Dynasty Strategy: How to Buy Low (Fantasy Football)
There are many strategies when building a dynasty franchise. Unlike a redraft league, however, failure to execute your strategies in dynasty could lead to multiple years of misery instead of one year of misfortune. We have reached the time of year where those strategies start to form. After your championship concludes and trades open again for owners, everyone will be ready to start making moves. You better be ready to go before other owners start and leave you behind.
In my first of three dynasty strategy articles, I review one of my favorite strategies; buying low. This is a risky venture, though. Choose correctly and you potentially strike gold with a solid player. Choose incorrectly and you are stuck with a player that takes up space on your roster with no value. Did you buy into Jeremy Maclin or Marquise Goodwin last year?
There are several types of players you should look to buy low on and certain steps you should take to buy them at a discount, especially when talking trades. For this article, I’ll cover how to buy low on players and cover specific players to buy low on. As the offseason progresses, I will look more in-depth at specific players. Until then, prepare your plans before putting them into action.
How to Buy Low via Trade
When you buy low, it doesn’t mean running to another owner and getting a deal done as quickly as possible. You need to be discrete when it comes to identifying these players, especially when making trades. You never want to talk down a player you are asking for in a trade. It’s frustrating for other owners and is a clear sign you aren’t being honest in your negotiations. With that being said, you don’t want to spend a bunch of time talking up the player either.
The best way to go about this is never asking for a player you want to buy low on in a straight, one-for-one deal. Instead, target another player on the owner’s team and start trade talks centered around him. As the talks progress, start asking for your buy-low candidate to be tossed in as an extra piece. Someone that adds a little more value for you in the trade. This is a great way to cover up your desire to add a buy-low player and ensure you are able to acquire him without too much attention.
Another way to acquire a buy-low candidate is during your league rookie draft. During that time of the year, rookie hype is at an all-time high and owners are looking to move up in the draft. If you are like me, draft picks are trade chips. In that position, it could be worth giving up a pick to an eager owner looking to move up for your buy-low candidate in return. For instance, an owner wants to move into the second round and if no one at your spot interests you. offer the pick for your buy-low candidate and a later pick. Move back, get your player and it still looks more like a chip in piece than the main piece.
A lot of this strategy will be determined by who the player is. In most cases, you won’t be able to add a former All-Pro for just a draft pick. The situation will always vary. So what types of players are buy-low candidates? There are several but spot them sooner rather than later.
The Struggling Youngster
Second- and third-year players are perfect targets for an owner looking to buy low. If you are an owner trying to right the ship of a rebuilding project, these are the perfect types of players to target. Owners who spent draft capital on a player only to watch them underperform and sit on their bench all year may be looking to move on and just get what they can for the player. Laquon Treadwell was a popular player in this category heading into the 2017 season. He disappointed in his rookie season totaling one catch for 12 yards. Treadwell was a consensus top-five pick in rookie drafts and went ahead of players like Michael Thomas and Jordan Howard. Needless to say, owners were not happy with their top pick and may have been willing to let him go. Owners who need to add young talent with upside should look to add players in this category to their team (okay, maybe not players like Treadwell, but you get the point.) If you find yourself in this situation, look to move aging vets who may be on the downturn but have one or two good years left. One player for a team looking to win it all next season could be enough to net you some buy-low candidates who break out at the same time your team is trending up.
The Expiring Contract
The NFL offseason can be an issue for dynasty owners. You invest time and resources into players in great situations only to have them cut, traded or move to a new team through free agency. Any player heading into free agency can cause doubts in owner’s heads. Jimmy Graham is coming off a season that saw him finish TE4 but also offer a season full of inconsistent play. Graham only hauled in 57 catches for 520 yards but was elevated by 10 touchdowns. Touchdown-dependent, expiring contract and no idea where he will land. Sounds like a buy-low candidate to me. A player like Graham should be targeted for teams looking to win next year that need an upgrade at TE. Owners in rebuild mode should stay away. There is no reason to add a player like Graham who is on the downward slide of his career. Uncertainty in the minds of dynasty owners is like a ticking time bomb. If they don’t disarm it soon, it’s going to go off and cause a massive amount of problems. If the owner of your expiring contract target isn’t willing to budge right now, just wait. Sooner or later that player may be available or the price may come down. You will just need to wait out the clock.
In dynasty football, vets can be the key pieces in the cog toward the drive to a championship. Or they can be the downfall to a competitive team that didn’t know when to sell. If you are close to winning a title, and that vet is the only piece left that you need, make the move now. At this time of year, owners with vets who could be closing on the final days of their career could move them for overhyped draft picks. Larry Fitzgerald just put together the WR4 season. Why would he be a buy-low target? Fitzgerald will be 35 next year, his head coach and starting QB just retired, and he could change his mind from one more year to retirement at any time. I have a feeling he gives it one more go for a chance at the Super Bowl. The Cardinals will get David Johnson back next year and still have a good defense. If they can find their QB in free agency, which there will be quite a few available, they will compete and Fitzgerald could provide a solid season for fantasy owners. With so much uncertainty around the status of Fitzgerald, he could be a buy-low candidate right now. However, if you wait too long, that door will close. Track down the Fitzgerald owner, offer up a mid-round draft pick and a young receiver that hasn’t quite proven themselves yet. The upside of a pick and young receiver could be enough to get you one more top-24 performance from Fitzgerald on route to a fantasy championship.
The Forgotten Injuries
It happens every year. You are high on a player. You are expecting a breakout or top-end performance for the season only to lose him early on. Players that are lost early in the season to injuries are great buy-low options. The best time to grab them is during the season. When a team has lost a player to injury, or multiple players, they will need options to fill in. If they are a team that is competing to win a title, then they will have even more motivation to make a move to fill those holes. This past season, receivers Cameron Meredith and Quincy Enunwa were breakout candidates only to be lost prior to the season and have been all but forgotten. If you didn’t have a chance to jump on them in-season, then it may be too late now. When the season closes, owners will start evaluating a roster as a whole again and not just looking at who will be helping week-to-week. That is the major selling point to buying low on an injury. That player won’t be helping anytime soon which makes his value seem down in the moment. In all honesty, Meredith’s value in Week 13 of this season was the same as it is right now. But in Week 13, he wasn’t helping anyone. The next time a Meredith owner sets his lineup, though, there is hope Meredith will be in it. His perceived value in Week 13 is much lower when his actual value at that time is probably the same as it will be in the offseason. When those injuries pile up for a team next season, be the one to step in and offer some comfort in the form of a trade that helps you long term with some short-term sacrifice.
One of the biggest disappointments in 2017 falls into this list of players. I don’t think anyone could have envisioned the disappointment Terrell Pryor would bring to fantasy owners this past season. The only thing that will upset a fantasy owner more than injuries is an ineffective player taking up a roster spot. Always be ready to make moves on this type of player. Owners are looking to dump these players in-season when they need a boost to their roster and during the offseason when anger and disappointment are still brewing. Grabbing a player who is a letdown can come extremely cheap but will still depend on the caliber of the player. You could get Pryor from an owner for next to nothing right now. Not only was he a letdown, but he is also an expiring contract. If he’s not sitting on the waiver wire already, that means his current owner is holding out hope for anything to make the pain and suffering go away. Have a couple draft picks saved for a rainy day? Toss a fourth rounder out and see where the negotiations take you. Another letdown is Amari Cooper, but due to his age and past experience, he could still be pricey. With that being said, the right owner could be willing to let him walk for less than what he will be in several months.
Our last buy-low strategy takes us into the depths of the unknown. Players who fall into this category can range from unheralded rookies who flew under the radar during the draft to players looking like a breakout could be coming soon but who haven’t put things together yet. Keelan Cole was an example earlier in the year before he started to contribute heavily. The Jaguars receiver corps dealt with injuries all year long and Cole continued to work up to more playing time. Even if you didn’t buy into him then, he could still be a buy-low option right now. The Jaguars had a great offense this year but relied on the run. There could be a change at QB next year and Allen Robinson could be back on the outside as another weapon. The unknown comes with risk though. You are buying low without much to see. These players typically don’t have a strong track record or the pedigree of top draft picks. These players are for the owners who dig deep and find those hidden gems.