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My Draft, My Story and the Quest for the Golden Ticket

A choice between ’20 rookies vs ’21 devys? Read about a rookie/limited devy draft in a SF/2TE league in the next entry of our “Draft Story” series.

Background of the League and My Team:

The “Willy Wonka and the Dynasty Factory” League is entering its second season. It is a twelve-team Superflex league with 28 roster spots and a taxi squad of four. We start ten, but one of the interesting twists of this league is that we must start two tight ends. There are also yardage bonuses for all positions. Tight ends who are YAC threats will likely score a bit more than “catch the ball and fall down” types.

Pro Tip

My biggest advice to dynasty players is to learn the rules of your league inside and out. But most importantly, find advantages you can exploit. One of my core strategies in this league is to treat tight ends as being even more valuable than people treat quarterbacks in Superflex or two-quarterback leagues. While a Superflex spot allows you the option to start a second quarterback, this league requires you to start a second tight end.

There may be more tight ends than quarterbacks in the NFL, but there certainly aren’t more difference-making tight ends. The gap between the teams in the league with great tight ends and those with also-rans was enormous. Often digging those teams twenty to even thirty points in the hole before the week even started.

Roster Construction

Riding on the backs of difference-making tight ends like Austin Hooper (who I then traded mid-season, post-injury for Zach Ertz), Hunter Henry, and Tyler Higbee, in addition to studs like Christian McCaffrey and Davante Adams and mid-round gems like Austin Ekeler and Kenyan Drake, my team won the league’s inaugural championship.

However, the construction of a roster strong at so many positions came at a cost, and I survived that first season with what I’d classify as a weak quarterback group of Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Daniel Jones. I also rostered Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, although neither were any help towards my title. Going into the offseason and our recent rookie draft, my biggest desire to improve my roster was to improve at quarterback. In the end, that didn’t happen. I traded away Garoppolo and Roethlisberger and later traded for Sam Darnold. I planned to bolster my quarterback room through the draft, and that didn’t happen, either. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and all that.

One More Thing

Before I get into my draft, I should also mention that this is a limited devy league, meaning only players with NFL draft eligibility one year out may be drafted and rostered. In short, this means players like George Pickens and Sam Howell cannot yet be drafted, but Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields could be. Some hardcore devy players may scoff at this setup, but I have come to prefer it greatly. I’ve experienced too much imbalance in past devy leagues I’ve played in, where cavalier rebuilding owners will dump decent NFL players in trades for college freshmen who go on to never sniff an NFL roster.

Our draft is also a combined rookie-devy draft. This adds much more depth to the draft, even after you removed the devy players from this 2020 class already rostered from the startup. Didn’t like the 2020 rookies available to be drafted? Choose someone from the 2021 class! Many other owners in this league were (rightly so) over-valuing first-round picks, seeing the bright futures of players like Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence and Rondale Moore, while undervaluing later round picks which proved shockingly valuable once they saw the names of the players potentially available at those picks, even in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds. If you have yearned for a great example of where an actual league values some of the 2020 players against those in 2021, here you go!

2020 Rookies Already Rostered:

Back to School for 2021 Already Rostered:

  • Travis Etienne, Chuba Hubbard, Najee Harris, Kylin Hill, Deon Jackson

Round One

(Note: rookies are listed in red, devy prospects in blue. My picks are in bold with an asterisk.)

The Story

Our draft takes place on the Monday immediately following the NFL Draft. For a draft as complicated as this, I sat down about a month prior to create rankings and tiers to plan out where I thought players would be picked. Charting out who was available and who was rostered, I identified the top eight or nine as being the tier I wanted to be in depending on just how juicy the landing spots would be for players like Edwards-Helaire and Jefferson.

Through a series of trades leading up to the draft, I had pick 1.08. I was targeting Fields to shore up my quarterback platoon. As the draft drew near, I heard through the league rumor mill that Fields was going to be taken with the fifth pick. So, knowing the Lawrence and Burrow slots at one and two would be far too expensive, I tried desperately to trade up to pick three or four while dangling the carrot of “you can still get one of the top wide receivers in 2021 with my pick at 1.08” to no avail. I’m still very happy with my pick at 1.08, Justyn Ross. I feel like it came right at the end of an elite tier of players as I had planned pre-draft.

Round Two

The Story

I had made a concerted effort to accumulate second-round picks. They were much cheaper to obtain than first-round picks. I had a hunch that they’d provide the most flexibility between a few of the top available rookies, should they find good landing spots, and some very good devy selections. With the second and third picks in the second round, I was able to take Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith. The two Alabama wide receivers with 2021 NFL Draft first-round buzz, easy choices for me over the likes of available rookies AJ Dillon and Chase Claypool.

I had two primary goals heading into this draft. First, I was trying to better my team’s quarterbacks. Second I wanted to come out of this draft with two or three of the highly-regarded TEs in the 2021 draft class. I wanted as close to a total monopoly on these elite players as I could get. So with the sixth pick in the second round, I selected my favorite of the three, Kyle Pitts. I was also holding 2.12, but this is where I got a little too cute, and my plan went a bit sour.

Pulling Pitts off the board triggered another owner to draft Brevin Jordan, tight end out of Miami with 2.10. My second tight end target came off the board. Still holding 2.12, I received an offer to trade back from 2.12 and get 3.06 and 3.10. With the thought that I could wait and get my third tight end target, Pat Freiermuth from Penn State with one of my third-round picks. That turned out to be an unforced error on my part.

Round Three

Third Round Moving and Shaking

I started this round, holding picks 3.03, 3.04, 3.06, and 3.10, but it didn’t stay that way for very long. Before I continue with the story, a reminder that we have four taxi spots in this league. We’re allowed to place rookies and devy players on a taxi squad or the active roster. Keeping a devy player on your active roster throughout the season is not ideal, as they can’t score points.

I entered this round, already holding four devy players. I knew that many of the mid-tier rookies had started to drop, being passed over for some of the hotter devy prospects. My plan shifted a bit at this point to try to take Freiermuth still. My goal was to move one or more of my devy players in a post-draft trade for a better quarterback. I was all set to pick at 3.03. Then I received an offer from another owner to trade 3.03 for 4.03 and a 2021 3rd round pick. As I was still holding 3.04, I thought, “great; I’ll shift some of my value into next year while still getting a pick in this draft in return.” I loved the deal.

The Trade

I waited for the first pick or two to come off the board in the third round. I received another offer I simply couldn’t refuse. A different owner sent me an offer where I would receive Jarvis Landry for 3.04 and my 2nd round pick in 2021. I’m assuming it will be late given what I feel is a repeat championship-level roster. I quickly accepted the offer and hoped that 3.06 would yield the player I was targeting.

As you can see, that did not happen. I loved Kmet in the pre-draft process, but even he was taken one pick before my pick at 3.06. So I selected Trautman because, again, my goal is to soak up as many young promising tight ends as I can in this league. I also currently own Jared Cook, so it’s almost like I’m handcuffing him by getting Trautman. I did debate taking Jordan Love. But, I do not feel he’s going to be a quarterback I’ll be able to use any time soon. By the time he’s usable, I’ll have hopefully found another quarterback. None of the devy quarterbacks at that point felt like good bets to me either. I’ll discuss more in a bit, in case you’re screaming the name “Trey Lance” in your head.

I finished my third round by taking Antonio Gibson with 3.10. I considered taking Anthony McFarland there, as well, and I was hoping he might slide to me at 4.03. Alas, that was not the case. As I said earlier, I wanted to draft usable rookies with upside at this point rather than fill up valuable main roster spaces with devy players.

Rounds Four and Five

The Story

My final pick of the draft was 4.03. I was torn between taking a usable rookie and a devy quarterback with sudden community hype, Trey Lance. I’ll be honest; in hindsight, I regret not taking Lance. Not because I’m high on him, but because I likely could have easily flipped him in a trade as people started hearing his name more and more.

My thought process at the time (and now, still) was that with so much uncertainty going into the 2020 college football season. I believe Lance will disappoint devy owners and go back to school in 2021 and possibly even as late as 2022, depending on the environment moving forward. I just wasn’t willing to sit on a developmental player that long with a roster such as mine. He was, as you can see, excitedly snatched up immediately at the next pick. The owner messaged me directly to tell me how relieved he was that I didn’t take Lance. Time will tell if and possibly how big a mistake I made.

The Post-Draft Wrap Up

My draft finished with Perine. I knew that given the number of picks left and the number of decent mid-tier rookies still available, there would be more than a few free agents available on waivers.

I urge you, after what is likely a lengthy and time-consuming rookie draft period, especially if you’re in multiple leagues like so many of us, do not neglect your league’s post-draft waivers! Churn your roster, dump the dead weight you may have taken on at season’s end to make a title run. Try to keep one or two roster spots open post-draft just in case a long-shot flier you like isn’t taken. Going with my theme of grabbing as many tight ends as I could, I added both Dalton Keene and Harrison Bryant in our post-draft waivers. I’ve already received trade offers for them both from teams looking to beef up their tight end depth chart.

Let me summarize a few tweets from this week. “I’m waiting for someone in the dynasty community to tweet that they didn’t have a perfect rookie draft. Because, of course, everyone feels that way.” I’ll proudly be the first to put my hand up in the air. I feel great about the first part of my draft. I also feel like I let some good opportunities slip through my fingers later on. It’s also so often true in our game that it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. I wouldn’t have imagined adding a player like Jarvis Landry for that value in that mid-draft trade.

Anyway, apropos of nothing, anybody want to trade me a decent starting quarterback? Let me know at @TheSmingDynasty

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