FA Auction: Lessons Learned

Updated: June 18th 2016

Last time in this space, I took a look at the most frequently cut players from each offensive skill position.  My hope was that an analysis of where we went wrong last year could help steer us in this season’s free agent auction.  After all, nothing could sink a promising franchise faster than dead cap space.

For each position I picked a few players who I think that you should avoid spending big money on in your 2016 free agent auction.  Every player can be valuable with the right contract, this is not to say the below players should not be owned, I am arguing you should avoid splashing the cash on them.  First, let’s start with the obvious caveat: every league is different (size, scoring, roster size, etc.), so your mileage may vary, one league’s trash could be another’s treasure.

QUARTERBACKS:

  1. Tyrod Taylor
  2. Brock Osweiler

The biggest take away after looking at last year’s most frequently released QBs was that you should not overpay for a small sample size.  I am not advocating skipping these two altogether, but I think prudence is the key.  Taylor went 8-6 and only threw 6 INTs (3 of which in one game) but he also had five games with less than 15 completions and five games with less than 200 yards passing.  The x-factor for Taylor, of course, is his rushing ability but that is the part that worries me: it will either lead to injury, it could be game planned away by the defense or be removed from his own game plan as preservation (see: Robert Griffin III).  I’m staying away from Taylor this year, I would rather be the guy who missed on him rather than have to eat his salary later.

For Osweiler, the sample size is much smaller and his rate stats were lower than Taylor’s (completion percentage, rating, yards per attempt, etc).  So, why do I think you should avoid Taylor more so than Osweiler?  Osweiler’s value is not so heavily influenced by his rushing ability, or lack thereof.  Osweiler is a “prototypical” quarterback and has 7″ and about 20lb on Taylor.  Still, though, I am concerned what a change of scenery will mean for Brock and can’t help but see him as the next Matt Flynn.  I wouldn’t avoid him at all costs but I would only offer him a one- or at a maximum, a two-year deal.

RUNNING BACKS:

  1. Chris Ivory
  2. Matt Forte
  3. Demarco Murray

The theme with last year’s most frequently cut RBs was that you should avoid the hype of the veteran who was changing teams.  Despite some niggling injuries last year, both Ivory and Forte had decent seasons in 2015.  Ivory broke 1,000 yards for the first time in his career (1,070) and had more receptions (30) than he had the rest of his career combined (23).  Forte missed three games but was on pace for another 1,000 yard rushing season if he played the full campaign; he also pitched in with 44 receptions which was down on a per-game basis from 2014 but is still more than most RBs see in a full season.  Ivory has left the Jets for Jacksonville and Forte has taken his place.  Unless I can get them for just $2 or $3 million, I am probably skipping both Ivory and Forte.

Murray is interesting after what could not have been a more disappointing season in Philly last year.  He joins the Titans and could be at a point where his stock is so low you could actually get him for a song.  The ultimate post-hype sleeper.  He’s burned me once though, so I’m going to sit this year out.  I might let another owner take him, and if the contract is small enough, try to swing a trade once training camp starts and we see how the Titans backfield will work out.  Or maybe that’s the Cowboys fan in me talking.

WIDE RECEIVERS:

  1. Jordy Nelson – Jeff Janis
  2. Michael Crabtree – Seth Roberts
  3. Brandin Cooks – Willie Snead

The lesson to be learned last year was to not spend too much money on the up-and-coming WRs who may unseat an established veteran.  So, for this position, I thought it would be useful to look at both the old and the new at the same time because I would actually avoid picking both sides of these pairs.

Jeff Janis had a memorable playoff game for the Packers against the Cardinals (7-145-2) but is it enough to make everybody forget about Jordy Nelson who missed the season due to injury?  Probably not, but I have just enough doubt to avoid Nelson this year.  Nelson is now 31 and has had two serious injuries – an ACL and a hamstring – which forced him to miss significant time.  Dynasty players know Janis well but I don’t think his brief flash is enough to warrant anything more than a minimum contract – many of us have been fooled by his potential already.

Amari Cooper is obviously the top Raiders WR to own, but who should you target second?  After all, Derek Carr does like to air the ball out.  I’m not biting on Crabtree’s 85-922-9 and instead think that Seth Roberts will emerge.  Roberts was an unheralded rookie out of West Alabama whose line was 32-480-5.  Like Janis, his sample size is too small to spend on, but his presence means I will not sign Crabtree this offseason.

Chances are that Willie Snead was snagged off waivers by somebody last year rather than being signed to a long term deal.  I cannot imagine there were too many owners who were holding Snead futures so he’s likely up for free agency.  I’d bite in a PPR league but there weren’t enough TDs there for standard scoring, in my opinion.  Snead’s emergence dented Brandin Cooks’ potential.  Cooks didn’t score his first TD or surpass 100 yards until Week 5; ultimately he had six sub-50 yard games versus just four over-100 yard games.  His strong suit was supposed to be the volume of receptions but even that was lacking – just 84.  The saving grace for Cooks fantasy-wise was his 9 TDs but I would take the under for 2016.  Snead and Cooks are too similar in their playing style and so cannibalize each other’s opportunities to succeed.

TIGHT ENDS:

  1. David Johnson
  2. Alex Smith
  3. Coby Fleener
  4. Ladarius Green

In my last piece, I noted that David Johnson and Alex Smith were two of the most frequently cut tight ends.  Originally I attributed it to their deep, deep sleeper status but after further thought I think it was definitely because they share a name with another position player.  Whether it was an honest mistake or an unscrupulous nomination, I think some owners ended up with the wrong guy and immediately cut bait landing them on the list.  Don’t make that mistake again this year, folks.

Last year, we should have all held off on anointing Josh Hill the Jimmy Graham heir apparent, and I think this year you should similarly avoid Fleener.  Green is likewise joining a new team, the Steelers, and while he has shown flashes, he’s never been the go-to tight end for an extended period of time.  Ultimately, I think both are so close to replacement level that I wouldn’t bother.


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

Drop ‘Em Like It’s Hot

Updated: May 15th 2014

Registration is now open for the 2014 RSO Fantasy Football Season! Learn more >>

Sometimes art imitates life.  So when I get a chance to quote movies or music lyrics, I usually don’t pass that up. And when I get the chance to do that in the context of fantasy football and offering advice when to drop a multi-year player who just isn’t living up to his contract,  I’m “Bout It, Bout It”.

To analyze tough decisions you are facing, I thought it would be helpful to do some slicing and dicing of the existing Reality Sports Online long-term contract data by position across all RSO leagues.  So the tables represent all 2013 RSO leagues, regardless of size.  The tables below by position contain the quantity of contracts, average annual salaries, and contract lengths for what typically makes up 80% of a particular position.  In other words, the players most often kept and their average contract values and lengths.  This way, if you are a new owner to a RSO league in 2014, you won’t be going into the amazingly unique Free Agency Auction without some context, even if you haven’t had time to do a Mock Auction (shameless plug, this feature has just been added and is incredibly helpful).

So let’s jump right in by position and figure out some names based on contract values that owners may want to cut bait with either for past performance, need for cap space to go after a rookie like Sammy Watkins or Bishop Sankey in the Rookie Draft, or dump a player you simply don’t believe in as much as you once did. In RSO, if you’re cutting bait, the best time to do it is in the offseason where only 50% of the future years of the contract are guaranteed.  But, be careful because as you can probably imagine, there is nothing worse than paying for someone who is no longer on your roster.  Do the analysis and be confident that your player will not add value for you again and you’d rather have the cap space to go after another player who can help you before cutting a player who won’t be picked up on waivers at their current deal.

Quarterback

QB Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

QB Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Tom Brady

I’m not saying Brady’s “Glory Days” are 100% behind him, but with a yet-again banged up Gronk, no real scary outside stretch the field threat (sorry Brandon LaFell, that’s not you), a confusing running back rotation, and a bevy of younger QBs who offer more upside, if you are north or near the 2.84 years and $18.4m annual RSO average for Brady, take your 50% back potentially and trade him in for a newer model, especially if you have multiple years left.

Matt Ryan

Matty Ice is all about the “Price Tag” for me.   There are a lot of questions on the offensive line (Jake Matthews will definitely help), uncertainty about Julio Jones lingering foot problems, and an aging core of offensive talent in Roddy White and Steven Jackson.  The Falcons figure to put a dismal 2013 behind them offensively, but at 3.43 years and $16.6m annual RSO average, you certainly can do better and take your chances in free agency to get a comparable QB cheaper and shorter.

Tony Romo & Eli Manning

While these two options around $6.1m annually represent a great value if they are productive (and ability to spend money on other positions of need), my biggest concern with them are the years.  In Romo’s case, monitor this back surgery recovery carefully.  Not sure you can trust him in a fantasy playoff game and if Romo was a song, he’d be U2’s “With or Without You” and you probably can’t win either way. As for Eli, same trust deal even though the offense couldn’t get any worse than 2013 and the Odell Beckham Jr. pick along with significant draft picks spent on the offensive line can only help matters. I’d probably stick with Eli and proceed with caution on Romo.

Running Back

As a quick primer, remember that the most frequently kept Running Backs were 2013 rookies, which in RSO would have been drafted in the rookie draft at a predetermined rookie wage scale, similar to NFL.  So players like Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard in leagues that didn’t tinker with the rookie draft in 2013 (remember that RSO is a very customizable platform), are locked up at low relative dollar amounts compared to players like Doug Martin, Ray Rice, and Lesean McCoy.  The NFL is a passing league and you have to try to find fantasy value over the long term in a league where running back committees are becoming more prevalent.  So be careful not to cut bait too early on someone with potential, but let the years, the contract amounts, your overall cap space relative to your league, and the quality of the free agent pool determine what your strategy is.  For instance, in my league, I may be entering the 2014 Free Agent Auction with zero running backs on my roster (disclaimer-in my league only 1 RB is mandatory to start on a 10 player starting lineup), but figure to have the cap space to address this gap as I am heading into my auction with 4 WRs locked up as well as all the other positions.

RB1

RB 2014 RSO Offseason

Trent Richardson

If you’re holding onto “Two Yard Trent” from picking him as the supposed bell-cow in Cleveland, you obviously have tempered expectations by now.  I would say heed the advice of Jason Mraz’ “I Won’t Give Up” on Richardson.  He now has had an offseason to learn the offense after being traded to Indy in Week 3 last year and will be given every opportunity to be the guy.  I know that you’re paying Richardson premium dollars for mediocre production, but he’s probably better than you’ll get on the free agent market in terms of talent, not necessarily price.  Stick it out for 2014 and if he lays another egg, when you have one season left on a 3 year deal in the 2015 offseason, send him packing.

Ray Rice

As an owner of Rice right now, are you more concerned by the potential suspension for his brush-up with the law, his 2013 production, the fact that the Ravens say they are bringing in another 1-2 running backs to help out, or all of the above?  The Ravens 2013 offensive philosophy didn’t stick to the run and the offensive line showed no ability to block and Rice showed no burst to get to the second level or even approach first downs, which may have been related to his hip flexor.  Throw out a good game against the Bears who everyone seemed to run on in 2013, and Rice’s stats are even less impressive.  Consider him to be the Sneaker Pimps 6 Underground, because Rice’s fantasy status is “open to falling from grace”.  If a 4 game suspension is announced prior to the season, get back 50% of your future salaries owed (especially at the 3 year $21m annual average).  I’d rather take the chance at making a run at another running back with the money.

David Wilson

While Wilson’s annual RSO average of 3.1 years and $10.7m annual average wasn’t overly intimidating when you got him last season, you certainly are concerned about his neck injury.  From what I’ve read the Giants would consider it a bonus if Wilson shows up healthy which GM Jerry Reese seems to indicate will be by training camp and it seems like Rashad Jennings is penciled in as the starter right now.  Consider the drafting of Heisman Finalist Andre Williams from Boston College to be more Wilson insurance and depth at this point.  While a healthy Wilson certainly offers more flash and upside (don’t forget he was in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse for most of the early season on fumbling and pass protection issues), you really have to pay attention to the offseason injury news and wait for the “Next Episode”.  Hold on as long as you can this offseason and if you get significant negative injury news, you probably don’t want to hold him for another two years.

Chris Johnson & Maurice Jones-Drew

Grouping these two together as fantasy studs of the past who are both on new teams.  I’m higher on Johnson’s chances with the Jets “Empire State of Mind” than MJD’s with the Raiders.  The thought of Johnson and Vick in the same backfield is kinda crazy speedwise and I think the Jets will be better at game-planning with Johnson and throwing him screens in space for your PPR friendly leagues.  MJD is going to a fantasy wasteland in Oakland and a crowded backfield with the oft-injured Darren McFadden and Latavius Murray.  If you have one year left at $12.6m, take Steve Miller’s advice and “Take The Money and Run”.

Lamar Miller

Now that the Dolphins have signed Knowshon Moreno and Miller couldn’t hold off someone in Daniel Thomas who one could say wasn’t even deserving of being on an NFL roster last season, it seems like the end is near for Miller.  Wouldn’t you rather have Lamar Latrell of “Revenge of the Nerds” fame over Miller?  At least his throwing style could result in some passing yards for your fantasy squad.  I’ve also read that the Dolphins are planning on being a pass heavy offense this season.  They still have an overhaul on their offensive line ahead from the Jonathan Martin bullying incident as well, which they’ve started in free agency and the draft.  I wouldn’t wait around for the 3rd year of Miller, as the only thing positive about his situation is that Miami didn’t draft a RB last week.  He’s too “Radioactive”.

Others Highlighted in Green

Be careful keeping high-priced handcuffs or backups.  Daryl Richardson has been cut by the Rams this week and while he may have held some value last offseason, if you still own him, send him packing.  In Bryce Brown’s case his only value would be if C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are not re-signed after the 2014 season) to become valuable this season or down the line.  If you need the cap space, these type of guys may not get you that much money back, but are low hanging fruit and certainly debatable based on salary, production, or both.

Wide Receiver

Probably my favorite position to write about as there is talent at all price tags and these players are the easiest to justify long multi-year deals for based on how reliant teams are on their elite wideouts.  The lesson here is know when you are paying high dollars to someone who doesn’t deserve it and jump ship.  Also notice who is missing from here: Alshon Jeffery, who figures to be a RSO free agent in most leagues in 2014.

WR1

2014 WR RSO All Leagues

WR Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Danny Amendola

People clearly expected Amendola to be the Wes Welker of the 2013 Patriots.  He clearly wasn’t as he couldn’t stay on the field long enough to be productive.  I can’t justify 2.5 years and $9.5m annual average salary for Amendola as Julian Edelman is the slot WR, Gronk will be back in play at some point and Aaron Dobson should improve.  Even if I’m wrong in hindsight to cut him, this is an easy to make, calculated risk and recently drafted 7th rounder Jeremy Gallon from Michigan is a player that can fit in to the Patriots scheme at Amendola’s expense.  “Drop ‘Em Like It’s Hot”.

Dwayne Bowe

Which Bowe do you have on your team?  The one who caught 8 for 150 and a TD in the playoff game vs. Indianapolis or the Bowe who had 57 catches on 105 targets for 673 yards and 5 TD’s in the 2013 Regular Season?  He’s still only 29 years old and does have a 15 TD season in his portfolio, but hasn’t had more than 5 TD’s in a season since, in spite of being the clear #1 WR on his team.  As a fantasy owner, can you really trust him in a game you have to win?  I can’t.  For those who have kids and were dragged to see Frozen, “Let It Go”.

Roddy White

I actually like Roddy White and think he could produce in 2014.  Call me “Mr. Brightside”.  It is a tough call at $11.3m though.  If all indications are that he’s healthy, you have to think that White will be seeing some of Tony Gonzalez’s looks and you have to think Atlanta will rebound in some fashion with ideally healthy Julio Jones and Steven Jackson.  Hakeem Nicks is another guy who I think could turn it around on a one-year prove it deal in Indy and at 2.8 avg. years and $9m, if he produces you’re looking at a good third year of the deal.  Hold both if you can.

Kenbrell Thompkins

Was a nice preseason story last year and made a few big plays early in the season.  Later in the season, he was abysmal.  Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson are better options, as is free agent signing Brandon LaFell, so Thompkins may not even make the Patriots.  Cut him.

Tight End

Tight End is often a slighted position, so it could represent significant value for you in your RSO league.  On the flip side, the contract values are lower, so cutting a player may not yield that much cap savings.  It may also make for a less involved decision.    First off, for the 6 owners who still had Aaron Hernandez on their teams, my condolences.  Feel free to cut him.  Same goes for the 37 owners holding out hope that Tony Gonzalez wouldn’t retire after the 2013 season.

Tight End Chart-2014 RSO Offseason

Tight End Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Jared Cook

His week 1 jauggernaut last year showed what Cook can do if given the looks.  He doesn’t seem particularly engaged for an entire game.  I could go either way on him.  I’d probably stick at 2.5 years and $3.1m average, even though he was the only Multi-Year player cut from my RSO league last season (on a team that does have some wealth at the TE position).

Owen Daniels

A productive TE for years who has battled health issues now returns to play under Gary Kubiak as OC in Baltimore.  However, he’s sharing again, this time with Dennis Pitta, who just got big dollars from the Ravens and are there enough balls for Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, and two TE’s?  I think you can do better than Daniels in a 10-12 team league, therefore, I’d say “Hit the Road Jack”.

Jermichael Finley

See David Wilson.  Finley may have a better shot to play, but his value really depends on what team signs him.  If Green Bay determines he’s fine and brings him back, even though they drafted a TE, definitely keep him.  Otherwise, like the Roots say “Proceed” with caution.

Coby Fleener

You’ll think I’m “Crazy” for my views on Fleener, but consider him the #4 receiving option behind T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, and Hakeem Nicks and he’s sharing with a now healthy and better all around player in Dwayne Allen.  I know he and Luck have history, but Fleener is very inconsistent.  I’d much rather have Zach Ertz than Fleener and some of the other players on this list.

Defense/Special Teams

If you are keeping a DST on a multi-year deal, make 100% certain that they will produce from year to year.  Defenses fluctuate based on offensive pace, special teams plays, yardage allowed and many other variables.  Heading into 2014, there are only a handful of DSTs you can be sure about and maybe another couple that you may like for future speculation purposes.  Seattle and San Francisco are definite keepers.   Houston, Chicago, Baltimore and Pittsburgh below are definitely not in that group to me, with Baltimore probably being the strongest of the bunch and Houston second based on all the young draft picks that will immediately bolster the pass rush.

If you are looking for a little cap room flexibility, think of dropping a DST.  Denver is interesting to potentially keep based on their free agent signings of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and T.J. Ward and are definitely going for broke in 2014, although they did lose Trindon Holliday in the return game.  Don’t eliminate the possibility of taking advantage of the low dollar value Top 5 average to use your Franchise Tag on a DST, especially if the value is there if you don’t have a DST on a multi-year contract.

Defense/Special Teams-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Defense/Special Teams Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Kicker

I’m shocked by the numbers of kickers kept in the table below.  Kicker performance is somewhat unpredictable as well, but I’m good with you keeping kickers like Stephen Gostkowski and Matt Prater.  I’d cut the guys highlighted in green-Garrett Hartley because he’s not likely to be on an NFL roster and the other two based on middling offenses and the fact that Blair Walsh is moving outside from the dome for the next two years and Caleb Sturgis $3.0m annual price tag is too much for a kicker, regardless of league.

K Chart- All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

K Chart- All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

I hope all this analysis is helpful to both experienced RSO owners and ones joining this unique platform for the 2014 season.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter via @mattgoody2 and I’d welcome any specific questions you have regarding your fantasy teams and feedback for future article topics as the offseason progresses.

Registration is now open for the 2014 RSO Fantasy Football Season! Learn more >>

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Drop 'Em Like It's Hot

Updated: May 15th 2014

Registration is now open for the 2014 RSO Fantasy Football Season! Learn more >>

Sometimes art imitates life.  So when I get a chance to quote movies or music lyrics, I usually don’t pass that up. And when I get the chance to do that in the context of fantasy football and offering advice when to drop a multi-year player who just isn’t living up to his contract,  I’m “Bout It, Bout It”.

To analyze tough decisions you are facing, I thought it would be helpful to do some slicing and dicing of the existing Reality Sports Online long-term contract data by position across all RSO leagues.  So the tables represent all 2013 RSO leagues, regardless of size.  The tables below by position contain the quantity of contracts, average annual salaries, and contract lengths for what typically makes up 80% of a particular position.  In other words, the players most often kept and their average contract values and lengths.  This way, if you are a new owner to a RSO league in 2014, you won’t be going into the amazingly unique Free Agency Auction without some context, even if you haven’t had time to do a Mock Auction (shameless plug, this feature has just been added and is incredibly helpful).

So let’s jump right in by position and figure out some names based on contract values that owners may want to cut bait with either for past performance, need for cap space to go after a rookie like Sammy Watkins or Bishop Sankey in the Rookie Draft, or dump a player you simply don’t believe in as much as you once did. In RSO, if you’re cutting bait, the best time to do it is in the offseason where only 50% of the future years of the contract are guaranteed.  But, be careful because as you can probably imagine, there is nothing worse than paying for someone who is no longer on your roster.  Do the analysis and be confident that your player will not add value for you again and you’d rather have the cap space to go after another player who can help you before cutting a player who won’t be picked up on waivers at their current deal.

Quarterback

QB Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

QB Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Tom Brady

I’m not saying Brady’s “Glory Days” are 100% behind him, but with a yet-again banged up Gronk, no real scary outside stretch the field threat (sorry Brandon LaFell, that’s not you), a confusing running back rotation, and a bevy of younger QBs who offer more upside, if you are north or near the 2.84 years and $18.4m annual RSO average for Brady, take your 50% back potentially and trade him in for a newer model, especially if you have multiple years left.

Matt Ryan

Matty Ice is all about the “Price Tag” for me.   There are a lot of questions on the offensive line (Jake Matthews will definitely help), uncertainty about Julio Jones lingering foot problems, and an aging core of offensive talent in Roddy White and Steven Jackson.  The Falcons figure to put a dismal 2013 behind them offensively, but at 3.43 years and $16.6m annual RSO average, you certainly can do better and take your chances in free agency to get a comparable QB cheaper and shorter.

Tony Romo & Eli Manning

While these two options around $6.1m annually represent a great value if they are productive (and ability to spend money on other positions of need), my biggest concern with them are the years.  In Romo’s case, monitor this back surgery recovery carefully.  Not sure you can trust him in a fantasy playoff game and if Romo was a song, he’d be U2’s “With or Without You” and you probably can’t win either way. As for Eli, same trust deal even though the offense couldn’t get any worse than 2013 and the Odell Beckham Jr. pick along with significant draft picks spent on the offensive line can only help matters. I’d probably stick with Eli and proceed with caution on Romo.

Running Back

As a quick primer, remember that the most frequently kept Running Backs were 2013 rookies, which in RSO would have been drafted in the rookie draft at a predetermined rookie wage scale, similar to NFL.  So players like Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard in leagues that didn’t tinker with the rookie draft in 2013 (remember that RSO is a very customizable platform), are locked up at low relative dollar amounts compared to players like Doug Martin, Ray Rice, and Lesean McCoy.  The NFL is a passing league and you have to try to find fantasy value over the long term in a league where running back committees are becoming more prevalent.  So be careful not to cut bait too early on someone with potential, but let the years, the contract amounts, your overall cap space relative to your league, and the quality of the free agent pool determine what your strategy is.  For instance, in my league, I may be entering the 2014 Free Agent Auction with zero running backs on my roster (disclaimer-in my league only 1 RB is mandatory to start on a 10 player starting lineup), but figure to have the cap space to address this gap as I am heading into my auction with 4 WRs locked up as well as all the other positions.

RB1

RB 2014 RSO Offseason

Trent Richardson

If you’re holding onto “Two Yard Trent” from picking him as the supposed bell-cow in Cleveland, you obviously have tempered expectations by now.  I would say heed the advice of Jason Mraz’ “I Won’t Give Up” on Richardson.  He now has had an offseason to learn the offense after being traded to Indy in Week 3 last year and will be given every opportunity to be the guy.  I know that you’re paying Richardson premium dollars for mediocre production, but he’s probably better than you’ll get on the free agent market in terms of talent, not necessarily price.  Stick it out for 2014 and if he lays another egg, when you have one season left on a 3 year deal in the 2015 offseason, send him packing.

Ray Rice

As an owner of Rice right now, are you more concerned by the potential suspension for his brush-up with the law, his 2013 production, the fact that the Ravens say they are bringing in another 1-2 running backs to help out, or all of the above?  The Ravens 2013 offensive philosophy didn’t stick to the run and the offensive line showed no ability to block and Rice showed no burst to get to the second level or even approach first downs, which may have been related to his hip flexor.  Throw out a good game against the Bears who everyone seemed to run on in 2013, and Rice’s stats are even less impressive.  Consider him to be the Sneaker Pimps 6 Underground, because Rice’s fantasy status is “open to falling from grace”.  If a 4 game suspension is announced prior to the season, get back 50% of your future salaries owed (especially at the 3 year $21m annual average).  I’d rather take the chance at making a run at another running back with the money.

David Wilson

While Wilson’s annual RSO average of 3.1 years and $10.7m annual average wasn’t overly intimidating when you got him last season, you certainly are concerned about his neck injury.  From what I’ve read the Giants would consider it a bonus if Wilson shows up healthy which GM Jerry Reese seems to indicate will be by training camp and it seems like Rashad Jennings is penciled in as the starter right now.  Consider the drafting of Heisman Finalist Andre Williams from Boston College to be more Wilson insurance and depth at this point.  While a healthy Wilson certainly offers more flash and upside (don’t forget he was in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse for most of the early season on fumbling and pass protection issues), you really have to pay attention to the offseason injury news and wait for the “Next Episode”.  Hold on as long as you can this offseason and if you get significant negative injury news, you probably don’t want to hold him for another two years.

Chris Johnson & Maurice Jones-Drew

Grouping these two together as fantasy studs of the past who are both on new teams.  I’m higher on Johnson’s chances with the Jets “Empire State of Mind” than MJD’s with the Raiders.  The thought of Johnson and Vick in the same backfield is kinda crazy speedwise and I think the Jets will be better at game-planning with Johnson and throwing him screens in space for your PPR friendly leagues.  MJD is going to a fantasy wasteland in Oakland and a crowded backfield with the oft-injured Darren McFadden and Latavius Murray.  If you have one year left at $12.6m, take Steve Miller’s advice and “Take The Money and Run”.

Lamar Miller

Now that the Dolphins have signed Knowshon Moreno and Miller couldn’t hold off someone in Daniel Thomas who one could say wasn’t even deserving of being on an NFL roster last season, it seems like the end is near for Miller.  Wouldn’t you rather have Lamar Latrell of “Revenge of the Nerds” fame over Miller?  At least his throwing style could result in some passing yards for your fantasy squad.  I’ve also read that the Dolphins are planning on being a pass heavy offense this season.  They still have an overhaul on their offensive line ahead from the Jonathan Martin bullying incident as well, which they’ve started in free agency and the draft.  I wouldn’t wait around for the 3rd year of Miller, as the only thing positive about his situation is that Miami didn’t draft a RB last week.  He’s too “Radioactive”.

Others Highlighted in Green

Be careful keeping high-priced handcuffs or backups.  Daryl Richardson has been cut by the Rams this week and while he may have held some value last offseason, if you still own him, send him packing.  In Bryce Brown’s case his only value would be if C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are not re-signed after the 2014 season) to become valuable this season or down the line.  If you need the cap space, these type of guys may not get you that much money back, but are low hanging fruit and certainly debatable based on salary, production, or both.

Wide Receiver

Probably my favorite position to write about as there is talent at all price tags and these players are the easiest to justify long multi-year deals for based on how reliant teams are on their elite wideouts.  The lesson here is know when you are paying high dollars to someone who doesn’t deserve it and jump ship.  Also notice who is missing from here: Alshon Jeffery, who figures to be a RSO free agent in most leagues in 2014.

WR1

2014 WR RSO All Leagues

WR Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Danny Amendola

People clearly expected Amendola to be the Wes Welker of the 2013 Patriots.  He clearly wasn’t as he couldn’t stay on the field long enough to be productive.  I can’t justify 2.5 years and $9.5m annual average salary for Amendola as Julian Edelman is the slot WR, Gronk will be back in play at some point and Aaron Dobson should improve.  Even if I’m wrong in hindsight to cut him, this is an easy to make, calculated risk and recently drafted 7th rounder Jeremy Gallon from Michigan is a player that can fit in to the Patriots scheme at Amendola’s expense.  “Drop ‘Em Like It’s Hot”.

Dwayne Bowe

Which Bowe do you have on your team?  The one who caught 8 for 150 and a TD in the playoff game vs. Indianapolis or the Bowe who had 57 catches on 105 targets for 673 yards and 5 TD’s in the 2013 Regular Season?  He’s still only 29 years old and does have a 15 TD season in his portfolio, but hasn’t had more than 5 TD’s in a season since, in spite of being the clear #1 WR on his team.  As a fantasy owner, can you really trust him in a game you have to win?  I can’t.  For those who have kids and were dragged to see Frozen, “Let It Go”.

Roddy White

I actually like Roddy White and think he could produce in 2014.  Call me “Mr. Brightside”.  It is a tough call at $11.3m though.  If all indications are that he’s healthy, you have to think that White will be seeing some of Tony Gonzalez’s looks and you have to think Atlanta will rebound in some fashion with ideally healthy Julio Jones and Steven Jackson.  Hakeem Nicks is another guy who I think could turn it around on a one-year prove it deal in Indy and at 2.8 avg. years and $9m, if he produces you’re looking at a good third year of the deal.  Hold both if you can.

Kenbrell Thompkins

Was a nice preseason story last year and made a few big plays early in the season.  Later in the season, he was abysmal.  Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson are better options, as is free agent signing Brandon LaFell, so Thompkins may not even make the Patriots.  Cut him.

Tight End

Tight End is often a slighted position, so it could represent significant value for you in your RSO league.  On the flip side, the contract values are lower, so cutting a player may not yield that much cap savings.  It may also make for a less involved decision.    First off, for the 6 owners who still had Aaron Hernandez on their teams, my condolences.  Feel free to cut him.  Same goes for the 37 owners holding out hope that Tony Gonzalez wouldn’t retire after the 2013 season.

Tight End Chart-2014 RSO Offseason

Tight End Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Jared Cook

His week 1 jauggernaut last year showed what Cook can do if given the looks.  He doesn’t seem particularly engaged for an entire game.  I could go either way on him.  I’d probably stick at 2.5 years and $3.1m average, even though he was the only Multi-Year player cut from my RSO league last season (on a team that does have some wealth at the TE position).

Owen Daniels

A productive TE for years who has battled health issues now returns to play under Gary Kubiak as OC in Baltimore.  However, he’s sharing again, this time with Dennis Pitta, who just got big dollars from the Ravens and are there enough balls for Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, and two TE’s?  I think you can do better than Daniels in a 10-12 team league, therefore, I’d say “Hit the Road Jack”.

Jermichael Finley

See David Wilson.  Finley may have a better shot to play, but his value really depends on what team signs him.  If Green Bay determines he’s fine and brings him back, even though they drafted a TE, definitely keep him.  Otherwise, like the Roots say “Proceed” with caution.

Coby Fleener

You’ll think I’m “Crazy” for my views on Fleener, but consider him the #4 receiving option behind T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, and Hakeem Nicks and he’s sharing with a now healthy and better all around player in Dwayne Allen.  I know he and Luck have history, but Fleener is very inconsistent.  I’d much rather have Zach Ertz than Fleener and some of the other players on this list.

Defense/Special Teams

If you are keeping a DST on a multi-year deal, make 100% certain that they will produce from year to year.  Defenses fluctuate based on offensive pace, special teams plays, yardage allowed and many other variables.  Heading into 2014, there are only a handful of DSTs you can be sure about and maybe another couple that you may like for future speculation purposes.  Seattle and San Francisco are definite keepers.   Houston, Chicago, Baltimore and Pittsburgh below are definitely not in that group to me, with Baltimore probably being the strongest of the bunch and Houston second based on all the young draft picks that will immediately bolster the pass rush.

If you are looking for a little cap room flexibility, think of dropping a DST.  Denver is interesting to potentially keep based on their free agent signings of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and T.J. Ward and are definitely going for broke in 2014, although they did lose Trindon Holliday in the return game.  Don’t eliminate the possibility of taking advantage of the low dollar value Top 5 average to use your Franchise Tag on a DST, especially if the value is there if you don’t have a DST on a multi-year contract.

Defense/Special Teams-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Defense/Special Teams Chart-All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

Kicker

I’m shocked by the numbers of kickers kept in the table below.  Kicker performance is somewhat unpredictable as well, but I’m good with you keeping kickers like Stephen Gostkowski and Matt Prater.  I’d cut the guys highlighted in green-Garrett Hartley because he’s not likely to be on an NFL roster and the other two based on middling offenses and the fact that Blair Walsh is moving outside from the dome for the next two years and Caleb Sturgis $3.0m annual price tag is too much for a kicker, regardless of league.

K Chart- All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

K Chart- All RSO Leagues 2014 Offseason

I hope all this analysis is helpful to both experienced RSO owners and ones joining this unique platform for the 2014 season.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter via @mattgoody2 and I’d welcome any specific questions you have regarding your fantasy teams and feedback for future article topics as the offseason progresses.

Registration is now open for the 2014 RSO Fantasy Football Season! Learn more >>

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin