The Importance of Being Open for Business in Dynasty Leagues (Fantasy Football)
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Dynasty leagues typically don’t follow the customs of normal redraft leagues. You are with the same people who have the same rosters, year-in and year-out. The only ways to acquire players are through trades, the sparse waiver wire, and the rookie draft.
Since you are playing year-round as opposed to a four-month season, you’re constantly watching your opponents make moves and construct their roster during the offseason. These transactions, no matter how small, can provide you with a competitive advantage.
You can study your league-mates’ roster moves and learn key insights from their habits with each player acquisition method. Let’s examine all three methods and determine how to find advantages by watching your opponent.
Trades are the best way to get talent onto your roster. While you may not be involved in every trade that occurs, it’s of the utmost importance that you study the parties making the deal what’s involved in the transaction. Learning how a trade was consummated and what each party values will help you make advantageous moves down the line.
Active or Dormant
First, you’ll want to take note of who is the most active trader in your league. This person is typically the most likely to initiate trade talks and be responsive to trade offers. The volume of transactions they make does not typically correlate to their competitiveness as a player. However, you can usually get a sense of their fantasy football aptitude by what kind of trades they get done.
Knowing which of your league-mates are most active on the trading block will suggest how often you should negotiate and what kind of offers you should send to them. If you are negotiating with an active trader, then you can likely make several offers as you bargain towards a deal. They will be receptive to negotiating and will ultimately come to a compromise if the first offer is somewhat fair.
On the other hand, if you want to make a deal with someone who is not active, there is very little room for negotiation. You will need to put out your best offer right upfront, as it will likely be a long time for them to get back to you — if they get back to you at all. You can send multiple offers their way, but inundating an inactive league member with multiple proposals is a sure-fire way for them to ignore your advances.
Good Trader or Bad Trader
Another key to analyzing trades is seeing who is making good deals and bad deals. This is pretty self-explanatory, but I want to hammer home the point. If you see a team consummate a trade where they very clearly lost in terms of value, you should immediately target that team as a trade partner. Their trades signify that they do not understand the value of their players, meaning you could have their assets at a significantly cheaper price due to their naïveté.
You will want to be somewhat quick when making an offer with this team, as most league members will see what you see and try to get value from that squad. It may seem mean-spirited to take advantage of an owner who is not as skilled as the rest of the league, but if NFL general managers can do it to Bill O’Brien, then it’s acceptable if you do it.
On the flipside, if you notice one league manager consistently wins their trades with other people, you will have to be very careful in dealing with that person. More often than not, they know what they are doing and will not take a deal that benefits both sides. If you desperately want a player from their roster, you’ll have to prepare to overpay. If they want a player from your roster, it should signal that that player may be worth more than you initially suspect.
Looking at each league-mates’ roster is also a key indicator of what they value and how you can take advantage of their priorities. An owner’s roster construction is like a self portrait; they will typically draft and roster players that reflect their preconceptions of what they believe will happen.
For example, if you see an owner draft multiple Rams wide receivers, they likely expect Los Angeles to field a high-flying offense. The same can be said with whom they choose to avoid — you may see this team actively trade away players on certain teams because they believe that team will not be good in the coming years.
One of the main takeaways from looking at a person’s roster construction is whom they put in their starting lineup. Before the season, many owners still set a starting lineup as if they were playing tomorrow — it presents a psychological statement that “this is my best team and I am a good owner.” That idea in itself is an oxymoron.
With most owners who do things like that, they are revealing their hand without being prompted. Now, sometimes the decision is somewhat obvious. For example, if they have Christian McCaffrey in their starting lineup, that’s obviously not a hard decision because he’s one of the best running backs in any given week. However, if they start one marginal player over another in their limited roster space, then that dictates whom they value. For example, if Alshon Jeffrey is in their starting lineup but Diontae Johnson is on their bench, you could potentially acquire Johnson for cheap as you know that owner devalues the rookie compared to the aging veteran.
Now, veteran dynasty owners will understand this tendency, so they may counteract it for their advantage. Some dynasty owners, like myself, put players that have a positive public reception — but whom they don’t value highly — on their starting roster. This will inflate their market among the novices, as they believe I value him as a startable asset and I need to be compensated as such to get rid of him.
Other players will just refuse to play that psychological game entirely by not filling out their starting lineup. They will just put everybody on their bench until Week 1 when they need to actually set a lineup. Both counter-measures are valid.
Another valuable piece of information you can obtain from an owner’s roster construction is how they like to build their team. Do they build a lot of depth at running back? Do they start multiple wide receivers in their FLEX? Do they have a lot of quarterbacks on their bench? You can then leverage that information to make a deal where you send that owner a position of need (or desire) and receive value in return.
This strategy becomes more difficult when a dynasty owner takes over an orphan team because they are operating off of the preferences of the previous owner. Yet you should still be able to gather information from that team’s trade tendencies and lineup settings.
The last telltale transaction method is the waiver wire. The waiver wire in deep dynasty leagues is typically very sparse and has limited assets available to pick up. Yet, it is probably the best way to obtain value.
You can gather a lot of information by determining how active your league-mates are on the waiver wire and by whom they pick up. If you see that some league-mates are not active on the waiver wire, then they will likely not be a fierce opponent when trying to claim a player.
This will affect how much FAAB you use to claim a player; if many league members do not participate heavily on the wire, you can lower your bidding amounts and save money down the road. If the opposite is true, then you know you will need to spend your FAAB to acquire the player you desire.
The dynasty waiver wire rarely has gems, but you can tell which owners are reacting to the market and taking speculative risks. That information is key, as you understand which owners know their value and what outcomes they expect to happen. For example, if they grab a player that’s not in the news, then you can see they look very deep into the wire and not just at recommended players. They will most likely be your main competition for free agents and be ahead of the curve.
It’s also important to see who owners drop when they utilize the waiver wire — there is value to be had by either picking up those players or getting an insight into why that player was dropped. If one owner releases a player, and that player is picked up the very next day by another team, it becomes clear that the former owner may not understand their players’ value, given they did not shop that player prior to release.
It is important to stay active on the waiver wire during the offseason. The assets you pick up during the off time will typically be free, and if you are right, you can flip them for a solid return.
There are always character traits that you cannot actively determine. The psychological aspect of studying other owners’ moves is not perfect, as transactions are often random and may not have a logical reason behind them. After all, these are just people playing fantasy football, not NFL GMs.
It is important to realize the capability of your league-mates and how you stack up against them. Even if it’s only a slight advantage, you don’t want to give away your hand unless it’s absolutely necessary. To quote one of my favorite movies, “if you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”