Most fantasy football owners’ resumes began with redraft leagues, but you are reading this article because you realized that more strategy would improve the experience. While there are many variations of dynasty leagues, a common thread between everyone in these leagues is the willingness to try new and more complex formats. It is no surprise, then, that the contract-based Reality Sports Online (RSO) platform is picking up steam in our community. Sixteen DLF writers joined the movement.
With many fellow DLFers already posting their perspectives on the league, I will just provide a quick refresher of the foundation for our league. Starting lineups consist of one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end and two flex spots from a 25-player roster. Scoring is fairly standard, with the notable exception being five points per passing touchdown. A serpentine rookie draft would be held first, with the pool of players including any first-year player drafted in round three or later, followed by an auction draft including the remaining pool of NFL players. The added wrinkle in the contract league includes a limit of two four-year contracts, three three-year contracts and four two-year contracts.
The rookie draft for this league was my first following the NFL Draft, and with the fifth pick in the limited player pool (no first-year players picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft) I was happy to see Arizona running back David Johnson available. After Jaelen Strong and Tevin Coleman, who went in the top two picks respectively, Johnson was the top player on my board given his skill set and situation. While he has yet to claim a prominent role on the offense, the rookie contract assigned to his slot makes him a solid value. Twenty-one players then went off the board, leaving extremely slim pickings given league parameters, before I selected Denver tight end Jeff Heuerman. Two days later, Heuerman was placed on season-ending injured reserve after tearing his ACL and I made the correlating move to put him on IR to free up the roster spot.
Heading into the primary draft, I participated in a mock draft to get a feel for the auction room. While the bids moved quickly, the setup was simpler than other auction software I have used given that the contracts (from one- to four-year) automatically calculated and could be selected with one click. There was also a field to manually enter contract offers, which I ultimately used once I had a feel for how much I wanted to pay for each tier of players.
By the end of the mock, I was manually entering the max contract I was willing to offer a player while he was being auctioned but only clicking the automatically-calculated offers until I reached that point. When I started the actual draft, I found the experience of a mock was useful to reduce the learning curve. This was especially important given the higher level of competition.
While I knew I wanted a reliable quarterback with high upside given that touchdowns are worth five points, I did not employ a specific strategy otherwise prior to the start of the auction. I anticipated that a strategy would go right out the window early anyway, so I would need to be flexible. After the top-level wide receivers (as well as Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers) went for significantly higher percentages of the budget than I tentatively planned for, this turned out to be true. With the draft spread out over several sessions spanning multiple weeks, I sat back in the first session to see other owners’ drafting tendencies and price-enforce as much as possible.
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In theory, this approach worked well as contracts for big names escalated quickly. However, in a savvy sixteen-team league I waited too long to start filling some roster spots and find my team lacking overall depth to withstand potential injuries to my starters.
At quarterback, I targeted and won Matt Ryan at less than 60% of the contract of the “elite” quarterbacks and considered him to be a value. I did not anticipate going after an expensive backup, but paid more than I wanted to (over $5 million per year) for Marcus Mariota on a four-year contract. As the case would be for nearly all teams and positions, the players I signed to round out the quarterback depth chart (Derek Anderson and Matt Flynn) are not roster-worthy in most formats.
Jamaal Charles leads my running backs, with boom-or-bust candidate Latavius Murray second in line. The dropoff came quickly at this position, with the rookie Johnson as my number three and practically nothing else (Dri Archer, Lache Seastrunk, Fozzy Whittaker and Chris Thompson).
I felt better about my wide receivers immediately following the draft than I do currently. After missing out on the elite wide receivers, I gambled on TY Hilton on a three-year contract to continue high-level production beyond 2015. While he suffered a concussion recently, he is expected to be cleared for week one. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about my second three-year contract at the position as Kelvin Benjamin is out for the year. After waiting too long to sign another wide receiver, I have Cole Beasley, Cecil Shorts, Marquess Wilson, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Matthews and Damaris Johnson. Aside from Dorsett, it is an uninspiring group without much upside.
As a longtime Jordan Reed advocate, I am more comfortable with him as my starting tight end than most would be. That is also because I can mix-and-match with Charles Clay, Crockett Gillmore (another of my favorites), Benjamin Watson and Tony Moeaki if (when) he misses time.
At the end of the day, this is undoubtedly my weakest team throughout all leagues. With a larger number of teams and the nature of contract leagues, however, it may not take as long to turn around a roster as a standard dynasty league. For my next RSO draft, I would certainly not wait as long to fill out my roster. Bidding for lower-tier players, such as an aging Justin Forsett or an underrated Eric Decker, while the Dez Bryant and Le’Veon Bell contracts go through the roof may prove to be values.