How to Avoid Owning a Middling Dynasty Team (Fantasy Football)
Being just good enough should never be your goal in life, and more importantly, in fantasy football. Your goal should always be to be the best. If you’re not the best, every move you make should be made towards the goal of being the best.
Life often doesn’t provide clear cut winners and losers. Fantasy football does. Either you made the playoffs or you didn’t. Either you won the championship or you didn’t.
It’s that reality that shapes my conclusion that there is nothing worse than being a mid-tier team in a dynasty league. You can tell yourself that if you make the playoffs anything can happen, but that seems less like a plan and more of a hope.
If your team is already one of the best in the league, then this isn’t the article for you. If you are a team that consistently finishes 7-6 or 6-7 (or worse), you are my target audience.
As a Philadelphian, there are some things you’ve learned to live with. You accept that most of the country assumes you like to throw batteries at Santa Claus while eating a cheesesteak. You also learned to either love or loathe “The Process.”
Sam Hinkie, former general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, stated that the goal of “The Process” was to “find the best way to acquire top talent for the team by getting as many assets—draft picks, young players, players with trade- and team-friendly contracts—as possible, and using them in a way to bring in a superstar player.” While the team-friendly contracts would only apply to salary cap leagues, the rest of the process applies to every other dynasty league.
It seems simple enough. But to fully embrace the process means you need to fully embrace losing in year one and maybe even in year two, which is often easier said than done.
Stop trading for descending assets (unless they are discounted steeply)
Unless you’re offered a player like Larry Fitzgerald or A.J. Green for late (and I do mean late) rookie picks, there’s no reason to acquire those types of players. Every move you make should be made with the thought process of accruing assets that will gain value. If you’re not going to compete, players like this do not help your roster.
Let’s take a look at Fitzgerald as an example. In August of 2019, he was worth about a mid-second round pick in rookie drafts based on Mike Tagliere’s “Dynasty Trade Value Chart.” Based on the most recent update to this value chart, Fitzgerald is now worth about an early third-rounder.
Selling him last year for a second-round pick in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory would have been a positive net gain towards adding value to your roster. If instead, you held on to Fitzgerald in hopes that he would be an integral part of your playoff run, you were probably disappointed by his WR43 per game finish (11.1 fantasy points per game).
Kick the can down the road
You might not be cognizant of one fact as it pertains to dynasty rookie drafts. You are bad at picking players who end up being any good. To be fair to you, it’s not a phenomenon unique to just you. Matt Mesisca looked at rookie hit rates from 2010-2017 and found that rookie first-rounders give you a 45.8% hit rate. That seems low until you read his study further and see the hit rates for second-rounders fell to 30.6% and third-round and later picks hit at just a 9.3% rate. This isn’t the only study that came to similar conclusions. You should also read this Reddit thread (it’s SFW, I promise), and take a look at the work that Jacob Rickrode has done on the subject matter.
Hopefully, you still own your full allotment of rookie picks for 2020. If so, you can capitalize on the soon to bloom rookie fever season. Flip your 2020 picks for earlier 2021 picks — trade fourth-rounders for third-rounders, third-rounders for second-rounders, and second-rounders for first-rounders. You may not be able to make each of those exact moves, but you should be able to make at least a couple of them. There will be players who inevitably fall during your draft that the other league owners love, it happens every single season. Let other owners take the risk associated with picks outside of the first round. Every round you move up, even if it’s a year later, increases the odds that you’ll find a player that can help your team win.
Buy undervalued production
Buying low doesn’t just mean you have to buy player’s who are coming off poor seasons or returning from injury. As noted in the below tweet, you can find players that are undervalued in dynasty leagues every season to buy as well.
Want a solid metric for identifying buys in dynasty?
Find players who have consistently outproduced their ADP and rank year over year.
Just be mindful of age, as this is more likely in aging Veterans pic.twitter.com/TBfnKw3jdU
— Tom Burroughs (@FF_TomB) January 20, 2020
Whether it be because a player was originally a late-round NFL pick, started their career slowly, or they just don’t have that flash to their game, some players’ ADP never catches up to their production. Robert Woods is an example of this. Per DLF’s ADP from August 2019, Woods was the WR20 in per-game scoring. He finished the season as the WR13. In 2018, Woods was the WR15 after coming off the board as the WR31. In 2017, the gulf was even more pronounced. Drafted as the WR68, Woods finished the year as the WR18. Woods, and the player highlighted in the above tweet, Austin Ekeler, are not unique. This is an inefficiency in the market you should pounce on. Find the most recent ADP and compare it against the top-24 players at running back and wide receiver and go shopping for the players that are undervalued.