Fantasy Football Day Trader: Offseason Edition
This has been the greatest NFL offseason of all time. Russell Wilson was traded to the Broncos. Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. Davante Adams to the Raiders. Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper to the Browns. Matt Ryan to the Colts. Robert Woods to the Titans. Khalil Mack to the Chargers. Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders (soft name tbh). Dominic Elwood drafted by the Oilers. Breece Hall to the Jets. For us NFL degenerates, life is good. Yes – if you’re reading an article about fake football in May – you’re a degenerate…but it’s cool. Join the club…we’re all friends here.
In this article, I’ll present a handful of offseason dynasty trade theories that I think will be successful more often than not. Like 60-70% of the time. That’s my personal guarantee* (*not subject to litigation). After all, a 60% win rate in gambling is incredible. And fantasy football is a lot like…well.
Before I get to my trade theories, I’d like to let you know that you do NOT have to be into college football or know much about rookies to be successful and have fun in dynasty fantasy football. You just have to adjust your strategy.
How I Approach Rookies
Hand up, I don’t know rookies very well (I ask fellow TFFB writer Marvin Elequin for advice – he’s top tier). For whatever reason, I just don’t follow college football much. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching a game here and there…but pretty much all my sports energy is invested in the NFL. Plus, there are a ton of people that are great with rookie analysis – so I just listen to them. It’s the same thing I do when I’m trying to fix something around the house – watch a few YouTube videos before grabbing my tools and getting to work.
Honestly, I tend to take a macro-level approach to rookie drafts and trades with rookies/rookie picks. I love articles that look at rookie production over a wide span of time. I think about rookies from the perspective of an “average class” and then adjust opinions on specific players based on analysis from analysts I trust. One of my favorite reference tools is an evergreen dynasty article written by the legendary Mike Tagliere (RIP): What is a Dynasty Draft Pick Actually Worth? It looks at 12 years of rookie production in the NFL. Another great one was recently published by Marvin Elequin: Experience-Adjusted College Production & Its Impact on Prospect Hit Rates.
Here’s an example: A year ago when I made a trade for the 1.06 pick at the beginning of the rookie draft of a Superflex dynasty league. The first four picks were quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the manager with the 1.06 pick also had Deebo Samuel… and I had been trying to trade for Deebo for a couple of months (unsuccessfully). We ended up making a deal where I traded away Calvin Ridley and a future 3rd for the 1.06, Deebo Samuel, and a future 2nd. The deal was made when the person at pick 1.05 was on the clock and Najee Harris, Ja’Marr Chase, and Kyle Pitts were on the board. I didn’t know the players well, but I knew a lot of smart analysts I trusted touted them all – so I figured if I end up with one, I’d be just fine. I ended up taking Ja’Marr Chase. So I shedded Calvin Ridley and ended up with two elite studs in Deebo Samuel and Ja’Marr Chase this past season (plus an upgraded future pick). At the time, this trade felt a lot more even than it seems today. That’s how dynasty fantasy football works. The way to get a huge advantage is to take risks. It doesn’t always work out, but I’d rather play to win than play to “not lose”.
Dynasty Trade Theory 1: Trade Away Older Elite RBs for Young Proven Players +
Running Backs are short-term assets in dynasty. The elite ones are worth their weight in gold, but they are typically only elite for a few years. If you don’t believe me, look up dynasty rankings from two years ago: Kenyan Drake, Devin Singletary, Todd Gurley, and Le’Veon Bell were all top-20 dynasty RBs. Savvy dynasty managers can get a huge advantage by trading one of the elites away 1-to-2 years before their decline. It doesn’t always work out, but even if the elite RB keeps producing at an elite level…you normally end up with a relatively fair value in return. And if the player declines? You make out like a bandit. A great example of this is a few years ago when Andy Holloway famously traded away Todd Gurley for a haul – including Dalvin Cook.
Elite RBs are the most coveted players in redraft for a reason – the elite ones provide the greatest positional advantage relative to all position groups (more on that in this evergreen article I wrote a few years ago: The Greatest Positional Values Over the Past Decade). This elite production combined with the limited shelf life means that dynasty teams that are in a position to “win now” should be trading for elite RBs and trying to capitalize on their “Superbowl window”. If you have an elite, older RB that you want to trade away for a haul, start by looking for the top-4 teams in your league to try and find a trade partner.
I live by the theory that you should only trade away a true difference-maker if you get at least one proven player in return. It’s always nice to mix in a rookie or rookie pick in the package as well for upside. I also want to stress that you should never trade away a top-10 dynasty player unless you’re getting a great package in return. So to be clear, I’m not saying trade CMC away immediately. I’m saying that you should explore trade options to see if anyone in your league is willing to offer a haul for CMC.
Dynasty Trade Theory 2: Trade Away Older Elite WRs for Sophomore WRs
Wide receivers are long-term assets in dynasty. The elite ones are like stepping on a crunchy leaf. For like eight years straight. Elite WRs don’t score as much or have the same level of consistency as elite RBs, but the longevity of WRs is so desirable in dynasty. I typically go RB heavy in redraft leagues and WR heavy in dynasty leagues for that reason.
Last summer, our very own Jason Moore and Matt DiSorbo teamed up for an in-depth study on performance indicators for young NFL players: The Sophomore Bump & Breaking Down the Door of ADP. They discovered that sophomore WRs with an average draft position (ADP) between Rounds 4-8 outperformed their ADP 70% of the time. This stat is specifically based on redraft fantasy league data…but it basically tells us that sophomore WRs who produced in their rookie season often take a step forward in year 2. As in…more than most people expect. But it’s hard to trade for young, productive players in dynasty! If you’re a veteran of dynasty, you already know this. So how can you target them in a trade?
Similar to Trade Theory 1 about RBs, one of the best ways to get an elite, young WR is to trade a more proven player. It’s not always bad to be on the “2 side” of a 2:1 trade. As always, don’t force a trade or undersell your elite fantasy players.
Dynasty Trade Theory 3: Keep it Simple, Stupid
At the end of the day, we play fantasy football to have fun, don’t overthink it. If there is a player you like, trade for them…even if people on Twitter claim that you “lost” the trade. Plus, there’s so much chaos and randomness in fantasy that we truly never know who “wins a trade” until a couple of years pass. It’s really fun to have your favorite player on your fantasy team – so trade for them. Also, you can “lose a trade” and still make your team better. The perfect example of this is trading away injured players or rookie picks for players that are healthy and productive right now.
Every player in fantasy has highs and lows. Try to cash in and take your shots when you can!