Early RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: August 6th 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information. This week I move to one of the most volatile positions in fantasy football, running back, where increased injury rate and player turnover make long-term decisions extremely difficult.

Top of the Market

No shock here.  Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell are the three highest paid running backs in RSO leagues and also atop the overall player salaries.  There is not much of an argument to be made about why they do not belong here.  Each is a proven game changer at the position and potential league winner capable of putting up 2,000 total yards with extraordinary potential touch volume.

The only issue which concerns me is the lengths of contracts where each is averaging nearly four years.  I do not have much of an issue with Zeke given the dominant offensive line mostly locked up with long term deals and a quarterback who was excellent as a rookie, but questions linger about his off-the-field behavior.  I am a little more skeptical of Bell and Johnson though with situations more in flux and extensive workloads which increase injury risk.  Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger could retire any year moving forward with no real alternatives on the rosters leaving a possibly dicey quarterback situation for each.  Bell also has multiple suspensions, major injury issues, and is not signed to a long-term contract with Pittsburg (and will not be until after the season, if at all).

The Rookies

The rookies listed in the table all came from one auction as most rookies will go in rookie drafts instead of auction, so do not put too much stock into the results.  I believe it is a useful reminder, however, of inflated rookie prices which can occur in startup auctions.  Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook all landed maximum term contracts in the auction with average salaries that would place each in the top-14 among running backs without playing a down in the NFL.  This is just a reminder not to go overboard with rookies in your auction.

An Important Tier Break

For those owners who like to invest in two heavy volume running backs for your starters, remember the name Lamar Miller.  He is the last player on the list before a major tier drop, coming off the board as the RB15 in average salary.  The main reason for this big tier break is certainty of volume.  Forgetting the rookies, I have every back priced above Isaiah Crowell projected for 270+ touches over the course of a full season.  I do not have any other back projected for over 250 touches.  The primary problem for these other backs centers around 1) uncertainty of role (example: Spencer Ware) or 2) playing on projected bad teams limiting workload (example: Carlos Hyde).

Top Buys

C.J. Anderson heads my list of top running back buys this season.   The Denver back is virtually assured the the lion’s share of carries with last year’s bust Devontae Booker (already injured), late rounder De’Angelo Henderson, and former superstar Jamaal Charles (still returning from injury and on the roster bubble) as the only competition.  Anderson averaged 18 touches per contest through 7 games last season before injury ended his year and was the RB12 during that time.  The Broncos improved their offensive line in the offseason and will want to rely heavily on the run game no matter who ends up starting at quarterback.  Anderson is a steal as the RB26.

Bilal Powell (RB35), Danny Woodhead (RB37), and Theo Riddick (RB42) provide cheap useful starters, particularly in PPR leagues, for those teams taking a wide receiver-heavy approach.  Each has standalone value and a lot of upside should the other committee back on their respective team go down with injury.

Top Avoids

The narrative surrounding Ty Montgomery (RB22) has amused me to no end this offseason.   Montgomery started 12 games, including three in the playoffs, once bruiser Eddie Lacy went down with injury.  The converted wide receiver rushed for more than 11 times once and accumulated more than 60 rushing yards once in his 12 starts.  Those games were with James Starks (likely done in the league) and Christine Michael (who has been cut more times than we can count) as the only real competition for touches.  Green Bay was even giving Aaron Ripkowski touches.  Now the story is that Montgomery will take over a far bigger role after the Packers drafted multiple running backs with far more talent than last year’s backs? Montgomery is the classic perceived “great situation” case boosted by small sample efficiency stats which were propped up on two games against a Chicago defense decimated by injuries.

I am a big fan of C.J. Prosise and the multi-dimensional skill-set he brings.  I am not paying starter money on a short-term contract for a player likely needing multiple items going his way to take over the primary back role.  Grab Prosise on a cheaper longer-term contract if possible in your league as a nice lottery ticket.


Average RSO Running Back Contracts

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

Reviewing 2/2/1 RB Draft Strategy

Updated: September 7th 2016

Last week I took a look at the 2-2-1 RB strategy and offered some hypothetical picks for maximum value in the RSO format.  How did the strategy work in reality?  Here’s a rundown of how I used the strategy in three leagues.

RSO Home League – Year 2 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex

I went into our free agent auction with Jonathan Stewart, David Johnson and Le’veon Bell on my roster.  So, that meant my 2-2-1 strategy would need to be modified to account for the fact that I already had studs in Johnson and Bell.  Rather than look for value, I decided I needed to ensure I was able to handcuff Stewart and Bell because they have clear handcuffs, while Johnson could lose touches to both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington.  I did manage to get both Cameron Artis-Payne (1 year, $1.5 mil, due to some price enforcing) and DeAngelo Williams (2 years, $7 mil total).  So, in 2016 I’m spending about $5.0 mil to lock down the Steelers and Cardinals backfields – not bad at all considering they were both Top 5 scoring offenses last year.

RSO Experts League – Year 1 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex

I stuck to some of my original picks in this start up auction and grabbed JStew, CAP, Isaiah Crowell and Ka’Deem Carey.  I also added the tandem of Doug Martin and Charles Sims.  Unfortunately, I missed out on Duke because he went for more than I had budgeted (signed for 1 year, $8.0 mil) but then I spent more on Stewart and Martin than I really wanted to.  Our auction went a little screwy with RB value and was all over the place.  In hindsight, Duke only ended up being the 21st most expensive RB for 2016 but at the time it seemed like a lot.  At the end of the day, starting RBs like Frank Gore, Thomas Rawls, CJ Anderson and Matt Jones all went for between $3.5-6.0 mil.  Faults and all those are real bargains because I will be paying Stewart and Martin about $24 mil combined in 2016.  I probably should have abandoned the strategy mid-auction once I realized the value wasn’t there for me but I ended up sticking with it and the depth of my roster is weaker because of it.

Yahoo Home League – Year 9 – 10 Team, PPR, Superflex, Keep 3

Despite this being a keeper league, I went in with a clean RB slate as I didn’t keep any.  I missed out on the Carolina RBs (being a snake draft I did not have the flexibility I had in the auctions) but did manage to land both Cleveland RBs.  I paired them with the duo of Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi.  I also got two PPR RB steals in Theo Riddick and Giovani Bernard who will end up starting for me at RB2 and Flex until I see how the Miami backfield shakes out.  Between keepers and my first picks, I started with Rob Gronkowski, Allen Robinson, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Russell Wilson and Blake Bortles.  Some draft pick trades meant I did not pick in Rounds 3 through 5 but from Round 6 on, I was concentrating on using my RB strategy to build a solid roster and I think it worked.


So, after putting the strategy into practice, what is the final verdict?  I actually really like it.  I was never one for handcuffing, but the knowledge that you have a team’s backfield locked up is comforting – less worry about injuries.  To double down on the idea and handcuff both your RB1 and RB2 just adds to the roster stability.  As long as you keep to teams with a clear handcuff, I think this strategy can work, especially if you’re able to nail the “1” part of the 2-2-1.

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

The 2-2-1 RB Strategy

Updated: August 30th 2016

I recently read a post on Football Guys about the 2-2-1 running back strategy.  To be honest, it was the first time I have heard about it and am not sure how I’ve missed it all these years.  Zero RB is all the rage right now so I thought I would like to try and combine the two strategies.  Since RSO is essentially a dynasty format, I’m going to expand it to 2-2-1-1 to add in a young lottery ticket to help balance the roster for the longer term.  Using average annual contract values and lengths, I identified the following combination of running backs to illustrate the idea.  Whether you need to trade for these players or can snag them in your free agent auction, it shouldn’t cost too much which I think will help keep your dynasty on the championship track.

If you’d like to view the full Football Guys article, click here.

The Picks

  • Jonathan Stewart (Average Remaining Contract Length: 1.6 years; Average Annual Contract Value: $7.3 mil)
  • Cameron Artis-Payne (2.8 years; $1.2 mil)
  • Isaiah Crowell (2 years; $3.5 mil)
  • Duke Johnson (3.2 years; $2.0 mil)
  • Theo Riddick (1.2 years; $1.3 mil)
  • Ka’Deem Carey (2 years; $1.0 mil)
  • TOTAL Salary = $16.3 mil or just under 10% of your salary cap

The Reasons

I decided to double down on the Panthers and Browns backfields – certainly not two popular options.  Based on average annual contract value, Stewart is the 28th highest paid RB and comes in as our RB1.  I don’t mind Stewart here because if we’re spending this little on RB1 we should be stacked elsewhere.  Furthermore, I’d only be tied to him for 1-2 more years which is only about as long as the Panthers will give him anyway (his contract is front loaded, 2018 is just $1 mil base which screams to me that they planned that to minimize the cap hit when they cut him).  Sure he’ll lose goal line work to Cam but he’s good enough for what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Pairing Stewart with CAP is easy because he’s the obvious handcuff for right now and doesn’t have much standalone value so another owner won’t be interested.  If CAP becomes the starter in 2017 or 2018 we would have him under contract on the cheap.  If he doesn’t make it past 2016 on the squad, remember he’s a cheap 5th round pick, our cap hit is minimal.  There’s a decent chance we’d go into 2017 with neither of these Panther running backs but that’s okay; our four other picks are all potentially looking at new contracts with other teams in the near future so if one hits we can use the open spot(s) to grab their handcuff.

Depending on whether you play PPR or not will determine which of the Browns RBs will be your RB2.  Crowell will get a majority of the carries, and goal line work, but Johnson will be more productive on passing downs.  Trying to guess each week which will be better is going to drive you mad so pick one and stick with it.  On bye weeks you can start both since they have value independent of each other but I wouldn’t recommend it each week.  I don’t love having Crowell for two years since he’s a free agent after this year but maybe that motivates him to succeed and lead somewhere next year as the clear starter.

For my first single RB pick, I’d go with Theo Riddick.  I am partial to Riddick since I play in PPR leagues but even without PPR he still has some value.  Some quick math puts his non-PPR value at 6.3 points per game, but add in the receptions and it balloons to 11.3.  If I can sign him for more than one year, I wouldn’t mind having Riddick in a non-PPR also for the fact that his deal with the Lions expires this year so in 2017 he could be the lead back for a team that would actually let him carry the ball.  Riddick only started one year at Notre Dame but averaged more than 14 carries a game that year so he can handle a bigger work load than the 2-3 carries he gets now.

For my second single RB pick, I’d go with Ka’Deem Carey.  I started the preseason sold on Jeremy Langford but that has changed as I’ve done more research.  There’s a good chance Carey sits on your bench with little value this year but there is a non-zero chance that he overtakes Langford and beats out rookie Jordan Howard.  I thought Carey was older than he is – but he was only drafted in 2014.  In 2012 and 2013 at Arizona, Carey totaled 3,814 yards and 44 total TDs.  If I’m going to take a multi-year lottery ticket on a young running back, Carey is it.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper