By Leo Paciga ( @FFHoudini )
When it comes to playing fantasy football, the dynasty league format simply can’t be beat. Whether it’s building your team over time, evaluating rookies, drafting hidden gems or trading for the next rising star; dynasty leagues have something for every type of fantasy football owner. One of the more interesting aspects of the dynasty format is acquiring that aging veteran talent for a potential championship caliber team. It’s a fascinating dynamic because there are generally multiple teams in every dynasty league heading in different directions at any given moment. Some owners are looking to capitalize on the upcoming season and have a “win now” philosophy, while other owners realize the ineptitude of their current roster and are planning/building for future success. That dynamic creates the opportunity for trades that can help both owners improve their rosters for their ultimate goals – winning now or winning in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at how you should go about acquiring that aging player for your dynasty squad; that crafty veteran who can put you over the top for the upcoming season. Ultimately, there are two key components when it comes to acquiring that productive veteran for your title run and those two components are “timing” and “price”.
Timing is Everything
When to Buy – So when is the best time to add that missing piece to your dynasty squad of destiny? Should you add that aging veteran early in the off season? Should you wait until the NFL season starts? The cost to acquire a productive veteran may be more expensive once the season starts, but personally I prefer to wait until after the season has started and three or four games are already in the books. Here are a few reasons why it’s better to wait and add veterans once the season starts, even if that means paying a premium for an in season purchase.
Reason 1 – Waiting until a few NFL games are in the books provides a clearer snap shot of which veterans are still performing at a high level and if their NFL teams are humming along offensively. History tells us that aging skill players can fall off so quickly and without warning so it’s paramount to make sure an aging veteran still has that “it” factor. We’ve witnessed plenty of star players simply disappear from one year to the next; players like Shaun Alexander, Clinton Portis, Torry Holt and Hines Ward all declined rapidly. At age 29, Edgerrin James ran for 1,222 yards and 7 TDs in 2007, but just one year later James finished the season with 514 yards and a whopping 3 TDs. A 36 year old Joey Galloway played well in 2007 snagging 57 passes for 1,014 yards and 6 TDs, but the next season he could muster only 13 receptions for a measly 138 yards. Adding either of those players during the off season would have been a costly mistake because of the quick deterioration of their skills. Waiting also affords owners the opportunity to gauge the overall performance of the players surrounding a potential target. Is there a young star in the making that will steal opportunities for a potential trade target down the stretch? Is the offensive line opening holes consistently for that target? My point is that if an owner wants to invest in an aging player for a play-off push then at least make sure that veteran can still produce at a high level down the stretch.
Reason 2 – Dynasty owners need to take a good look at the overall health of the player they’re interested in AND the health of the players around their target. Sure, freak injuries can happen at any time and to any player, but reoccurring or chronic health problems can start showing up fairly early in the season. For example, if I’m targeting an aging WR as a possible addition for my title push; I not only want to make sure he’s healthy – but I also want to make sure his starting QB doesn’t have early season shoulder soreness or unexpected arm weakness on certain throws.
Reason 3 – Waiting helps determine which owners in a dynasty league might be willing to entertain the idea of rebuilding. Almost every owner thinks their roster is capable of a title run in August, but after a 1-3 or a 1-4 start to the season, reality begins to sink in and so does a focus on the future. So if a league has one owner in August that might be willing to deal for the future; it may have 4 or 5 potential “sellers” by the middle of October. More owners focusing on rebuilding means more opportunities to buy a productive veteran at a reasonable price.
Reason 4 – Being patient also affords an owner the chance to evaluate their squads more accurately. What seems like a roster strength in late August or early September can easily become a weakness by October with unexpected poor performances or injuries. There’s nothing worse than investing in an aging veteran player early in the off season to shore up a perceived roster weakness – only to find out by week 4 that there was a hidden gem on your roster all along. Or even worse, an owner could move to acquire a few veterans in August only to watch their team sputter out of the gate leaving behind a losing record, an older team and little hope for the future. Waiting until October provides the opportunity to better identify weaknesses and target the positions that truly need improvement in order to make a deep play-off run.
Reason 5 – Waiting allows an owner to formulate a better understanding of schedule strength when it comes to the final 1/4 of the NFL schedule. Look, the only real reason to add an aging veteran to your dynasty squad is to make that title run…and that title run will take place over the final quarter of the season. Every year certain NFL teams under perform or overachieve when it comes to expectations. What once seemed like a daunting schedule in August suddenly becomes a prime schedule for fantasy football purposes or vice versa. Getting to see how certain teams play defense for a few games gives me a better indication which veteran player may be in for a nice run of fantasy production down the stretch.
Reason 6 – Giving pause also gives an owner time to evaluate veterans that have recently changed NFL teams. Sometimes players struggle when they change teams; they have to deal with new coaches, new systems, new terminology and new living situations for themselves and/or their families. Yes, they’re professionals, but they’re also human and sometimes the transition to a new team can prove to be more difficult than one would think. If waiting to watch a player perform for his new NFL team means I might have to pay a little more down the road, then so be it. I’d rather pay the bump in price if it means I get to kick the tires on a player for the stretch run.
Price Does Matter
What to offer? – This particular question can always be tough to gauge. We all want to maximize trade value, but owners that are selling productive veterans tend to overvalue the trade market for their aging players, while buying owners always want to under pay for “renting” a player with a shortening window of productivity. My first approach when buying a veteran is to try and move some combination of 2nd and/or 3rd round draft picks in a deal. I try to avoid moving 1st round rookie picks for aging veterans, regardless of how much those veterans may help my team. Even late 1st round picks are simply too valuable and they’re vital to building your team’s future success. The only time I’ll consider moving a 1st round rookie pick is if the player I’m acquiring still has at least a 3 year window of productivity. There are many dynasty owners out there that disagree with this philosophy and they’d much rather trade a late 1st round rookie pick for a chance to win it all now with a proven veteran. I can only say that I’d prefer to take my chances with a less expensive option and keep that 1st round pick in hand.
If the draft pick idea doesn’t work, move on and try to deal any young upside player who may be battling injury concerns and/or rehabbing his way back to full health. Unrealized potential due to injury issues can be frustrating for a dynasty owner, but that “unrealized” potential can be just what the doctor ordered when orchestrating a deal with a rebuilding team focusing on the future. One owner’s injury headache and roster liability can be another owner’s future break out performer depending on the injury and the upside potential of that player. Ultimately, if you’re dealing/negotiating with the teams in your league that are struggling, you should be able to find one owner willing to part with an aging player that’s producing for the right package of future picks or untapped potential.
Well, hopefully this article gives you something to consider when adding veteran players for a championship run. Youth and upside will always dominate when it comes to dynasty fantasy football, but the well placed deal for that crafty veteran could be your key to the title. As always, I encourage everyone out there to take the time to research players, watch some film and continue to actively improve your dynasty rosters. The tools and opinions provided here at DFW can certainly help take your teams to the next level. Feel free to contact me on Twitter @FFhoudiniwith any questions or comments about this article or fantasy football in general.