Reality Sports Online is a very unique fantasy football league that tries to – and does a great job – simulating the actual rules and concepts managing a National Football League team.
It uses a salary cap. Players not under contract (veteran free agents) are bid on through an auction process in which owners can offer multi-year contracts. There is a separate rookie draft, franchise tags, and cap penalties for cutting a player prior to the expiration of his contract. Trades need to account for the salary cap at all times. In-season free agent acquisitions charge a prorated portion of the player’s salary for the remaining season to that team’s cap.
The guys behind RSO, Matt and Stephen, previously worked in the Philadelphia Eagles organization helping manage the Eagles salary cap. That background, and their love for fantasy football, spawned RSO.
They’ve done a great job designing their game, and the developers did an excellent job executing the design. This is the best online live auction experience I’ve ever encountered, and that is with the extra complexity of multi-year deals, so that is really saying something.
In 2013, I was invited by buddy Matt Waldman of Rookie Scouting Portfolio fame to join a start-up Reality Sports Online league along with some very well-known names in the fantasy community from various websites. Bob Harris, Sigmund Bloom, Ryan McDowell, Mike Clay, Evan Silva and Jim Day, and others, are owners in this 14-team league.
Inaugural Train Wreck 2013 Season
I’ll be the first to admit, my inaugural season was not particularly good. I finished in 13th with a 4-9 record, 10th in points. Signing Trent Richardson to a 4-year $97 million mega contract was a disaster, and overall the team was way too heavy at RB, especially considering it is PPR scoring, start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex WR/TE.
To give some perspective on Trent’s contract, he counted $21.3 million (17.3%) on a $123 million team cap in 2013. I would have almost been better off giving up my 1st round pick, a la the Indianapolis Colts that year.
Tom Brady was on a nicely priced 3-year contract but had his worst statistical season in 2013 since his injury shortened 2008 campaign. My receivers consisted of Vincent Jackson, Tony Gonzalez and then a bunch of names I’d really rather not repeat.
The Comeback Kid 2014 Season
Last season was a complete turnaround. I still had that albatross of a contract for Trent Richardson tying up a ton of my cap, but given it was Year 2 of a 4-year deal, cap ramifications for cutting him were severe so I decided to suffer and kept him on my roster, approaching the season simply accepting the fact I had less money to spend than the other teams.
Heading into the 2014 rookie draft, I managed a minor miracle by shedding another big money RB contract to free up some much needed cap space. I traded Alfred Morris (2013: $47 million, 3-years) for the 1.04 rookie pick. I already owned 1.02 of course. Those picks turned into Sammy Watkins and Carlos Hyde, fortunately avoiding the consensus top rookie RB Bishop Sankey.
I was too passive in the inaugural auction. I played the waiting game for good values to present themselves, but with this group of aggressive owners, it never happened. Last season I wanted to take the bull by the horns. I had limited funds, but specific player targets to form a more well-rounded team I more or less refused to get outbid on, even if I had to sign them to a longer term than I preferred. And little to no money to be spent at running back.
Those targets panned out nicely. I bought Julian Edelman ($25.5 million, 3-years), Emmanuel Sanders ($36.5 million, 4-years), Greg Olsen ($14 million, 2-years) and I did drop a little at RB on Mark Ingram ($9 million, 2-years).
These acquisitions left me with a core roster heading into 2014 of Brady, Le’Veon Bell (2013 rookie draft), Lamar Miller (2013 auction – did I say I had too many RB?!?), Ingram, Jackson, Sanders, Edelman, Watkins, Olsen, plus “T-gettin’ Rich off me”, who it turned out was useless, and Hyde, who wasn’t necessary to make an impact last season, given the other RB starters and depth.
The end result was 1st overall regular season finish in record at 10-3 and points by over 100 from the 2nd place point-getter, and 240 more than 3rd. Ah, but you know what is coming next, right? This is still a head-to-head fantasy football league. That’s right, I lost the championship game to Bob Harris. I can’t remember the details, but pretty sure it was one of those, his players found the end zone, mine did not weeks.
Black Cloud of Suspensions to Open 2015 Season
Now on to this year, things look a lot brighter heading into it. Mind you, starters Le’Veon Bell and Tom Brady are both serving suspensions to start the season. Hope the other owners are happy I’m taking one for the “team” here waiting out both of those key players to return.
The first decision is what to do with Trent. He counts $25.2 in 2015 (on a $143.3 salary cap, or 17.6%) and $27.2 in 2016. If I cut him now, the cap charge is $12.6 in 2015 and $13.6 in 2016. No brainer, right? Goodbye Trent.
Key players I’m losing because their contract is expiring are Lamar Miller and Vincent Jackson. I could franchise tag one of them, but just like the NFL, the 1-year franchise charge is hefty. It is the average salary of the Top 5 highest paid players at their position.
In Miller’s case, that is $23.7 million. For Jackson, $24 million. I’m not against overpaying for one year of service for a player if he is going to help me win now, but am I going to pay that to Miller when I already have Bell, Hyde and Ingram? Or for Jackson when I already have Edelman, Sanders, Watkins? Probably not. It would be best to look at the available players first before completely discounting the idea, but they likely go back into the auction.
That still leaves me with a projected lineup of Brady (backup Derek Carr, 2014 rookie draft), Bell, Hyde (backup Ingram), Sanders, Edelman, Watkins, (backup Kenny Stills, 2013 rookie draft), Olsen (backup Dwayne Allen, 2014 auction). Not a bad start! And leaves me with a fair bit of flexibility to acquire talent at any of the positions, although I will put the most emphasis at wide receiver.
My rookie pick is next to last, so expectations for that pick making an impact this season will be low. That is probably a good general rule on expectations for all rookie drafts, no matter where you are picking. For every Mike Evans there are a handful of Cody Latimers or Carlos Hydes.
My cap is in decent shape. Carr, Bell, Hyde, Watkins, Stills are all on their initial rookie deals of three years. The teams that are going to do the best in this league are the ones who get production out of their (cheap) rookie contracts. Bell could be a consideration for the franchise tag next offseason. Brady, Ingram and Olsen are all on good to great money terms. Richardson is eating into the cap.
We are working with a $143.3 million cap for 2015, and I’ve got $85.3 under contract plus dead cap, plus another $5.5 committed for five rookie draft picks. That is $90.8 for 19 roster spots, and $52.5 remaining for 11 roster spots. Take off 2 DEF and 2 K at minimum cost of $500,000 each, leaves $50.5 million for 7 players.
That’s not bad. A quick rundown of the UFA list, some who admittedly could be tagged still, indicates Peyton Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray, Arian Foster, Frank Gore, Lamar Miller, Jonathan Stewart, Alshon Jeffery, Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Victor Cruz and Julius Thomas are available.
Good thing I’ve got some money to play with to be an active participant in the auction. Or maybe I can use that flexibility, depth and available cheap contracts to try to trade for a stud WR. Decisions, decisions. Regardless, it should be another great season playing at Reality Sports Online!