Fantrax: Salary cap football fever

Fantasy football salary cap games date back almost as far as traditional drafts and auction leagues. Cap games served as the inspiration for DFS and are essentially the season-long version of daily fantasy. Veteran fantasy games provider Fantrax has been running their salary cap points challenge for almost a decade. Their popular budget option is the Bronze Points game, which costs just under 30 dollars to enter and offers league prizes (first place nets $100) in addition to an overall prize of $2,000.

The premise of Fantrax Bronze Points is simple: select a team of 34 players (22 starters, 12 bench players) and accumulate points from your starters each week all while staying under a $60,000 salary cap. That averages out to $2,700 per starting roster spot where the game’s most expensive player this year (Aaron Rodgers) is listed at $5,710 and the base price for players in this format comes in at $1,500. Salaries are preset and do not change week to week like in DFS. The goal is to identify and roster the best values at each position, building a roster that blends surefire fantasy studs with cheaper breakout players with upside.

Roster Construction

Our 22 starters break down as follows:

3 QB

5 RB

5 WR

2 TE,

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2 Flex (RB/WR/TE)

3 K,

2 DST

It’s important to have bench coverage at each position so that roster adjustments can be made weekly based on matchup. The 12 player bench typically consists of two, sometimes three quarterbacks, six to nine running backs and wide receivers, and at least one backup at tight end, kicker and defense/special teams. Some owners choose to go without a backup kicker or tight end to have more weekly options at running back and receiver. But the salary cap can prove tricky week to week and having flexibility to build the weekly puzzle usually comes in handy.

Scoring System

The scoring system is non-PPR, so no points per reception. Otherwise, it’s fairly straightforward. Rushing and receiving touchdowns count for six points, passing touchdowns are worth three points apiece. Quarterbacks get a point for every 20 passing yards, and RB/WR/TE get a point for every ten rushing or receiving yards. Defense and special teams are fairly standard in terms of points for sacks, turnovers, points allowed and return/defensive touchdowns. The one twist is that all active players (including K and DST) receive three points if their team secures the real-life win. Team owners who construct their original rosters with wins in mind then have easy decisions to make when ruminating over a Packers or Colts receiver versus a WR on the Browns or Titans.

Player Acquisitions

The way player acquisition works throughout the season is the most unique and strategic part of the game. Each team owner is allowed 16 player acquisitions over the course of the season and must use those pickups strategically. Those pickups must be made with a corresponding drop from your roster. The biggest mistake first-time players make is chasing the most effective Week 1 performers and blowing through a bulk of their acquisitions the following week. Patience is truly a virtue in this endeavor and it’s important not to run through these player purchases too quickly, as they always come in handy when the bye weeks get heavy towards the middle of the season. Moreover, those 16 acquisitions need to be treated similar to one’s stock portfolio. Surely, we want to keep up with our competition on the high-percentage owned value plays that are doing well, but we don’t necessarily want to buy players coming off a big game who may not have staying power. Conversely, it’s important not to concede prematurely on a player you’ve researched and believe in because of one or two ineffective outings. Fantasy production is volatile from week to week. As long as your running back is getting his fair share of carries, or a wideout his targets, talent and opportunity win out in the long run.

Let’s take a look at each position for a quick overview of the player pool, salaries and best values.

Quarterbacks

Signal-callers are the most expensive players in the Bronze. A league average QB like Derek Carr or Andy Dalton come in at a salary around $4,000 compared to a league average RB salary of $3,000 and league average WR salary of $2,000. The league’s best, Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson all check in with salaries of $5,000 or greater. Quarterback is the one position where it’s okay to shop for value. It’s also a position you can eventually save cap space when cheaper options emerge and you use one of your 16 buys to acquire them. Since the Bronze Points game QBs gain just three points per pass TD, it behooves us to consider dual threat guys like Jameis Winston (TB, $3,990), Tyrod Taylor (BUF, $3,680) or possibly even Robert Griffin III (CLE, $3,150) since they are reasonably priced and can contribute with rushing scores (and yards) of their own. The one absolute no-brainer for our rosters this season is Cowboys’ rookie Dak Prescott. It took Tony Romo’s unfortunate preseason injury for Prescott to come to fruition as a cap saver since his salary checks in at a bottom-barrel price point of $1,500. No matter how low your expectations for Prescott might be, rostering a minimum priced player with scrambling ability creates great roster flexibility to get more of your big studs in at each position. It also allows us to more easily fit a high-priced stud QB like Rodgers, Newton or Luck in when the matchup is right.

Running Back

When it comes to running backs, it’s best to avoid pass-catching backs like Charles Sims, Bilal Powell and Danny Woodhead since we won’t receive points for receptions. Additionally, there’s no reason to start the year with Le’Veon Bell (PIT, $4,710) on your bench for those first three games of the season where he is suspended. We are almost better off planning one of our 16 player purchases for Bell once he returns. And even then, we may want to watch him for a week before taking the plunge.

One wise strategy for selecting players at each position is to consider their salary relative to their average draft position (ADP) in draft leagues. Case in point, sophomore stud back David Johnson (ARI, $3,880) is typically the first or second running back selected in drafts (usually in the first round), yet he checks in as the eighth most expensive back in Bronze Points. The other player who will undoubtedly be highly owned in this contest is rookie Ezekiel Elliott (DAL, $2,500) whose salary falls in below our average price per player ($2,700). It’s a spot where there is no reason to get cute and be a contrarian. Just start with Zeke in your lineup. Other value priced backs to consider include the polarizing Jeremy Langford (CHI, $2,770), oft-injured veteran Rashad Jennings (NYG, $2,420) and the slow but bruising LeGarrette Blount (NE, $2,200) who may be relied upon early and often with Tom Brady and Dion Lewis out to start the year.

Wide Receiver

Once again using ADP as our guide, loading up on the game’s best and most consistent (draft league first rounders) and mixing in cheaper studs with upside is the best way to go. Rostering Prescott and Elliott from jump street opens up cap space to mix in Antonio Brown (PIT, $3,890), Julio Jones (ATL, $3,650) and Odell Beckham Jr (NYG, $3,580) within our WR and Flex spots amidst the value-priced wideouts. Mid-range values include Mike Evans (TB, $2,360), Sammy Watkins (BUF, $2,380) and Keenan Allen (SD, $2,030), all of whom are second or third round fantasy draft picks this season and are focal points of their respective team’s passing game. The sub-$2,000 options worth rostering are almost too voluminous to list, but we may want to prepare for a $1,750 Josh Gordon once he returns from his four-game suspension. Be sure to review the salaries per position and make a list of your roster locks as well as a list of bubble players for your roster. Use this worksheet to construct your final roster. Then work within the cap, being mindful of prices, roster flexibility and matchups.

Tight Ends

For the past several years, many smart players of this format have chosen to just pay up for Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. But with a vast amount of options at the position, it pays to review the entire list and backfill based on how the rest of your team fits within the cap. Gronk’s salary is nearly $3,000, which is quite expensive compared to most of your other options that fall in under $2,000. It’s up to each of us to decide whether or not Gronk is one of our building blocks. The one guy we might want to consider as a salary saver is Dwayne Allen (IND, $1,380) if we believe he steps up as one of Luck’s favorite targets this year, particularly in the red zone. One of the more popular options will likely be the Saints’ new acquisition Coby Fleener (NO, $1,530) who joins one of the league’s most fantasy-friendly teams for tight ends.

Kickers

The big mistake owners make here is to gloss over the category entirely and just pick cheap kickers at random. We want to target kickers in domes or warmer weather stadiums, and want to ensure that we don’t have kickers with the same bye week as that usually creates issues down the line and forces unnecessary acquisitions. Surely, we’d like to save at kicker if at all possible and target some of the cheaper options. As long as we are looking for ones with a good history of accuracy, on good offenses, and projected to win more than half their team’s games, we should be in good shape. The Saints’ battle between Connor Barth ($1,640) and Kai Forbath ($1,720) presents with a potential opportunity to own a mid-priced kicker in a upper echelon offense.

Defense/Special Teams

The Arizona Cardinals ($2,540) are the most expensive of the group, followed by the Seattle Seahawks ($2,480). We can target the top defenses as long as we are mindful of the schedule and our roster’s flexibility in upcoming weeks. The Denver Broncos ($2,370) are the fourth most expensive. Their fearsome unit will likely be one of the most popular choices among Bronze gamers this season. Perusing the list, it wouldn’t shock us to see the up-and-coming Oakland Raiders ($1,480) unit be high-percentage owned based on their bargain price.

 

Fantrax’s Bronze Points game is a perfect supplement to your existing set of draft and auction leagues. Though diligence and attention is required to compete, the format lends itself to a lower level of maintenance. Most of it all, it is extremely fun and addicting. Give the salaries a glance and enter a few teams to compete for this season’s two thousand dollar overall prize. I’m happy to answer any format or strategy questions over on Twitter, so feel free to hit me up @RotoGut.

Sign up for the Fantrax Bronze Points game here.