Learn more about Reality Sports Online’s excellent league format as Waldman profiles his RSO Writer’s League draft and auction.
In the early 2000’s, I started a geeked-out fantasy league. It was an IDP dynasty league with a salary cap, contracts and fluctuating market values based on weekly performance. Drop a player and his current value was factored into your cap. If his current market value was higher than than the contract value, you profited the difference and it could be applied to your waiver wire budget. If it was lower, you lost waiver wire funds.
I used to manage the league on an excel spreadsheet with about a dozen tabs, copy weekly results from CBS Sportsline and run it through the sheet on Tuesday nights before sending it to the rest of the league on Wednesdays. The league lasted five years, which really wasn’t a bad run.
Reality Sports Online now provides my fix for a league where I can manage player values in a more complex way that’s aligned closer to NFL realities than any commercial league format that you’ll find. RSO is technically speaking a salary-driven keeper league with an annual rookie draft and free agent auction.
Every team begins with a realistic cap budget and the rookie contracts are determined by round and pick. The free agent auction is set up with a specific number of contracts with lengths of 1-4 years as determined by the commissioner. Other league options include IDP and your typical variety of scoring rules.
The draft room and auction rooms are easy to use and the creators of RSO are former employees of the Philadelphia Eagles who managed cap info, so there’s a heightened realism of contract types in the auction room. At the same time, the high-dollar figures are presented in an easy-to-grasp fashion and they even provide a mock auction room for you to get a feel for the format before you do the real thing.
I’ve been running an RSO league for four years. Members of the 14-team league include the likes of Bob Harris, Sigmund Bloom, Jason Wood, Matt Harmon, Matt Franciscovich, and Russell Clay. Matt Papson, one of the site’s co-founders is also a member.
Last weekend, we had our rookie draft and auction. Unfortunately, I’m unable to give you access to view our league and its details but I’ll share my team and enough details to give you a feel for the workings of an RSO league.
The players with an (R) in parenthesis are players I drafted in past and present rookie drafts. The players with an asterisk (*) are players that I signed to deals in auctions. Players with (FA) are free agent details.
Keenan Allen is my one allowable franchise player (F), whose value is determined by the market rate for a top-tier receiver now that his rookie deal has expired. For the past two years, my franchise player has been Calvin Johnson.
|Pos||Player||CONTRACT AMOUNT||2016 SALARY||2017 SALARY||CONTRACT LENGTH||CONTRACT EXPIRES||ROSTER STATUS|
|QB (R)||Jones, Cardale BUF (QB)||$2,921,898||$915,528||$973,966||3 years||2018||Active|
|QB (R)||Bridgewater, Teddy MIN (QB)||$8,913,925||$3,149,587||$0||3 years||2016||Active|
|QB*||Palmer, Carson ARI (QB)||$22,500,000||$5,400,000||$5,850,000||4 years||2018||Active|
|RB (R)||Dyer, Michael OAK (RB)||$2,579,040||$859,680||$911,261||3 years||2017||Active|
|RB (R)||Sims, Charles TB (RB)||$2,483,165||$877,385||$0||3 years||2016||Active|
|RB *||Bradshaw, Ahmad IND (RB)||$1,500,000||$765,000||$0||2 years||2016||Active|
|RB (R)||Grice, Marion ARI (RB)||$2,398,271||$847,389||$0||3 years||2016||Active|
|RB (R)||Crowell, Isaiah CLE (RB)||$3,565,570||$1,259,835||$0||3 years||2016||Active|
|RB *||Michael, Christine SEA (RB)||$23,000,000||$7,206,667||$7,666,667||3 years||2018||Active|
|RB *||Forte, Matt NYJ (RB)||$72,000,000||$18,720,000||$20,160,000||4 years||2017||Active|
|RB (R)||Johnson Jr., Duke CLE (RB)||$9,847,245||$3,282,415||$3,479,360||3 years||2017||Active|
|RB *||Ware, Spencer KC (RB)||$19,000,000||$5,953,333||$6,333,333||3 years||2018||Active|
|WR (R)||Miller, Braxton HOU (WR)||$4,370,145||$1,369,312||$1,456,715||3 years||2018||Active|
|WR (FA)||Pryor, Terrelle CLE (WR)||$9,500,000||$3,166,667||$3,356,667||3 years||2017||Active|
|WR (R)||Thomas, Michael NO (WR)||$13,466,145||$4,219,392||$4,488,715||3 years||2018||Active|
|WR *||Wilson, Albert KC (WR)||$1,905,882||$673,412||$0||3 years||2016||Active|
|WR (R)||Hardy, Justin ATL (WR)||$2,602,486||$867,495||$919,545||3 years||2017||Active|
|WR (R)||Conley, Chris KC (WR)||$3,845,115||$1,281,705||$1,358,607||3 years||2017||Active|
|WR *||Shorts III, Cecil HOU (WR)||$18,500,000||$5,180,000||$0||4 years||2016||Active|
|WR *||Jackson, DeSean WAS (WR)||$32,500,000||$15,925,000||$16,575,000||2 years||2017||Active|
|WR *||Benjamin, Travis SD (WR)||$36,500,000||$17,885,000||$18,615,000||2 years||2017||Active|
|WR (R)(F)||Allen, Keenan SD (WR)||$28,506,339||$19,461,333||$0||3 years||2015||Active|
|WR *||Gordon, Josh CLE (WR)||$28,000,000||$6,160,000||$6,720,000||4 years||2019||Active|
|WR *||Smith Sr., Steve BAL (WR)||$13,500,000||$6,885,000||$0||2 years||2016||Active|
|WR *||Stills, Kenny MIA (WR)||$15,000,000||$7,350,000||$7,650,000||2 years||2017||Active|
|TE (R)||Bell, Blake SF (TE)||$1,960,072||$653,357||$692,559||3 years||2017||Active|
|TE (FA)||Green, Virgil DEN (TE)||$2,000,000||$1,020,000||$0||2 years||2016||Active|
|TE *||Watson, Benjamin BAL (TE)||$8,500,000||$8,500,000||$0||1 year||2016||Active|
|PK *||Gano, Graham CAR (PK)||$1,500,000||$1,500,000||$0||1 year||2016||Active|
|DF *||Team Defense, LA LA (DF)||$4,500,000||$1,590,000||$0||3 years||2016||Active|
|POS||PLAYER||CONTRACT AMOUNT||2016 SALARY||2017 SALARY||CONTRACT LENGTH||CONTRACT EXPIRES||ROSTER STATUS|
|WR (FA)||Gallon, Jeremy OAK (WR)||$1,565,682||$335,956||$0||N/A||N/A||Cut|
|WR (R)||Norwood, Kevin CAR (WR)||$1,579,662||$338,956||$0||N/A||N/A||Cut|
Quick Team History
I originally built this team as a WR and TE-heavy group in the original auction while drafting a lot of rookie runners and I was a top-3 scorer for the first two years. But my rookie choices had mixed results and my big buy of Matt Forte to but me over the top in 2015 didn’t pan out due to injury. Injuries to Steve Smith and Keenan Allen also derailed my squad.
Imagine a team with Calvin Johnson and a healthy Keenan Allen on a 100-catch pace, Steve Smith, and Matt Forte all playing at their capability. It’s not hard to envision my team having a deep playoff run–especially when I got great season from Carson Palmer.
With the 7th pick and no picks in the 4th and 5th rounds due to draft day trades, I ended up with an all-Ohio State haul. Michael Thomas was a no-brainer for me.
Braxton Miller was a more difficult choice. I could have had Jordan Howard but I wanted a wide receiver and I haven’t even considered Miller in any of the seven drafts I’ve had this summer. Miller has performed well in camp and from OSU to the Senior Bowl to the Texans’ preseason, I’ve seen notable improvements.
Cardale Jones is probably a pick that won’t pan out for me because his contract will likely expire before he becomes fantasy relevant. But I like his talent.
A lot of people pick rookie quarterbacks based on how they look during the preseason. I don’t weigh it that heavily. Some quarterbacks are learning completely new languages as rookies and it temporarily submerges their obvious talent. Others are getting spoon-fed more digestible ideas. In other words, nothing has changed about my pre-draft evaluation of Jones.
Free Agent Auction
My strategy was to go big or go home. I feel comfortable with Palmer and Bridgewater as my quarterbacks and there wasn’t much sense in spending huge dollars on running backs when I had an existing rotation of Forte, Crowell, Johnson, and Sims.
While Virgil Green is considered a late-round flier, I was happy to roll with him as my preferred starter before the auction. With Allen, Pryor, Conley, and a rehabbing Smith as my receiver rotation, wide outs were my first priority.
But I wanted to take bigger risks with this draft. Hit on a few players with long-term deals and I could be back in business for the next few years. Christine Michael and Josh Gordon were those two targets and I waited on using any significant part of my $72 million budget the middle of the auction on them.
A 4-year, $28 million deal for Gordon is awesome if he stays clean. While I’m paying similar money for one year with Keenan Allen, I payed more than twice as much for Calvin Johnson. Lance Zierlien, who was in this league for a time paid $90 million for A.J. Green.
I re-signed Desean Jackson to a 2-year, $32.5 million deal and got in a bidding war with Bob Harris over Travis Benjamin–inking him for 2 years, $36.5 million. None of these guys are high-profile, but they’re calculated gambles with the existing pool. I could have spent a lot the bigger names or less on a potential big-name like Gordon and lesser names with starter potential.
Kenny Stills is another player under the radar and I’m happy with the 2-year, $15 million contract we agree to.
Michael at 3 years, $23 million is also capable of giving me a back with Matt Forte’s Chicago upside and I’m in the middle of a 4-year, $72 million deal with the veteran. Spencer Ware.
Projected Starting Lineup
QB: Carson Palmer
RBs: Isaiah Crowell-Matt Forte
WRs: Keenan Allen, Josh Gordon, DeSean Jackson, Michael Thomas
TE: Virgil Green
K: Graham Gano
QB: Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: Christine Michael, Duke Johnson, Spencer Ware
WRs: Terrelle Pryor, Kenny Stills, Travis Benjamin, Chris Conley, Steve Smith
TE: Ben Watson
If Gordon and Green hit big, I’m back in business. If not, I’m probably a one-and-done playoff team, at best. If my depth play to expectations, good lineup decisions may help me engineer a deeper run but that’s always a more difficult task.