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.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2020 RSO Writer’s League Rookie Draft

Updated: May 13th 2020

Rookie drafts for Reality Sports Online teams involve a number of considerations different than a normal dynasty league.  Selected rookies are typically given three or four year contracts at, hopefully, a below market contract.  RSO GMs then have the option of extending a player with franchise tags, extensions, or final year options (depending on the chosen settings in your league) which usually are near or above market value for a given player.  This makes the initial rookie contract years potentially extremely valuable and the real measure of worth for a rookie player.

The RSO Writer’s League recently finished our three round rookie draft with results posted below. The league is a 10-team Superflex PPR format.  This article analyzes some of the interesting decisions with the help of fellow RSO Writer Nick Andrews and Matt Goodwin plus discussion throughout the league.  It focuses more on team-building, draft strategy, and trades rather than player evaluation.  The reader may find more specific player analysis in the pre-draft Writer’s League Mock (1QB).

 

2020 RSO Writer’s League Rookie Draft

Notes on Selected Picks

1.01, Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Nick:  For a rebuilding team it was the intent to trade down a couple spots and try and accumulate more talent. Unfortunately, trade partners were tough to come by as other owners felt the same way. The thought of having Clyde Edwards-Helaire and building around a stud running back was a hard option to pass on but when the cupboard is bare I tend to lean towards the QB in Superflex. Joe Burrow is a solid prospect and as long as the Bengals don’t ruin him he should be a valuable dynasty asset for multiple years. With the new resign feature also available, if Burrow becomes an elite player it is great to have control of a quarterback for a whole decade.

1.06, D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions & 1.07, Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

Bernard:  No wide receivers have been drafted at this point.  Lamb and Jeudy were definitely in play here for me.  I went with the running backs for a couple of key reasons.  Swift and Akers were the last of the running backs in my tier with “three down” workload potential and capabilities that I felt fairly comfortable with.  Conversely, I felt confident of obtaining quality wide receiver prospects later in the draft given the depth of this wide receiver class. League free agency also played a big role in this decision.  The free agent running back position is a dumpster fire in this league with Melvin Gordon and Raheem Mostert the likely top –two options.  Available free agent wide receivers look far better and deeper including Mike Evans, Allen Robinson, Odell Beckham Jr., Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp.  My team possesses the second-highest amount of cap space ensuring I should be able to land one or two quality wide receiver options in free agency.

2.03, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Nick:  Taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn early in the second round will be a regular in rookie drafts this offseason but I think this is a slight overvalue. In other drafts I have seen Vaughn creeping into the late first round which is even more of an egregious act. While being drafted to the Buccaneers is considered a bonus, I don’t consider it enough to take Vaughn over other better talent, some in equally valuable landing spots. Receivers going after him such as Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, and Brandon Aiyuk may not become immediate fantasy players but I can see their value being more in two or three years.

2.06, AJ Dillion, Green Bay & 3.01, Zach Moss, Buffalo Bills

Nick:  Several veteran running backs are likely to see their value drop due to incoming rookies but there are also a couple rookies who are being valued less due to their being a strong veteran ahead of them. Two examples of this are A.J. Dillion behind Aaron Jones in Green Bay and Zach Moss behind Devin Singletary in Buffalo. Few offenses feature a single running back as the ball carrier that is on the field for eighty percent of the plays anymore. Niche skillsets and fresh legs along with the devaluing (contract wise) of the position has allowed for multiple running backs to have fantasy value for many teams in the current NFL. Sean McDermott looks to build a complimentary backfield and over the last two seasons the ratio of carries has been 166:155 and 161:115. Dillion may need to wait a year before his path to touches is clearer but Moss should be a compliment to Singletary right away and will have his weeks of fantasy relevance.

3.02, Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers

Nick:  Brandon Aiyuk is a player that seems to be getting similar treatment in 2020 as Marquise “Hollywood” Brown did in 2019, a receiver drafted in the first round of the NFL draft but isn’t receiving the same value in fantasy community. Aiyuk is currently the 15th ranked rookie on DLF in standard leagues and 17th in Superflex but he is regularly going later in actual drafts, as seen here. Eventually, the value of a player that you may not have been interested in becomes a bargain and he just has to be drafted. Only in a draft this deep could a first round receiver fall this far in a rookie draft. While I wouldn’t trade up to get him, if you are sitting there at the end of the second round or early third he is a steal that you can stash on your team.

3.04, Jordan Love, Green Bay

Bernard:  The Love scenario will, undoubtedly, perplex RSO GMs this offseason.  How much of his RSO rookie contract does he actually play, if any?  I believe Love likely plays no later than year three.  Green Bay not only took Love in the first round but traded up to make sure they got him.  The Packers save cap space as early as 2021 trading Rodgers who should still have considerable trade value.  We should also remember Aaron is entering his age-37 season.  Not every quarterback plays into their 40s despite what Tom Brady and Drew Brees have done.  At this stage of the draft, Love’s voluminous arm-talent gives high-upside value at near no-risk cost.

Matt Goodwin’s Takes on the Draft

Immediately following the NFL draft Day 2, I realized at 1.05 that I was likely not going to get a QB I was excited about in the rookie draft (I’m just not sold on Herbert playing behind what was an amazing OL at Oregon and his lack of production there). Anyways, this being Superflex, I traded my 1.05 pick and two 2021 1sts for a combination of later draft picks and Russell Wilson on a $22M a year average. I remain very high on Lamb, but I didn’t think 1.05 was where I should nab either him or JK Dobbins prior to making a trade, the top players on my board there.

I tried to trade D.J. Chark on a third round rookie deal when seeing that Lamb was available at 1.08 and 1.09, but others believed in the value at that point and said, “fair offer, but no”. Totally understandable as the upsides of Lamb and Jeudy are pretty enticing.

With only picks 3.01 and 3.02 heading into the draft (I had traded 3.08 for Matt Breida on day 3 of the NFL Draft), I had my heart set on trading up to the mid-second round to draft Michael Pittman Jr. I was able to do that with Bernard by packaging 3.02 and a future pick for 2.05. WR is a big need of mine and I believe Frank Reich when he professes his love for Pittman, who should get serious run from day one and even more if T.Y. Hilton leaves as a free agent following this season.

At 3.01, I was on deck and hoping that Laviska Shenault, the playmaking WR from Colorado would last until my pick. However, defending champion Jaron Foster is a savvy GM and picked Shenault right before my pick at 2.10. I then grabbed Zack Moss and I think he’ll be in a timeshare at worst in Buffalo and love the value at a scarce position in our league at 3.01 and especially behind AJ Dillon who went earlier. Post draft I was able to grab Shenault and assume Tyrod Taylor’s salary by trading Nick Foles to Jaron in a rare three way trade in which my podcast co-host Luke Patrick was looking to shed salary.

So in the end, my draft ended up being Russell Wilson, Pittman Jr., Shenault, and Zack Moss in 30 total picks. I was able to get back a perceived high second round pick in 2021 for trading my two firsts which figure to be playoff teams if everything goes as planned. So all in all, a fun draft where everyone made picks and got involved.

Biggest values in draft: Lamb, Jeudy, Higgins, Shenault, Moss

Pick I’m least sure about: Cam Akers where he went and Vaughn’s role in Tampa Bay if he can’t pass protect for Brady

Late flier: Eason was practically free at end of draft and I do think he’ll succeed Rivers at some point before Love takes over for Rodgers

Notes on my Trades

Send 1.04 for 1.07 and 2.05

My top choices at 1.04 included Tua and Dobbins while Akers and Swift filled out this second tier for me.  I needed significant talent added to my roster with Gurley, Tyreek Hill and Courtland Sutton as my only notable starters at RB/WR.  I had a strong feeling @FantasyDocOC was probably looking at Tua here.  He dumped a lot of cap space and talent in what looks like the start of a re-tooling effort this offseason. Many people have a big tier drop at quarterback after Tua which makes the move very understandable.    In the end, I move back to get another mid-second round pick in this incredibly deep wide receiver class.

Send 2.05 for 3.02 and 2022 2nd

Unfortunately Jaelen Raegor, my first choice, went one pick before.   This spot started another tier of players for me, a wide grouping primarily composed of wide receivers.  One primary lesson for any fantasy draft is to never pick at the start of your tier if one can feasibly trade back and remain in that tier or trade up into a higher tier.  Another note: the depth of talent in this rookie class made extracting what would normally be considered fair trade value difficult.  This is not a trade I would have accepted in many other years but was OK with it in this particular season.

Send Darrell Henderson for 3.04 and 3.06

This move may seem odd to some considering I drafted Akers earlier.  Two 3rds also doesn’t seem like much value for a player drafted as high as mid-first territory as the season approached last year.  I don’t see Henderson as a direct backup or potential lead back, but more of a change-of-pace / situational player who likely splits work even if the lead back were to be injured.  The potential upside of Love, at a 3rd round contract price, was well worth Henderson to me.   The uber-productive Edwards placed a nice cherry on top.

Effective draft day trade tally:  Sent Tua and Darrell Henderson for Cam Akers, Brandon Aiyuk, Jordan Love, Bryan Edwards, and 2022 2nd.


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

The Watch List: 2019 Mountain West Season Preview

Updated: July 14th 2019

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Spring and Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Storylines to Watch

Heisman Contender: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State.  Love has the ingredients needed for my mid-major Heisman recipe: efficiency, lots of points and a strong non-conference schedule.  The Aggies, led by Love, will score a lot — they led the MWC in points per game by more than twelve points (47.5).  So, I expect them to be competitive in non-con games against Wake Forest, LSU and BYU.  If Love eclipses 4,000+ passing yards, 40+ total TDs and bags two upsets, he’ll earn a few Heisman votes, a la McKenzie Milton in 2017.

Underclassman to Watch: Toa Taua, RB, Nevada.  Taua started the season as a true freshman role player for the Wolfpack but by mid-season he had earned a larger share of the carries.  He ultimately led the team in rushing with 872 yards and added six scores.  He has an interesting body shape at 5080/220 and an even more interesting following on YouTube.  The video titles I found when searching for him included “The Greatest 12 Year Old Football Player” and “The Most Savage High School Player I Have Ever Seen” and “This Kid is Like Troy Polamalu at Running Back.”  After my short exposure to his highlights, I have to agree.  He’s thick, nigh impossible to arm tackle and has deceiving long speed.  He also deploys subtle, but smart, cuts that allow him to find creases or get out of trouble at the line of scrimmage.  I can’t wait to see the YouTube titles after he blows up the Mountain West in 2019.

Newcomer of the Year: Hank Bachmeier, QB, Boise State.  Bachmeier, a 4-star recruit, joins the Broncos at the perfect time as longtime starter Brett Rypien has graduated.  Bachmeier is labeled as a pro-style quarterback by the recruiting services but he looks like a plus athlete who was too much to handle for high school defenses.  He throws well on the move and spins the deep ball.  I only watched a few minutes of Hudl highlights but I’m already drinking the Kool-Aid and hope Bachmeier gets a chance to start as a true freshman.

Coaching Carousel: Gary Andersen returns to Logan this season to lead Utah State once again.  Andersen left the Aggies in 2012, after earning the school’s first-ever double digit win season (11-2), and has had a rocky few years since.  First, he took the Wisconsin job and led the Badgers to a 19-7 record.  Andersen then unexpectedly took the Oregon State job and was fired mid-way through 2017 after two and a half unsuccessful seasons.  He returns to Utah State and it sounds like neither he nor the fans could forget his initial tenure.  A profile of Andersen in the Salt Lake Tribune makes it clear that Andersen never really left Logan and is content to be back.  It’s fitting that he takes over after the school’s second-ever 11-2 season — he’ll get the chance to see if he can push the team to a twelfth win, something he missed out on last time.

Players to Watch

Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

There was no sophomore slump for Jordan Love in 2018.  In fact, he led the MWC in efficiency and scored 39 total TDs.  In 2019, he’ll be hoping to continue his upward trend and impress NFL scouts enough to come out for the 2020 NFL Draft.  Love checks in at 6040/225 which, historically, is a prototypical build (think: Josh Rosen).  What separates Love from other players in the same size range is that he’s not solely a pocket passer.  Love’s career rushing stats aren’t gaudy, 228-9, but he is an effective short yardage running threat.  I knew I’d have to watch for that when reviewing his film.  I also wanted to get a feel for Love’s arm and awareness.  Let’s get into my observations.

I’ll start by saying that Love is tough as nails.  I watched him against Michigan State and you see it on nearly every play.  The Spartan defense was coming at him and he kept getting up.  When that pressure was in his face, Love did make some poor decisions so improved pocket presence will be important for him (granted, it was the first game of the season so he likely improved already).  Those poor decisions turned into various negative plays — sacks, interceptions, intentional grounding, near fumbles — that could have been avoided.  Yeah, I know, easy for me to say from my couch.  I know Love has the ability to read the game situation and make a positive play, I just want to see him accomplish it more often.  Take these two plays, for example.  In the first, you’ll see Love deliver a strike to his receiver on a 3rd and 7 late in the game with just one second left on the play clock.  The defense, trying to capitalize on the stressful situation, shows blitz but drops into a zone to confuse Love.  He throws to his first read and it turns into a first down.

The second example of Love being able to manage a difficult moment came on the very next play.  Unrattled, he sees the defense trying to make a sub and rushes the snap.  He catches the defense offside and earns a free play with the flag.  That’s a veteran move uncommon for underclassmen.

The Aggies primarily run a quick-hitting passing offense that relies on screens and quick patterns.  That suits Love who has a quick release, which you can see in the first play above.  Love also shows a malleable throwing motion which can be both a blessing and a curse.  It allows him to flexibly get the ball to his receiver when under pressure, but it also causes him to be complacent and short-arm some deep passes.  In a play early against Michigan State, Love comes over the top with his motion to avoid a rusher right in front of him and to ensure a downward trajectory on the ball for his crossing receiver.  It’s hard to see that in gif form but this alternate play better shows Love compacting his motion so he can dump the ball to his running back before the defender gets to him.

Love is a productive runner in short yardage and red zone situations.  He has enough speed to get upfield and has a predictable but useful juke move.  He’s also not afraid to take some contact to get the first or the touchdown.  This play from Michigan State was probably the best illustration of his rushing ability, even though it ended short of the goal line.

I’ll leave you with one of the prettiest passes Love completed in last season’s opener.  He puts his mobility to use as he rolls right and delivers a wonderfully weighted and placed pass over the leaping defender and ahead of his oncoming receiver.  That’s an NFL-quality throw.

I dove deeper into Jordan Love than anticipated because I saw that he has the raw talent to be a future NFL passer.  With some more experience and seasoning, he will be worthy of Day Two consideration in a top-heavy quarterback class.

Jared Rice, TE, Fresno State

I had not heard of Jared Rice before I started my Mountain West research but his 55-664-3 line caught my eye.  He measures in at 6050/238 and has a lanky body type that screams “new age tight end.”  In his sophomore season, Rice averaged 17.6 yards per catch on 22 receptions.  That average came down in 2018 to 12.1, which is okay but hopefully he can split the difference in 2019.  I was only able to watch a very limited sample of Rice — individual plays from Fresno State highlight reels — but what I saw impressed me so I wanted to feature him.

Given his body type and statistics, you’d expect Rice to be a threat in the passing game.  And he is.  Rice appears to be an above average route runner for his age and position.  He excels on vertical routes, especially seams and wheel routes.  He’s also adept at faking blocks to help himself find space.  On this play, you’ll see Rice feint like he is going to block for the bubble screen but instead he bends his run upfield and turns it into a wheel route.  He finds himself in acres of space and makes a fingertip over-the-shoulder catch for a score.

On this next play, you’ll see Rice run another vertical route: a seam.  He is lined up on the line of scrimmage but does not block.  The defense is playing in a zone, however Rice is behind the MLB before he can get to his area of responsibility.  Neither safety is within ten yards and Rice is easily able to find paydirt.

I wasn’t able to observe Rice in any blocking situations so I honestly have no idea how he’ll be in that role.  If he’s able to prove himself as a serviceable blocker, he’ll be very dangerous on plays like those shown above.  Rice is mostly a projection at this point but I’ll keep him on my shortlist for 2020.

Honorable Mentions

Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii:  McDonald has become a cult hero on #DraftTwitter for the recent news of a twinge-inducing injury complication he played through last season.  He threw for 3,875 yards and 36 TDs and finished Top 10 in the FBS in most passing categories.  McDonald, listed at 6040/205, throws an accurate deep ball and is a rushing threat as well.  He exhibits an attitude and coolness that comes through even in highlights.  It’s early and I have a deep dive yet to do, but my first impression is that McDonald will be a Top 75 prospect in this class.

Juwan Washington, RB, San Diego State: Washington may be small at 5070/190, but he’s more than just a space player.  He’s unafraid to run up the middle and take a hit.  He converted 3rd and short more than 50% of the time each of the last two years and has scored 15 of his 23 career rushing yards from inside the red zone.  He has big play potential, and shows that as a kick returner, but he’s more of a complete runner than most players in his cohort.  His 2018 season was cut short by injury and left him frustratingly at 199 carries for 999 yards (and 10 TDs).  If he can stay healthy and cross the 200-1,000 threshold, I’ll be buying him as a late rookie stash.

Cedric Byrd, WR, Hawaii: Out of Hawaii’s three leading receivers last season, Byrd had the lowest yards per catch average (12.3).  So, going into his highlights, I assumed he was going to just be a dink-and-dunk screen receiver.  That’s not at all what I saw.  Instead, I saw Byrd running myriad routes from the slot and winning over the middle despite being just 5090/170.  Byrd made a number of difficult catches so I think he may have a flair for the acrobatic.  Last season’s leading receiver has graduated so Byrd is poised to explode and has 90+ reception and 1,500+ yard upside.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When studying a player I rely on game film “cuts” which are most frequently found on Youtube. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels.  Keep in mind these highlight reels are the best plays of that player. When I have the option, I will choose to watch a game versus the better defense. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2020 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List: 2019 MAC Season Preview

Updated: July 14th 2019

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Spring and Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Storylines to Watch

Heisman Contender: Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio.  In a recent article for The Athletic, writer Max Olson compiled a list of 2018 quarterbacks who led the FBS in his preferred efficiency metric: Yards Per Play.  The leaders in the stat, Alabama QBs Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, were no surprise.  The third name on the list was unexpected for me: Nathan Rourke.  I expect Rourke to stay atop the leaderboard and put up gaudy numbers in 2019.

Underclassman to Watch: Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo.  Patterson won MAC Freshman of the Year honors in 2018 with an impressive 1,013-14 output.  He’s listed at 5090/195 but looks bigger in highlights because of his play style.  Patterson is difficult to bring down because of his excellent contact balance and his powerful leg drive.  At the line of scrimmage he has shifty and frequent feet which help him pick his way through the trash.  Another 1,000+ yard season seems like a lock since the Bulls passing offense was gutted by transfers and players leaving for the NFL.  The offensive focus will need to be Patterson and his running mate Kevin Marks (6000/200, 845-13).

Newcomer of the Year: Joachim Bangda, RB, Kent State.  I wasn’t expecting to feature a player from Kent State in my preview but I came across Bangda’s name in Phil Steele’s preview magazine.  Steele had Bangda ranked as a “very highly touted” recruit and his 38th best running back of the class (other recruiting services had him ranked 31st, 67th and 69th).  According to a local news report, Bangda originally committed to Georgia Tech but flipped when coach Paul Johnson retired; he also had scholarship offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan among others.  I watched Bangda’s pinned Hudl reel and he appears to be a powerful, angry runner who can break tackles and has ample speed to get the edge.  Incumbent senior Jo-El Shaw may begin the season as the nominal starter but Bangda should end the year with more touches.

Coaching Carousel: Does Jim McElwain’s name sound familiar?  It might because the Internet had a lot of fun at his expense a few years ago when he “had to field questions about whether or not he’d humped a dead shark while naked on the deck of a boat.”  McElwain joined Michigan as their receivers coach last year, partly I presume to restart his career after Florida and partly to get away from the ocean.  This year McElwain finds himself at the helm of the Central Michigan Chippewas.  CMU had an abysmal 1-11 mark last season but had gone to four consecutive bowl games prior.  McElwain should bring a Power 5 recruiting touch with him and right the ship.

Player to Watch

 

Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio

Nathan Rourke has been immensely productive since joining the Bobcats in 2017.  He easily leads the MAC in touchdowns responsible for (passing + rushing) over the last two seasons with 77 — his next closest competition was Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson who had a total of 51.  Much of Rourke’s offensive impact comes on the ground in an option-heavy offense but he still managed to improve his passing efficiency stats last season.  Since Rourke’s pro scouting report is going to hinge on his passing ability, I wanted to concentrate on that aspect of his game during my film study.

The Ohio passing offense relies on short and quick patterns so it was disappointing to see Rourke’s accuracy match his subpar career completion percentage (57.4%).  I was hopeful that the percentage might have been dragged down by numerous missed deep balls.  In both games I watched, Buffalo 2018 and Bowling Green 2018, Rourke sailed an early pass that should have been an easy completion.  There were also multiple missed short outs.  There were a few short passes that lacked touch too.  Overall though, he did lead receivers well on swing and screen passes.  Rourke’s ball placement improved on targets in the middle of the field where he could better anticipate the receiver’s movement.  On this pass he is able to step up in the pocket and delivery a strike, in stride, which leads to a score.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say that Rourke has inconsistent ball placement and touch because there are some moments when he flashes.  On this play, for example, Rourke throws a nice 25-yard back-shoulder touch pass to the end zone which results in a touchdown.

I only saw a few deep passes from Rourke and I believe this was the only one I saw him complete.  He essentially throws his speedy receiver open by leading him towards the middle of the field.  It’s the type of pass he’ll need to complete more of in 2019 in order to fill out his repertoire.

Ohio’s offense features a lot of option which is ideal for Rourke.  He is also quick to evade the pocket and scramble.  As a runner he is patient and elusive.  He does not have much straight-line speed but he is able to plant his foot and burst upfield for bonus yardage.  He’s also not afraid of contact, in fact he often initiates it.  In this clip you can see Rourke’s improvisational skill which makes him a dangerous scrambler.

I had a hard time settling on a final verdict for Rourke.  I have enjoyed watching him so far in his career and I really wanted to see a draftable quarterback.  Ultimately, I think he’s a fantastic college quarterback, however, I think he lacks the polish as a passer to be a true NFL prospect.

Honorable Mentions

Quinten Dormady, QB, Central Michigan: I had never heard of Dormady prior to my MAC research but my interest was piqued because he had such an interesting path to CMU.  He was a 4-star recruit out of high school who 247Sports predicted would land at Alabama.  He chose Tennessee instead and transferred after just thirteen appearances over three seasons.  He went to Houston where he sat behind D’Eriq King and ultimately took a redshirt.  Now he’s likely to be the leading signal caller for the Chippewas.  He has NFL size at 6040/222 but he’s the ultimate wildcard right now.  He could be the reason they upset Wisconsin or Miami; or he could end up benched and buried on a depth chart with two returners and two new signees.  In his Tennessee highlights, Dormady looks like a throwback quarterback, circa 1995, so I’m actually very excited to watch him in the aforementioned Power 5 tests.

Jonathan Ward, RB, Central Michigan: I wrote about Ward a number of times last year because I was expecting him to progress after a flag-planting 2017 outing.  In 2017, Ward had 178-1,024-10 rushing and added 48-470-3 receiving.  The receiving numbers are what stood out to me because you rarely see that production from a college running back.  Ward was ineffective to begin 2018 and then finished the season hurt, totaling just 253 yards on 88 touches.  I’m hopeful he’ll regain his role and rebound in 2019 because he has a promising combination of size (6000/202), speed, power and hands.

Levante Bellamy, RB, Western Michigan: Bellamy is a smaller scat and speed back who returned from a season-ending injury in 2017 to earn first team All-MAC honors last season.  He’s a burner — apparently he ran a 4.32 laser-timed 40 yard dash last season — and it shows on his highlight reels.  At just 5090/185, he shows enough strength to shrug off chasing defenders and does surprisingly well battling through traffic.  Bellamy contributes as a receiver (30 receptions) but unfortunately that aspect of his game was largely absent from the film I watched (he did have one impressive catch on a swing pass though).  Bellamy shared carries last year but will be the unquestioned lead back in 2019 which will allow him to make a name for himself.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When studying a player I rely on game film “cuts” which are most frequently found on Youtube. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels.  Keep in mind these highlight reels are the best plays of that player. When I have the option, I will choose to watch a game versus the better defense. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2020 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

RSO Rookie Picks Pt. 1

Updated: July 16th 2017

With the passing of this year’s NFL draft, many of you in the RSO community will soon hold your own rookie drafts. To help you along this path, I studied the value provided by previous rookie draft picks.  Part 1 of the 2-part series gives some basic insights into the valuation of RSO rookie picks.  This series is not meant to be all encompassing given the uniqueness of every league.  Starting requirements, number of teams, scoring rules, and many other considerations ultimately determine the value of players.  Every league is different but hopefully this study provides a basis for readers to evaluate rookie picks in their own leagues.

The Data

Rookie draft pick data came from MyFantasyLeague ADP Rankings using keeper league, rookie-only draft data primarily. My data set includes the top 20 draft picks (those picks relevant to a common RSO 10-team, 2-round rookie draft) from 2007 to 2016 which comes to 200 players.  The sample included 80 running backs, 80 wide receivers, 30 quarterbacks, and 10 tight ends.

I obtained player fantasy values from Pro Football Reference (PFR). VBD (Value Based Drafting) values were calculated on a non-PPR basis. VBD measures the fantasy points a player scores above a designated baseline player.  PFR uses the 12th highest scoring QB, 12th TE, 24th RB, and 30th WR as the baseline players.  A player scoring less than the baseline player is given a zero value (there are no negative values in the system).  The values come from season-long statistics which tends to overvalue players who manage to stay healthy throughout the season.  Conversely, high-end performers missing games to injury or suspension will be undervalued along with those players assuming major roles for only portions of the season (running back handcuffs for example).   The findings are best applied to non-PPR 10-team leagues using 1QB/2RB/2WR/1TE/1Flex starting requirements.

We next disaggregate the data into various groupings giving us a better of idea of how to value our rookie picks.

Value by Draft Pick

Image 1

The above chart details the average value produced each year by a draft pick based on draft position. Not surprisingly, better draft picks tend to produce better results.  Players selected in the top half of the 1st round (picks 1-5) in rookie drafts offered 50% more value than picks 6-10 and averaged almost four times the yearly value of players selected in the bottom half of round 2 (picks 16-20).

Image 2

Another way to judge rookie picks is by their success rate. I defined a success, with the somewhat liberal definition, as any player who holds some value (produces VBD points) during their initial 4-year rookie contract.  Again we find the top picks significantly out-producing lower picks.  Picks in the top half of the first round found success at some time during their initial four years a little under ¾ of the time.  Picks in the bottom half of the first round averaged success a little under ½ of the time while 2nd round picks came in at about a 1/3 success rate.  The yearly success rate for players is not nearly as good.  Rookie picks as a whole averaged just over 1 valuable season for every four years.

Value by Position

Image 3

The fact that running backs lead other positions in value is not unexpected for non-PPR leagues, but the extent to which they dominate might be to some. Running backs averaged over 50% more value per season than wide receivers, more than 100% of quarterbacks, and over 300% of tight ends for the sample draft picks.  Other positions simply have no way to make up for the massive volume top end running backs achieve leading to potentially huge yardage and touchdown totals.  Quarterbacks and tight ends are particularly handicapped by traditional fantasy starting requirements where only one TE and QB must start.  The difference from the QB8 to QB20 and TE8 to TE20 was about 30 points or less than two points per game in 2016.  There are simply too many cheap replacement-level players available who will not cost your team very much in scoring unless you are up against one of the few elite options at either position.  These large value differences among positions from the chart above and the afore-mentioned supply of replacement level players at QB and TE strongly argue for the use of 2QB/Superflex and 2TE requirements in order to help balance values among positions.

Value by Year in League

Image 4

I next examined player values by looking at how they performed in each year of the initial four-year contract. The biggest take-away from the above chart is that players, on average, see the biggest value jump after their rookie season.  Dividing the data further in Table 1 below by positions offers more interesting insights.

image 5

Running backs and wide receivers (the two biggest positions by value) display the largest jumps in value in year two.  This somewhat contradicts the popular “3rd year breakout” notion applied commonly to wide receivers.  The data suggests quarterbacks and tight ends breakout in year three but we should keep in mind the small samples associated with each position, particularly tight ends.

Conclusions

Part 1 is just the “tip of the iceberg” with regards to the evaluation of rookie pick value but it does provide a few useful insights:

  1. No rookie pick comes without risk, but the top picks are expensive for a reason. Picks in the top half of the first round provide value and reliability which greatly exceeds other picks.
  2. Running backs tend to dominate value in these shallow non-PPR leagues. You always want elite players but take the top back on your draft board if you are in doubt.
  3. Players production usually jumps substantially after the rookie season. This provides a buying window for savvy owners to take advantage of more impatient owners who were disappointed by a rookie’s first season.

While Part 1 dealt with some of the basics of rookie pick values, Part 2 will evaluate RSO rookie picks based on the contract values involved. Hope to see you there!


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

Reviewing 2/2/1 RB Draft Strategy

Updated: September 7th 2016

Last week I took a look at the 2-2-1 RB strategy and offered some hypothetical picks for maximum value in the RSO format.  How did the strategy work in reality?  Here’s a rundown of how I used the strategy in three leagues.

RSO Home League – Year 2 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex

I went into our free agent auction with Jonathan Stewart, David Johnson and Le’veon Bell on my roster.  So, that meant my 2-2-1 strategy would need to be modified to account for the fact that I already had studs in Johnson and Bell.  Rather than look for value, I decided I needed to ensure I was able to handcuff Stewart and Bell because they have clear handcuffs, while Johnson could lose touches to both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington.  I did manage to get both Cameron Artis-Payne (1 year, $1.5 mil, due to some price enforcing) and DeAngelo Williams (2 years, $7 mil total).  So, in 2016 I’m spending about $5.0 mil to lock down the Steelers and Cardinals backfields – not bad at all considering they were both Top 5 scoring offenses last year.

RSO Experts League – Year 1 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex

I stuck to some of my original picks in this start up auction and grabbed JStew, CAP, Isaiah Crowell and Ka’Deem Carey.  I also added the tandem of Doug Martin and Charles Sims.  Unfortunately, I missed out on Duke because he went for more than I had budgeted (signed for 1 year, $8.0 mil) but then I spent more on Stewart and Martin than I really wanted to.  Our auction went a little screwy with RB value and was all over the place.  In hindsight, Duke only ended up being the 21st most expensive RB for 2016 but at the time it seemed like a lot.  At the end of the day, starting RBs like Frank Gore, Thomas Rawls, CJ Anderson and Matt Jones all went for between $3.5-6.0 mil.  Faults and all those are real bargains because I will be paying Stewart and Martin about $24 mil combined in 2016.  I probably should have abandoned the strategy mid-auction once I realized the value wasn’t there for me but I ended up sticking with it and the depth of my roster is weaker because of it.

Yahoo Home League – Year 9 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex, Keep 3

Despite this being a keeper league, I went in with a clean RB slate as I didn’t keep any.  I missed out on the Carolina RBs (being a snake draft I did not have the flexibility I had in the auctions) but did manage to land both Cleveland RBs.  I paired them with the duo of Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi.  I also got two PPR RB steals in Theo Riddick and Giovani Bernard who will end up starting for me at RB2 and Flex until I see how the Miami backfield shakes out.  Between keepers and my first picks, I started with Rob Gronkowski, Allen Robinson, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Russell Wilson and Blake Bortles.  Some draft pick trades meant I did not pick in Rounds 3 through 5 but from Round 6 on, I was concentrating on using my RB strategy to build a solid roster and I think it worked.

 

So, after putting the strategy into practice, what is the final verdict?  I actually really like it.  I was never one for handcuffing, but the knowledge that you have a team’s backfield locked up is comforting – less worry about injuries.  To double down on the idea and handcuff both your RB1 and RB2 just adds to the roster stability.  As long as you keep to teams with a clear handcuff, I think this strategy can work, especially if you’re able to nail the “1” part of the 2-2-1.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper