Earlier this week I took over one of the twelve teams that would be participating in Tuesday’s Ottoneu Expert’s League auction. This is a keeper league, and the squad I inherited was disappointingly thin on running backs and receivers, considering the only player on my roster that wasn’t a quarterback or tight end was the recovering Chris Thompson. Compare me to the guy who entered the night with David Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Alvin Kamara, Tyreek Hill, Juju Smith-Schuster, Jimmy Graham, Alex Collins and Marlon Mack… I didn’t feel great going into to this. But the bright side to my situation was that I easily had the most cap space of all teams bidding, and there was still a decent pool of receivers up for grabs.
Given the lack of RBs available, I saw three ways I could move forward. The first was to save a good chunk of my money and dominate waivers when injuries pile up. The second was to commit to RB2 running backs that had RB1 price tags within an inflated market, which would leave little money for strong wideouts and general depth — my team had only five players worthy of keeping from last year at their respective salaries. The third was to secure a strong receiving corps and then take a lot of lottery tickets at RB towards the end of the draft. That first option seemed like it might be better in theory than practice given how deep the 20-player rosters are in this format, while the second is just unintelligent in this situation, so I loosely clung to that third strategy throughout the night. Julio Jones, A.J. Green and T.Y. Hilton were at the top of my wish list in a group of WRs that also included Mike Evans, Stefon Diggs, Marvin Jones, Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson. When bidding started up, I decided I would aggressively go after all three of them, hoping to come away with at least one. Fortunately, I was quickly able to come away with with the first two without overpaying much and consequently felt no need to go crazy on Hilton when he finally came around, since at that point I was about even with the pack in terms of available salary cap and had to choose my battles wisely the rest of the way.
From my perspective, the most cringeworthy theme to unfold was the weak market for quarterbacks. The two I inherited from the previous owner, Kirk Cousins ($27) and Andy Dalton ($15), wound up looking like massive overpays when Drew Brees sold for $16, Stafford for $13, Andrew Luck for $8, Roethlisberger for $6, Matt Ryan for $5, and Case Keenum for $1. The new owners of these guys will probably be able to keep them at a discount for years to come, let alone for this season. There were a number of other non-QBs that came at a discount, too, and my quarterbacks weren’t the only players that ended up with inappropriate price tags. Here are the transactions I found most interesting:
- Jordan Howard: Howard commanded the highest salary of the night and ultimately finished as the fifth-most expensive player in the league and the No. 4 running back behind Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. I’m sure none of us had him ranked anywhere near our top five RBs in most of our more-normal leagues, so his hefty salary goes to show just how weak the market was for running backs this year in this particular auction. Nonetheless, it also shows that a good portion of this league isn’t buying the offseason chit chat concerning Howard’s potential to see an inconsistent workload under rookie head coach Matt Nagy, who’s been quoted this offseason as wanting to have a game-by-game approach to how he uses his running backs this season.
- T.Y. Hilton: Another guy this league was high on is Hilton, who surprisingly went for more than either Julio or Green and now checks in as the third-priciest wideout in the league behind Antonio and OBJ. The confusing aspect of this transaction is that Luck, as I said before, went for peanuts, but Hilton’s price seems to assume that Luck will be better than ever after his lengthy recovery from shoulder surgery.
- Boston Scott: I paid a pretty seven dollars for Scott’s services with only the thought of upside in my mind, and I plan on targeting him in other leagues with even shallower formats as well. My thinking with him concerns the potential for an arbitrary Saints backup — among all of the possible RB handcuffs that could be had league-wide — to inherit a significant offensive role is relatively higher than that of the majority of other handcuffs that don’t operate within a New Orleans-like system that can comfortably support two high-end fantasy runners. In other words, Scott could find himself in a significant role if either Kamara or Mark Ingram goes down, compared to someone like James Conner or Austin Ekeler who needs one specific player to do so.
- Jordan Reed: One of the most dynamic players at his position when healthy, Reed sold for a mere eight dollars here. Since he was taken near the end of the draft, it’s possible his low salary could be explained by low budgets across the board, but this price tag still shows how wary people are of Reed’s ability to stay healthy. If I hadn’t had Kyle Rudolph ($20) and George Kittle ($7) at decent prices, I would’ve been more aggressive here, but I still don’t think I would’ve gone much higher than $15 or so.
- David Njoku: In relation to Reed, Njoku’s price seems inflated. Not only that, but the owner who owned him last season, and then chose to cut him this spring, actually paid more for him this week than he would’ve had just to keep him on the roster going into the draft. The strange thing here is that reports out of training camp indicate that Njoku hasn’t shown much progress with his habit of dropping passes, so it’s not clear why the tight end suddenly became more appealing. Perhaps this particular owner is encouraged with how Cleveland’s pecking order for targets is shaping out; with Corey Coleman in Buffalo and Antonio Callaway facing a suspension for substance-abuse, Njoku’s path to establish himself as the third option behind Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry is clearer than ever.
- Randall Cobb: Going just behind Kelvin Benjamin and Michael Crabtree, Cobb was part of a run on receivers that all seemed to have been overpriced. Of this bunch, I personally prefer Cobb, who in my eyes has the highest ceiling given the upside that could be had in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. That said, both Geronimo Allison and J’Mon Moore could have been acquired for a single dollar.