Looking Forward: Expectations for the NFL Salary Cap

Updated: June 23rd 2022

Covid issues created unique salary cap problems for the NFL following the 2020 season.  The NFL salary cap unexpectedly dropped substantially after significant NFL revenue losses in 2020.  The article details a brief history of recent cap progression to the current state and what we can expect in the future.  The writing also examines how Reality Sports Online GMs may take advantage of the changing cap.

What happened?

Many teams played with near-empty stadiums primarily due to state Covid restrictions drastically reducing ticket and game day revenue while also seeing TV ratings dip in 2020.  This resulted in the NFL losing approximately $3 to $4 billion in revenue that season.  The NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) dictated those losses applied to the following year’s salary cap which would have resulted in the cap dropping by about $70 to $80 million in 2021.  NFL owners and the NFL Players Association, however, came to an agreement in which those losses would be spread out over a three year period instead of the single year.  In effect, the NFL would have three seasons of relatively modest below-market salary caps versus one year with a massive salary cap reduction.  This move mitigated potentially disastrous team salary cap problems throughout the league and kept players from seeing drastic salary reduction in 2021.

What does the Salary Cap look like going forward?

The NFL salary cap averaged about 7% annual growth in the seven years before the 2021 season.  The 2020 CBA increased player revenue shares to 48%+ in 2021 and going forward while an anticipated new TV deal was also expected to raise revenue significantly.   An 8.5% annual growth in the NFL salary cap for the near-term future was a reasonable projection prior to the 2020 season.  The new TV contract, sports betting deals, and potential international expansion may result in even bigger increases.

The chart below displays some of the effects on expectations to the salary cap due to the decreased revenues of 2021 and projections going forward using growth estimates stated above.  The NFL salary cap decreased from $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 million in 2021.  While this was only about a $16 million cap decrease, it also probably translated to approximately $30 or $35 million less cap space than NFL teams were planning for before 2020.  The 2022 cap is set to grow a hearty 14% from 2021 but the cap will still be far below what was expected previously.  2023 will show much the same.  These cap decreases have had real NFL consequences, particularly for those teams who were already up against the cap and essentially borrowing against future cap to pay for current player production.  New Orleans and Dallas, for example, were forced to trade individuals (Amari Cooper) for little compensation or allow players to hit free agency (Terron Armstead) they would have preferred to keep if not for cap restraints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actual and Projected NFL Salary Cap 2020-2025

Things get back to normal in 2024, in terms of the salary cap, as the 2020 revenue losses will have been fully accounted for after the 2023 season.  One consequence of this is that 2024 should see an enormous spike in the league salary cap with $40 to $50 million cap increases possible depending on further adjustments.  We have already seen teams calibrating for this reality by heavily back-loading contracts (more than normal) and increasing the usage of “dummy” contract years (items such as voided years at the end of the contract in which the player won’t actually play on the contract but serves as a way to extend cap accounting into the future).

The Los Angeles Rams provide a nice example of this.  Many question how the Rams keep paying big money extensions to players on the team.  They are simply using the rules of cap accounting and taking into account the expected explosion in future team cap.  Matthew Stafford’s contract contains cap hits of just $13.5 million and $20 million in 2022 and 2023, respectively, then balloons to about $50 million per year in future seasons.  Aaron Donald’s new contract added multiple voided years at the end of the deal to help spread his signing bonus over.

What this means for Reality Sports Online GMs

As most Reality Sports Online (RSO) GMs know, RSO mirrors the NFL salary cap in that the NFL salary cap equals the RSO salary cap.  This means we can also expect the RSO salary cap to also dramatically increase over the next few seasons.  The previous Salary Cap Chart from above shows expected cap growth rates of 11% (2023), 19% (2024), and 8.5% (2025 and forward).  Let us see how this compares to RSO contracts.  RSO multi-year deals distribute the total value of a contract based on the number of years resulting in small salary escalations (between 6% and 10%) in each subsequent year.  The four-year contract example from RSO is detailed below starting in 2022 with expected salary cap figures from our previous estimates.

Reality Sports Online Example Contract (4 year / $100 million total value)

“Expected Cap % “is the RSO salary divided by the expected cap. Most notably, compare the RSO contract salary growth rates with the expected cap growth rates above. The NFL Salary cap shows much higher expected growth than the contract salaries. The RSO example contract salary displays a 27% growth rate from year one to four while the salary cap is expected to rise by 43 percent during that period. This results in salaries taking a smaller portion of the expected total cap during the later contract years. In other words, the real expected yearly value of the RSO contract rises as the contract progresses.

The biggest takeaway for RSO GMs is that they should be more willing to invest in long-term contracts than ever before. Acquiring new multi-year deals in free agency and trading expiring contracts for existing long-term contracts should be a strategy focus for many teams. Hits on locked multi-year contract deals could become more valuable with time and misses make for more palatable release candidates with less cap consequences.


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

Inaugural High Stakes league ’22 update 2

Updated: June 4th 2022

After an emotional or intense experience, you’re likely to say some things differently than you would after you cool down from your climax, think about things, and come back with a rational approach instead of an emotional one.  But even after a couple of weeks I still have to ask, was your rookie draft as good for you as it was for me? <Takes final puff of his smoke and flicks it>

A great draft starts with a great game plan.  You have to set yourself up for success.  But, as we all know, even the best-laid plans can turn into an Amber Heard turd on Johnny Depp’s pillow quicker than you can snort a line of cocaine.  Still, I believe when you enter with a plan and things start to go awry, you can adapt better when you have an end game to look at.  It’s like seeing a whole map with multiple routes that will get you to the finish.  Sure, there is the optimal way.  That’s the one you build your plan around.  Then a tanker explodes on the toll road so you look at your map and find the best alternate route at that time of day.  With no map or plan, you’re just off on a Sunday drive.  I’ve had four RSO rookie drafts this year and this one was one of my first so a plan was important.  By the time my other drafts started a week later, I had a really good idea of landing spots for players.  Still, there was one draft where an early run on mid-tier RB’s surprised me and left me in a different position than I expected to be in.  The alternate route got me there, albeit with a couple of lower-tiered guys than I expected.  However, I finished the High Stakes league draft mostly happy as the majority of it went according to plan.

As we explore this rookie draft the details of our league are important to understand each team’s approach.  This is a Superflex PPR league that has a full starting lineup that looks like this: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, RB/WR/TE, RB/WR/TE, QB/RB/WR/TE.  That’s a total of 9 starting spots along with 13 bench spots and an additional four IR spots.  So, the rosters go deep enough to call us spelunkers.

First, let me give some general notes and thoughts.

  • 7 trades during this draft.  There are multiple times leading up to the draft to make trades but ever since RSO introduced the slow draft with trading some years ago, it has taken drafting, and draft values, to another level.  The ability to trade into a position to “grab your guy”  or even just to grab a player of value who has fallen too far, enables us to pinpoint our timing while allowing the other owner to benefit from not seeing the value in the same pick.  It’s a great feature that makes you feel like Kevin Costner in Draft Day.
  • QB’s went too early.  That’s just an opinion.  I did my homework before this draft and expected something much different to play out.  Let me explain why and feel free to comment on my social media whether you think it was a logical approach – We only had one rookie draft before this year.  It’s our third year in the league but we didn’t have a rookie draft in year one.  So, to get an idea of where the QB values lie we have to look at last year’s draft.  TLaw at 1.01.  Fields at 1.03.  Lance at 1.07.  Zach Wilson 1.09.  Mac Jones, the 15th pick in the NFL draft, went at 2.02 in our draft.  Doesn’t it seem reasonable to expect Pickett, an NFL 20th draft pick, to be available at 2.02 this year?  Well, it wasn’t.  Pickett was snatched at 1.10.  Last year, 3rd round NFL draft pick Mond was picked at 2.12, 2nd round NFL draft pick Trask was picked at 3.02, and 3rd round NFL draft pick Davis Mills was picked at 3.03.  Doesn’t it seem reasonable that this year’s tier trio of Willis, Ridder, and Corral would go near the end of the 2nd round and possibly well into the 3rd round of our draft?  I think it sounds very reasonable, however, all three were gone by 2.06.  That’s barely behind Pickett.  Even NFL 5th rounder and big-time chicken nuggies fan, Sam Howell, got some early 3rd round love at 3.01.  A lack of options changed the landscape for draft expectations this year.  Plus, individual needs can also affect these outcomes.  Clearly, it’ll be good for me to include additional data sets for my homework next year.  Fact is, if you didn’t reach a little this year, you didn’t get a QB.
  • The Wendell Takeover Project made the first big move of the draft in a rather straight-up trade consisting of their ’23 first for this year’s 1.06.  Wendell lost their only RB in McCaffrey due to a bloated contract of around $53m that needed cut to get cap compliant at the deadline, three days before the draft.  This left them hungry for a RB so they made their move to grab the polarizing prospect, James Cook.  With only so many upper-tier prospects at RB this year, Cook was the cheapest and this is a PPR league, after all, which is where he should shine.  Wendell next used their 2nd round pick to grab Rachaad White.  Then, about 10 days after the draft ended, they moved DK Metcalf in a deal to acquire Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, completing a full revamp of the RB position this offseason.
  • Last year’s champ, “The Don” Piccolo, found a lot of value later in the ’21 rookie draft with picks 1.12 (Waddle), 2.02 (Mac Jones), 2.08 (Gainwell), 2.10 (Amon-Ra), and 3.05 (Chuba).  Almost every one of those names played a role in this squad taking home the title and at least three of those names provided an absolute massive value.  “The Don” entered this ’22 draft in pretty much the same position with no 1st round picks and many 2nd and 3rd round picks.  Can they make the magic happen again?  If last year is any indication, keep your eyes on these prospects that “The Don” drafted: (Traded up to 2.01) Skyy Moore, (2.06) Malik Willis, (2.12) David Bell, (3.04) Wan’Dale Robinson, and (3.12) Justyn Ross.
  • Speaking of last year, we have replaced one owner.  The new owner now sports the team name Ballin on a Budget.  I think this owner did most of his damage before and after the draft.  Regardless, it’s hard to recognize this team from the one they took over in March.  Just a completely new look.  This new look and new owner came to the draft with a new and interesting approach as well.  Only two draft picks, late in round 2, and they used them both on TE’s.  Zach Ertz looks to be their number one but Tre McBride and Greg Dulcich will get to develop for one year behind him.  McBride also provides a handcuff scenario for Ertz.
  • Last year’s runner-up, XFL Stars, didn’t have much faith in this draft class.  They traded away all their picks except the 1.03.  It wasn’t like they didn’t try to trade that one away either but they apparently got no worthwhile bites and had to settle for Drake London.  I’m thinking about offering a ham sandwich for London to see where his value is with this owner.

Now, for a few thoughts from my perspective as the draft progressed.  Going into this draft I didn’t feel like I needed much help at WR.  Although, I lack an elite at the position.  No help is needed at TE.  RB was my biggest need – I wanted to stock up here.  And I could use a QB, but I wasn’t as desperate for one.  Shortly before the draft, I acquired Jordan love (2yrs/$3m) and Cole Kmet (1yr/$1.5m) for the 2.03 pick.  I already have Aaron Rodgers through ’23 and Jameis through ’24 so Love gives me a handcuff.  Plus, on the outside chance he gets traded into a better situation, maybe I get a starter out of the deal.  So, I’ve got the 1.02, 1.12, 2.02, and 3.09.  The plan?  RB at 1.02 of course.  A 2nd RB with one of my next two picks and one pick for wiggle room where I don’t end up with a RB necessarily – I can grab a WR but I’m hoping to get a QB, or a RB, if not.

The draft opens and Big Tings is on the clock.  They announce one last check on the room to see if there is any interest in trading up for the pick and they get no love.  Smart move to ask but they take the obvious choice in Breece Hall.  When it gets to me I don’t hesitate long.  I need a RB here and have to take Walker.  Now to watch the WR’s take over like they did in the NFL draft.  The first pick that affected me was Kenny Pickett at 1.10.  I wasn’t totally shocked but was really hoping he would fall to me at 1.12.  I also had dreams that maybe James Cook would fall this far too but no such luck as Wendell snatched him at 1.06.  Now, I’m eyeballing that second tier of RB’s.  I have them ordered but see them all similarly.  It gets to me at 1.12 and all five are still on the board so I decide I can trade back.  I have the 2.02 coming up also so I feel comfortable moving back from 1.12, up to five spots or so. I find my trade partner in the DC Guardians who owns exactly that 2.05 spot.  They throw in a ’23 2nd rounder and we have ourselves a deal!  They grab Zamir White, the first of those second-tier RB’s, and that completes round one.

The draft is back to me at 2.02.  Plus, I have the 2.05 coming up.  Four of those RB’s are left.  I don’t need a WR here and I think it’s too early to draft one of those second-tier QB’s.  I was ok with any of the RB’s I would end up with at 2.05 now as well.  I consider trading back again but keep looking at the trade board and WR, Jahan Dotson keeps looking back at me.  He’s clearly the last of the upper tier of WR’s.  I don’t need one but I decide that because he’s a first-round NFL talent that he has the potential to turn into my missing elite WR.  We’ll see.  But, I just couldn’t pass up the value of getting him at the 2.02.  After that, I was certain those RB’s would start going.  To my surprise, the next two picks were QB’s Ridder and Corral and it’s back to me at 2.05.  Those QB’s really threw me off – I had them ranked 20th plus.  I didn’t want to miss out on a QB but I felt it was a reach right here and stuck with my rankings.  I also had Willis ranked lower in this league as I wanted a QB who would have a better chance of contributing this year.  I explored some trade options but didn’t want to go back too far and I couldn’t get any bites near the positions I wanted.  Looks like I’ll just have to take a RB here.  Like at QB, I preferred a RB who would have the best chance to contribute the most this year.  I felt that guy was Dameon Pierce.  At this point, I felt I reached my objective of improving my RB’s for this season and I resigned to the fact that I was probably done drafting in the 2nd round.  Knowing I had the 3.09 I thought I’d have a good chance to grab QB Howell at that spot or, add one more RB like Allgeier or Davis-Price (since I owned Sermon).

The third round opens up and Howell goes first at 3.01.  Isn’t that something.  at 3.03 Allgeier is off the board.  3.05 sees Davis-Price drop too.  All three guys I had targeted – poof.  Gone, like a fart in the wind.  It’s at this point I spot another good value on the board.  I don’t go until 3.09 but my local grocery store will tell you I’m a sucker for a good deal or a discount.  Alec Pierce is still there?  Wow.  Seems like a pretty good deal to me.  I think a little tidbit of news was dropped that same day that said he was going to be a starter and I just watched him get picked at 1.12 in my other draft so it seemed like Pierce would be a great value at that spot.  I mean, if he drops to me at 3.09, which isn’t much further, he’s an even better value.  But, I’m always up for a deal and I’m not sure he will drop.  It’s Borderland Bombers on the clock and I look at their lineup.  I see Raheem Mostert (2y/$13m).  I also have Chase Edmonds and Sony Michel.  Not to mention that bum Trey Sermon whose contract I’ve been trying to move since the ’22 season began (3y/$13m).  So, I see an opportunity to get rid of Sermon and acquire Mostert.  I don’t expect anything from either of them this year but having Mostert fill that spot over Sermon just makes sense since I have the other Miami RB’s.  I have a good amount of future picks I had been stacking so for me to offer up a future 3rd and my 3.09 plus Sermon (Which reduces Borderland Bombers’ salary this season – something they needed help with) to get Mostert and that 3.06, I was very happy to do.  I was subsequently happy to get NFL 2nd round talent, Alec Pierce, at 3.06.  Even if I didn’t need another WR.

That’s how you do it.  This team is going to win a championship in ’22.  I can feel it.  If not my team, then, definitely one of the other eleven teams, and I’d put money on that.

As we drift off to sleep during the fantasy doldrums of June and July I hope you enjoy dreaming of the fall season you’ve so carefully crafted for yourself.  I know Kenneth Walker and a 1500-yard season will be prancing around in mine.  You’ll hear from me again sometime in the preseason.  Until then, feel free to send me a note or comment on any of my posts you’ll find on social media.  Find me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @RSOHighStakes.


 

~ The RSO High Stakes League Storyteller

More Analysis by Matt Russell

2022 RSO Writer’s League Rookie Draft

Updated: May 16th 2022

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

The RSO Writer’s League recently finished our three round rookie draft with results posted below. The league is a 10-team Superflex PPR format.  This article analyzes some general thoughts on the draft in comparison to other drafts and my own pick decisions along with a couple of other interesting players.

Writer’s League Draft

Overall Draft Thoughts

The Writer’s league draft likely mirrors other drafts in many ways.  The players of picks 1-7 probably remain the same in most formats, in some order, with maybe one or two surprises sneaking in.  Likewise, the 8-13 tier in this draft represents players likely seen in most superflex drafts for this range.  Things get very interesting afterwards.  I wouldn’t be surprised by any of around fifteen to twenty names go next in the draft, a true crap-shoot.  It’s a very broad tier of players where team fit and individual evaluation will drive selections.  This group is highlighted with role-specific running backs, 3rd round NFL quarterbacks who might never be even the short-term answers, and the top tight ends who are notoriously slow developing for fantasy football.

It’s also worth comparing this rookie class to last year’s group.  The lack of legitimate starting quarterback prospects really lowers the potential of a rookie class in superflex leagues.  One could reasonably make the argument that every 1st round pick from 2021 would be in consideration for a top-five spot in this year’s draft.  The afore-mentioned lack of highly drafted quarterbacks contributes to some intriguing dart throws potentially available in the 3rd round of drafts.  Willis and Ridder offer excellent athletic upside (and with it fantasy upside) if they ever get starting QB consideration by their teams.  The sheer amount of mid-round running backs taken by the NFL in this year’s draft makes for a lot of potential committee backs with significant chances of some relevance for fantasy leagues.

Notes on Selected Picks

1.08, Kenny Pickett QB

Pickett earns the distinction as the only quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL draft with the 20th selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He could start as early as this season with an uninspiring Steelers quarterback depth chart.  The Pittsburgh product showed excellent accuracy on and off platform.  Pickett made one of the most dramatic leaps we have ever seen from a college quarterback.  The following excerpt from PFF’s Draft Guide displays just how big of an improvement Pickett made last season.

There are a host of potential downsides.  The question is was last season a one year wonder?  Pickett provides adequate arm strength and mobility but nothing that will “wow” anyone while also struggling with pressure at times.  Does he possess a fantasy ceiling of more than a moderately useful QB2?  Pittsburgh might also end unexpectedly bad in a stacked AFC leading to a high draft pick next season.  NFL teams have shown a willingness to move on quickly from these mid-first type quarterbacks if they don’t pan out.  That makes his job security very questionable at this stage.

1.10, Skyy Moore WR

My first pick ended up with the new Kansas City wide receiver, my WR6 both pre and post-NFL Draft.  The Central Michigan product and James Jones favorite gets to play with one of the top quarterbacks in the league on his rookie deal. Moore brings inside outside versatility despite a smaller frame with a solid build, big confident hands, and explosive play-making routes.  He rated among the top wide receivers in the draft for open percentage and catch rate statistics per The Analyst.  There’s also room for improvement to Moore’s game as he only converted to wide receiver in college.  The Kansas City provides lots of opportunity, especially after this season, as all the primary wide receivers are in the final contract year or have contract outs after the 2022 season.

The major concern with Moore, and small school prospects in general, is how they translate to the NFL after winning against lesser athletic competition in college.  Moore’s 4.41 forty-time and elite-level 10-yard split helps alleviate that concern to a degree by showing off enough athleticism to win at the next level.

2.02, Jahan Dotson WR

Dotson seems a player that the NFL was always higher on when compared to the fantasy community.  Multiple reports predicted him going in the first round before the draft.  Dotson is another smaller receiver who nonetheless played a lot in the outside in college (a lot more than players like Burks and London).  Many film analysts grade Dotson with the best hands in the draft and he had to utilize those skills regularly thanks to some of the worst college quarterbacking from a major school last year.  The former Penn State star produced a fabulous third year and could have entered the draft after it if he wanted. He should start immediately for the Commanders and Washington doesn’t have anything locked in at wide receiver for the future as Terry McLaurin still has no extension.

Size likely presents obstacles to Dotson ever becoming an upper-level after-the-catch receiver and also showed up as an issue when faced with physical corners.  His college contested wins may not materialize against bigger, more athletic corners in the NFL.

2.03, James Cook  RB

Cook is easily one of the most fascinating players in rookie drafts.  Most draft analysts considered Cook a mid round undersized committee back at the NFL level. He routinely went in the late second round of fantasy drafts before surprising second round draft capital by the Buffalo Bills but has seen a meteoric rise since.  This is as late as I have seen him go in rookie drafts after the NFL draft.  Cook rates as the top receiving back by many.  He looks a lot like his brother Dalvin when running outside showing off easy speed and fluid movement skills.

The real question for Cook is what role he plays for the Bills.  Is Buffalo expecting a primary back, a role he never played in college and one we don’t see often at his size?  Will he be primarily used on passing downs? If so, Buffalo ranked bottom-five in running back target percentage the last two seasons when Josh Allen emerged as a top quarterback.  The Bills clearly wanted to upgrade the receiving back position after signing J.D. McKissic before he backed out of the deal.  Is Allen suddenly going to be a lower depth-of-target thrower and reduce his role near the endzone?  Overall, there are a lot of questions on what Cook actually does for Buffalo and how that translates to fantasy football but also a ton of upside if he takes a big role on a top-tier offense.


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

Inaugural High Stakes League ’22 Update 1

Updated: April 30th 2022

I’ve been away too long, my friends.  It’s been almost 4 months.  Of course, not one game of football has been played during that time but if you are here with me on the RSO site, you know how exciting an offseason can be.  So much has happened, in fact, that I’ve realized there are things we need to talk about.  That brings me here today.  It’s NFL draft week and I’d like to get one update in before the draft concludes

This one is all about movement.  Trades.  Glorious trades.  Every single team is making moves trying to position themselves for the upcoming season and it all starts with your draft.  Each week, and perhaps every day, there seems to be impactful information coming to light regarding players and/or possible draft picks.  That means every day values are changing, representing new opportunities to trade.  There’s really not much better than an active fantasy football league that takes advantage of all of these opportunities.  I’m happy to report that our league is indeed one of them.  As I write this, our league has already made twenty-two trades.  Each team has made at least one.  One team has made nine.  Pretty impressive.  How many trades have gone down in your leagues so far?  I’m genuinely curious to know.  Please comment on my Twitter or Facebook post when this article goes live.  I love feedback.  I would also love your opinion as to whether a higher entry fee correlates with higher trade activity.

Last year’s semi-finalist, Y-Town, has been our most active trader.  This is a team that seemingly prefers to work with proven players and utilizes draft picks as trade bait to shore up a safer starting lineup each year.  Well, as soon as RSO flipped the switch on ’22, Y-Town found himself with three new ’24 draft picks and it was game on from there.  This squad consummated their first deal on March 1st and has not gone more than two weeks without completing one since then.  He was my huckleberry for the only two trades I made this offseason.  Just slinging big names and picks all over town.

So, what else has been happening since our last chat?  Our league has one new owner this season.  This means we have at least one new team name.  I hope this one doesn’t get confusing but we now have a team called Philadelphia Bell.  This is in addition to the already existing Philadelphia Freeways.  This upcoming season may determine who gets to keep the Philly moniker.  I’ve also changed my name now that we are in the offseason and it’s safe to do so while not affecting my positive vibes.  I went back to my superstition regarding naming my team after one of the players currently on my roster.  I combined my superstition with my love of Pink Floyd and we now have Dark Side of the Mooney.  I feel real good about where these vibes are going to take me in 2022.

There it is, fellow owners.   A brief update just to get us back in the groove. I am going to enjoy that NFL draft now and see where it takes my team.  I put all the good vibes in place.  Now….. we watch the drama unfold.  Eek!


RSO High Stakes League Storyteller

More Analysis by Matt Russell

2021 RSO IDP Defensive Back Review

Updated: April 24th 2022

For our last article in the 2021 IDP review, we are taking a look at the last line of defense on the NFL field, the secondary. Sometimes the least sexy of the IDP positions, but one that can just as easily win you a week (looking at you, week 2 Mike Edwards and your pair of pick-6s) or they can deliver week-to-week value that supports your run to a championship (thank you Logan Ryan and your IDP production of 11+ in all 15 games you played!). You know what the method is here though, let’s take a look at our top performers from the 2021 season and a surface level review how we got there!

To note, this is a combined Defensive Back set of rankings (safeties and cornerbacks together) and not True Position. There are some pretty big distinctions in how you break down each position individually, but we will try and cover it as a group idea more so today. Here is our top 24 from RSO’s 2021 season with IDP123 scoring:

Some quick takeaways from this chart? Cornerbacks don’t represent or make up much of this list (5 of the 24) but Kenny Moore II did manage to be the top-scoring DB. This will align with positioning on the field and how his team utilizes him (we will see a similar story for Jalen Ramsey). Other CBs on this list are ones that posted impressive interception numbers (Diggs, 11, and Jackson,8). This is something that you can look back several years to see the similar type of results and as for big plays, that is generally not a consistent stat for Cornerbacks and IDP purposes. We are better off looking at two things. The first, we have stated multiple times and will always continue to call out. Check out those snap numbers!! Are the playing volumes of snaps? Are they getting 90%? 95%? 100%??? (We see you playing every snap in 2021 Xavier Woods) After finding out who is taking the snaps and getting the opportunities, who has the best opportunity to make the most out of those snaps? As for this one, we just want to simplify this down to, who is closest to the ball and has the best chance to be involved in as many plays as possible.

What does this mean? We want to find what one of the finest IDP minds calls, getting those “Sweet Spot” snaps (thanks @PFF_Macri!) based on their snap alignment. Those sweet spots are Slot, Defensive Line, and Box. As a quick knowledge drop for those uncertain what that means on the field, the slot is the when the line up inside of the outside cornerback. The defensive line is exactly what it sounds like, they get right up in line with the DLs. And the box is when they are lining up like a linebacker in the second level of the defense, behind the DLs. The trick is finding an IDP DB who plays as many snaps in these given alignments. This does not guarantee success for the players, however, it gives them the best chance to succeed! As we look at our top 24 from the previous season, we will see that they consistently play 40% or more (some up into the 60’s, 70’s even) of their snaps in one of these alignments. There are of course always outliers to this but generally, there is some other piece of information that helps us understand.

A quick look at some of these would be Minkah Fitzpatrick at #5 only played 20% of his snaps in the sweet spot and #8 Xavier Woods only played 38% of his snaps in there. Minkah’s supporting cast on his defense in the second level was one of the weakest this last season allowing him to make more plays from the deep safety alignment and he capitalized with a career-best 124 tackles. Minkah has been a solid IDP piece even from the deep safety alignment previously due to his big-play ability, but this year he moved up even more thanks to the strong tackle production. Xavier was a pure volume play, with lower than average tackle efficiency of around 8%, he lead the entire NFL in defensive snaps played and never missed a single play all season for his team. Sometimes the best ability is truly avail-“ability”.

Hopefully, these recaps help you understand why the top performers were able to produce for IDP the way they did at each level, and what to look for as you go forward for either redraft, dynasty, or contract style IDP leagues too. Stay tuned as coming up we will put together some information around the IDP rookies from the NFL draft, the start of season previews, and other articles. I will be participating in a live mock draft as well for the IDP Show after the NFL draft, so make sure to be checking out their content regularly for that and just great IDP news and entertainment as well at TheIDPshow.com.

More Analysis by Jake

2022 NFL Free Agency Look

Updated: March 22nd 2022

This free agency group once looked liked a great one, particularly at wide receiver.  Franchise tags to some of the top wide receivers and tight ends diminish the luster somewhat but there is still a lot of talent for NFL teams and potential fantasy rosters.  There is no shortage of starting-caliber receivers and running backs for teams but the available group of quarterbacks remains primarily relegated to the fringe starter class, as is usually the case.  Below the reader finds a synopsis of the most relevant free agent fantasy players.

Quarterback

Jameis Winston

The narrative is that 2021 was a great year for Winston largely due to significantly cutting down on his interceptions (3) in seven games before an ACL tear.  The data shows more of a middling year with the Saints limiting his volume (which still makes a very good free agent quarterback).  He was PFF’s 23rd ranked quarterback in passing grade while posting one of the worst completion percentages in the league.  He’s likely at the top of some team’s QB free agent list in this group though.

Mitchell Trubisky

It’s interesting that Trubisky is one of the most talked about free agent quarterback this offseason.  The former Chicago starter displayed abysmal down-to-down accuracy in his time with the Bears.  Was a year receiving Brian Daboll’s tutelage in Buffalo enough to correct his mechanical issues?

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Washington signed Fitzpatrick to be their short-term starting quarterback after some quality play in Tampa Bay.  Unfortunately a hip injury ended his season before it began.  He could be an emergency option for teams that miss out on the top trades or free agent candidates.

Tyrod Taylor

Taylor offers rushing ability with bottom-level NFL arm talent and started at quarterback for three NFL teams.    There’s a chance another team gives him a chance.

Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater ranks among the bottom-level starter / good backup tier and also started at quarterback for three NFL teams.    There’s a chance another team gives him a chance.

Others to watch: Marcus Mariota

Running Back

Melvin Gordon

Gordon produced another quality season with Denver.  He is a good rushing down back and capable of catching the ball but isn’t a route-winner, someone better as the lead back of a committee.  Gordon might look for one more substantial contract going into his 29 year old season or could return to Denver if the offers aren’t up to his standard.

Leonard Fournette

Fournette had probably his best year as a pro averaging 4.5 yards per carry and finished inside PFF’s top-32 running backs for the first time in his career.  He’s capable enough to play three downs but not good enough to stand out at any phase of the game.  Tampa Bay will reportedly let Fournette test the market.

James Conner

The Cardinals hit nicely with Conner on a cheap contract, playing particularly well in the passing game.  Health issues probably keep him from a huge touch role but he is another back capable of playing solidly on all downs.

Cordarrelle Patterson

The “come out of nowhere award” in fantasy football goes to Patterson who totaled over 1,100 yards (easily his top performance) in his ninth season.  His best chance of repeating the performance is staying in Atlanta.  Tread with caution in fantasy with the most role-uncertain back on the list.

Sony Michel

New England and the Rams primarily used Michel as a two-down committee back throughout his career, somewhat odd considering how good Michel was on screens in college.  His role probably caps out to more of the same at the next stop.

Rashaad Penny

Penny exploded to end the year with four out of five games of at least 135 rushing yards and ended up averaging 6.3 yards per carry for the season.  He’s the biggest wild-card in the group with numerous injuries so far to the former first-round pick but averages 5.6 yards per carry over his limited attempts during his career.

Raheem Mostert

His best scheme fit lies with the 49ers and he’s put up good yardage when available.  Will he actually be healthy?  How much of the workload would he take from Elijah Mitchell if he stays in San Francisco?

Chase Edmonds

A fantasy football favorite, Edmonds will likely never attain the role many want for him.  His role grew every year in Arizona however and was a useful fantasy option last season. He maintains value in the wide-open Cardinal offense if he stays.

J.D. McKissic

The bane of Antonio Gibson truthers, McKissic is one of the quality receiving down backs in the league.  He provided flex-level PPR production the last two seasons in Washington.

Others to watch: Marlon Mack, James White, Phillip Lindsay, Ronald Jones, Jerick McKinnon

Wide Receiver

Allen Robinson

Robinson chose a poor year to have his worst season as a professional making him an interesting watch in free agency.  Many considered him “QB-proof” before and tallied at least 150 targets in every full season. Was last season a blip in a disinterested year with a rookie quarterback or the case of a non-burner receiver slowing down?

Will Fuller

The issue with Fuller is well documented.  He hasn’t played more than 11 games since his rookie season.  With that being said, Fuller’s a game-changer who forces teams to change the way they play defense and has multiple spurts of significant fantasy production.  He likely receives another one-year prove-it deal.

Juju Smith-Schuster

Many considered Juju the among the top dynasty wide receivers just a few short seasons ago after a monstrous sophomore season.  It’s been downhill from there with questions about the value of a “big-slot” option.  He’ll need to be paired with an outside route-winner to open up the field to maximize his traits.

Odell Beckham Jr.

The Rams got one of the better deals last season on their way to Super Bowl glory picking up Beckham Jr. on the cheap mid-year after Robert Woods went down.  OBJ showed off his explosive traits and extraordinary hands in a limited fashion acclimating to the Rams’ offense.  An unfortunate ACL-tear (his 2nd in recent years) in the Super Bowl means he probably won’t be ready to start next year and will likely diminish his contract.

Christian Kirk

The Arizona wide receiver does his best work from the slot but not in the quick shifty way, winning in the intermediate and deeper routes. He also has some scheme diversity in the usage history.  Kirk has two 100 target seasons under his belt and is just 25 years old.

D.J. Chark

Chark broke out his 2nd season but struggled when the offense tried to run more through him and he was forced to beat more physical coverage.  The thin-framed receiver shows explosive linear speed, plus athletic traits, and should have more success on a team as a complimentary intermediate and deep piece.

Michael Gallup

Dallas looks ready to sign Gallup to an extension after reportedly trading Amari Cooper.  He isn’t elite at anything and doesn’t possess great speed but is a good all-around receiver.  Gallup brings boundary-winning ability with solid ball skills and produced 1,100 yards in only 14 games his sophomore year.

Antonio Brown

Brown still displayed high-end receiver ability ending as the PPR WR9 in per game scoring last year.  The odds are long that someone signs him after self-destructing mid-year and with a host of behavior issue but there’s still a good player to be had if a team takes a chance.

Others to watch: Jamison Crowder, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Russell Gage, Zay Jones, T.Y. Hilton

Tight End

Rob Gronkowski

Does Gronk retire (again) with Brady bowing out?  There’s still plenty left in the tank if he returns.  The TE4 in per game fantasy scoring last season would upgrade most tight end rooms as a combo blocker and receiver.

Zach Ertz

Ertz fills the need for a reliable receiving option best suited to winning against underneath zone coverage and finished as the fantasy TE11 option.

Evan Engram

The Giants primarily used Engram as an underneath man-beater and he struggles with consistency at the catch point while offering little as a blocker.  Will a new team better utilize his deep speed and big play ability?

Gerald Everett

Everett specializes as an athletic undersized after-the-catch weapon with willingness to block, similar to a discount David Njoku who was franchise tagged by the Browns.   He’ll need a special scheme to fully utilize his talent.

Jared Cook

The elder one continues producing as a strictly receiving weapon but might finally be slowing down.  Does he get one more shot?

Others to watch: O.J. Howard, C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, Mo Allie-Cox, Hayden Hurst


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.

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