RSO Roster Construction: Positional Variation

Updated: August 5th 2020

The question of optimal roster construction remains a mystery to many in RSO leagues.  How much should I allocate to different position groups?  How is the allocation distributed within each position?  How much should go to projected starters versus backups?  There exists practically near-limitless player combinations available to RSO teams and we can’t hope to cover any reasonable fraction of those.  A previous article compared rosters based on allocation of cap to different tiers of players.  This article gives a few examples of what various rosters can look like based on allocation of salary cap to different position groups.  We utilize average salary data taken from 2020 RSO startup auctions in order to construct 20-player rosters fitting near the RSO salary cap limits.  Note rookies are not included in rosters due to very small auction samples.  I assume 1QB/1SF/2RB/2WR and 1 or 2 flex spots in the starting lineup for this exercise.   I also allocated the same number of roster spots at each position for all rosters as a consistency measure.

The goal of this article is not to recommend individual players or even which type of roster construction is best.  League settings and conditions will have a big impact on the type of roster you desire on auction day.  The article does provide a starting point in evaluating different types of roster builds and the sort of trade-offs one must take into account when choosing how your team is constructed by examining a few rosters with differing cap distributions among players.

Running Back Heavy Roster

 

This roster allocates about 60% of cap space to the running back position.  It features two top-five RBs along with multiple other backs whom possess high-end workload potential.  The team relies on lower-tier starting options at both quarterback and tight end likely utilizing a weekly matchup-based approach for each.  Running back-heavy squads wish to capitalize on a few key areas.  One, top running backs outscore their correspondingly ranked top wide receivers, even in a PPR scoring system.  Typically the switch-off point where wide receivers start outscoring their running back counterparts occurs roughly in the 6-10 ranking range for PPR leagues. A team spending heavy on running back maximizes chances of hitting on a high-value player which wide receivers and tight ends can’t hope to compete with in terms of potential scoring and positional advantage.  Two, wide receiver depth makes spending less at that position a more viable strategy as quality reliable starting options  are readily available at price points one would pay for backup running backs and backs with unknown roles.  Three, heavy running back spending also mitigates more scoring variation at the position due to issues like higher dependency on surrounding players and coaching schemes.  A team is in a better position to make up for injuries and misses at the position.

There are also a few disadvantages with this strategy.  High-end running backs are typically the most expensive players in RSO leagues.  Investing in the top backs necessarily means less cap room for other positions compared to when a team pays for top players at other positions.  Lower-end tight ends and quarterbacks can provide passable options to fill your starting lineup but very rarely provide much upside. Also, elevated injury-risk at the position leads to more volatility from a season-long perspective.  In particular, the accumulation of volume and hits may lead to injury and/or underperformance of running backs toward the end of the fantasy season and playoffs when those big point totals are so valuable.

Wide Receiver Heavy Roster

 

The wide receiver heavy example consists of the same tight end and quarterback groups but allocates about 60% cap space to wide receivers.  The goal of this roster construction varies from the RB-heavy roster.  Instead of taking swings on more volatile high-risk, high-reward running backs, the team tries to accumulate more of the smaller, but more reliable and consistent, victories at wide receiver.  The team reduces injury-risk by not heavily investing in running backs and is still able to acquire running backs with potentially big roles and others with chances to eventually gain roles as injuries or underperformance hit other teams’ starting running backs.  This strategy becomes more viable as starting spots open to wide receivers increases in order to take advantage of all those accumulated small wins.

The most glaring issue with this strategy is that the running back puts you in a “cover your eyes and hope” position.  Questions with regard to the player, surround talent and coaching, and/or role in offense naturally increase as the contract price decreases.  The rate of questions to price is much sharper at the running back position which leads to vary questionable starting options.  The limited player pool of viable starting running backs also makes trading for one potentially very expensive.

Quarterback / Tight End Heavy Roster

 

There are some very pleasing traits to a team-build emphasizing the quarterback and tight end positions.  A team won’t have to devote as much cap space to get upper-end talent at the positions because teams typically only start 2 quarterbacks and 1 tight end weekly in superflex leagues.   This allows cap space spread out more uniformly among the various positions which may result in a more balanced starting lineup with no true weakness. This roster-type should offer a consistent weekly edge at quarterback and tight end, even in bye weeks and when injuries occur, while having an extra high-end tight end provides a potentially useful flex option.

Depth at the key fantasy positions of running back and wide receiver could be an issue with this type of team build.  There is not much room for many injuries or underperformance at those positions on a team like this.  Another issue is whether there is enough value to be extracted from paying a premium at quarterback.  The fantasy community is not particularly great at finding significant value at the position.  A previous article found RSO owners spending premium amounts of salary at quarterback did not result in much more expected production at the position.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

RSO Roster Construction: Player Tier Variation

Updated: July 18th 2020

The question of optimal roster construction remains a mystery to many in RSO leagues.  How much should I allocate to different position groups?  How is the allocation distributed within each position?  How much should go to projected starters versus backups?  There exists practically near-limitless player combinations available to RSO teams and we can’t hope to cover any reasonable fraction of those.  This article gives a few examples of what various rosters can look like based on allocation of salary cap to different tiers of players.  We utilize average salary data taken from 2020 RSO startup auctions in order to construct 20-player rosters fitting near the RSO salary cap limits.  I assume 1QB/1SF/2RB/2WR and 1 or 2 flex spots in the starting lineup for this exercise.   I also allocated the same number of roster spots at each position for all rosters as a consistency measure.

The goal of this article is not to recommend individual players or even which type of roster construction is best.  League settings and conditions will have a big impact on the type of roster you desire on auction day.  The article does provide a starting point in evaluating different types of roster builds and the sort of trade-offs one must take into account when choosing how your team is constructed by examining a few rosters with differing cap distributions among players.

Top-Tier Heavy Roster

Top-tier Heavy Roster Example

This roster paid a premium for top-tier players, holding one at each position.  The top-4 players combined for about 75% of the salary cap.  These top-tier players show the most certainty in production which means this roster construction profile puts most of the cap dollars in highly reliable players.  The hope for this type of team resides in exploiting the consistent week-winning upside of the high priced players while getting just enough production from lower priced players.  The team has potential for extremely high weekly production in shallow leagues if it gets lucky and hits on one or two low-priced, low-probability players.  That strategy gets murkier as the number of required starters increases when more “hits” on questionable players are needed to produce a winning lineup.

The main issue with a team constructed this way is that many roster spots are filled with minimum salary and other low-cost players with very small odds of significant fantasy production.  There is little chance of seeing significant value increases from these players.  Most trades will necessarily involve moving one of the prized star players to help alleviate any team deficiencies.  Any injury or underperformance of your star players is also a major issue for a team like this as there simply isn’t going to be a viable replacement in most cases.

 

Starter Heavy Roster

Starter Heavy Roster Example

This roster variation divests cap dollars away from the very top-tier players.  Most of our salary is still allocated to the starters but is more evenly divided among them.  We can see that secondary and tertiary starters see significant potential upgrades over the previous top-tier heavy roster both in upside and certainty.  The main question for teams utilizing this strategy is how they view the secondary starters.  The move away from the top-paid players may well be worth the cost if an owner sees potential top-tier production in the next tier of players.

Balanced Roster

Balanced Roster Example

This distribution notably puts more cap dollars in potential flex starters and bench players.  The flatter cap distribution approach displays two primary benefits.  First, the roster offers enhanced injury mitigation.  Unavailability of even the best players on this roster will potentially have a more diminished effect.  The statistical projections between players are less as the salary gap narrows.  There is a certain amount of “plug and play” replacement aspect here.  Second, this type of roster construction acknowledges the inherent randomness in statistical production.  New coaching, surrounding personnel, schemes, schedules, etc. have major impacts on the fantasy performance of players.  Dividing money to more players allows additional chances on players with reasonable chances of significantly out-producing respective salaries.   There exists a good chance one of the backups produces at starter-quality as a replacement for an underperforming projected starter.

The downside to this build is a team will usually not have the potential weekly upside using this roster methodology compared to more concentrated distributions.  Even when many of the questionable players exceed expectations, they are unlikely to achieve truly top-tier production levels and many may not make your starting lineup.  This becomes less of a concern as in deeper leagues as more of the “hits” can be utilized on a weekly basis.

 

Key Implications

  1. Highly concentrated cap teams attain more viability in leagues with shallower starting requirements. Flatter cap distribution among players finds its strength in deeper leagues as lower-tier players have more value.
  2. Injury and production risk decrease as we flatten the cap distribution. The risk is actually lower that key players underperform in a more concentrated distribution due to fewer key players but the harm done to a team is substantially higher when underperformance does occur. 

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2020 All About Reality Podcast League Rookie Draft

Updated: May 20th 2020

The All About Reality Podcast league graciously allowed the posting of their RSO rookie draft this season while also providing thoughts about their picks and strategy.  This draft is presented because it presents a league size for which many of you may not have played along with a couple of scoring rules not used in most leagues.  The article features analysis of the picks by the RSO GMs and takes by the author.

The league is a 16-team superflex PPR format with QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/TE/FLEX/FLEX/SFlex starting requirements.  Roster sizes are limited to 20 spots plus I.R.  Scoring rules add additional significant twists with 0.5 points for all first downs, 6 points per passing touchdowns, and 0.5 points per completion / -0.5 points per incompletion.  The reader may find the RSO Writer’s League rookie draft as a comparison point for a 10 team superflex league.

Some Notes on the League

 Quarterbacks are King:   Quarterbacks become extremely valuable in almost any 16 team superflex league.  Not every team will field two starting quarterbacks and most will be limited to two.   Many teams may find starting just one quarterback on a given week difficult as byes and injuries take hold.  Quarterbacks accelerate to a higher stratosphere of value in this particular league.  The scoring settings result in most of the worst starting quarterback options producing near top-10 running back / wide receiver point levels.  A team likely finds itself in a lot of trouble if it does not have two starting quarterbacks.

Deep League, Shallow Benches:   The league rosters 320 players in total (excluding I.R. spots, etc) while starting 160 players on a weekly basis.   The 10 starters limit each team to just 10 spots for reserves, a fairly low ratio of bench players to starters.  The low level of reserves makes holding developmental players not expected to contribute in the near future expensive in terms of roster spots.   The decision to invest heavily in rookie contracts becomes complicated.  It frees up a lot of cap space to pay up for premium free agents, but there will not be many of those types of players available in a league this deep.   The ability to trade rookie contracts to teams in need of cap space should also not be underestimated in a league with many teams potentially running with little cap room.

 

Team Analysis

McAfee’s Canal Swimmers (Tyler Houston and Kyle Thompson) are hoping to have a comeback season after nosediving in the 2019 season. From 2nd place to dead last, the team has decided to build around (potential) future Hall of Famer, Joe Burrow. After trading the second pick this year for picks 5 and 7, we had picks 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 17 and 18. We were able to surround Joe Burrow with some great talent including: Justin Herbert, Deandre Swift, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Michael Pittman. We traded up from pick 18 to pick 15 to snag a falling Henry Ruggs and then got Michael Pittman with the 17th pick. Overall, we think this draft was great for us and with 4 more first round picks next year, we look forward to another monster class for the Canal Swimmers.

My take:  McAfee’s got great value taking the first three wide receivers selected in the NFL draft with 8, 9, and 15.  Trading out of the two spot is fascinating in what ends up as Tua for Herbert and Swift.  There is a lot of boom/bust quality with Herbert as a big, athletic passer with very good arm talent and good pre-snap smarts but sporadic accuracy at times and hesitant post-snap decision-making.  Herbert was one of the biggest value jumps when compared to the Writer’s League draft.  Talent isn’t the biggest concern with Swift as a consensus top-2 running back pre-draft.

 

RSO PodFather (Devonte Cleveland) – In a Superflex league that has no QB depth, Tua was an obvious choice as a franchise cornerstone at 1.02. Mims at 1.16 was during a period of a heavy receiver run and he is someone who with the Jets’ weak WR corps should see the field immediately. Claypool at 2.15 provides a big target for Big Ben towards the end of the draft.

My take: The ultra-accurate Tua could easily be worth the premium to trade up for if the health concerns are merely the randomness of injuries in effect, especially given the power of top quarterbacks in this league.  Mims and Claypool annihilated the combine and have huge catch frames but did not always play to their timed speed on the field.

 

Pontifex Minimus (All About Reality podcast co-host Luke Patrick) – At 1.03/1.04 Pontifex Minimus approached the draft comfortable with any player in a top tier of Taylor/CEH/Burrow and Tua. Two flex spots sat open in my starting lineup, so the fact that Taylor and CEH fell made for a fairly straightforward draft day.

My take: These picks look standard for a team confident in their quarterback situation.  The only question is whether the extreme quarterback scoring makes passing up on a top-6 overall pick in the NFL draft at QB a mistake.

 

The Teal Curtain (Curtis Burleson) –  My strategy was to stick to my board and take the best available. At 1.15 I had six players that are an coin flip difference to me. So I traded back only enough to let the draft decide for me and get him cheaper. Also to obtain another pick for the chance to get Jordan Love. With Jordan Love gone I ultimately ended up with Bryan Edwards, who I’m still pretty excited about.

My take: Teal took a shotgun approach with six picks in the draft.  Edwards is a great value pick with an outstanding analytical college profile who likely fell in the NFL draft due to injuries.  Vaughn and McFarland feel like reaches at running back due to league scarcity, especially with the wide receiver talent left on the board.

 

The Fantasy Affliction (Tim Aylesworth) – I came into the draft with a simple plan, almost threw it out the window, then stuck to the plan and won the draft. After a few attempts to trade up for Herbert (and throw my whole plan out the window) I settled for Akers, the last elite member of the top 10 tier, as I expected all along. At 1.13, I felt really fortunate to have Reagor, the WR who landed in the best position to contribute right away, fall to me.  In the second round, I get my guy Hurts even after trading down! Not only do I think he is the most underrated QB in the class, but he gives me insurance for my starter Carson Wentz.  Then, I was out of picks, but trade back in to get Gibson, a David Johnson clone, and the back up to my perennialy injured RB Derrius Guice.

My take: Tim did a nice job of capitalizing on player tiers by getting Akers and Raegor at relatively cheap prices.  Hurts seems very expensive at this spot, in terms of other potential players and a roster spot, for a player who is unlikely to be anything more than a backup with possible gadget duties during his rookie contract.  This willingness to expend significant draft capital on backup quarterbacks to lock down a quarterback spot might be one of the biggest differences in moving to a 16-team superflex.

 

The Waterboys (Bobby Hoyt) – After attempting to trade up multiple times in the early portion of the draft for a top running back to no avail, I seriously thought about taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn here due to my barren RB core. However, I loved Justin Jefferson going into this draft, feeling like he could be a significant week one producer in Minnesota, and I ultimately decided that picking my highest rated player over positional need was the way to go.  In the second round, as I watched Aiyuk (a guy I had a first-round grade on and a Daniel Jeramiah favorite) continue to slip deeper into the second-round, it seemed like giving up one of my three 2021 second-rounders to move up from 2.15 to get him was a simple choice. Although, I did have a little trepidation about picking another wide-out over a running back, and I briefly thought of drafting Zack Moss instead. Again, I happily decided to take value over need–thus, feeling like my receiving core acquired a substantial shot in the arm at the conclusion of this draft.

My take: Aiyuk continues to present great value throughout rookie drafts.  There just aren’t many years a first round receiver falls this far.

 

Lucha Vikings (Ryan Swenson) – QB is so highly coveted in this league, and although I was desperate for RB help I didn’t love the options available, so I grabbed a 1st round QB in Love that will no doubt be a starter at some point in his career. With my other pick, I’m sure this was looked at as a big head-scratcher, but I simply believe in the talent and leadership of Jake Fromm, and since Josh Allen is a featured player on my team it felt good to secure a backup I LOVE.

My take: There are a lot of ways Love could turn out.  My belief is Love sees the field by year three.  That makes him easily worth the gamble at this price.  On the other hand, it is difficult making an argument to use a roster spot and draft pick on a 5th round quarterback you hope just makes the active roster as a backup for Buffalo.

 

Mistress of Mayhem (Jenna Davis) – After a few unsuccessful attempts to trade up in the draft, I took Zack Moss. He punishes defenders, is a satisfactory blocker, and has the ability to catch the ball. The value was worth the wait.

My take: Moss should have an immediate place in Buffalo alongside Singletary.  While an injury would likely be required for Moss to assume a large portion of the work, running backs with consistent shared roles have increased usefulness in a deep league.

 

Bortles Popped (Stephen Boviall and Brennan Emenhiser) – The NFL rookie draft crippled our running backs…Mack and Damien WiIliams. We HAD to get a running back. Eason is the player I was supposed to pick at 2.11 but there was some miscommunication. However, since I’m a genius, we got Eason anyway.

My take: Bortles did not even mention Kelley but he is one of my favorite late rookie picks going in drafts.  He possesses size the Chargers’ other backs don’t have and there is an immediate opening for a rushing down role on a team which uses multiple backs.

 

House Stark (Ashley Swinney) – I was just looking for guys I may be able to start if I’m in a pinch. I feel Bowden Jr. will have opportunities to make a big time play and hopefully Evans will see some field behind Henry.

My take: While unlikely to ever assume a lead role, Evans has serious juice with the chance to immediately contribute on passing downs.  I am not sure what the plan is for Bowden in Las Vegas.  He might end up as one of those “jack of all trades” players without a defined role needed to become a fantasy contributor, better for real life than fantasy.

 

Brian Brennan’s Stadium Shakers (All About Reality podcast co-host Matt Goodwin) – Having no picks in either round is a psychological blow. I tried to trade in when Lamb fell, when Pittman was still on the board, and towards the end to nab Eason in this highly shallow QB pool in a 16 team Superflex league. None of that worked. However, I was able to trade two future 2nds which I figure will be back end of the draft for Dillon. I feel he will be part of a rotation in 2020 and goal line packages and will have an increased role when one of or both of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams move on in free agency.

My take: Dillon is one of the top values in this draft and many others.  There is a clear path to a significant role next year and a road to lead duties.

 

 

 

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

RSO Rookie Picks Pt. 2

Updated: July 23rd 2017

The RSO salary cap and contract structure provides a unique setting when compared to other fantasy platforms.   A superior player with more expensive contract will be worth less in many instances than a lesser producing player with a cheaper contract for RSO leagues.  RSO rookie deals give owners access to cost-controlled, long-term contracts.  The question is whether rookies produce enough of the time to be worth the costs involved.  This article continues our examination of RSO rookie draft picks from Part 1 looking at the basics of evaluating picks for RSO leagues.

Part 2 expands upon this by comparing the expected production value of rookie picks with the associated RSO rookie contract costs. We can then ascertain where the best bargains can be found and relate draft pick costs to veteran spending.  While there is no superbly accurate means of determining how a rookie will turn out given the many variables outside the control of the player and the host of intangible player traits which determine success, but the model below should give the reader an idea of how to value rookie picks.

The Technical Aspects

This section details the technical aspects of my value formulation. As a quick reminder, the values obtained come from shallow, non-PPR leagues.  The reader may refer to part 1 for more information about the data.  I first converted the player values in part 1 to dollar values based on the salary cap and league settings specified above.

My next step involved weighting player values by the year in which production occurred using a 20% yearly discount rate unless noted otherwise. People generally prefer production in the present when compared to production in the future.  An example may help to illustrate the point.  Given one rookie who produces only in year 1 of a rookie contract and another rookie who produces equally but only in year 4 of the rookie deal, most RSO GMs prefer the rookie who produces in year 1.  There is another more tangible reason to discount the production in future years.  You might not be in your RSO league in future seasons.  Maybe the league breaks up.  Maybe your life circumstances change so that you are no longer able to compete in the league.  As shown in part 1, draft picks tend to produce more after the rookie season.  The RSO GM is generally receiving less production in the rookie season compared to later years but paying the same price as a percentage of the salary cap.  I finally summed the time-weighted values to form an associated present day value for each player.

Lastly, I estimated player values for each draft position using a linear-log regression model. The estimation utilized players selected from 2007 to 2013 rookie drafts.  Players selected from 2014 to 2016, included in part 1, were excluded in this analysis as they have not completed their rookie contracts.

Contract Value vs Cost

Reality Sports Online posts rookie contract costs for drafts up to five rounds. Similarly to player values, I converted contract costs to present day dollars in order to compare rookie draft costs to values.  There are a few key items worth mentioning after examining the costs.  First, there will be a sharp drop in rookie costs from the last pick of the first round to the first pick of the second round.  Second, contract costs remain relatively “flat” after the first round.  There exists little difference in costs from 2.1 to 2.10 for example.  Third, contract costs grow yearly at a rate which should adequately approximate the yearly salary cap growth in the NFL.  This means rookie picks should take up approximately the same percentage of cap space for each year of the contract.

The data also presents interesting notions on the relative value of draft picks. The 1.1, for example, is approximately equal in production value to 1) picks 4 and 5 or 2) picks 7 to 9 or 3) picks 9 through 12.  The massive premium attached to top picks seems quite reasonable when looking at the expected production.  If we want a better a look at how good a rookie contract is, however, we need to take into account the associated costs with each rookie deal.  The next section details this further.

Net Contract Value

The net contract value is simply the contract costs subtracted from the contract value. A rookie contract with a net value of zero is expected to produce at the market value rate.  As seen from the chart above, rookie deals as a whole tend to be good contracts to owners with 75% of the picks having positive net values and the remaining picks producing minimal losses.  In particular, rookie picks near the top of the first and second rounds substantially out-produce their contracts.  This is primarily a result of large production from the top picks and the big drop in rookie costs starting with second round picks.

Net Contract Values with Selected Discount Rates

Of course not everyone values future production of players in the same way. It becomes readily apparent from the table above that rookie picks rapidly lose value for those people who sharply discount future production and are focused more on the present.  Be sure to understand your personal situation and timeframe before investing heavily in draft picks.

Other Considerations

The analysis above focused on the production value of rookie picks. Another way to look at the problem is through the lens of what I will call “perceived” value or, put another way, how the rest of your league values draft picks.  It is well documented that many fantasy leagues value draft picks above their production value, particularly around the time of rookie drafts.   RSO owners, particularly those out of the playoff race, might consider trading for draft picks during the season even if the player values traded away is larger than the received draft pick value.  You may be able to translate the short-term loss into a long-term profit near the next rookie draft.

The above values for rookie picks are a solid starting point but we also need to remember that not every draft class is created equal. For example, I consider the 2017 rookie class generally superior to the 2016 class with more high-end talent and quality depth throughout.  Be sure to adjust your valuations accordingly.

Loading up a roster with draft picks can be an effective salary cap management technique. A roster with many low cost rookie picks, particularly after the first round, allows a lot of cap space to spend on high-end starters in the free agent auction.  Misses on rookies (of which there will be plenty) will not have too big of an impact thanks to the low costs involved and gives the RSO GM substantial cap flexibility in the future.

Conclusions

While every RSO GM is different, there are a couple of key points to keep in mind when evaluating rookie picks.

  1. Rookie pick value is maximized near the top of the first and second rounds. Try to trade up, down, or out if you have picks in the bottom portion of the round. Picks at the end of the second round and later are essentially “throw away” picks which have net values near or below market value.  You are better off using your cap space in the free agent market.
  2. Know yourself and the league when evaluating draft picks. Rookie pick values increase substantially in stable long-lasting leagues for owners who hold a longer-term outlook. The RSO team with a shorter window should seriously consider trading away rookie picks.

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

 

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Preparing Your RSO Offseason

Updated: May 28th 2017

The end of December is often when many of us reflect on what we accomplished in the current year, and things that we are thankful for heading into the next. In a couple of weeks, there may be some of you that can brag about your accomplishment of being a fantasy football champion. The writing isn’t on the wall just yet but I may be going championship-less for the first time in half a decade. There have been a number of reasons that things didn’t break my way this season. Fantasy football is often cyclical and this year was time to come back to the mean. What I want to do with this article is have an open discussion about what I have learned being in my second year here on RSO and across my four leagues with the hope that it may mirror what is happening with your teams.

Lesson #1: Leave cap leading into the season

Tyrell Williams

Every year players like, Tyrell Williams, come out of nowhere to help out your fantasy team win a championship.

In my home league, I came out as the inaugural champion and held on to a good core of my players. I didn’t have a lot of cap space, but I figured if I just signed one double-digit contract I would be okay. Fast forward to the beginning of October and I still hadn’t been able to add waiver breakouts like Terrelle Pryor, Tyrell Williams, Cole Beasley, Quincy Enunwa because I didn’t have the coin to outbid my league mates. By missing out on having the chance to buy these players I lost the opportunity to build more depth behind my starters. And when losing starters to injuries is not an if, but a when in fantasy, I was left starting some lackluster names in the middle of the season. Needless to say, I didn’t make the playoffs.

Moving into the offseason, the planning phase of my RSO leagues now, I have made it imperative in my salary cap Excel to just remove 5% of my available money. If it’s not there, don’t even look for it. There needs to be a buffer amount that you can bring into the season to be able to buy those players that break out in the first couple weeks. No matter how competent a league you believe you’re in, there are always players that get overlooked and are available on the wire. Inevitably, you will need to grab one or two of these players to use or at worst to keep them out of the hands of your competition. Learn from me, SAVE YOUR MONEY!

Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid of the big cut

Failure is not one of those feelings that people like to showcase to others. When we fail we want to sweep as much of it under the rug as possible. For reasons I don’t understand, some fantasy players think this means that they should quit their league. For those who have seen Russell Peters, the only phrase that comes to mind is, “BE A MAN!” If you can’t stick with a team at its worst, then you don’t deserve to be a part of the team at its best. Having said that you need to be unafraid of cutting a player, especially a big name player. Again referencing my home league, I have Aaron Rodgers on a larger than wanted contract and I am still pushed up against the cap. I will be looking to try and move him for a draft pick but most of my league mates are cheap when it comes to moving draft picks so I am unlikely to get even a 2nd for him.

**Sidebar, this is also why I advocate for leagues to have a Superflex spot to make the most important position in football have some value in fantasy football.**

Aaron Rodgers

In RSO, no player is safe from being a cut candidate with the salary cap a factor. Not even the magnificent Aaron Rodgers.

So what will I do? If I want to have more cap space I need to move him, even if that means just cutting him. Remember that cutting a player still gives you the option to buy them back in the auction and you get a 50% reduction in his dead cap. With a player like Rodgers, I likely would still be trying to buy him back, as long as he doesn’t cost more than the dead money I owe him plus his new deal. These are the decisions that you need to sit down and look at between the end of the season and the start of the 2017 offseason. Remember, cutting players in RSO can be a viable strategy to try and save cap space and try and rebuild your roster. If you know that you won’t hold a player that has multiple years remaining but others might want to add them you should release them before the season ends. They may claim him off waivers and relieve you of all their cap space. Keep in mind though that his dead cap will be loaded into the 2017 cap rather than spread out if you release them before RSO resets in 2017.

Lesson #3: Don’t Buy Anchors at Auctions

What do I mean by that? Multi-year deals in RSO are great because you get to hold onto players for several seasons before having to rebid on them. Especially if you can find a breakout player that you saved money on. This is how you build a championship team for more than one season. Too often though I see 3 and 4-year deals being the biggest contracts on a team and rarely are they attached to a name I would say deserves that money two years down the road. I was a victim of this by giving an $80M/4yr deal to Eddie Lacy in 2015. Luckily, I was able to get out from that contract before the beginning of this season by trading him elsewhere.

Matt Forte

One year deals aren’t bad if you use that money on the right players. Just ask Matt Forte owners whether they enjoyed gambling on him in 2016.

Being bogged down by other big, long contracts though has strained some of what I want to do in other leagues when it comes to trades, auctions and as previously mentioned waiver wire additions. This year will be a big change for me in my auction preparations and I likely won’t have a 3 or 4-year contract used in any of my leagues that will exceed $20M. Instead, I will look to acquire project players, and use the single year contracts to buy the trendy/hype players. I dabbled in it this strategy this year by offering only a 1-year deal to players like Ryan Mathews, Matt Forte, and LeSean McCoy. For the most part, it has worked out. I didn’t get committed to them and I will return their entire cap back into the pool for 2017. You should look to adopt this on some level in your own leagues based on the available talent in free agency. Having a player for only a year isn’t a bad thing and owners should learn to embrace the rental.

Find me on twitter, @naandrews19 to discuss any new strategies that you are looking to implement in 2017. Happy Holidays!

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Q&A Session

Updated: November 17th 2016

In just a short time, roster decisions will become very difficult for RSO owners. Most leagues are just weeks away from the fantasy playoffs and teams must solidify rosters with trade deadlines looming.  I teamed with fellow RSO writer Nick Andrews this week answering a variety of questions involving end of season moves that teams might consider.

How much salary cap room, if any, do you want to keep for end of season waiver adds and trades?

Nick:  I believe that if you’re buying at the end of the season then you should have any cap space left over. What extra room you have you should be using to buy players that can help you win this season. I did this in one of my leagues where I went from $40M in space down to less than $1M and bought Gronk, Alshon Jeffery, Jonathan Stewart, and Golden Tate to bolster my playoff chances. If you are selling, you should just be making additions that don’t negatively affect your cap room in future years. It’s tough to rebuild if you don’t have any money to work with.

Bernard:  I like to keep around 5-10% of my total cap available for moves.  This gives me a lot of flexibility to make trades whether I am a buyer or seller and allows me to get those must-add players on waivers.  The amount basically comes down to league size.  More relevant free agents are generally available in shallower leagues which results in me typically wanting more cap space in those leagues.  The waiver wire tends to be very shallow in deeper leagues with very few, if any, players who contribute to a championship caliber team which means I am fine having near nothing in cap space available after the trade deadline.

Which players are end of season buys for a contender?

Nick:  More reasonable names to acquire I would be looking at Golden Tate, Chris Hogan, and Larry Fitzgerald for receiver, Jonathan Stewart and Doug Martin for running backs. Of course take into consideration the costs associated with these players and hopefully they don’t have long term commitments (save for maybe Tate and Hogan).

Bernard:  Look no further than Indianapolis Colt Frank Gore if you need a solid RB2 on a high scoring offense.  New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and San Diego are three teams with players I am loading up on.  The Saints and Bucs play each other twice in the fantasy playoffs in what should be high scoring games with two teams who are terrible against the pass.  The Chargers also have a terrific schedule to close the year on an efficient, high-volume passing attack.  I also like upgrading the quarterback and tight end positions where I am weak.  They are usually cheap upgrades due to the large supply available relative to starting requirements.

What player were you right/wrong about going in to the season?

Nick:  I already said this in my previous article but I was not drinking the David Johnson Kool-Aid. I had seen too many running backs fizzle out after one season and wasn’t willing to pay in the range of $13-$20M for his services. I will stand behind my Bold Prediction candidate though and say that while not spectacular Giovanni Bernard has been one of the more solid/healthy options at running back this season.

Bernard:  I was far lower on Matt Forte than the consensus expecting more of a committee situation.  All preseason indicators pointed to more of a timeshare with Bilal Powell than what actually formed.   Forte is on pace for 300 carries which would be his highest total since his rookie season.  The most striking statistic is his splits when the Jets are competitive vs. non-competitive.  Forte averages 24 carries, 94 yards, and 1.6 TDs in the 5 games New York either won or lost by less than five points through week nine.  In the four games New York lost by at least ten points, Forte manages only a 13 carry, 41 yard average with zero scores.  Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett is another player I was lower on when compared to the fantasy community where I saw a lot of uncertainty in his role this season.  The surprising return of Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson’s ongoing injuries has hurt Lockett’s development along with his own nagging injuries plus limited his opportunity.  He is not a major part of the Seahawks passing attack at this stage exceeding five targets and 32 yards in only one game.

Who are potential league winning waiver adds for the end of season?

Nick: Not sure being this deep into the season there are much more diamonds left on the waiver wire. My blanket advice would just be, if you haven’t already, drop your roster-cloggers and pick up as many of your running backs’ handcuffs as possible. We saw many Mark Ingram owners left holding the bag last year when he was injured in the playoffs and it was a mad scramble to add Tim Hightower. Don’t get caught this year.

Bernard:  Nick makes a great point on running back handcuffs.  While most of the top-tier backups are likely on rosters at this stage, there is still a number of backs who could provide quality production if given the opportunity.  San Diego wide receiver Dontrelle Inman is a player I am targeting on waivers for the reasons detailed for the Chargers in the buy section above.  He should produce solid numbers down the stretch and could be in for a bigger role if fellow WR Travis Benjamin misses more time than expected.

Which rookie are you trying to get on your roster now?

Nick: I’m always trying to buy at a player’s funeral so give me any rookies that haven’t returned their values nearing the end of year one. We saw plenty of people sour on Melvin Gordon last year and now he’s likely untouchable in your league. Fish out the owners of Josh Doctson and Laquan Treadwell and see what it would cost for either of them. I’m sure if you offered a 2nd in a very deep 2017 class they would have to take a very hard look at what they expect from those two players.

Bernard:  Consider me a value opportunist also always looking to take advantage of impatience and injuries.  Rookie tight ends rarely make much of an impact which usually translates to strong buys near the end of the season.  I have seen enough from Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper to confidently put offers out for both with the incumbent starters likely retiring soon.  Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch will take the starting jobs sooner rather than later.  Both are worth a look, particularly in 2QB formats.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller