IDP Start/Sit: Week 3

Updated: September 24th 2022

Welcome to week 3! Another fun week of fantasy football, but more fun if you are living that IDP fantasy life! One more week of data, a week to help establish real/true trends, and more film to interpret for our next set of decisions. As always, a reminder of what this article is here for,is to help you identify those truly start-worthy players who might be more on the fringe of the 2nd or 3rd or even 4th tier of their IDP position groups (based on FantasyPros weekly rankings) but have the right situation to be a start-able asset for each given week (or maybe more!). The layout of this series will focus on DL, LB, and DB position groups, however, I will try to get some nuggets in there for those “True Position” leagues that get down with DT and CB requirements. Additionally, where I can find the long-term value, we will also call that out to help you with some of that season-long planning.

As a quick refresher too, here were week two’s recommendations and how the “advice” went. Happy with my all sits, the Titans defense disappointed for me this week. Expected greater work from the key players in that front 7.
DL:
Start: Jeffery Simmons (1 PD)


Sit: Khalil Mack (.5 sack, 1 solo, 1 assist)


LB:

Start: David Long Jr. (1 solo, 1 assist)

Sit (Sell): Kamu Grugier-Hill (3 solo, 2 assist)

 

DB:
Start: Kyler Gordon (3 solos, 3 assist, 1 PD)

Sit: Jevon Holland (2 solos, 8 return yards)

 

START: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs, DL33

The new look Kansas City Chiefs are looking strong at 2-0 and a large part of this is thanks to the play of their defense as well. And at the core of the front 7 is Chris Jones, delivering strong performances for his team and for IDP fantasy. As such, he is a strong value start at DL33 from Fantasy Pros IDP week 3 rankings. He is checking those preliminary boxes for us in utilization (70%+ snap count through 2 weeks) and showing a top-end PFF pass-rush grade of 90+ as well.

What does this mean for week 3’s matchup? The Chiefs travel to Indianapolis and they struggled against a decent unit last week in the Jaguars and the Colts defense has looked weak so far this year and the Chiefs offense could turn this into a negative game script very quickly. Which means this front 7 can really pin its ears back and get after a very immobile Matt Ryan. Pair this with a Colts offensive line that has been bottom half of the league so far this year with Jones’ 17% pressure rate, we have a very strong path for Jones to continue adding pressure and likely converting a sack or two!

Jones is an easy DL2 this week and a must start in DT required leagues.

SIT: Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints, DL23

Marcus Davenport came on strong at the end of 2021 and was really starting to get people to believe in his 1st round draft capital and what he could be for the Saints as a premier edge rusher as Cameron Jordan is reaching the end of his career. However, his start to this season has been rather pedestrian, at best. Davenport has had slightly above average snap counts at around 60% of his snaps but he has delivered little excitement in the pass-rush department with a 6% pressure rate! He would need to be converting almost every pressure at that rate to be delivering consistent IDP value.

With a rough start, week 3 brings in the Carolina Panthers and some would say this would be the salve to what ails Davenport. However, I am predicting a shift in the Panthers focus and getting CMC more involved as he has shown the ability to be involved and gain further confidence in his ability to stay on the field. Along with the fact that many believe Matt Rhule is playing for his job at this point, and CMC sounds like a better bet than Baker Mayfield, in one man’s humble opinion. And if this is the case, Davenport has struggled to deliver in the run game as well this year, leading to just an overall disappointing IDP week.

START: Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers, LB23

Fred Warner has been an IDP stalwart for the last 4 seasons since coming into the league. Now, after two slow weeks to start his 2022 campaign, consensus ranks has him at LB23 this week! The 49ers have run a crazy low number of plays on defense at 53.5 per game over the last two weeks. Those are numbers that just aren’t realistic to last over the entirety of the season. On a 17 game pace, that would leave him almost 100 snaps lower than some of his 16 game seasons in terms of total snaps played. He has had some below average tackle efficiency which can be expected to happen at times, so some positive regression there, with increased overall snaps means stronger numbers are very likely in the future for Warner.

The Broncos have average around 65 snaps per game as an offense as well, so this should be a return to the norm for the 49ers defense and Warner is an asset who has proven year in and year out that he can deliver, just look at this IDP resume:

  • 79+ solo tackles every year
  • 115+ total tackles every year
  • 22+ TFLs over the last 4 years
  • 12 combined FF/FR over the last 4 years

All this to say, if anyone is out on Warner, buy the dip and ride the wave of success that should follow shortly after.

SIT: Jerome Baker, Miami Dolphins, LB27

Jerome Baker is getting full 100% snap count which is not always easy to find with any LB, so if he is getting that kind of usage, why would we want to be looking at sitting him them? Alignment. Week 1 he spent about 17% of his snaps on the defensive line rushing the passer and in week 2, that jumped way up to 53%. This utilization is a scary trend for Baker and if it continues or stays anywhere near that 50%. This has already shown up in his first two weeks performance with 7 total tackles between both and also only delivered 1 total pressure with all these pass rush attempts. This is a very-low 6% pressure rate and he hasn’t converted anything into further IDP production either.

Now for week 3, we see the Dolphins take on the Buffalo Bills and this is not the team a pass rushing LB is going to right their ship. Baker might correct course here soon, but this week is not the one to do. With only 3 sacks allowed in the first two games, that is a big ask for Baker to be the one to come up with it with previous lack of success.

START: Terrell Edmunds, Pittsburgh Steelers, DB34

Terrell Edmunds is easily overshadowed by the other safety in Pittsburgh in Minkah Fitzpatrick. Minkah is out there breaking all logic in how deep safeties have historically produced IDP with crazy tackle numbers giving safe weekly floors with high-level play-making that delivers week winning performances. While all this is happening, Edmunds is quietly delivering success while getting the ideal utilization for a safety. He has gotten 100% of the defensive snaps while also playing 58% of his snaps inside the sweet spot!!!

With a tough divisional matchup in the Cleveland Browns which have been low-scoring games, and you have seen Cleveland continue to rely on their running game. With that consideration, these sweet spot snaps will become even more valuable. Edmunds is a strong DB2 this week and might be a candidate to watch for season-long  value as well.

SIT: Jonathan Owners, Houston Texans, DB26

Jonathan Owners has been a pleasant surprise to start this season. However, I am guessing most people have not played him much this season unless in a super deep league. He has put up an astounding 25 tackles through the first two games as well as a pass defensed. This is super impressive and why wouldn’t we want this in our lineup?!? Because he has played a ludicrous 81 snaps per game so far this year! OK, well, the Texans defense stinks, right? So they will keep getting more snaps, right? Enter the Chicago Bears. They have thrown 28 passes through 2 games this year and run the 2nd least amount of plays in 97 total plays.

Something has to give in this situation, and Jonathan Owens has played solidly with PFF grades around 63 for the season, but if I had to pick a side, I would lean away from the lack of previous production from Owens and the inflated opportunities about to come crashing back down this week against the Bears.

More Analysis by Jake

IDP Start/Sit: Week 2

Updated: September 16th 2022

It is week 2 of the NFL season! We now have a full game of “real” NFL football and data points to analyze and help guide our decision-making, but before we jump into this, a friendly reminder of what I am trying to do here. This article aims to help you identify those truly start-worthy players who might be more on the fringe of the 2nd or 3rd or even 4th tier of their IDP position groups (based on FantasyPros weekly rankings) but have the right situation to be a startable asset for each given week (or maybe more!). The layout of this series will focus on DL, LB, and DB position groups, however, I will try to get some nuggets in there for those “True Position” leagues that get down with DT and CB requirements. Additionally, where I can find the long-term value, we will also call that out to help you with some of that season-long planning.

As a quick refresher too, here were last week’s recommendations:
DL: Start Danielle Hunter. Sit Sam Hubbard
LB: Start Isaiah Simmons. Sit Anthony Walker Jr.
DB: Start Kyler Gordon. Sit (Fade) Jeremey Chinn

START: Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans, DL27

Jeffery Simmons had a standout first week, and generally speaking, you don’t want to chase box scores. However, Simmons supports his outcomes with some strong analytics. There are things that we have talked about needing from your defensive linemen to support the most likely successful outcomes for IDP assets. He meets the most basic foundation with a strong snap count at 87% (52 snaps in week 1) and along with that, strong pass-rush metrics that indicate continued success. His 2 sacks, 6 tackles, and a forced fumble were a strong week 1, but his strong performance should just be the beginning. He posted a pass rush grade of 90+ (via PFF) and an elite 21.4% pass rush win rate!

These indicators show us that he should continue to be a successful IDP contributor. Simmons as a DL27 this week is a crime and should be a candidate for trade target to pursue long-term if you don’t already have him on your roster. Tennessee’s offense looks like a shell of last year’s team, they will lean into this defense and Simmons looks to be the leader of it. Buy in now!

SIT: Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers, DL18

The ‘Mack Attack’ is back! Khalil Mack looked like prime Mack and me having him in the ‘Sit’ category probably has you wondering, what the heck am I talking about? Mack posted strong snap counts, a solid pass-rush win rate at 14.2%, and a very good PFF pash-rush grade of 79. So let’s cut to the point. These numbers came from the matchup with a bottom-third-rated offensive line in the Las Vegas Raiders. What I believe I saw was over-inflated production due to that favorable matchup. Mack is a solid contributor and in a much stronger defense than he has played with for the last few years in Chicago, and as such his production week-to-week will fluctuate more significantly. Chasing his high-weeks in managed lineups will be tricky, but a game against Kansas City and an offense with Mahomes that will find a way to slow down this pass rush with a Chiefs offensive line that now boosts itself as one of its strengths.

START: David Long, Tennessee Titans, LB16

David Long is shaping up to be a top 12-15 LB for the remainder of the season. Long showed flashes last season and now he is getting the chance to be the lead guy in Tennessee and it is paying off. He saw the field for 100% of the snaps (60 total in week 1) and he was able to be efficient with the snaps he was given. 8 tackles on 60 snaps equates to a tackle efficiency of 13.3%. This is slightly above average for LBs as it tends to float around 12% which is positive for his season-long productivity. He also had 3 missed tackles in week 1, both concerning as that is a bit high, but also exciting because there are more opportunities to rack up the production. This makes Long a great weekly starter in its own rights, but now combine that with the upside he showed in pass-rush, 5 pressures.

For this week he should see the tackle floor increase, as well as Josh Allen, has consistently funneled targets into the middle of the field in week 1 and we can see those right into the heart of David Long and his efforts making him a top 10 play this week.

SIT (SELL): Kamu Grugier-Hill, Houston Texans, LB4

Kamu Grugier-Hill absolutely balled out for IDP in week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts with an absurd 18 tackles (14 solo! and 4 assisted) along with a pass defensed. He is played as a true 3-down LB with 100% snaps of a ridiculous 92 SNAPS! This was also an, in my opinion, an unsustainable 19.5% tackle efficiency. He is still a very viable LB to play week in and week out, however, the LB4 ranking of Grugier-Hill for week 2 feels like a strong over-correction. 92 snaps is close to a 50% more than what you would expect in an average NFL game for defensive snaps, so paired with reduced snap and unsustainable tackle efficiency, now is the time to sell this belief that he is a top 5 IDP LB, especially in dynasty.

He was also in a very positive matchup against the Colts who focused heavily on the utilization of Jonathan Taylor which was very friendly to the Texans Cover 2 defense and Matt Ryan’s passing attack that focused on shorter to intermediate targets. With a matchup in week 2 against the Broncos, I believe we will see Russell Wilson actually begin to attack downfield versus the dump-off game we saw on Monday.

And the cherry on-top, Kamu is racking up IDP stats, however, his PFF grade leaves a ton to be desired (37.4 overall, ouch!) which for a Texans team that doesn’t seem to be likely competing for a playoff spot would have every reason to pull an underperformer and give a 3rd round rookie LB a chance to prove themself at some point this season too (Christian Harris anyone?). Along with the face that Grugier-Hill is in the final year of his contract too.

All this to say, sell high!

START: Jaquan Brisker, Chicago Bears, DB29

If you haven’t guess the theme here for people we want to have, let’s start with the full-time player for Brisker at 100% of the 68 snaps for the Chicago Bears. But for the secondary, we need those snaps and we need the ideal alignment which is in that “sweet spot” (21 box, 4 slot, 5 DL) for a total of 30 snaps there, for a very strong 44% there.

Now, this didn’t equate to top-tier IDP success with 4 solo tackles, 1 TFL, FR, but he showed to be around the ball consistently. Now looking forward to week 2, the Green Bay Packers will refocus on their run game with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to control the game, coach La Fleur has stated as much. But with more opportunities in the run game, will come more opportunities for people playing at or near the line of scrimmage to make more plays… enter, Brisker! Game script leans heavily towards Brisker getting these chances, making him a clear DB2 for this week.

SIT: Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins, DB22

Jevon Holland had a standout rookie year and respectable week 1 for the Dolphins against the Patriots. He was only able to deliver 3 tackles but had the rest of his day propped up by an interception which is a bet I am not willing to place week in and week out. Holland saw the full complement of snaps, 100% of the 57 snaps which is a great baseline to IDP relevance. However, Holland took 45 of those 57 at deep safety which are some of the least valuable IDP aligned snap we can get.

Week 2 Miami has the Ravens coming to town and their pass-to-rush ratio is close to 50% and that was with a depleted and inefficient backfield. If they can find any support with more talent in their backfield from J.K. Dobbins or the recently acquired Kenyan Drake gets more comfortable with the team, you should see even more plays at or around the line of scrimmage in this game, devaluing those deep snaps for IDP. Holland is a talented football player and play-maker, but for IDP, he is someone we might want to find a better DB2 option.

More Analysis by Jake

IDP Sit/Start: Week 1

Updated: September 16th 2022

Welcome to my IDP Sit/Start Article for the 2022 NFL season. This article aims to help you identify those truly start-worthy players who might be more on the fringe of the 2nd or 3rd or even 4th tier of the position groups (based on FantasyPros weekly rankings) but have the right situation to be a startable asset for each given week. The layout of this series will focus on DL, LB, and DB position groups, however, I will try to get some nuggets in there for those “True Position” leagues that get down with DT and CB requirements! Additionally, where I can find the long-term value, we will also call that out to help you with some of that season-long planning.

Let’s get to it now that you know what I am trying to do!

START: Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings, DL19

Danielle Hunter has that injury-prone label hanging over his head after back-to-back years of lost seasons (pectoral muscle in 2021, neck in 2020). This is scaring people off from what I strongly believe Danielle Hunter to be, and that is at tier 1 DL for IDP fantasy football. He meets the prerequisites of having pass rush win rates and pressures per game at elite levels when on the field. Secondly, throughout his career he has consistently seen around 80% of the defensive snaps each game and season and nothing has shown us that they are planning to bring that number down. Combine those points with the fact that Hunter is finally paired with another strong pass-rushing partner in offseason signing, Za’Darius Smith, Hunter has a path for success that should make him an every-week starter with top 8 DL upside for the entire season.

SIT: Sam Hubbard, Cincinnati Bengals, DL16

Sam Hubbard had a career year last season, in terms of sacks with 9 (tied career best), tackles at 62 (tied 2nd best), TFLs at 12 (career high), and QB hits with 17 (career high). These are strong numbers for where Hubbard was drafted last year and his perceived value. However, he did this on his highest snap total ever as well. His overall efficiency saw a drop but he delivered on volume. I am sure this is confusing at first because you are asking yourself, “Doesn’t Jake always say to chase volume for IDP?” And you would be right in every case. Volume is the first key to success for an IDP fantasy asset. The problem is, that volume came in what seemed more of a necessity than a desire. Hubbard and Hendrickson saw the vast majority of snaps as Joseph Ossai went down early last season. Ossai was an early round 3 pick (69th overall) and in the preseason, the Bengals were clearly showing signs of him being a key contributor. Once he went down, the Bengals didn’t have the talent or depth to replace that and just rode Hubbard and Hendrickson. With a full season to recover and prepare, Ossai will see an increased role which means a reduced snap count for Hubbard and Hendrickson. This means if you are looking for that high-end DL2 value, you are hoping he improves efficiency which is the less likely outcome.

START: Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals, LB26

Isaiah Simmons has had an interesting path to his current situation as it exists today. He was a top 10 draft pick (8th overall, 2020) but found himself on the wrong end of the snap counts (376, 34%) and given praise coming into the season and the increased utilization in other spots on the field, Simmons is looking like the key piece of this defense that he was (presumably) drafted to be. He spent time working with the safeties this offseason and he was recently named the defensive play-caller (given the green dot) for week 1. This aligns with his increased usage last season (1,005 and 94%) and the departure of other key defensive pieces in Jordan Hicks and Chandler Jones.

Right, wrong, or indifferent on how we got to this point, but we are here, and that place is “Success-town”, population Isaiah Simmons. I am sure there are plenty of people who held on tight to Simmons and always had the belief. Others though were most likely scared off from the low utilization, the lack of responsibility given, and even offseason talks that Jalen Thompson (Cardinals’ safety) would be the defensive play-caller this year. To those people I say, now is the time to get Simmons into your starting lineups! His talent, utilization, and opportunities are going to meet in a perfect storm, giving you a top end LB play this week and probably most of this season.

SIT: Anthony Walker Jr., Cleveland Browns, LB27

Going back-to-back in the FantasyPros rankings after Simmons is Anthony Walker Jr., and even though it is only one spot behind him, I would move Anthony Walker even further down that list. The primary reason for this? He is not even the best LB on his team… he might not even be in the top 2 for some people, and that is the case for me. I have him behind Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Jacob Phillips as LB3. This LB room ambiguity was not well-known in Cleveland due to other conversations in Cleveland (starting QB anyone?). There has been a some waffling on the green dot wearer for week 1 and for the season.

With so many things in the way of Walker succeeding and NFL defenses running almost no 3 LB sets to try and “guarantee” that Walker gets the snaps needed to be relevant, I am not rolling the dice on Walker of all people in that LB room. For me, it is JOK or pass. And I would rather pursue other 3-down LBs on other teams that give a better upside overall.

START: Kyler Gordon, Chicago Bears, Unranked

I am getting super deep on this one, but am a big believer in the slot role in Matt Eberflus led defenses. Kenny Moore has shown with the physical toolsets, the right coaching, and the opportunity a cornerback can be relevant. With Matt Eberflus taking over in Chicago, Kyler’s high draft capital and strong RAS, and him taking the lead on the slot role, all things are pointing up for Kyler Gordon!

Kyler Gordon to me is a player that will see the valuable snaps on the field as he was announced as the starter in the slot position and has taken most of his snaps there in the last two preseason games. The presumed microcosm of all of this, his first snap from the slot starting in preseason week 2, Eberflus blitze Gordon from the slot. In my opinion, that is just the beginning for him. With him taking the bulk (if not all) of his snaps so close to the ball and line of scrimmage, he has what we look for in DBs even but moreso for those leagues that require CBs. Also, historically rookie cornerbacks tend to see a strong number of targets against them that keep the floor and value safe for Kyler as well. He is basically free at this point and I am picking up all the shares of Kyler everywhere I can.

SIT (Fade or Trade): Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers, DB5

So this is tough one to treat as a true “sit”. If you spent the required draft capital to require Chinn, it may be hard to actual have Chinn on your bench come week 1 this season. However, let’s just look at what we can probably more realistically do with Chinn, and that is trade him for a “tier down” at DB and maybe something more in another player or draft capital. But why would you get rid of someone from your roster that is a consensus top 5 DB (redraft and dynasty)?

It breaks down to two key components and one consideration. The first being the fact that Chinn has thrived almost exclusively on his ability to rack up tackles while taking the bulk of his snaps in the “Sweet Spot” (Box, Slot, DL) and his production comes heavily from his tackle production. He has not show big-play tendencies from his first two seasons combined:

  • 2 sacks
  • 2 interceptions
  • 3 fumbles (2 forced, 1 recovered)
  • 10 passes defensed
  • 8 TFLs
  • 10 QB hits

And this preseason he has taken 8 snaps in the “Sweet Spot” and 23 at free safety with new teammate, Xavier Woods, taking the bulk of those valuable snaps while they were both on the field. Knowing the usage looking like this and his past success heavily predicated on tackles (which are more easily achieved from the “Sweet Spot”), getting out on Jeremy Chinn now would be the best chance to maximize his value before it starts to potentially shift. Is this to say that if Chinn’s positional play shifts to a deep safety role he can’t produce? No, we have seen others do this; Justin Simmons and Minkah Fitzpatrick are great examples, but also tend to be the outliers. Chinn is good, but his value might be at his highest it will ever be right now, so now is the time to sell!

More Analysis by Jake

Auction Strategies from Jake

Updated: August 8th 2022

Welcome to my off-season series, but today we are going to take a step away from the focus on IDP and take a more macro approach to one of the core tenants of Reality Sports Online’s fantasy platform. This is the Free Agency period (auction draft w/ contracts). For those who have completed one (or multiple) you understand how exciting and satisfying of an experience it is. However, I want to help you not just have a blast (which you will!) but go over some thought exercises to help you find the highest level of success for you and your teams.

When finding success, it breaks down to pre-draft preparation and draft mental preparedness. Before you even step into the Free Agency room, there is a handful of things we should break down:

  • Know your league and its settings, I can’t stress this one enough and I know I have said it multiple times prior to this as well (yes, it is that important)
    • Starters, bench, extensions, the franchise tag
  • Know where you want to go with your roster but also know (or estimate) where your league mates want to go with their roster
  • Build your free agency pool of players into tiers, and throw ADP out the window! (Not entirely, it has some value, but it shouldn’t be your guiding light)
  • Understand NFL players’ contract situations and age cliffs for positions

Alright, once we have covered all these things about how to prepare for the draft, we can jump into what we want or need to do while we are in the middle of the draft:

  • Pay attention to your tiers and who is left in them
  • Watch what positions your league-mates are bidding heavily on
  • Know your limits for players and positions and be aggressive pursuing them
  • There is most certainly a mental aspect to this, be ready

Time to dig into these thoughts a little bit more!

KNOW YOUR LEAGUE SETTINGS
This is straightforward, but make sure you consider scoring for each individual position. Once you understand the scoring potential of that position, it will allow you to know its replaceability. This is most apparent and easily understood when you look at a Super-Flex style league versus a 1-QB league. The ability to replace the position is much more difficult now because everyone is trying to roster 2-3 QBs minimum. This idea is the same across all your positions and roster.

Make sure you know what your contract offerings look like! I have missed out on using a 4-year contract before… it sucks! Same for extensions and franchise tags, knowing you have these in your back pocket means you can possibly keep that critical piece of your roster or that unsuspecting breakout. As much as you don’t like to count on the unknown, you will most likely have a piece on your roster that outperforms expectations, and knowing you have the means to control is key to building the rest of your roster.

KNOW YOUR ROSTER, AND YOUR LEAGUE MATES’

You need to understand the expectations of your roster going into the draft. I am sure it is safe to assume you made the best moves leading into the draft, but now is the time to make your big moves. And to make sure you make the best possible moves; know who will be available for your free agency. You do get a finalized few of the available free agents 72 hours prior to the start of your RSO auction draft. But you can start taking a look at that ahead of time to prepare better. Developing this list of available players will help you in your preparation for these players. Whether that is listening for these players on your favorite podcasts or following your top analysts on Twitter. Additionally, you want to try and highlight the positions that your fellow GM’s might target. It is obviously only a best estimate but having a grasp of where you think your opponents will go gives you a gauge on how aggressive you might need to be.

BUILD YOUR TIERS

Now that you know your roster and that of your league mates, let’s build that player pool into tiers. My recommendation is that you have your tiers broken down into what you deem equal levels of performance. So in my main league this off-season, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffery are all available during the free agent auction. For me, these are the top tier, the players who can put together week-changing performances and I would be happy to put them out there as my RB1 week-in and week-out. From there, moved into the next tier of running backs and for me, those were the ones I have a current comfort with them be a starter every week, but they become more consistent floor plays and my roster would need to produce points at other positions. And I worked through this process for all positions of need to build out my tiers.

NFL PLAYER CONTRACTS AND AGE CLIFFS

This one is more subjective but is an exercise I still have found helpful. Knowing an NFL player’s contract situation helps you understand how long you may want to commit to their situation or if you want to roll the dice on a change of scenery. Let’s take a look at two WR’s from Kansas City and assume they are available in your league for free agency. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster. MVS just signed a 3 year contract in an offense that has stability at QB and head coach. Looking at his specific contract, there seems to be an easy out in year 3 and possibly year 2. He is currently 28 years old and that 1-2 year window takes him right into his age cliff for a mediocre performer such as himself. But perhaps the 1-2 year window in this offense is worth it? (Everything’s always worth it, at the right cost) Juju on the other hand, has a 1-year contract but is going into his age-26 season. He is entering his prime for his WR career and has proven successful before this year. However, where he is beyond this season is a large variable. Again, there is no specific analytical data here to point one way or another, but just a good thought exercise to run through on your player pool as well.

IN-DRAFT STRATEGIES

I mentioned several things in the intro and they all circle around mental awareness and preparedness, and if you took the steps above already, you are more than likely ready to go for the most part. But just as a quick rundown, here they are:

  • If you created your tiers, understand when you are near or at your last person in that tier, especially if you haven’t gotten anyone from it and your roster makeup calls for someone in that tier.
  • Watch your league mates bidding patterns, they will tell more and more about their strategies if you pay attention to it. Are they nominating positions they need or are they nominating throw-aways? If they are putting up players they have no interest in, they may be trying to draw out other teams spent money so they can find value later.
  • Know your financial limits for your tiers and be aggressive in pushing for them. Once these contracts are signed, the only way you are getting these players is through trades and you have limited control there. During free agency in the auction draft, you have much more control.
  • And if you read all of this, you should hopefully have sharpened your mental acuity to succeed in your next and all upcoming RSO free agency auction drafts!

Thanks for the read and best of luck to you in your Reality Sports Online leagues this year! And as always, if you want to reach out for any discussions or comments, you can find me on Twitter @JakeKohlhagen.

More Analysis by Jake

Evaluating Rushers into 2022

Updated: August 8th 2022

Evaluating running backs is a notoriously difficult task using many basic statistics as running back production relies extensively on many factors outside of the back’s control.  The often cited “yards per carry” is one of the single worst NFL statistics in evaluating a player because of these issues.  The following takes a deeper dive evaluating rushing performance by more useful criteria.

The Data

I aggregate 2018-2021 data of running backs with at least 100 carries during that timeframe creating a four-year sample of 112 running backs.  This gives a big enough sample to matter while keeping the data relevant to the evaluation of current NFL players. This article focuses on three key rushing metrics from Pro Football Reference on a per attempt basis: Yards Before Contact (YBC), Yards After Contact (YAC), and Broken Tackles (BRK) to evaluate a group of running backs heading into 2022.

These metrics all depend on outside factors independent of running back skill to some degree.  As examples: offensive line, scheme, situation, and running back role all potentially influence yards before contact; downfield blocking may affect yards after contact;  broken tackle rate can be influenced by how quickly second and later defenders get to the ball carrier.   With that being said, broken tackle rate is widely considered among the most running back independent measures.  The data also suggests it influences yards after contact.  An increase in broken tackle rate correlates with an increase in yards after contact as seen in the plot below.   Yards before contact, on the other hand, displays minimal to no relationship to yards after contact or broken tackle rate (R2 = 0.00 for both) in the data set.

As always, nothing is absolutely certain.  Sometimes we don’t have the available data to properly segregate individual player influences.  Ben Linsey makes an anecdotal case for running back influence on yards before contact:  “The evidence points toward running backs with plus speed and vision being able to consistently avoid contact despite middling to below-average blocking in front of them.”  So, while yards before contact is likely the most team-dependent metric of the three focused in on this article, running back skill also influences it.

The following highlights a number of interesting players heading into the season with ranks of (broken tackles, yards after contact, and yards before contact) from the data sample.

Quality 2nd Year Running Backs to Watch

The hype for Javonte Williams (1 BRK, 33 YAC, 55 YBC) remains strong going into his second season largely due to his ability to break tackles which translated from college.  Williams essentially broke the broken tackle metric in this sample as the top-ranked back.  He more than doubled the average broken tackle rate and was about 18% higher than the next running back in this metric.  The Denver offense should increase scoring opportunities with Russell Wilson at the helm.  The main question is how much Williams’ role increases this year.  Melvin Gordon (27, 35, 47) is absolutely a quality back but wasn’t a priority free agent for the Broncos and only resigned for a marginal deal after failing to secure a bigger contract elsewhere.

Many people call Najee Harris (13, 39, 98) a plodder due to his sub-4 yards per carry figure from his first year.  This is far from the truth.  Pittsburgh’s abysmal offensive line led to one of the worst yards before contact numbers in the dataset which distorted his per carry numbers.  He’s going to get a ton of touches in this offense (which we care about for fantasy).  The offensive line and offense still projects poorly going into the season though.

Elijah Mitchell (44, 15, 57) ranks very similarly to Saquon Barkley (43, 12, 86) and Jonathan Taylor (54, 11, 10) in broken tackles and yards after contact.  San Francisco provides an excellent environment to rack up yards before contact also if Mitchell is able to maintain a hold on most of the rushes.  The lack of passing game utilization for 49er backs limits fantasy upside.

Many project Breece Hall to immediately assume a true workhorse-type role for the Jets after the New York traded up in the 2nd round to get him.  Michael Carter (20, 25, 79) meanwhile performed admirably in a challenging situation last season.  He might just be too good to completely take out of a meaningful role in New York.

Rhamondre Stevenson (3, 8, 91) looked borderline unstoppable at times last year plowing through prospective tacklers for New England.  Does a path exist for him to take over the main back duties or contribute significantly in the passing game?  Incumbent starter Damien Harris (40, 46, 16) ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd highest graded running backs each of the last two seasons.  The Patriots possess an impressive duo at running back no matter how the split plays out.

Green Bay Running Backs

Aaron Jones (25, 22, 15) and AJ Dillon (11, 23, 64) also form one of the butter running back duos for any NFL team.  They complement each other in ways which allow the Packers to utilize both in optimal situations but are both diverse enough to use alone without giving away the play call.  They both make for quality fantasy targets at cost on a Green Bay team without much in the way of proven receiving options.

Josh Jacobs

If one made a list of the most underrated NFL running backs, Josh Jacobs (18, 34, 87) would have to be near the top.  He sits among the most technically sound rushers in the league.  Jacobs ranks as one of the most evasive workhorse backs in the league over the last few seasons.  Only Nick Chubb (6, 1, 39), who I consider the top rusher in the league, compares with Jacobs in terms of making tacklers miss among lead backs as seen in the table below.

Most Forced Missed Tackles on Runs | Since 2019 per Pro Football Focus

Unfortunately for Jacobs, he’s another back stuck behind an awful offensive line the last couple of seasons as evidenced by his 87th ranked yards before carry and probably isn’t getting much better this season.  Some situational concerns also exist with a new coaching staff in Las Vegas this year and failure to utilize the 5th year rookie contract option but Jacobs is in a class of his own for Raiders’ running backs.

Concerns for Cam Akers

It’s been a rough start for Cam Akers (106, 56, 65) who I liked coming out of college.  A devastating Achilles injury short-circuited his second year before it began (he remarkably made his return in 2021, albeit ineffectually) after flashing at the end of his rookie season.  Unfortunately Akers’ body of work leaves a lot to be desired.  He hasn’t shown to be particularly good at any rushing aspect so far. Akers ranks among the worst tackle breakers in the data set next to players past their prime and backups.

Bottom-10 in Broken Tackle Rate

We also don’t know how effective he will be as the history of recovery from Achilles injuries is not encouraging, particularly for running backs.  The Rams were dead last in running back target rate for Stafford’s first season and the offensive line struggles in run blocking.  Akers’ fantasy case really rests on a presumed large rushing workload with touchdown upside for an efficient passing offense.

Cordarrelle Patterson probably won’t Repeat 2021

2021 produced a nice fantasy story for Cordarrelle Patterson (99, 76, 67), the long-time multi-purpose player in his age 30 year.  He beat his previous high in receiving yards and destroyed his previous rushing totals.  Atlanta cast Patterson as the main rusher primarily due to a lack of viable running back options.  The main problem is Patterson just wasn’t very good rushing the ball ranking below average in most categories.  This lack of success shouldn’t be a surprise as Patterson specialized as a returner with occasional wide receiver gadget plays on offense during his career.  While Patterson should maintain some role on offense with plays in the passing game, it’s difficult imagining the Falcons continuing using him as a significant portion of the run game unless his fellow Atlanta running backs fail miserably again.


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

Positional Trade Value: Offense and IDP

Updated: June 23rd 2022

A topic that has always interested me is trading IDP assets for offensive ones (and vice versa). Because let’s be honest, the best kind of fantasy football is a league with both offense and defense. However, no one has genuinely mastered league scoring that is perfect and balanced across all positions. If the scoring is, inconsistent at best, how do we determine when a trade makes sense or is “fair”? When I want to break these IDP/offensive trades down, I want to have a strong grasp of what the value of each position is within the context of my whole league (duh!) and the tiers within those. What is the ability or likelihood you can replace that position (via waivers or rookies)? Lastly, how long do positions generally maintain their value?

Let’s talk through this process and hopefully set you up with a thought process to help with those trades!

First, how big is your league, on average leagues commonly range from 10-12 teams but can obviously go way beyond this, but we will use a 12-team league for this discussion. Next, what does your starting roster composition look like, we will assume a 3-3-3 for starting IDP (DLs, LBs, DBs) and a Superflex offense, with 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, Flex. The next piece for your league understanding is the scoring tiers you for each of these positions. See below for a sample scoring of a league I have played in (it’s a tackle-heavy format, so only use the numbers as hypothetical for this discussion).

What is this showing us? The average points scored of the first 12 (tier 1), second 12 (tier 2) and so on for each position group. I recommend doing this at least once a year if you can get the data from your platform to help you better understand the general positional value in your leagues (especially if you play in multiple leagues with varying scoring settings). Knowing this arms with you a baseline to say, “Hey! An LB1 in my league scores roughly the same as a WR1 in my league” and so on across all the different groupings. Now I got you thinking, “Dang! That was easy!”

But hold up my friend, because we aren’t done yet. WRs can very easily be our apples and LBs can very easily be our oranges… and I have been told not to compare those things to each other. However, if we add some additional context and understanding, we can get them a lot closer in understanding. And the steps to getting there, are our next two things. The repeatability of success at a position group and the replaceability of a player from a positional group. Let’s take a quick look at even just the last two years at each level of the defense to see consistency from year-to-year.

So what does this mean here? In the DL position group, we saw 17 of 2020’s top 36 performers, not even get back into the top 36 the following year. For the LB position group, we saw this number hit 20 and for the DB position group it was 22. Now, a handful in each group is due to injury (which we see in every position in the NFL), but you can only attribute maybe 15-20% of turnover due to that. And we are not looking at a super high bar to try and achieve either with the top 36 for each group. And if you were to expand this exercise out to more years, you would continue to see the same situation.

It is worth noting though, that the ones that ARE able to repeat top 36 success year-over-year have a stark talent gap over a large amount of the ones we see on the lists above, missing out on repeated success. There are obviously exceptions to this observation, but I would say it is a safe assumption when evaluating talent. But this does give us a bit of a better understanding that value sustainable value does tend to flow DL >> LB >> DB in the general sense.

As for the other side of the coin, the offensive skill positions (which I leave TE out of, because it generally has its top 3-4 and then fluctuates like crazy beyond that year-to-year) we take a look at how this breaks down for QB, RB, and WR.

We see a little less volatility year-to-year across these positions than we do in the IDP space with 7 out of 24 not repeating at the QB spot. 17 out of 36 for running backs. Then 14 out of 36 for WR.

As for our last piece of information, what does it look like when you try to replace these positions with rookie performers? Some quick looks back at the last few years show us that there are performers (some of them very high-end, thanks Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase) but also some solid fantasy contributors for your lineups as well. What I looked at was the last two draft classes and saw how many rookies (or 2nd year from 2020 class) that had to a top performance (24 for QB, 36 for others). Because if you are going to make a trade, can you use existing draft capital or DB obtained in the trade to replace your expected performance of that player?

Looking at QBs, we saw 3 top-24 performances between 2020 and 2021.
RBs was 10 top-36 performances.
WRs was 11 top-36 performances.
DLs was 1 top-36 performance.
LBs was 4 top-36 performances.
DBs was 5 top-36 performances.

This gives us an idea of where we can potentially find the most value within rookie draft picks and those rookie contracts to try and replace talent lost or given away / obtained in trades. Offense clearly seems to be the spot to find immediate impact for your roster, specifically at the RB/WR positions. There is value to be found on the IDP side for sure, but replacing that in the rookie draft might be a little trickier.

I know this is a lot of information when considering trading pieces, but having this baseline understanding should give an initial comfort level when considering trading across different positions, most specifically, how does an IDP asset compare or stack up against an offensive one in terms of pre-trade and post-trade. Additionally, the age of the player has a significant role as well, but I didn’t dive into that factor as most likely that is potentially considered in since on our favorite platform, Reality Sports Online, you are making smart contracts anyway!

Hoping this helps you make it through the minefield that is off-season trading! Happy trading everyone!

More Analysis by Jake