2015 Reality Sports Online Writers League: Pre-Draft Prep


What is Reality Sports Online?

I’ve been running a fantasy league filled with writers for Reality Sports Online since 2013. RSO is the industry award-winning brainchild of Matt Papson and Stephen Wendell, former employees of the Philadelphia Eagles. They drew upon their legal and salary cap experience to develop a fantasy site that uses realistic NFL salaries in a fast-paced, free agent bidding process.

It’s a lot of fun, because it combines the best of auction leagues, dynasty rookie drafts, and keeper league concepts. If you’re seeking a new format for your league or looking to start a new RSO league, use promo code RSP10 to earn a 10 percent discount.

For more information, read this review for more details about RSO leagues and try the mock auction to get a feel for the free agent bidding.

2014 Season Recap

PFF’s Mike Clay won the 2013 championship with a narrow 104-96 victory over Bob Harris of Football Diehards. In 2014, Harris returned to the championship round, defeating Draft Buddy’s Mike MacGregor for the crown.

Sigmund Bloom led the league 10 wins, losing to Harris in the semis. I improved my win total by a game and had consecutive seasons as a top-two point-getter, but I was ousted in the semis for the second straight year, losing to point leader MacGregor (you can read his draft prep article here).

2015 Team Updates

Here’s a look at each team based on their draft order (worst-to-first, non-serpentine). We have two new owners this season, replacing Evan Silva (spot 1) and Mike Clay (spot 10).

Burke gets the player several readers thought should have gone earlier. Photo of Colin Kaepernick by Jason Ku Photography.
Photo of Colin Kaepernick by Jason Ku Photography.

1. Matt Harmon, NFL.com:  Harmon will try to lift Evan Silva’s team from the cellar. With C.J. Anderson, Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, Chris Ivory and Joseph Randle under contract, there’s potential for Harmon’s run game if he can find two consistent starters for this two-back lineup. A.J. Green’s three-game absence was killer for this team last year, but the combination of Green, Mike Evans and T.Y. Hilton looks good on paper. If one of Allen Robinson, Robert Woods, Rueben Randle or Markus Wheaton can provide consistent starter production, Harmon’s squad could improve dramatically.

Quarterback and tight end are the biggest question marks for his team. It’s likely that the new NFL.com fantasy analyst will franchise Eli Manning or Colin Kaepernick. Neither are probably worth that kind of money, but they are the best two players not under contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harmon considers a quarterback in this draft, but I’m banking on him taking a wide receiver in this PPR league that allows four starters at the position.

It’s more likely that Harmon targets a better quarterback in free agency as one of his major expenses with his remaining camp.

Harmon’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Harmon’s Team Salary: $89,003,682

RSO founder Matt Papson acquired Antonio Brown as a part of a rebuilding plan. Photo by bmward_2000.
RSO founder Matt Papson acquired Antonio Brown as a part of a rebuilding plan. Photo by bmward_2000.

2. Matt Papson, Reality Sports Online: I’d like to joke that Papson is losing his own league, but it wouldn’t be fair. Papson took over for the original owner who bowed out during the start-up auction and he was left with a bare cupboard. He’s in year-two of rebuild and there are players with high ceilings on this roster mixed with veterans capable of “one more big year,” including Carson Palmer, Frank Gore, Percy Harvin, Michael Crabtree, and Anquan Boldin. At least one of these players will have to stave off fantasy decline to give Papson a chance at a winning record. Palmer and Gore are the two likeliest options Papson will consider as his franchise player. Crabtree, LeGarette Blount, Kyle Rudolph and Alex Smith are also at the end of their contracts.

Antonio Brown is far and away Papson’s best player. Vernon Davis has potential for a big year every season based on his athleticism and Papson has invested in a lot of these great athletes with questionable skills or questionable situations: Christine Michael, Bishop Sankey, Dri Archer, and Harvin qualify.

Papson could benefit from a top quarterback, runner, or receiver in this draft. He’ll have a strong shot at getting two of the three. I’m betting he goes for an opening round combo of RB-WR or RB-QB, depending on his comfort level with Foles and franchise decision on Palmer.

With a team salary at less than 50 percent of its cap, Papson is in great shape to build a better foundation. Expect some big moves this year.

Papson’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Papson’s Team Salary: $62,126,137


3. Ryan McDowell, DLF: There’s talent on this roster, but injury (Marvin Jones and Jordan Reed) and suspension (Josh Gordon) hurt McDowell’s chances last year. Andrew Luck, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Latavius Murray, Tre Mason, Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews provide a solid base with Jones returning. If Reed or Ladarius Green can produce, McDowell will have depth at running back and a passing game he can work with.

McDowell will likely look to the draft for a receiver, although Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon could be too enticing for him to take a pass catcher in the opening round. I wouldn’t be surprised if McDowell franchises Ryan Tannehill over a number of young receivers on this roster that could be plucked off the waiver wire or signed to a lower tender during free agency.

McDowell’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

McDowell’s Team Salary: $88,004,468

There are a fair share of Jimmy Graham-sized When Jimmy Graham and Peyton Manning are in your lineup, you don't need much more - ask Jim Day.  Photo by Football Schedule.
Photo by Football Schedule.

4. Jim Day, Fantasy Taz: Here’s a roster built on a small number of high performers and it didn’t get enough from the supporting cast. Peyton Manning’s contract has expired and with Russell Wilson halfway through a four-year contract, we’ll see if Day opts to franchise Manning for another season. Unless Lache Seastrunk doesn’t have to pass protect in Dallas, the running back cupboard is bare. Zac Stacy and Terrance West are nice bye-week options, but they are the only options with likely playing time on this depth chart.

Eric Decker and Kendall Wright are solid, but Day needs two more receivers–maybe three if Day franchises Manning over Wright. Most people would prefer to have Manning, but Wright is the glaring need for this roster unless Day can acquire multiple first-round picks for receivers. Jimmy Graham, Charles Clay and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are a sound trio at tight end and Day can start two. There are pieces to work with, but he’ll need to make the right offseason decisions to get depth and balance. Look for Day to go heavy with RB and WR in the draft and there’s still room to acquire 2-3 impact free agents.

Day’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Day’s Team Salary: $78,023,600

Photo by E.A. Sanabria.
Photo by E.A. Sanabria.

5. Matt Deutsch, Sirius XM: Like Ryan McDowell’s team, there’s talent that can propel Deutsch’s team to wins in any given week, including DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, John Brown, Matt Stafford and Jason Witten. Deutsch franchised Stafford last year and he’ll have to choose between this QB and Murray–one of them will be on the open market. I’m betting Deutsch ditches Stafford because Darren McFadden is the only runner after Murray on this roster with potential of earning a starting role.

There’s potential for this receiving corps. Dwayne Bowe, Charles Johnson, and Brian Quick all have upside to lead their respective offenses. If two of these three options can produce to their potential, Deutsch could have depth to wheel and deal in addition to the rookie draft and free agency. This could be the year Deutsch makes a move towards the postseason, but he’ll need more than a few moves to go his way. If he makes a couple of bad choices, he could wind up in the bottom five again.

Even if these players fail, Deutch’s cap room is largest in this league and he’ll rule this year’s free agent auction. Expect Deutch’s team to be in much better shape two years from now.

Deutch’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Deutch’s Team Salary: $53,706.960

Beast Mode. Photo by Matt McGee
Beast Mode. Photo by Matt McGee

6. Russell Clay, DLF:  Clay’s squad has quality headliners like Tony Romo, Marshawn Lynch, Randall Cobb, Delanie Walker and Marques Colston. There’s also high-upside with C.J. Spiller, Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, and Montee Ball. If Wes Welker or Fred Jackson are called into service, Clay could make the playoffs. He’s not far off and a good rookie draft could do the trick. I’m betting that Clay will be going heavy at running back and receiver. He’ll need to hit in the draft and be wise with his narrow cap room.

Clay’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Clay’s Team Salary: $112,803,554

Brandon Marshall. Photo by Casey Rhees.
Brandon Marshall. Photo by Casey Rhees.

7. Jeff Tefertiller, Footballguys: The receiving corps is the strength of this team. Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Terrance Williams, DeAndre Hopkins, and Pierre Garcon (potential franchise tag) constitute a deep unit. Marshall’s new team raises questions about his upside and it’s a theme for this team as a whole.

Marshall, Julius Thomas, Devonta Freeman, Robert Griffin, and Mark Sanchez could all help Tefertiller’s squad in 2015. There are a lot of unanswered questions for each. Throw in Ray Rice, and this team has a lot of built-in variance. I expect a RB-heavy draft, because Justin Forsett is Tefertiller’s best back and the price tag to franchise Forsett (think top-10 RB cost) could be too steep for this squad to be a factor in free agency if team keeps the Ravens’ starter.

Tefertiller’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Tefertiller’s Team Salary: $82,393,679

Photo by Joe Bielawa.
Photo by Joe Bielawa.

8. Jason Wood, Footballguys: I love this team. It’s simple to analyze, simple to build on, and likely to take a big leap forward. Wood has balance at every position. Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Jordan Cameron are a solid core and if Wood opts to franchise Adrian Peterson, Wood should find a solid backup in the draft or free agency to replace Philip Rivers. I bet Wood keeps Peterson and looks to build his RB and WR depth in the draft and free agency. I’m banking on Wood going heavy on rookie runners.

Wood’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Wood’s Team Salary: $70,502,804

Andre Johnson

9. Rivers McCown, Three-Cone Drill: Cam Newton, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Maclin, Martellus Bennett and Alfred Morris are McCown’s core players He received timely play from Jerick McKinnon, Brian Hoyer, Austin Davis, Mohamed Sanu, and James Jones. If Doug Martin can earn the starting job back in Tampa, McCown has the starters to contend. He’ll need more depth at receiver–regardless of what he does with impending free agent Johnson–and none of his recent RB picks have longterm potential beyond Martin and McKinnon. If there’s a team that could slide to the middle or lower tiers of the standings, McCown’s is a candidate. A strong draft could remedy it–and with less cap room than much of his competition, it will have to.

McCown’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

McCown’s Team Salary: $103,665,067

Photo by eschipul.
Photo by eschipul.

10. Steve Volk, Philadelphia Magazine: Volk inherits Mike Clay’s squad. Clay built a winner early, but how much Volk can sustain this team depends on the development of intriguing young talent and how long the aging vets and sustain production. At first glance, Volk’s inheritance of role players signed to long-term deals seems troubling: Bernard Pierce, Lance Dunbar, Justin Blackmon, Marlon Brown, and Denarius Moore are all costly options for their lack of production and opportunity.

A second look reveals that Volk has over $100,000,000 available in cap room. He’ll be a huge factor in this free agent auction.

Drew Brees, Ryan Mallett, Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz, Roddy White and Mike Wallace are all candidates for a franchise tag. Brees makes the most sense and this will allow Volk to focus on building a stronger receiver corps around a fantasy passing game of Michael Floyd, Zach Ertz, and Travis Kelce. With Andre Ellington, Shane Vereen, and James White under contract, I think Volk will go heavy at receiver in the first two rounds of the rookie draft and then consider mid-round RB options like David Johnson.

Volk’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Volk’s Team Salary: $43,200,172

Photo by Mike Morbeck.
Photo by Mike Morbeck.

11. Matt Waldman, Rookie Scouting Portfolio: I entered last season as the 2013 points leader by a healthy margin and I thought my addition of Matt Forte in free agency to pair me with Arian Foster would put me over the top. My receiving corps of Calvin Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Keenan Allen, and Cecil Shorts looked pretty strong entering the season, but Allen and Shorts disappointed. Franchising Jay Cutler so I could sign Forte also didn’t work out as planned. I still have a shot to contend, but without a strong draft that yields me an instant impact starter and astute free agency choices I’m skeptical I can get past the first round with this squad.

I’m letting Cutler go. Even as a fan of the NFL’s anti-hero, I can’t afford to trust him this year. Teddy Bridgewater will be my No.1 heading into free agency and I think I can score a good veteran to create a sound QBBC. If Jameis Winston is around, I might consider him .

My franchise tag either goes to Johnson or Foster. The RB is $10 million cheaper to tag, but I’m leaning towards Johnson because I believe there will be enough talent in the draft and free agency for me to afford a good starting RB. Unless Charles Sims or Isaiah Crowell lock down the starting job–neither are anticipated to do so–I’ll need a better running back if I want to contend for a title.

I’ll be checking the free agent list for RBs and WRs before the draft, because I might try to move up for a back. I have enough room to target 1-3 choice free agents if I assess the market carefully and bid wisely.

Waldman’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Waldman’s Team Salary: $93,279,038

Photo by Matthew Straubmuller.
Photo by Matthew Straubmuller.

12. Sigmund Bloom, Footballguys: It’s hard to tell whether Bloom’s window closing or his team is reloading. LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Stewart offer this team a foundation for a productive ground game–that’s if Bloom franchises Stewart. If Bloom (likely) tags a runner or receiver, he’s looking for at least a committee-caliber QB to join Geno Smith. Expect Bloom to replace Ben Roethlisberger and Sam Bradford in free agency.

Jordy Nelson, Donte Moncrief and Cody Latimer fit the physical prototype that has worked for Bloom’s team–Alshon Jeffery. The McCoy-Nelson-Jeffery combo is the best combination for his roster. If Latimer or Moncrief grow into a viable WR4, this team only needs a RB2 and a committee QB to remain a contender.

The only obstacles holding back this team from a full-on free agency smorgasbord are contracts on free agent-caliber producers: Marqiuse Goodwin, Tavon Austin, Tim Wright, Erik Swoope and Stephen Hill.

Bloom’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Bloom’s Team Salary: $73,632,229


13. Mike MacGregor, Draft Buddy: If MacGregor isn’t competing for a title in 2015 it will have more to do with major disappointments like injury and suspensions. Tom Brady’s four-game ban is a good example of a potential hurdle if MacGregor stands pat with his depth chart and Derek Carr doesn’t have a strong September.

Then there’s Le’Veon Bell’s suspension that will test MacGregor’s depth with Carlos Hyde and Mark Ingram. If the squad tags Lamar Miller it could soften the blow, but it means Vincent Jackson will be a cap victim. We’ll see how this team chooses to weather its September suspensions based on its franchise tag decision.

I believe Mike will keep Jackson and pursue a runner via free agency because he knows that he’s in a championship window. He’ll have an easier time selecting a rookie receiver with talent and waiting rather than waiting on a running back when he needs one now.

With a solid depth chart of backs and receivers, look for MacGregor to shop for quarterbacks and running backs in free agency and add to that receiver and running back depth in the draft.

MacGregor’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

MacGregor’s Team Salary: $85,288,902

Photo by Phillip Macgruder.
Photo by Phillip Macgruder.

14. Bob Harris, Football Diehards: The reigning champ has a solid bullpen with Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton and his receiving corps of Kelvin Benjamin, Martavis Bryant and Golden Tate is a quality trio capable of big games every week. With Steve Smith, Harry Douglas, Stevie Johnson, Nate Washington, and Riley Cooper leaving his team, Harris will want to find at least one consistent receiver to round out his corps.

Jamaal Charles is the likely choice for the champ’s franchise tag. An aging Joique Bell is a question mark as his RB2 and with Melvin Gordon in San Diego, Danny Woodhead might not have the same value as he did last year. Look for RB2 and TE1 to be a free agency priority and WR4 to earn marquee consideration in the draft.

Harris’s Salary Cap: $143,280,000 

Harris’s Team Salary: $94,727,291

Next time

A review of the rookie draft.

If you’re seeking a new format for your league or looking to start a new RSO league, use promo code RSP10 to earn a 10 percent discount. For more information, read this review for more details about RSO leagues and try the mock auction to get a feel for the free agent bidding.

One response to “2015 Reality Sports Online Writers League: Pre-Draft Prep”

  1. […] I anticipated that Harmon would take a receiver in the first round and he didn’t disappoint with the selection of Cooper. It makes his depth chart with A.J. Green, Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton formidable and deep with big-play options. The McBride and Davis selections are classic, developmental picks with high-upside. And I like the Malcolm Brown pick, which has the potential to be the next C.J. Anderson-like, late-round find. […]

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