When to Blow Up A Dynasty Roster (Fantasy Football)
The year is 2017 and the Fantasy Footballers have taken on a cadre of writers to boost their written content. It doesn’t take long before we decide to form a dynasty league. Superflex, TE premium, PPR, with 11 starters. I had taken over an orphaned dynasty team with some friends, but I had never done a dynasty startup draft much less a Superflex league. Why not try something new?
My first mistake was joining a league with a bunch of sharks. There isn’t a lot of room for error in this league. The mistakes and missteps cascaded from there. I used my first pick to draft Andrew Luck. That was the year Luck missed the entire season because of injury. I was excited about the 2017 crop of rookies and I traded away some early- to mid-round startup picks for rookie picks. It’s normally not wise to pass on productive veterans for rookies(a lesson learned from this draft), but the 2017 crop of rookies included Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and a host of other great dynasty assets. It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but I whiffed and drafted John Ross, Mike Williams, O.J. Howard, and Jeremy McNichols. Still, I hit on Joe Mixon and picked up Alvin Kamara and James Conner late in the rookie draft.
All told, it should have been a decent haul but I wasn’t done. I traded away Kamara for peanuts while he was buried behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. I then traded James Conner to the Le’Veon Bell owner while Bell was still in Pittsburgh. I had a chance to trade Kyle Shanahan’s RB crush, Jeremy McNichols, for Kenny Golladay straight up, but chickened out. Injuries to Luck and Ryan Tannehill led to a trade for aging vet Carson Palmer who, almost immediately, also landed on IR. I ended the year with eight of 30 players on IR and those are the ones I didn’t drop from my roster. One win that year.
2018 was more of the same. I had the 1.04 and 1.05 in the rookie draft-Derrius Guice and Royce Freeman. Luckily my team was more healthy. Only seven players out of 30 finished the season on IR. At least I doubled my wins from the previous year!
I entered 2019 with a glimmer of hope, but I was ready to blow it up if things didn’t go right. I didn’t have many or early rookie draft picks, but I got a couple of rookie WRs I’m still high on with D.K. Metcalf and Mecole Hardman. I traded O.J. Howard and Mike Williams for Adam Thielen and Jared Cook (a rare good trade in hindsight) and acquired a cheap Sammy Watkins to bolster my WR corps. I still had Mixon and my QBs looked OK and then… Luck retired two weeks before the season started. I felt like a genius when Sammy Watkins blew up with 198 yards and three TDs in Week 1, but we know how his season ended. After an 0-3 start with an aging roster, it was time to start the process of blowing up my roster to get a fresh start.
Since then, I’ve noticed a few teams in other leagues doing something similar to their roster while many teams are muddling through with teams that have zero shot at a championship. This made me start to think about why and when team owners should commit to blowing up their rosters.
Your Team Stinks
Let’s not sugarcoat it. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious when a rebuild is necessary. There will be two to three teams in any dynasty league that are pretty much terrible. Ideally, you build a roster strong enough to compete from Day-1 and make enough smart moves to keep your team in contention year after year, but sometimes a bit of bad luck, some busted rookie picks, and untimely trades derail the best of us.
If you find yourself playing mental gymnastics when trying to figure out what needs to happen to even sniff the playoffs, it’s time to make some moves. These are the types of thoughts that signal danger:
- ‘I just need Carlos Hyde to be an RB1 and I should be OK.’
- ‘David Montgomery could get McCaffrey-like touches right?’
- ‘Breshad Perriman is definitely going break out with Adam Gase.’
- ‘I’m sure Phillip Rivers has a few years left.’
- ‘Corey Davis…post-hype sleeper?
If you have a team mostly devoid of studs and you’re thinking thoughts like above, it’s time. The sooner you commit to an overhaul, the better because any players that are good enough to trade for high rookie picks are likely to lose value before your team is even in contention to win. Realistically, you’re looking at a two- to three-year rebuild project. Keep any players that have the potential to help you in two to three years(young WRs or young RBs buried on the depth charts) and trade away your aging RBs and WRs and whatever else won’t help you in a couple of years for youth and draft picks.
Taking Over an Orphan
People don’t tend to walk away from good teams unless that team already won them money and they can flip it for a profit and/or the team’s future doesn’t look very bright. If you look at orphaned teams, you’ll notice the same players showing up again and again. Most of the time it’s because these players were some combination of expensive assets that busted with little chance for recovery (Antonio Brown), players that out-performed their expectation with questionable ability to recreate their production
(Ryan Tannehill), or players with sharply declining value in dynasty leagues (Julian Edelman or Chris Carson). The problem can be compounded if the previous owner also traded away future rookie draft picks.
The circumstances surrounding an orphan team are probably a little different than one of our dynasty teams. As bad as our dynasty team could get, there should still be some good assets and young talent on the team to at least start with. You may not have that luxury with an orphaned team. Your orphan-project isn’t winning anytime soon. Your sole goal should be acquiring as much young talent and draft picks as possible. Winning really doesn’t matter with the possible exception that your league has a ‘Loser’s Playoff Bracket’ where the non-playoffs teams compete for the highest draft picks but even then, your orphan might not be competitive in the Loser’s Bracket.
The key is patience, especially during the offseason. There is virtually no market for players like Antonio Brown, Ryan Tannehill, Julian Edelman, or Chris Carson. You’re going to get next to nothing in return if you trade them away now in the offseason. Why not hold on to them to see if something happens that increases their value? What if Brown signs with a team, Edelman gets peppered with targets early in the season, Carson gets healthy before Week 1 or Tannehill remains highly efficient? In each case, you can take the opportunity to sell at a higher value. Wait for the value blip for your aging vets and if the value blip never comes and those players whither away on your roster, ohh well – you didn’t really lose much anyways.
Stuck in the Middle
Teams can get into this rut where they’re good enough to challenge for the playoffs, but not good enough to make it to the championship without a crazy run of luck. These teams end up picking somewhere in the middle of rookie drafts meaning they get good rookie talent but miss out on the Saquon Barkley-esque blue-chip rookie picks.
Where the other two situations are pretty obvious, there are a lot of factors that go into this. You don’t want to blow up a team that may be positioned to take the next step. Some dynasty players have a nasty tendency to tear down teams that have potential. Rookie WRs and TEs are notorious for taking a while to produce and even RBs can take a few years before they become league winners.
If you have a roster with young talent on good offensive teams who haven’t done much after their first year or two, you should probably wait a little longer. The worst thing you could do is enter this cycle where you’re always looking to win two years down the road while spitting out young talent to your league mates. Davante Adams failed to exceed 500 yards and three TDs in his first two seasons. It even took Christian McCaffrey a couple of seasons to claim the top spot on redraft and dynasty-league rankings. Let young dynasty teams grow. The time to blow up a middling team is when the strength of the team is aging vets.
Let’s just say (hypothetically obviously, because I would never be inspired by another team from one of my home-dynasty leagues), there was a team with Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Le’Veon Bell, Aaron Jones, Raheem Mostert, Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Marvin Jones, and Jack Doyle without much young talent on the roster. This team has a lot of very good pieces for a playoff run, but injuries and decreased opportunity to a couple of players and this team could go from championship-caliber to clawing for a playoff spot. Between age, QB situations, and coaching/team philosophies a lot of these players are within a year or two of seeing sharply declining value.
There are a lot of these types of players sprinkled around the league including Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Leonard Fournette, Julio Jones, Adam Thielen, and Zach Ertz. There’s nothing wrong with any of these guys and championship teams will probably be championship teams because of some of them, but these guys are almost impossible to trade for any sort of value right now and forget it in a year or two. Right behind them are guys like Ezekiel Elliott, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr, and Travis Kelce.
Without injecting young talent, a team with too many of these players might see nine wins this year, seven wins next year, and four wins the year after. It’s a delicate position to be in because if you blow up a dynasty roster with a lot of great pieces too soon, you might miss out on a run at a championship; don’t do that. On the other hand, if it becomes apparent that your aging vets can’t get you past the First Round of the playoffs and you don’t have young talent emerging ready to carry your dynasty team, then it’s time to blow up your roster.