2020 RSO Writer’s League Rookie Draft

Updated: May 13th 2020

Rookie drafts for Reality Sports Online teams involve a number of considerations different than a normal dynasty league.  Selected rookies are typically given three or four year contracts at, hopefully, a below market contract.  RSO GMs then have the option of extending a player with franchise tags, extensions, or final year options (depending on the chosen settings in your league) which usually are near or above market value for a given player.  This makes the initial rookie contract years potentially extremely valuable and the real measure of worth for a rookie player.

The RSO Writer’s League recently finished our three round rookie draft with results posted below. The league is a 10-team Superflex PPR format.  This article analyzes some of the interesting decisions with the help of fellow RSO Writer Nick Andrews and Matt Goodwin plus discussion throughout the league.  It focuses more on team-building, draft strategy, and trades rather than player evaluation.  The reader may find more specific player analysis in the pre-draft Writer’s League Mock (1QB).

 

2020 RSO Writer’s League Rookie Draft

Notes on Selected Picks

1.01, Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Nick:  For a rebuilding team it was the intent to trade down a couple spots and try and accumulate more talent. Unfortunately, trade partners were tough to come by as other owners felt the same way. The thought of having Clyde Edwards-Helaire and building around a stud running back was a hard option to pass on but when the cupboard is bare I tend to lean towards the QB in Superflex. Joe Burrow is a solid prospect and as long as the Bengals don’t ruin him he should be a valuable dynasty asset for multiple years. With the new resign feature also available, if Burrow becomes an elite player it is great to have control of a quarterback for a whole decade.

1.06, D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions & 1.07, Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

Bernard:  No wide receivers have been drafted at this point.  Lamb and Jeudy were definitely in play here for me.  I went with the running backs for a couple of key reasons.  Swift and Akers were the last of the running backs in my tier with “three down” workload potential and capabilities that I felt fairly comfortable with.  Conversely, I felt confident of obtaining quality wide receiver prospects later in the draft given the depth of this wide receiver class. League free agency also played a big role in this decision.  The free agent running back position is a dumpster fire in this league with Melvin Gordon and Raheem Mostert the likely top –two options.  Available free agent wide receivers look far better and deeper including Mike Evans, Allen Robinson, Odell Beckham Jr., Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp.  My team possesses the second-highest amount of cap space ensuring I should be able to land one or two quality wide receiver options in free agency.

2.03, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Nick:  Taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn early in the second round will be a regular in rookie drafts this offseason but I think this is a slight overvalue. In other drafts I have seen Vaughn creeping into the late first round which is even more of an egregious act. While being drafted to the Buccaneers is considered a bonus, I don’t consider it enough to take Vaughn over other better talent, some in equally valuable landing spots. Receivers going after him such as Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, and Brandon Aiyuk may not become immediate fantasy players but I can see their value being more in two or three years.

2.06, AJ Dillion, Green Bay & 3.01, Zach Moss, Buffalo Bills

Nick:  Several veteran running backs are likely to see their value drop due to incoming rookies but there are also a couple rookies who are being valued less due to their being a strong veteran ahead of them. Two examples of this are A.J. Dillion behind Aaron Jones in Green Bay and Zach Moss behind Devin Singletary in Buffalo. Few offenses feature a single running back as the ball carrier that is on the field for eighty percent of the plays anymore. Niche skillsets and fresh legs along with the devaluing (contract wise) of the position has allowed for multiple running backs to have fantasy value for many teams in the current NFL. Sean McDermott looks to build a complimentary backfield and over the last two seasons the ratio of carries has been 166:155 and 161:115. Dillion may need to wait a year before his path to touches is clearer but Moss should be a compliment to Singletary right away and will have his weeks of fantasy relevance.

3.02, Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers

Nick:  Brandon Aiyuk is a player that seems to be getting similar treatment in 2020 as Marquise “Hollywood” Brown did in 2019, a receiver drafted in the first round of the NFL draft but isn’t receiving the same value in fantasy community. Aiyuk is currently the 15th ranked rookie on DLF in standard leagues and 17th in Superflex but he is regularly going later in actual drafts, as seen here. Eventually, the value of a player that you may not have been interested in becomes a bargain and he just has to be drafted. Only in a draft this deep could a first round receiver fall this far in a rookie draft. While I wouldn’t trade up to get him, if you are sitting there at the end of the second round or early third he is a steal that you can stash on your team.

3.04, Jordan Love, Green Bay

Bernard:  The Love scenario will, undoubtedly, perplex RSO GMs this offseason.  How much of his RSO rookie contract does he actually play, if any?  I believe Love likely plays no later than year three.  Green Bay not only took Love in the first round but traded up to make sure they got him.  The Packers save cap space as early as 2021 trading Rodgers who should still have considerable trade value.  We should also remember Aaron is entering his age-37 season.  Not every quarterback plays into their 40s despite what Tom Brady and Drew Brees have done.  At this stage of the draft, Love’s voluminous arm-talent gives high-upside value at near no-risk cost.

Matt Goodwin’s Takes on the Draft

Immediately following the NFL draft Day 2, I realized at 1.05 that I was likely not going to get a QB I was excited about in the rookie draft (I’m just not sold on Herbert playing behind what was an amazing OL at Oregon and his lack of production there). Anyways, this being Superflex, I traded my 1.05 pick and two 2021 1sts for a combination of later draft picks and Russell Wilson on a $22M a year average. I remain very high on Lamb, but I didn’t think 1.05 was where I should nab either him or JK Dobbins prior to making a trade, the top players on my board there.

I tried to trade D.J. Chark on a third round rookie deal when seeing that Lamb was available at 1.08 and 1.09, but others believed in the value at that point and said, “fair offer, but no”. Totally understandable as the upsides of Lamb and Jeudy are pretty enticing.

With only picks 3.01 and 3.02 heading into the draft (I had traded 3.08 for Matt Breida on day 3 of the NFL Draft), I had my heart set on trading up to the mid-second round to draft Michael Pittman Jr. I was able to do that with Bernard by packaging 3.02 and a future pick for 2.05. WR is a big need of mine and I believe Frank Reich when he professes his love for Pittman, who should get serious run from day one and even more if T.Y. Hilton leaves as a free agent following this season.

At 3.01, I was on deck and hoping that Laviska Shenault, the playmaking WR from Colorado would last until my pick. However, defending champion Jaron Foster is a savvy GM and picked Shenault right before my pick at 2.10. I then grabbed Zack Moss and I think he’ll be in a timeshare at worst in Buffalo and love the value at a scarce position in our league at 3.01 and especially behind AJ Dillon who went earlier. Post draft I was able to grab Shenault and assume Tyrod Taylor’s salary by trading Nick Foles to Jaron in a rare three way trade in which my podcast co-host Luke Patrick was looking to shed salary.

So in the end, my draft ended up being Russell Wilson, Pittman Jr., Shenault, and Zack Moss in 30 total picks. I was able to get back a perceived high second round pick in 2021 for trading my two firsts which figure to be playoff teams if everything goes as planned. So all in all, a fun draft where everyone made picks and got involved.

Biggest values in draft: Lamb, Jeudy, Higgins, Shenault, Moss

Pick I’m least sure about: Cam Akers where he went and Vaughn’s role in Tampa Bay if he can’t pass protect for Brady

Late flier: Eason was practically free at end of draft and I do think he’ll succeed Rivers at some point before Love takes over for Rodgers

Notes on my Trades

Send 1.04 for 1.07 and 2.05

My top choices at 1.04 included Tua and Dobbins while Akers and Swift filled out this second tier for me.  I needed significant talent added to my roster with Gurley, Tyreek Hill and Courtland Sutton as my only notable starters at RB/WR.  I had a strong feeling @FantasyDocOC was probably looking at Tua here.  He dumped a lot of cap space and talent in what looks like the start of a re-tooling effort this offseason. Many people have a big tier drop at quarterback after Tua which makes the move very understandable.    In the end, I move back to get another mid-second round pick in this incredibly deep wide receiver class.

Send 2.05 for 3.02 and 2022 2nd

Unfortunately Jaelen Raegor, my first choice, went one pick before.   This spot started another tier of players for me, a wide grouping primarily composed of wide receivers.  One primary lesson for any fantasy draft is to never pick at the start of your tier if one can feasibly trade back and remain in that tier or trade up into a higher tier.  Another note: the depth of talent in this rookie class made extracting what would normally be considered fair trade value difficult.  This is not a trade I would have accepted in many other years but was OK with it in this particular season.

Send Darrell Henderson for 3.04 and 3.06

This move may seem odd to some considering I drafted Akers earlier.  Two 3rds also doesn’t seem like much value for a player drafted as high as mid-first territory as the season approached last year.  I don’t see Henderson as a direct backup or potential lead back, but more of a change-of-pace / situational player who likely splits work even if the lead back were to be injured.  The potential upside of Love, at a 3rd round contract price, was well worth Henderson to me.   The uber-productive Edwards placed a nice cherry on top.

Effective draft day trade tally:  Sent Tua and Darrell Henderson for Cam Akers, Brandon Aiyuk, Jordan Love, Bryan Edwards, and 2022 2nd.


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

League Configuration and Settings

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Hopefully all of you are enjoying the NFL offseason. Now that you’ve read my article on proposed league scoring settings, let’s get into Part 2 of the Reality Sports Online strategy series on League Configuration and Settings. This article will not address contract settings, as I’ll save that for the last article in the series.

Whether you’re a new owner or a commissioner trying to make your league better, there are some subtle and not so subtle changes you can make to improve your league. So take advantage of all the customization that Reality Sports Online offers.

Here are my five commandments of Reality Sports Online league config and settings:

1) Flex Your Muscles

Regardless of whether you play in a Superflex league (with option to start two quarterbacks), a more traditional league, a PPR one or one with individual defensive players, you want the starting lineup configuration to be as flexible as possible. Keep the strategy flowing by having multiple flex roster spots in your starting lineup. I’d advocate for having at least two flex positions in a starting lineup and even a third if you have ten starters (I’m assuming a league where you start a team DST and not individual players).

Basically, the thought is that by offering multiple flex roster spots in your starting lineup, you can focus your auction and rookie draft strategy on the best available player as opposed to boxing yourself into certain positions. As I mentioned before in the scoring settings article, since the NFL is a passing league, you’ll want players to fill these flex spots that are basically like Swiss Army Knives, who do it all.

My main league has 10 starters-three flex spots (RB/WR/TE) paired with a QB, RB, two WRs, a TE, a K, and a DST. My Superflex league starts 8 players a QB, two RBs, two WRs, a TE, a flex, and a superflex (which is typically a quarterback based on league scoring settings; however there are times where a flex player with a good matchup can outperform the quarterback).

2) Have a Deep Bench

You don’t join a league like this to not have players on your team for a decent period of time. So build a bench that capitalizes on that premise and for roster flexibility. I’d advocate that your bench is somewhat proportional to the number of contracts you can add each season between the rookie draft and free agency. To that end, I recommend that total rosters in non-IDP leagues are between 20 and 24 players in a two-round rookie draft league. Of course if you have 5 rounds of rookie drafts, most leagues would have deeper benches.

You want to have a league that does have something to offer on the waiver wire so as not ever quarterback is on a team at the start of the season, so having the right size bench would account for that. Additionally, you want to have a deep enough roster size wise that you can actively participate in the Free Agency Auction annually whether it be for a handful of players or many.

3) Don’t Base All Playoff Spots on Win/Loss Record

On a platform like this, you want your scouting and preparation to be rewarded. Sometimes that doesn’t always happen in terms of wins and losses on the fake gridiron as weekly variation and luck play into fantasy outcomes.  There is also schedule randomness. Therefore, this is the recommendation I feel most strongly about: have a few wild card spots based on some clear indicator of a really good fantasy team. I most prefer total points scored for the regular season as that really eliminates the head-to-head luck factor. RSO has power rankings which are a hybrid of what your record would be against all opponents in a given week for the season, as well as total points.

Specifically, what I’m recommending is that in a 12 team league that your top four seeds get in on record and the two wild cards get in on total points scored. This keeps virtually every team in the playoff hunt and incentivized strategically through the end of the regular season. It also makes the trade deadline super interesting on whether you as a GM are a buyer or a seller.

It gets trickier for 10 team leagues, because I’m of the opinion that 50% of teams or less should make the playoffs and the odd number makes it hard to do that bracket-wise.

4) No Divisions

In lockstep with #3, I’m a huge proponent against having divisions in fantasy football. You want the schedule to be as random as possible and for everyone to play each other at least once if the league size permits. While you may have a best friend who is your fantasy football “rival”, having divisions and playoff spots for a division winner potentially allows mediocrity to be rewarded via automatic playoff berths for division winners. I’d rather have the playoff teams be the best in the league and not just the luckiest.

5) Say Yes to Injured Reserve

In a platform like RSO, putting a player on IR for the season is a big decision choosing cap space over player availability in most cases due to injury, suspension, or whatever your league rules stipulate. I advocate for having two Injured Reserve spots to manage for all types of scenarios with players, including deferring decisions on whether or not that player is in your future plans.

Remember, unless you have manual changes through your league commissioner on IR-Designated for Return most players that go on IR in RSO are irreversible decisions for the year.


Matt Goodwin is entering his fourth season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year five of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a Cleveland Indians World Series victory a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (7 year old son) and Lainie (2 year old daughter). Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

Writer’s Superflex Auction Review

Updated: September 3rd 2016

Another NFL season, another RSO startup! We recently completed the 2016 Reality Sports Online Writer’s startup auction.  The league deviated from the norm a bit by using a “superflex” format where up to two quarterbacks may start weekly.  This is a welcome addition to leagues which makes quarterbacks more valuable and not merely an afterthought.

League Settings

Our league used the following settings: 10 teams, 20 man rosters, PPR, 4 point passing touchdowns, and 1 QB / 2 RB / 2 WR / 1 TE / 1 FLEX / 1 FLEX (OPEN) starting requirements.   Rookies were included in the initial startup auction.  Contracts available to each team included (1) 4-year, (3) 3-year, (3) 2-year, and (13) 1-year deals.  The starting positional requirements are fairly common for redraft type leagues with a few changes.  We removed the defense and kickers and added an open flex spot (more commonly called a superflex).  This is what I refer to as an “All-Star” league.  Few teams and shallow starting requirements means many teams will be filled with star caliber talent.

Auction Strategy

Our league is composed primarily of the writers at RSO which meant a lot of highly informed and well prepared individuals. My initial strategy going in to the auction contained some of the following guidelines:

  1. Avoid rookies in the auction. I was guessing there would be a premium placed on rookies and better value with less uncertainty could be found in veterans. Very few players in this rookie class have the ceiling to make a difference in this shallow of a league.
  2. Go cheap at the QB and TE positions. You have limited resources available in an auction draft. I like to use most of mine primarily at the RB and WR positions where the potential relative value is higher.  The quarterback position is very deep.  I am very comfortable with twenty or more starters this season and fine with streaming many others.  The tight end position is even deeper relatively as only ten starters are needed in the league.  This makes an ideal platform for playing the weekly matchups between multiple cheap options at the position.
  3. Bid aggressively on running backs. Last year’s disastrous injury rate might result in owners discounting the position too much. The problem is that the NFL is full of running backs with questions due to age, injuries, talent, contract, and/or situation.  With the supply of young, top-tier “bellcow” backs so limited, I wanted to grab at least one on a multi-year deal if possible.
  4. Use as many big multi-year contracts as possible on players with WR1 and RB1 upside. The potential gain for top tier running backs and wide receivers is generally higher than at the quarterback and tight end position. Lower tier value plays are also not as important in shallow leagues due to the limited starting spots.

Auction Notes

As is the case many times, some pre-auction assumptions held and I was able to follow my initial guidelines while other assumptions failed completely which resulted in significant changes to strategy. My fellow writers apparently felt the same way concerning this year’s freshman class as many rookies typically drafted in the early rounds were left without contracts.  Owners also gave rookies contracts prices far below what I anticipated.  One savvy owner took Corey Coleman with a 3-yr $11M contract, below what his rookie draft contract would go for usually, for example.

Running backs indeed came at a sharp discount in this auction. Many elite backs from previous years such as Jamaal Charles, Demarco Murray and LeVeon Bell saw dramatic decreases in price for a variety of reasons including injuries and suspension.  I missed out on a few backs that were nominated early in the auction whom were not targets of mine.  It was a big mistake on my part that let other teams get quality backs on the cheap.

Final Roster

I ended up with the following players on my roster with the projected starters in bold:

QBs – Phillip Rivers 2-yr $13M, Tyrod Taylor 2-yr $13M, Jay Cutler 1-yr $4.5M, Sam Bradford 1-yr $4.5M

RBs – Lamar Miller 3-yr $56M, Eddie Lacy 1-yr $13.5M, Chris Ivory 1-year $3.5M, Bilal Powell 1-year $2M, James Starks 1-yr $1M , Josh Ferguson 1-yr $1M, Alfred Morris 1-yr $500K

WRs – Mike Evans 4-yr $82M, Alshon Jeffery 3-yr $64M, Brandon Marshall 1-yr $20.5M, Emanuel Sanders 1-yr $4.5M, Josh Doctson 3-yr $3.5M, Mike Wallace 1-yr $1M

TEs – Jordan Reed 2-yr $20.5M, Antonio Gates 1-yr $5M, Clive Walford 1-yr $500K

I am fairly happy with my roster despite my errors in the auction room and ended with about $14M in cap space. My three starting wide receivers are among the best groups in the league.  Each has demonstrated large volume, target share and high touchdown upside, exactly what I am looking for in my wide receivers.  My cheap quarterback strategy worked to perfection with all four of my QBs costing between the 19th and the 23rd most expensive salary at the position.  This netted me a perennial top-12 performer in Rivers, the ninth ranked QB from 2015 (Taylor) in points per game, and a couple of quality streamers with easy schedules.

The fellow owners’ strategies forced me to alter course somewhat from my original strategy. I spent more at tight end than originally planned as I was able to snag Jordan Reed at a far below value contract.   The injury risk is well worth the price to obtain the only tight end who outscored “Gronk” on a per game basis.  I also unexpectedly grabbed a rookie in the auction which the league might look back at as the steal of the auction.  Josh Doctson was one of the few rookies who I believe could be a major fantasy force in the future and it cost me next to nothing to find out.

The real question for my team is the running back group. I accomplished my goal of securing one of my top backs in Lamar Miller who I am all in on as a top-5 back but there are always questions when a player switches teams.  My 2016 season probably hinges on which Eddie Lacy shows up, the top-6 option from ’13 and ’14 or the disaster from last season.  If the “good” Lacy shows up, my skill-position starters project as one of the top groups in the league with a solid core of QBs backing them up.  Lacy also makes for a nice franchise tag candidate for 2017 if he recovers and resigns with Green Bay.

Conclusion

Staying flexible continues as the primary lesson in auctions. Your fellow league mates will deviate from what is expected from time to time and you need to be able to react when they do.  I also highly recommend adding a superflex or additional QB spot as it makes for a much more interesting and challenging league.  Good luck to all of the fellow RSO GMs out there for the upcoming season.  Feel free to give your opinions about my team on Twitter!


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

How RSO Rookie Drafts Differ

Updated: August 30th 2016

After participating in several RSO rookie drafts, I began to think about how much these differ from standard dynasty league rookie drafts that are the industry standard throughout the fantasy community.  Rankings and Average Draft Positions that you’ll see on sites like Dynasty League Football are intended for standard dynasty leagues, where you can keep the selected rookies on your roster for an unlimited amount of time.  The presence of 3 to 4 year rookie contacts may create a market inefficiency with owners not shifting their draft strategy away from standard dynasty to match the uniqueness and realism RSO provides.  Retaining that player past their rookie contract will likely force that owner to pay the average of the top five salaries at that position, meaning that the player must become elite at their position by the end of their rookie deal to warrant the tag.  It’s worth noting that some leagues implement limits on the number of times a player can be tagged before he has to return to the free agent auction.  Sure, the player can be re-acquired in the free agent auction, but his cap hit will now be determined by the open market.

The Research

I set out to determine which positions should be prioritized in RSO rookie drafts by providing the best return on investment (ROI).  To do this, I created a sample of QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs that in the last three years (2013, 2014, 2015) posted a season that was “start worthy”.  For simplicity, I defined “start worthy” as players who finished among in the top 10 QBs, top 25 RBs, top 25 WRs, and top 10 TEs for the 2013, 2014, or 2015 seasons in standard scoring, data courtesy of Pro Football Reference.  The sample created a player pool consisting of 19 QBs, 47 RBs, 48 WRs, and 20 TEs.  With my sample pool selected, I began tracking how quickly each player put together a “start worthy” season by recording the results from their first four seasons in the league.

The Results

Start Worthy Chart

Quarterbacks

95% “Start Worthy” by year 4 – Before conducting this research, I expected quarterbacks to take longer to become “start worthy” and was surprised to see 18 of 19 did that in their first 4 seasons.  On average, it took these QBs 2.61 years to put together such a season, meaning this usually happened in years 2 and 3.  Those numbers alone may not mean a lot, but let’s see how it compares to other positions.

Running backs

1.91 years, the average time it takes a running back to become “start worthy” – For a variety of reasons (most of which I agree with), RBs are devalued in dynasty leagues.  However, I believe we should think differently about running backs in RSO as they typically become “start worthy” by year 2 at a ROOKIE SALARY!  This past off-season, I went out of my way to acquire additional second round picks to have more chances of hitting on one of these cost-effective productive young RBs.

Wide receivers

2.02 years, the average time it takes wide receivers to become “start worthy” – WRs are the stars of dynasty football, the prized assets that command huge trade returns.  Becoming “start worthy” by year 2 confirms that WRs are still very valuable in RSO, but might not hold as drastic of an edge over RBs as in standard dynasty leagues.

Tight ends

5% = the lowest % increase in becoming “start worthy” from year 3 to year 4 – By year 3, you may know what you have with your TE prospect.  80% of the sample put forth “start worthy” seasons by year 3, with only 1 TE waiting until year 4.  Important to note, TEs also took the longest time to produce an ROI with an average of 2.53 years to become “start worthy”.

What does this mean to RSO players?

Personally, I wouldn’t select a rookie QB in the 1st round of a rookie draft unless the format is 2QB or Superflex.  With that said, I do feel more comfortable with selecting the top QB prospects in the 2nd or 3rd round of rookie drafts after discovering that the breakout QBs almost always do so by their fourth season.  RBs and WRs should be heavily prioritized in RSO rookie drafts, given that they’re the quickest to produce “start worthy” seasons after entering the league.  While I’d give WRs a slight edge over RBs since they’re more consistent year to year, RBs close the gap a bit in RSO by becoming “start worthy” the soonest.  TEs, on the other hand, should be widely ignored in rookie drafts.  It frequently takes too long for these players to develop into starting caliber options.  Sure, there are outliers – Rob Gronkowski comes to mind.  But strategies built on the outcomes of outliers are doomed to fail.

To summarize, target RBs and WRs in your rookie drafts.  In trades, I’ll typically ask for a 2nd round pick to be added as a thrown in.  While mostly insignificant, I want more chances at hitting on a breakout RB or WR on a multi-year rookie contract.  The RBs and WRs that break out often do so by year 2, which makes it quicker to know when to cut bait on a bust and use the roster spot elsewhere.


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. 

More Analysis by Dave Sanders