Buying Low in Dynasty Leagues (Fantasy Football)
James Simpson sheds light on which dynasty players may be undervalued.
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“Player X is a great buy low.”
“Buy low, sell high.”
We hear it all the time in dynasty football, but what does it really mean? What can we call a buy low? Is it paying a fair price for a player before they break out? Or underpaying for someone who is almost certain to overproduce? To cause further confusion, if I trade for someone right now at a price everyone agrees is ‘low’ (i.e. it’s a trade ‘win’) but that player ends up tanking and falling even further, was it really a buy low?
The reason I’m making it seem complex is because it is. With every single trade, you won’t really know whether you bought low or high until time has passed. If you want to buy players, you can’t expect solid, reliable assets to be let go.
For a player to be considered cheap, there is most likely going to be a reason they are seen that way – lack of production, too high initial expectations, an injury or suspension, or something else. Therefore while every trade comes with a built-in risk, there may even be more risk associated with ‘buying low’ because there are valid reasons for doubt.
It can also be hard to define in dynasty fantasy football – if you desire immediate production for your one-year championship run, you can ‘buy low’ on veterans fairly easily. Just pull up your redraft rankings, compare to dynasty and take advantage. If you want to ‘buy low’ on young potential stars, it’s not going to be so easy.
The key is timing. For vets and youngsters, the reward we get comes in different forms.
With older players, you’re paying for production without expecting their asset value to go up – if it does, it’s a bonus. With younger talents, we’re not only hoping for that production but to gain some dynasty value on our teams as well.
With all of that said, draft season is on and it’s time to build our rosters. I’ve no doubt that a number of veterans will be lost in the shuffle as new, fresh, exciting talents join the league and tons of situations change.
These additions and movements will create new values and opportunities to acquire veterans at cheap prices, but let’s take a look at some players who, if they are going to be bought, should be bought now. Keep in mind ‘drafting low’ is just as valuable and applicable as buying low, and since I’m looking at the initial value of these players by their average draft position, they might even be better ‘draft lows’ than ‘buy lows.’
Note: All ADP data is taken from Dynasty League Football, and the trade examples given are from DLF’s new Dynasty Trade Finder tool. Every league is different (number of teams, starting lineups, roster spots, scoring preferences and much more) so remember to value each player differently depending on your own setup, and that every trade made is relevant to that specific league.
In DLF’s August preseason ADP data, Le’Veon Bell fell to 18.33 after the news had broken of his suspension and impending four-game suspension. His talent didn’t change, the team had no interest in moving on from him, but we had a chance to snag an elite talent for a cheaper-than-usual price (albeit still a high one).
Anyone who managed to acquire him will have done so for a selection of players or picks that may seem like nothing compared to what we’d pay to get him now. For elite talents, these windows don’t come often and they are small – but we have to take advantage.
- Current ADP: 15.67
- Recent Peak ADP: 7.50 (Sep and Nov 2016)
Before his agonizing hamstring injury, Green was on pace for a record-tying (Randy Moss) sixth straight 1,000-yard season to begin his career. Outside of 2016 (where he was still fifth in PPR points per game among receivers), he has finished in the top 24 receivers every single year and been in the top eight on three occasions. Considering the success of players like Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald and Jordy Nelson into their thirties, I still regard him as truly elite in dynasty.
- Current ADP: 19.67
- Recent Peak ADP: 12.17 (Mar 2016)
Injuries create opportunities, and while this opportunity isn’t as great it was in the immediate aftermath of Allen’s torn ACL, some owners will certainly have doubts about his ability to produce on the field consistently. I don’t buy it all. He’s been absolutely outstanding when playing (over 20 PPR points per game in 2015) and has simply suffered from unlucky injuries.
- Current ADP: 22.67
- Recent Peak ADP: 7.67 (Jan 2016)
Like Allen, Gronkowski may have been easier to target straight after his latest setback, but if he hasn’t been moved in your league since then he’s worth looking at. The Patriots won it all without him, but it doesn’t change the fact he’s their best skill player when in the game. Whether he has injuries in the future or not, I’d prefer to have him on my team – and now is the time to snoop around.
Buy low examples: Gronkowski for Jamaal Charles, Charles Sims and Coby Fleener, Gronkowski and Adrian Peterson for Mark Ingram, Kyle Rudolph and a 2017 first round pick, Gronkowski and Tyreek Hill for Julian Edelman and Zach Ertz
Young and Unproven
The disappointing sophomore campaigns of Kevin White and DeVante Parker last year have set us up perfectly for this year’s pair in Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson. If you’re going to get them, you’ll want to get them before they’re hot.
While we often have extremely high expectations for young players, we are also extremely quick to change our tunes if they don’t immediately produce. Show some patience, and look at players who haven’t actually had the chance to do it yet.
- Current ADP: 53.17
- Recent Peak ADP: 38.33 (Apr 2016)
He missed the whole season due to injury, and it’s an extra year taken off the dynasty life of an already older rookie (he’ll turn 25 in 2017). However, we don’t even know what he can do yet. He was a first-round NFL draft pick and likely a top three dynasty selection, and if we can buy him before he hits the field then we should.
Buy low examples: Doctson for Kelvin Benjamin and a 2017 fifth round pick, Doctson for a 2017 third round pick and a 2018 first round pick, Doctson, Duke Johnson and a 2017 second round pick for Carlos Hyde
- Current ADP: 59.00
- Recent Peak ADP: 27.17 (Jul and Aug 2016)
Considering how highly we valued him as dynasty owners, I don’t think it would take too much for many people to get back on board. Yes, the fact he hardly saw the field at all in his rookie campaign was and is worrying, but with Stefon Diggs looking like a star and Adam Thielen turning out to be a solid option, why would the team rush him if he wasn’t ready? We won’t pay the same price we would have paid last year, but we should be open to investing in him.
Buy low examples: Treadwell, a 2017 second round pick and a 2017 third round pick for Randall Cobb, Treadwell and Derrick Henry for Tyreek Hill and a 2018 second round pick, Treadwell and Jamison Crowder for Tyreek Hill
- Current ADP: 72.00
- Recent Peak ADP: 22.83 (Aug 2016)
I mentioned White may be the reason we haven’t kept the faith in Doctson and Treadwell when we might have done in previous years, but he’s also the reason he find himself all the way at the bottom of the sixth round in ADP. Like Doctson, he was another older rookie, but he’s now two years in and only has 19 catches and 187 yards to his name. He was way too unproven to be invested in as a second round startup pick, but now he’s fallen again mostly because of injury, I want to give him a shot.
Buy low examples: White and Chris Thompson for a 2017 first round pick and a 2017 second round pick, White and a 2017 third round pick for Adrian Peterson and DeSean Jackson, White for a 2018 second round pick and a 2019 third round pick
- Current ADP: 98.17
- Recent Peak ADP: 66.33 (Jan 2016)
I’m telling you now as I will all summer – Ameer Abdullah is going to be a star, and he’s easily my number one off-season target. I always bank on talent, and as much as situations (affected by coaching, teammates, quarterback and more) will sway whether someone can produce, sometimes you simply have to go out and acquire talent.
Abdullah may not be a pure three-down back, but he can do it all. Abdullah actually reached as high as a 41.00 ADP in September of 2015, and I suspect his value will jump considerably as the Lions realize they can’t keep him off the field.
Once in a while, news breaks that completely throws our opinion of a player up in the air. What does this mean? What does the future hold? Where should we value them? If there’s a chance they can produce at a high level in this league, it’s worth investigating closer.
- Current ADP: 73.67
- Recent Peak ADP: 20.33 (Jan 2016)
It might take a lot for us to trust Bryant completely after a drug suspension, but on the other hand we’ve seen what he can do – and what we saw forced him into the top two rounds of dynasty drafts. He has applied for reinstatement for the NFL, and I suspect it won’t be long before he’s back on the team and immediately ahead of Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton in the pecking order. While he carries a high risk, I’d prefer to have him on my teams than not.
- Current ADP: 86.67
- Recent Peak ADP: 41.17 (Aug 2016)
Brown is a player whose future really is unknown, and for that reason, he may be the biggest risk on this list. I’m banking on the fact that since his sickle cell trait was only discovered in 2016, both he and the team needed some time to adjust to it. It will change his lifestyle, diet, conditioning and many things that take time, but his talent will still be there. He’s a mystery, but one I’d prefer to get now than when we hear his health is under control.
Buy low examples: Brown, a 2017 third round pick and a 2018 second round pick for Malcolm Mitchell and Roger Lewis, Brown for two 2017 third round picks, Brown and Jordan Howard for Roger Lewis, Ty Montgomery, a 2017 second round pick and a 2018 first round pick
Ultimately in a player’s career, we get to a point when we “know who they are.” That isn’t to say they can’t overachieve or surprise us, but we have an idea of what kind of talent they are and what they can produce each year. When they don’t live up to it, there are times to pounce.
- Current ADP: 80.83
- Recent Peak ADP: 33.83 (Sep 2016)
I recently covered Maclin at Dynasty League Football, explaining that he finished the season with career lows in catches (44), yards (536) and touchdowns (two) but that it wasn’t all his fault. He battled a groin injury for most of the year, and these types of muscle injuries tend to linger and hinder athletes from peak performance.
Maclin admitted the season was humbling and he didn’t perform to expectations, but considering he just came off two 80+ catch, 1,000+ yard and 8+ touchdown seasons in 2014 and 2015, I don’t think this is the end for him.
- Current ADP: 120.33
- Recent Peak ADP: 53.33 (Sep 2016)
Decker has been a perennially undervalued dynasty asset, having at least 74 catches and 960 yards in the last four seasons (and double-digit touchdowns in three of them) yet was still not being valued the way he perhaps should. Yes, he’s 29. Yes, the Jets have question marks at quarterback and he might not have Brandon Marshall across from him in 2017, but he’s been an extremely consistent player and I believe he can be a bargain now.
- Current ADP: 109.17
- Recent Peak ADP: 63.33 (Jul 2016)
Believe it or not, Bernard is still only 25. We were wrong to value him as a first round back early in his career, but he might be a player who continues to produce above his price.
He has a very solid PPR floor when he plays, and as the 34th-ranked running back, right now would be a good time to acquire him. Just remember, he’s not a feature back, so if his value grows to a point where he’s valued as one, it would be a good time to bail out.