DLF’s Reality Sports Online League: Jeff Miller’s Review

Jeff Miller


When I was a wee lad growing up on a farm in northeastern South Dakota, my parents would often impress upon me how important it was to try new things. Their mantra continued throughout my childhood and adolescence, persisting even as I am midway through my fourth decade. I’ve taken the advice to heart, living by the creed, “I will try anything once.” While this has served me well for the most part, I must admit there have been a few bumps along the way. For example, in college I once tried riding a pony full of sunshine, rainbows and ribbons who smelled of cotton candy and liverwurst. It was a wonderful time I recall most fondly, especially the part that involved a cheeseburger and a llama (redacted –Ed.), which is how I ended up lost in Central Park on a cold December morn with the cast iron claw foot of a Victorian era bathtub in my right pants pocket and a nasty carpet burn on my upper back.

Despite the occasional setback, I’m still up for a new experience now and again, which is what led me to join the DLF Reality Sports Online (RSO) league. Commissioned by another Jeff and with a lineup of veritable killers, I quickly signed on. As with most of my leagues, if I win, my ego swells due to the high level of competition. And if I lose, I’ve merely fulfilled the low expectations my family has for me anyway. We call this a win/win.

Speaking of winning, I feel like I’ve already done so. My team is foot long hotdog on a sunny 80 degree day after a six pack at a baseball game good. But how did this happen? Was it merely another example of my drafting prowess? Did I have a timely bout of dumb luck? Or did I sell my soul to the devil/this guy who happened to be holding a three pronged pitchfork behind the Horseshoe down on Fremont Street? There are only two ways to find out (read the rest of this or hire that crazy Long Island Medium lady).

League Setup

For those of you unfamiliar with RSO, it is a salary cap format on steroids. Think Madden Franchise Mode for Dungeons and Dragons level fantasy football nerds. (In honor of this I drafted from my Mom’s basement with the heat turned up high enough I became uncomfortably sweaty. I also rubbed pizza all over myself just in case.) The league uses a 16-team format where we start 1 QB/2 RB/3 WR/1 TE/2 Flex and have a $143 million cap to spread among 25 roster spots. To complicate matters, the rules limit the number of multi-year contracts we could dole out to four four-year deals, three three-year deals and four two-year deals. Everybody else gets the one-year treatment.

Five point passing touchdowns and -1.5 points for interceptions makes the quarterback scoring is slightly different from convention. But with this being a 16-team league and all, the emphasis on quarterback was already heavy enough that the scoring didn’t affect my draft strategy much.

The Rookie Draft

[inlinead]We started off the proceedings with a short two-round draft on the Twitters machine. Because the league didn’t exist in 2014, the draft order was randomized and we followed a serpentine format. To keep things fair, and also removing much of the sting if you ended up 16th, we couldn’t select players drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. I picked out of the I have no idea, that was months ago slot, where I selected Jay Ajayi and Cameron Artis-Payne. In hindsight I would have taken I have no idea, that was months ago. (I barely remember what I had for lunch, you guys.)

Draft Strategy

As usual, my main strategy was, “I’ll have a couple drinks.” But about an hour before the draft started I was struck with inspiration, leading me to pen a loose budget where I also equated the RSO cap to a dollar amount, $250, I was more familiar with from other leagues. For example, if I paid $20m for a player, or ~14% of my cap, I knew that was roughly the same as paying $35 in Top Dollar Dynasty. I credit this idea greatly with helping me manage my cap effectively throughout the draft.

Aside from the standard, “Build around wide receivers” strategy nearly all owners use at this point, my other main point of emphasis was to strike early and often. Fellow DLF scribe Dan Meylor and I put our heads together pre-draft and concluded people were likely to sit on their hands as they tried to get a feel for the software and format in general. Because of this aggressiveness I scored one of the biggest bargains of the entire process, which I’ll touch on shortly. For his part, Dan won the deal of the century by paying Odell Beckham Jr. the 13th highest salary among wide receivers. My only regret is I wasn’t more aggressive in the first 30 minutes.

Above all, the thing I knew I wanted to do going in was to be a title contender out of the gate. Due to the general nature of salary cap leagues (which in this case is heavily augmented by contract year limitations), rebuilding will be much easier here than elsewhere. Because of that, I ignored age and tried to build a strong squad for 2015.

The Draft

My early-game strategy paid off in a big way when I landed Demaryius Thomas on a four-year deal with an average annual salary that ranks 15th at wide receiver and 22nd overall. I also snagged Julio Jones at the eighth highest annual salary in a format where he was top-three in my rankings.

The bargains continued with Isaiah Crowell (42nd) and Brian Quick, who I rank as the WR40, (58th). Due to uncertainty about his suspension, I signed Tom Brady to a one year deal at the 18th highest quarterback salary and backed him up with Carson Palmer (17th) among others.

Towards the end of the draft, many owners found themselves with a surplus of cash to spend on less than desirable players. A few of us recognized the situation in time to not be left with untold millions, which, admittedly, may have come in handy later in that you could absorb a bad contract in a trade. This realization led to my paying Steve Smith the princely sum of $17m for one year. To put that in perspective, it is a mere $1m less than I am paying Demaryius Thomas this season. But with the next best player on the board being one of Miles Austin’s left shoestring’s aglets, it was the right move at the right time.

With quarterback being such a coveted position, I was (sort of) happy to end up with Drew Stanton to back up the fragile Palmer. I also managed to win a third (sort of) starting (sort of) quarterback in Brian Hoyer, who I got for paltry $1.5m. If the former Brown does indeed end up starting in Houston, he will be a (sort of) nice trade chip to one of the several teams with only one starting quarterback.

With all that said, the number one mistake I avoided was overpaying a player on a multi-year deal. I’m always incredibly, perhaps overly, careful not to be that guy, which has served me very well in auctions of all shapes and sizes over the years.

2015 and Beyond

When I look at my roster objectively, which I maybe wasn’t doing in the intro when I declared myself Lord Commander of the league, I feel really good about where I am. My starting roster is among the strongest of the 16, and while my depth does fall off sharply after Palmer, Mark Ingram (who I traded for post-draft) and Crowell, a quick glance around at the others reveals I am not the only one. Such is the life in a 16-teamer, I guess. Hopefully I can turn Hoyer into a (sort of) useable bench piece.

Next year will be interesting, as I will need to fill the quarterback position and rebuild basically my entire bench. Luckily, as things stand now, I will have the fourth most cap space and, with $45.4M to blow, I stand to be some $5.5M richer than the fifth place team. Being in that position is an added benefit of not committing a multi-year overpay.

All-in-all my first foray into RSO has been both enjoyable and successful. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, especially the part where I crush the souls of the other 15 owners.


jeff miller