Similar to our seasonal lessons learned we are going to bring you our staff thoughts on our dynasty lessons learned. These may not always be applicable to everyone, but we strive to bring you actionable information that will help you level up your process and dynasty acumen.
I have learned a ton this year and I am a man of small pleasures. I like when I can turn a handcuff running back into a mid to high second round rookie pick.
- I am a rebuilding type of player, with that territory means I deal heavily with draft picks and expected value. Every player I ship off talent for an unknown prospect means I need to ensure my draft picks become productive members on my roster. What that means is I need to make sure my rookie process is crisp, which leads me to my first lesson. When evaluating incoming rookies, do not over value athleticism at the cost of collegiate production. I call this the Tee Higgins impact; he is my biggest miss. He is my biggest miss because I overweighed dynamic athleticism instead of his production. While running backs need to be athletic to be successful, there are strong enough sample sizes to see wide receivers do not need to be athletic to be successful.
- To double down on the rookie draft picks portion of this, the lesson is to take advantage of the rookie fever. The whole concept of the rookie fever forecast podcast is to inform the listener on which prospects are worth the pick and when to turn a pick into a bonafide player. This rookie draft class is no secret with the expectations and given the production of the 2020 class, people will be foaming at the mouth. By establishing a strict tier of must draft, would like to draft, and fliers you can better identify which picks you can turn into players who have shown their capabilities on the field. That is ultimately how you turn a rebuild team into a contender, knowing which picks are for prospects and which are for flipping for an established player. (side note: an established player is a player that has broken out and shown what their ceiling is capable of).
- This lesson is what I like to refer to as the Chase Edmonds Prestige. Early this season I was higher than just about anyone on Edmonds. The reason being that he had shown his capabilities on the Cardinals and I felt confident he would get an opportunity to show that again this year. Sure enough, he got his opportunity and did not fail to disappoint, however, I failed to capitalize. The lesson being when a backup running back becomes the starting running back, with the starter NOT OUT FOR THE SEASON. Sell to the highest bidder. I made the mistake in thinking Drake would be out for the season and I cost myself a mid-round second round pick. Taking advantage of drastic value changes often result in extra draft capital. Which will allow for draft time maneuvering to ensure you get your ‘must draft tiered players’.
- Bonus lesson: when you are drafting in a start-up do not be afraid to take a player that you do not like but has a lot of hype among the industry. After the draft you can put him on the block and get a ransom. To help illustrate this, I will give you an example. Last year during my many start-ups, I drafted both Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, I do not own either of those players, but I was able to sell them both for massive hauls. The reason I could is because people were extremely high on Drake and Henry, having known that I was able to exploit that.
We as a fantasy affair staff have chosen to focus more on a dynasty perspective, as far as fantasy football is concerned and that opens a lot of different avenues for this topic. Normally, we would focus on team build for a small bench or speak on position scarcity and the importance of the often-neglected positions. Such as the tight end position with Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle along with their impact on a fantasy finish. However, for this exercise I am going to highlight two things that I believe people are missing, the value of top end players and exploiting the value of draft picks. Many will argue that this is merely league dependent, and rightly so in many aspects but there are some general trends that have stuck out to me as a dynasty manager. I have been forced to learn the most about these two aspects of the dynasty game.
With the plethora of pods, websites filled with articles and rankings, and all the opinions so blatantly shared on twitter, players availability has varied greatly in recent years to those of the past. Nearly every fantasy manager wants to simply accrue value and build a team that is striking in appearance. Currently many top end options that would normally not be available and will certainly be coveted even by the same owner in redraft leagues, are now available in dynasty leagues due to a perceived age cliff and the corresponding drop off in performance. Dynasty managers want to sell these players at their peak value and cash in even when they themselves project that player to have tremendous production in the upcoming season. With nearly every owner executing this strategy, I have had enormous success purchasing studs in exchange for draft picks and prospects that have not reached their peak yet.
A few names make the list here, as I have traded for them repeatedly in this current off season, as young as is it. Alvin Kamara, Calvin Ridley, Devonte Adams, David Montgomery, Kenny Golladay, and Amari Cooper are available in nearly every league I am in. Always for a price that I feel is discounted for the production they have provided in the past two seasons. Offering players like Carson Wentz, DJ Chark, D’Andre Swift, Tee Higgins straight up or with a future draft pick that is projected to be late has often gotten the deal done. This is a trend I am going to continue to exploit in the following months to secure a lineup that has a solid floor with tremendous upside in pursuit of a championship. Simply put, if you can trade someone young and mostly unproven with a draft pick that has a less than ideal hit rate for someone you can rely on week in and week out; do it and enjoy the benefit of a playoff berth for better or for worse.
The next point I would like to make is the fluctuation of draft pick values. After a season where first and second round rookie picks are highly successful the perceived value of the next season’s draft class is higher. Regardless of who is coming out and what landing spots are available. In 2017 we saw a ton of great prospects not only “hit” but secure their place on NFL rosters for years to come. This led to 2018 being overhyped and when they failed to meet expectations 2019 was severely underrated. AJ Brown, DK Metcalf, Miles Sanders, David Montgomery, Deebo Samuel, and Terry McLaurin, just to name a few, have all had great success at times and are worth far more today than they were in the early offseason of 2018. After the 2020 class erupted onto the scene, we are going to see the 2021 draft class be coveted even with a drop off talent this will lead to 2022 being undervalued and 2023 being the class to target due to the recency bias of the past few years. So, I am looking to sell my futures for two years and add 2023 picks in nearly every deal I make. If we are close, I will gladly offer my 2022 first for their 2023 first to get the deal done. Delaying picking a player for the advantage of owning someone in what I expect to be a highly coveted class.
This was a rough dynasty season for me, but I learned quite a bit. I do not want to overreact to the atypical high-profile injuries that we saw, and I do not want to pretend that the 2020 rookie class was anything other than exceptional. That said, I have a few takeaways from the season:
– Roster depth is necessary to a degree, but overrated. It is very atypical to see as many impactful players go down with serious or nagging injuries as we had this year. I want my starting roster to be full of talent with depth that can contribute 70% of that value as plug in’s “just in case”. It is a hard pill to swallow, but if 4 of your studs go down with injury for multiple weeks (particularly in the championship weeks), it is probably not your year without some serious waiver wire luck. Spreading your assets too thin in the name of roster depth dilutes your best lineup and usually does not provide you with a winning team in the event of multiple injuries/IR. COVID year was weird because players would randomly pop up and be unable to play that week, but assuming this is the first and only year we have to deal with it, I’m going back to the “thin as a condom” roster approach and condensing all of my value in league winning players.
-Get your guys in the draft. ADP is a useful tool when you are trying to approximate which players will be there on your next pick. However, do not let it talk you into drafting players whose outlook you are not too keen on because they are “a value”. Pick the players you have been researching, pick the players you think will be awesome, and do not worry about “reaching” too much.
Irrespective of its cliché nature, the phrase “patience is a virtue” applies to dynasty fantasy football in a way that few other phrases do. More specifically, mega-hyped prospects Jonathan Taylor and Cam Akers were off to disappointing starts through the beginning and middle stages of 2020, before breaking out in a huge way towards the end of the season. Many of their owners jumped ship while their value was possibly at the lowest it will be in the next few years. This first lesson is two pronged: first, we want to be opportunistic buyers when other managers become impatient with players that we believe in. Second, instead of panic selling, we must have faith in our own decision making and trust that if we believed in a player enough to draft them in the first round of our rookie draft, there will almost assuredly be better days ahead.
Continuing with the rookie theme of my first lesson, I believe that 2020 was representative of a macro-level theme with regards to rookie wide receivers. Because, in general, NFL offenses are trending towards a more pass heavy approach, offenses are using more three and four receiver sets than in years past. These are the same sets that are used in college at an extraordinarily high rate. In other words, NFL offenses are becoming more similar to college offenses, making the transition from college to the NFL easier for rookie WR’s. So, you might ask, where is the proof? Well, coming into the season, many well-known fantasy pundits were recommending fantasy managers completely fade rookie WR’s. The shortened offseason devoid of a normal training camp, and a lack of preseason were the reasons they (quite reasonably) cited. Despite the hindrances they faced, there were 5 rookies who finished top 36 in PPR scoring, whereas there were only 4 in 2019 (with a full offseason). You can read about Rookie Bonanza here, where Britt dove into this further.