RSO Staff Picks: Week 16

Updated: December 22nd 2019

Week 14 & 15 Results & Overall Standings

1. English – Week 14 13-3 & Week 15 11-5  // Overall 149-74-1

2. Papson – Week 14 9-7 & Week 15 10-6  //Overall 142-81-1

3. Wendell – Week 14 10-6 & Week 15 12-4 // Overall 141-82-1

Happy holidays and welcome to Week 16, the championship week for most of you in your RSO leagues. If you have made it this far, congrats as it is an impressive feat, and best of luck in your pursuit of fantasy immortality today. The NFL playoff picture will look pretty clear save a spot (or possibly two) at the end of the day, and if yesterday was any indication, we should have a great slate of games today. All three games had playoff implications yesterday and were decided by a touchdown or less. The Texans edged out the Bucs due to four INTs by Jameis, the Pats did what the Pats do and beat the Bills at home to clinch their 11th straight AFC East title, and then Jimmy G put last year’s NFC Champs out of the playoffs this year, showing once again how much parity exists in the NFL. Kyle, Matt and I were all 3-0 yesterday (along with most of America as the three “better” teams won), but like the NFL’s playoff picture, this contest will likely be complete by the end of this week, as Kyle has a seven game lead over Matt and an eight game lead over me, due to his 24-8 record over the last couple of weeks. The real test will be if Kyle can take down ESPN’s leading expert at the moment, Trey Wingo. Our picks for this week are below. We hope everyone enjoys the games and has a happy and healthy holiday week!

NFL Game Picks






















More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Auction Recap

Updated: September 8th 2018

Inside Access to the RSO Experts/Writers League War Rooms

While I haven’t been writing as regularly as in the past, I still love fantasy football as much as ever. I’m in what some would say too many leagues (and my wife might agree), but to me, there’s always room for one more. With the season now underway and all my auctions behind me, I can say that none were as enjoyable as the RSO Experts League Year 3 Free Agency Auction.  RSO auctions often require more strategic preparation than most leagues and that’s exponentially true when competing against some of the best analysts in the industry.

In year 3, the player pool was stronger than last year given that most players signed to 2 year deals in the startup reached free agency.

Teams had limited cap space and most are saddled with at least one bad contract.    Cap space and multi-year deals had to be used wisely. Since I haven’t won the league yet and have made my share of bad decisions, I’m not one to judge everyone’s auction and assign grades.  Instead, I’d like to take you inside several of the war rooms so you can hear from league members directly about their strategy entering the auction and thoughts on how it went.  Without further ado, let’s dive in…

Matt Papson

“I had $6MM in space to fill four roster spots. I could not use all of my multi-year contracts. I signed James White and Mike Wallace to one year minimums (not guaranteed). I signed TyGod and Joe Flacco to multiyear deals just to minimize 2018 salary. I have five starting quarterbacks and plan to win the league. The end.”

Bob Cowper

“Similarly to Pappy, I only had three spots and limited cash to fill them. I went into the auction knowing I needed a starting running back to pair with Leonard Fournette and I needed to add at least one tight end too. I was very happy with the deal that I got on Kenyan Drake (two years, $10m in 2018) because I think Drake will end up getting the biggest piece of the RBBC pie in Miami. Rookie Kalen Ballage might cut into Drake’s receiving production but if he manages 25 receptions he should finish as a top twenty back (he had 32 last season). Next, I turned my attention to the tight end position. I’ve been targeting George Kittle in leagues this season and didn’t mind going to $4m per year to secure him. Kittle’s production over the final five games of his rookie season, those he started with Jimmy G, puts him on pace for a 48-716-3 line for 2018. That would make him a borderline top ten option but I think we’ll see even better numbers. For my last spot, I was torn on whether I should add another TE or another QB. I already had five QBs but one is suspended (Winston) and two are rookies that won’t start the season barring injury (Darnold, Rudolph). Ultimately I figured I would trust Trubisky and Goff and add a TE instead. I didn’t love the other TE options after I was outbid on Trey Burton. I grabbed Cameron Brate on a minimum deal to pair with OJ Howard, figuring I might as well lock down the Bucs TE on the cheap.”

Bernard Faller

“The overall cap space in our league was somewhat limited with six teams having $40M or less in available salary and no team with more than $78M. My $55M in cap space and eight open roster spots with no major positional holes to fill meant I could hold out for value. Our league places a big premium on QBs with fifteen paid $17.8M or more in salary for 2018. Having Stafford ($9M) and Garoppolo ($2M) locked up for a combined $11M frees up a lot of cap space for high upside gambles and quality depth at RB/WR. Quality running back depth is always a main priority for me in shallow leagues given the high injury rate and uncertainty at the position. Starting RBs usually hold excellent trade value during the season due to the scarcity of high-end backs available.

Hill (4yr, $37M) was not one a player I actively looked for but he represented solid value for one of the most dynamic players in the league. One likely target for me going into the auction was the San Francisco offense. The consensus of major fantasy sites projects the 49ers as a top-10 passing offense but the top skill players are generally very cheap in auctions. I invested heavily signing McKinnon (2yr, $30M), Breida (3yr, $2M), and Garcon (1yr, $1M) to deals. McCoy’s (1yr, $10M) range of outcomes is probably the most polarized of any player. He is either going to be out of the league or touching the ball twenty times a game as the focal point of a bad Bills offense. My running back depth chart now includes Gurley, McCoy, McKinnon, Miller, and Ronald Jones which accomplished my goal of a quality, deep group with loads of upside.

I missed out on a reliable bye-week/injury replacement QB which was my main oversight in the auction. The depth at wide receiver for fantasy is outrageous. Robby Anderson, Tyler Lockett, and Garcon came at good values but I would rather add better quarterback and tight end depth which came cheap in the auction.”

Stephen Wendell

“Pretty simple for me…

1) Needed another QB because I feel like you have to have 3 starters in this league and I had two in Cam and Big Red. I wanted Brees but I felt like he got too expensive given his age and stage, so I bailed and waited for Matty Ice, at which point I was going to get him no matter what it cost. Beauty of the platform … start-up auction Matt Ryan probably does not make so much, but being one of 4-5 starting QBs in a Super Flex league in year 3 of the league, guy is going to get paid.

2) After that, did not have much more, and I was at my father’s birthday dinner, so I did my best to grab a few more guys I liked:

  1. a) Eifert for $1mm – great upside if he returns to TD machine form and good to stack with Dalton in good matchups
  2. b) Martavis Bryant at $500K – literally a free flyer which could payoff if he can learn the Gruden playbook
  3. c) Corey Clement 3 yr $9.5mm – love the Birds and think he could be Sproles 2.0 and ironically beat the OG Sproles out of the job he created. If not this year, then definitely by 2019, giving me a dynamic playmaker for 2 years on the cheap during what should be prime years for Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense.

For the record, these are my reasons now. At the time, I was just trying to grab some players I knew in between bites of she crab soup and great conversation with my family.”

Matt Goodwin

“Going in with $34mm in cap space, I knew that I’d have to build around my foundational pieces (OBJ, Brady, Hunt) and “paint around the edges”. So, I focused on maximizing value which is something that I feel like I’ve been able to do well in this league. I was focused on getting guys on multi-year deals for typically no more than $5 million average per year.

Succession Quarterback-Having already starting with two starting QBs, I wanted to make sure I had at least a third and a potential succession plan to Big Ben who is expiring after 2018 season. Taking a page from Bernard’s Jimmy Garoppolo deal last year as a backup who’d likely be starting the following season (or even this season), so I grabbed Nick Foles on a three year deal for 3 years, $8.0mm total.

Upside Starting Tight End-I also came in as one of the few teams needing a starting TE and I took the high variance Jordan Reed on a 1 year, $4.5mm deal to replace my injured Hunter Henry. I know Reed comes with risk, but I think Alex Smith is the perfect QB for him if he can stay healthy. And if he can’t, I only have him for a year as dropping some cap off my books in 2019 was important to me as well.

Swiss Army RB’s For Flex or Jay Ajayi Backfill- I’m in my second and final year of a pricey $25.5mm Jay Ajayi deal. While I have hopes that he’ll eat this year in the Eagles offense, I wanted to build my base of running backs for the future this year. I started that with Royce Freeman in the rookie draft at 2.02. He’s now going much sooner and I have the Broncos backfield locked up this season for cheap. I then focused on guys with upside in the passing game like Duke Johnson (2 years, $9.0mm) and Aaron Jones (2 years, $7.0mm) to be possible flex plays, starting running backs for me in 2019, or guys to count on if Ajayi falters or gets hurt.

WRs Who Can Take the Lid Off a Defense- I’ve made no secret on All About Reality that I’m a fan of WRs. I like high-upside ones who can take a lid off a defense and pairing them with PPR types. Having OBJ, Crowder, and Corey Davis already, I grabbed a few of my favorite potential breakouts in 2018 in Marquise Goodwin (we are not of relation) on a 3 year, $14.0mm deal based on faith in Jimmy G and the 49ers upstart offense. I then grabbed Kenny Golladay in a bidding war with Nick Andrews for 4 years, $22.0mm. There are a wide range of outcomes for Golladay, but I felt he had WR1 upside for a droppable contract cost and I did want to keep him away from Nick’s talent-laden team. Lastly, if Jordy Nelson has anything left in the tank, I have him for a 2 year, $1.0mm total deal.

Minimum Salary Guys- I always like to have some interchangeable pieces in spite of a deep bench in this league, so I grabbed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keelan Cole as minimum salary players who might be able to step in.

We’ll see where this thing goes as realistically the team with the best starters invariably wins the league, but I think a third straight playoff appearance is achievable and that my team has the upside to fly the flag if health and luck go my way as well.”

Kyle English

“Went into the auction with 63M in space and only 6 spots to fill…

– Wanted Melvin Gordon since he was the best available RB, but Luke wasn’t going to give him up. Bid him up and eventually let Luke take him for 2/64M which made him the highest paid RB in our league by over 5M/yr. I was then able to get who I thought was the second best RB in the draft in Devonta Freeman for 2/37.5M. Given the prices of those contracts, I’m very please with how that ended up for me and because I spent less I was able to get nearly every other player I was targeting.

– Got Chris Carson for 1/2.5M. Very surprised he went that cheap given the auction was after all the camp news about him looking like the starter. Honestly wasn’t expecting to target him but that’s a nice easy contract to add some more RB depth.

– Needed another QB in case Gruden’s Oakland experiment doesn’t go well for my Carr or Watson doesn’t come back as strong. Targeted Rivers and got him for 3/63M. That’s on the high side of what I’d like to pay, but since I didn’t blow it all on Gordon I was able to do it. Followed that up by targeting Bradford for 1/2.5M to pair with my Rosen which was an easy choice.

– Then went out and got Larry Fitz for 1/12M. I think the Cards will be playing from behind a lot and Fitz has been a PPR monster despite his age.

– Finished it off with the best TE in the auction in Delanie Walker for 2/12M to go with Olsen who I already have. Didn’t want to trust him solo after last season’s debacle.”

Nick Andrews

“Being in the championship game the last two years I felt confident that the core of my team would keep my window open at least another season. Having this mentality I wanted to maximize the final year that I have both Julio Jones and Le’Veon Bell, both on expiring deals after the 2018 season. I reacquired Drew Brees for $57MM/2yr to pair with Kirk Cousins who I had given my extension to earlier in the off-season. Having what I think should be two top 5 QBs in a superflex league hasn’t fail me in my first two seasons so I wasn’t concerned about having to pay up to reacquire Brees. I also needed a rotational guy for bye weeks and was able to add Blake Bortles on a small $9MM/3yr.

With the aforementioned Jones and Bell on expiring deals I wanted to focus my remaining multi-year deals on trying to acquire young replacements that wouldn’t eat up too much cap space. Once the bidding war for Kenny Golladay with Matt Goody was deemed too expensive for my plan I pivoted to other ancillary players that should be successful as bye week options. Nelson Agholor ($12MM/3yr), Tarik Cohen ($20MM/4yr), Isaiah Crowell ($3.5MM/2yr), Tyrell Williams ($500k) were low risk deals that I felt comfortable if they could produce would be great assets to have available to come off the bench.

Finally, I already had Kyle Rudolph locked in for another two seasons so for tight end I focused on upside with some guys that are getting good buzz leading up to the preseason. Ricky Seals-Jones on a $2MM/1yr was a “let’s see what he’s made of deal” where if he doesn’t pay off it’s not a big cap concern. I also was able to use RSO’s new feature of bidding against yourself by nominating and subsequently giving Jonnu Smith a two year, $2MM deal in the hopes that if he doesn’t full replace Delaine Walker this season he will by 2019.

Looking forward to our third seasons and hopefully there will be a third championship appearance for the Knightmare squad.”

Luke Patrick

“Papal Fallibility made a jump from worst-third and the core of the team and no dead money had me in a good position. Going into the auction three starting spots needed to be filled- RB2, WR3, and QB2. Melvin Gordon (64MM/2yr) on a short massive contract was my plan to fill the RB2 slot as he stood alone in a tier with for team built to win this season. Unfortunately, my fellow writers and other drafters were more savvy building depth and I backed down on my two QB targets (Matt Ryan/Drew Brees). This cost me Case Keenum Mark Ingram and Baker Mayfield’s rookie deal in a post draft trade for Cam Newton. Not dropping cash on the QB2 slot left me to secure my top WR on the board in Adam Theilen for a below market deal (51MM/3yr). The squad this year is textbook stars and scrubs. QBs: Russell Wilson/Cam Newton RBs: DJ/Melvin Gordon WRs: Keenan/Diggs/Theilen and TE: Kelce. My bench is wide and thin, populated by upside dart throws and RBs that can inherit big roles.

Dave Sanders

Despite having a solid core of Wentz (thru 2020 @~$21MM per), Mariota (thru 2020 @~$23MM per), Zeke Elliott (thru 2019 @ ~$23MM per), Dion Lewis (thru 2018 @ 500k per), Amari Cooper (thru 2018 @ ~$24MM per) and Rob Gronkowski (thru 2018 @ ~$24MM per, I’ve been mostly a middle of the pack team that has been on the fringe of playoff contention each year.  With Gronk, Amari and Zeke set to enter free agency within the next 2 years or become very expensive to retain, I knew that I needed to use my ~$20MM in cap space wisely and focus on immediate impacts over long-term value.

Before the auction, I identified several targets:

  • Rex Burkhead (have Sony Michel and wanted that pair) – signed for 2 years @ $6.5MM per.  It’s more than I wanted to spend, but I strongly believe that one of those RBs will finish within the top 10 in 2019 PPR scoring.  Which one?  I have no idea.
  • Josh Gordon – signed for 4 years @ ~$3MM per.  With cap situation, I didn’t have room to lock up a star player for multiple years and thought he might come cheap given the uncertainty that was especially heightened around the time of our auction on August 8th.  I feel a bit better about his status now, but he’s certainly no lock to remain on the field.  That said, the penalty for cutting him won’t be too detrimental if it doesn’t work out.  The upside, if he ever returns to form, could be massive.
  • Jarvis Landry – signed for 3 years @ ~$12MM per.  As soon as I landed Gordon, I turned my attention to Landry.  To me, he’s almost a Gordon handcuff.  If Gordon misses time in any of the next 3 years, Landry should see increase volume and possibly more downfield utilization.  At what I consider to be a below market deal for a PPR league, count me in!

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth look into our war rooms.  Stay up to date on the experts league by following #RSOexpertsLG on Twitter.

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

RSO Rookie Rundown: 2018 RBs

Updated: March 30th 2018

Welcome to the RSO Rookie Rundown, a resource to help RSO owners prepare for their upcoming rookie drafts. For more college football and NFL Draft coverage, follow me on Twitter at @robertfcowper. Throughout the offseason, the RSO Rookie Rundown will delve into dozens of future rookies for your consideration. Each prospect will be evaluated on a number of criteria including size, production, performance, character and durability. This is an inexact science but the goal is to gain a better perspective of each player through research. Each player will be given a draft round grade as well as a recent NFL player comparison. For draft round grades, it’s important to remember that some positions are valued more highly than others in the NFL. For player comparisons, it’s important to remember that it is a rough heuristic for illustrative purposes and is based on a physical and statistical basis rather than a prediction of a similar NFL career.

Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State

Rashaad Penny put up incredible production in 2017, largely against inferior opposition though.  He’s a fantastic kick returner which will help insulate his value and ensure he earns a role out of training camp.  I also believe he’s an underrated pass catcher because he proved to be a factor in the passing game when his team needed it against the biggest opponents (see the Stats & Accolades section for details on this point).  Penny does not have any injury concerns to report, nor any character concerns.  Penny decided to stay in school for his senior year despite a 1,000+ yard 2016 season when he was the second fiddle to FBS leading rusher Donnel Pumphrey.  Coming back to school ended up being a great decision for Penny.  At the Senior Bowl, Penny actually measured taller and heavier than I expected which is a good thing.  He is officially being listed at 5’11” and 224lbs on the Senior Bowl roster (some sites estimated 5’10” and 220lbs”).  We don’t have a 40 yard dash time for Penny yet but estimates he’ll run in the 4.52 range – good but not great.

Stats & Accolades:  I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I tell you that Penny was a standout this season: his 2,248 rushing yards led the FBS.  He started with a limited role as a sophomore in 2015 but still managed 5 TDs from scrimmage and added three more as a returner.  In 2016 he took on a bigger role and ended with 1,242 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs; he also returned a pair of kickoffs for scores too.  In 2017, he exploded.  Despite being the bellcow on his way to that FBS leading rushing total, Penny still managed to add 2 receiving TDs, and 3 return TDs.  All told, he has 52 career TDs.  What may be even more impressive is that Penny has a 7.5 yards per carry average for his career.  Penny’s game logs don’t disappoint either.  He has 15 career games with over 100 rushing yards.  He’s gone over 200 yards in seven games, including a streak of five straight to end 2017.  One knock on Penny is his competition playing in the Mountain West.  To get a feel for his production against Power 5 teams I delved deeper into his 2015, 2016 and 2017 game logs.  He played five games in those three years against Power 5 opponents (Arizona State, Stanford, Cal twice, Penn State).  In those games, Penny rushed 64 times for 508 yards (an average of 7.9 yards per carry) and 2 TDs.  He added 11 receptions, 97 yards and 2 receiving TDs.  But wait there’s more… he also totaled 3 kickoff return TDs.  Interestingly, 26% of his career receptions came against Power 5 opponents which made up just 12% of his games from 2015-2017.  That’s a good sign in my opinion as it shows he can be a receiver when needed.  Let’s recap, in five games against Power 5 teams, Penny averaged over 8 yards per touch, not counting the kick return yards, and scored seven touchdowns.  Sign me up.  Not only is Penny clutch against better teams, he’s also clutch when his team is behind the sticks.  On 3rd downs, Penny’s yards per carry average jumped to 11.79 in 2017; on 39 such carries, he converted 20 of them for a first.  I checked Pro Football Focus’ Signature Stat Guide to see if their stats backed up the traditional stats that show below and discussed above.  Unsurprisingly, they do.  PFF ranked Penny as the 3rd highest in their Elusive Rating stat.  Elusive Rating takes broken tackles and yards after contact into account to help control for uneven offensive line play.  The two backs ranked higher than Penny, Damien Harris and Bryce Love, both decided to return to school for their senior seasons so Penny reigns supreme as the most elusive back in the draft.  Over his career, Penny fumbled the ball seven times, losing five.  In 2017, Penny had an incredible number of long runs.  He had 58 over 10 yards and 29 over 20 yards.  For comparison, the other two backs in this profile were well behind: Michel had 33/11 while Jones had 41/16.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2014 San Diego State MWC FR RB 10 2 22 11.0 0 0 0 0 2 22 11.0 0
*2015 San Diego State MWC SO RB 14 61 368 6.0 4 8 120 15.0 1 69 488 7.1 5
*2016 San Diego State MWC JR RB 14 136 1018 7.5 11 15 224 14.9 3 151 1242 8.2 14
2017 San Diego State MWC SR RB 13 289 2248 7.8 23 19 135 7.1 2 308 2383 7.7 25
Career San Diego State 488 3656 7.5 38 42 479 11.4 6 530 4135 7.8 44
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2018.
Kick & Punt Returns Table
Kick Ret Punt Ret
Year School Conf Class Pos G Ret Yds Avg TD Ret Yds Avg TD
*2014 San Diego State MWC FR RB 10 20 500 25.0 0 0 0 0
*2015 San Diego State MWC SO RB 14 24 804 33.5 3 0 0 0
*2016 San Diego State MWC JR RB 14 20 624 31.2 2 0 0 0
2017 San Diego State MWC SR RB 13 17 521 30.6 2 2 70 35.0 1
Career San Diego State 81 2449 30.2 7 2 70 35.0 1
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2018.

Film Study: Boise State (2017), Stanford (2017)

I remember watching the San Diego State vs Stanford game earlier in the season so that was my first choice.  I wanted to revisit that game and see if, with the benefit of hindsight, I was still impressed with Penny now as I was then.  The answer is yes.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t see some negatives though.  Against Boise State, a film I picked because of the Broncos’ above average defense, Penny mostly struggled but there was one highlight play I’ll touch on (including one awful play in pass protection that luckily didn’t end worse for his quarterback).

My overall impressions were that Penny is quicker than he is fast, cuts well, has excellent vision and is a versatile player who can be utilized in numerous ways.  I would say he is an average pass blocker.  I counted ten pass protection situations in the two games where I felt I could either grade Penny as a plus or a minus to the play’s protection; of those ten, I counted three negative plays.  Something that I had read about Penny and was interested to see on film is his tackle breaking ability.  He breaks some tackles (I counted twelve in the two games) but much of his yardage comes when he makes tacklers miss rather than breaking their tackle.  When reviewing PFF’s Elusive Rating stat, I have previously thought to myself, “why do they list it as ‘missed tackles’ rather than ‘broken tackles’?”  Now I realize why.  When Penny has the lane and the open space to make defenders miss, he does.  When he runs into contact at, or near, the line of scrimmage he is often bottled up for little gain.  He’s not the type of back that you can run into the defensive line on three successive plays and expect to move the chains before fourth down.  Penny is much more adept at pressing the line of scrimmage and waiting for his cut-back hole to open up.  He’s also good at bouncing the play outside but since he lacks elite speed he’s better off cutting it inside.  He’s not very good at lowering his head and ramming the ball downhill.  He does not keep his feet well and is often susceptible to low tackles that other stronger backs may shrug off.  Penny was heavily involved in the passing game against Stanford (5 passes) but not at all against Boise when he struggled.  He is utilized all over the field through different positions and motions.

There were a few good examples I found of Penny’s running style that I’ll describe here.  I would highly recommend checking out the links to these plays so you can see them in action.  I have linked them to the corresponding Youtube video right to the specific play.  The first prototypical example I’ll show comes early in the second half on first down.  Penny angles to the right, running right up the back of his guard.  The line gets such good push that he actually ends up cutting into the other A gap between the LG and C as they finish their blocks.  It’s an effortless run for 15 yards.  Later in the third, Penny shows an even better example of his vision.  Penny starts left as the RG and RT combo block the end before the guard moves to the LB on the second level.  The TE helps seal the hole and Penny cuts twice, first to the right and then back to the left through the hole.   The next play shows how Penny can adapt and use his elusiveness as a play breaks down.  He takes the pitch eight yards deep, sheds the first defender.  Just past the line another defender squares up to take Penny down.  As he runs towards the sidelines, with his shoulders parallel to the sideline, he cuts back towards the line of scrimmage and away from the defender.  It buys him just enough space to beat the tackler.  He then turns on his speed and makes it to the first down before two pursuing defenders.  It was a key play that came late in the upset over #19 Stanford.  Against Boise, Penny again shows his ability to get the edge, this time after his intended cut back lanes are clogged.  He bounces it outside and the defense, which was stacking the box all game, doesn’t have anybody with an angle to get Penny in time.

The last play I’ll discuss is the bad pass protection play against Boise.  Ultimately the play didn’t matter as it came in a big loss and the fumble that was caused was overturned but it’s still instructional.  Penny finds himself momentarily staring down two pass rushers.  He’s probably unsure about who he should block and hesitates.  The tackle ends up taking the inside rusher but by then it’s too late for Penny to get to the outside rusher.  The defender gets to the quarterback just as he is throwing the ball.  If he got there a split-second sooner, as the rusher probably would in the pros, it would have been a big hit right to the chops of the unprepared quarterback.

SWOT Analysis: (SWOT analysis is a way to study the internal and external factors that may help or hinder your ability to achieve an objective.  The objective here: getting drafted.)

Strengths: Durability, lack of an injury history, versatility as a kick returner, elusiveness, production vs Power 5 teams.

Weaknesses: Lacks elite speed, played lesser competition in the Mountain West, not very active in the passing game.

Opportunities: Can earn an instant roster spot in training camp as a kick returner.  Would be a great partner to an established veteran, a la Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara in New Orleans.

Threats: The lack of success by former teammate Donnel Pumphrey as a rookie may sour some on his potential (i.e. the “system” tag some QBs get).  Some teams may see him more of a kick returner than a feature back in the NFL and may not be willing to spend a high enough draft pick on him.

Draft Round Grade:  Mid to Late 3rd Round

I’d love to put Penny higher because he’s a favorite of mine but I don’t think NFL teams will bite.  Penny isn’t elite so he won’t see the 1st round and there are so few 2nd round running backs in recent history (just five in the last three drafts) that I think it’s inevitable he falls to the 3rd.  If Penny falls out of the 3rd round, he’ll be a prime trade up candidate to start Day 3.

Recent NFL Comparison: CJ Prosise

I struggled to find a comparison for Penny that ticked all of the boxes I usually seek.  I feel most comfortable with a comparison when they 1) have similar size and speed, 2) have a similar playing style, 3) produced similarly in college and 4) had a similar draft grade.  I was first leaning towards Boston College’s Andre Williams as his production somewhat mirrored that of Penny, especially in their senior seasons (down to receiving Heisman votes), but when you watch the two play they are of a totally different style.  Of all the other possibilities I considered, I thought Prosise was the best fit for playing style even if their production was not comparable.  Like Prosise, Penny gains most of his yards because of his vision, change of direction and elusiveness rather than by sheer strength and tackle breaking ability.  Prosise was a more accomplished receiver at Notre Dame but as I’ve outlined, I have faith in Penny’s receiving ability.  Prosise is conspicuously missing any kick or punt return experience so Penny has a huge advantage there.


Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

Sony Michel has been rocketing up fantasy rookie draft boards lately after his success against Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semi-finals.  With good reason too: Michel totaled 202 yards from scrimmage and 4 TDs in that game.  It was the best of his career and it was extremely well timed.  Like many of the young men we’ll meet this draft season, Michel has an interesting story.  He’s the son of Haitian immigrantsHis parents and sister ended up getting jobs at his high school to help improve their meager means, an opportunity most certainly offered due to his standing and on-field success at the school.  As positive as my character notes are about Michel, my injury notes are quite negative.  In my opinion, there’s enough here to dent Michel’s draft stock.  In 2014 he broke his collarbone which forced him to miss multiple games.  In 2016 he broke his arm in what could have been a much more serious ATV accident; the injury occurred in the Summer and Michel ended up missing the season opener.  In 2017 Michel suffered two injuries: 1) a minor ankle injury against Notre Dame that led the coaches to hold him out against Samford and 2) a knee injury that forced him to leave the SEC Championship game early.  These injuries aren’t debilitating or impossible to come back from, obviously, but I fear it may signal missed time in the pros.  Michel has decent size for the position (5’11”, 215lbs) and has about 4.50 speed.  As a senior, Michel is a bit older than many prospects.  DLF lists him as 22.9 years old which is almost a full year older than Rashaad Penny and nearly 2.5 years older than Ronald Jones.  There’s a lot to like about Michel but armchair draftniks have to be careful that they avoid the recency bias and look at Michel’s full profile rather than his most recent stats.

Stats & Accolades: By now we all know the underlying story of Michel’s production.  For most of his time in Athens, he was the second option behind Nick Chubb (side note: I loved reading that Michel and Chubb are best friends, that’s awesome).  The only time that Michel got to shine as the lead back was in 2015 after Chubb had gone down with a serious knee injury.  In that season Michel had seven double digit carry games while he had just one combined the last two years.  You’ll notice that his per carry averages are lowest in that season (5.2) than the other seasons when he had the benefit of sharing the load (6.4, 5.5, 7.9).  I don’t necessarily think that Michel cannot handle a starter’s load but I am merely pointing out that he typically has not and when he has, his performance per carry has declined.  As I mentioned above, Michel had the best game of his career this postseason against Oklahoma (11 carries, 181 yards, 3 rushing TDs; 4 receptions, 41 yards, 1 receiving TD).  He has four other 150+ rush yard games in his career so he does have the ability to go-off.  Michel found lots of success running the ball this season on a championship quality team.  He hit career bests in rushing yards, rushing TDs and yards per carry.  He led the SEC in yards per carry and ranked fifth in the FBS overall.  Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 7th back in their Elusive Rating category (interestingly, one spot behind Chubb).  Michel was most effective as a receiver as a sophomore and junior and then showed that ability again against Oklahoma this season.  In those two seasons, Chubb combined for a solid 29 receptions, 419 yards and 4 receiving TDs.  He’s far from the best pass catching back in this class but it does add to his value.  Michel has issues with ball security.  He has 12 career fumbles, five of which were lost to the defense.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2014 Georgia SEC FR RB 8 64 410 6.4 5 7 106 15.1 1 71 516 7.3 6
*2015 Georgia SEC SO RB 13 218 1136 5.2 8 26 270 10.4 3 244 1406 5.8 11
*2016 Georgia SEC JR RB 12 152 840 5.5 4 22 149 6.8 1 174 989 5.7 5
2017 Georgia SEC SR RB 14 156 1227 7.9 16 9 96 10.7 1 165 1323 8.0 17
Career Georgia 590 3613 6.1 33 64 621 9.7 6 654 4234 6.5 39
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2018.


Film Study: Auburn (2015), Notre Dame (2017), Alabama (2017)

I started with a film from 2015 so I could see Michel when he was the lead back with Chubb out.  The game that was available was against Auburn.  I was not impressed with Michel’s running in this one for the most part.  Most carries have him running right up the gut for little to no gain.  The first outside run I noted was a sweep in the middle of the third that gained 9 yards.  His best run came late in the third.  He takes a pitch right up the middle, uses his blockers well, breaks two tackles and collides with the defensive back.  He churns his feet and tries to push the defender forward.  He ultimately fails and is short of the first but it was still a good effort.  Michel had two attempts inside the five yard line in the game and failed on both.  One of those attempts was actually a fumble where he missed the pitch; it could have been equally the quarterback’s fault but ultimately it was charged to him (Georgia recovered it which led to his second failed attempt).  I counted five broken tackles, two of which came on that one play highlighted above, and that might have been generous.  Most times when Michel is contacted near the line of scrimmage the play ended shortly after.

I was encouraged by the progress that I saw in Michel in the 2017 film against Notre Dame.  His third run of the game was reminiscent of the run in the Auburn game where he failed to push the defender back.  This time, he nails the safety with a lowered shoulder and falls forward for the first.  In this game he looked much more explosive and patient than he did as a sophomore.  His best successes came when running inside of LT Isaiah Wynn (an NFL prospect himself).  The explosiveness and patience was evident in this late fourth quarter run.  It’s a 3rd and 1 when Georgia was down 19-17.  Michel takes the pitch left, the end is unblocked and it’s up to Michel to make him miss.  He does just that after a hard plant with his left foot and an explosive cut to the right.  He easily brushes past the arm tackle.  This happened in the backfield though so Michel still has yards to gain to get the first.  He sees WR Javon Wims blocking a corner and heads towards him rather than cutting upfield where he wouldn’t stand a chance.  He runs right at Wims which makes the defender decide if he wants to try and beat the block to the inside or the outside.  Michel calculates he won’t be able to make it around the outside so he waits for Wims to angle his block as the defender leans outside.  By that point Michel easily gained the first.  It was a great play that illustrated a number of traits that Michel improved between his sophomore and senior seasons.

Like you, I watched the Georgia vs Alabama game a few weeks ago but I wanted to watch the film once more.  I ended up not taking a single note about any of Michel’s runs because I was so impressed with his pass protection.  There were a number of plays where he excelled but there are two I’ll highlight, both blocking potential first round NFL talent.  I’ll show the later one first.  On this play, Michel is responsible for the blitzing safety, Ronnie Harrison.  Michel patiently waits for Harrison to hit the line and picks up the blitz to give QB Jake Fromm enough time to deliver a deep pass which ended up going for a score.  Michel does not show the best blocking mechanics on the play, it looks like he sets his base too soon and may get beat inside if the play extended but it was enough to let Fromm get the ball out.  An even better pass protection play came earlier when Michel stood up 308lb DT Da’Ron Payne.  The DTs run an inside stunt and Payne ends up with what would be a free rush at the QB if Michel did not stay home on the play.  Wynn, the LT, pushed his rusher inside but before he can come back outside for Payne, he falls.  Michel was in good position and actually initiates contact with Payne driving a shoulder right under his chin, which momentarily pushed Payne back.  Michel keeps Payne in front of him with good hand placement.  Of all the good runs I saw Michel make while watching these three games, this was the single most impressive play I saw.

SWOT Analysis: (SWOT analysis is a way to study the internal and external factors that may help or hinder your ability to achieve an objective.  The objective here: getting drafted.)

Strengths: Personality, pass catching ability, pass protection, flashed in biggest games of his career this postseason, is a good teammate as evidenced by his friendship with starter Nick Chubb.

Weaknesses: Injury history, ball security, was rarely used as the RB1 except for in 2015 after Chubb’s injury, age.

Opportunities: Teams will view Michel as a solid third down back because of his pass catching and pass blocking abilities.  He’ll be a good locker room guy as coaches will not have to worry about him complaining about playing time.

Threats: Teams may hesitate to draft Michel as their lead back which could hurt his draft stock – it’s hard to draft a situational player in the second round.  The combination of his injuries, age and usage in college could be just enough to scare off teams.

Draft Round Grade:  Mid to Late 3rd Round

Since he played behind Nick Chubb for most of his career, there’s a chance we haven’t seen Michel’s full potential.  Unfortunately, he does have numerous injuries in his history.  When I started this profile, I was anywhere between early 3rd and 5th round.  After studying his stats and history, I was leaning towards the 4th round.  However, after seeing how adept at pass protection Michel was against Alabama, I’m willing to bump him into the middle of the 3rd round.

Recent NFL Comparison: Marlon Mack

Mack and Michel are nearly identical prospects when you consider their size, speed and production.  Mack measured at 5’11” and 213 whereas Michel is estimated at 5’11” and 215lbs.  Mack ran a 4.50 whereas estimates Michel will run a 4.52.  Mack rushed for 3,609 yards, a 6.2 yards per carry average, 32 rushing TDs and added 65 receptions; Michel’s line is 3,613 yards, a 6.1 average, 33 rushing TDs and 64 receptions.  Mack was drafted in the 4th round so the draft grade is reasonably close too.  When I watch highlights of Mack, he looks to run with a more upright style but there’s enough similarity there for me to make the comparison, especially compared to Michel’s Notre Dame tape.


Ronald Jones, RB, USC

I was low on Ronald “RoJo” Jones to start the 2017 season but I have come around in a big way.  My biggest concern about Jones was his weight.  At approximately 6’0″ he needs to weigh in at at least 200lbs.  Looking back at NFL Combine measurements since 2010, you’ll notice a bad trend for somebody Jones’ size: only three backs have measured 5’11” or taller and less than 200lbs.  Unfortunately, those players don’t exactly inspire confidence as they are Taiwan Jones, CJ Spiller and Joe McKnight.  Luckily, Jones has increased his weight year-over-year and I expect him to get near 210lbs when he officially weighs in.  I checked USC media guides for the last three years and his weight progression was 185-195-200; an LA Times article from July said that Jones was already up to 205lbs at that point.  If Jones weighs in at less than 200lbs, I plan on dropping him down my board.  A benefit of not carrying too much bulk is that Jones is lightning quick. estimates he’ll run a 4.39.  Jones has a few minor injury nicks on his resume.  The first being a 2016 rib injury that he played through but limited his touches (just 36 carries in the first five games).  The second being a 2017 injury that kept him out of the game against Cal; the injury was reported as both an ankle and a thigh injury so I’m not sure which it truly was but I expect the ankle.  Thankfully that injury did not linger as he gained 128 yards the next week against Washington State.  Even though he was a three year starter, Jones is exceedingly young.  Per DLF, Jones is the youngest prospect in the class at 20.5 years old.  When I was researching Jones’ personality and character I did not find much of note.  I found an interview prior to the Cotton Bowl where he said “I like to play silently” which ultimately explained the dearth of articles out there.  There were two funny things I came across in my character research… 1) teammate Stephen Carr said that Jones has “horse legs” which made me actually laugh out loud and 2) “Ronald Jones” was apparently a character in both The Hunt for Red October and Halloween: H2O.  If the NFL doesn’t work out for Jones, maybe he has a future as a vanilla background character in Hollywood!

Stats & Accolades:  In addition to showing a good progression with his weight, Jones has a good progression with his base stats.  His carries, yards and touchdowns have all increased year-over-year, as have his receptions and receiving yards.  Jones is not a big pass catching threat with just 32 career receptions but his huge 13.4 average per catch this season is encouraging.  Jones’ yards per carry average has decreased each season, however it was still a strong 5.9 at it’s lowest so I’m not that concerned.  Jones had two huge games in 2017 with 216 rushing yards and 2 TDs against Arizona State and then following it up with a 3 TD and 233 scrimmage yard outing against Arizona.  Jones’ biggest game of 2015 came against Arizona too (177 yards) so maybe he just has a personal vendetta against the state?  I like that the Trojans gave Jones 261 carries this year (14th most in the FBS) which shows me they were less concerned about his durability this season than in the past, likely a factor of him bulking up.  In the aforementioned PFF Elusive Rating statistic, Jones ranked 15th.  He also shows up in their Pass Blocking Efficiency table with a 94.2% efficiency.  Per their stat tracking, Jones had 67 snaps in pass protection and allowed just five hurries and no sacks.  Jones has the best ball security by far of this trio of running backs.  He has just two career fumbles and lost just one.  He was perfect in 2017 without a single fumble.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2015 USC Pac-12 FR RB 14 153 987 6.5 8 7 39 5.6 1 160 1026 6.4 9
*2016 USC Pac-12 SO RB 13 177 1082 6.1 12 11 76 6.9 1 188 1158 6.2 13
2017 USC Pac-12 JR RB 13 261 1550 5.9 19 14 187 13.4 1 275 1737 6.3 20
Career USC 591 3619 6.1 39 32 302 9.4 3 623 3921 6.3 42
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 1/27/2018.

Film Study: Texas (2017), Colorado (2017)

Jones was mostly held in check against Texas as a rusher (just 47 yards on 18 carries) but he still made a huge impression.  Two of the first three plays of the game for USC featured Jones split out blocking on wide receiver screens.  That tactic continued throughout the game when Jones was often utilized as a blocker in the open field.  This play is a good example of Jones blocking downfield.  He starts in the backfield but motions out to the right, to the wide side of the field.  He runs up field with a tight end to form a perfect lane for WR Steven Mitchell to run through after he catches the screen.  Due to the strength of the Longhorn defense, Jones was often called on to help in pass protection too.  I counted nine positive pass pro plays and no negative plays; he’ll need more size, experience and improved technique to stand up to NFL defenders but it’s a good start.  Jones only had one reception in the game but he made it count.  It was late in the second quarter with just 0:05 left with the score tied 7-7.  Jones stays in to protect at first but then leaks out as a safety valve for QB Sam Darnold.  Darnold is forced to scramble and finds Jones who had stopped his route in the open field to make an easy target for Darnold.  Jones turns up field, jukes the first defender, and then uses his speed (and a great block from Mitchell) to beat the defenders to the pylon.  At one point there are eight pursuing defenders in the frame and none of them can get an angle on Jones.  Without the momentum, and the points, that that play provided USC likely would have been upset by Texas.  Jones had two goal line carries and was stopped just short on both; the second came on 4th down so it was also a costly turnover.

Against Colorado’s softer defense, Jones was able to show me more as a runner.  Right from the start, his vision was apparent as he made three straight runs that impressed me (and the commentators too, who must have been the Colorado home game crew).  Jones is not a big broken tackle runner, similar to Penny he makes his yards by eluding defenders rather than overpowering them.  There were a few plays though that I noted key broken tackles by Jones, especially this 4th and Inches in the second quarter.  The linebacker has a free shot at Jones behind the line but he breaks the tackle and gets the first.  Two traits that Jones showed in the second half of the Colorado game were his jump cut and his patience.  This replay angle shows just how much ground his jump cut can cover which is almost unfair.  He later showed his patience on two plays as the Trojans were trying to run out the clock.  On the first, he slowly considers three separate potential holes before finally bouncing it to the sideline and nearly getting the first down.  It’s like watching him play real-life Frogger, making it up the field and toward the sideline a little at a time.  Shortly after that run, he takes a stretch handoff to the right, hesitates behind his blockers and then cuts it all the way back across the field for a score.  During my research, I came across many analysts who doubt Jones’ patience but I’m not nearly as concerned after watching those two plays.  Again, it’s not the main part of his game but Jones showed good play strength on this off tackle run in the third quarter.  A defender ends up on his back, which he shrugs off, and then he fights through a leg tackle to fall forward for a few extra yards.

SWOT Analysis: (SWOT analysis is a way to study the internal and external factors that may help or hinder your ability to achieve an objective.  The objective here: getting drafted.)

Strengths: Ball security, pass protection, speed, jump cut, age.

Weaknesses: Weight, lack of passing game activity, age.

Opportunities: Because of Jones’ ball security and pass protection, teams will trust him to be their back in all situations.  Teams can spin age either way, in this case they may feel that since he’s so young he hasn’t hit his full potential yet.

Threats: Due to the lack of receiving game work, teams may feel that Jones is not a great fit on third down or in the two minute drill even though he’s a good blocker.  Teams can spin age either way, in this case they may feel that since he’s so young he will be immature.

Draft Round Grade:  Late 2nd Round

I think that Jones is the perfect mix of known and unknown which will entice NFL scouts.  He has enough on tape to warrant being a Top 60 pick and the fact that he is so young will surely make a team want to take a chance on him becoming even better.  As I mentioned in the Opportunities section above, teams will feel that they can trust Jones.

Recent NFL Comparison:  Jamaal Charles

I vacillated between Lamar Miller and CJ Spiller for Jones’ comparison at first but then extended my search of combine measureables back further and found an even better comp in Charles.  Charles averaged 6.2 yards per carry at Texas to Jones’s 6.1 average.  Charles was a little more active as a pass catcher but not by much.  Both had two sub-200 carry seasons to start their career and then ended with 250+ in their junior season before coming out early.  Assuming Jones comes in at about 200lb they should match up near identically when it comes to measureables plus they run with a similar elusive, cutting style.  Charles was picked in the early 3rd round which is probably the worst case scenario for Jones.


Note: When watching film for a player in the offseason, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats:,,,,,
  • Film: 2018 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks:,,,,,
  • Draft history:
  • Combine info:,,
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes

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

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Slicing ’17 Rookie Class into 12 Tiers

Updated: July 23rd 2017

According to a recent poll on our RSO Twitter feed, about 50% of RSO leagues have not yet conducted their rookie drafts.  As you’re continuing your preparation, I’m here to provide my tiered rankings of the top 50 rookies.  Navigating three to four rounds of a rookie draft isn’t easy.  My tiers are designed to help you know when to buy or sell so you can accumulate the best possible rookie class, at great value!

So let’s begin…

Tier 1

1. Corey Davis WR TEN

While Corey Davis may not be quite the same level of prospect as recent 1.01/1.02 picks Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Todd Gurley, he’s undoubtedly the best prospect in this class and the only receiver I’m willing to bet will be a true NFL #1.  Putting my money where my mouth is, I already have 3 shares and am aiming for more.

Tier 2

2. Joe Mixon RB CIN
3. Christian McCaffrey RB CAR
4. Leonard Fournette RB JAX

To say you can’t go wrong with picks 2, 3, and 4 would be inaccurate. In a few years, all three will have differing values. But at this point, the margins between each are razor-thin.

Consistent with my general strategy, I’m going to often choose the most talented player regardless of their potential non-talent-related downfalls such as injury history, off-the-field issues, etc. I’ll take Joe Mixon at 2.  He’s the only RB in this class that I believe truly has an elite RB1 ceiling. My rankings 3rd and 4th ranked players differ depending on your scoring system. PPR -> Christian McCaffrey. Standard -> Leonard Fournette.

Tier 3

5. Dalvin Cook RB MIN

While a sub-10th percentile SPARQ score terrifies me, Dalvin Cook‘s college tape tells a different story. I firmly believe that he’s the most talented back on the Minnesota Vikings and it isn’t remotely close. How soon he will earn playing time may be another story. He will need to improve drastically in pass-protection and ball security to earn playing time.

After the 1.05 pick, this draft class falls off a cliff. If you’re slated to pick 6th or later in the first round of a rookie draft this year, I’d advise shopping that pick for help now or 2018/2019 picks.

Tier 4

6. Mike Williams WR LAC

Back injuries are scary. Back injuries are especially scary when learning a NFL playbook for this first time, getting acclimated to a NFL playbook, and completing for playing time among a crowded group of talented receivers. Even if he fully recovers from this injury in time for the season, he’s unlikely to contribute in a meaningful way this season. Still my 1.06, I’d only make that pick if I’ve exhausted every trade possible without coming to an agreement. If Mike Williams struggles for playing time, but appears healthy when on the field, he might be a buy-low target at the trade deadline or during the 2018 off-season

For more info on his injury and the potential need for surgery if the non-surgical route doesn’t work, I’d recommend listening to the AUDIBLE LIVE! Podcast from June 8th as Jene Bramel (@JeneBramel on Twitter) provides great insight.

Tier 5

7. Alvin Kamara RB NO
8. John Ross WR CIN
9. David Njoku TE CLE
10. Evan Engram TE NYG
11. Samaje Perine RB WAS
12. O.J. Howard TE TB
13. Kareem Hunt RB KC

Even if he doesn’t develop as an inside runner, Alvin Kamara will still be a very productive pass-catching back in the NFL. The Saints offense is very RB friendly and neither Adrian Peterson or Mark Ingram are locks for the Saints’ 2018 roster.

Love John Ross‘ talent, but hate the landing spot. Andy Dalton isn’t the ideal QB for him, especially behind a poor offensive line that may force them to focus on getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

My tight end rankings are based on my belief in their long-term upside. Love David Njoku‘s talent and his situation isn’t as bad as many believe, especially with the release of Gary Barnidge. Evan Engram should settle in as a big slot receiver, though classified as a TE, for the Giants once they release he can’t handle the typical blocking duties of an in-line TE.

O.J. Howard likely will end up as the best NFL TE, but I’m worried that his talent as a blocker may limit his fantasy potential.

Samaje Perine doesn’t feel like a 1st rounder to me.  I would do everything possible to trade the 1.11 pick for a random 2018 1st. He was graded by many as a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick dynasty rookie pick, but has catapulted into the 1st round due to his promising landing spot in Washington. Betting on him to the next Jordan Howard is dangerous. Barring that type of breakout, I expect Washington to be in play for signing a free agent or drafting a top RB prospect in 2018.

Rounding out this tier is Kareem Hunt – a running back who dazzled on tape, but disappointed at the NFL combine. Joining a Spencer Ware in the Kansas City backfield, many believe Hunt will overtake Ware for the majority of carries by mid-season. I believe this is far from a lock and would expect Ware to lead KC in carries this year, by a 2:1 ratio.

Tier 6

14. JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PIT
15. Chris Godwin WR TB
16. Carlos Henderson WR DEN
17. James Conner RB PIT
18. Zay Jones WR BUF
19. Curtis Samuel WR CAR

Higher on Carlos Henderson than most, I love his ability after the catch. It’s also worth mentioning that aging receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders aren’t long-term barriers to playing time in Denver.

Tier 7

20. Taywan Taylor WR TEN
21. D’Onte Foreman RB HOU
22. Jeremy McNichols RB TB

Loved Taywan Taylor pre-draft and couldn’t have hoped for a much better landing spot.  Great target in the late 2nd or early 3rd round of your draft.

Tier 8

23. Melvin Mack RB IND
24. Kenny Galladay WR DET
25. ArDarius Stewart WR NYJ
26. Gerald Everett TE LAR
27. Joe Williams RB SF
28. Josh Reynolds WR LAR
29. Chad Williams WR ARI

This group includes several recent ADP risers: Kenny Galladay, ArDarius Stewart, Joe Williams, and Chad Williams. In each of my drafts, I want to land several players from this tier.

Tier 10

30. Jamaal Williams RB GB
31. Aaron Jones RB GB
32. Patrick Mahomes QB KC

In both redraft and dynasty, Ty Montgomery is the back I want in Green Bay though it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Packers drafted 3 running backs. If everything breaks right for either rookie back, Williams and Jones could be featured in one of the NFL’s best offenses. That alone makes them solid values in the 3rd round.

If early rookie drafts are any indication, I’m going to be heavily invested in Patrick Mahomes. While he’ll need to be more consistent to succeed at the next level, I can’t help but drool at his raw ability. His landing spot, under Andy Reid’s tutelage, could not be better. Let’s not forget that Andy Reid used to be criticized during his Eagles days for passing too much.  Mahomes will be put into position to not only succeed, but also develop into a QB1 in fantasy.

Tier 11

33. Cooper Kupp WR LAR
34. Wayne Gallman RB NYG
35. Amara Dorboh WR SEA
36. Deshaun Watson QB HOU
37. Adam Shaheen TE CHI
38. DeShone Kizer QB CLE
39. Mitchell Trubisky QB CHI

Tier 12

40. Ishmael Zamora WR OAK
41. Jonnu Smith TE TEN
42. Josh Malone WR CIN
43. Jehu Chessen WR KC
44. Chad Kelly QB DEN
45. Dede Westbrook WR JAX

Tier 13

46. Shelton Gibson WR PHI
47. Jake Butt TE DEN

48. Elijah McGuire RB NYJ
49. Brian Hill RB ATL
50. Donnel Pumphrey RB PHI

Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers dynasty and keeper leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Cash Out: Players to Sell

Updated: December 4th 2016

Though many leagues’ trade deadlines are fast approaching or may have already passed, now’s a great time to get a head start on your plans for the 2017 season. Each year, I spend time during the last few weeks of the season to evaluate my team’s outlook for the next season to determine my off-season strategy and am ready to act as soon as league trading opens.  Strategically, I prefer off-season to in-season trading because trades often revolve around filling needs and replacing injured players during a particular season.  Off-season deals are instead often based on differing opinions on specific players’ values and/or the long-term plans of the two teams involved. In this late season edition of Cash Out, I’ll explain which players I’m actively looking to sell before the 2017 season.

Davante Adams WR GBAdams has proved many wrong this year, including me. He’s gone from one of the least efficient receivers in the NFL to being one of Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite targets in 2016, especially with added usage out of the backfield. His ADP has skyrocketed this season, which makes now a great time to sell as I’m not fully buying into him producing at this level moving forward. Assuming his ADP climbs into the 25-40 range this off-season, I would target an early 2017 1st or 2018 1st.

o DLF Nov ADP: 65th
o Advice: Trade for an early 2017 or 2018 1st round pick

Nelson Agholor WR PHI – Take whatever you can get. If someone is dangling a 2035 3rd round pick, take it. Per Scott Barrett on Twitter, Agholor is Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded receiver for the second year in a row.  Time to move on as he may not be in the NFL much longer.

o DLF Nov ADP: 171st
o Advice: Trade for a future 3rd round pick or release to clear up the roster spot

Jordan Matthews WR PHI – As someone who watches every snap of every Eagles game, I don’t understand the love for him in the dynasty football community.  While he’s been productive since entering the league, he’s not nearly as explosive as similarly ranked receivers.  He may have a Marques Colston-like career out of the slot, but I don’t ever see Matthews being a WR1 in fantasy and would definitely sell if I was offered value that matched his current ADP.

o DLF Nov ADP: 23rd
o Advice: Trade for a 1st and 2nd round pick

Laquon Treadwell WR MIN – Concerning is not a strong enough adjective to describe Treadwell‘s 2016 season.  Unable to see the field on a Vikings team that heavily features Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen, Treadwell‘s value among many in the dynasty fantasy community has fallen dramatically since the season started.  For as miserable of a season as he’s having, he’s still the 49th overall player in DLF’s November ADP.  I’m still intrigued with him as a prospect, but would definitely sell if I could find an owner that valued him as worthy of a 5th round start up pick.

o DLF Nov ADP: 49th
o Advice: Trade for a future 1st round pick

Dez Bryant WR DAL – Regardless of whether or not my team is contending, I would look to move Dez Bryant this off-season if I could land a top 25 player in return.  While I expect him to have several more years of WR1/WR2 production, I always aim to sell aging WRs before their value plummets immensely.  We’re seeing this start to happen in 2016 with Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall.  I’d rather take a step back in 2017 production to get a player who’s value should remain more stable for the next 3-4 years.

o DLF Nov ADP: 16th
o Advice: Trade for a top 25 dynasty asset or 2 1st round picks

Which of these players are you also selling?  Let me know @DaveSanders_RSO on Twitter!

Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Pressing the Reset Button

Updated: November 3rd 2016

2015 was my first season playing at Reality Sports Online.  I’ve played fantasy football for nearly 20 years – redraft, keeper, and dynasty leagues, but never have played in a format that reflects the life of an NFL GM so accurately through the complex, nuanced decisions that are required to be made throughout the live free agency auction and in-season management.  Towards the end of year one, I began evaluating my off-season plans and the first thought that came to mind was…I “HATE THIS ROSTER!”

My roster was littered with overpaid players.  I believed in Randall Cobb as a top WR, especially without Jordy Nelson on the field – wrong.  Martavis Bryant’s contract ran through 2017 and was an excellent value when he was on the field.  Suspended with his future in doubt – I wanted out of that contract with his return far from guaranteed.  There were other players signed to multi-year deals that I didn’t want anymore even at affordable salaries, including Sam Bradford, David Cobb, and Andrew Hawkins.

My goal was to rid my roster of every player except for LeVeon Bell (signed through 2019), Kevin White (through 2018), and Maxx Williams (through 2019).  I attached several good players on 1-year deals (Jarvis Landry and Travis Kelce) to the contracts I viewed as poor and immediately targeted cap room and draft picks in trades.

Through four trades, I netted the following picks:

  • 1.10 – 2016
  • 1st – 2018
  • 2.04 – 2016
  • 2nd – 2017
  • 2nd – 2018

I left the 2016 rookie draft with Sterling Shepard and 3 RB projects (CJ Prosise, Paul Perkins, and DeAndre Washington).  

Before the auction, I put together a list of players that I wanted to sign and was willing to overpay a bit to land since I had well over $100 million in 2016 cap room.  The list: Drew Brees, Marvin Jones, Spencer Ware, and Doug Baldwin.  After signing each of these players and adding a few breakout free agents – most notably Terrelle Pryor and Cam Meredith, my team has rebounded better than I could have ever expected when I started this process last December.  Currently undefeated, I made several trades, featured in #RSOEpicTrade, to help supplement my roster and go for the title this year.  After all, championships are what we are playing for, right?

I’m not writing this article to brag about how good this team – that’s not the point.  In 12 leagues, I have several teams that have been disappointments and aren’t playoff contenders due to poor management, inaccurate player projections, and, of course, injuries.  

I want to highlight that rebuilding in RSO leagues isn’t as daunting of a task as you may expect.  

You may not have to go through years of struggling to right the ship.  Assess your roster – both for this year and future years, determine if you can compete, and plan accordingly.  By Week 8 or 9, I’ll decide if I realistically think I can compete in each of my RSO leagues.  I rarely ever stand pat as I’ll aggressively buy or sell depending on my expectations for the rest of the season.  If I’d need a miracle and know there are several rosters that are clearly better than mine, I’ll sell all 1-year deals to contenders and look towards the next year or two.  

Reminder: When discussing trades, I often hear that owners are afraid making a move and having it backfire in the long term.  My strategy is a bit different as I’m unafraid to make an aggressive move if I believe I’m getting more value at the time of the trade.  If you accept that you will lose in some trades but believe you will win out more than 50% of the time, be as aggressive as possible.  Right or wrong, I do not just consider deals made to be potential wins or losses.  I also think this way about trade talks that were close, but never materialized for whatever reason.  Take chances, trust your strategy, and most of all – have some fun!

More Analysis by Dave Sanders