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Dynasty Rookie Draft Pick Trade Advice (Fantasy Football)

by Raju Byfield | @FantasyContext | Featured Writer
Feb 1, 2019

You haven’t truly begun your dynasty experience until making your first rookie draft pick trade. Unlike normal keeper leagues, in dynasty leagues your rookie draft isn’t littered with potential top-50 players rival owners were forced to drop. This makes trading away and acquiring picks a vital part of dynasty success, as well as the fun.

Trading in dynasty leagues is a much more complex process than in redraft leagues. Depending on league rules, you can trade rookie picks for the upcoming draft and, in some formats, picks from two or three years down the line. Having some knowledge of the upcoming classes’ quality, or lack thereof is paramount.

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Introduction

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, there are a few terms dynasty players should know. These are not football terms but are concepts you will no doubt encounter in the day-to-day life of a dynasty football league general manager. Rather than list the textbook definitions of these concepts, I will break them down in layman’s terms from a fantasy context.

Psychological manipulation: This may sound like a dirty word when we are talking about something that is supposed to be entertaining, but manipulation is a part of everyday life. From our relationships to advertising in the mass media, it even rears its head in fantasy football. In negotiations, psychological manipulation is a vital part of the process. Of course, this cannot be overt in nature, but manipulation in and of itself along with recognition are the cruxes in which we interact with the world. In trade negotiations, manipulating rival owners into giving up assets you are chasing or giving up more than they originally offered are a critical part of long-term dynasty success.

Subjective value vs objective value: In a nutshell, subjective value is the value one places on a particular asset, while objective value is its true worth. To illustrate, owner Tom believes Noah Fant is worth the 1.02 rookie draft pick and takes him with that selection. If Fant’s ADP is 1.11, that would be his objective value. While not as cut-and-dry as it is in an industry like real estate, where subjective value is the price a particular owner or buyer may place on a property versus what it is really worth, the comparison still applies. How you or your rival owner value an asset is its subjective value. Objective value is what it is actually worth.

That leads us to another important concept, market value. Market value is the value someone in the market, or a market segment, is willing to pay for a particular asset. In this example, owner Omar believes that Ronald Jones is worth a first-round rookie draft pick. After months of shopping him, the best he can net is the 2.06, with other owners offering picks later in the second all the way to the fourth. In this scenario, Jones’ market value is 2.06.

Intrinsic value is the value a particular person places on an asset due to correlative factors that may not have anything to do with the actual value itself. In a fantasy setting, intrinsic value is the value an owner places on an asset coupled with intangible factors others may not be privy to. Owner David gave up sophomore Todd Gurley for Devonta Freeman and now refuses to part with the Falcons back for anything not comparable to the Gurley we know from 2018. In this scenario, David knows that Freeman is not worth a top-three dynasty asset, but he won’t budge on his price because that is what he gave up to acquire him.

A concept in the same family tree in a fantasy context is commitment bias or escalation of commitment. These two concepts, which are very similar, essentially describe when an owner places higher intrinsic value on a particular asset due to the time, emotion, and energy already expended. Owner Romello had to drop four players for the 2018 rookie draft. Stacked at running back, he chose James White over Keelan Cole. With hindsight’s 20/20 vision rearing its ugly head, Romello now commits himself to keeping Cole for 2019 and beyond because ‘he gave up’ White for him. These two concepts’ meanings are essentially what they sound like. In a dynasty league, context commitment bias is the bias your subjective or intrinsic value may be enveloped in due to the resources already committed to said asset. Escalation of commitment is when an owner escalates his or her commitment level to an asset due to the same. In doing so, they’re essentially escalating commitment to what may be a ‘losing’ situation or proposition simply because of the resources already spent pursuing, or in this case, keeping an asset.

In dynasty leagues and fantasy leagues in general, all of the above concepts come into play at various times. One may not always be aware of them, but as posited they are often negotiation factor in negotiations in all facets of life. Being cognizant of them will aid you in trade talks for rookie draft picks.

Overview

We will take a look at some essential steps in the trade process. These are things to consider prior to accepting or sending any trade offers. While not an exhaustive list of necessary steps, each of them will hopefully help determine the merits of any potential deal you may be considering.

Be in constant evaluation mode
In dynasty leagues, especially if you intend to trade for or trade away future rookie draft picks, an owner needs to be in constant evaluation mode. Does the player project to see his role increased or reduced during the current season or next? Are there any potential picks who will help your team more in the long run than the asset(s) involved in a potential offer? In dynasty leagues, you are constantly gauging the present and future value of a particular asset with an eye on exploiting any potential market value opportunities. Many pundits have declared the 2019 draft class as weak, making picks easier to acquire than in past years.

Jaylen Samuels became an incredibly valuable asset down the stretch, particularly in Yahoo leagues. A dynasty manager outside of the playoffs in evaluation mode, recognizing that he may not have a role with a healthy James Conner and another potential running back addition to compete with, would have sought out trades with a playoff team for a rookie draft-pick deal.

Identify targets (based on projected pick, lack of trade acumen, or trade style)
Identifying targets when deciding to trade for a rookie pick is a critical step, especially for in-season trades. The first thing you want to identify is your personal rookie targets via your shortlist. Then determine which owners may have picks that would lead to landing your target. After completing those steps, you need to identify which owners are most likely to relinquish a draft pick at a cost that is amenable to you. Finally, you need to identify your rival’s trade styles to ascertain if there is a potential fit.

Identify friends or experts you trust enough to bounce ideas/thoughts off of
An important part of any trade process is the ability to bounce ideas off a trusted peer or expert. Often times owners are just looking for reassurance rather than someone to make a decision for them, and that is perfectly fine. A confirmation bias perspective is often how fantasy players identify their most trusted or favorite ‘fantasy guru.’

Trade up or purchase (Player X and 3rd for 2nd as opposed to Rd 4 and Player X for Rd 1)
Trading up vs ‘purchase’ differ in both expected cost and another owner’s willingness to engage. Trading up from the third to the second or the second to the first is naturally a much less painful process than trading up to the first all the way from the fourth (purchasing). With some league providers requiring each team to have an equal amount of draft picks, this becomes important to note. Sometimes, if you are blessed with a lot of depth, it is advisable to trade up to someone else’s third or second to include in a deal before going to your final target with a trade proposal. Identifying which strategy works best for you and your current roster construction will impact both cost and a rival owner’s potential averseness to a trade. It is much easier to convince an owner to move down to the second round than getting them to both surrender a first and take a replacement pick in the rookie draft’s final round.

Don’t fall victim to groupthink
While seeking out advice from peers or industry experts is an advisable strategy as mentioned above, dynasty owners must be careful not to fall victim to groupthink. As articulated above, confirmation bias will often lead you to find like-minded ‘gurus.’ While they are a powerful tool to have at your disposal, you should not allow yourself to be totally swayed without doing your own research. Owner Meleny went into the 2018 rookie-draft season high on Saquon Barkley, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb, in that order. After the NFL Draft, her personal rankings remained the same, but there was a lot of ‘noise’ suggesting Royce Freeman and Rashaad Penny were better dynasty picks due to their depth-chart situations. The day of her rookie draft, Meleny allowed groupthink to get the better of her and chose Freeman over both Michel and Chubb. Hindsight is 20/20, but the lesson here is that you are the one who has to ‘live with’ and be comfortable with your dynasty team. Manage it accordingly.

Create a shortlist before the season and start updating in November at the latest
This is a critical step, especially for those who partake in trades during the season as opposed to the offseason. Creating a ‘shortlist’ or ranking of the incoming rookie class should begin at the start of the dynasty season, if not before. This simply entails jotting down the projected top prospects at each position for the upcoming college season. As the season progresses, you can update with a special eye on making a complete update in November. While the college season is not yet finished by this time, a fast-approaching trade deadline may create a sense of urgency. By this time of the year, you should have a feel for who the best seniors and underclassmen are. As a result, you should feel more confident when making or accepting offers for rookie draft picks.

While watching actual tape is preferred, you can simply watch highlights to start or build a consensus from the websites or Twitter personalities you trust the most. When owner Liat first started out, she didn’t watch any tape until the offseason and only frequented one site for rookie prospect rankings. She quickly learned that she should use others rankings as a complement to, and not a source of, her own thoughts. She now builds a list of the top-10 running backs and wide receivers and the top-five quarterbacks and tight ends during the second week of November. She then watches game tape or highlights and adjusts her rankings according to what she sees. It is not necessary for every successful dynasty owner to start diving into college prospects before the season is complete, but it is a helpful tactic to help you gain an advantage in potential trade talks.

Overall snapshot

Your trade strategy should be determined by your place, or projected place, in the standings. If you are aware going into the season that your team is likely not a true championship contender, begin the process of acquiring dynasty assets, whether it be young players, or in this case, rookie draft picks. If this is the scenario you find yourself in, you should also be careful not to trade away what could become an extremely valuable rookie draft pick.

Buyer (Seeking Rookie Draft Picks)

Sell to load up on picks
This is when an owner sells both depth and veteran assets to load up on picks with the intent of hastening the rebuilding or retooling effort.

Sell assets to acquire coveted picks
This is when an owner sells prized assets to land a coveted rookie draft pick. In one league, a manager traded Antonio Brown for Barkley before the 2018 season started.

Sell depth to move up
This is when an owner sells depth that is deemed unneeded in order to move up a round or two. This includes moving from the fourth to the third and from the second to the first. With increasingly deep rookie classes, picks outside of Round 1 can still net a potential difference-maker.

Sell Rd 2 or below startup asset(s) to acquire a potential game-changer
This is when you trade an established fantasy star, including a young one, for a player you believe can make any even bigger impact in the league. An example is when owner Melissa decides to trade Cooper Kupp in an effort to land either N’Keal Harry or D.K. Metcalf, who she believes will have more dynasty value going forward.

Sell player/pick combo to ‘trade up’
While trading a late pick and a player for a first is the ideal scenario, a combo to trade up a round or two to the second is an underrated strategy to strengthen your fantasy team. Do owners in your leagues hit on every first-round pick? How many slipped through the cracks to the second or even the third?

Seller (Divesting Draft Picks)

Sell later picks to improve roster for playoff run
As a pick seller, it is sometimes advisable to trade down a round or two in order to improve your playoff roster. Many times you will deal for a player who may not even be worth keeping when taking drops into account but it is about winning now. If you are weak at tight end, try offering a second or third to land one from a rival owner, who may consider the offer due to projected long-term dynasty value. An example of this is owner Ben trading a second-round rookie pick for Samuels, fully aware that he will not have tight-end eligibility in 2019, and that he may not even be Conner’s handcuff anymore.

Sell any pick to win now, worry about rest later
If you are selling and someone offers a player who can help you win now for a rookie draft pick you deem more valuable in the long term, you have a tough decision to make. The short-term gain needs to be weighed against the long-term benefit of retaining your pick. Will said pick make you a legitimate championship contender for the next several years? Does this opportunity present your best chance at a league title regardless of who you could roster with the pick? This internal discourse becomes even more intense in money leagues. If the answer to the second question is yes, then you may wish to ‘go for it’ now and worry about the rest later.

Sell picks for established players
Some owners opt to deal away a large majority of their rookie draft picks, even first-rounders, to acquire known quantities. The thinking here is that there is a miss rate with rookies, and even successful ones often take a few years to produce the fantasy value dynasty managers desired. To illustrate, consider what happened to owner Jerry last year. He held the fifth overall pick heading into the rookie draft. With no wide receivers projected to make a major impact in Year One, he traded the pick to acquire popular sleeper target, Marquise Goodwin. Fast-forward to the end of the season, and the fifth overall pick, Michel, is now the Patriots’ starting running back. Jerry still laments that he also had a chance to add either D.J. Moore or Calvin Ridley but opted for a known quantity instead.

Things to Consider When Acquiring Picks

Strength of upcoming classes
While the 2019 draft may be light on truly elite weapons at receiver or running back, it is as deep as it has been in years. The 2020 draft looks loaded on high-end talent, making those draft picks worth acquiring immediately.

Players who fill a need
Are there players on your shortlist who fill a need with the pick you are targeting?

Dynasty value of outgoing asset (age, projected role following season)
Projecting the dynasty value of any outgoing assets is a key step when trading for rookie draft picks. Many of these trades take place prior to the draft, so be sure to weigh any outgoing assets’ prospective values vs the projected value of players on your shortlist (as well as the impact any in-season trades may have on competitiveness).

Certainty of incoming pick
Trading for rookie draft picks is a lot less risky after the pick order is determined, but in many cases, this also results in an increased asking price.

Trade timing
As alluded to above, the timing of any trade impacts both risk and potential cost. Projecting roles before the players are selected in the NFL Draft is much harder and riskier. Once roles are secured and more info comes out regarding what great fits they are, the asking price for rookie draft picks may rise.

Rival owner acumen
It is many times harder to pry picks away from owners who already have their own shortlist or more than just a cursory knowledge of the incoming class.

Rival team needs
Do you have any assets that you are willing to part with that can fill someone else’s needs?

Rival team’s pick vs. player value system
There are many dynasty owners who, preferring the known quantity of established NFL players, don’t place a great value on draft picks. These are the owners to target for in-season trades, as they will be more likely to settle for lower than their initial asking price.

Rival owner trade style
Two for ones only, fair trader, victim, uncertain owner/waffler, superiority complex, only trades I win (marginal or lopsided), the ‘send me an offer’ contingent, leverage hunters (using your interest to extract higher price from rival), the FPPG trader, suspicious owner, the shot clocker, the bluffer. Ascertaining which category your target owner falls into is a critical step in consummating a deal. We will discuss trades styles in more detail below.

Proximity to deadline (if applicable)
The closer you get to the trade deadline, the higher the likelihood you can get a rival owner to overpay and acquire an asset or offload a pick for playoff help.

Roster health heading to playoffs
If you are in the playoff mix and are considering an in-season trade, your roster health is an important aspect to evaluate. Selling off unneeded depth for rookie draft picks is ideal, but not always possible. If faced with a situation where you are required to part with a starter, you have to analyze your replacement options and roster health before making such a move.

Rebuilding vs. competing vs. selling unneeded depth
Performing an honest assessment of where your team stands is a crucial part of any rookie draft pick trade. If you are in rebuild or retooling mode, sell any unwanted assets you think you can improve upon. If competing, perform a cost-benefit analysis based on projected values of the players and picks in question. If simply selling unneeded depth or players you plan on dropping to make rookie draft picks, it would be wise to ascertain if there are options you deem similar enough on the waiver wire if making the trade in-season. If it is the offseason, quietly shop the asset around in an attempt to extract the highest potential value.

Trade Style Category Briefing

We will take a look at some of the more common trade styles you may run into. Although not an exhaustive list, it provides insight into some of the various mindsets you may encounter.

Two for Ones Only
Some owners only like to make two-for-one trades where they get the best player in the deal. It can often be difficult to trade with owners like this, especially if this mirrors your own style.

Fair Trader
Some owners look only to send fair offers and receive fair offers in return. It is usually a pleasure dealing with these owners unless you send them a lopsided offer. Some of these owners will totally disengage and hesitate to enter future talks if you are the perpetrator.

Victim
Everyone’s favorite rivaling trade style is the ‘victim.’ Every league has one. The owner that is continuously victimized by the sweet talk of other owners. Target them heavily while you can. They will eventually wisen up.

Uncertain Owner/Waffler
This can be a frustrating trade style to deal with, as these owners are characterized by indecisiveness. They will enter discussions, solicit offers, and sit on them for days. Even if they already agreed to terms. These owners are sometimes unsure of themselves and their football knowledge and are intent on not being taken advantage of (some of these owners are former ‘victims’).

Superiority Complex
These owners think they know more than anyone else and will try to sell depreciating assets often at yesterday’s price tag. They commonly think they know more than anyone else and can dupe their rival owners with assets no longer of interest.

Only Trades I Win (marginal or lopsided)
These owners have to feel like they are winning a deal to accept or make any offer. They are often difficult to rationalize with and are becoming increasingly common.

The ‘Send Me an Offer’ Contingent
These owners solicit offers and may sit on them for days without a response or counter offer. These owners like the idea of trading but are often looking for clear win-lose scenarios.

Leverage Hunters
These owners will solicit offers only to turn around and use your interest to extract a higher price from a rival owner. This is not a fun trade style to deal with, but sooner or later you are going to encounter a leverage hunter.

The FPPG Trader
This owner will regale you with tales of how his WR3, who is currently putting up WR2 numbers, is worth your slow-starting RB1 or WR1. Their bark is usually loudest near the start of the season, where they try to sell high or buy low.

Never Happy Trader
This dynasty owner is in constant evaluation mode and is always looking to improve their team. They may not always send the best offers or counters, but they are always willing to engage in a dialogue. Some view trades as a percentage game, fully aware that they will not hit on all of them. If this owner lacks rookie draft pick acumen, then they are an owner to target, as they are more likely than others to sell their picks at a relative discount.

Trade-Happy Trader
This owner is, like the name suggests, trade happy. They sometimes seemingly make trades just to make trades. This is a trade style to target, as they view all trades as a gamble.

Suspicious Owner
These owners become suspicious the instant you send them a trade offer. They believe any player you want must be worth more than they thought. These owners make it important not to let your leaguemates know the extent of your dynasty knowledge. The more they think you know, the harder it is to get them to engage in any serious discussions.

Shot Clock Trader
This owner will give rivals a limited window to accept or send an offer. This window could be 24 hours or five minutes. This is sometimes an effective strategy for owners and is usually only utilized when said owner feels strongly that their offer is more than fair.

The Bluffer
This owner will use fictitious deals to try to drive up the price tag. This owner may claim that there is another offer they like more, but they would rather deal with you due to preferring someone from your offer. This owner tries to use fear of losing out and the ‘bidders’ mentality in their favor.

Live Example

James thinks Metcalf is the next Julio Jones and wants to make a move to acquire him with the first overall rookie pick. With no first-round pick of his own (he traded his last year to acquire Ridley), he knows he will have to relinquish a prized asset to land his target. He is a little short on running-back depth with Chubb and Jordan Howard being his top-two runners, so he decides he will attempt to trade a wide receiver. His options are Jones, Ridley, Courtland Sutton, Sterling Shepard, and Sammy Watkins. Based on his previous dealings with the rival owner, he knows that Johnny trusts veterans more than young players and Jones is likely his only avenue to an accepted offer.

  1. Evaluate team needs and assets. Evaluating team competitiveness or projected competitiveness is a must. In this case, James is in a retooling year and believes Metcalf gives him a better chance at long term competitiveness.
    2. Identify which manager(s) you would like to target with offers. In this case, James wants a manager who has a top-five pick but is aiming for first overall. Without a consensus at the top of rankings, he fears Metcalf could be taken first if he does not pony up and pay Johnny’s asking price.
    3. Before you submit or accept an offer, discuss with a trusted guru. James discusses with @FantasyContext on Twitter and sets up a poll. Despite the feedback being split right down the middle, he decides to proceed with the trade.
    4. Identify what type of trade you wish to make. In this case, James knows he will offer Jones for No. 1 overall, selling a prized asset for a coveted pick.
    5. Avoid groupthink. James is very high on Metcalf, even if the draft and dynasty communities are split on him. He remains high on him despite cries regarding his injury history, limited production, and a limited college route tree.
    6. Refer to your shortlist. James, an avid college football fan and dynasty player, has been high on Metcalf since the 2017 season.
    7. Identify rival owner trade style. This was actually the first step James took. He believes that there is a good chance Metcalf goes first overall in his rookie draft and identifies his trade partner as a ‘superior,’ who only accepts lopsided deals that he wins. This is why he decided to offer Jones instead of Sutton and a second-round pick.

Hopefully, these 4,000-plus words have provided you with some angles to look at before embarking on a quest to trade or acquire rookie draft picks. As mentioned at the start, engaging in trade discussions regarding picks is an essential part of the dynasty experience. It is one of the key distinguishing features of dynasty leagues as compared to redrafts or limited keepers. And as I tell anyone new to dynasty leagues, trading is half of the fun.

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Raju Byfield is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Raju, follow him @FantasyContext.

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