Saying Goodbye To Being In Control

Updated: October 2nd 2015

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (33) poses for a portrait during the NFLPA Rookie Premiere on Saturday, May 31, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Ric Tapia/AP Images for NFL Players Inc.)

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (33) poses for a portrait during the NFLPA Rookie Premiere on Saturday, May 31, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Ric Tapia/AP Images for NFL Players Inc.)

I’ll start by saying that this article is particularly long. For those only interested in the football aspect of the article, you will want to scroll down to the #6 heading. For those of you who appreciate my writing style and want to see how a personal experience of mine has changed my fantasy football outlook, please read on.

This past weekend was one of the most difficult I’ve encountered on a personal level. And no, I’m not talking about fantasy football or my RSO leagues. Amidst a fairly hectic couple of weeks at work which took many turns while we landed on our most recent financial forecast, I got the news mid-last week that my Aunt Paula, who was battling Stage 4 cancer, was in home hospice.

To me, there was only one possibility for how I was going to spend my weekend — traveling to Southern California to support my parents and see my aunt and say my goodbyes, followed by traveling back home to my wife and young kids on one of my once-sacred fantasy football Sundays. I’d imagine that each of you has an Aunt Paula or an uncle like her; she played the role of the “cool aunt”– the one without kids of her own — to my younger brother and me. And she knocked it out of the park every time. She was the one who took us to countless baseball games (and two hour autograph sessions at team busses afterwards), the circus and many other events, all while she was in her 20’s and could have been living her own life. She was the one who provided innumerable life lessons to me and even explained to a younger version of me why a young woman was squatting outside of Cleveland Stadium before a Browns game (she only had to explain once, but this type of activity was commonplace for Browns games).

She is the reason I love numbers and statistics. She was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and later became a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the healthcare industry. When partners of her CPA firm took her to Cleveland Indians games, somehow I was the one who got to tag along and then win sports trivia contests as a youngster against these shocked partners of her firm. While I followed in her footsteps and became a CPA too, I decided that I was more interested in finance and strategy. However, my love of sports statistics that she instilled in me has only grown stronger, and through Reality Sports Online I get to be at the pinnacle of these statistics and use them to help others and try to win my leagues.

I’m not gonna lie, seeing a once vibrant woman full of life be non-responsive and in significant pain was the toughest experience I’ve been through and I can only imagine what was going through her mind and body. And while I wish I had happier news to report, Aunt Paula succumbed to cancer early Monday morning. She will be missed dearly by our family and her friends and co-workers.

The past weekend taught me so many lessons that I can draw from going forward and some can even be applied to Reality Sports Online leagues and fantasy football in general as well. Family members and friends who are only reading this for the non-football strategy aspects, you can stop reading now.

1) My proudest fantasy football moment of the weekend was….

One of my Reality Sports Online Twitter followers and fellow Seattle-area resident (whom I haven’t met yet but look forward to catching some games with), was asking me advice about trades and starting lineup decisions on Saturday. I apologized to him for not being as responsive as I usually am and tried to offer advice, although I really was in no place to do it. He apologized for what I was going through and when I had some time to respond on Sunday I found a stat on Steve Smith’s recent success against the Bengals for him that changed my course and advice on who he should start at wideout (he’s loaded there) and Smith powered him to victory while John Brown sat on his bench.  To his opponent, “Ice up, son!”

I really enjoying helping others with their lineups and strategy and hope that my articles this offseason have helped others build a roadmap to winning their leagues.

2) Sometimes I’m no more of an expert than anyone else….

While I went 12-4 in my weekly picks last week, I was 6-10 the week prior. Further, heading into Monday night’s games, I was dead last (50/50) in the FantasyDraft RSO Expert contest.  I ended up finishing higher than this based on Randall Cobb’s big performance, some of the players I chose who exhibited a high floor actually had no floor (Tyler Eifert had zero points) in this weird Week 3 of fantasy football.

So know that for every pick I get right, there are other picks I get very wrong.

3) I’m still chasing my first RSO Championship, but this week was definitely a highlight….

After three weeks in two RSO leagues, I’m the highest scoring team in both leagues. I’m 3-0 in my writers league and 2-1 in my main league. In my main league, I scored 337 points, which approached approached a league record. See my lineup below:

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 2.50.29 PM

I’m doing all this without Arian Foster, who was my big free agency get. I paid more than I would’ve liked for him (2 years, $51.5 million), but the cliff fall of remaining running backs in our league auction thereafter was very steep. Since we only are required to start one in this league (myself and my co-commish thought long and hard about our league scoring system and roster composition based on the NFL being a “passing” league), it was important to get a running back with “go-off” potential.

Little did I know in this very weird Week 3 of fantasy football that Devonta Freeman would have one of the best debuts as a starter in fantasy football history, certainly worthy of the “go off” categorization. I did think that he’d be solid in PPR, but in the little football I did get to watch while shuttling between airports and airplanes, Freeman showed the ability to get his pads low and deliver punishment while consistently reaching the second level of the Dallas Cowboys defense. Color me impressed. While Freeman is definitely at his highest “sell-high” point, those who own Tevin Coleman should fear that the running back who went in the first round of many RSO rookie drafts will now be a platooner at best if Freeman stays healthy. In terms of Freeman’s rest of season outlook, he’s definitely in the Top 24 running back discussion.

4) Most importantly, I learned that being in control is “overrated”…

I wouldn’t call myself a control freak, but with my unique ability to recollect statistics, facts, etc. that I acquired from Aunt Paula, I have a hard time not being in control. This is probably the reason that I rarely have drunk myself into oblivion, because I’m not a fan of not being able to remember things.

For these same reasons, until this past weekend I felt that my fantasy teams, NCAA Tournament brackets, etc. performed better if I was watching. Basically that my watching could somehow “control” the outcome. Of course it is more fun to be able to watch your fantasy players perform, but sometimes that simply isn’t possible.

Before marriage and children, there would be no way that I would even deign to consider flying on a football Sunday. My Thanksgiving travel has consistently featured either Saturday or Monday returns (cheaper that way, too). With my aunt’s health taking a significant turn for the worse, I had no choice but to fly and say my goodbyes quickly and fly back home on a football Sunday. Of course with the Sunday Ticket Max and Wi-Fi, I figured I’d be no worse for wear on Sunday while traveling.

That’s where I was wrong. The Wi-Fi was weak in the first airport I was passing through and I couldn’t stream any games or the Red Zone Channel. I basically was able to watch the Falcons/Cowboys game until I boarded, which is why I was able to tell early on that Freeman was looking good before he blew up. Another surprising performer for me this week, Lance Dunbar (about time after two years of touting him in Scott Linehan’s offense) was someone else I was able to watch a bit as well and I think he has cemented himself as part of the offense, although the whole “game-script” logic applies to him. Start him in PPR leagues, but be careful otherwise.

Luckily, I was able to check my scores and see my teams were performing well while I wasn’t watching. That was a feeling I had never really experienced before for prolonged periods of time. So when I boarded my first flight from Ontario to Oakland (Southwest’s regional spoke system for sure), I quickly was delighted to learn Wi-Fi was available, but then quickly disappointed that the Wi-Fi (which I paid $8 for) didn’t let me stream the Sunday Ticket. I then decided to pay another $4 for Red Zone so I had other options besides Eagles/Jets and figured my second flight (a two hour flight from Oakland to Seattle) would have Wi-Fi and I had already paid for the whole day on the first flight.

From 30,000 feet I saw that Steve Smith was going off for me in my writers league (someone inexplicably dropped Mr. Ice Up, Son during the week) and that A.J. Green was wrecking the Ravens as he typically does (which was to my benefit in one league and to my detriment in another as I was facing him).

When I landed in Oakland, it was the end of the early games and I peeked at the TV from a Chili’s (I have a deeply irrational love for Chili’s and wish they had them closer to me in Seattle, which is very anti-chain restaurant) as my Browns were failing in a last-ditch effort against the Raiders. It was still nice to be clued in on the games that had fantasy impact.

As I was boarding the second flight, the Seahawks were pulling off the fake-punt return play the Rams pulled on them last season, except Richard Sherman doesn’t have Robert Brooks’ “breakaway speed” and got caught from behind. The Seahawks sputtered early against the Bears, which is becoming a theme (more on that in a bit) as I headed down the jetway to board my plane.

Then, something that would have previously sent my world in a spiral happened. I entered the doorway of the plane and didn’t see a Wi-Fi symbol. I asked the flight attendant if there was Wi-Fi on the flight. Her response was “No, this is a classic airplane,” and then in her Southwest-Airlines-flight-attendant-trying-to-be-funny mode quipped, “You’ll have to make friends with your neighbor.” I thought to myself, “I don’t want to make friends with my neighbor. My aunt is effing dying, I’m tired as you-know-what and ALL I want to do is watch the Seahawks game.” And by the way, I was flying from one of the most tech savvy areas (Bay Area) to another highly techie area (Seattle). Of all the routes not to have Wi-Fi, this was it?

Somehow I killed two hours listening to music (those who know me best know what was on the playlist) on my noise-cancelling headphones (there wouldn’t be any making friends with my neighbor on this flight, missy!) and there was a quiet calm for me as our plane landed. Quick aside — I don’t travel much, but highly advocate buying a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Simply put,they are amazing and for the times you do travel are so nice to have and can change your mood instantly.

What this weekend taught me is that I didn’t have to be in control of everything. I wasn’t going to get my aunt back to health, I was there to say goodbye and be helpful and supportive to my family. I wasn’t going to have control of my ability to watch my fantasy players, I just had to trust they’d perform well. As my weekends going forward will certainly fill up with family activities like apple picking, soccer games, and playdates, it certainly is nice to know that I can pick my spots and not obsess over every play, because I don’t truly control the outcome.

5) I also can’t control what other teams in my league do on the trade market….

Both my teams have a legitimate chance if my players stay relatively healthy to win my leagues. However, I can’t control if a non-contending team shops their best players to my main competition for development players and draft picks. This has already happened in my league, but I’m in the position that I’m playing well without Foster and if it ain’t broke, there is no reason to fix it right now. People in other leagues hopefully realize that too. As commish, a trade would have to be an overt demonstration of collusion for me or my co-commish to consider vetoing it.

Additionally, a word of advice. My main league takes advantage of RSO’s playoff bracket flexibility. Our top four records make the playoffs and are the top four seeds. The final two playoff spots are determined by total points scored. This basically gives everyone a shot at being in the playoff picture for an extended period of time in the season. It sometimes works to our detriment in that teams are hesitant to trade in season until the deadline because they think they are still alive for a playoff spot. I’d highly recommend an approach like this for the fun of your league and to keep teams incentivized to continue to play until the final snap.

6) It’s Time To Sell, Sell, Sell These Guys….

While I like the Broncos faith in C.J. Anderson’s ability to bounce back, the injuries, a porous offensive line, and lack of performance have me channeling my inner-Duke brothers from Trading Places. “Turn those machines back on and sell, sell, sell,” says Randolph Duke. You’ll need something in return for Anderson, so you may need to package some draft capital if Anderson’s salary and years are high. If you can’t get something of value without giving up the farm, you’ll just have to hold Anderson and hope he turns it around, but the signs point against that.

The Seattle Seahawks have a problem on offense. For starters, their line stinks. For that reason, and while the timing isn’t ideal, I wouldn’t be too excited about Marshawn Lynch’s rest of season prospects. I’ve watched enough Seahawks games in Russell Wilson’s tenure with them being the local market team. The problem the Seahawks have is not a lack of offensive weapons-it’s Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell’s play-calling.

Basically the Seahawks wait the entire first half of games to feel out the opponent’s defense. This means Wilson stays in the pocket, they throw bubble screens (having flashbacks of the Percy Harvin era) and wait for Lynch or the defense to make a play. Then after half they start hitting their stride. The problem is that doesn’t offer you as a fantasy owner a ton of upside. Wilson is my starting quarterback in my main league and fits my league (high completion percentage, good runner, doesn’t turn the ball over in a league that interceptions and fumbles are worth negative 5 points), but I can unequivocally say that on a one-year deal I’d rather have Carson Palmer at this point).

In terms of a sell-high guy, Keenan Allen fits the bill. He has tons of targets and has performed in two of three games. However, Antonio Gates returns soon, and quarterback Philip Rivers is notorious for starting quickly and then coming back down to earth. And Stevie Johnson isn’t going away anytime soon.

I’m leery on a bunch of highly-rated running backs from the offseason, but I think guys like Jeremy Hill turn it around. He’s in too good of an offense and is likely on a nice rookie deal for you. Be patient with him. The same can’t be said for Justin Forsett. He’s a classic example of someone with a small sample size and one good season causing offseason hysteria. If the Ravens continue to lose games, look for the team to give more run to their young running backs.

7) These Guys Are For Real….

I love Marcus Mariota’s poise in the pocket and his subtle fakes and shifts to get out of danger. He has some Aaron Rodgers like qualities. I’d be targeting him in the trade market on his rookie deal as your quarterback of the future and I like the Mariota-Kendall Wright connection for years to come. Get Wright now as someone who will outperform his contract based on his sure hands (he had zero drops in 2014) and Tennessee’s defense allowing lots of points meaning the team will be throwing often.

In terms of a right-now guy, Tyrod Taylor is the real deal. His ability to run and use his weapons makes him dangerous. He’s really the only piece of the Buffalo offense I have faith in right now. Plus anytime he blows up, you can say, “When the east is in the house, Ty, Ty-Rod (Danger)”. Bonus points to anyone who knows what I’m talking about here. At this point, you’d have to consider starting Taylor over quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, and Wilson.

Not that you are doubting him, but Julian Edelman is really good at football. He’s super-consistent, gets tons of targets and plays in one of the best offenses in football. If you can get him on your team in a trade, make it happen and don’t trade him if you have him.

I love how Arizona is using Larry Fitzgerald as a slot receiver. His physical tools enable him to win balls against smaller slot corners and his 2015 fantasy value is more than intact. His 2016 is fully guaranteed in real life, so feel free to pursue him via trade if you like him as a medium term play. His numbers will have to come down, but based on his pace, 12 touchdowns this year is within reason if Palmer stays healthy and he’s being heavily targeted.

Well, that caps a very bittersweet week for me. I sincerely appreciate whatever eyeballs got all the way to the bottom of this and for Matt and Stephen giving me freedom in what I write. Feel free to reach out to me via Twitter @mattgoody2.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Mastering Year 2 On RSO

Updated: August 21st 2015

Chasing Quarterbacks is one strategy not to follow in your second year league.

Chasing Quarterbacks is one strategy not to follow in your second year league.

This article is dedicated to those owners in their second year of their Reality Sports Online leagues. If you are in your first year of your Reality Sports Online league, my high level advice is to not get too caught up in the hype of the auction. Make sure you are spending your big dollar contracts on players as close to birds in the hand as possible. If you ask anyone who plunked 3 years and $85 million on Trent Richardson a few years ago, they’d tell you the biggest objective in year one is basically what I tell my young kids-“don’t wet the bed”. Matt Papson’s  7 Basic Auction Principles and Bo Wulf’s Four Years of Commitment are essential reading for the rookie Reality Sports Online GM.

If you are in your third year, you have things pretty much figured out by now and are looking forward to some of the two-year studs from your rookie season being available in the auction. Teams in rebuild mode are hyped about rookies and sleepers and championship contenders are going all out to win the league for the first (or maybe even second or third) time.

To me, the second year is the most difficult year in terms of team strategy. Several of the top players are still locked into multi-year deals, so there may be slim pickings in your auction. The rookie draft is really the only way to get a player you want without competitive market dynamics but if you’re in the back of the draft that may not even be possible.

So let’s walk through some scenarios of potential challenges a second year owner may face. I won’t go too deep into rookie draft strategy, because let’s face it, I essentially did my best to drop the mic with my What’s A Rookie Draft Pick Worth? article a few weeks ago.

1) Don’t Go Chasing Quarterbacks

The best part of being one of the potential owners who doesn’t have a quarterback locked up long term is that your counterparts do. While some of them may try to price enforce to make sure that you are having to pay fair value for your quarterback, if you get into the scenario where you and maybe two other owners in a 10-12 team league is searching for a signal caller, it doesn’t necessarily matter which one you grab, so long as you get them on a good contract. Those other price enforcer owners know they don’t want to get left holding the bag on two starting quarterbacks, especially if your league doesn’t have many teams that trade often. This strategy landed me Russell Wilson on a 3 year, $26 million deal as I was one of two teams out of twelve needing a quarterback.

Additionally, if you are one of these owners who had a one year contract quarterback last year and there are plenty of suitable starters in the free agent market, franchise tagging a quarterback is essentially bidding against yourself. I don’t care if you can have Drew Brees for another year, don’t bid against yourself when Ben Roethlisberger will be just as good and a fraction of the cost.

So make it one of your top priorities to get a quarterback you are happy with on a term and contract value you are good with. There should be no shortage of those candidates this year as in most leagues, you’ll only need to start one quarterback.

2) If You Didn’t Have a Strategy in Year One, Figure Your Strategy For Year Two Out Quick

You may have taken year one to get acquainted with the platform and didn’t want to wet the bed. Year two is when you start formulating your multi-year plan on how your team can capitalize on its championship window, whenever you see that being. The offseason is the ideal time to do that and you may still have a few days left to shape that strategy with your franchise tag and before your rookie draft.

The type of moves that teams may take depends on where you finished last year and what talent remains on your team. However, there are several tactics that a team can use to rebuild on the fly. The first of which is to trade a high-priced player. Burned by Adrian Peterson last year, turn his big salary into free cap space and a draft pick and use that money to get three guys who can help you over the long term.

3) Don’t Be Afraid Of One Year Contracts

Just because Reality Sports Online leagues are customizable in the number of multi-year deals you may offer in your auction doesn’t mean you need to use them all or every one you use needs to be on a marquee player. Year two may not have that deep of a free agent pool in your auction, but I guarantee you that year three will. My upcoming third year league has 7 of the top 10 ten scoring running backs available heading into the auction. To take advantage of a similar situation next year, second year owners may want to keep their future year cap flexibility open and not overcommit on a second year free agent crop that frankly may not be that appealing.

Basically, most of the players entering free agency are players that other teams weren’t confident enough to sign to multi-year deals in your first year of the auction or guys picked up during the season on free agent deals. While some of those players like Justin Forsett and C.J. Anderson may have been franchise tagged or will be the marquee free agents this year, they do come in with question marks based on not having the proven track record others on multi-year deals may have. So the question, similar to the ABC Show, becomes “What Would You Do?” if you had to choose between signing Forsett to a two year, $30 million deal or grabbing Lamar Miller on a one year deal for $17 million. I’d take Miller (who is a 2016 NFL Free Agent), who will most likely be both more productive and give you a flexible cap for 2016 without batting an eyelash.

Another strategy on the one year players is to follow the “Old Guys Rule” strategy. Other owners may not think much of Frank Gore or Andre Johnson, but the two former teammates from “The U” are perfect one year candidates who buy you a share in the explosive Colts offense. So if you have a solid core that already screams playoff contender, you can paint the edges with older players and contend if you don’t have the budget or inclination to go after the big names in second year free agency.

4) The Franchise Tag May Be Your Friend

If you are in Year Two and the contracts doled out in year one at certain positions isn’t overly ridiculous (or even if they are), if you are one piece away from a championship in your head, go for the gold, especially in a year where the pickings are slim in free agency. I’ve already tackled Franchise Tag strategy deeply in my Giving Up the Franchise? article.

This period may have passed in some of your leagues or is rapidly approaching. Trading for someone else’s franchise tagged player is certainly a possibility as well and those teams looking to rebuild may be able to get something for a player they were planning on not getting anything for by doing this. Just make sure you hammer out your details and look into the website platform timing to execute the trade around the restrictions and trade deadlines between the period three days before the rookie draft and three days before the free agent auction.

5) Use One Multi-Year Deal on a Developmental Player

The tendency in formats like this is to grab studs on long-term deals and combine those with your rookies to have the best chance of winning a championship. However, there are multiple ways to win the championship and one strategy I really like is to use at least one of your multi-year deals (assuming an allotment of 3 two-year deals, 2 three-year deals and 1 four-year deal) on a developmental prospect who either didn’t get picked in your rookie draft or a free agent.

You’ll have to do your homework on who those players are for you. Last year, I used my second year multi-year deals on Lance Dunbar (2 years, $4.5 million), Aaron Dobson (3 year, $8.5 million) and the undrafted in our two-round rookie draft Teddy Bridgewater (2 years, $1.5 million). As I mentioned before I already had Wilson as my starting quarterback and was able to trade Bridgewater and Larry Fitzgerald early last season for a one year Alshon Jeffery rental.

While those players may not jump out at you and other than Bridgewater didn’t really pan out last year, they didn’t cost me much and both Dunbar and Dobson have potential to play significant roles in excellent offenses this year. If I need to drop them, I can do it without much hesitation, but they also offer upside.

Conversely, some of my league mates were getting into long term deals with players like Reuben Randle for 4 years and $25.0 million. While others were successful in nabbing DeAndre Hopkins on a four year deal for $28.5 million (we essentially didn’t have a rookie draft in year one so owners could get a good feel for the league, something I’d actually advise against which made Hopkins available in 2014), those home runs were few and far between in last year’s auction. That’s what happens when guys like Toby Gerhart and Shane Vereen fetch big dollars in free agency as some of the top second-year free agent players available.

These are really just some examples as full disclosure, I did not win my league in my second year as I lost in a playoff game in which Julio Jones destroyed me. I still retain a core that I’m super excited about for the next two years, years which I basically consider my championship window.

Basically, year two is about cementing your strategy and executing on it. Figure out when your championship window is and go get it! Thanks for reading and I’m really appreciative of all those who reach out to me with questions/comments on Twitter @mattgoody2

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Training Camp 2015 Edition

Updated: August 3rd 2015

nfl-vets-really-hate-training-camp-images-2015-600x439

It’s hard to believe it, but training camp is upon us. While some of you may have already had your Reality Sports Online rookie drafts, a ton of offseason trades, or both, others may just be picking up serious activity. Either way, we all collectively can’t wait to watch the Houston Texans on Hard Knocks and for kickoff in September. Before that happens, though, there are some major storylines that will unfold in training camp that will help us determine how to tackle our Free Agency Auctions. I’ll skip over Russell Wilson’s contract signing for the most part and similar storylines. Basically the upshot with Wilson is this-now that it is reported he is in Seattle another 4 years, he’ll command big money in leagues where rushing is rewarded heavily and where turnovers are punished significantly (like my main league where turnovers are a negative 5 fantasy points). Moving on, so let’s jump into other topics now.

The Dallas Cowboys Running Back Situation

Demarco Murray made it look easy last season in racking up 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and a career-high 57 receptions behind Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked offensive line. Then the Cowboys decided that Murray was expendable and he went to their division rival Philadelphia Eagles. While many in fantasy circles are holding Joseph Randle in the highest regard based on being the best of a bunch of middling options, only training camp will tell whether Randle can be the bell-cow that Murray was behind that beastly O-Line. Those who want to extrapolate his 6.7 yards per carry on 51 totes for 343 yards and three touchdowns could be left holding the bag on an inflated Reality Sports Online contract if they aren’t careful, especially in PPR leagues. Randle only had 4 catches for 23 yards and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has made a living turning running backs like Moe Williams into serious PPR threats, which seems to indicate that Randle’s ceiling is lower than you’d think. Also take into account that Randle broke more than 10 runs over 10 yards (mostly in games the Cowboys were beating their opponents handily) and had some police blotter last season and you’ll gladly let someone else speculate on him. If you have to have him, keep him under $8.0 million a year annually and avoid a 3-4 year deal at all costs.

However, Randle’s best competition may not even be on the roster yet, especially if the team gives someone like Ray RiceAhmad Bradshaw, or even Chris Johnson (just a saw a rumor that he’s in contact with the team) a chance at winning the job. Based on the injury history of Darren McFadden, your best bet on capitalizing on the high-octane Cowboys offense in the backfield is Lance Dunbar. I know, I know you say, Goodwin you were high on him last year and I listened to you and now am stuck with Dunbar for another two years. Well, your patience may be rewarded this year. It isn’t hard to envision a Darren Sproles type role for Dunbar this year, especially in the passing game . I wouldn’t be betting much on him-a one year deal (Dunbar’s a free agent in 2016) at around $2.0 million feels right.

The Cheap Quarterback Who Will Produce Is…

Well, in terms of guys who may be available who aren’t on multi-year deals, you’ll probably be starting with choosing among the QB Class of 2004-Eli Manning (1.2 years, $2.4 million average), Philip Rivers (1.6 years, $4.4 million average), and Ben Roethlisberger (1.4 year, $2.6 million average). All three play in offenses that are ramping up their weapons and are significant bargains. Keep in mind if most of your league has the quarterback position taken care of, don’t bid against yourself. I personally like Eli the most based on his star wideout Odell Beckham Jr.  and getting Shane Vereen as a legitimate pass catching option out of the backfield, along with the hopeful return of Victor Cruz. Considering he’s in a division with some of the shakiest secondaries in the league, assume Eli will air it out and that he’s a bargain.

If you’re looking for someone not on this list, Ryan Tannehill (1.6 years, $2.2m million average) is on the younger side and someone you may be more willing to sign long-term. His receiving corps had a complete makeover in the 2015 offseason and draft as I alluded to in Marketwatch 2015: Stock Up/Down and the Dolphins signal-caller still remains under the radar as the signal-caller in Bill Lazor’s offense.

The Player Coming Out of Nowhere This Year

Reality Sports Online is every bit the developmental league, especially if your rookie draft goes deeper than two rounds. So players like Jeff Janis may not be under-the-radar. Others may have fallen off your map, but still have a semblance of an opportunity if things go right. I’m not going to pick one guy who may be the guy who comes out of nowhere and becomes the next Marvin Jones from 2013 but definitely look at the requisite prototype for players who can put up stats for you. A few people worth the late-auction flyer (especially if you have a multi-year contract to use late on the cheap) include Aaron Dobson (he’s reportedly finally healthy from various foot injuries and has the frame and speed to be the #3 WR on the Patriots), Marlon BrownTheo Riddick (notice the third down back theme in this article),and Leonard Hankerson are my biggest take a flyer guys. Heck, even Jones himself can be the next Jones (again) if he returns successfully from an injury.

The Tight End Battle in Denver

Peyton Manning has an excellent track record in turning tight ends into touchdown catching machines. Julius Thomas certainly benefitted from this, as did some of Manning’s ex-Colts teammates. The question entering training camp is whether free-agent signing Owen Daniels or young upstart Virgil Green will be the tight end apple of Peyton’s eye. While Green was the recipient of a nice 3 year, $8.4 million contract for his past accolades as a blocker, the team envisioned some upside in the passing game based on Green’s athleticism when the re-inked him. The 6’5, 255 lb Green is a specimen, but beware his 23 career catches, especially with Daniels in town. Daniels was fairly productive and has followed head coach Gary Kubiak twice now (first to Baltimore last season) and now to Denver. Based on his track record, look for Daniels to be the one finding the end zone at least six times, assuming he stays healthy. However, take note of Green’s potential upside and if you can get him on a good deal, take advantage because Green’s been putting in work at Duke with Manning and will be on the field plenty based on his blocking ability on a team that is said to be more run-oriented this year.

The Next Randy Moss?

Dorial Green-Beckham is certainly one of the most polarizing players in your rookie draft. He has boatloads of talent and the size and speed that offensive coordinators salivate over, even if he’s not the best route runner. He was compared to Randy Moss several times in articles such as this one this offseason and much like Moss, he comes into his rookie season with a checkered past and a desire to prove the teams that passed him over wrong.

With an average draft position of the 10.5th pick in the first round of RSO rookie drafts, Green-Beckham represents significant upside and of course downside based on his character. One has to think that early on Green-Beckham will be on his best behavior and quarterback Marcus Mariota will be a positive influence on the wideout as well.

Stay tuned to news out of training camp on how Green-Beckham is coming along from a route running perspective and that he’s overcome his mini-camp hamstring injury. Early word is that the team doesn’t want to “over-rep” him in training camp.

Defense on the Rise in Cleveland

As someone born in Cleveland, it is hard to get too excited about anything Browns related. However, the team invested heavily on the defense in the draft by adding run-stuffer Danny Shelton in the first round and pass-rusher extraordinaire in Nate Orchard, who led the NCAA’s in sacks per game in 2015. Taking into account a very strong secondary already, the team should improve significantly from the worst ranked rush defense last season in a division where teams love to run the rock. While the weak offense may keep putting the defense on the field, expect plenty of impact fantasy plays from Joe Haden and company this season from a fantasy perspective.

The Rookie Most Likely Not to Produce in 2015

New Chicago Bears coach John Fox is notorious for bringing rookie wide receivers along slowly. First round pick Kevin White is coming off RSO draft boards around the 4th pick in the rookie draft. However, when you take into account Cody Latimer’s four-catch 2014 for Fox’s Broncos last season and the fact that in interviews Fox couldn’t even recall whether a rookie wideout has ever started for him, you have to figure that even if White does start, he will be brought along slowly.  It certainly doesn’t help matters than White’s shin injury has landed him on the PUP list for the start of training camp.

Considering that one of the league’s most targeted wide receivers, Alshon Jeffery, starts on one side and that quarterback Jay Cutler typically only has eyes for one or two receivers, the number of targets available for White after Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and even slot receiver Eddie Royal get theirs may amount to crumbs, not a meal.

As a result, my 2015 outlook on White is fairly guarded, especially considering the high draft capital required to nab him in your drafts.

I Put In Work, And Watch My Status Escalate

Obviously last year’s rookie crop of wide receivers was one of the best in NFL history from a production standpoint. That even takes into account the injury to Brandin Cooks and limited production in a non-quarterback friendly environment for Sammy Watkins. That doesn’t mean that the rookie stars from last season are resting on their laurels. Mike Evans has been working in the offseason on his craft with the aforementioned Moss. Evans, who had 12 touchdowns and 1,051 receiving yards as the Z-Receiver with a limited route tree last season, now moves to the X receiver under new offensive guru Dirk Koetter, who groomed Julio Jones into one of the league’s best. The prospect of the kid gloves coming off of Evans, even with a rookie quarterback, is super enticing, especially since he’s still working out with Moss.

From the third year receiver crop and now that all-time leading Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is playing for the division rival Colts, DeAndre Hopkins figures to be the third-year receiver who will fully emerge into an NFL superstar.

Who Starts At Quarterback in Philly?

In one of the more intriguing battles (especially to RSO founders Matt Papson and Stephen Wendell), Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have an interesting quarterback competition. The team paid for a study to see how likely Sam Bradford was to re-injure himself and concluded those chances were low and traded Nick Foles for him. However, last year’s starter at the end of the season, Mark Sanchez, was fairly productive and the team invested a first rounder in rookie wideout Nelson Agholor, who has received rave reviews and figures to start right away, to replace the departed Jeremy Maclin. The team also reinvented their running game with Murray and Ryan Mathews.

It’ll be interesting to see who will win the quarterback battle here, because whoever does has immediately value and when it comes to Reality Sports Online, you’re all about value.

That’ll do it for now and I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing these articles. Feel free to contact me with any questions/feedback you may have on Twitter at @mattgoody2.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

More Time For Some Auction (Rankings 26-50)

Updated: July 3rd 2014

You’ve now read my piece about my Top 25 ranked free agents going into the 2014 season.  Now let’s take a look at my 26-50 Free Agent Rankings.  These picks reflect overall rankings and suggested contract values for those players, a lot of which I’m recommending on one year deals:

Rank Player POS % Owned Rec Contract Value
26 Lance Dunbar RB 1% 2yrs, $8m
27 Ben Tate RB 49% 2yrs, $10m
28 Ryan Tannehill QB 26% 3yrs, $15m
29 Donald Brown RB 3% 2yrs, $12m
30 Reggie Wayne WR 31% 1yr, $5m
31 Greg Jennings WR 31% 1yr, $5m
32 Jay Cutler QB 15% 2yrs, $11m
33 Greg Olsen TE 27% 1yr, $6m
34 Ben Roethlisberger QB 11% 1yr, $6m
35 Carson Palmer QB 11% 1yr, $2m
36 Eli Manning QB 41% 2yrs, $11m
37 Ladarius Green TE 0% 2yrs, $12m
38 Danny Woodhead RB 9% 1yr, $7m
39 Ronnie Hillman RB 14% 2yrs, $8m
40 Marvin Jones WR 1% 3yrs, $17m
41 Bryce Brown RB 32% 2yrs, $10m
42 Jarrett Boykin WR 1% 1yr, $5m
43 Cecil Shorts III WR 38% 1yr, $7m
44 Alex Smith QB 18% 1yr, $4m
45 Knowshon Moreno RB 5% 1yr, $4m
46 Brian Hartline WR 9% 1yrs, $4m
47 Golden Tate WR 14% 1yrs, $6m
48 Kenny Stills WR 47% 1yr, $3m
49 Heath Miller TE 4% 1yr, $4m
50 Doug Baldwin WR 0% 2yrs, $8m

26.  Lance Dunbar, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Scott Linehan is the new Offensive Coordinator in the Big D.  That essentially makes Dunbar the Darren Sproles/Joique Bell type in Dallas.  Add in the fact that DeMarco Murray is injury prone and in a contract year, while Dunbar is a restricted free agent in 2015, and Dunbar’s outlook is pretty awesome.  He can play in the slot and be a great PPR option or flex play as well.  Love his upside.

27. Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns

When he was signed by the Browns, most people were way more excited about Tate’s prospects. Then he sat out OTAs and Terrance West was picked in the third round by the Browns.  Tate could have been sitting out as a precaution as new OC Kyle Shanahan likes to lean on a “bell-cow” type running back as no #2 back in Shanahan’s system has had 100 or more carries.  Head coach Mike Pettine recently mentioned a running back by committee and West does have serious upside both this year and in dynasty.  Still, if Tate can stay healthy, he figures to get plenty of run on a team that is more than committed to it in 2014. He’s on a two year deal with the Browns, so in spite of the fact that Tate is 25, he’s a banged-up 25 and shouldn’t get more than two years from any RSO owner in the Free Agent Auction.

28. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins

Bill Lazor was brought in as OC from Philadelphia to spice up the Dolphins offense, which was pass heavy in 2013.  The offensive pace figures to pick up immensely, which should limit the league leading 58 sacks Tannehill suffered last year and result in more deep balls thrown.  2014 is a critical year for Tannehill to make the leap to the first round quarterback that he was drafted to be and a lot of money and draft picks were spent to improve the offensive line this year, which should only help after last year’s mess.

29. Donald Brown, RB, San Diego Chargers

It was quite puzzling that Brown decided on the Chargers crowded backfield when he was coming off a very solid season.  The Chargers want to keep Ryan Mathews healthy in 2014, so Brown may get more carries to keep Mathews’ quality high.  These carries probably come at the expense of Danny Woodhead, who factors in more as a pass catcher.  Brown’s real value will be in 2015 when both Mathews and Woodhead are free agents.  Given the reduced value of starting running backs these days and the contract that Brown signed, he could be the Chargers starter in 2014 or more likely, 2015.  There’s value in that.

30. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts

No player seems to defy age lately more than Reggie Wayne.  Make no mistake, he is still one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets on a good offense.  He works incredibly hard and still has some gas in the tank.  He’s certainly worth a one year deal and should still produce around 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards.

31. Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Nobody was happier that Matt Cassel was coming back as the potential starter in Minnesota more than Jennings who had his better games with Cassel at the helm.  He had 68 catches for 804 yards and 4 TD’s in 2013, which was a down year, especially when Christian Ponder was at the helm.  In Week 15 last season, Jennings showed he still has serious talent with an 11 catch, 163 yard performance with a touchdown.  With new OC Norv Turner in the fray, Cordarrelle Patterson is viewed as the #1 wide receiver, but Jennings figures to be involved plenty.  He’s still making big money, so look for the Vikings to keep him involved.

32. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

By virtue of having one of the best wide receiving tandems in the NFL in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and an offensive mastermind for a head coach in Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler is a serious upside play for the next few years in fantasy football.    If he can remain healthy, he has Top 5 fantasy points potential at a seriously reduced cost.  Definitely target him if you are coming into your auction without a QB as a “Late Round QB”, but make sure you don’t overpay in dollars, and especially in years.

33. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

One of the better tight ends in the NFL and now part of Carolina’s depleted receiving corps.  Olsen had a solid 2013 with 73 catches for 816 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Cam Newton definitely looks his way frequently.  If need be, he’s a Panther for a few more years and you could up the years, but as my rankings reflect, there are lots of options at tight end, so don’t overpay.

34. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Big Ben seems to be getting up to speed in OC Todd Haley’s offense.  He has a good deal of options on offense, headlined by Antonio Brown, complimented by a solid running attack with Le’Veon Bell and free agent signing LeGarrette Blount. Roethlisberger remains a QB2 with upside and definitely worth a look as a backup or spot starter, with the potential to be more.

35. Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Similar to Cutler’s situation in terms of offensive weapons and a Head Coach in Bruce Arians that is an offensive genius.  If Palmer gets improved offensive line play with the additions of Jared Veldheer and getting Jonathan Cooper back from injury, he figures to reduce the high amount of sacks he took last year and 22 interceptions which loomed large.  As mentioned in my 1-25 rankings, Michael Floyd is a star in the making and Larry Fitzgerald remains a top option and the coaching staff is comparing rookie John Brown to T.Y. Hilton.  All of these things make Palmer a very attractive cheap option.

36. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

Every few years Manning seems to make himself fantasy relevant again.  Manning has good receiving weapons and finally an offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo (formerly of Green Bay) that figures to open things up a bit.  Look for a bounceback in 2014 and consider the younger Manning brother a potential value this fantasy season.

37. Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers

After coming on strong at the end of 2013, Green seems to be the heir apparent to Antonio Gates in San Diego.  He shows the ability to make plays that nobody else on the team can and is improving his route running as well.  You probably want to speculate and lock Green up for two years to not miss out on this season’s Julius Thomas at the tight end position, who could also double as the #2 passing option in San Diego behind Keenan Allen.

38. Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers

I personally love Woodhead.  He had over 100 carries last season and was a Top 20 fantasy running back, especially in PPR leagues.  He does all the little things and is quite effective despite his size.  The addition of Donald Brown certainly crowds the rushing attempts, so I’m thinking Woodhead will revert more to a third-down back type in 2014.  As such and given that he’s a free agent following the season, I’d stick to a reasonable one year deal for Woodhead.

39. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos

Hillman once was the starter in Denver and then his fumbling issues caused him to lose his job to Knowshon Moreno, who had a career year.  Hillman still has impressive edge speed and is only 23 years old, so if he can shore up his fumbling issues, he could still get a good run in Denver’s offense behind Montee Ball and potentially emerge as the pass-catching back for the Broncos too.  C.J. Anderson stands in his way as the #2 running back position is an offseason battle to pay attention to.

40. Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Any wide receiver with 10 touchdowns and 4 in the same game that isn’t named James Jones is always on my radar.  Marvin Jones is penciled in as the Bengals #2 starter opposite A.J. Green, one of the top wideouts in the NFL.  He’s only 24 years old and is signed through 2016 and has prototypical height and speed.  Jones also had 8 catches for 130 yards in a playoff loss to San Diego and has proven himself to be able to get open down the field.  A nice multi-year play.

41. Bryce Brown, RB, Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills traded for Brown on draft day more with 2015 in mind as both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are free agents after the 2014 season.  Brown flashes serious upside and did perform well in 2012 in Philadelphia when Lesean McCoy missed time with a serious concussion.  Brown does have some ball control issues, but has significant talent that is worth the risk.  Don’t expect too much for 2014, but remember he is behind two running backs who have a history of getting injured.

42. Jarrett Boykin, WR, Green Bay Packers

Filled in admirably in 2013 when the Packers experienced injuries to their receiving corps, as well as when Aaron Rodgers went down.  Boykin moves to the outside this season, but faces stiff competition from rookie Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are free agents after the season, but at least one figures to be back.  Don’t overdo it on Boykin, but if he’s around late in your auction, jump on him.

43. Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Shorts is a 2015 free agent and operates out of the slot.  He’s a PPR machine and should be better now that the Blaine Gabbert experiment is over in Jacksonville.    While the Jaguars did draft two wideouts early in the draft, there should be enough balls to go around for Shorts to be effective.

44. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith is more of a game manager, but was a solid fantasy QB in 2013.   He had 23 TD’s and only 7 interceptions in 2013 and fares fairly well as a running QB.  The Chiefs schedule gets tougher in 2014, so figure that Smith will have to throw it more.

45. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins

In spite of a career year in Denver after numerous injury-riddled ones, the Broncos opted not to keep Moreno.  He is very effective as a pass blocker and pass catcher and feasted as a runner when Peyton Manning smartly audibled against 6 or less man fronts.  Just had arthroscopic knee surgery, but should be ready by training camp.  Unfortunately this injury, plus being out of shape has led to Lamar Miller gaining a potential edge as the starter on an Eagles type fast paced offense in 2014.  Definitely not worth a multi-year deal due to injuries and timeshare, but after last season’s breakthrough where he essentially was a Top 5 running back, in spite of being picked near the end of auctions, one has to consider Moreno for their team.

46. Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins

The pillar of consistency from a receiving standpoint the last two years.  Hartline has had 76 and 74 catches, respectively the past two seasons combined with two straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons.  Hartline did have a PCL injury late in 2013, but figures to be ready by the start of camp.  Not a touchdown maker, but very solid, albeit in a quiet way.

47. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions

Turned a career year in Seattle and a Super Bowl ring into a big free agent contract to be the #2 wideout opposite of Calvin Johnson in Detroit.  Lots of balls to go around for QB Matthew Stafford.  Tate also may be used in the return game if your league rewards that.  Expect similar statistics to 2013.

48. Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints

The deep threat in New Orleans who should get more looks with Lance Moore gone and Marques Colston getting older.  In fact, Drew Brees’ QBR was the highest in the league when passing to Stills.  He had 5 TD’s and averaged 20 yards a catch.  Definite upside-the question is how the targets will be split between Stills and rookie first round pick Brandin Cooks, even if Cooks plays in the slot.

49. Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Don’t be fooled by Antonio Brown’s spike in touchdowns and Heath Miller’s mere one TD last year.  Miller is Big Ben’s security blanket, especially in the red zone.  He’s fully recovered from the late 2012 knee injury and is signed for a few more years.  In a season with tight ends a plenty, Miller is a nice sleeper and good fill-in for Rob Gronkowski if Gronk misses time to start 2014.  Catches good volume and 800 yards and 6 TD’s are definitely within reason.

50. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

One of the most efficient wide receivers in the NFL.  Baldwin excelled in the Super Bowl and will a spot on the outside as the “X” receiver.  The Seahawks seem like they will keep teams guessing on defense this season, so Russell Wilson may look down the field more and rely less on the power running game this season. Baldwin has good hands and is one of the better route runners in the league.  He recently signed a 3 year, $13m contract, so don’t be afraid to offer him more than a year if need be.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin