RSO 2019 Off-Season Schedule

Updated: January 20th 2019

Welcome to the RSO off-season, where things can get even more interesting and exciting than during the season. Congrats to all of our 2018 league champions! Remember, it is never too early to start strategizing for 2019, and to help you better prepare for the upcoming season, please find some important dates and off-season rules/info below:

February 8th, 2019

February 8th, 2019 is the estimated official start of the 2018-19 RSO off-season. Last season, the NFL announced the 2018 salary cap in early March, and we expect them to do so again this year around the same time. The 2019 NFL salary cap is expected to rise to as much as $191 million. Since we will open the site before the NFL announces the 2019 salary cap, we will leave the cap at the 2018 level until the NFL announces the new salary cap for 2019. However, existing leagues will be able to commence the RSO off-season, meaning teams can make off-season trades and cuts. Additionally, new league creation will be available at this time.

April 25th, 2019 to April 27th, 2019 

These are the dates of the actual NFL Draft. Once the NFL Draft is completed, leagues will be able to conduct their RSO Rookie Drafts and Free Agent Auctions. The NFL Draft is set to end on Saturday, April 27th, 2019, and we expect to have all rookie information updated on the site by Monday, April 29th, 2019.

February 8th, 2019 to Three (3) Days Before Your League’s 2019 RSO Rookie Draft 

Different for every league depending on the date set for your 2019 RSO Rookie Draft, this is the “franchise tag designation period”. During this period, team owners must decide whether to place a franchise tag on a player whose contract expired in 2018 (the tagged salary for each player can be found by clicking the “Tag” button on the Team-Contracts tab). At the end of this period, players on expiring contracts will be removed from your Team Roster (unless you franchise tag a player). Additionally, at the conclusion of this period, team owners must have enough salary cap space to fill their respective rosters through the Rookie Draft and Free Agency in order to avoid having players automatically dropped from their rosters to create cap space. A Salary Cap Health Overview feature located on the Team-Overview tab contains all the information team owners need to ensure they have enough salary cap space. Note: no trades will be allowed during the three-day period between the end of the franchise tag designation period and your 2019 Rookie Draft. Trading will resume after the conclusion of your Rookie Draft. Remember, you can now finalize your franchise tag if you desire before the conclusion of the franchise tag designation period by clicking the “finalize franchise tag” button, which will in turn allow you to trade the tagged player if you want before your league’s 2019 Rookie Draft.

Additionally, this is also the period during which you can exercise your 1st round rookie options if applicable. Just like in the NFL, in the off-season of the year before a player on a first round rookie contract expires, teams can have the choice to exercise their rookie option. The value of this option is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position and extends the rookie’s contract for an additional year. You must choose if you want to use this option before three (3) days before your 2019 Rookie Draft OR before you finalize your off-season rosters moves/your franchise tag if you choose to do that instead. For more info, check out this article.

February 8th, 2019 to Three (3) Days Before Your League’s 2019 RSO Free Agent Auction

This period is the official duration of the RSO off-season for each league. The length of the off-season is important because of the rules surrounding off-season vs. in-season cuts. This is best explained by example. Assume you have Kirk Cousins under contract for $15mm in 2019 and $18mm in 2020. If you cut Cousins during the 2018-19 off-season (i.e. up and until 3 days before your Free Agent Auction), you will only owe him $7.5mm in 2019 and then $9mm in 2020. If you wait until the off-season concludes before cutting Cousins, you will owe him his full $15mm in 2019 in addition to the $9mm in 2020. Therefore, it is important to assess your roster and make desired cuts before your off-season concludes three days before your league’s 2019 Free Agent Auction. Additionally, if choose to apply your contract extension to a player you applied the franchise tag to, you must do it before this deadline. For more information on the tag extensions check out this article.

September 5th, 2019

The first game of the NFL’s 100th season will be held in the home of the Super Bowl Champion. It will be here before you know it!

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

NFC/AFC Championship Predictions

Updated: January 19th 2019

The road teams dominated the first weekend of the playoffs and the home teams took care of business last weekend in the Divisional Round. Consequently, the four best teams from the regular season are now the final four teams left in the chase to the Lombardi Trophy. The #1 seeded Saints will host the #2 Rams in what will be a very boisterous Super Dome and the #2 Patriots hit the road to Arrowhead to face the #1 Chiefs in Tom Brady’s unprecedented 13th AFC Championship Game and his eighth in a row. Here is how our writers stand after two weeks of the playoffs with their respective predictions:

  1. Stephen Wendell: 6-2 ML & 5-3 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 5-3 ML & 5-3 ATS
  3. Kyle English: 6-2 ML & 3-5 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: 5-3 ML & 4-4 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: 5-3 ML & 4-4 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: 5-3 ML & 6-2 ATS

A quick summary of the picks for this week are below in case you don’t want to read each writer’s analysis…but you should because there are some great nuggets of information down there:

  1. #2 Los Angeles Rams @ #1 New Orleans Saints (Line NO -3): ML – 2 LA & 4 NO // ATS – 2 LA & 4 NO
  2. #2 New England Patriots @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs (Line KC -3): ML – 2 NE & 4 KC // ATS – 3 NE & 3 KC

#2 Los Angeles Rams (13-3) @ #1 New Orleans Saints (13-3) [Line: NO -3]

Stephen Wendell: Drew Brees is going to prove too good at home. They showed a ton of poise coming back on the Eagles last week and I think the Saints win a shootout. Projected Score: Saints 35 – Rams 31.

Matt Papson: The Rams lost their way a bit toward the end of the season, but they have the most talented roster in the NFL. Even though the Super Dome will be rocking, I think the Rams will take care of business. Projected Score: Rams 31 – Saints 27.

Kyle English: No analysis, just predictions. Projected Score: Saints 28 – Rams 24.

Matt Goodwin: The Rams getting points as an underdog is appealing on many fronts. While they are on the road and lost handily to the Saints there earlier in the season, I like what the Rams are doing with the run game right now with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson and the chess match between the All-Sean coaching matchup is going to be fun. I expect the very-banged up offensive line of the Saints (three starters got in limited practice on Wed) and that also adds Terron Armstead, who has been playing through a pectoral injury since Week 10, to get all sorts of overpowered by Aaron Donald and the front four of the Rams. I’d like the Rams to have Cooper Kupp in this game to feel better about their passing offense, but I expect them to do enough there to win this game outright and definitely to cover. To me, the only way the Saints win this game is if Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas both go off in this game, which is certainly possible because “Can’t Guard Mike” has been more than a Twitter handle this year and Marcus Peters talks more than he produces. In the end, my LA-born and huge Rams fan Jory celebrates a Rams victory this weekend. Projected Score: Rams 30 – Saints 27.

Nick Andrews: Will the Saints continue to hold off teams with strong running attacks? They better if they hope to continue on in the playoffs. The Rams ran right through the Cowboys last week and will likely gameplan to do the same. I think the Saints have the better defense of these two teams and in a Dome this could be a track meet. It will likely come down to that particular matchup in which I think the Saints do enough to hold back the Rams. Projected Score: Saints 38 – Rams 31.

Bernard Faller: I like the diversity of the Los Angeles passing attack a little better than the Saints where Michael Thomas dominates targets.  The Rankins loss also hurts the core of this Saints defense which is facing a team that ran for 273 rushing yards last week.  The Rams get revenge in this one after losing the first meeting.  Projected Score: Rams 31 – Saints 27.

#2 New England Patriots (11-5) @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) [Line: KC -3]

Stephen Wendell: I love Patrick Mahomes and will be rooting for him to win the football game but I have learned one thing in all my years of betting on football games, do not bet against Tom Brady. So, Chiefs win but by one point in an exciting finish at Arrowhead. Projected Score: Chiefs 28 – Patriots 27.

Matt Papson: Deep, deep in my heart, I want Andy Reid & the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. I think he’s not only the second best coach of the modern era, but one of the best coaches of all time. A Super Bowl victory would cement his legacy. Despite that, for a truly unknown reason, I suspect the Patriots to emerge victorious. Projected Score: Patriots 28 – Chiefs 27.

Kyle English: No analysis, just predictions. Projected Score: Chiefs 34 – Patriots 28.

Matt Goodwin: I was a week premature to officially bury the Patriots as they breezed past the Chargers and looked amazing on offense in doing so. Which Bill Belichick likes to take the best weapon out of the mix for a team like the Chiefs, they have a few to focus on. I think Pat Mahomes gets his anyways, and it will prove impossible to stop both Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill in this game. Hill seems to play big vs. the Patriots. In the end, if this game was in Foxboro, I’d like the Patriots who were 9-0 at home this season. However, the Patriots went 3-5 on the road and while that doesn’t mean much for as experienced team as they are and it is hard to pick against the GOAT Tom Brady in a game like this, I think the weather helps the Chiefs and Arrowhead is a huge home-field advantage. Plus, selfishly I want to see a rematch of the epic Monday Night Football game from earlier in the season. If the Patriots end up on the plus side of the scoreboard, I do think this is the first game where they will feel the sting of having Damien Williams and Spencer Ware instead of Kareem Hunt from a skill-set perspective. Projected Score: Chiefs 31 – Patriots 27.

Nick Andrews: Unlike the first game I don’t see this one being a shootout. In fact I see this AFC Championship going similar to last year’s with a Patriots’ opponent getting out to a lead late in the 3rd quarter but coach Reid takes his foot off the gas just enough for the Pats to rally with a couple 4th quarter scores. Projected Score: Patriots 24- Chiefs 21.

Bernard Faller: The Patriots absolutely decimated the Chargers last week seemingly scoring at will by dinking and dunking short passes to James White and running the ball at will with little resistance from the Los Angeles defense.  The Chiefs similarly destroyed the Colts.  A Brady-Brees super bowl matchup certainly has some appeal, and is a good possibility, but two of the NFL’s top young offenses provide a tantalizing storyline also.  New England edged out Kansas City in the first meeting.  The Chiefs take this one at home. Projected Score: Chiefs 39 – Patriots 35.

 

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Early 2019 Free Agency Look: QBs

Updated: January 18th 2019

As usual, there is no shortage of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL.  Jacksonville and Miami very likely look for immediate change while Denver and the New York Giants need fixes very soon.  Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury unfortunately creates uncertainty in Washington. Tampa Bay and Tennessee probably stick with what they have in 2019 but the future appears murky, at best, for Winston and Mariota.  Oakland and Cincinnati are lower probability bets for quarterback moves where Carr and Dalton continue as mediocre options.  New England, Pittsburgh, and the Chargers may soon address their respective long-term situations.

We should be clear right from the start.  This is not a good year for teams with quarterback needs.  The draft class does not rate anywhere near 2018’s lot and the free agent group does not have a single plug-and-play starter.  Teams might decide to stick with what they have in many cases as they do not view available quarterbacks as significant upgrades.  The reader could see many teams just “taking their lumps” next season in preparation for 2020.

Free Agents

Teddy Bridgewater

The fact that this article begins with Bridgewater says all you need to know about the 2019 free agent quarterback class.  Bridgewater does not possess much upside but has long-term competent NFL starter potential.  That is enough to put him ahead of most of the other quarterbacks on this list for many NFL teams.  We have seen nothing from Bridgewater which suggests he will be much of a fantasy option for any of the potential suitors.  New Orleans might convince Bridgewater to sign a longer-term deal to remain with the Saints as their long-term option at quarterback.

Tyrod Taylor

Taylor shot out of nowhere in 2015 for Buffalo finishing as the 7th highest rated passer after years on the bench in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, Taylor has seen a steady downward trajectory to his career ever since seeing his yards per attempt, QBR, and passer rating fall each and every year from his first starting season.  The run culminated with a disastrous 2018 in which he was benched for Baker Mayfield after four games.  Still, there is potentially a spot for Taylor as a starting quarterback.  We can forgive any player’s stint with Hue Jackson in Cleveland.  Taylor plays a very conservative style which minimizes turnovers and makes enough plays with his legs to extend drives occasionally.  Jacksonville, for example, seems a particularly attractive spot for him where the defense will be counted on to win games.  Taylor’s rushing ability can mean big fantasy points so he needs to be on the radar, especially in deeper leagues if a team signs him as a starter or injuries occur.

Sam Bradford

The downside of Bradford is readily apparent.  He can not stay healthy.  Bradford appears molded from the most brittle substance on the planet.  The odds do not appear good that he will get a starting job in 2019.  Still, coaches around the league seem to like him as he continually gets starting chances with multiple teams.  His career trajectory pointed upward until his 2017 injury.  Like Taylor, we need not diminish Bradford too much for an ugly 2018 in which no offensive skill player on Arizona had much of a chance given the coaching staff and offensive line deficiencies.

Potentially Available in Trade or Release

Nick Foles

The Philadelphia legend probably earns top pick among NFL teams if he becomes a free agent.  Foles’ career may be best described as inconsistent.  He had one of the all-time amazing years in 2013 with an incredible 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio and led Philadelphia to the Super Bowl title in 2018 during a great post-season run.  He ranged from a solid starter to a bottom-end option during the various games for three teams over the rest of his time in the league.  His contract presents lots of options.  The Eagles could pick up the $20 million salary option for 2019 forcing Foles to give back $2 million to buy his way into free agency or setting up a potential trade.  This move proves potentially problematic tying that much money to a backup quarterback.  The more likely option allows Foles to hit free agency capitalizing on his recent post-season success to a starting job in 2019.

Joe Flacco

Flacco parlayed the Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl title into an enormous contract which has been a disaster for Baltimore.  The contract had to be reworked for cap purposes extending the contract further out leading to continual cap problems for Baltimore.  In return, the Ravens received mostly bottom-level quarterbacking keeping Baltimore in that ugly middle-tier of teams despite having a strong defense most years.  His contract is reasonable with no guarantees left and a $18.5 million salary for 2019.  The question is what type of team would be interested in Flacco?  He won’t be the long-term answer for any team, would just delay the inevitable for teams not really in the super bowl hunt, and is not a significant upgrade on the host of marginal starters floating around he might replace.  Flacco possesses very little fantasy relevance wherever he ends up.

Current Starters

A new group of potential quarterbacks emerge if teams decide to move on from their current starters.  The Dolphins fired Adam Gase which could mean the end of Ryan Tannehill in Miami.  He displayed some quality throws occasionally with good athleticism but comes with immense injury baggage and struggles with pocket awareness.   The most likely scenario for Eli Manning is retirement or the Giants convincing themselves once again they are not as far away from contention as they actually are with Manning returning again for 2019.  Blake Bortles is almost certainty done in Jacksonville following multiple benching.  He also almost certainly will not be starting for any other team in 2019.  One great season convinced Denver to give Case Keenum a solid contract and ignore the rest of his career.  His masquerade as a starter in the NFL may end sooner than later.


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 NFL Draft Previews, FCS Prospects

Updated: January 18th 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 Winter and Spring as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Today’s previews will feature four FCS players who may be flying under your radar.  All four were featured in my 2018 FCS preview so if you’d like to read more about them, please check out that piece as well.  Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State

  • Listed at: 6020/221 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Delaware 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2017: 164 of 264, 62.1% completion percentage, 2,466 yards, 28 TDs, 8 INTs; 112 rushing attempts, 663 yards, 12 TDs
    • 2018: 175 of 281, 62.3% completion percentage, 2,752 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs; 117 rushing attempts, 677 yards, 17 TDs

Stick has gained some publicity lately, possibly because of superficial comparisons to former Bison standout Carson Wentz.  The opinions of draft analysts I follow are all over the map on Stick so I knew it was inevitable that he would require some study.  As far as measureables and statistics go, Stick is just able to check each box.  He doesn’t posses top tier arm strength, size or speed but he’s good enough all-around for NFL consideration.

My biggest takeaway from my initial introduction to Stick was his accuracy and ball placement.  That was similarly illustrated in the new film I watched against Delaware (a middling Colonial foe).  Stick shows an ability to place the ball with accuracy and anticipation.  This touchdown toss is instructive when you watch it from the broadcast angle and then on replay.  On the reverse angle, you can see that the running back was Stick’s second read.  More impressive, you can see that he releases the ball to the inside of the defender while his target is to the outside and not looking for the ball.  It caught my eye as a good example of throwing a receiver open.

A later throw in the Delaware bout showed that Stick can throw it with accuracy deeper down the field as well.  On this play he has great protection and has forever to throw as he surveys the field.  He finds a receiver 35 yards down the opposite sideline and drops the ball in with a great trajectory over the defender and before the on-rushing safety.

In my opinion, Stick’s rushing totals belie his rushing ability.  He has decent speed and runs with determination but he’s certainly not fast or agile.  The successful rushes against Delaware were fine but I doubt that will be a part of his game at the next level.  One thing that will help him at that next level is the fact that he took snaps from under center in college.  He looks awkward under center, like he’s crouching too low, but having a head start on timing the last step of his drop will be helpful.  As far as his pocket presence is concerned, I felt that Stick was too eager to leave the pocket, specifically to his right.  NFL defenders will be much less likely to lose contain and will be able to chase him down from behind before he gets the corner.  When he did throw while on the run, he showed me average or better accuracy.  As shown above, Stick does have enough arm to make cross-field throws but he will grade behind others in that aspect.  Interestingly for somebody with his strengths, I think he lacked touch on screens and short passes.

When I previewed Stick in my FCS preview this season, I predicted a Day Two grade for him.  I’ll stick to that prediction (pun intended) because quarterbacks are always overdrafted.  In addition to what I’ve discussed, teams will love that Stick was a three-year starter and a two-time champion. Draft Prediction: Rounds 2-3

 

Keelan Doss, WR, UC Davis

  • Listed at: 6030/209 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Eastern Washington 2018, Highlights 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2017: 115 receptions, 1,499 yards, 13.0 yards per catch, 7 TDs
    • 2018: 118 receptions, 1,334 yards, 11.3 yards per catch, 9 TDs

Doss followed up a stellar 2017 season with an equally productive 2018 campaign.  He finished in the top five in the FCS in both receptions per game and receiving yards, earning him second team FCS All-American honors by the Associated Press.  When I first previewed Doss, there was no film available besides highlight reels.  Thankfully, his tape against eventual finalist Eastern Washington is now up.  Once I realized this I wanted to dive right in.

Let’s start with the negatives for a change.  I did not see much separation, straight line speed or run after catch from Doss.  Part of that may be on the quarterback throwing with poor placement or anticipation but it appeared, at least partially, on Doss.  (It’s also a small sample size.)  He was inconsistent with using his hands to snag the ball away from his body and his timing was off on some jumps.  This was visible on the play below where Doss needs to make a last second adjustment to make the catch after an awkward leap.  I give him credit for ultimately making the catch but he made it harder on himself than somebody of his size needs to.

I felt like I was nitpicking Doss’s jumping but literally the first play of the 2018 highlight reel I chose showed the same poorly timed leap.  The angle isn’t great, but you can again see that Doss must adjust to the ball while he’s already in the air.  He makes the catch but he should more easily win these targets.

Now onto the positives.  Doss has a big frame that honestly looks bigger than the listed 6030/209.  While that size does not appear to translate to victories in the air, Doss shows that he can use his body to shield defenders from the ball.  In the Eastern Washington game he came across the middle of the field a number of times, including this play that resulted in a first down.  He snatches the ball in the air and brings it into his body with two hands, bracing for the impact of the defender and the ground.

You’ll notice that Doss was lined up in the slot on the above play.  I saw a number of different deployments from him, including coming in motion and taking a jet sweep handoff.  Since I question Doss’s ability to win in the air as an X receiver, being able to succeed from the slot may presage his NFL usage.  If he does play between the numbers, his awareness to find the soft spot of the zone, as he shows below, will be key.

I struggled with who should get the higher draft grade: Doss or Emmanuel Butler (below).  I saw more negatives in Doss’s tape but I had to remind myself that Butler’s tape was two years old and pre-injuries.  Because of that I’ll give Doss the slight advantage heading into the pre-draft process.  Draft Prediction: Rounds 5-6

 

Emmanuel Butler, WR, Northern Arizona

  • Listed at: 6040/220 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Eastern Washington 2016, Highlights 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2016: 11 games, 69 receptions, 1,003 yards, 14.5 yards per catch, 9 TDs (missed most of 2017 with a shoulder injury)
    • 2018: 9 games, 35 receptions, 676 yards, 19.3 yards per catch, 7 TDs

Unfortunately, Butler’s promise has been partially derailed by injury.  In 2017 he missed most of the season (2 games, 6 receptions) with a shoulder injury that required surgery.  In 2018, he missed time as well after taking a big hit to his midsection.  Since he’s missed time recently and had a disappointing 2018 season, there’s not much hype (or film) for Butler.  Nevertheless, I think fans should keep an eye on Butler because I think he’ll pop-up come training camp.

The lone game available to study was from 2016, before his shoulder injury.  Butler consistently shows his ability to win in the air.  He showcases one of my favorite receiver attributes, being able to go “over and through” a defender as I call it.  By that I mean that Butler is able to outjump the defender and he uses his wingspan to catch the ball in front of the defender; it’s as if he were able to shove his hands through the defender’s midsection.  Here’s a good example of what I mean:

You can also see how strong his hands are on this play.  He has less than ideal hand placement but he’s able to hold onto the ball despite the defender’s arm getting in between.  You can also see that Butler comes down out of bounds which I noticed more than once, so he may not have the body control and spatial awareness of other elite above-the-rim receivers.

My favorite highlight of Butler’s actually came on an interception (and is one I pointed out back in the preseason).  The ball is intercepted with Butler fighting for the ball.  The DB gets up and returns the interception.  Butler hurries to his feet, fights off a block and runs down the streaking defender, saving a likely touchdown.  One of the best hustle plays I’ve ever seen.

I wanted to check-in with some post-injury 2018 film but struggled to find relevant highlights.  The reels I found weren’t dated so I’m not sure which games are featured.  What I saw though validated some of my prior observations, namely that Butler is an acrobatic receiver who can make fantastic catches.  Without further film study it’s hard to gauge Butler’s route running and blocking ability.  From the little I’ve seen, I think he may be below average in both respects.

Butler is a potential steal for a team late in the NFL Draft because of his high ceiling and discounted price due to the injuries.  Sadly, he probably won’t factor into your RSO rookie drafts but you should remember his name just in case he gets an opportunity.  Draft Prediction: Rounds 6-7

Donald Parham, TE, Stetson

  • Listed at: 6080/240 (per www.stats.washingtonpost.com)
  • Film watched for this profile: Highlights 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Stats:
    • 2017: 10 games, 58 receptions, 817 yards, 14.1 yards per catch, 1 TDs
    • 2018: 9 games, 85 receptions, 1,319 yards, 15.5 yards per catch, 13 TDs

My dude.  I came across Parham in May 2018 while doing some deep sleeper research.  I first profiled him in my 2018 FCS preview and then followed up with an interview, because I just had to learn more.  I thought Parham’s line from 2017, 58/817/1 was impressive, and was blown away when I saw his 2018 numbers.  I really did not expect his production to jump as high as it did (85/1,319/13) but Parham ended up being an first team FCS All-American.  Unfortunately there’s no new film on Parham (thankfully he’ll be at the Senior Bowl) so I’ll have to settle for sharing two highlights I previously shared with my readers.  In the first, you’ll see just how valuable his extra inches are.  In the second, you’ll see what Parham told me was his most memorable football moment, a diving catch against Sacred Heart.

The positive signs for Parham are 1) his production has increased year over year, 2) he’s bulked up nearly 40lbs since his freshmen season and 3) he received that vital Senior Bowl invite.  I fully anticipate that Parham’s stock will increase after the Senior Bowl.  Even if his performance isn’t great, people will be intrigued by somebody with his measureables.  Adam Shaheen went from relative anonymity to second round draft pick in short order in 2017 and I’m expecting a similar rise for Parham.  Like Shaheen, Parham will need time to develop but he’s worth the investment.  I’m calling my shot here: Parham will be drafted on Day Two and he’ll inevitably end up on one of my dynasty teams.  Draft Prediction: Rounds 2-3

 

Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  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 writing a full report for a player, I typically pick two games of film to watch.  When time permits, I may add a third game. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. 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 college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, 247Sports College Football, College Fantasy Football: On Campus, Underdog Pawdcast, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com, the media home for FWAA members
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: oddsshark.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 recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Divisional Round Predictions

Updated: January 12th 2019

Well, the road teams were the story of last weekend, covering the spread in all four games and winning three of them outright, culminating in an absolutely crazy finish to the Eagles-Bears game with a double doink missed/blocked FG as time expired (putting huge smiles on the faces of Matt and me). Here is how our writers performed last week (some 3-1 ATS and ML but nobody with the clean parlay):

  1. Stephen Wendell: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS
  3. Kyle English: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: 2-2 ML & 1-3 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: 1-3 ML & 2-2 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS
  7. Luke Patrick O’Connell: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS

A quick summary of the picks for this week are below in case you don’t want to read each writer’s analysis…but you should because there are some great nuggets of information down there:

  1. Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs (Line KC -5): ML – 5 KC & 1 IND // ATS – 5 KC & 1 IND
  2. Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams (Line LAR -7): ML – 0 DAL & 6 LAR // ATS – 4 DAL & 2 LAR
  3. LA Chargers @ New England Patriots (Line NE -4): ML – 2 LAC & 4 NE // ATS – 4 LAC & 2 NE
  4. Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints (Line NO -8): ML – 2 PHI & 4 NO // ATS – 4 PHI & 2 NO

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) [Line: KC -5]

Stephen Wendell: Mahomes overpowers Luck as his legend continues to grow. Projected Score: Chiefs 30 – Colts 24.

Matt Papson: Andy Reid is dominant off a bye. Projected Score: Chiefs 35 – Colts 24.

Kyle English: Call it a homer pick if you want, but I think the Colts are the real deal.  I expect plenty of points to be scored, I just think the Colts offense has a larger advantage over the Chiefs defense than the Chiefs offense has against the slightly underrated Colts defense. Projected Score: Colts 31 – Chiefs 28.

Matt Goodwin: Color me impressed by how dominant Andrew Luck, Marlon Mack and the Colts were last weekend in Houston. I’m really impressed with the Colts’ offensive line and running the ball will be paramount to controlling clock and keeping the high-octane Chiefs offense off the field at raucous Arrowhead Stadium. With that said, I think Pat Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill are too much for the Colts defense to contend with and Kansas City has found ways to still get solid contributions out of their running backs as well.  Projected Score: Chiefs 30 – Colts 20.

Nick Andrews: There is only one factor that will determine the outcome of this game, Indy’s O-Line. If the Chiefs are unsuccessful at getting pressure on Andrew Luck the Colts defense should be able to hold of Pat Mahomes for a least enough drives to keep them under 28 points. If there is snow during the game this only helps the Colts who are better equipped to produce through their run game. Despite all this, I still think the Chiefs will come out the victor but the Colts will have a real shot at the end. Projected Score: Chiefs 27 – Colts 21.

Bernard Faller: This should be a shootout with two of the top passers in the NFL.  Andrew Luck is playing at a MVP level and second-year pro Patrick Mahomes likely wins the MVP.  Kansas City scored 30+ in all but four games this year and the Colts won 9 of their last 10. Questions remain as to how Mahomes will react in his first post-season start but the Chiefs offense is playing at a different level.  Projected Score: Chiefs 34 – Colts 28.

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) @ Los Angeles Rams (13-3) [Line: LAR -7]

Stephen Wendell: Cowboys keep it really close but the Rams learn from last year and prevail. Projected Score: Rams 24 – Cowboys 20.

Matt Papson: I expect this to be a relatively close game. Despite being 13-3, the Rams seem vulnerable. Projected Score: Rams 27 – Cowboys 24.

Kyle English: I expect this to be a blowout with the Rams dominating the Cowboys across the board. Projected Score: Rams 31 – Cowboys 17.

Matt Goodwin: Dallas is 3-5 on the road this season and head to Los Angeles to face the Rams who have had several weeks to get Todd Gurley healthy and scheme for the Cowboys (since the Seahawks are in the Rams division, guessing the focus was on scheming for either Dallas or Chicago since the playoff bracket was announced). Anyways, while Dallas looks to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and get their defensive line pressuring Jared Goff into bad decisions, the Rams just have too much for Dallas to handle schematically on the road and if a team like the Colts can blow the Cowboys out, imagine what a more dynamic offense can do to them. Projected Score: Rams 34 – Cowboys 17.

Nick Andrews: All the talk this week with head coaches being hired has surprisingly focused on a coach who is already employed, Sean McVay. Every pundit and analyst is saying that X team needs to find their Sean McVay but can we pump the breaks until he’s won a playoff game at least. The Rams this season have looked superhuman, and then average around the 2/3rds marker, then back to great the final two weeks of the regular season against cupcake opponents. Whichever team shows up against the Cowboys this weekend is likely going to be the decider. Projected Score: Rams 24- Cowboys 20.

Bernard Faller: Dallas has the tools to bleed out the clock, keeping the ball away from the potent Los Angeles offense.  It will not happen this game.  Too much Aaron Donald.  Too much Rams passing attack.  Los Angeles learns from last post-season’s loss.  Projected Score: Rams 27 – Cowboys 20.

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) @ New England Patriots (11-5) [Line: NE -4]

Stephen Wendell: Tom Brady in Foxboro in January. Enough said! Projected Score: Patriots 22 – Chargers 17. 

Matt Papson: I had more trouble picking the victor in this game than any other, but have to give the edge to BB & TB in the playoffs. Projected Score: Patriots 24 – Chargers 23.

Kyle English: I’ll be cheering for the Chargers, but I don’t think they have enough to pull out another road upset. Projected Score: Patriots 20 – Chargers 17 

Matt Goodwin: While I don’t want to stake myself against the Patriots at home with all their playoff experience, this Chargers team is 8-1 on the road this season and with such a lack of home field advantage at Stubhub Center, you can argue they play on the road every week. 12-4 in the regular season and with the most balanced team they’ve had, this Chargers team is capable of going into Foxboro and beating a potentially “cooked” Patriots team and signaling a changing of the guard. While the Patriots like to run the ball when the playoffs come, I don’t think they have enough in the passing game (especially with Gronk seemingly all sorts of banged up) to fool the Chargers stalwart secondary. On the other side, I don’t think the Patriots can take away the best weapons the Chargers have and even if they do, the Chargers have secondary weapons like Mike Williams to deal with. It will be nice to see what Hunter Henry does in his return as well. I’m calling the upset here. Projected Score: Chargers 27 – Patriots 23

Nick Andrews: Can Philip Rivers finally give Brady a loss? Does the silly stat of Nick Saban and Bill Belichick alternating championships mean anything? The answer to both is no, probably, but a fun idea for people to debate about. The Patriots are 19-3 at home in the playoffs, 11-1 in Divisional games after a bye, and 2-0 against Rivers and the Chargers during the Brady-Belichick era. The Chargers are a great team and should be a better matchup than several of the previous years’ divisional opponents but making the AFC Championship is what the Patriots do.  Projected Score: Patriots 20 – Chargers 16.

Bernard Faller: Do I necessarily trust Phillip Rivers over Tom Brady? No.  I do believe the Chargers are the better, more balanced team on both sides of the ball.  Los Angeles basically played away games this whole season so they handle one more.  Projected Score:  Chargers 28 – Patriots 24.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3) [Line: NO -8]

Stephen Wendell: I projected Sir Nick to go 7-0 and win the SB when Wentz went down with injury. He has won four in a row since then and Sunday he will make it five. Projected Score: Eagles 35 – Saints 34.

Matt Papson: The Church of Nick Foles. Projected Score: Eagles 31 – Saints 21.

Kyle English: I’d love to see more Foles magic and he’ll probably have a good game, but I think the Saints offense will be too much for them. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 27.

Matt Goodwin: St. Nick struck again last week in Chicago and the Eagles seek revenge from an earlier in the season drubbing at New Orleans. The Saints are a different team at home and while a project a close shootout, I think the Saints move on to the NFC Championship behind Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees. Look for the Eagles to lose a close one, although nothing would surprise me. Projected Score: Saints 34 – Eagles 31.

Nick Andrews: A rematch of what should have been the NFC Championship game last year we will see if Nick Foles is really a football Messiah. The Saints obliterated the Eagles 48-7 in the regular season with Carson Wentz as the starting QB and there’s not much that would make me think that the outcome would be any different this time. Blowouts are hard to pull off so while the Saints should win again the likelihood of a 41 points spread is highly unlikely. If Nick Foles somehow upsets the Saints with the same roster Wentz had in week 11 he may really have a direct link to the man in the clouds. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 20.

Bernard Faller: The key to this game is Philadelphia’s defensive front against New Orleans’ run game.  The Eagles have a chance if they can shut down Kamara and company.  The odds are against it.  New Orleans is too good in both the pass and run areas.  I also really like the Saints’ defensive backfield improvements to finish the year. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 20.

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

The Watch List: 2019 National Championship Game Preview

Updated: January 5th 2019

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

National Championship Game, Alabama (14-0) vs Clemson (14-0), Mon 1/7 at 8:00pm on ESPN:

Well, here we go again. Alabama and Clemson are building a nice intra-conference rivalry with all of these CFP matchups (the Tide lead the recent series, 2-1). I’ve heard some fans express disappointment that we’re getting such a familiar matchup for the championship but I’m a fan. For me, as an amateur draft analyst, this game is fantastic because of the sheer volume of NFL talent that will be on display. I’ve recently written about a number of these prospects so rather than rehash those players, I decided to spotlight two guys who I have yet to discuss this season: Alabama RB Josh Jacobs and Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow. If you’d like to revisit my previous players-to-watch from earlier this postseason, please check out my Conference Championship Preview (Irv Smith) and Part VI of my Bowl Previews (Clelin Ferrel, Quinnen Williams).  I’ve also provided my prediction and best bets below.  Good luck and enjoy!

Draft Eligible Players to Watch:

Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Josh Jacobs likely saw his NFL Draft stock rise quicker than anybody else who played last week. In that game against Oklahoma, Jacobs totaled 19 touches for 158 yards and a score. Throughout his career, Jacobs has been sharing the workload with a number of talented backs (currently, the Harris “twins” of Damien and Najee) but maybe coach Nick Saban finally realized that Jacobs was the best of the bunch. It’s impossible to evaluate Jacobs based on his stats because he shared so many touches. His career numbers are: 240 attempts, 1,444 yards, 16 rushing TDs, 47 receptions, 555 yards and 5 receiving TDs. Don’t be the fantasy owner who ignores him because his career stats don’t look great on paper. I was that guy when it came to Alvin Kamara in 2017 and I hope not to repeat that mistake. I’m certainly not predicting that Jacobs will have Kamara’s rise to stardom, it’s far too soon for a prediction like that, but I’m saying that there’s more than the boxscore for fantasy owners to consider.

I first wrote about Jacobs in November 2017 but since then I haven’t watched him too closely, so it was time for a refresher.  I decided to go back and watch Jacobs against Mississippi State from earlier this season. His 20 carries in that game were a career high so I figured it would give me a feel for his ceiling.  On the first play of the State film, Jacobs took the snap from the wildcat and showcased his penchant for lowering his head and surging into defenders.  He wallops the first defender and then shoulders another as he’s being dragged down around the waist.  The run went for a first down but what stood out more was how un-fun it would be to lineup opposite Jacobs.

In addition to his size and power, Jacobs showed an ability to make sharp, quick cuts to get around defenders.  This one near the end zone was particularly eye-catching.  Jacobs sets up two defenders to the outside, plants his right foot and explodes upfield while avoiding much contact.  Without the benefit of the full broadcast, it’s hard to tell if Jacobs scores on the play but either way that cut was a thing of beauty.

I was most surprised by Jacobs’ ability to pass protect.  Perhaps that should not have come as a surprise since Nick Saban trusts him as the passing down back.  Other backs have the desire to block, but I struggled thinking of a back who showed the intelligence in picking up their assignments as Jacobs did.  There were three separate instances against Mississippi State where I noted that Jacobs quickly diagnosed the rush and found his man, even from across the formation.  I chose to highlight this specific play because you can also see Jacobs square up, set his base and prepare for the block.

Due to the small sample size we have for Jacobs, I can understand why fantasy owners may be leery about taking the plunge next Spring.  I however, need no further convincing that Jacobs deserves to move up my positional rankings.  He has a wonderful combination of size, power, agility, intelligence and pass catching ability that will endear him to scouts.  Come May, we will be talking about Jacobs as a potential Day Two NFL prospect and as a second round target in rookie drafts.

 

 

Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson

ESPN put it best in their recent piece, saying that “Hunter Renfrow is a timeless legend at Clemson.” Renfrow doesn’t project as a big-name prospect like some of the other dudes in this contest, so why highlight him? For starters, that “legendary” status paired with Dabo Swinney’s playful playcalling means that Renfrow will inevitably be featured on a trick play. He played as a triple-option quarterback in high school, was the team’s emergency quarterback while Trevor Lawrence was banged up and kicked a 42-yard punt against Wake Forest.  Once the Wake game was out of hand, Renfrow got some snaps at QB.  Check out the downfield block he makes on this run that helps spring the back for a score.  “Want-to” plays like this is what makes fans fall in love with Renfrow.

While Renfrow’s regular season production throughout his career has been mediocre (about 3 catches for 40 yards, on average), he has shown an ability to show up for big games. Renfrow has played in each of the three CFP matchups versus ‘Bama and has a total of 22 receptions, 211 and 2 TDs (including the last second game winner in 2017). Those stats, against the perennially strong Alabama defense in the seasons’ biggest games, are impressive.

Renfrow will get a crack in the NFL as a slot receiver but he won’t be highly sought in a deep receiver class. He has sticky hands, runs his routes well and is a clutch performer.  While I was looking for highlights of Renfrow, I came across this catch which immediately reminded me of the game-winning catch Cole Beasley made against the Giants in Week 17.  Renfrow breaks off his route to adjust for the scrambling quarterback, heads towards open space to make himself a target, hands-catches the ball in midair and gets a foot in for the score.

Beasley is smaller than Renfrow, so I think a better comparison would be fellow Clemson alumni, Adam Humphries from the Buccaneers. Humphries went undrafted, as did Beasley, which is too a possibility for Renfrow but I think it’s more likely he’ll be a sixth or seventh round guy because of his name recognition.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how Renfrow is deployed in this one.  Running a “Clemson Special” with Renfrow may be too obvious so instead I’m thinking he might be involved in a trick special teams play (in addition to his regular receiver work, of course).

My Prediction:

There’s not much to separate these two teams. They have so much in common: both have underclassmen on offense who are surefire NFL pros, both have stellar defenses led by fierce front sevens, both have championship experience, both have great coaching staffs, and on and on. When I came into this preview, I knew it was going to be difficult to avoid the urge to name-drop all of the potential difference makers. The two guys mentioned above will surely figure into the action but the main draw will undoubtedly be the quarterbacks. Clemson’s true freshman Trevor Lawrence is a herculean specimen who looked, and played, the part from day one. Alabama’s sophomore Tua Tagovailoa is like a jazz musician with his ability to improvise and produce moments of magic extemporaneously. If pressed, I would predict that Lawrence has the better game overall but Tua produces the single most important moment of the game and wins a defensive battle for the Tide.  Alabama 29, Clemson 25

My Bets:

  • Clemson, +5.5
  • Under 58.5

Lines and betting stats courtesy of OddsShark.com, as of 1/4.

 

Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  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 watching film for a player, I typically pick two games.  When time permits, I may add a third game. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. 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 college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com, mcubed.net
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, 247Sports College Football, College Fantasy Football: On Campus, Underdog Pawdcast, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com, the media home for FWAA members
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: oddsshark.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 recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper