By Leo Paciga ( @FFHoudini )
So last week I discussed some of the necessary tactics involved with a complete dynasty rebuild in my “Blood, Sweat and Tears” article. While a complete rebuild can be extremely challenging and rewarding, most fantasy football owners prefer to “reload” on the fly rather than rebuild a roster from scratch. The idea of “reloading” a roster is really as simple as it sounds – infuse your dynasty roster with youth and upside while maintaining a talent level that puts you in a position to make a title run each and every season. While that concept may be very simple in nature, the practical application of that idea is much more difficult to sustain.
There are eight keys to reloading while staying competitive and all eight concepts are somewhat related. They are also very similar to the methods used while doing a complete rebuild, but these eight methods focus on slightly different aspects and lend themselves to being more fluid in nature; perfect for reloading your dynasty roster on the fly.
“Roster depth is not your security blanket” – Dynasty owners tend to get comfortable with roster depth, especially when managing a play off bound squad. I’ve watched contending owners stockpile WRs and/or RBs five to six players deep and act like they’re being featured on an episode of “Hoarders”. Look, having a security blanket in case of injuries or slumps is nice, but it’s an unnecessary luxury if you’re looking to reload and continue to compete at an elite level in your league. The number one way to maintain a high level of success while infusing your squad with youth and upside is to trade depth for your future. For example, I own a dynasty squad that has nice depth and lost in the title game in 2012. On this particular squad, Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams is my WR#5 (behind B. Marshall, AJ Green, M. Crabtree, and Randall Cobb) and would never see the light of day unless I fell victim to the wrath of the fantasy football gods. Recently Williams has been gaining some momentum as a sleeper/upside WR for 2013 so I decided it was time to move my depth for future rewards. I sent Williams packing for a 2014 first round rookie pick and then traded Jonathan Stewart (my RB#4) and two 2013 2nd round picks for Bernard Pierce and a 2014 1st rounder – giving me three 2014 1st rounders in what should be a very nice draft class.
“Package a whole bunch of average for a little bit of elite” – Any opportunity you have to combine “average” starting players in a deal and get an elite player back in return is worth the gamble. Will your starting lineup take a hit? Maybe, but chances are the elite player you receive in return will more than make up for the average starters you send packing. Some owners are willing to move an elite talent in order to plug multiple holes in a starting lineup, especially if they’re dealing with injury issues at a particular position. That elite player will improve your chances of maintaining a high level of success even if you have to fill some holes in your own lineup after making the deal. Remember to never view a consummated trade as a final move, instead think of it as the opening act. You can always trade again to round out your starting line up, but you won’t always get a chance to acquire “elite” talent……so pounce when you can.
“Sell high on the one trick pony” – Certain players excel at one particular thing….and every once in awhile the stars line up perfectly for those “one trick” players and they explode with a Sunday afternoon of production. If that happens, do your best to turn that prolific outburst into a more consistent weekly performer. A more consistent performer usually carries more value in trade negotiations than a player with sporadic bursts of production.
“Waiver Wire Magic” – Keep watching for the next Alfred Morris. The waiver wire is a great way to uncover inexpensive gems that can either help strengthen your line up or turn into those extremely valuable trade pieces down the road. Your goal here is very similar to the owner doing a complete rebuild….you’re looking for value.
“Get a medical degree in fantasy football” – Ok, here’s a fantasy football conundrum….from a “health” perspective what’s the difference in the future upside and value of Danario Alexander versus Hakeem Nicks? When healthy, both WRs have high end talent and a dominating combination of size and speed – yet both receivers have a history of lower leg injuries and missed games. Nicks’ value is sinking after an injury filled 2012 and Alexander’s is rising after putting together the first healthy stretch of his career. Nicks still holds significantly more value in the fantasy football world, so what exactly makes Nicks a target to buy low and Alexander a great sell high candidate? For me, it comes down to four things; the starting value of a player, the skill set of the player, my belief in that player’s ability to get healthy and the current market value of the player. So while both players may be considered injury risks, Nicks has the higher starting value, the declining price point and I’m more confident in his ability to remain healthy over the long term – so I have more confidence in acquiring Nicks even though he carries the higher price tag. If you want to stay ahead of the curve and maintain excellence, you’ll have to dig deep into a player’s health and make some evaluations on limited information.
As for Alexander, if an injury prone player finds a window of heath you need to know the impact it will have on value and be prepared to move quickly. I wrote this about Alexander back at the beginning of January in an article focusing on dynasty value.
Danario Alexander, WR – This one is tough for me because I really like the skill set and freakish athletic ability Danario brings to the field WHEN he’s healthy. He has good size, explosive leaping ability and a knack for snatching the ball in crowded situations. He’s also had more major reconstruction done to his knees than Joan Rivers’ face – and that’s something I never thought any player could achieve. All in all, Alexander has had 5 surgeries on his left knee dating back to his sophomore year at Missouri. So while the upside and production have been evident in San Diego this season, Danario is playing on a left knee that seems more likely to vaporize into thin air than withstand the rigors of another NFL season. If you haven’t already cashed in on the value of a healthy Danario Alexander then the time is now to move him during this dynasty off season. Honestly, his value can’t get any higher and you won’t have a chance to move him if he gets hurt during OTA’s this spring.
Alexander is the perfect example of an often injured player finding a momentary healthy oasis during his NFL journey. What he is not, however, is someone you want to count on to stay healthy week in and week out. If you’re going to maintain a high level of success in your league, you’ll have to take advantage of the short term spikes in value that occur when an injury plagued player puts together a healthy streak of production.
“Trade it forward” – Always, always, always look to trade your draft picks forward. If you’re a successful dynasty owner, chances are your rookie picks usually fall at the end of each round. Try and find owners with weak rosters and offer your current draft picks for future picks. As I mentioned in previous articles, most owners tend to focus on the rookie draft directly in front of them and on the immediate gratification that comes from drafting the next shiny new toy. If you can improve your draft position it’s worth it – even if you have to wait a year to cash in.
“Know your coaches” – Coaches come and go….and coordinators change with even more regularity. Philosophies, schemes, tendencies and systems all get tweaked or thrown out completely depending on the new boss in town and it’s vital for you as a dynasty owner to stay on top of this information. We saw the impact former OC Greg Knapp had on the Raiders’ offense when he implemented his zone blocking scheme. Darren McFadden is always battling some type of injury, but last season McFadden’s biggest stumbling block was running behind a blocking scheme that fought against his very instincts as a running back. Patience as a runner is a prime ingredient for a successful zone blocking scheme and McFadden prefers quick decisions, creating angles and fearlessly blazing past defenders (when healthy). Last season he had issues identifying the correct holes and as a result he bounced too many runs outside hoping to find a shred of daylight. My point in discussing this example is that many fantasy football experts identified this potential problem before the season even started. Even on the message board here at DFW, discussions took place about the potential disaster that could befall McFadden running behind a ZBS. Back on July 27th, a thread was started by our own Jay Myers entitled “Potential zone-blocking issues for DMC” and the initial post looked like this;
This news blurb below just reminded me of something…….Is anyone else besides me worried about the zone-blocking scheme being brought to Oakland by Knapp? DMC struggled a bit with it before Hue brought in the man-blocking scheme where he flourished. He’s injury-prone to begin with and now he converts back to the zbs where he’s struggled his first two seasons. Just another red flag to think about in my opinion.
Zone-blocking – 25 games in his first two seasons he averaged 3.9 ypc.
Man-blocking – 20 games he’s averaged 5.3 ypc
Information like this is so important because it gives dynasty owners a window of opportunity to move ahead of the value curve. Changes in coaching philosophies, schemes and tendencies will have both positive and negative impacts on your fantasy players. If you plan on reloading your roster while staying competitive these opportunities create a great chance for you to buy and sell high end players for solid value. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to buy, sell or hold – but staying plugged in to coaching changes gives you a chance to make your own success.
“Assign imaginary contracts to your players” – Folks in dynasty circles always talk about watching the future of your team in a three year window. An interesting practice is to assign imaginary contracts to your players taking that three year window into account along with the diminishing value of your older players. By projecting out the value of your players and identifying the impact of age/mileage on trade value, you can assign your players with a “trade window” that maximizes their usefulness and their value on the trade market. For instance, let’s say I have Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Wes Welker as my 3 starting WRs on my dynasty squad with very little depth behind them. All 3 are getting older and while they still hold significant value; their overall trade value is diminishing in dynasty circles. I would assign the following imaginary contracts to those three WRs….Andre Johnson – 1 year, Wes Welker – 2 years and Brandon Marshall – 3 years. That would give me a guideline to move those players in intervals while they still hold some value and before I’m faced with replacing all 3 simultaneously at a significant discount – and I could stay competitive within my 3 year window.
Well, hopefully these eight methods/concepts give you something to think about while rebuilding on the fly. Remember to infuse talent and youth frequently throughout your roster so that age doesn’t creep up on you at every position all at once. Finding that perfect balance between obsessing over upside, overvaluing youth and chasing after a title can be very challenging. If you stay informed and active all season long then maintaining a high level of excellence while rebuilding will become second nature. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @FFHoudini with any questions about this article or fantasy football in general.