Hi everyone! I’m back for my second column about MDL 5. We have one year in the books on the league with the 2016 season fast approaching. While things are still relatively slow I wanted to take some time to examine how the league economy played out year one and what positions turned out to be the best bang for your buck and which ones turned out to be a waste of precious cap dollars. So I’m going to go through position by position and give you some concrete facts and numbers about how year one played out and how I think you should spend your money going forward. Keep in mind; this is probably the first league ever to be so ambitious, so the player valuations were skewed by a lot of factors without an established market value. I would expect these values to change some this season. Let’s get started with Team QB.
Team QB was interesting. There were two schools of thought on this, and one appeared to work out a lot better for people than the other. One was that you needed an elite guy and had to spend whatever it took to get one of those top guys. This led to salaries upwards of $100 for 9 Team QBs, with Indianapolis and Green Bay going for $230 and $226, respectively. There were also the teams (like mine) that thought there’s not that big of a difference between the elite guys and the rest of the league, so it’s not worth spending a large amount of cap space on them. Thus, 8 Team QBs went for $15 or less, with 4 going for only $1 apiece! This is a huge discrepancy in cap spent between the top prices to the bottom ones. Let’s look a little deeper into these numbers and see whether that extra money was worth it. One thing to note, every team is guaranteed one Team QB, no more, no less. This means if you decided to wait around and let all of the QBs go off the board, you would still get one.
On average, the 32 teams in the league spent $69.47 on their Team QB in 2015. The standard deviation on QB prices was huge, coming in at $59.05. This means that, as I stated above, there is a big difference in what people spent. The average Team QB scored 26.03 points per game, with the highest per game average being 33.41 points per game by New England and the smallest points per game average coming in at 15.30 from the Rams. This by itself is an 18.11 point difference per week from the top team to the worst team, but only 11 teams averaged less than 25 points per game, and there were certainly some bargains to be had. Jacksonville, which sold for only $1 at auction, was the 4th highest scoring team QB in the league at just under 30 points per week. Meanwhile, Green Bay which went for $226 at auction finished middle of the pack in the 12th spot, and Indianapolis, which went through weeks of Andrew Luck ineffectiveness followed by injuries, came in all the way at the 24th spot.
So what does this mean for the Team QB position going forward? Spending over $200 is probably not the best idea. It may make sense to put a fair amount of money towards an elite team such as NE, but I believe you will see the QB price ceiling never approach the huge numbers the first year saw again. The numbers also say that it’s possible to get top 10, even top 5 teams at the position for next to nothing. I was certainly happy to get a top 15 finish from Oakland, which I only spent $4. You can wait on your QB and still wind up with a good one, just don’t wait too long. Some situations are a mess and you will lose games because of it. For every great deal like Jacksonville turned out to be, you have St Louis which suffered from terrible QB play the entire season. And while injury risk is mitigated to some extent by the fact that you will still get points from the backup if the starter is injured, some teams have really bad backup QBs that will put up very few points in the absence of the starter. Matt Hasselbeck was great many moons ago, but he is not a guy you want to rely on. It’s not a huge thing to consider, but keep an eye on backup QB situations and see what you’re stuck with if your top guy goes down. Basically if you pay attention and snipe a QB at the right time, you can get a good deal as long as you don’t fall asleep at the wheel. But if you aren’t feeling like taking that kind of risk, don’t be afraid to bid 50 or 60 dollars to make sure you get something reputable under center.
Note: As I get into RB, WR, and TE, there are flex spots to consider, one RB/WR and one WR/TE. For the purposes of this article, I will assume an even split at each of these flex spots. It may not be a perfect assumption but it is close enough to get the point across. Therefore, I will operate on the assumption that every team starts 2.5 RBs week to week, 4 WRs, and 1.5 TEs. I will examine the values of the top 80 RBs, 128 WRs, and 48 TEs accordingly. These will be based on scoring and not dollar values.
While Team QB certainly had a lot of overspending year 1, I believe the RB position had the most overspending of any of the positions in the league. I personally was responsible for a fair portion of the overspending, as I put $271 on Adrian Peterson, which wound up finishing 3rd among RBs in scoring and a decent investment, but still too much. I also drank the Jeremy Hill Kool-aid and spent $230 on him, which turned out to be a big mistake, as he finished only 27th in RB scoring. Keep in mind that 27th is still a RB1 number in this league, but 22 of the 26 RBs that finished ahead of him in scoring had lower salaries, with many of them well under $100.
If you are looking to get a productive RB on a good contract, the best place to do so is probably through the draft. Of the top 80 scoring RBs in the 2015 season, 11 of them were rookies who therefore came on cheap rookie contracts in comparison to their production. Todd Gurley of course went #1 overall so unless you spent the crazy price in the first year pick placement auction you weren’t going to wind up with him. But deals were to be had. David Johnson slipped all the way to 21st overall and finished as the 2nd highest scoring RB in the entire league as a rookie. Duke Johnson went 16th, Matt Jones went 22nd, and rookie surprises Karlos Williams and Thomas Rawls fell all the way to 2.32 and 3.08, respectively. Your odds aren’t great of hitting that late, but it can happen. So the first place you should look if you are looking for RBs that can help you out right away is the draft, buyer beware though as it appears TJ Yeldon is now in at best a 50/50 time share, and other first round RBs taken like Melvin Gordon, Jay Ajayi, Cameron Artis-Payne, and David Cobb have potentially murky looking futures. Also, Josh Robinson who was selected 23rd overall is already out of the league.
If drafting RBs is not an option, then you will have to look to the auction, which is not an easy proposition. Keep in mind, there are not enough RBs for everyone to have a great looking lineup everywhere. In fact, some teams will have people you may have never heard of starting in certain positions. RB is one of the postions where all of the players you would typically consider startable disappear fast. And if you must have one of those elite players like Adrian Peterson on the open Free agent market, a Danny Woodhead on the transition market, or a franchised back such as Doug Martin, you will have to pay a large portion of your cap, and you may have to surrender picks as well.
Is that worth it? After trying it myself last year not once but twice, my experience would tell me no. There are a few respectable players to potentially be had for prices that will seem a bargain in comparison to these players. If you can lock up 2 of them, you should be very happy. But there is a point where you need to cut your losses and move on and realize you will need to build your team elsewhere. I tend to consider 100 points over a 16 game season as a threshold for “respectable” player performance. Only 51 players at the RB position scored 100 points last year, meaning that on average only about half of the teams in the league will have 2 such players, let alone 3. My advice to you is to draft RBs if you can, they may not hit, but it’s your best method to get performers on reasonable contracts. If you must go to the auction and try to get one, do not feel compelled to get into bidding wars that will cost your team hundreds of cap dollars. RBs on the whole are one of the least valuable positions in this league, and easily the position most vulnerable to catastrophic injury. Set yourself a budget that you will not go $1 over, and if all of the RBs go for prices over that, move on and build your team elsewhere.
WR certainly had some expensive players last year. I personally spent $296 on Antonio Brown, who turned out to be the #1 scoring WR in the league. And unlike with the RB position, I fully would do that again. If I could have the top scoring WR in the league for that price every year, I would take it without hesitation. Why am I willing to spend so much on a WR? In my opinion, WR and LB are the two most valuable positions in this league. They are your bread and butter, and they should provide your team with a large portion of your scoring if you build your team right. There were only 6 WRs that scored 300 points last year. Non QB players that can approach and surpass 300 points in a 16 game season are worth their weight in gold and I will spend almost any price to get 1 if not 2 of them. In fact, I gave up a fair amount in a trade just for the right to tag Odell Beckham Jr, even with Antonio Brown already under my control on an unsecured tag. Now, there is a point at which I will let these players go during the transition tag auctions, but I am operating under the assumption that I will have 2 elite, cream of the crop WRs going into 2016 and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Unlike the RB position as well, WRs are unlikely to hit the ground running and blow up the league as rookies, they usually take a year or two before they are every week contributors. I know we’ve been spoiled in recent years with the quality of the WR rookie class, but it is hard to expect them to come right in and become every week starters for you, especially in the early parts of the season. In fact, the only 2 rookie WRs that finished with WR1 numbers last year were Amari Cooper, who went 2nd overall in the draft, and Tyler Lockett, that succeeded so much in large part due to his special teams play. Special teams play is what puts a lot of players on the map. Dwayne Harris was a WR1 in 2015 because of his special teams play. Jarvis Landry is a great player, but he is a 300 point scorer because of his special teams play. Players who double as WRs and returners are super valuable and should be purchased at a premium. You can get some good value prices by seeking out the guys that maybe don’t play a ton on offense but are good for a lot of return yards and maybe a return TD or two every now and then. Keep in mind that the NFL is trying a new rule this year where touchbacks are being moved up to the 25 yard line to encourage more teams to take touchbacks. I think that this could have the reverse effect though. Some teams may try to pooch kicks just short of the end zone to force returns to pin teams deep, causing more kicks to be run back. Most teams may not employ this strategy and accept teams starting from the 25, but I’d be willing to bet that at least 2 or 3 teams will try a pooch kick strategy.
If you want to find someone that no one is talking about, read about every team’s minicamp, training camp, OTAs. Who are the coaches talking up? Do you believe them? A player like Willie Snead was talked up quite a bit going into last year, someone noticed and got a great deal. If you want to find the next player like him, it’s going to require a huge time investment to find him. And if you aren’t willing to put a lot of time into this league, you shouldn’t be in it.
Finally, 71 WRs hit my “respectability threshold” of 100 points, meaning there are enough for every team to have 2. However, I believe it is worth it to spend up for 3 or even 4 “respectable” WRs as it can give you a big leg up on your opposition. If you can draft a couple guys to groom on your Taxi Squad then that is even better. But when I’m building my teams, I want my WRs to score a good deal of my points.
TE is a barren wasteland of a position after a very short dive through the list of players. Only 25 TEs scored 100 points in 2015 and of those only 5 scored 200. Rob Gronkowski is the king of the position and is rightfully paid as the best TE in the land. My opinion on the TE position is simple, you either pay whatever large portion of your cap you can to get one of those top 5 guys, or you pretty much leave it as an afterthought and pick a couple guys up for low prices that you can stream week to week and maybe get a catch or two from. Gronk is a guy that can win you this league, but it comes at a price. It’s similar to redraft in some respects. If you pay the price required to get Gronk you are going to win that position, but it could wind up weakening the rest of your team to the point that you cannot rebound from it. So if you are going to be bidding on Gronk or Greg Olsen, have a plan for the rest of your roster. And if your $250 Gronk gets hurt, you better hope you have Martellus Bennett.
All that being said, there was a resurgence from the position in a few places and some teams got fantastic production from practically out of nowhere. Jordan Reed, who usually gets hurt getting out of bed in the morning, finally put together a healthy stretch of games and was fantastic. Gary Barnidge has been in the league for years and never did much of anything but suddenly he’s a top 3 guy. Ben Watson always had a respectable career, but last year with Drew Brees he finally put a great offensive season together at well over 30. You can look around for these guys year to year, but the success rate is not going to be great. Have another guy to look to as a flier if your primary plan doesn’t work out if this is your strategy. But if you want to get something out of the TE position for sure, be prepared to spend $100 on your guy at least, possibly much more. And if you’re looking to draft TEs, that’s fine, just don’t expect anything out of them for at least one year. The learning curve for the position is very high with all of the blocking schemes that go along with route running, so year 2 is the earliest you really see anyone start to produce.
To Summarize, you have a couple of ways to deal with the TE position in this league. Pay up for a top 5 known commodity and know you’ll probably be weak somewhere else as a cost, pick up a mid tier guy and don’t expect a ton of points week to week, or put fliers on 2 or 3 bargain guys and hope you can stream the right option every week. I’m in the camp of getting a mid-tier guy. I don’t want to devote a ton of money to the position but I don’t think it should be ignored completely. But If the auction gets to the point where there are no viable options remaining, don’t spend on crap. Punt the position and put your money elsewhere where your money won’t be flushed down the toilet.
So that’s it for my roundup of 2015 MDL 5 spending on the offensive side of the ball. To recap, Team QB is worth waiting on for a little while to save you money, but don’t wait too long or you could wind up getting stuck with a real stinker such as Los Angeles or Buffalo. The RB position is overvalued and you should not be spending over $200 on any one of them in my opinion. Look for cheaper players, scat backs, and those who play on special teams as returners. WRs are one of the two most valuable positions in the league and in my opinion it is worth putting a large portion of your cap space towards signing one or two elite players at the position who can put up massive weeks by themselves. The TE position is bereft of talent after 15 or so guys, so if you aren’t bidding on an elite guy, take your money elsewhere and try to find a couple guys to stream and get some players that are actually worth something at another position.
In the near future I’ll be back with my look at the defensive economy of 2015 and what I think of those positions going forward! Thanks for reading!