Startup drafts can often be the highlight of your dynasty league. The gut wrenching feeling when you see guys you desperately want get snatched just the pick in front of you. A celebratory fist pump when you get the undervalued guy you think will be your cornerstone. You never know how well your start up truly went until a few years after. If you nail it, the guys you picked have help won you a championship or were packaged for someone who did.
What if you didn’t nail it? What if the guys you picked didn’t pan out to your expectations? Injuries occurred, father time came and went, taking the guys you were so excited to draft just a year ago. Three years ago, I blew my start up draft. This is going to be a long read but hopefully you all can take away something from this. Whether it be taking a piece of the strategy I employed or just taking small things and implementing it into your own play style. I’m hoping that I can help save some of you from the mistakes I made, and pass on the lessons that I learned to salvage your team.
It was my first 2QB and IDP league. To be honest I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had no clue how to value these guys, I had been playing redraft since 2002 but knew in dynasty I couldn’t just load up on my favorite RBs and rush our way to the championship. I felt good post draft, three weeks into the season that feeling faded. Everyone I asked for advice told me to buckle up its going to be a long road to making this team competitive. I took that as a personal challenge. I was going to do some things different, I was going to make this team a winner and set it up for the long haul. I decided to take the road less traveled, one that scares a lot of people in the dynasty world. I decided to blow it up and do a fast rebuild. In fact, I decided year two I wanted to compete for a championship.
Let me preface this article with the league settings to give it a better background. It is a 10 team league, featuring two QB starting spots, two RBs, two WRs, a TE, three flexes and a kicker for offense. For all you IDP folks out there it is a three DL, three LB, two CB, and two Safeties requirement. For viewing ease its setup is:
QB QB RB RB WR WR TE FLEX FLEX FLEX K DL DL DL LB LB LB CB CB S S.
It is a deep 40 man roster with a 5 man practice squad. Scoring for the league is very typical. The only noteworthy parts are that it is .5 PPR, 4 points for passing TDs, 1PT for tackles, 7 for INT, 5 for sacks, 4 for fumbles forced.
So now that the boring aspects are out of the way, let’s look at the actual disaster. The draft. I was blessed or cursed with the first pick depending how you look at it. I had the internal battle at the time of going QB or taking the young sensation Odell Beckham Jr. The reputation that was circling around Odell at the time was that he was a “track guy” and had a bad hamstring, which may make his career relatively short. I sadly bought into that bogus narrative. I pulled the trigger on Andrew Luck first overall. Ill share my draft picks from this startup, looking back a lot of it is cringe worthy. Warning, it’s ugly.
The Startling Startup
I know I know, I’m a fool. You’re all laughing at me thinking why I would even listen to this clown. At the time I thought I had a nice mix of veterans and young guys with potential. It seemed every pick the guy I really wanted was sniped from me just a pick or two away. This happened as early as my second pick. I was hoping Mike Evans or AJ Green would slide, they didn’t. I knew I had to get a solid receiver to build around and decided Alshon would have to do. The AP pick was me being naïve. I saw him slipping and decided I could ride him to a championship. A guy like him, a freak of nature, I figured he could defy the odds and last into his early 30s. Next up I decided to grab some young WRs I liked and a pair of young QBs to help compliment Luck and fortify that position for the next 10 years.
If you haven’t realized by now, what I had planned in my grand scheme didn’t work out. Here’s the first lesson, planning long-term doesn’t often pan out. The NFL is an unpredictable monster, regression happens out of nowhere. Injuries strike, players lose roles. Out of the 40 guys I drafted 16 remain on my team. Of my first 20, only 11 remain. Of my top 5, Luck is the only survivor. I blew my start up.
So how can you recover from this? I designed a strategy. The pick packaging strategy as I call it has put me in a position to win long-term. It’s a strategy I conjured up on the fly, taking pieces from different analysts like Dwayne Brown who trades on volume to correct for mistakes, Dynasty Rich and his #2/3 year window philosophy. It’s a strategy that requires attention, effort, and finding ways to win small. I’m going to lay it out for you to see, so as you see the roster progression you can understand why I did the moves I made.
Pick Packaging Strategy Notes
Actual Strategy: To abide by certain rules in most trades. It’s designed to consolidate lesser assets and picks into premier players. Instead of the ‘rebuilding’ typical route of using draft picks to acquire young rookies, this method prefers to use the picks to acquire young players at a markup while avoiding the waste of an asset in picking a player that busts. It is easier to evaluate a player who has played in the NFL than trying to evaluate college tape and projecting a translation to the NFL. It takes into account the inflation of value in draft picks compared to their yield and likelihood of failure or underperformance. At the end of the day a consistent attack of the waiver wire will result in depth, the markup you pay for younger players will ultimately result in being cheaper than using your own picks and the failure rate in the aim to land a future blue-chip player.
Principles of Strategy:
- Know your buying and selling windows. Sell Vets in season, buy in off season. Buy young players in season, sell off season.
- Know your team positioning, if your team isn’t going to be competing hold your picks until the draft approaches. Sell them when there value is at its apex, use it to acquire players that fit the profile. If your team will be competing use your later picks to fill holes and acquire depth. High picks should be used for players that fit the prototype. Remember that your picks will be later in each round, getting you a player of less stature if you actually use them.
- When spending large amounts of your assets do so on young players who have proven they can produce. Ideally buy during a low point, but never buy at their max value. WRs under 27 and RBs under 25 are generally the ideal targets. It is okay to overpay for a player, it’s why you build up assets.
- Rookie picks are a currency, spend them wisely. It is better used on a proven player than on an unproven rookie. Once in your stage of competing for a championship, use them to extend your window as long as possible.
- Buy low on players you like and sell high on players outperforming there status. Continue to add assets to your pile to acquire another blue chip player.
- Activity on the waiver wire will give you the needed depth. It can help make up for mistakes you make in trades and allow you to patch holes.
- Do your research on players using the tools we have. Find low points in value and acquire them, find underutilized players and acquire them.
- Moving draft picks shouldn’t be something you fear, they are always retainable if you need them.
- Your league size, scoring, and format matter when using this. Smaller leagues make having blue chip players a necessity to compete consistently.
- When drafting be diligent, a blown draft pick is a blown asset.
- Know how your league values picks, positions, ages, and storylines. Use this to find where the inefficiencies are.
- A rough guideline of how I see picks and the return they field. A 1st should generate a starter, a 2nd should yield a flex player, a 3rd should generate a bye week starter. A 4th should help fill a need in depth.
- Understand your starting requirements. You can only start x players per week, having an abundance of average players at this position is fine but won’t yield you the best outcome. If my league doesn’t have a flex and I can only start 2 RBs per week. I want to have the best RBs I can acquire in that spot. Having 5 good RBs every week doesn’t matter if you can’t play them.
As soon as I realized this team was going to fall on its face I acted. Three of my top assets were injury plagued. Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL, Alshon finished as the WR43 and Luck as QB27. I did a self-evaluation and decided I needed to get rid of the guys who were going to depreciate in value. Adrian Peterson was the epitome of this. He didn’t fit my team picture anymore, I put him on the trading block received an offer a few days later. It featured a guy who was overachieving that I thought I could sell down the road in Devonta Freeman, an injured young player who I thought could be valuable in the future in Sammy Watkins, and some draft picks to give me some extra ammo in a first rounder in 2016, and a 3rd in 2017. I packaged a few aging IDP players in the deal to get it done in David Harris and Chris Harris, but I had achieved the first step of my process.
I had gotten rid of the aging players who would lose value. The next step was to be diligent and active on the waiver wire, acquiring guys who I thought could perform long-term. I made 50 waiver wire transactions in 2015. If you’re going to try and turn a team around, it’s going to take work and attention to detail. The pure volume will help make up for some mistakes you may make along the way. One perk of being a team on the losing end week after week is that you get a high claim on the waiver wire. That is a huge advantage. Throughout all of this activity 3 moves ended up being the only ones to truly matter to my team long-term. Two of the acquisitions were IDP players in Ronald Darby and Preston Brown, two solid players who have become a part of my starting lineup. The other was Shaun Draughn.
Why the heck would Shaun Draughn matter to a team like mine that went 2-11? This is where the waiver wire claim helps turn into an asset. Draughn had become a starting RB, a valuable piece to a contender. The next part of my strategy came into play. Find undervalued talent. Guys who may have shined just a little bit but may be stuck behind a few older veterans. Players that contenders don’t necessarily need at that moment, that you can get relatively cheap. For me that player was Jamison Crowder, a small slot receiver out of Duke buried on the Redskins depth chart. I had saw him make a couple plays the week before and thought he was intriguing. I traded Shaun Draughn for him. Ultimately becoming one of my favorite trades I’ve ever made. Small wins lead to big results.
The offseason couldn’t have arrived fast enough for me, the painful process of losing every week was over. It was time to compete. A few young guys on my roster had outperformed my expectations, the likes of Martavis Bryant, Jameis Winston, Isiah Crowell, and Mr. Irrelevant from our start up, Stefon Diggs. This brings us to the next point of the strategy, do your homework. I had watched Crowell at Georgia his freshman year and I liked what I saw, so I drafted him. Diggs was a 5 star recruit receiver with freaky athleticism, but couldn’t stay healthy and was stuck in a garbage offense at Maryland. Both were worth rolling the dice on at that point. Luck of course played a big role in me getting these young guys, but if you pay attention to the college ranks and watch these guys play you’ll have an edge over your competition. You can get guys substantially cheaper during the year, especially if they are riding the pine. Much cheaper than drafting them in the spring.
The 2016 draft was a huge piece of my game plan to kick starting my rebuild. I was going to compete in year two. I had the first overall pick, the 8th, the 11th, 21st, 31st, and 41st. Plenty of ammo for making moves according to the next piece of my plan. Buying low on players who were being undervalued. I had my eyes on two players, Mike Evans and Demarco Murray. Evans who was stolen from me in the startup, then had his touchdowns plummet in his second year. A guy his size, in an offense with Winston I knew that wouldn’t last. He fit the ideal type of player profile for the strategy. A young guy with many years ahead of him who has a chance to be an elite performer, was the being undervalued. Despite my best attempts I couldn’t acquire him. So I moved to option two, Demarco Murray. A guy who two years ago set the league of fire with the Cowboys, went to the Eagles had a bad year by his standards and was traded to the Titans. When I saw that trade I salivated. The Titans were the perfect team for him, and with them drafting Derick Henry, Demarco had become affordable. I traded my 2nd and 3rd round picks for him. After my planned pick of Zeke Elliot I had solved my RB problems. As I said earlier I have been team Crowell for a while, I believed in him a lot. The dynasty hot takes time of the year had arrived and Duke Johnson had become a hot commodity. For a guy who I thought had the ceiling of a Theo Riddick, I managed to get a 2nd and 3rd in 2017 for him. In essence I traded Duke Johnson for Demarco Murray. All because I had taken advantage of a few things.
First off is the concept of buying low and selling high. I live and die by this philosophy in trading. This becomes enhanced in parts of the year. Veterans are worth more in October-December and cheaper in April-June. Younger guys are expensive in the inverse, cheap during the year and expensive in the off season. Secondly, I had begun stockpiling assets. These assets may not have been elite talent by themselves. Combine them however and you have quite a bit of ammunition. This is how I treat draft picks, they are the pieces that help make values line up. Like quarters to make .75 cents a dollar. The point of adding to the talent pool is all for one reason. To acquire blue chip players. Guys who should be pieces long-term that are young, and produce at an elite level.
My first pick was an easy one, Zeke Elliot was my number player coming out at a position of need. Normally I’m skeptical of players coming out as they are almost always overvalued. When I saw the Cowboys take him I saw money signs in my head. He was going to be a monster in the NFL behind that line. I didn’t overthink it and ran with Zeke at 1. My next pick was number 8. A guy I liked a lot had slipped all the way down in Josh Doctson. A redzone threat I thought in Washington he could make an impact. Having no 2nd or 3rd rounders due to the Demarco trade I was stuck watching players fly off the board. I had four players on my board that I wanted. Hunter Henry, Braxton Miller, Paul Perkins and Jordan Howard. All had slipped and at the mid-way point in the third round I had to move up in my mind. I made a mistake and got caught up in the draft. I traded Eric Ebron for the 30th pick and selected Braxton Miller. I gave up a player I liked, who I had saw play in the NFL that had potential, for a late pick to grab a project player. My next pick was at 4.06 due to some minor pick swap transactions moving me down from 4.01. I was hoping Paul Perkins would slide to me, a guy I loved in the draft. He went at 4.04 crushing me. So at 4.06 I took the only other guy in the draft I somewhat liked in Jordan Howard. It just goes to show you how funky the draft is.
Going into the 2016 season I felt comfortable that I had a competitive team. Despite Martavis getting a suspension and Teddy going down for the year, I had a solid team and a lot of future picks stashed away. My team roughly looked like this on paper.
|QB:||Luck, Winston, Teddy(IR), Shaun Hill|
|RB:||Demarco, Freeman, Zeke, Tevin, Crowell, JHoward|
|WR:||Alshon, Sammy, Kelvin, JMatt, Martavis(SUSP), Diggs, Parker, Funchess, Crowder, Doctson|
|DL:||JPP, Donald, Ealy, Leonard, Floyd, McCoy|
|LB:||Shazier, Kendricks, Buchannon, Barr, Perryman|
|DB:||Peters, Darby, Coleman, Mcleod|
|Picks:||2017 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd 4th, 5th|
This year I planned on competing but had a list of players I didn’t really believe in that I wanted to move when the time was right. Headlined by Alshon, Sammy, and Devonta Freeman I wanted to package these guys in some way to get a blue chip player. Luckily for me Odell Beckham Jr struggled the first few games of the season. Inversely, Kelvin Benjamin, Demarco, and Crowell all were tearing it up. I made the offer of those three for Odell which was rebuffed. I had a serious moment of thought at this moment. I looked at my team and saw a lot of good players. That to me was an issue, they were just good. They were over performing in my mind and I lacked that true great player.
So I took a leap of faith, I added Sammy Watkins into the initial offer and asked for Randall Cobb to be added to his end. He accepted. The “rebuild” was over, it was time to put this team into high gear. I decided David Johnson would be my next target, knowing he wouldn’t be cheap I engaged the owner. I ended up overpaying pretty significantly, sending Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Alshon and a 2nd and 3rd for him. It was worth it in my mind, getting rid of guys I don’t believe in to secure a guy I see as a generational player entering his peak, it was hard me to pass up. Pairing him with Zeke for the foreseeable future was too much for me to pass up on. My team was firing on all cylinders at this point and was 7-1. Another owner in my league had become disgruntled with a player I liked a lot in Allen Robinson, I knew my team would have one of the later picks in the draft at this point and offered my first and a 2018 2nd. To my surprise he accepted it. These moves combined with some key additions like Mike Gillislee, Tim Hightower, Rishard Matthews, and Austin Hooper led to my team finishing the year at 11-2.
I had made 54 transactions this year and it had paid dividends. The league average for total points on the year was 2972 points. I had scored 465 points over the average. We went from worst to first through some lucky additions and shrewd moves. Unfortunately the playoffs didn’t go our way, and I ended up losing in the second round. Losing to the eventual winner. I entered this year with the same philosophy. Sell the guys I didn’t believe in and acquire guys I did.
Ill lay out the trades I’ve made this far to keep it short.
|Jordan Howard||2018+2019 1st round picks|
|Rishard Matthews 17 and 18 3rd rounders||Kenneth Dixon|
|Josh Docton + Marquis Lee||Paul Perkins + Eric Ebron|
|2017 4th + 2018 4th||Brian Hoyer|
|The Big One:
|Jordan Matthews + Austin Hooper + Picks||Amari Cooper, Clowney, 2018 3rd|
|Picks= 2017 2nd, 2 2018 1sts, 2 2019 1sts|
This was the culmination point in this strategy to cement the players I plan on having long-term that I hope can bring me a championship. I adopted the strategy of not using my draft picks to draft players, rather use them as a form of currency in a market that over values them. The players I have spent big on all are under the age of 26. Being able to identify players in free agency to help build my depth has been a huge tool that has allowed me the freedom to overpay for certain players that I believe can be game changers. It’s given me a roster that contains 7 of the top 20 2QB dynasty assets by ADP. Backed by depth players who are proven producers that still have upside. A team that every week I expect to win by double digits. To recap this is my current roster versus the 2015 opening one.
|QB: Luck, Winston, Teddy||—————————->||Luck, Winston, Teddy, Hoyer Hundley|
|RB: AP, Tevin, Crowell, Joique, Duke, Sankey, West||—————————->||Zeke, DJ, MLynch, Gillislee, Perkins, Dixon, KDrake, Jonathan Williams, Richard|
|WR: Alshon, Kelvin, JMatt, Martavis, Parker, Latimer, Funchess, Wheaton, Quick, Diggs||—————————->||OBJ, Amari, Arob, Diggs, Crowder, Parker, Cobb, Martavis, KWright, Funchess, Miller, JJ Nelson, Sanu|
|TE: Ertz||—————————->||Ertz, Ebron, Ben Watson|
|DL: Donald, McCoy, Leonard, Floyd, Edwards, Jernigan||—————————->||Donald, JPP, Leonard, Clowney, Wolfe, Wake|
|LB: Shazier, Barr, Kendricks, Perryman, Buchannon, DJohnson||—————————->||Shazier, Kendricks, PBrown, Jatavis Brown, Buchannon, Perryman|
|DB: Ward, Rhodes, McCourty, Reid, Peters||—————————->||Peters, Darby, McLeod, Coleman, Roby|
Is this roster perfect? Of course it’s not, it most certainly has its flaws. It’s also missing its 1st rounder’s until 2019 and no 2nds until 2018. However, since its inception in 2015 this roster is inherently better at every single position grouping. It’s taken 111 waiver wire moves, 15 trades, and a lot of attention and discipline to do so. At this moment I’m confident in its future, but the NFL is a cruel beast and I could be restarting it next year. I blew the start up as you all saw, but I packaged my picks and made a mess into monster