Every year, there seems to be an endless supply of orphaned rosters. Orphan teams are an exhilarating part of fantasy football. The ability to take a roster and make it your own is every fantasy player’s dream. However, it would be best if you tempered expectations. Most fantasy football players don’t leave leagues that have solid rosters. Orphans, more often than not, require a rebuild. Whether the rebuild is a full rebuild or a retool, orphans require patience. The orphaned team strategy is similar to a startup team. Here are the steps I have implemented to rebuild multiple salary cap league orphans successfully:
Current Rookie Deal Players
Salary cap league teams will always have a mix of veteran-type large contracts and players on rookie deals. When reviewing your roster, players on rookie deals are the players that you should plan to keep through your rebuild. Cap space is the most important asset in your rebuild, and keeping expensive contracts will hamstring your team’s return to prominence. The player should remain on the roster for this portion of the rebuild unless the player is cut from teams in real life and is a free agent.
Sell Expensive Veterans (Unless……)
Veteran players on second and third contracts can take up a majority of a team’s cap space. During a rebuild, these players possess a lot of value in terms of trade value and future assets. Unless you deem the player a top-five player at their position (top three for a tight end) AND a core player for your rebuild, look to trade them for draft picks and young players on rookie deals.
Running backs are the exception to the top five and core player rule. Players like Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, and Christian McCaffrey most likely command high dollar values and are older running backs. Running backs are not the most important position in the rebuild. However, they command the highest trade value and should be sent packing for the best offer.
Regarding IDP players, defensive ends and linebackers should only be considered untradeable if they are the best at the position. Roquan Smith, Nick Bosa, and TJ Watt come to mind. There are a lot of variances between high scoring players year to year. Therefore, the most expensive IDP players are tradeable.
For 1QB leagues with 18 or more roster spots, owners should trade any veteran player that commands 20% or more to promote the rebuild. Superflex is different; quarterbacks tend to take up the biggest share of cap space. Use your best judgment if a quarterback with a significant cap hit is worth the price.
Draft Picks! Draft Picks! Draft Picks!
Draft picks are a rebuild’s best friend. The best bet for long-term success in salary cap leagues is players on cheap rookie deals. The first year of taking over an orphan should be dedicated to acquiring as many draft picks and young talent as possible. Consolidation is not your focus yet. Many owners make the mistake of thinking they have too many draft picks. Owners will decline to make a deal for draft picks because they already have too many for the future year and won’t be able to fit all selected rookies on their roster. You can never have too many draft picks. Compared to active players, draft picks never lose significant value. Leading up to the draft, they acquire even more value. Draft picks can be packaged later to either move up the draft board or acquire talent from another owner.
Draft picks are only chances to hit on getting a solid player. There’s no guarantee it will hit, and the more picks you have, the more chances for success you have. The additional benefit to draft picks is the potential dead cap. If you draft a player that is a bust, gets cuts in real life, or is too much of a depth piece for your bloated roster, the dead cap associated with cutting them is minimal because they are on cost-controlled rookie deals.
The Dynasty Nerds’ Film Room is the key to jumpstarting your orphan rebuild. Familiarity with all rookies is vital to your team’s future success. Identifying the players you want to draft will help you strategize how to use your plethora of draft picks.
Vulture Cap Hell Teams
Every salary cap league has owners that have mismanaged their cap. Savvy owners need to take advantage of these opportunities. Stud players on cap-strapped teams will be the cheapest opportunity to acquire these players. For example, here’s a trade that occurred last offseason in a 12-team 1QB PPR league I am in:
Team B traded Patrick Mahomes (arguably QB1 overall for fantasy purposes) for cap compliance, and Team A immediately improved their quarterback position and only had to give up minimal assets. Healthy salary cap maintenance during a rebuild is the most important piece to building a contender for years to come.
Orphan teams are fun to make your own, but in salary cap leagues, they require patience and finesse for success. However, a rebuilt orphan can provide many years of success and entertainment if done correctly.
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