . . . so much better than losing,” the year was great either way. As I told folks on social media, it was fun playing against the guys whose advice I use when setting my lineups in other leagues. And the RSO format really does make even traditional dynasty leagues seem primitive. The contracts, waivers, salary cap, etc., make up the way fantasy ought to be played. “
“The opportunity to play this format against these guys was too much to pass up — despite my (formerly) firm rules against not playing in leagues with kickers, defenses (if I can help it), and true decimal scoring. But I’m still looking forward to next year, where hopefully my roster will be slightly more settled. “

“So what was my strategy? When I entered the auction, there were few (no) stars and plenty of money. So prices were inflated. I went after some grinders who I’d always feel OK inserting into the lineup: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, and Doug Martin (didn’t get him). But I spent little money. Instead, I saved most of my cap room, knowing that injuries and sleepers would emerge, and I would have the big bankroll. DeAngelo Williams, Danny Amendola, Antonio Gates, Dion Lewis, and Zach Miller all played important roles during the season.

“As for the future — we will see if my strategy works. Since there were no stars to lock down, I went after a group of guys who I thought were more talented than their projections, hoping that at least one of them ends up in an ideal situation. The prices are low enough that hitting 1/3 and cutting the other two will more than pay for itself in savings, despite the cap penalty, as I’ll avoid waiting for the player to demonstrate the market value. So, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith, and Markus Wheaton — please answer the phone if the Patriots call.”

A Rivalry Is Continued in Reality Sports Online

Let me set the stage for you a bit with some history. My best friend since our freshman year at Miami University, @MarkPesavento and I have been in fantasy football leagues together since 1996. He is my biggest rival and our fantasy matchups have quite a history of craziness as you can imagine for anyone playing against each other for that long. Since he works in sports and I don’t, there is an extra layer of who is the smarter football mind is between the two of us.

With that in mind, Mark and I left an ESPN keeper league a few years ago in search of something bigger, something more challenging that was fully customizable. As part of his work at the time, he discovered Reality Sports Online and we’ve been hooked ever since. Together we are co-commissioners of the Not Quite Gentlemen’s League, a super-customized PPR league with 12 teams and lineups consisting of only one required running back, three flex positions, and where turnovers are heavily punished (-5 points for interceptions, fumbles) and the 5th and 6th playoff seeds are determined solely based on total points scored.
RSO Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office Stephen Wendell is now in our league too, which adds to the competitiveness. Pesavento finished first overall at 11-2 with the highest point total (he won the league in 2014), newcomer Wendell finished 9-5 and was the #2 seed. I was the second highest scoring team, but finished 7-6 and got the #5 overall seed.

My high-scoring team proved no fluke in the opening round of the playoffs, winning 321.54-179.99 and a Week 15 rematch with Pesavento, who I was 0-2 against on the season, loomed.

Setting the Stage-Week 12

First, though, let me take you back to Week 12 where Pesavento and I squared off in an epic battle. He staked to an early lead behind Odell Beckham Jr., Philip Rivers, and Spencer Ware that seemed insurmountable at the time. Then late in the late games, my quarterback Russell Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for an 80 yard touchdown, en route to a 72 point fantasy performance.

I was close going into the Sunday night game where I had Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots DST to his Broncos DST. Behind a Gronk touchdown and subsequent Gronk-spike and an inteception by the Patriots D, I staked out to a fairly decent lead (like 20 points). As the clock turned to the 4th quarter, I instant messaged Pesavento saying this game seems like it is over.

And then the collapse happened. The Patriots muffed a punt, Denver’s running game started picking up steam and the Patriots were bleeding out yardage allowed and points scored. The game was getting much closer. All I needed was another Gronk catch and I’d be fine.

Then Gronk got called for offensive pass interference on a big catch that was nullified. A few plays later, then he was carted off with a knee injury. So my happiness of likely winning the game turned into losing my key league advantage (and someone I’d like to franchise tag on a good deal for 2016) for the season, and potentially this game as well.

The Broncos scored to take the lead and all I then needed (while I was frantically worried about Gronk’s health for the rest of the season) was the game not to go to overtime. Well, we all know Stephen Gostkowski is fantasy gold and the game went to overtime. In overtime, as long as the Broncos didn’t score a touchdown, I’d win.

I think you know the rest. C.J. Anderson scored on a 48 yard touchdown scamper to end the game and Pesavento beat me by .25 points, continuing a series of close calls in recent match-ups.

The Worst Possible Way To Lose?

Heading into the Week 15 playoff matchup of the two highest scoring teams in the league, Pesavento was favored, yet he had some of his best players with tough matchups (Beckham Jr vs CAR, Antonio Brown vs. DEN DST, DEN DST at PIT) while mine on paper seemed favorable (A.J. Green @SF, Wilson vs. CLE, Devonta Freeman @JAX, Gronkowski vs. TEN, NE DST vs. TEN).

I staked out to a decent lead as Beckham Jr. didn’t have any catches through three well-documented quarters vs. shutdown corner Josh Norman. While I was watching on the NFL Game Mix (8 games at once on a not so-huge TV on DirecTV), I noticed that things were getting super chippy and was waiting for OBJ to get ejected by referee Terry McAulay’s crew for the punches thrown and the cheap shots.

I usually don’t get “holier than though” watching football, but by the time the Giants started their comeback and OBJ started racking up fantasy points I was on my high-horse and stark-raving mad that Beckham Jr. hadn’t been tossed. Heck, I’ve been tossed from rec-league basketball games for way less.

However, his Alshon Jeffery only had one catch for 10 yards and a touchdown, my Patriots DST had a good game and I was hanging in with him heading into Wilson’s huge matchup against my hometown Browns. Knowing that Wilson was hot and the Browns defense is porous, I knew Russ would deliver for me.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Brown scoring 70 points against his Broncos DST. So as the Steelers/Broncos game wore down and I was hoping the Broncos would give up more points, I was hoping that another player would score the final touchdown of this game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and when Ben Roethlisberger threw an egregious interception on a terrible pass to his Denver defense right before the two minute warning that I coined the “Class of 1998 Miami University Fantasy Football Scholarship”, I knew that 5 points for the Broncos would loom large.

And as Brown caught another ball, I found myself down 15 points heading into Monday Night Football where it was my Golden Tate vs. his Tim Hightower for the right to survive and advance. Tate was coming off his best game of the season and was facing the porous Saints secondary. Hightower was coming off a solid game. Game flow seemed to favor Tate, but I figured the 15 points would loom too large for Tate to overcome.
As the game started and Tate scored two early touchdowns I found myself up in the game. Hightower scored right before half, but the play was called back on a lineman failing to report. The two of us went crazy over IM the remainder of the game.

At one point, unsolicited my wife and 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter started chanting “Golden Tate, Golden Tate!” pleading for him to get the ball when the Lions were on offense. It was super cute to see my daughter who talks but doesn’t know too many words saying this.

I was clinging to a slight lead and game flow took Hightower out of the game mostly. As I watched the Lions fumble away a few possessions that Tate could’ve had opportunities and the Lions DST unable to force punts to Tate as the returner (we get punt return yards for individual players in our league), I knew this was going to come down to the wire.

With five minutes left and me clinging to an ironic .26 point lead (basically the Week 12 margin of defeat), I paced around knowing that if Hightower got one more carry I would lose. I made it basically to the end of the game where the Lions were running out the clock unscathed. Alas, they didn’t have the ability to run off the entire clock and in came Matt Prater to kick a chip-shot field goal to end the game. Prater then missed, and I knew anything could happen.

The Saints had a few plays left and surely would be setting up for a Hail Mary after gaining a little bit of yardage. Initially seeing C.J. Spiller as the receiving back in the game, I figured I was fine. On a play with 14 seconds left, Drew Brees looked and pump faked at Hightower, but threw elsewhere. With six seconds left to go, folks in my league (including Pesavento) were congratulating me on the win.

Talk about Dewey vs. Truman. The last play should have been a Hail Mary. Instead, Brees decided to pad his completion percentage and throw a dump-off to Hightower. The yardage didn’t matter-I had lost after overcoming a deficit, in another crushing close defeat to Pesavento. Again on the last play of the game.
I wish this writing was fiction and not fact. I had seemingly overcome some poor performances by Green, T.Y. Hilton (who I started over Danny Woodhead based on recent history, Matt Hasselback starting, and Hilton’s history against Houston). I think back to all the dynamics of the matchup- Beckham not getting ejected and missing a for sure deep touchdown early in the game, two straight fade routes to Gronk in the end zone late in the Patriots/Titans game that came up just short, pass interference calls covering my Randall Cobb in the end zone, the Broncos late interception, and finally Hightower’s catch with the Saints down 8 points on the last play of the last game of the week, and I realize that the Reality Sports Online holy grail is a temptress. I easily could have lost by 50 points, won by 20 points or won by .26 points, but instead I lost by a few points and now wish Pesavento good luck in the finals (without Beckham and potentially Jeffery) while I play Wendell for third-place this week.

Only a combination of luck, health, and solid roster moves will result in winning this thing and I hope that my championship window with the same core I have locked up through 2016 will bring me better results next year. There’s always next year.

Please feel free to reach out to me with similar stories, start/sit questions for your big week 16 championship, or to call me a fraud via Twitter @Mattgoody2.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

More Time For Some Auction (Rankings 26-50)

Updated: July 3rd 2014

You’ve now read my piece about my Top 25 ranked free agents going into the 2014 season.  Now let’s take a look at my 26-50 Free Agent Rankings.  These picks reflect overall rankings and suggested contract values for those players, a lot of which I’m recommending on one year deals:

Rank Player POS % Owned Rec Contract Value
26 Lance Dunbar RB 1% 2yrs, $8m
27 Ben Tate RB 49% 2yrs, $10m
28 Ryan Tannehill QB 26% 3yrs, $15m
29 Donald Brown RB 3% 2yrs, $12m
30 Reggie Wayne WR 31% 1yr, $5m
31 Greg Jennings WR 31% 1yr, $5m
32 Jay Cutler QB 15% 2yrs, $11m
33 Greg Olsen TE 27% 1yr, $6m
34 Ben Roethlisberger QB 11% 1yr, $6m
35 Carson Palmer QB 11% 1yr, $2m
36 Eli Manning QB 41% 2yrs, $11m
37 Ladarius Green TE 0% 2yrs, $12m
38 Danny Woodhead RB 9% 1yr, $7m
39 Ronnie Hillman RB 14% 2yrs, $8m
40 Marvin Jones WR 1% 3yrs, $17m
41 Bryce Brown RB 32% 2yrs, $10m
42 Jarrett Boykin WR 1% 1yr, $5m
43 Cecil Shorts III WR 38% 1yr, $7m
44 Alex Smith QB 18% 1yr, $4m
45 Knowshon Moreno RB 5% 1yr, $4m
46 Brian Hartline WR 9% 1yrs, $4m
47 Golden Tate WR 14% 1yrs, $6m
48 Kenny Stills WR 47% 1yr, $3m
49 Heath Miller TE 4% 1yr, $4m
50 Doug Baldwin WR 0% 2yrs, $8m

26.  Lance Dunbar, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Scott Linehan is the new Offensive Coordinator in the Big D.  That essentially makes Dunbar the Darren Sproles/Joique Bell type in Dallas.  Add in the fact that DeMarco Murray is injury prone and in a contract year, while Dunbar is a restricted free agent in 2015, and Dunbar’s outlook is pretty awesome.  He can play in the slot and be a great PPR option or flex play as well.  Love his upside.

27. Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns

When he was signed by the Browns, most people were way more excited about Tate’s prospects. Then he sat out OTAs and Terrance West was picked in the third round by the Browns.  Tate could have been sitting out as a precaution as new OC Kyle Shanahan likes to lean on a “bell-cow” type running back as no #2 back in Shanahan’s system has had 100 or more carries.  Head coach Mike Pettine recently mentioned a running back by committee and West does have serious upside both this year and in dynasty.  Still, if Tate can stay healthy, he figures to get plenty of run on a team that is more than committed to it in 2014. He’s on a two year deal with the Browns, so in spite of the fact that Tate is 25, he’s a banged-up 25 and shouldn’t get more than two years from any RSO owner in the Free Agent Auction.

28. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins

Bill Lazor was brought in as OC from Philadelphia to spice up the Dolphins offense, which was pass heavy in 2013.  The offensive pace figures to pick up immensely, which should limit the league leading 58 sacks Tannehill suffered last year and result in more deep balls thrown.  2014 is a critical year for Tannehill to make the leap to the first round quarterback that he was drafted to be and a lot of money and draft picks were spent to improve the offensive line this year, which should only help after last year’s mess.

29. Donald Brown, RB, San Diego Chargers

It was quite puzzling that Brown decided on the Chargers crowded backfield when he was coming off a very solid season.  The Chargers want to keep Ryan Mathews healthy in 2014, so Brown may get more carries to keep Mathews’ quality high.  These carries probably come at the expense of Danny Woodhead, who factors in more as a pass catcher.  Brown’s real value will be in 2015 when both Mathews and Woodhead are free agents.  Given the reduced value of starting running backs these days and the contract that Brown signed, he could be the Chargers starter in 2014 or more likely, 2015.  There’s value in that.

30. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts

No player seems to defy age lately more than Reggie Wayne.  Make no mistake, he is still one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets on a good offense.  He works incredibly hard and still has some gas in the tank.  He’s certainly worth a one year deal and should still produce around 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards.

31. Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Nobody was happier that Matt Cassel was coming back as the potential starter in Minnesota more than Jennings who had his better games with Cassel at the helm.  He had 68 catches for 804 yards and 4 TD’s in 2013, which was a down year, especially when Christian Ponder was at the helm.  In Week 15 last season, Jennings showed he still has serious talent with an 11 catch, 163 yard performance with a touchdown.  With new OC Norv Turner in the fray, Cordarrelle Patterson is viewed as the #1 wide receiver, but Jennings figures to be involved plenty.  He’s still making big money, so look for the Vikings to keep him involved.

32. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

By virtue of having one of the best wide receiving tandems in the NFL in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and an offensive mastermind for a head coach in Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler is a serious upside play for the next few years in fantasy football.    If he can remain healthy, he has Top 5 fantasy points potential at a seriously reduced cost.  Definitely target him if you are coming into your auction without a QB as a “Late Round QB”, but make sure you don’t overpay in dollars, and especially in years.

33. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

One of the better tight ends in the NFL and now part of Carolina’s depleted receiving corps.  Olsen had a solid 2013 with 73 catches for 816 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Cam Newton definitely looks his way frequently.  If need be, he’s a Panther for a few more years and you could up the years, but as my rankings reflect, there are lots of options at tight end, so don’t overpay.

34. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Big Ben seems to be getting up to speed in OC Todd Haley’s offense.  He has a good deal of options on offense, headlined by Antonio Brown, complimented by a solid running attack with Le’Veon Bell and free agent signing LeGarrette Blount. Roethlisberger remains a QB2 with upside and definitely worth a look as a backup or spot starter, with the potential to be more.

35. Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Similar to Cutler’s situation in terms of offensive weapons and a Head Coach in Bruce Arians that is an offensive genius.  If Palmer gets improved offensive line play with the additions of Jared Veldheer and getting Jonathan Cooper back from injury, he figures to reduce the high amount of sacks he took last year and 22 interceptions which loomed large.  As mentioned in my 1-25 rankings, Michael Floyd is a star in the making and Larry Fitzgerald remains a top option and the coaching staff is comparing rookie John Brown to T.Y. Hilton.  All of these things make Palmer a very attractive cheap option.

36. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

Every few years Manning seems to make himself fantasy relevant again.  Manning has good receiving weapons and finally an offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo (formerly of Green Bay) that figures to open things up a bit.  Look for a bounceback in 2014 and consider the younger Manning brother a potential value this fantasy season.

37. Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers

After coming on strong at the end of 2013, Green seems to be the heir apparent to Antonio Gates in San Diego.  He shows the ability to make plays that nobody else on the team can and is improving his route running as well.  You probably want to speculate and lock Green up for two years to not miss out on this season’s Julius Thomas at the tight end position, who could also double as the #2 passing option in San Diego behind Keenan Allen.

38. Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers

I personally love Woodhead.  He had over 100 carries last season and was a Top 20 fantasy running back, especially in PPR leagues.  He does all the little things and is quite effective despite his size.  The addition of Donald Brown certainly crowds the rushing attempts, so I’m thinking Woodhead will revert more to a third-down back type in 2014.  As such and given that he’s a free agent following the season, I’d stick to a reasonable one year deal for Woodhead.

39. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos

Hillman once was the starter in Denver and then his fumbling issues caused him to lose his job to Knowshon Moreno, who had a career year.  Hillman still has impressive edge speed and is only 23 years old, so if he can shore up his fumbling issues, he could still get a good run in Denver’s offense behind Montee Ball and potentially emerge as the pass-catching back for the Broncos too.  C.J. Anderson stands in his way as the #2 running back position is an offseason battle to pay attention to.

40. Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Any wide receiver with 10 touchdowns and 4 in the same game that isn’t named James Jones is always on my radar.  Marvin Jones is penciled in as the Bengals #2 starter opposite A.J. Green, one of the top wideouts in the NFL.  He’s only 24 years old and is signed through 2016 and has prototypical height and speed.  Jones also had 8 catches for 130 yards in a playoff loss to San Diego and has proven himself to be able to get open down the field.  A nice multi-year play.

41. Bryce Brown, RB, Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills traded for Brown on draft day more with 2015 in mind as both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are free agents after the 2014 season.  Brown flashes serious upside and did perform well in 2012 in Philadelphia when Lesean McCoy missed time with a serious concussion.  Brown does have some ball control issues, but has significant talent that is worth the risk.  Don’t expect too much for 2014, but remember he is behind two running backs who have a history of getting injured.

42. Jarrett Boykin, WR, Green Bay Packers

Filled in admirably in 2013 when the Packers experienced injuries to their receiving corps, as well as when Aaron Rodgers went down.  Boykin moves to the outside this season, but faces stiff competition from rookie Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are free agents after the season, but at least one figures to be back.  Don’t overdo it on Boykin, but if he’s around late in your auction, jump on him.

43. Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Shorts is a 2015 free agent and operates out of the slot.  He’s a PPR machine and should be better now that the Blaine Gabbert experiment is over in Jacksonville.    While the Jaguars did draft two wideouts early in the draft, there should be enough balls to go around for Shorts to be effective.

44. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith is more of a game manager, but was a solid fantasy QB in 2013.   He had 23 TD’s and only 7 interceptions in 2013 and fares fairly well as a running QB.  The Chiefs schedule gets tougher in 2014, so figure that Smith will have to throw it more.

45. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins

In spite of a career year in Denver after numerous injury-riddled ones, the Broncos opted not to keep Moreno.  He is very effective as a pass blocker and pass catcher and feasted as a runner when Peyton Manning smartly audibled against 6 or less man fronts.  Just had arthroscopic knee surgery, but should be ready by training camp.  Unfortunately this injury, plus being out of shape has led to Lamar Miller gaining a potential edge as the starter on an Eagles type fast paced offense in 2014.  Definitely not worth a multi-year deal due to injuries and timeshare, but after last season’s breakthrough where he essentially was a Top 5 running back, in spite of being picked near the end of auctions, one has to consider Moreno for their team.

46. Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins

The pillar of consistency from a receiving standpoint the last two years.  Hartline has had 76 and 74 catches, respectively the past two seasons combined with two straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons.  Hartline did have a PCL injury late in 2013, but figures to be ready by the start of camp.  Not a touchdown maker, but very solid, albeit in a quiet way.

47. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions

Turned a career year in Seattle and a Super Bowl ring into a big free agent contract to be the #2 wideout opposite of Calvin Johnson in Detroit.  Lots of balls to go around for QB Matthew Stafford.  Tate also may be used in the return game if your league rewards that.  Expect similar statistics to 2013.

48. Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints

The deep threat in New Orleans who should get more looks with Lance Moore gone and Marques Colston getting older.  In fact, Drew Brees’ QBR was the highest in the league when passing to Stills.  He had 5 TD’s and averaged 20 yards a catch.  Definite upside-the question is how the targets will be split between Stills and rookie first round pick Brandin Cooks, even if Cooks plays in the slot.

49. Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Don’t be fooled by Antonio Brown’s spike in touchdowns and Heath Miller’s mere one TD last year.  Miller is Big Ben’s security blanket, especially in the red zone.  He’s fully recovered from the late 2012 knee injury and is signed for a few more years.  In a season with tight ends a plenty, Miller is a nice sleeper and good fill-in for Rob Gronkowski if Gronk misses time to start 2014.  Catches good volume and 800 yards and 6 TD’s are definitely within reason.

50. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

One of the most efficient wide receivers in the NFL.  Baldwin excelled in the Super Bowl and will a spot on the outside as the “X” receiver.  The Seahawks seem like they will keep teams guessing on defense this season, so Russell Wilson may look down the field more and rely less on the power running game this season. Baldwin has good hands and is one of the better route runners in the league.  He recently signed a 3 year, $13m contract, so don’t be afraid to offer him more than a year if need be.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin