Week 4 Street FA Report

Updated: September 28th 2021

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 75% of RSO leagues that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer one (1) player that is owned in <25% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

Add of the Week

Emmanuel Sanders, WR – BUF (Owned 61%)

Week 3: 5 Rec/94 yards, 2 TDs

Still available in 40 percent of leagues, Emmanuel Sanders showed last week that he still can be a fantasy producer in the right offense. The Bills will always have a strong passing attack, so long as Josh Allen is the quarterback, which presents lots of opportunity for Sanders to work alongside Cole Beasley as the number two option behind Stefon Diggs. He has also played on 83 percent of the team’s offensive snaps through the first three (3) weeks and holds a 15.6% target share. I do not suspect Sanders to be available for this column the rest of the season so if he is still sitting on the sidelines in your league, make sure to add him.

Suggested Bid: $2,500,000

 

RB Add

J.J. Taylor, RB – NE (Owned 18%)

Week 3: 1 Car/2 yards, 2 Rec/3 yards

James White exited New England’s week 3 game early with a hip injury that has since been reported will keep him out of the lineup indefinitely. During the pre-season, Josh McDaniels was evaluating what secondary options he had at running back and J.J. Taylor showed flashes as the next man up for receiving back. With White now out, and the amount of running back targets New England likes to produce each week, Taylor may see an opportunity in PPR leagues to now be rostered. With how poorly the team looked last week, there is a high probability that he does not come onto many other league mate’s radar so it should be enough to stash Taylor on the bench with a minimum contract.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

 

WR Adds

Josh Gordon, WR – KC (Owned 24%)

Week 3: N/A

Let’s just get this out of the way so we can all get back to our normally scheduled Street FA report. Josh Gordon is attempting yet another comeback to the NFL after being reinstated once again. Gordon has tremendous talents but has not done much since his breakout season in 2013! Now over 30 years old the community is once again ready to fall in love with prospects of what Gordon could be. Signing with Kansas City seems like a no-brainer for him as the coaching staff and ownership is tops in the NFL and he should not have to be in the spotlight with players like Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce controlling the offense. There are still plenty of other receivers in your free agency that should do more than Gordon in fantasy this season but the upside is always too alluring for him to stay a free agent for long. You have been warned.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

Braxton Berrios, WR – NYJ (Owned 19%)

Week 3: 2 Rec/26 yards

We do not know for how much longer Jamison Crowder will be sidelined but Braxton Berrios has stepped in and been the primary slot option through Zach Wilson’s first three (3) weeks. Berrios has played on nearly a third (63.5%) of the snaps but has had a 20 percent target share. The problem is that the Jets’ offense is terrible and the scoring opportunities just are not there. Whether Crowder’s return negates Berrios’ role, or if the Jets try and shop the veteran once he is healthy, Berrios can be a PPR WR5 at this point.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

 

TE Adds

Dalton Schultz, TE – DAL (Owned 27.5%)

Week 3: 6 Rec/80 yards, 2 TD

I toyed with the idea of adding Dalton Schultz in two (2) of my leagues this week but was still holding out to see what Kellen Moore was designing for the Cowboys’ offense after Michael Gallup’s injury in week 1. Now it will cost me, and anyone else waiting on a tight end, as a two (2) touchdown performance on Monday night is sure to skyrocket his ownership. Dak Prescott is not slowing down from his injury last year which means plenty of passing opportunities and red zone targets to go around this season. Blake Jarwin also appears to not be in the game plan for Moore’s offense as much of a pass-catcher. Schultz should be added in most leagues and depending on your starting rotation at the position may be your starting tight end moving forward.

Suggested Bid: $2,000,000

Tommy Tremble, TE – CAR (Owned 22%)

Week 3: 1 Car/7 yards, 1 TD, 1 Rec/30 yards

One long catch and one end-around touchdown seemed to be enough for Head Coach Matt Rhule to give the reins over to rookie tight end Tommy Tremble. The Panthers traded away journeyman Dan Arnold after week 3 leaving only Tremble and Ian Thomas as the two primary tight end options on the roster. Rookie tight ends are notorious for not producing much in their first season/s but without much else in his way, Tremble may present some weeks of fantasy relevance. We are also one week away from having RSO resigns available so Tremble may present a nice multi-year buy-in at a low cost if he builds any momentum throughout the rest of the 2021 season.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

 

Sleeper Add (<25%)

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, WR – TEN (Owned <1%)

Week 3: 4 Rec/53 yards, 1 TD

I can admit when I was wrong and despite my best efforts as a sideline cheerleader, it does not appear that Josh Reynolds is going to be anything but a depth receiver in the NFL. A.J. Brown left with a hamstring injury presenting exactly the scenario where I told many to add Reynolds for. Instead, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine took the next-man-up role, playing 78 percent of the snaps in week 3 and scored his first career touchdown. Brown is listed as week-to-week but we know from experience that Brown has a history of starting a game while injured but exiting early. Sneak Westbrook-Iknine on your practice squad this week to see what the extent of Brown’s injury is heading into week 4.

Suggested Bid: $100,000 PS / $500,000 AR

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

The Amazing, Good, Sad and Embarrassing

Updated: September 19th 2018

The first two weeks of the NFL season are in the books.  If you need a brief overview of what happened, this is the place.  The article looks at some of the outstanding players and teams so far to some of the worst with a couple more topics thrown in.

The Amazing

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Patrick Mahomes

“FitzMagic” is back!  The Harvard-grad leads the NFL after two weeks in passing yards with over 400 per game, in passer rating (151.5), and yards per attempt (13.4) which is almost three more than any other quarterback.  The “Beard” performed this monumental feat despite playing against two defenses which were top-8 in Football Outsider’s pass efficiency last season.  DeSean Jackson provides a big reason for Fitzpatrick’s early success.  The 31 year old is proving his doubters wrong by setting up big plays for Fitzpatrick getting easy deep separation with his game-changing speed.  Jackson leads the league in receiving yards on only nine targets catching each one for a gaudy 30.6 yards per reception.

Not to be outdone, the Kansas City second-year playcaller is setting records early in 2018.  Mahomes already racked up ten touchdowns without throwing an interception leading the Chiefs to a 2-0 start.  He is receiving good pass protection and the assortment of offensive targets makes big plays possible on every snap.  It is a truly outstanding start to his career.

The Good

NFL Passing

Offenses sometimes start slowly the first few weeks of the season thanks to limited practices in the preseason.  That is not the case this year where teams are putting up video game offensive numbers early.  I talked about the expected increase in passing prior to the season but we have witnessed a massive overcorrection so far.  Tom Brady led the NFL in passing last year at 286 yards per game.  There are eleven quarterbacks averaging more so far this year.  Eleven quarterbacks have passer ratings in excess of 100 this season while only five managed that feat last year.  Yardage and scoring are broadly up throughout the league.  This is a great NFL for those who worship offensive football.

Los Angeles Rams

There was some concern out there the Rams might regress somewhat after an amazing 2017.  We must keep in mind the opponents played so far but the early results suggest the concern is unwarranted.  Los Angeles dismantled the Raiders and Arizona on the way to a league-leading +54 point differential.  The Rams rank no worse than 7th in yardage and scoring for both offense and defense highlighted by allowing a league best 6.5 points per game.  The major offseason additions of Cooks, Suh, Peters, and Talib appear to have integrated nicely at this point making for a dangerous team on both sides of the ball.

The Sad

Josh Gordon

The Gordon saga with the Browns finally came to an end this week after a suspension fueled tumultuous time in Cleveland filled with off the field issues.  The hope and promise of a player who led the league in receiving five years ago never fully materialized again for the Browns.  The fact that Gordon is still on an exclusive rights free agent contract seven years after being drafted tells all you need to know about his struggles.  He was traded to New England Monday.  Everyone hopes he succeeds with the Patriots but that concern is a distant second in comparison to hoping he gets his life in order away from the football field.

Buffalo Bills

Many people envisioned the Bills taking a major step backward after winning nine games and making an improbable playoff bid in 2017. The playoff birth was a mirage masking a Buffalo team finishing with a -57 point differential and ranking just 20th in Football Outsiders team efficiency.  The Bills’ coaching staff understood this was not a playoff-worthy roster and started a complete takedown.  The process will be even uglier than most envisioned.  The offensive side of the ball features one of the worst offensive lines in the league after losing two top linemen to retirement and trading a third away.  There are no receiving options which scare any team.  The only real offensive weapon, LeSean McCoy, just suffered a rib injury.  The Bills were even forced to put rookie Josh Allen into the starting lineup after Nathan Peterman predictably was benched yet again.  A mediocre Bills’ defense crumbled under the pressure of an incompetent offense this year yielding a league worst 39 points per game.  Things are so bad Vontae Davis gave up millions to retire at halftime of week two.  Things will get better in Buffalo but 2018 will be a struggle.

The Embarrassing

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona was competitive last year despite big losses during the season.  The Cardinals went 8-8 in 2017 without David Johnson for most of the year while also starting either Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton for over half the season.  New head coach Steve Wilks and the rest of the coaching staff has managed to make a complete mess in Arizona so far this season.  The Cardinals have been outscored by a combined 58 to 6 tally in two lifeless outings on the way to a 0-2 start.  New quarterback Sam Bradford accumulated 346 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions in his last full start for Minnesota.  He has a combined 246 yards and zero touchdowns with two interceptions in two starts for Arizona this year.  This looks like a team destined for a complete top to bottom rebuild with everyone from players to coaches in danger.

Honorable mention: Detroit Lions.  The Lions are another competitive team from last season with a new head coach, Matt Patricia, whom struggled mightily in two games.  The 9-7 team from 2017 has not been close in two contests, including being blown out at home against a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, with players already calling out the new coaching staff.  It could be a rough year for Detroit in a solid NFC conference.

The Giants Offensive Line

Anyone watching the New York-Dallas game Sunday night should easily recognize the huge discrepancy between offensive lines.  Dak Prescott was able to sit back in clean pockets for much of the night while Eli Manning was under constant pressure for almost every dropback forcing short quick dumpoffs and ugly throws.  The Giants’ line struggles continued to the run game where Saquon Barkley was continuously required to make defenders miss nearly as soon as he touched the ball.  New York will not compete this season if new head coach Pat Shurmur does not fix the dreadful offensive line, no matter the wealth of talent at the skill positions.

NFL “Roughing the Passer” Issue

Defenders may not hit the quarterback in the head, or the knees, or the mid-section, or land on them, or pick them up, or…   You get the picture.  What are defenders supposed to do?  Put their hand up as a stop sign and hope the quarterback falls to the ground out of fear?  There is simply no reasonable way for defenders to tackle quarterbacks without being at risk of penalty at this time.  The NFL has vastly overcorrected thanks to high-profile injuries at quarterback last season.  The recent Matthews’ penalty is just the most recent example of the problem that costs teams wins.  The NFL must make a decision as to whether quarterbacks are actual football players or porcelain dolls in need of protection at all costs.  Acknowledge the dangers of the sport and go back to calling the most egregious hits if it is the former.  Use a touch rule or flags to eliminate hitting of quarterbacks altogether If it is the latter.


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

Top 5 Remaining Offseason ?s

Updated: June 7th 2016

In the Zone

As the offseason has progressed, there have been some storylines that have continued to linger and others that have been new developments. There are fantasy implications all abound for all of these questions. Here are my top five remaining questions (in no particular order) that will alter the mindset of how players in these situations are viewed. I’m not including Tom Brady’s four-game suspension because the Patriots will be able to game plan for it if it sticks.

1) Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Contract Situation

The New York Jets, according to Spotrac, have only $3.1 million of remaining cap space for its Top 51 players. That provides an interesting conundrum on bringing back Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is coming off a career season with 3,905 yards passing and 31 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.

These numbers far exceed prior contributions from the signal-caller, yet Fitzpatrick only completed 59.6% of his passes last season and had one 300 yard game while the team narrowly missed the playoffs. Fitzpatrick seems to be wanting $12 million a year, possibly on a one year deal, which doesn’t appease the Jets who want to spread out the salary over time for cap purposes.

While the Jets were clearly a better team last year with Fitzpatrick at the helm, how much of that is attributable to a solid ground game and more importantly, renaissance man Brandon Marshall? I’d say a lot. Even with bolstering its offensive line with the trade for left tackle Ryan Clady and the big free agent signing of versatile running back Matt Forte, giving the quarterback the most amount of talent he’s ever had around him by far.

Geno Smith hasn’t effectively been a game manager, but hasn’t really been given the opportunity since the unfortunate broken jaw incident that led to Fitzpatrick starting the season and catching fire. Smith is the starter in OTA’s in Fitzpatrick’s absence and is a free agent in 2017. It would behoove the Jets to see what they have in Smith this year, especially if Fitzpatrick continues to hold out for what he believes he deserves.

What does all this mean for fantasy football? Not much, really. Marshall and fellow wide receiver Eric Decker have performed well no matter who their quarterback is, even if they are showing solidarity for Fitzpatrick. I watched Fitzpatrick frequently miss connections with Decker plenty last season and Decker does have a 200 yard game on his resume with Smith as quarterback. Forte also performed well in Chicago, even at a greater clip without Jay Cutler.

That’s your main concern, unless you are a Jets fan. Let’s face it- you aren’t throwing eight figures at Fitz in your auction or are considering him as a QB2 for any of your leagues.

Conclusion: Proceed as you were. Nothing to see here, people.

2) Sammy Watkins’ Injured Foot

It certainly came out of left field last month when it was announced that third-year wide receiver Sammy Watkins had foot surgery in April. This is the same surgery that impacted Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Julian Edelman. The big question that fantasy owners are dying to know is whether Watkins will be back in time for the regular season.

From a Reality Sports Online perspective, and I’ve said this on the record on Twitter, this Watkins news makes his price that much more reasonable and I’d be in buy mode while he’s cheaper. There are a few buckets of owners of Watkins in leagues. First, you have those who have Watkins on a rookie deal, likely around $6.0 million a year currently. That is a steal for a potential top 10 fantasy wideout for the next two years. Those who entered leagues later may have a heftier price tag on Watkins, but if it is anything under $20 million a season, that could be value.

As for me, I traded my final contract year of Randall Cobb (1 year remaining, $17.4 million) for Watkins (2016: $6.4 million, 2017: $7.0 million) and Matthew Stafford (1 year remaining $14.0 million). Basically, while I like Cobb’s potential efficiency to increase this year with the return of Jordy Nelson, I think Watkins ceiling is massive and a cheap price. Stafford is likely a cheap trade or cap casualty as I have Russell Wilson as my starter on a cheaper deal, but that to me was a small price to pay to get a potential superstar (which no doubt Cobb has been as well at times).

The news on Watkins having a screw inserted and prior history with Bryant rushing back and a subsequent Edelman surgery are troubling, but the Bills know what they have in Watkins and won’t make him take unnecessary training camp reps to risk not being ready for the regular season. Even if he starts slowly the first two weeks, his back half of 2015 was dominant on a team that only threw the ball more than 30 times in half of the final eight games.

How dominant you ask-try 41 catches for 732 yards and 6 touchdowns in the final eight games, including four 100 yard games. In fact, in that stretch, when Watkins was targeted 10 or more times, his worst game was 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Further, that’s on a run-oriented team and the team didn’t bring much in the help department for quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the passing game.

Lastly, in the event I haven’t convinced you on Watkins yet, he’s got a potential fantasy playoff slate against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Miami, all at home in Weeks 14-16 and the Raiders and Jags immediately prior.

Conclusion: Not concerned currently, but pay attention to the news. If you have Watkins, you’re probably holding him and expecting big things. If you have someone who is losing faith on him in your league, pounce on that, especially if the price is right.

3) The Josh Gordon Saga-Will It Continue?

By now you know the narrative about Josh Gordon. Incredibly talented, but can’t stay out of trouble. Those of you who still own him at an average of 1.7 remaining years and $9.3 million remaining contract are sincerely hoping Gordon can put his past (and Johnny Manziel) behind him to tear it up on the gridiron again.

That picture remains unclear, but there is some optimism that when August rolls around, Gordon can be clean and reinstated. The question then is what do the Browns do with him? He certainly would like nice in an all Baylor connection with Robert Griffin III and rookie #1 pick Corey Coleman (who I really like as a Top 3 rookie draft get), but at the same time Browns coach Hue Jackson is emphasizing character and the team is stockpiling Moneyball draft picks for the future.

Conclusion: Wait and see. If you have Gordon at an annual average of 1.7 years remaining and a little over $9.0 million left on his contract, just hope he hits the field, because if he does, he’ll produce anywhere. He still has top five wide receiver potential at close to bye week replacement pricing.

4) Is This the Year to Go Cheap at Quarterback?

Given the popularity of streaming quarterbacks in weekly redraft leagues and similar low dollar values in some daily games, a popular strategy that is now emerging in Reality Sports Online leagues is to spend as little as possible on your starting quarterback. The theory, as adopted by Reality Sports Online’s own Stephen Wendell with a quarterback like Derek Carr is simple: there are only 10-12 starting quarterbacks in each league, so don’t overpay for one while your budget can be used on positions that may require more cap space.

If any a year to adopt this strategy, 2016 seems like a prime one with quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston in their second year of rookie deals which typically found them as late first or early second round picks in 2015. The same holds true for Carr and fellow third year quarterback Blake Bortles. Both third year signal-callers have plenty of weapons. Heck, even Andy Dalton was playing like a top five quarterback until he got injured last season.

With quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning always a possibility to produce, unless quarterback is a position that derives more value in your leagues, it might be smart to not go crazy trying to sign the Aaron Rodgers types for $25 million when one of these quarterbacks can be had for $5 million or less.

Conclusion: 2016 seems like the first RSO league year where the cheap quarterback may really derive an advantage. I’m a firm believer in prime signal callers in the fantasy playoffs, someone you are sure will produce solid numbers even on a bad day. But if you can load up at receiver and get the right running backs under contract, this strategy is an interesting one.

5) Arian Foster: Whose Fantasy Season is he Going to Screw Up?

It is somewhat insane that Arian Foster remains unsigned, but it seems like he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s close to having a clean bill of health and there are definitely a few potentially needy teams still lurking. Foster likely is looking at a $3-4 million deal with some incentives that could be achieved if he’s healthy and performs well.

To me, the big question isn’t where Foster signs, but which current fantasy starter he’s going to destroy value for?

First off, if you are still holding Foster thinking he may be the same running back he was on Houston when healthy, please temper your expectations. He’s a very accomplished runner with excellent pass catching ability and a nose for the end zone. That’s where he holds the biggest value to teams. I don’t think teams are looking at him to be their bell-cow at this point in virtually any scenario.

I’d expect him to sign with the Miami Dolphins and if he does, Jay Ajayi owners will not be happy. Washington remains a good possibility and they’ve built up a pretty nice offense at this point. Put Foster in a committee and give him pass catching and goal-line responsibilities and he’ll have almost as much fantasy value on efficiency and fresh legs than he did as the featured back on the Texans. I personally don’t buy the New England hype-Dion Lewis is younger, coming off an easier injury to recover from, and under a fairly good contract.

Conclusion: If you haven’t cut Foster yet, hang on and see where this next month takes him. I wouldn’t overpay for him as a handcuff, but I’ve come around on him if he’s in a good situation and used well (10-12 touches a game), he could have Danny Woodhead like PPR fantasy value. If you are holding Ajayi or were hoping that Matt Jones was about to break out this year, get nervous, but wait to see what happens.


Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Do You Just Know?

Updated: May 2nd 2016

In the Zone

College Swagger

For the most part, I’m a fairly humble person. After all, that is the upbringing of most folks from the Midwest. However, my freshman year in college at Miami University, I had a resident advisor (let’s call him Chuck) that I disliked so much that out of standing up for myself turned me into a trash-talking a-hole, especially on the basketball court.

One night I was playing 3-on-3 hoops with some friends (and Chuck), and Chuck and I were matched up on each other. That night, I got the better of him for the most part and prior to a game I announced it would be my last as I had to head to study group. That seemed to tick Chuck off and he was yapping more than usual while guarding me the entire game.

It got to the point where we were a basket away from winning a close game and the ball got kicked out to me in the corner more than 20 feet out and way before Steph Curry was a known entity. As I squared up to assess my options, Chuck kept taunting me shouting, “be the hero, (Goody)”. I’m not sure but I think I even passed out of that situation initially only to find the ball back to me in the same place seconds later. The chatter ensued. Finally, I had enough of Chuck-I raised up, shot the ball and without looking immediately started running towards my backpack with my hand in the air (kind of like Larry Bird when finishing off a 3 point contest All-Star weekend).

By now, you know the outcome-why would I tell this story if the shot didn’t go in, right? Chuck charged me and wanted to fight because I shut him up again. The big question is “how did I know it was going in?”. The answer and tie-in to my article this week, is sometimes you “just know”.

There’s A Draft In Here…

I get the hype of the NFL Draft. It is the best process for a downtrodden team to make strides to turn things around and sometimes help a team get a missing piece to put them over the top to be Super Bowl Champions. The intrigue here is that players of all positions can be the cornerstone for a franchise, even those outside of the skill positions.

From a fantasy football perspective, it provides a new crop of players to fawn over, especially in dynasty leagues and even more so in a hyper-league format like Reality Sports Online. Pick the right rookies for three or four years on market-friendly deals and the thought is, you can write your own championship narrative.

No doubt folks who have recently drafted Odell Beckham, Jr. or Todd Gurley can attest to how prime talent at $6.0 million a year or less can take their RSO teams to new heights. That is why we as RSO owners get so hyped for the draft, other than the intuitive fact that it is the time when these rookies situations become more known (not from a depth chart perspective, but at least opportunity wise). Remember, even Beckham’s success wasn’t a given and his injury-riddled start cast some doubt initially and now he’s a Top 5 league contract.

In the right years like the 2014 wide receiver class, it eliminated some of the guess-work on the “just know” factor. While players like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans have not knocked it out of the park the past two years, nobody doubted their talent at the top of rookie drafts (the just know factor), and they have been slight victims of opportunity from offenses that aren’t necessarily pass happy thus far, but the consensus is their outlooks are still very rosy.

2016 Is Not A Just Know Year

With customization across leagues, including those that have individual defensive players (IDP), the rookie draft each year may have a deeper talent pool. For those who are in more common leagues that have 20-25 player rosters and offensive skill positions and team defenses, not all first round rookie deals are owner-friendly, especially if you draft a guy that isn’t a “just know” player, so sometimes it is better to spread your money around in a smarter way.

I’m fairly active on Twitter and follow Dynasty trade tweets frequently. Lots of times you see studs getting traded for a bevy of rookie picks because certain owners fawn over rookie potential in search of the big score on hitting on picks, especially late-round cheap ones. To me, that strategy is fairly risky, especially in a year like this one that is not a “just know” one.

By way of example, let’s dig into Nick Andrews’ Pre-Draft Mock. Of Nick’s Top 12 picks, only Ezekiel Elliott flashes the potential to be an immediate fantasy star (I’d define this as being top 10 in fantasy points at his position for the upcoming few years) and the Cowboys taking him cements that behind their hulking offensive line and Scott Linehan’s affinity for passing to running backs. From an NFL perspective, it probably didn’t make sense for the Cowboys to go this route given the devaluation of the running back position; however, RSO owners don’t want to hear that noise and should take Elliott at 1.01 in all their rookie drafts. Other players may take at least a year to prove themselves (which isn’t a bad thing if you think of players like Devonta Freeman).

However, if you have a league which features three-year rookie deals, you almost need immediate contributors or to hit on your post round one rookie draft picks (which points to trading down to get more shots at this-the Moneyball strategy is being tested in Cleveland and certainly can be applied to your RSO rookie drafts). Let’s get into a few hypothetical situations that may mirror decisions you are facing when assessing your offseason trade or rookie draft strategy (assuming you have a bit of time to evaluate and aren’t doing your rookie draft next week before depth charts are being figured out with offseason workouts).

Hypotheticals-Would You Rather Have?

Established Player A: Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions-1.6 years remaining, $14.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player A: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings-1.02 mock, 4 years, $6.0-$7.6m average annual contract

These are the types of questions that really test the mettle of RSO owners. Tate is a solid PPR option who figures to get the ball more with Calvin Johnson retired, although he’s probably around the 24th best fantasy wide receiver for the next two years.

Treadwell fills a big need in Minnesota, and as one of the highest regarded receivers in the draft, those players typically often become the instant primary target for their teams. Treadwell’s rookie draft value will likely be derived in years 2-3 of his four-year deal and based on the GM’s confidence in his role on the Vikings offense, which has been a fantasy wasteland for receivers for a long time now.

I don’t get too hung up on 40 times like Treadwell’s 4.65 if the player has known game speed. Larry Fitzgerald ran a 4.63 and was fast enough to be able to watch himself leave Steelers defenders in the dust on the Jumbotron while heading to the end zone in his lone Super Bowl appearance. For me, based on Treadwell’s situation in Minnesota, I prefer the steady, if not spectacular Tate based on known production and his role as the number one receiver in the Detroit offense. Full disclaimer, I’d also prefer Cleveland’s first round pick Corey Coleman over Treadwell as well. I know the Browns offense is a mess (with or without Josh Gordon), but they will have to throw the ball and will work with Coleman’s skills to get him the ball in space. This screams heavy volume and potentially a role in the return game as well.

Established Player B: Matt RyanQB, Atlanta Falcons-1.6 years remaining, $17.0m remaining contract

Rookie Player B: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams-2.11 mock, 4 years, $1.3-$1.6m average annual contract

I’m certainly not the first to compare these players, as Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier did in this article. From a real football perspective, Goff is asked to be the savior of a team returning to Los Angeles and that will likely take time to do, especially given that the franchise has mortgaged in terms of future drafts to get their face of the franchise for the new era of Rams football. The Falcons quickly pivoted to get Ryan some weapons, something that the Rams don’t have the luxury of doing, so they either have to count on Brian Quick types to come out of nowhere or hit a home-run with late round picks in either the 2016 or 2017 NFL Draft.

That said, from a fantasy perspective in dynasty leagues where you are starting one quarterback across a 10-12 team typical format, even with Goff’s potential challenges of being the day-one starter in 2016, the RSO contract values and fantasy production seem to highlight that Goff’s upside and potential return as a second round rookie pick exceed Ryan’s market dynamics.

I love Goff’s presence and instincts (much like fellow Cal alum Aaron Rodgers) and think that he will break out in Year two even without a top wideout like Julio Jones, who Ryan has the luxury of having. At this point, Ryan still has weapons, but hasn’t proved to be worth more than a replacement/streaming quarterback in our format, and that isn’t worth paying out multi-millions and multi-years for.

So in this case, consider me a member of fellow writer Bob Cowper’s valuing rookie QB’s higher school of thought.

Established Player C: Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers-1.0 years remaining, $3.5m remaining contract

Rookie Player C: C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks -1.09 mock, 4 years, $3.6-$4.5m average annual contract

Who better to compare to Woodhead than a former wideout who played running back at Notre Dame last year? In this case, Prosise is still somewhat of a work in progress and needs to better pass protect to see time on an NFL field. However, his route running ability and size are key assets in giving him the opportunity for significant playing time in the right system.

With the increased emphasis on the passing game in the NFL, Woodhead was surprisingly a top 10 fantasy running back last year in PPR leagues and Philip Rivers loves him. Can Prosise be the same at similar dollar values? Who would you take?

For me, this argument really boils down to where you can get Prosise in your rookie draft. Woodhead, while very productive is sometimes challenging to own in fantasy based on offensive game flow. No doubt will the Chargers continue to emphasize Melvin Gordon in the run game and his snaps ramped up on obvious passing downs as the season progressed. Woodhead is also a free agent in 2017 and will be fighting for targets with Keenan Allen returning from a season-ending injury and with newly-signed Travis Benjamin.

Prosise certainly has the ability to be a 50-60 catch guy with the quicks to be like another C.J. (Spiller). However, rookie draft owners making this pick hope that Prosise gets more playing time and utilization than Spiller. If the utilization is similar to Woodhead’s with some carries sprinkled in , it is a 50-50 proposition between Woodhead and Prosise at a pick around 1.09 in the rookie draft from a salary perspective that heavily skews towards Prosise if Thomas Rawls misses extended offseason time, as Rawls is far from cemented as an established fantasy entity. Anything past 1.09 heavily favors Prosise’s upside, especially in Round 2 or later.

Conclusion

Due to the lack of “just know” guys this year, the Moneyball strategy of trading down may benefit you. There are only a few players/situations right now that seem to be definitive, so sometimes the solid, if not flashy vet is a better option than the rookie draft pick. Last year, I traded my 1.08 pick for a year of T.Y. Hilton and I’d do it again with a contending team, in spite of some bad luck surrounding Hilton’s QB last year.

How your team stacks up against the competition and whether you are in contend/rebuild mode matters for your decisions, but the “just know” factor means a ton and dictates whether or not you move up or down in your rookie drafts or trade out of them completely.

As for Chuck, I still laugh about that game and think about the ball going through the net sight unseen.

My Top 5 Picks

If my rookie draft were this week based on the situations they are in and long-term upside, here’s who I’d select:

  1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
  2. Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns
  3. Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins
  4. Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
  5. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Top 5 Offseason Questions

Updated: March 4th 2015

Now that the NFL offseason is about to begin, Reality Sports Online (RSO) owners can replace the void of no football games on the tube with offseason strategy. Now is the time that you set the foundation for your team’s future and ideally make moves to build a champion. Like Alec Baldwin says in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always Be Closing”.

Let’s face it- you joined an RSO league because you wanted something more from a fantasy platform, basically the ability to act exactly like an NFL team General Manager. You craved all the strategic decisions a GM makes, including assessing your overall roster and salary cap situation, drafting rookies, and potentially using your Franchise Tag as an asset. Except you get to negotiate with players without them being divas or dealing with potentially greedy agents who are only about “Show Me the Money!”

Being an owner of an RSO team, you hopefully have a keen sense of strategy and utilize many information sources to manage your teams in the offseason and throughout the regular season. Let me first advocate our own Matt Papson’s Off-Season Team Analysis as an incredibly valuable resource. Simply put, it isn’t often that you get free advice from someone who has worked in an NFL front office regarding your fantasy team.

To help you through your offseason key decisions, I’m writing a strategy series that outlines potential decisions you may face as an owner, regardless of when you started your league. Consider this article a primer to that series, which starts out with the Top 5 questions you should be asking when reviewing your offseason rosters. So without further ado, let’s jump in and be “About That Action, Boss”.

1) What is my overall salary cap situation?

First off, the 2015 salary cap in the NFL was announced yesterday at $143.3 million, which is a $10.3 million increase on the 2014 salary cap of $133.0 million.  What you first need to assess is based on the dynamics of your league which players will be the key free agents in your league and what they figure to command.

For instance, if you have a 2015 salary cap of $100 million committed on six or seven starters on your roster before using your rookie picks, you are likely going to be looking at getting one star in free agency  (think like a DeMarco Murray type) and “painting the edges” to fill out your roster. This means that you end up with a few starters you may not be very excited about (maybe that means starting a Tight End like Heath Miller), unless you are good at picking sleepers.

You should also know your league opponents cap situation inside and out. If they are in a dire cap situation, you may be able to take advantage. If they have a lot of cap space, they figure to be your main competition in an auction or a team that may be coming in with less talent on their roster, meaning they could be a prime trading partner.

2) Which players do I think about trying to buy/sell in a trade market?

Offseason trades won the main league I was in last year by another owner as he maneuvered with first round rookie draft picks to separately dump David Wilson and trade for Le’Veon Bell, while having lots of cap space to sign Antonio Brown at a high price. The lesson is to approach the offseason trade market as an opportunity to upgrade at a certain position or hope you can pawn off someone you aren’t high on to another owner.

A key thing to remember is that in a league like this, everything is an asset, including cap space. What I mean by this is that while you may be excited about someone like Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and can nab him at 1.03 in your rookie draft, you may be better off packaging your rookie draft pick with a high salary player that you’ve given up on just to have ample cap space in what may be a bountiful Free Agency Auction Room experience.

Along those lines, players like Adrian Peterson, who fetched a pretty penny a few years ago (average RSO contract of 2.56 years and $22.6m annually) should be packaged with first round draft picks if you are looking to unload and value cap space more than players on your roster. For instance if you gave up 1.03 and dumped Peterson’s salary on another owner in exchange for a 2015 second round pick, you essentially created almost $27m of 2015 cap space (more if Peterson had additional years on his contract).

Another thing to think about when trading a player is whether they seem like a regression candidate as well. What I mean by this is that a player who performed well above their expectation may regress to the mean, or average.

One player who I view as a regression candidate (more on him in another section too) is Randall Cobb. While Cobb had the highest WR rating of 134.3 according to Pro Football Focus’ Signature Stats (subscription required), meaning that Aaron Rodgers had the highest QB rating of all quarterbacks when targeting Cobb, it is hard to imagine that Cobb replicates his 12 touchdowns in 2015, even if he remains in Green Bay.  Cobb had 91 receptions for 1,287 yards (both career highs), which theoretically he could see again based on volume, but with Davante Adams figuring to get more looks, Cobb could certainly regress in 2015.

As such, you may want to gauge the trade market for the 5’10” slot receiver because someone else may be high on him whether or not he remains a Packer based on his 2014 season and his RSO salary cap figure.

If you are on the buy side, look for players that you think will breakout in 2015. This may be driven by your gut somewhat or based on a player who regressed last year that you may think will return to a certain performance level. This can take many forms in terms of players, so while Michael Floyd was terrible last year, you may be able to buy him cheaply this offseason if you think he’ll return to form.

Additionally an owner may be down on the upside of a player that you think will hit a new level next year. Lamar Miller strikes me as one of those players based on opportunity and at worst, he still was very consistent in 2014.

3) Is There Anyone I Should Cut Bait With?

I know that in a format like this you can get attached to your multi-year contract players. However, sometimes having 50% of their cap space is more valuable to you, especially if you are only eating one year. It killed me to drop Andre Johnson (apparently more than it killed the Texans) with one year remaining at $10.6 million after I lost in my league playoffs. However, the $5.3 million in cap space is more valuable in 2015 to me to fund other roster moves (sadly he cleared waivers and ended up on the league champion).

Remember that in Year 1 of your auction you may not have fully known what you were doing and got carried away in the auction. While dead cap money is essentially paying someone for not being on your roster, and essentially equates to admitting a mistake, the relative value of the flexibility of the added 50% of your cap money buys you all sorts of option value on how to use that money (rookie draft, franchise tag, free agent auction).

I would not advocate dumping someone who has more than one year left on their contract, unless the contract is small enough that the escalators, etc. are insignificant or it is clear this player will no longer be productive and/or playing.

As someone who was born in Cleveland and raised a Browns fan, I will say that I’d cut bait on Josh Gordon in your RSO leagues because the risk significantly outweighs the return unless you priced Gordon’s risk in your winning auction bid and can wait him out.

4) How Can I Most Effectively Use My Franchise Tag

 While the prospect of paying a Top 5 average salary to one of your players may seem outrageous, especially if your auction got out of hand, the Franchise Tag is a very useful asset in RSO. In a format like this, the perception is almost always that locking up good players on multi-year deals is the best strategy. However, there are misses along the way, which make one year deals or option value like the Franchise Tag pretty valuable as well.

In my mind there is a certain type of player who is an ideal candidate for use of the Franchise Tag. Personally, my prototype example is Rob Gronkowski. When I originally signed Gronk to a 2 year, $26.0 million deal, it was known he’d miss some time at the beginning of the 2013 season and then he tore his ACL at the end of the season. However, for $13.3 million in 2014, Gronk ended up being a steal. Given his injury history, it is nice to have two separate one-year options on a player like Gronk, especially given the positional fantasy point differential he will earn me.

Running back and wide receiver positions typically have the largest Top 5 contracts that serve as the average for the Franchise Tag. These numbers may seem outrageous to you- probably around $25 million and up a year. However, if you are in a scenario where your team has one of the best rosters/cap situations in the league and keeping someone like Jamaal Charles for another year works under your cap, you have to think about it.

You should also think about using the Franchise Tag based on what potential free agents are available. If there are seven of the top ten fantasy running backs in terms of scoring available in your auction, franchising your guy is essentially bidding against yourself and causing you to overpay. So then, it is best to see what the positional need is of other owners in the league and franchise the more scarce option if the players are somewhat equal.

Speaking of bidding against yourself, if you are a Peyton Manning owner, I would (and will not) use the franchise tag on him for 2015. While I like the one year option value for a player with injury risk who is a known top producer, I view franchising Manning as bidding against yourself, especially if his salary numbers escalate based on high dollar quarterback values.

Since you only need one starting quarterback in most leagues, the salaries of quarterbacks may be way less than Manning would command. This is the case in my writer’s league. I have the ability to franchise Manning for around $20 million in a league where most quarterback salaries are $5 million because these owners believe in the “Late Round QB” strategy. So for me to franchise Manning would be stupid, especially with Tom Brady on my roster at $3.0 million in 2015 (got him price enforcing in my auction).

Don’t sleep on Tight Ends or Defenses for use of the franchise tag. Their price tags will be significantly less than running backs or wide receivers. I know that tight ends were incredibly inconsistent in 2014 and you may want to wait for the auction to get yours, especially if your options are somewhat boring. As for defenses, if you have the ability to protect someone like the Texans or Seahawks who have most of their core defensive players locked up and defensive scoring is worth solid value in your league, you can probably franchise tag a defense for $2.0 million or less which could be valuable.

5) How Does “Real” NFL Free Agency Impact the Analysis Above?

When you were in the heat of the auction and someone like DeMarco Murray’s name came up, you were high on the guy and had to have him. Last season he made you look smart. But wait, you signed him to a three year deal (no time to really check this in a fast-moving auction) and now he is an unrestricted free agent that the Cowboys may not be able to afford.

This scenario means that you have a real NFL free agent whose value is mainly tied into what offensive system he plays in (same goes for Cobb, my friends). Meaning that if these players moved to an unfavorable situation on a new team – think Cobb leaving the cozy security blanket of having Rodgers throwing him the ball and then Cobb getting his best offer from the Raiders or Chiefs. As they said in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, welcome to “Ouchtown, population you, bro!”

So if you have someone in your league that is a speculative buyer for productive free agents and can make a trade with that owner at a high price, but not necessarily a ceiling price, you may be smart to go for it. Otherwise you could be facing 2014 Eric Decker on the Jets.

Peripherally, you also want to check and see if any stalwart offensive line changes happen in free agency. Not that you’d be giving up on Rodgers if his tackle Bryan Bulaga left, but if you are an Eddie Lacy owner perhaps you’d try to see what value you could get for him if losing a key lineman is something that you think would be detrimental to Lacy’s future production.

That’s all for now, folks, but we’ll continue this throughout the offseason. You can find me on Twitter @mattgoody2

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Time for Some Auction!

Updated: June 25th 2014

If you’re a returning Reality Sports Online user and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been studying potential free agents since your last game of 2013.  Some of you may already have had your rookie drafts.  The typical RSO user is pretty strategic and dedicated, so most owners who are going into their 2nd Free Agent Auction are probably looking for guidance on who to target and how much to offer up for potential free agents.  If you are a new user, the last piece I wrote “Drop ‘Em Like It’s Hot” should help give you a feel for contract values in existing RSO leagues for your first action-packed Free Agency Auction.

To further analyze the database of league data I sifted through in my last article, I’m preparing Free Agent Rankings and analysis for your benefit for players who are owned by less than 50% of 2013 RSO users on multi-year deals.   I will have two lists, the first being Top 25 Free Agent rankings in this article and the second being a 26-50 Top Free Agents list in an article coming soon.  Either way, these rankings and analysis represent players, which depending on your team needs and salary cap situations, should be available in most leagues and who I believe should be targeted most.

Before we jump into my rankings and analysis, I do want to share a little bit of auction strategy for you. First off, you’ll see some quarterbacks on my lists. You may say, well, I already have that position taken care of.  The point is, someone else in your league may not, and just like the NFL, you want to have valuable pieces on your team no matter what your relative need may be.  Plus, don’t let someone get a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger for $1M a year just because you have RGIII wrapped up for 3 years and you are high on your incumbent.  Bid up quarterbacks as much as you can without overextending yourself to a point you are uncomfortable with if that player landed on your team.  Basically, don’t give your rival owner a free pass to talent on the cheap because you already are taken care of at a certain position.

When the 2014 RSO Recommended Contract Values came out, I was floored to see someone like Matt Ryan at a 3 year, $4M contract and went back and forth with the RSO guys on that one, while begging to get into their league this year if that’s how little they value Matty Ice. Remember, a few owners will be desperate in season for talent, and when you have the surprise QB or the well known one who turned his game around on a friendly contract or that they can’t live without, you will get value for them in a trade assuming you are in a league with rational decision makers.   Also, some owners may have approached last year’s inaugural auction like an NBA lottery pick that just got his first paycheck, so they may be capped out. In essence, don’t let the owners who spent wisely get every available talent on the cheap. It also never hurts to have a good backup as owners of Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick found out last year.

Additionally, consider how the NFL values a position before you are throwing premium dollars at the wrong player or a player at the wrong position. Remember that the shelf lives of running backs tend to decline around the 2,000 carry landmark (which players like Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster are rapidly approaching).  All things being equal, a premium wide receiver is among the most valuable players to target for multi-year deals.  They play a position valued in today’s passing league and can at a high level deeper into their 30’s.  If I’m paying premium dollars for a running back and putting three years into him, rest assured I want someone young and at least slightly proven.  Otherwise, I’m comfortable just being somewhat conservative at running back and finding value wherever I can on a budget.  Think players like Rashad Jennings and Danny Woodhead, etc.

You definitely need to consider your league scoring system and how many players your league starts at certain positions as well.  I’m in a league with three flex spots and only one starting running back required out of 10 starters.  It is also a full point PPR and a league in which quarterback sacks and incompletions are punished with negative points and interceptions are worth -5 points.  For perspective, I currently may be entering 2014 with no running backs on my roster, which I know I’ll need to address, but with only one starter spot potentially to fill, I don’t have to overpay for the best free agent running back available if I value someone else more.

Look at the player’s real contract too.  If you are targeting a “system” guy, make sure he’ll be in the system for the length you are signing him up for, or if he’s a pending free agent, that he stands to benefit from being a free agent.  The RSO Free Agent Auction moves lightning quick and you don’t have time to check on a player’s real life contract status in the middle of the auction.

Last disclosure before I dive into my rankings-there are no kickers or DST’s listed in these rankings as essentially all of them were owned by less than 50% owners on multi-year deals.  If you’ve read my previous pieces, you know I love the Seahawks DST and there a few others that maybe worth holding onto or getting on a two year deal.  I wouldn’t recommend going more than two years on a DST as these tend to shift quickly production wise with free agent moves.

Rank Player POS % Owned Rec Contract Value
1 Alshon Jeffery WR 26% 3yrs, $60m
2 Andre Ellington RB 19% 3yrs, $50m
3 Josh Gordon WR 48% 2yrs, $30m
4 Nick Foles QB 6% 2yrs, $32m
5 Julius Thomas TE 5% 2yrs, $38m
6 Jordan Cameron TE 22% 3yrs, $35m
7 Michael Floyd WR 33% 3yrs, $33m
8 Shane Vereen RB 33% 2yrs, $25m
9 Joique Bell RB 3% 2yrs, $20m
10 Rueben Randle WR 24% 2yrs, $18m
11 Pierre Thomas RB 8% 2yrs, $18m
12 Julian Edelman WR 5% 2yrs, $22m
13 Jeremy Maclin WR 26% 1yr, $10m
14 Emmanuel Sanders WR 12% 2yrs, $20m
15 Toby Gerhart RB 1% 2yrs, $15m
16 Kendall Wright WR 27% 2yrs, $16m
17 Terrance Williams WR 26% 3yrs, $20m
18 Jordan Reed TE 23% 2yrs, $18m
19 Kyle Rudolph TE 40% 2yrs, $15m
20 Rashad Jennings RB 1% 1yr, $9m
21 Philip Rivers QB 14% 2yrs, $14m
22 Dennis Pitta TE 11% 2yrs, $15m
23 Zach Ertz TE 34% 3yrs, $24m
24 Khiry Robinson RB 0% 2yrs, $12m
25 Anquan Boldin WR 18% 1yr, $8m

1.  Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

The prize of the free agent class.  He’s in the best duo in the league arguably and one of the best offenses, even if Jay Cutler has history with Brandon Marshall.  Jeffery shows amazing timing and fights for the ball with corners and his best is yet to come.  Also in his third year, where most wide receivers show the biggest improvement.  Way less downside risk and injury risk than running backs.

2. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Exactly what I look for in a fantasy running back, Ellington is young and electric, flashes excellent pass catching ability and can make the big play.  He’s also on a loaded offense with an established receiving corps and the team addressed their offensive line needs in the offseason.  The contract value is based on potential and how much speed he has.  Should put up Top 15 performance at his position for the season and get plenty of activity in a really good offense in spite of his diminutive size.

3. Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns

Obviously his value takes a hit if he’s suspended for all of 2014, but talent wise he’s a Top 5 wide receiver and did so much with so little offensive support or quarterback play in 2013.  $15m a year for Gordon is a bargain if he doesn’t get a full year suspension and the two years are factoring in he’s on his last strike with both the Browns and the NFL drug policy.  Worst case if you get him and he’s out for the year is that you put him on injured reserve and get 50% of your value back.  I wouldn’t give Gordon more than two years based on the suspension risk.

4. Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Already tackled Foles in a franchise tag article, but I’m highest on him of all the QB’s who may be available via free agency.  Foles has tons of weapons and benefits from Chip Kelly’s offensive system and pace.  He also seems to have the tools and makeup to succeed over time.  I wouldn’t give him more than 2 years, just in case Foles regresses significantly this season if other defenses figure him out.

5. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning loves targeting the Tight End when he has one worth throwing to, especially in the red zone.  Thomas was highly efficient with 65 catches on 89 targets in 2013 with 12 TD’s in 14 games. He also had two games with over 100 yards and 2 TD’s in the same game.  Tight End is a relative value position and Thomas is a Top 5 option for certain.  My only hesitancy here is that he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2015 and nobody knows how much longer Manning will remain a Bronco.

6. Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns

Cameron’s value for 2014 is somewhat tied to Josh Gordon playing, but let’s assume that the Browns resist the urge to start Johnny Football and Brian Hoyer wins the starting job.  In two full games with Hoyer, Cameron was a beast with 16 receptions on 23 targets for 157 yards and 4 TD’s.  Cameron will benefit with or without Gordon as Head Coach Mike Pettine’s plan with OC Kyle Shanahan is to feature a running based attack and if the defense throws an extra man in the box, Cameron, like many Shanahan coached tight ends in the past will exploit that matchup every time.  He is a 2015 unrestricted free agent, but word out of Cleveland is that he’s a prime candidate for the Franchise Tag, so I feel pretty good about a 3 year RSO deal.

7. Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Was a star in 2013, but many fantasy owners didn’t even notice.  Made the most of his targets and had 17 catches over 20 yards in 2013.  Has the size and speed to be targeted more in the red zone and Arizona’s offense as noted above in Andre Ellington’s synopsis will be much better.  Floyd is in his third year and expected to break out as his teammates have showered him with praise this offseason and Larry Fitzgerald becomes more of a possession receiver in 2014.  A free agent in 2016, but a star in this league in 2014 who has Dez Bryant type upside.

8. Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots

A PPR league’s dream running back.  Vereen had 21 catches for 162 yards and a TD in the three games he played together with Rob Gronkowski, and then had 12 catches for 153 yards in the game Gronk went down with his ACL injury.  With LeGarrette Blount now in Pittsburgh, perhaps Vereen gets more of an opportunity to run the ball too, especially if Stevan Ridley continues his fumble issues that has landed him in Coach Belichick’s doghouse. Vereen is expected to see more snaps this season and flashed his rushing potential in Week 1 last season vs. Buffalo with over 100 yards rushing and 58 yards receiving on 7 catches.  Vereen is a 2015 free agent, but is worthy of a short multi-year deal as his versatility is a differentiator.

9. Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions

Bell is an underrated back from 2013 who figures to be more involved in the Lions rushing game.  With so many passing weapons taking the pressure off of Calvin Johnson, Bell also figures in the screen game as well.  He did miss OTAs with a knee injury, but figures to be ready for training camp.  Also benefits from being in same backfield as the brittle Reggie Bush.  He just signed a three year contract in 2014 offseason.

10. Rueben Randle, WR, NY Giants

Figures to be the touchdown maker for the Giants receiving corps this season and figures to build more chemistry with Eli Manning, as he has been talked up in OTAs.  Will benefit heavily from OC Ben McAdoo (formerly of the Packers) offense.  Free agent in 2016.

11. Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints

Seems boring, but his production is not.  Rumored to be in the role vacated by Darren Sproles.  His 77 catches in 2013 were huge and he did have 147 carries in 2013.  Don’t expect that type of workload necessarily, but the Saints did just sign Thomas to a three year extension in spite of his missing the playoffs last season with a chest injury.  Rumors also have the Saints moving to more of a balanced offense as well.

12. Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots

Was a PPR stud who the Patriots re-signed in the offseason. His value is somewhat tied to how the other wide receivers perform and mostly to Rob Gronkowski’s recovery from injury.  You still want to own the slot WR in the Patriots offense, but tread carefully.

13. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Should probably be on the “comeback” list, but I like Maclin enough on the regular auction list on a one year RSO deal. While Jordan Matthews could contribute right away as a rookie, Maclin is the most talented wideout on the Eagles and remember, he was a first round draft pick in 2009.  Should bounce back and intentionally signed a one year prove it deal to highlight his value in free agency.

14. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos

Call this a good situation. I don’t love Sanders, but I love how the Broncos could use his versatility in the next few years.  Remember, he’s not Eric Decker, but he should be used frequently and could occupy Wes Welker’s slot position if he leaves after this season.

15. Toby Gerhart, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

As a general rule, I usually don’t draft Jaguars as I can’t stand watching their games (just too boring). However, Gerhart was brought in for a reason-to be the bell-cow of the Jags’ offense.  They like his leg drive and ability to gain yards after contact and Gus Bradley seems to be trying to build a version of the Seahawks in Jacksonville.  Maybe Gerhart’s low mileage could make him a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch.

16. Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans

Another PPR machine.  Had 94 catches for 1,079 yards in 2013, but only 2 touchdowns.  Perhaps Ken Whisenhunt can turn him into the Keenan Allen of the Titans, but he will need better QB play to make that happen.  A free agent in 2016, so a two year play is smartest.

17. Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Had a very solid rookie campaign and flashed big play ability and consistency, as well as ability to get into end zone. On a very talented Cowboys offense who figures to be in a lot of shootouts again in 2014 with a weak defense.  Will make teams pay for double-teaming Dez Bryant and fits in well with new OC Scott Linehan’s scheme.  Under contract through 2017, so plan accordingly.

18. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

Has top 5 tight end potential if he stays healthy.  Should benefit from a healthy RGIII and Desean Jackson free agent signing.  A serious red zone threat who opens up the middle of the field and gets chunks of yardage.  Big concern is concussion and injury history, which tempers enormous potential. A two year, $18m deal best balances the injury risk and the upside.

19. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings

Yes, lots of tight ends on my list, so you could get the right one as a value if you wait to grab one that you like. New OC Norv Turner loves using the tight end position and Rudolph provides a big target with good hands for whomever starts the season at QB.  He’s in a contract year, so don’t overextend yourself.

20. Rashad Jennings, RB, NY Giants

The best option on a team that likes to run the ball and was outstanding in 2013 for Oakland.  Solid in pass protection and currently working with the first team offense.  Only threat is if David Wilson comes back fully healthy.  I wouldn’t go long-term on Jennings because he is 29 and has been a career journeyman, but for 2014 he could make you a smart owner.

21. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Was a top 5 QB in many leagues last season.  Showed poise and better decision making and has plenty of dump-off options and better young talent than he’s had in years with Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green expecting to have prominent roles in 2014.  Represents a great value and I’d even consider paying $7m a year for him to be my backup or spot starter as he is a rhythm QB who can be scorching hot at the right time in your fantasy season.

22. Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens

His big contract extension in 2014 shows the Ravens’ need for a middle of the field receiving option. New OC Gary Kubiak loves throwing to tight ends and Pitta has a solid track record and appears to be fully healthy.  Solid production expected.

23. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Most tight ends in recent history have had their breakthrough in Year 2.  Ertz didn’t see many snaps in 2013 namely due to his blocking deficiencies.  However, most within the Eagles brass are assuming a prominent role for Ertz this season and that could have been part of the decision to rid themselves of Desean Jackson.  Has Gronk like upside and a huge 6’5, 250 lb. frame, so get on board on the ground floor and enjoy the ride.

24. Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans Saints

I could have put more obvious guys here like Ladarius Green or Ben Tate; however, Robinson is type of runner you want to have in a New Orleans offense that is trying to be more balanced in 2014.  He runs angry and hard and Bill Parcells said he reminds him of Curtis Martin.  He really impressed me with 13 carries for 57 yards and a TD vs. Seattle in the playoffs.  With Mark Ingram potentially on the way out after the season, Robinson holds future value too.

25. Anquan Boldin WR, San Francisco 49ers

I know the 49ers get Michael Crabtree back for a full season and have added Stevie Johnson, but I don’t really care. Boldin is a game-changer, plays aggressively and the team wins when he sees the ball.  85 catches for 1,179 yards and 7 TD’s in 2013 as a 32 year old receiver, followed by a strong playoffs.  Boldin still figures to see 8-10 targets a game and does the most with them.  I could even justify an extra year on the contract if you wanted to get the average value down a little as he is a free agent in 2016.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin