There are just a few weeks to go until we see Roger Goodell standing up at the podium in Paradise, Nevada, sneering at the boo-birds before announcing that (presumably) the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock to begin the real-life 2022 NFL Draft.
The 2022 NFL Draft is, of course, a pivotal holiday in the calendar for all dynasty managers. It means an influx of new blood into the dynasty landscape. It also means we learn the NFL landing spots of the prospects we’ve been studying for the past few months.
Not only that, but many dynasty leagues have managers who do not pay close attention to fantasy football during the dead of the off-season. The NFL Draft season typically marks the time of year when these managers start to poke their heads back into the league chat like the first signs of flora peeking through the thawing ground after a long winter.
Whether you have your eyes on a dynasty league championship in 2022 or you are looking to rebuild for the future, it is vital to your team’s short and long term success to understand what this time in the dynasty calendar means and what kinds of opportunities present themselves during this time of year.
Here are ten things you should be doing with your dynasty roster over the rest of April heading into your rookie drafts:
1. Determine whether or not your current roster can contend for a playoff spot this year.
The wording of the headline is key here.
When we talk in the dynasty space about a team being a “contender,” I think we often mean only the top, elite teams in a league. We are, in my opinion, much too stingy with how we dole out the “contender” label in our leagues.
Make no mistake. You are a contender if your team has a chance to qualify for your league’s postseason. This is especially true in a one-off, “lose and go home” scenario, as most leagues utilize. Get into the playoffs, and anything can happen.
It seemingly happens every season where players like Kenyan Drake (2019), James Robinson (2020), or Rashaad Penny (2021) come out of absolutely nowhere to dominate down the stretch. These types of players are dubbed “league winners” for that reason.
Why is this relevant? Typically, if we managers don’t fancy ourselves a contending team, we automatically start bringing up the R-word. What if we overestimate how good a dynasty roster needs to be considered a contender? Many dynasty managers are looking to rebuild when they might not need to be.
Do not tear it down unless you absolutely have to. Have faith in your process. Only if you feel like you absolutely cannot make the playoffs should you completely blow things up, in my opinion. This 2022 NFL Draft class is relatively weak. You can always wait until the regular season begins to play out before selling off assets.
2. Look for opportunities to “Down-Tier” to try to add extra draft capital before it becomes too expensive.
This one is a personal favorite of mine as someone who is addicted to trading at any point of year.
If you are not familiar with “down-tiering,” the idea is as follows:
Stefon Diggs is on my roster as my WR2.
I rank Diontae Johnson (on someone else’s roster) similarly to my Diggs, both in the general “tier.”
I trade Diggs for Johnson plus a couple of draft picks to my league mate. This person likely has more separation between Diggs and Johnson in their personal rankings than I do.
It’s a win for me because I don’t sacrifice much of anything (in my eyes) going from Diggs to Johnson. Plus, I net a couple of extra draft picks for my trouble for essentially free.
Down-tiering is especially helpful at receiver and tight end. At these positions, the difference in fantasy points per game is often minimal among large groups of similar players. Hopefully, the difference is smaller than your league mates realize.
In 2021, Diggs was WR7 in PPR and finished with 16.8 fantasy points per game. Along with Diggs, 15 other receivers (who played ten or more games in 2021) scored between 14.0- and 16.8 PPR points per game. The “tier” of production that Diggs found himself in last season was huge. Similarly, at tight end, 17 players finished last season all scoring between 8.0 and 12.3 PPR points per game.
Try finding a trade partner in your league willing to pay the difference between a Johnson and a Diggs (for example). This is something you should explore to maximize your roster’s value. I think it’s a good strategy even if the payoff ultimately ends up being just a few dart-throw picks. It may lead to more lucrative trade opportunities as well.
With the NFL Draft approaching, now is the time to try to down-tier if you are going to. As we will discuss later on, the value of rookie draft picks will only increase from here. It’s best to strike now before the prices really get out of hand once we learn landing spots following the 2022 NFL Draft.
3. Familiarize yourself with the contracts situations of all the players on your roster.
This is vital for dynasty managers to do in general, not just with their own roster. Being aware of relevant NFL players’ contract situations can help you avoid trade mistakes. It also allows you to make predictive moves, ones that hopefully can keep you a step ahead of your opponents.
For example, there was a recent trade in one of my (TEP) dynasty leagues where Damien Harris was traded for Dallas Goedert in a straight-up, one-for-one deal.
On the surface, the touchdown potential of Harris is appealing for 2022. In dynasty, though, we need to look at the long-term outlook of players. Harris is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Additionally, New England typically will not pay big money to extend their running backs. Promising rookie Rhamondre Stevenson also had a strong season. All of these things definitely cloud Harris’ dynasty outlook in New England past this year, if not sooner.
Conversely, Goedert just signed an extension with the Eagles. He is locked into his starting role in Philly until at least 2024. It gives Goedert more of that stable security dynasty managers are looking for.
Obviously, managers are allowed to make trades that favor the here and now instead of future years. Being readily aware of contracts will benefit you in all transactions. It will even help in those deals where you choose to sacrifice that future stability in favor of immediate production.
Sportrac.com is my go-to for quickly referencing the contracts of my players. They make it easy to see a player’s “cap hit” versus his “dead money” number.
A player’s cap hit is — just like it sounds — the amount of money that player counts towards the team’s total salary cap. Dead money is the amount of money the team essentially “eats” if they were to release that player right now.
It’s good to pay attention to this dead money number about the players on your dynasty roster. It will tell you how likely the real NFL team might be to move on from your player.
While we are discussing Goedert, below is the breakdown of his cap hits and dead money figures over the life of his current deal:
As you can see, Goedert is not going anywhere until at least 2024. He would cost Philadelphia three times as much in dead money penalties than he would save if released before then.
Starting in 2024, a theoretical release of Goedert starts to become more likely. This is mainly due to the amount of cap space Philadelphia would save. It would be $13.5 million if Goedert is cut in 2024, and $16.2 million in 2025. This gives managers an idea of how long to expect players to remain in their current roles on their current teams.
Having a full grasp of every clause and bullet point of the NFL salary cap is not realistic. It is, however, essential to have a general understanding of how it all works. You can gauge how long your players have before their job is in jeopardy. As you make roster decisions, you can avoid those regrettable trades and draft picks.
4. Try to identify players on your roster who will immediately lose value after the 2022 NFL Draft. Trade them away before it’s too late!
The saturation of the Internet with mock drafts this time of year is annoying. Sifting through mock drafts every April gives you an idea of the possible range of outcomes regarding the draft. Keeping up to date with these mocks can make us aware of trends and community value changes.
Both Green Bay and Kansas City made waves recently by trading away Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. Subsequently, Green Bay tendered Allen Lazard. Kansas City added the hyphenated duo of receivers in Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster.
All three of those names appeared on Sleeper’s Trending-Up list. Many managers have ideas of these guys benefiting from the departure of Adams and Hill from the Packers and Chiefs.
You can see through all of this and recognize this as a sell-window for Lazard, Smith-Schuster, and Valdez-Scantling. All three of their values will drop immediately once Kansas City and Green Bay draft a receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The time is now to sift through your roster for players who will lose value once the draft occurs. You can salvage what you can before that happens.
Will the Saints draft a quarterback to compete with Jameis Winston? Will Houston add a running back early in the draft, or is Marlon Mack in for a bell-cow role? Which receivers can steal significant target share right away, and which teams will they land on?
Ask yourself these questions to see if you can move on any of the players on your roster whom you think will drop in value once their teams add younger competition in the draft.
5. Hold your 2022 rookie picks until after the 2022 NFL Draft.
As we mentioned in the introduction above, the hype surrounding the 2022 NFL Draft and “rookie fever” is real. It’s strong enough to awaken your inactive league mates from their off-season slumbers and get them back into the fold in your leagues.
Savvy dynasty managers understand the “rookie fever” phenomenon and how to use it to their advantage. The main way to do this is to be patient with your 2022 rookie picks, especially your first-round picks.
The temptation will be there as the hype from the NFL Combine and the various Pro Days has likely led to increased trade activity in your leagues, but be patient. Hold those 2022 picks until the 2022 NFL Draft occurs. That is when we will learn landing spots, and the hype will increase even more. As the hype continues to grow throughout the entire dynasty community, you can think about pursuing trades. The value of your picks – again, especially your first-round picks – will be at its peak.
6. Move 2022 rookie picks for 2023 rookie picks.
We have already established that you should wait to move any of your rookie picks until the 2022 NFL Draft has given us landing spots. Once that has happened, the fantasy community will be buzzing about all the bright, shiny new landing spots. It’s at that point that you should consider moving your 2022 picks for 2023 picks. This is especially true if you have a chance to acquire 2023 first-rounders.
You have probably already heard the hype surrounding the 2023 class. Some dynasty experts roll their eyes at hyping a class over a year away, but there is good reason for the love that group of prospects is garnering. It’s loaded.
QB Bryce Young (Alabama), QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), RB Bijan Robinson (Texas), WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State), WR Kayshon Boutte (LSU), RB Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama), RB Tank Bigsby (Auburn), RB Zach Evans (TCU), TE Arik Gilbert (transfer portal), TE Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)… and these are just the names off the top of my head right now.
There are at least two or three prospects at all four fantasy positions from this 2023 class who would all easily be the first player taken at their respective positions if they were in this 2022 NFL Draft.
I have the 1.08 (this year) in one of my dynasty leagues. It’s getting to the point where I would probably rather have a random 2023 first-round pick over the 1.08. This is especially the case with a ‘23 first that has a decent outlook based on that manager’s 2022 roster.
All of this, of course, is team specific. If you are in full “win-now” mode and want to draft a rookie who will help you this year, no one can blame you for that. But in a general sense, I fully believe anyone who can move 2022 rookie draft picks to add that precious 2023 draft capital will be thankful that they did at this time next season and beyond.
7. Try to align your roster’s positional needs with how you think your rookie draft will play out.
For the most part, I like to avoid worrying too much about positional needs in rookie drafts. I want to draft the best dynasty asset for the most part. I don’t want to lose value by taking a lesser prospect just because of the temptation to fill a hole in your starting lineup.
In certain cases, however, if your roster is only one or two pieces away from being a serious championship contender, I think it’s smart to map out your rookie draft. This will let you see if there are any trends you can get ahead of with tactical trades. It’s possible to move value from one position to another position depending on what you think will happen in your rookie draft.
The most basic example of this would be if you have the 1.01 heading into rookie drafts, but you are stacked at running back. You already know full well that Breece Hall will soon be your selection at 1.01. You can then make a roster-balancing move to ship off one of your surplus runners to add a receiver before your rookie draft to compensate.
This idea obviously becomes more complex in practice, depending on what rookie pick(s) we’re talking. In general, it is good to at least run through a few draft scenarios in your head to be prepared.
This year, for example, if you are picking in that mid-late first-round range (1.06, 1.07, 1.08, etc.) in your rookie drafts, you can expect the top available talent in that range to likely be receivers. The quarterback class is poor this year, and the running back class is thin after Hall and Kenneth Walker. It might be smart to consider trading one of your receivers in anticipation of the pending arrival of the new rookie receiver.
Of course, we need to be careful. As we have already stated, we don’t want to sacrifice significant value to fill positional needs. Remember, rookies are not locks no matter how incredible they seem – either analytically or on film. You don’t want to trade away a good, veteran player who has proven then can score fantasy points unless the return truly helps your team moving forward.
8. If you are considering a full tear-down and rebuild, try to sell your top veteran talent for younger proven talent, not just draft capital.
As we just mentioned, rookies are not locks. When it is time to think about rebuilding, the temptation is always to liquidate your top veteran players into future draft picks to get younger. In my opinion, you are much better off trading your studs for young, high-upside NFL players. Too often, managers trade their studs away for nothing but nameless future draft picks.
Davante Adams was traded away in one of my dynasty leagues a few weeks after the real-life Raiders acquired him from Green Bay. The previous Adams manager traded Adams away and got back 1.09 in 2022, a first-round pick in 2023, and a couple of third-rounders. At first glance, getting two first-rounders plus some dart throw picks seems like a good return for a receiver who will turn 30 this year.
However, if you consider that only around half of all first-round-drafted receivers ever deliver so much as a single WR24 or better season, the haul of two firsts suddenly doesn’t seem so appealing. Out of those two firsts, only one is likely to turn into a Top 24 receiver or better. At that point, you are simply hoping the rookie receiver you are getting in exchange for Adams can turn into anything close to what Adams is.
A better strategy, in my opinion, is to keep Adams. If you must trade him, trade him for a package that includes at least one significant asset that has had at least a modicum of NFL success to add a little bit of certainty to your side of the trade. A trade of Adams for Kadarius Toney plus a first-round pick brings back similar youth and upside. This represents way less uncertainty than a trade that only includes future picks, for example, because we have at least seen flashes in the NFL from Toney.
9. If you own multiple mid-to-late first-round picks or later, fade the alleged “depth” in this draft. Try to move up.
I’ve already stated that it’s a good idea to try to deal with mid-to-late 2022 firsts for 2023 firsts. If your roster construction is such to where you prefer to add some of this 2022 talent, I would strongly recommend trying to consolidate your 2022 draft capital. Try trading up in your rookie drafts because I do not see this class having as much depth as some suggest. Landing spots following the real-life 2022 NFL Draft will magnify that.
I’m not buying the recent narrative floating around the dynasty space that this 2022 rookie class is actually really deep. That’s the reason there’s so little consensus in terms of rankings at this point, especially at quarterback. Obviously, it’s still too early to say, but I fear that this 2022 class is as weak as many say.
Remember last year with Trevor Lawrence, Najee Harris, Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts, Javonte Williams, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle?
Breece Hall is the only prospect in that elite category this year. Maybe you have a few others, but how many of these 2022 prospects can you legitimately put up there? Not many.
Please do not misunderstand. This is not to say you should try to move up just to move up in your rookie drafts. You must still be prudent and have specific targets when you trade up. Certain players will be more worthy than others of moving up.
My point is that 2022 is not the year to feel good about having a quantity over quality strategy for rookies.
10. Be a sponge.
This is the single best piece of advice I could give to someone who wants to improve their dynasty teams or become “better” at dynasty overall. Soak up as much information as possible from all the different sources of knowledge out there in the dynasty space.
The turning point was when I started getting into dynasty podcasts (namely, the DynastyNerds Podcast). Podcasts are my favorite because I can listen during my commute to and from work, a time during which I cannot really be doing anything else. I would also be really excited to get in the car to go to work on those mornings when I had new episodes of my favorite pods to listen to. When you enjoy something, and you have time to take it all in, you retain the most information from now on.
It doesn’t have to be podcasts. The dynasty space has everything. It can be written articles, video content, or social media posts. It can be analytics-based takes or film breakdowns. Whatever form of dynasty information you enjoy consuming. My biggest recommendation is to pay attention to all the great analysis there is to enjoy in the dynasty space.
There are many really talented and highly intelligent people working long and hard to break all of this down for us to win our leagues.
Consume that content, and show your support and appreciation to those content creators.
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