Guest Article: Michael J Gavin (Twitter: @MjGavMan)
If you are reading this, you most likely fall into one or two of these three categories. 1) You are addicted to Dynasty and read everything, 2) You are new to, or curious about Dynasty and are trying to read everything and/or 3) You think you need to rebuild your Dynasty team.
The allure of Dynasty for most of us, is that its 365 1/4 days a year. You can always be looking at rookies, free agency, contemplating trades and any other number of things. Just remember, you are playing to win every year, there is no Sam Hinkie award for making the best deals. Don’t jump into rebuild mode because it sounds fun and you get to make lots of trades, do rookie and draft pick evaluations, post lots of polls on Twitter, or whatever else gets your rocks off. Take it from a lifelong Sixers fan, rebuilds can be long and painful. If you want to rebuild for the fun, the experience or the practice, pick up an orphan team in another league. Don’t blow up your current team.
I always warn people, try not to get too caught up in any one thing, don’t fall in love with rookies and do not tinker with your team just for the action. If you were a top three team last year, don’t be giving up all of your assets to move up to the first pick in the draft. That being said, good teams should stay active, trying to keep a youthful pipeline through the draft and minor trades, mediocre teams should work on getting good through more significant trades, while being less concerned with the draft and bad teams should either find another hobby, or they need to rebuild by all means available.
The difficulty often comes in making the evaluation. There is no real formula here, as it can be very different based on your league, but you have heard it before, “if you can’t spot the sucker in the first half an hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” Seriously, if you found yourself in the bottom 25% of the league and it’s not because of injury, or because you are already in the midst of a rebuild, then you need to be rebuilding. The problem is, if you waited until the end of the season you waited too long. Dynasty value is incredibly cyclical, so timing is everything.
So you have self-evaluated and you are committed to rebuilding. The positive thing here is that rebuilding can be fun and if it is done well, you can build a really strong team that can be competitive for a long time. A quality rebuild requires sound strategy, patience, a lot of planning and you definitely need luck. You can look at all the numbers and have all of the probabilities on your side, but just like everything else in fantasy football, the ultimate equalizer will always be luck. Once you make your peace with that, you need to study everything you can, you need to know your league mate’s rosters inside and out, you need to know how their teams are performing, what are their needs, what future draft picks they own, what positions they value and how they value their picks? Will you have competition for similar assets? Are other teams in rebuild mode as well? You need to be evaluating current NFL players, researching situations, get familiar with ages, for the young guys you should know measurables, for in their prime guys you should know production and for older guys, make a judgement on longevity. For all of them, though, you need to know their value on the open market, and how their value changes for you and for different teams in your league. You need to know the rookies for the next draft and for the draft after that. Even though you are probably not in a devy league, start looking at devy rankings, it’s a great way to get familiar with the names you should be studying.
Some of this advice can apply to any area in Fantasy, but it is mainly for significant rebuilds. If you are looking to do a quick rebuild, then I probably wouldn’t label it a rebuild at all, but more of a retooling. A mediocre team can trade away all of its draft picks for the next two years and all of its high upside guys to become more competitive right away. This is definitely a sound strategy. Youth is a luxury for competitive teams, but a must for poor and rebuilding teams.
For those of you in full rebuild mode, your short term goals need to be focused on acquiring assets. Assets are anything you have that is tradeable, normally players and draft picks, but sometimes also FABB dollars. Believe it or not a couple of bucks of FABB can be enough to sweeten a deal to get it done. Your initial focus is on acquiring these assets and getting them at the right price. You need to once again evaluate your team. Who or what has the most value and what can you get for them? Do they bring enough value to make it worthwhile to move? If you are in rebuild mode you want to not be horrible next year and be competitive the following year, so I look to move on from RBs that are going to be 29 next season and WRs that are going to be 31. Its probably a year younger than others would suggest, but these guys are clearly not in your long term plans and bring more value because they aren’t washed up yet.
In the early stages of a rebuild you need to “win” every trade to acquire assets. A competitive team can “lose” a trade, because they are more need specific and can afford to give up more assets than they are getting back to fill specific needs. The most important thing to get back in assets is added value. Not every trade you make should immediately be part of your team. Its okay to take back an older player in a deal if you think he can help you sweeten another deal. You need to be looking a couple of deals ahead. You should have a plan. If a team has an asset you want, but you don’t think you can get it, look for another team that may have the piece and acquire it from them and then flip it. Trading in Dynasty is all about timing.
If you trade too early in the regular season, teams don’t know what they are yet and are hesitant. However if you have an over-performing player, you need to take advantage before they come back down to earth. If you are trying to acquire draft picks they become more expensive the closer you get to the NFL draft. You can make some deals early in the offseason, but once you are within a week or two of the combine, the value will not be there. Obviously, though, this is a great time to flip draft picks for actual players. The best time to acquire draft picks and young underperforming upside guys is in November and December when you are dealing with teams jockeying for playoff positions and looking to make a championship run. Rebuilding teams often have high picks, so you can sometimes wait for people to come to you, but it is certainly valid to let people know your picks are available. Sometimes moving just a couple of slots can net you some good assets.
If someone comes to you, always counter with more than it would take to get the trade done, and when they counter back, if it is an acceptable deal, I like to try to get a little something extra. Something like a last round pick in a future year, or a swap that nets me a couple of spots in the late rounds. Its not much, but every little bit is value, and it will make you feel good. Just make sure not to be ridiculous with offers and counters or even the little add-on’s I mentioned. The last thing you want is to be a rebuilding team with a reputation for being difficult to trade with.
So I have mostly referred to value up to this point, but how do you actually start putting a team together? This can be difficult. At some point you find yourself addicted to acquiring “value” and you look up and find yourself with zero players and every pick in the draft. You may have “won” every trade, but at some point you need players to win games and championships. Be careful not to fall too far down that rabbit hole. At the end of the day, the rookie draft is a crap shoot. You are probably doing well if you hit on 25% of your guys being weekly starters, and for many it will take a couple of years to see that. So, along with draft picks, you want to acquire players too. You want to get young upside guys and lots of them, because, just like rookie draft picks, many will not pan out for you. This part of the rebuild is all about volume, lots of picks, lots of rookies, lots of high upside guys. The more volume you have, the more guys may hit for you, and the more assets you have to move if another team comes along and is looking to rebuild and move a key piece. Kind of a Circle of Life type thing.
When the draft finally does arrive, some people will tell you to go best available, but when rebuilding, I suggest going RB heavy in the draft. I know zero-RB has been all the rage in redraft, but the position is so scarce that it can be very difficult to acquire RBs through any other means in Dynasty, and that same scarcity can make them a very trade-able commodity as well, so I don’t think you can have too many. RBs also have a tendency to make a more immediate impact if they are going to at all, while WRs have a tendency to show their abilities after a couple of years in the league, making them more easily acquired via other means after the draft.
These are not hard and fast rules, as there are notable exceptions to this, but I like to try to shave some time off the rebuild process by identifying young WRs that didn’t show in their rookie season, or perhaps rookie and sophomore seasons, and acquire them instead of just picks. In theory, you don’t have to hold a guy during their developmental years, and you acquire them when they are closer to being a contributor. I would rather have a Doctson or a Treadwell right now than be picking Mike Williams somewhere around 4-6 in the first round. I could certainly acquire one of them for less than I could acquire a top 6 pick. Doctson and Treadwell were both top 5 picks in last year’s rookie draft, but I can acquire them for less and they are theoretically a year into their development.
Keep in mind these type of players are more easily acquired in-season while their owners are trying to win and are sick of looking at these guys doing nothing on their bench week after week.
Once the offseason comes around, they remember how they spent a high pick on them in a previous rookie draft and immediately raise their price. Imagine how cheap you could have gotten Davante Adams during his dreadful sophomore season. There are certainly still question marks with Adams, as with all young players, but he feels like a pretty nice piece for a rebuilding team right now, and even if you don’t personally care for him, he would bring really nice value in a trade. You can use a similar strategy at TE and even QB. You should not take any of this to mean that you should never use a high pick on these positions though. If there are guys that are true can’t miss guys, you have to take them. You can’t pass up Julio or AJ, or even Luck at the QB position, but that is where you need to be able to separate fact from fiction.
There is always going to be fantasy hype around the top WR to take in Dynasty, but the transcendent guys don’t come around every year. Julio was a beast, Cory Davis is a nice prospect. Somebody has to be the number one WR coming out, but that doesn’t make them a can’t miss by any means. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it’s hard, at some point though, you just have to trust your own instincts.
Good luck with your rebuilds. Hit me up with any questions or comments.