Reviewing 2/2/1 RB Draft Strategy

Updated: September 7th 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The 2-2-1 RB Strategy

Updated: August 30th 2016

I recently read a post on Football Guys about the 2-2-1 running back strategy.  To be honest, it was the first time I have heard about it and am not sure how I’ve missed it all these years.  Zero RB is all the rage right now so I thought I would like to try and combine the two strategies.  Since RSO is essentially a dynasty format, I’m going to expand it to 2-2-1-1 to add in a young lottery ticket to help balance the roster for the longer term.  Using average annual contract values and lengths, I identified the following combination of running backs to illustrate the idea.  Whether you need to trade for these players or can snag them in your free agent auction, it shouldn’t cost too much which I think will help keep your dynasty on the championship track.

If you’d like to view the full Football Guys article, click here.

The Picks

  • Jonathan Stewart (Average Remaining Contract Length: 1.6 years; Average Annual Contract Value: $7.3 mil)
  • Cameron Artis-Payne (2.8 years; $1.2 mil)
  • Isaiah Crowell (2 years; $3.5 mil)
  • Duke Johnson (3.2 years; $2.0 mil)
  • Theo Riddick (1.2 years; $1.3 mil)
  • Ka’Deem Carey (2 years; $1.0 mil)
  • TOTAL Salary = $16.3 mil or just under 10% of your salary cap

The Reasons

I decided to double down on the Panthers and Browns backfields – certainly not two popular options.  Based on average annual contract value, Stewart is the 28th highest paid RB and comes in as our RB1.  I don’t mind Stewart here because if we’re spending this little on RB1 we should be stacked elsewhere.  Furthermore, I’d only be tied to him for 1-2 more years which is only about as long as the Panthers will give him anyway (his contract is front loaded, 2018 is just $1 mil base which screams to me that they planned that to minimize the cap hit when they cut him).  Sure he’ll lose goal line work to Cam but he’s good enough for what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Pairing Stewart with CAP is easy because he’s the obvious handcuff for right now and doesn’t have much standalone value so another owner won’t be interested.  If CAP becomes the starter in 2017 or 2018 we would have him under contract on the cheap.  If he doesn’t make it past 2016 on the squad, remember he’s a cheap 5th round pick, our cap hit is minimal.  There’s a decent chance we’d go into 2017 with neither of these Panther running backs but that’s okay; our four other picks are all potentially looking at new contracts with other teams in the near future so if one hits we can use the open spot(s) to grab their handcuff.

Depending on whether you play PPR or not will determine which of the Browns RBs will be your RB2.  Crowell will get a majority of the carries, and goal line work, but Johnson will be more productive on passing downs.  Trying to guess each week which will be better is going to drive you mad so pick one and stick with it.  On bye weeks you can start both since they have value independent of each other but I wouldn’t recommend it each week.  I don’t love having Crowell for two years since he’s a free agent after this year but maybe that motivates him to succeed and lead somewhere next year as the clear starter.

For my first single RB pick, I’d go with Theo Riddick.  I am partial to Riddick since I play in PPR leagues but even without PPR he still has some value.  Some quick math puts his non-PPR value at 6.3 points per game, but add in the receptions and it balloons to 11.3.  If I can sign him for more than one year, I wouldn’t mind having Riddick in a non-PPR also for the fact that his deal with the Lions expires this year so in 2017 he could be the lead back for a team that would actually let him carry the ball.  Riddick only started one year at Notre Dame but averaged more than 14 carries a game that year so he can handle a bigger work load than the 2-3 carries he gets now.

For my second single RB pick, I’d go with Ka’Deem Carey.  I started the preseason sold on Jeremy Langford but that has changed as I’ve done more research.  There’s a good chance Carey sits on your bench with little value this year but there is a non-zero chance that he overtakes Langford and beats out rookie Jordan Howard.  I thought Carey was older than he is – but he was only drafted in 2014.  In 2012 and 2013 at Arizona, Carey totaled 3,814 yards and 44 total TDs.  If I’m going to take a multi-year lottery ticket on a young running back, Carey is it.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Ups and Downs of the RSO Playoffs

Updated: December 24th 2015

golden-tate-nfl-new-orleans-saints-detroit-lions-850x560

They say it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. To win Reality Sports Online league titles, it seems like you have to be a bit of both. Hit on your rookie draft picks, don’t spend big dollars on busts and get your multi-year deals right, don’t have player injuries and then have it all align in the playoffs.

So, after being in my main league for three years and the Writers League for two years, I can honestly say I haven’t won a championship and am still after that holy grail. As someone who is their own worst critic, and who writes strategy pieces for the website, that makes me feel like a little bit of a fraud. I know I’m beating myself up on this, but let me share my two league circumstances with you this year.

I welcome any of you who suffered a similar loss to Tweet me or contact me as some form of therapy. I have writing about this experience as my therapy, so let me be the one you vent to after reading this if you are in the same boat as me.

First, I’ll start with my Writers League with folks who I write with at Reality Sports Online and numberFire mainly (some have moved onto other sites like Rotoworld and ESPN). I finished 11-2 in the regular season with the highest scoring team by far. That earned me the #2 seed and a matchup against my friend @GrahamBarfield, the #3 seed in the league, while 12-1 #1 Seed @LeoHowell8 played upstart first-year owner and Baylor Law Professor and late summer league addition #4 seed (brought in via Twitter to compete against writers) @RoryRyan in the other playoff matchup.

Buoyed all season by a Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski stack, Devonta Freeman and Eric Decker, my team was stacked and I have most of these players (and Todd Gurley, Demaryius Thomas) for several more years. In round one however, I went into Monday Night Football with a 16 point lead and Graham having Lamar Miller remaining. Miller scored two touchdowns by halftime and my highest-scoring team in the league (and second highest among 10 teams that week) was toast.

On the other side, Howell, who has lost exactly two regular season games in two years in the league, put up a dud and lost to Ryan, who inherited one of the worst teams in the league mid-summer, was awarded T.Y. Hilton by the league on a two year, $40.0 million contract and left to his own devices to turn the rest around. He slid into the playoffs behind some good moves and then, wouldn’t you know it, won the whole thing while Howell and I put up very high totals in the third place game.

Rory Ryan Shocks the Writers League

Basically, Ryan capitalized on being healthy and opportunistic,  and a few solid moves. Here’s his summary of what lead to his success (in his words):

“As I looked around the locker room before the championship match, I decided we needed to do something unusual. We went around the room and introduced ourselves–as six of the ten starters were waiver-wire pickups. As I drove my family back from the Polar Express train ride during Monday’s finale, I kept getting SiriusXM updates that were good. Then better. Then — victory. To say the team I inherited was in “rebuilding mode” would be an understatement. But we were able to scrape out just enough wins and ride a whole lot of luck to the title. “

“Although (to quote Nuke Laloosh) “winning is like . . . so much better than losing,” the year was great either way. As I told folks on social media, it was fun playing against the guys whose advice I use when setting my lineups in other leagues. And the RSO format really does make even traditional dynasty leagues seem primitive. The contracts, waivers, salary cap, etc., make up the way fantasy ought to be played. “
“The opportunity to play this format against these guys was too much to pass up — despite my (formerly) firm rules against not playing in leagues with kickers, defenses (if I can help it), and true decimal scoring. But I’m still looking forward to next year, where hopefully my roster will be slightly more settled. “

“So what was my strategy? When I entered the auction, there were few (no) stars and plenty of money. So prices were inflated. I went after some grinders who I’d always feel OK inserting into the lineup: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, and Doug Martin (didn’t get him). But I spent little money. Instead, I saved most of my cap room, knowing that injuries and sleepers would emerge, and I would have the big bankroll. DeAngelo Williams, Danny Amendola, Antonio Gates, Dion Lewis, and Zach Miller all played important roles during the season.

“As for the future — we will see if my strategy works. Since there were no stars to lock down, I went after a group of guys who I thought were more talented than their projections, hoping that at least one of them ends up in an ideal situation. The prices are low enough that hitting 1/3 and cutting the other two will more than pay for itself in savings, despite the cap penalty, as I’ll avoid waiting for the player to demonstrate the market value. So, Golden Tate, Torrey Smith, and Markus Wheaton — please answer the phone if the Patriots call.”

A Rivalry Is Continued in Reality Sports Online

Let me set the stage for you a bit with some history. My best friend since our freshman year at Miami University, @MarkPesavento and I have been in fantasy football leagues together since 1996. He is my biggest rival and our fantasy matchups have quite a history of craziness as you can imagine for anyone playing against each other for that long. Since he works in sports and I don’t, there is an extra layer of who is the smarter football mind is between the two of us.

With that in mind, Mark and I left an ESPN keeper league a few years ago in search of something bigger, something more challenging that was fully customizable. As part of his work at the time, he discovered Reality Sports Online and we’ve been hooked ever since. Together we are co-commissioners of the Not Quite Gentlemen’s League, a super-customized PPR league with 12 teams and lineups consisting of only one required running back, three flex positions, and where turnovers are heavily punished (-5 points for interceptions, fumbles) and the 5th and 6th playoff seeds are determined solely based on total points scored.
RSO Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office Stephen Wendell is now in our league too, which adds to the competitiveness. Pesavento finished first overall at 11-2 with the highest point total (he won the league in 2014), newcomer Wendell finished 9-5 and was the #2 seed. I was the second highest scoring team, but finished 7-6 and got the #5 overall seed.

My high-scoring team proved no fluke in the opening round of the playoffs, winning 321.54-179.99 and a Week 15 rematch with Pesavento, who I was 0-2 against on the season, loomed.

Setting the Stage-Week 12

First, though, let me take you back to Week 12 where Pesavento and I squared off in an epic battle. He staked to an early lead behind Odell Beckham Jr., Philip Rivers, and Spencer Ware that seemed insurmountable at the time. Then late in the late games, my quarterback Russell Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for an 80 yard touchdown, en route to a 72 point fantasy performance.

I was close going into the Sunday night game where I had Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots DST to his Broncos DST. Behind a Gronk touchdown and subsequent Gronk-spike and an inteception by the Patriots D, I staked out to a fairly decent lead (like 20 points). As the clock turned to the 4th quarter, I instant messaged Pesavento saying this game seems like it is over.

And then the collapse happened. The Patriots muffed a punt, Denver’s running game started picking up steam and the Patriots were bleeding out yardage allowed and points scored. The game was getting much closer. All I needed was another Gronk catch and I’d be fine.

Then Gronk got called for offensive pass interference on a big catch that was nullified. A few plays later, then he was carted off with a knee injury. So my happiness of likely winning the game turned into losing my key league advantage (and someone I’d like to franchise tag on a good deal for 2016) for the season, and potentially this game as well.

The Broncos scored to take the lead and all I then needed (while I was frantically worried about Gronk’s health for the rest of the season) was the game not to go to overtime. Well, we all know Stephen Gostkowski is fantasy gold and the game went to overtime. In overtime, as long as the Broncos didn’t score a touchdown, I’d win.

I think you know the rest. C.J. Anderson scored on a 48 yard touchdown scamper to end the game and Pesavento beat me by .25 points, continuing a series of close calls in recent match-ups.

The Worst Possible Way To Lose?

Heading into the Week 15 playoff matchup of the two highest scoring teams in the league, Pesavento was favored, yet he had some of his best players with tough matchups (Beckham Jr vs CAR, Antonio Brown vs. DEN DST, DEN DST at PIT) while mine on paper seemed favorable (A.J. Green @SF, Wilson vs. CLE, Devonta Freeman @JAX, Gronkowski vs. TEN, NE DST vs. TEN).

I staked out to a decent lead as Beckham Jr. didn’t have any catches through three well-documented quarters vs. shutdown corner Josh Norman. While I was watching on the NFL Game Mix (8 games at once on a not so-huge TV on DirecTV), I noticed that things were getting super chippy and was waiting for OBJ to get ejected by referee Terry McAulay’s crew for the punches thrown and the cheap shots.

I usually don’t get “holier than though” watching football, but by the time the Giants started their comeback and OBJ started racking up fantasy points I was on my high-horse and stark-raving mad that Beckham Jr. hadn’t been tossed. Heck, I’ve been tossed from rec-league basketball games for way less.

However, his Alshon Jeffery only had one catch for 10 yards and a touchdown, my Patriots DST had a good game and I was hanging in with him heading into Wilson’s huge matchup against my hometown Browns. Knowing that Wilson was hot and the Browns defense is porous, I knew Russ would deliver for me.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Brown scoring 70 points against his Broncos DST. So as the Steelers/Broncos game wore down and I was hoping the Broncos would give up more points, I was hoping that another player would score the final touchdown of this game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and when Ben Roethlisberger threw an egregious interception on a terrible pass to his Denver defense right before the two minute warning that I coined the “Class of 1998 Miami University Fantasy Football Scholarship”, I knew that 5 points for the Broncos would loom large.

And as Brown caught another ball, I found myself down 15 points heading into Monday Night Football where it was my Golden Tate vs. his Tim Hightower for the right to survive and advance. Tate was coming off his best game of the season and was facing the porous Saints secondary. Hightower was coming off a solid game. Game flow seemed to favor Tate, but I figured the 15 points would loom too large for Tate to overcome.
As the game started and Tate scored two early touchdowns I found myself up in the game. Hightower scored right before half, but the play was called back on a lineman failing to report. The two of us went crazy over IM the remainder of the game.

At one point, unsolicited my wife and 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter started chanting “Golden Tate, Golden Tate!” pleading for him to get the ball when the Lions were on offense. It was super cute to see my daughter who talks but doesn’t know too many words saying this.

I was clinging to a slight lead and game flow took Hightower out of the game mostly. As I watched the Lions fumble away a few possessions that Tate could’ve had opportunities and the Lions DST unable to force punts to Tate as the returner (we get punt return yards for individual players in our league), I knew this was going to come down to the wire.

With five minutes left and me clinging to an ironic .26 point lead (basically the Week 12 margin of defeat), I paced around knowing that if Hightower got one more carry I would lose. I made it basically to the end of the game where the Lions were running out the clock unscathed. Alas, they didn’t have the ability to run off the entire clock and in came Matt Prater to kick a chip-shot field goal to end the game. Prater then missed, and I knew anything could happen.

The Saints had a few plays left and surely would be setting up for a Hail Mary after gaining a little bit of yardage. Initially seeing C.J. Spiller as the receiving back in the game, I figured I was fine. On a play with 14 seconds left, Drew Brees looked and pump faked at Hightower, but threw elsewhere. With six seconds left to go, folks in my league (including Pesavento) were congratulating me on the win.

Talk about Dewey vs. Truman. The last play should have been a Hail Mary. Instead, Brees decided to pad his completion percentage and throw a dump-off to Hightower. The yardage didn’t matter-I had lost after overcoming a deficit, in another crushing close defeat to Pesavento. Again on the last play of the game.
I wish this writing was fiction and not fact. I had seemingly overcome some poor performances by Green, T.Y. Hilton (who I started over Danny Woodhead based on recent history, Matt Hasselback starting, and Hilton’s history against Houston). I think back to all the dynamics of the matchup- Beckham not getting ejected and missing a for sure deep touchdown early in the game, two straight fade routes to Gronk in the end zone late in the Patriots/Titans game that came up just short, pass interference calls covering my Randall Cobb in the end zone, the Broncos late interception, and finally Hightower’s catch with the Saints down 8 points on the last play of the last game of the week, and I realize that the Reality Sports Online holy grail is a temptress. I easily could have lost by 50 points, won by 20 points or won by .26 points, but instead I lost by a few points and now wish Pesavento good luck in the finals (without Beckham and potentially Jeffery) while I play Wendell for third-place this week.

Only a combination of luck, health, and solid roster moves will result in winning this thing and I hope that my championship window with the same core I have locked up through 2016 will bring me better results next year. There’s always next year.

Please feel free to reach out to me with similar stories, start/sit questions for your big week 16 championship, or to call me a fraud via Twitter @Mattgoody2.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

The Art of Trading-RSO Style

Updated: November 6th 2015

Danny Woodhead could be an interesting player to acquire at the trade deadline.

Danny Woodhead could be an interesting player to acquire at the trade deadline.

When you and your friends signed up to join a Reality Sports Online league, you basically walked into the corn like in Field of Dreams. You weren’t necessarily sure what your initial strategy would be, but like other owners on the platform, you needed something more challenging, more engaging, basically an NFL-General Manager experience to break from the monotony of the everyday redraft league.

That’s exactly what you’re entrenched in and winning your league against your friends who you consider to be of above-average intelligence would be sweet, very sweet. Now you are at the point where you’ve meticulously managed your roster, strategized over rookie draft picks, made a deal or two, had some injuries, doled out some long term contracts, used your franchise tag and are ready to get raise your fist in the air for your first RSO championship.

The final piece to that roster puzzle to win your league may or may not come at the trade deadline, which is upcoming for several leagues. For non-contenders, the trade deadline becomes a chance to salvage some value (particularly future rookie draft picks or developmental players) for expiring players who won’t be retained but may help a contender. For contenders, the trade deadline is the last chance of the season to add a piece to help you for your championship run and potentially in future years.

The art of trading in your RSO league is all contextual and situation dependent which makes it the most complex set of scenarios you can face down the stretch in your attempt to gain lifetime bragging rights on your buddies because flags fly forever and your championship forever becomes part of league lore.

With that, let’s discuss some scenarios that you may be facing at the deadline, with a quick primer first.

Every now and then, we get Tweets asking about trades and whether or not you should do them. Let me start with some obvious advice-context really matters. Of course I’d rather have Julio Jones than Allen Robinson all things being equal. But if Robinson is on a second-round rookie deal and Jones costs me $30 million a year, Robinson’s value and point production allows so much flexibility that he’s more valuable than Jones to me. So make sure you consider the following when making any trade deadline deal:

1) Are You a Contender or a Non-Contender?

This can be a tricky question depending on what kind of league you are in. For instance, the top four records make the playoffs in my league plus another two wild-cards based on total points scored. So there’s multiple ways into the playoffs and teams that are on the fringe of one or the other can still be chasing these up until the last week of the season. Which makes our league super-exciting, but also hard to gauge how a team sees itself.

To me, total points scored is a good barometer at this point for how your team really is performing. I know there are bye weeks and everything, but if I learned anything in business school, it is the bigger the sample size, the better and a sample size of 30 typically takes out the randomness. So if you go to your standings and to the breakdown section, you’ll see your record if you played every team in your league each week. If your record is strong (sample size is definitely bigger than 30), it means you are putting up ample total points to contend in your league. If it is below .500, your overall record may mean you are getting lucky and you should be a seller.

Every owner has to decide where they fit at the deadline, but false optimism usually leads to straddling and backfires. So if you are playing for next season, act like it and get some assets that will help you more than having a few more weeks of Jonathan Stewart.

2) You don’t always have to get the best player in the deal, but make sure you are walking away with the best valued player in the deal.

Your lineup is like a puzzle and you have to put together the best lineup possible to win. Through the auction, rookie draft, in-season free agency and trades you’ve made thus far, you have to fit the player and the cap space you are targeting into your lineup. The natural inclination as your league trade deadline approaches is to go hard after the obvious names, a bunch of studs that you think can put you over the top, even if their contracts may not be good.

Hold off on this approach, unless the capital required is reasonable. The truth is if you are contending, you probably have a lot of solid pieces already. You don’t need two more years of Adrian Peterson at $25-30 million a year, you need Eric Decker at $5-$8 million a year for the next two-three years (or even one year). Plus the trade capital required to get a player like Decker will be way less (Editor’s Note: Goody indeed just traded Kendall Wright and his 2016 2nd Round Pick for Decker).

3) If you’re trading rookie draft picks, figure out what they are worth to you. What’s a Rookie Draft Pick Worth? should help you immensely in that pursuit.

In my main league, I’ve seen rookie draft picks (particularly first rounders) move back and forth all season as teams have gone in and out of determining whether they are contenders. Meanwhile, the top two contenders (me included) have kept their picks intact and watched these teams make these moves.

Examples of these trades include Ben Roethlisberger’s owner panicking when he went down and trading his first for a one-year, $15.0 million Drew Brees deal (which so far, along with a solid cast has kept that team near the top of the standings), and a team traded a first rounder and Coby Fleener for DeMarco Murray (who was franchised in 2015). In total there have been fifteen trades so far this regular season in my 12-team league, most of which involving 2016 first-round draft picks.

I can with fair certainty say that save for myself and another top team, that most of the serious playoff contenders (and by that I mean the ones who can do serious playoff damage), don’t have draft picks to trade at the deadline to upgrade their teams. As a result, for me, it may be best to stand pat and not make moves unless this other top team does. Assuredly, assuming team health, trading first rounders seems to be out of the question when I can stand pat and still have a very good shot of being a top two team without making a deal. Thus in my particular situation, even though my draft pick figures to be towards the end of the first round, I’ve determined that it isn’t likely worth it to me to trade my 2016 first rounder to try to get a player to help ensure I win the championship this year. That doesn’t mean I don’t have other players I couldn’t move to get another piece (more on that later).

Please note that I’m more clingy to my rookie draft picks in a league with four-year rookie deals than three-year deals, especially since most owners are already one year into those deals. So if you are in the last year of an Eddie Lacy rookie deal for instance, getting something of substance back could be a coup.

4) Remember that you aren’t necessarily looking to “win the trade”, but rather get the value that propels your team to greater heights either now or later, depending on what your goal is.

So many trades don’t happen in fantasy leagues, because one owner is trying to get over on another. We’re all smart owners on this platform, so appropriate value the best way you know how. At the deadline you have two types of teams-contenders and non-contenders. Contenders want help now for the short-term (and maybe a year beyond) and non-contenders want future assets in the form of draft-picks or development players. If a non-contender decides that trading Martellus Bennett for three years of Jay Ajayi floats their boat, then other owners shouldn’t judge. The same thing goes for if a team makes a move going for the playoffs and it blows up in their face. Last year, a leaguemate did exactly that in my league and I think they’ll be way more careful at the deadline this year.

5) Throwing the farm and multiple good players for one great player doesn’t make as much sense in a league like this as it does in a redraft league.

I’ve seen some Tweets lately asking my views on multi-player trades. The one that stuck out to me was someone asking me if they should trade Jordan Matthews, Mike Evans (both on original rookie deals) and Gio Bernard for DeAndre Hopkins (3 years, $48.0 million) and a 2016 2nd rounder? Of course, I drilled in on context, but while this trade may make sense in a redraft league, no way am I give up two cheap, young assets plus Bernard for Hopkins (who I do think is a Top-5 wideout).

The upside is just too high on Matthews and Evans, plus the value given of three fantasy starters for one studly starter just doesn’t compute for me.

If I’m a contender at the deadline, I’m not looking to get back less starters than I’m giving up, unless I have a super deep bench. If making a deal like the above, though to get Hopkins means I have to start a player I can’t trust weekly in the playoffs to replace a guy I just traded while giving up multiple starters, the point differential Hopkins is giving me doesn’t matter. I’m not starting Nate Washington or Malcom Floyd in the playoffs without a serious down-the-stretch track record or injuries just to get myself a player like Hopkins.

6) Don’t be afraid of the one-year contract expiring player for several reasons.

A few weeks ago, a Twitter follower @naandrews19 sent me a few messages about how to value first year players. Nick was asking me how to value these in his league when others were so focused on multi-year players and suggested I write an article about it. First off, thanks Nick for the idea and for following me. Second, hopefully I can address the one-year expiring player, who I do believe has more value than your league counterparts think.

Nick was saying that most of his league was very afraid to trade their picks for “rental” players, guys on one-year deals. This is faulty logic to me. I know the tendency in leagues like this is to try to lock up a bunch of studs on multi-year deals. However, sometimes that blows up in an owners face. In fact, in your first few years, your best team strategy is probably to avoid getting yourself into bad contracts. Ask the owner of Charles Johnson about multi-year deals now and see what he says if he/she can get out a complete sentence without a bunch of expletives.

With that, let me be explicit. There are certain types of players worth trading your first-round draft picks for on expiring deals. Those players to me are guys that you’d consider putting the franchise tag on in 2016. If you already have an obvious franchise tag player based on your league dynamics, or the amount this newly acquired player would cost you in 2016, don’t fret. You still may be willing to part with a 2016 first rounder if you know that you will be in the bottom few picks of the first round and the player you’re getting is worth it. Logically, you’d prefer to give up a second rounder because the picks don’t snake, so you aren’t really giving up much from that standpoint with a second rounder. The happy go between may be to give up a second rounder and a player (either a mid-tier player or a devy guy if you have many of them).

In terms of examples, guys like Danny Woodhead (still currently in the Top 5 in PPR league scoring at running back) are prime examples of players who may not have a ton of future value but can make a significant contribution for your team towards a title.

7) Who is your biggest roadblock to winning a championship and what are they doing at the deadline to improve their team?

Sometimes you have to follow a game theory strategy and only make moves if you perceive your biggest roadblock is going to make them (or already has made them). As a contending team, you have a certain window to remain competitive, so keep that in mind in any deals made. That said, on my current team, I’d be more than willing to move a guy like Chris Conley and his 6’3′, 205 lb frame and 4.35 40-time on a cheap multi-year deal if it netted me the piece I needed to put me ahead of my rival. If the right player was available and the other trading partner wanted someone else in the deal with Conley, I feel like a guy like Vernon Davis could be of interest in his new Denver locale.

If the other team is doing nothing, you may not need to do anything (sometimes doing nothing is actually the best strategy), but be acutely aware of where their weaknesses are and see how you really match up with them in a one-game playoff scenario

8) Non-contending teams should be looking to unload bad contracts as well as pick up future assets.

I feel like I’ve been banging this drum all year, but non-contending teams want three things in this order: 1) future draft picks 2) to rid themselves of bad contracts 3) developmental players. If you are a team that’s fallen on bad luck with injuries or non-performance but have a wealth at a certain position, perhaps you package that wealth with a bad contract (think guys like Michael Floyd or Victor Cruz) to get a combination of assets and contract relief. Heck, if you haven’t moved a player out for the season to IR, you can even trade them if they have future years (guys like Arian Foster) if you are thinking they won’t come back at the same level or at all. Like the NFL, however, you can’t trade players off of your IR on the RSO platform.

So, those are some of my thoughts as your league deadline approaches. I find myself currently to be a buyer in both leagues I’m in (I’m a jaw-dropping 8-0 in my writers league, dominating in total points scored and searching for an area to improve in a 10 team league and I’m 5-3 in my main league with the second highest point total). I don’t know if I’ll get any deals done in these leagues, but I certainly am thinking about potential offers at this point.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @mattgoody2 to talk trade strategy, general questions, start/sit, whatever is on your mind RSO wise and good luck this week!

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Marketwatch 2015: Stock Up/Down

Updated: May 27th 2015

Now that the NFL Draft and NFL Free Agency are over, team depth charts are starting to form as OTAs get underway. With all this in mind, which moves have had the most impact from a fantasy perspective for your Reality Sports Online fantasy leagues? Let’s dive in, and I’ll try to avoid topics I’ve already significantly covered this offseason and focus more on the moves that impact the stock of some fantasy players we haven’t delved into much yet.

Stock Up

1) Melvin Gordon, Running Back, San Diego Chargers

While I agree with the St. Louis Rams that Todd Gurley was the best running back in the 2015 NFL Draft, I think Gordon inserted himself to the best situation right away. The Chargers invested heavily on the offensive line in the offseason, re-signing King Dunlap and grabbing the versatile Orlando Franklin away from their division rival Denver Broncos. Gordon reminds some of having similar traits to Jamaal Charles and should be featured in the screen game as well in spite of having only 22 catches at Wisconsin as quarterback Philip Rivers loves to dump the ball off.

Coaches have already raved about Gordon’s pass blocking, which bodes well for him being on the field in most situations. Based on lackluster performance from Donald Brown, Branden Oliver, and Danny Woodhead being a specialist in the passing game who is coming off a serious injury, I love what Gordon brings to the table immediately for the Chargers. Down the line, you are looking at a top ten fantasy running back as well.

2) Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins

With a new contract in tow and coming off a season in which he passed for over 4,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and only threw 12 interceptions, one has to be excited about Tannehill’s passing prospects in 2015. Then factor in the deep-ball ability of wide receiver Kenny Stills, who was acquired in a trade with New Orleans, the drafting in the first round of wide receiver DeVante Parker, and the signing of veteran Greg Jennings to join second year slot receiver wunderkind Jarvis Landry and the Dolphins receiving corps is formidable. This doesn’t even account for the addition by subtraction of team chemistry vacuum cleaner Mike Wallace and adding tight end Jordan Cameron, who just two years ago showed he was one of the more promising targets at the position.

Expect continued development and a strong running game under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s high-powered system, and Tannehill to beat opponents with both his arm and his legs in 2015.

3) Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

By now you know that my love for Wilson goes beyond rationality. The addition of Jimmy Graham gives Wilson the weapon over the middle of the field and more importantly in the red-zone that will bolster Wilson’s passing yards and especially passing touchdowns in 2015. The Seahawks typically have late round success in the draft as well, and used several picks to bolster the offensive line. However, the most impactful pick to the team may be the drafting of WR/KR Tyler Lockett in the third round, as the Seahawks surrendered four draft picks to move up and take the 5’11, 170 lb. receiver out of Kansas State. Given that the Seahawks tend to do well in the middle rounds of the draft, the trade with Washington to move up and pick Lockett suggests the team is very high on him.

Before you start having flashbacks to Percy Harvin’s forced Seattle stint, don’t view Lockett as the gadget play guy. On this team he is just another weapon along with the dependable Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson, when he returns mid-season from an injured ACL that occurred in the playoffs. Add in Super Bowl surprise Chris Matthews and his 6’5 frame, and Wilson has more weapons than he’s ever had to pick apart defenses. In a contract year, he’ll be grateful for that.

4) DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans

Nobody did more with less from the quarterback position than Hopkins in 2014. Hopkins only turns 23 next month and finished 2014 with 76 receptions for 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns. Now, Andre Johnson is in Indy and the team didn’t use first round capital to grab another wide receiver, waiting until the third round to grab Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, who provides a nice complement to Hopkins. Coach Bill O’Brien has gone on record calling Hopkins one of the best in the game right now. With Cecil Shorts being a possession type receiving option for the Texans and Strong being a rookie who the team is limiting to play outside receiver only, the sky is the limit for Hopkins. Be prepared to pony up for him if he’s available in your auction.

5) Jonathan Stewart, Running Back, Carolina Panthers

Down the stretch last year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better running back than J-Stew. The team went 5-1 in his last six games and he averaged 99 rushing yards a game in that stretch. With no real competition and the team getting more receiving weapons as well in the draft (Devin Funchess), Stewart figures to be a sleeper for the first time in a long time. He’s still only 28 years old and under contract through 2018.

Stock Down

1) Devonta Freeman, Running Back, Atlanta Falcons

It wasn’t like Freeman set the world on fire with his rookie campaign. However, when the team cut Steven Jackson and let Jacquizz Rodgers leave via free agency, things looked decent for the former Seminole to be the bell-cow for the Falcons this year. When the team didn’t draft local product Gurley at #8 overall, opting instead for defensive help and then didn’t draft a running back in round two either, things seemed like the job may have been Freeman’s heading into training camp. That changed quickly in Round 3 when the Falcons selected Indiana running back Tevin Coleman, who draftniks view as a home run hitter who has superior skills (and better pass blocking ability than Freeman).

Freeman is thought of to be a better fit for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, however indications this week are that these two will get equally share of training camp reps. This did work with some success in Cleveland last year before center Alex Mack’s injury. From a RSO perspective, the drafting of Coleman simply casts some of Freeman’s trade value in doubt and for that reason, his stock is down.

2) Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

By most accounts, Bridgewater had a successful rookie season. especially from a completion percentage perspective. However, Minnesota’s offense is in slight turmoil. Running back Adrian Peterson wants out, Wallace is a chemistry killer who either gets targeted or complains, and the team passed up on Bridgewater’s college teammate Parker in the draft.  Count me as someone who isn’t overly excited by the Vikings receiving corps or Cordarrelle Patterson living up to his potential anytime soon.

3) Dennis Pitta, Tight End, Baltimore Ravens

While Pitta is optimistic he’ll play in 2015, I’m more bearish. The Ravens picked University of Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams in the second round as the first tight end of the draft board and used another of their nine picks to select another tight end in the draft. Pitta turns 30 this year and has suffered two hip dislocations. His 2015 salary is guaranteed by the Ravens, but expecting anything from Pitta in 2015 is wishful and in the “bonus” category. Probably worth dropping him, even if you are rooting for him to get back into the Ravens lineup.

4) Tre Mason, Running Back, St. Louis Rams

No Reality Sports Online owner left the 2015 NFL Draft more queasy than those owning Mason. Those owners came into their 2015 offseason thinking they have a rookie on the cheap for 2 or 3 more years (after all with the optimism around Zac Stacy in the 2014 offseason, Mason was probably a second rounder in your rookie draft), only to have a rookie season with 765 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns erased by the drafting of Gurley.

While the transition to Gurley, who is recovering from knee surgery, may be slow in 2015, you don’t draft a running back 8th overall to sit him on the bench when he becomes healthy. Mason may be entrenched as the starter for now but unless the Rams trade him, RSO owners will be left holding the bag on something that one of his father’s De La Soul albums (Buhloone Mindstate) fought hard to combat, because Mason’s Rams career has blown up and might go pop.

5) Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots

This may fall in the master of the obvious category, especially if Brady’s four game suspension sticks (I’m guessing it will get cut in half). Those owners who have Brady locked up though will have to search for a backup option and he may start the season a little bit rusty. Additionally, the loss of future draft picks could hurt from a weapons perspective. The Patriots also did very little to upgrade at the receiver position in the 2015 draft. Which means your investment in 2015 has lost a little bit of air.

I’m curious what you think about these players and others you feel strongly about. Feel free to follow or reach out to me on Twitter @mattgoody2. See you soon!

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Surprising Uprising: The Top Surprises of The Preseason

Updated: August 21st 2014

Two weeks of preseason games have flown by and with that come some surprises that perhaps we weren’t anticipating.  With that in mind, let’s jump right in to players who perhaps were off your radar but now are squarely a focus for your auctions, rookie drafts, and waiver wire. Since Reality Sports Online Chief Operating Officer (and my de facto editor) Stephen Wendell is as into Top 10 lists as David Letterman, this will be in the format of you guessed it, a Top 10 list. For those of you who don’t know Stephen by now from his recent appearance on Bloomberg TV, he is the person in front of the computer when you log on to the Reality Sports Online website.  Kind of like Steinbrenner in Seinfeld where all you see is the back of his head. So, while Stephen is in search of his calzone, let’s get to the “Surprises in the building!”

1.  Justin Hunter Tears It Up vs. the Saints in Preseason Game 2

Yes, I’m talking about the same Justin Hunter who caught 18 balls for 354 yards and 4 TDs as a rookie.  The high 2nd round draft choice in 2013 out of Tennessee managed to have two 100 yard plus games in his rookie season, which basically showed how much of a zero he was in almost every other game.  However, last week vs. the Saints, Hunter had a coming out party vs. the Saints that made fantasy gurus gush about him with 4 catches for 111 yards and 2 TDs (including a 64 yard “footrace” TD with the twos and a 4 yard TD with the first team offense). Those 4 catches displayed all types of different routes and athleticism including a back of the endzone fade, a back shoulder catch, and over the middle breakaway speed. When someone like Mike Clay of Rotoworld proclaims you “this year’s Alshon Jeffery”, folks who haven’t had their auction yet get really excited.  Temper your expectations some as Hunter is still viewed as the #3 wide receiver on the team as coach Ken Whisenhunt mentioned he still needs to work on route depth and discipline on his releases per ESPN, but his physical gifts will make it hard to keep him off the field this year.  He’s essentially a “cheaper version” of his college teammate Cordarrelle Patterson who I talked about at length in my “Whale Watching” article.

2.  Travis Kelce Gets His “Gronk” On

For the owners who grabbed him in last season’s rookie draft, you’ve waited for this moment.  Granted it is preseason, but Travis Kelce, he of the 6’5, 260 pound frame, is doing his best Rob Gronkowski imitation, busting through the seam for two long touchdowns so far and trucking helpless defenders on the way.  He’s still listed behind Anthony Fasano on the depth chart, but that won’t last long given what Kelce can do now that he’s recovered from microfracture knee surgery.  QB Alex Smith hurled 29 TDs to Vernon Davis when they were teammates and given WR1 Dwayne Bowe’s waning concentration, 1 game suspension, and finger issues, the Chiefs need Kelce’s ability to bust the seam to be successful this year.  This guy is a star in the making and I was “this” close to having him in my “More Time For Some Auction” piece, but after all there are a lot of Tight Ends worthy of consideration in 2014.  Kelce has moved up lots of folks boards, including mine.

3.  In Carolina, It’s All About the Benjamin

When he was drafted in the first round, Kelvin Benjamin was cited as somewhat of a project and an unrefined route runner who would almost exclusively be used as a red-zone threat based on his 6’5, 240 pound frame. However, when you watch the tape of the two preseason games Benjamin has played, he’s faked DB’s out of their cleats on several routes and has already found paydirt.  Cam Newton overthrew him Sunday vs. the Chiefs for what certainly would have been a touchdown as he had clear separation from the defense. While he always had 8 TD potential this season based on his size, he’s turning into quite the football player too.  Word is that he and Cam Newton are “inseparable” and Benjamin will see the most time among all the wide receivers as he’s the best blocking wideout already.  I know that receivers like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are going higher in rookie drafts, but Benjamin’s situation screams opportunity and his Calvin Johnson like body frame can make him an elite wide receiver.

4.  And J-Stew, Too

Jonathan Stewart looks pretty good in a baseball cap and sweats on the sidelines.  He looks better when he is actually healthy.  He certainly is available in most of your leagues and appears to finally be healthy for the first time in years and is back from his latest injury (an injured hamstring).  He still has plenty of tread on his tires (he’s only 27 years old) and looked good in a 4 carry, 26 yard and 2 touchdown performance on Sunday vs. Kansas City.  Stewart should be available fairly cheap for you and has had some pretty big seasons in the past with 10 plus TDs twice and heavy receptions in 2011.  Remember that Newton is his biggest threat to steal carries and touchdowns, especially in close, although with the ankle surgery he had over the summer, perhaps the running backs will get more totes in close.  The trade of Kenjon Barner to the Eagles last night should signal that the Panthers are confident in their running back situation.

5. Kenny Britt Is Getting Rave Reviews?

The words “leader” and “#1 receiver” are not what you’d think you’d hear in the same sentence as Kenny Britt.  However, in receiver needy St. Louis, the reunion of Britt with Head Coach Jeff Fisher have brought exactly that so far.  While Britt did exit vs. the Packers with a minor shoulder injury, Britt is getting talked up now that he seems finally healthy from a litany of knee injuries.  For those who think Percy Harvin gets hurt a lot, Britt actually is more injury prone.  He’s viewed as the starting X receiver and Sam Bradford is in a critical year to show that he is the franchise quarterback the Rams thought he’d be when they selected him #1 overall.  Britt is still only 25 years old and has the physical tools and size that top WRs typically display.  He’ll be available for bargain basement prices in your auction and while a one year prove it deal may be best, there is plenty of potential upside for this 2014 training camp surprise.

6. Andy Dalton Gets Huge Deal and Is Living Up to it Thus Far

Fresh off a 7 year, $97 million contract extension, several football writers questioned why the Cincinnati Bengals would give Dalton that kind of money as he hasn’t really lead the team to any playoff success and has been an inconsistent NFL quarterback.  Also, with Jay Gruden now leading the Washington Redskins, Hue Jackson has taken over the reins as offensive coordinator.  Jackson is viewed as a run-heavy coordinator based on his prior experiences in Atlanta and Oakland, but he really hasn’t had the offensive talent that the Bengals do, especially at wide receiver as A.J. Green is a Top 5 elite level wide receiver.  Dalton was 8-8 for 144 yards and a TD vs. the New York Jets (who he owns by the way, including Marvin Jones 4 TD performance in 2013) and overall in the preseason is on fire going 11-13 for 215 yards and the aforementioned 43 yard TD to Mohamed Sanu (who’ll have to step up and perform in light of Marvin Jones foot injury).  More importantly, Dalton hasn’t turned the ball over and has shown the same chemistry with Green in preseason action, as the pair have hooked up early and often.

7. You’re My Boy, Blue

Maybe I should have went with the Eiffel 69 song “I’m Blue” instead of the Old School movie reference, but Texans rookie running back Alfred Blue has shown that he can fill in adequately for Arian Foster, who shows all the warning signs of missing significant time this year, even if nobody is explicitly saying it.  Blue had a touchdown with the first teamers vs. Atlanta on Saturday and showed a good average and caught a few balls vs. Arizona.  The team cut veteran Andre Brown for a reason.  Blue is definitely worth a handcuff and maybe a late round rookie pick if you are in a league that drafts more than 3 rounds of rookies.  It is unclear whether he or journeyman Jonathan Grimes is the handcuff to own right now, but keep your eyes peeled as the rookie from LSU figures to be in the mix and when (not if) Foster goes down, you’ll want one of these guys on your roster.

8. Mark Ingram Flashes What Won Him a Heisman

With the Saints prolific passing game, people treat Sean Payton’s yearly overtures that they will be a more balanced team much like the town treated the boy who cried wolf.  Mark Ingram’s 8 carry, 83 yard, 1 TD performance was an eye opener in the first week of the preseason.  Ingram is a free agent at the end of the season and may not stay with the Saints, but he is certainly earning his keep in the preseason.  Ingram even caught a 23 yard TD vs. the Titans in Week 2 and wants to be more involved in the passing game, ostensibly to be on the field more often and keep competition like Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas on the bench.  Currently, Robinson and Ingram are seeing first team run with Thomas in on passing downs.  There are a lot of footballs to go around in New Orleans and you’ve seen this flash before with Ingram in the preseason so buyer beware.  A one year deal isn’t out of the question, but don’t expect weekly consistent startable production out of Ingram unless he does it for a few weeks in a row in the regular season.

9.  Percy Harvin Isn’t Hurt (Yet) and the Seahawks Are Humming

While he wasn’t used much in Week 1 vs. Denver, Percy Harvin highlighted how wide open the Seahawks playbook looks like with him in the lineup.  The formations and options Russell Wilson have seem limitless when defenses have to concern themselves with where Harvin is lined up on the field.  Harvin is a threat for a bubble screen, fly sweep (reverse) and constant motion, which opens up all type of reads for Wilson, all resulting in big plays last Friday night vs. the Chargers.  For more on that and for those who study film, I highly recommend Bucky Brooks recent article on Seahawks formations with video on NFL.com (for those who follow me on Twitter, I did retweet that and do try to pinpoint meaningful football analysis from some of the best writers and football minds around).  Shameless plug aside, Harvin had 4 catches for 31 yards vs. the Chargers and opened up running lanes for Wilson and Robert Turbin, as well as the seam for Tight End Luke Willson.  Harvin will see some time as a kickoff returner also.  He should factor into the running game too on reverses, probably to the tune of 2 a game.  If healthy, he screams fantasy upside.  Simply, Harvin makes the Seahawks offense so much more balanced and dynamic and with his presence (or even as a decoy), the kid gloves are off the uber efficient Wilson, who will be more than a “game manager” for you in the next few fantasy seasons.  Grab Wilson on a multi-year deal if you can, especially if most of the other QBs in the league are spoken for.  As for Harvin, take caution, but if you can get him for value, a 2 year deal seems about right.

10.  I Think I’m Gonna Have to Go With Blake

If you ever watch NBC’s The Voice, you’ll see countless contestants in their southern drawl say “I think I’m gonna have to go with Blaaaake”-Shelton that is.  After seeing what he can do in the preseason, I’m a big fan of another Blake-Bortles.  He is showing Big Ben type ability and has a talented group of wide receivers to target.  The accuracy has been really solid and the decision making and poise has been better than advertised.  Granted his production has been against second and third string defenses (he just got his first practice reps with the ones), but both Bortles and current starter Chad Henne have played very well in the preseason.  In a weak division, that could signal a surprise season for the Jaguars.  As for your rookie draft, take notice of Bortles and target him in the second round if you need a quarterback as he’s looked best among the rookie signal-callers.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin