How to Dominate Your Start Up Draft

By Brian Luzier (@TheFFBoss)

Two weeks ago I showed you guys how I value rookie picks, and where that value is derived from. Today I’ll be using that data to show you why I think this year is a great year to hold a startup draft that will help build you a contender for many years to come.

While I will never encourage an owner to “tank” a season to grab a higher pick, I feel it is fair to organize your team in such a way that you don’t expect to succeed in Year One, but plan on being a perennial playoff contender in later years.

One way you can do this is to pass on older players with proven production, while swinging for the fences on some talented youngsters in good (or even bad) situations. Owners who took a chance on players like Doug Martin, Vick Ballard, or Bernard Pierce have certainly seen there assets appreciate over the last 12 months, although all to varying degrees. I know those are all completely arbitrary examples, but they all could have been had at a very cheap price last offseason.

To help illustrate these points I will be using trades I’ve made in an IDP Experts League Startup which can be found here: D365 Experts League.

A trade like you see below would have been easy to complete last year, and would have given you the pieces to invest in a few of your favorite young rushers in a 2012 Startup Draft:

Send: 2.12 (Greg Jennings), 23.01 (Defense), 24.12 (Kicker)

Receive: 4.01 (Doug Martin), 14.12 (Bernard Pierce), 17.01 (Vick Ballard)

That trade would do two things for you, both of which I think are crucial to coming out of a startup with a value-rich team:

  1. The Tradedown- By trading down you gain the ability to add value to your roster, although it is always at the expense of one shiny toy. Trading down in a startup can be very effective, and it is generally best done in small steps. If you accrue value in each trade, you’d be surprised what you could turn a 3rd or 4th round pick into.
  2. Targeting- By targeting specific players or value crests in drafts, you can decide general pick ranges to be buying or selling picks from. For this year, I don’t like the choices available to me in the 4th or 5th rounds, but really enjoy the depth in the 8th -12th rounds.

Using these two simple principles, I shoot for trades like these:

Trade 1 (Partner: @Whudey):

Send: 2.05 (Demaryius Thomas), 39.08 (Devon Still), 40.05 (Darnell Dockett)

Receive: 3.04 (Watt), 6.09 (Blackmon), 8.09 (James Laurinaitis)

Trade 2 (Partner: @mattkdelima):

Send: 10.05 (Steve Smith), 12.05 (Finley), 14.05 (Danny Woodhead), 2014 1st

Receive: 7.05 (T.Y. Hilton), 9.05 (Andre Brown), 12.08 (Vincent Brown), 14.08 (Chandler Jones)

Obviously I wanted Demaryius to hold my franchise down for years, but realistically how much more valuable can he get? He’s already a Top 5 wide receiver, and I had a trade partner who was willing and able to make a deal we were both very happy with. Looking back on it, I think it was great to be able to land the top IDP option (who I was targeting from the beginning of the trade), a top 10 Linebacker to anchor my D, and a Sophomore receiver who’s value has slid due to some off the field concerns. That’s not a bad haul.

I approached the second trade by referring to my Rookie Pick Value chart (below) to upgrade my 2014 1st (a pick I’d consider the 11.10, assuming I’m a middle of the pack type team) to a 7th and 12th rounder, and in addition was able to upgrade my 10th to a 9th, and all only at the expense of trading down 3 spots in the 14th round! I thought it was a slam dunk. The fact that the players I snatched with those picks are personal favorites of mine was just icing on the cake.

A look at rookie picks calculated by Brian Luzier using DFWs ADP

A look at rookie picks calculated by Brian Luzier using DFWs ADP

So, how can you use this information to help you this year?

First, it’s important to review ADP data, and tier your players. After you’ve tiered players, you should see trends, or stretches, of players which to you are interchangeable with players drafted a round or more after them. Congrats, you’ve now identified your buy and sell ranges!

Next, while executing tradedowns (preferably into your targeted pick range) I would be shooting for some of these under appreciated rookies in addition to your personal sleepers:

Giovani Bernard, 4.11- It looks like he’ll have all the opportunity in the world, and the talent is there as well, my only concern is durability with that small frame of his.

Le’veon Bell, 5.03- I mentioned this on Twitter a few days ago, but any rookie RB with a higher redraft ADP than Dynasty ADP sets off a red flag for me. I’m not a big believer in Bell, but the Groupthink certainly sees something in him I’m missing.

Deandre Hopkins, 7.12- As my top rookie, snagging him at the end of the seventh round seems like robbery. I’ve taken him in a few startups, but have also let him slide a little too far and had him snatched up by someone else. Pouncing in the 7th is the right strategy here.

Keenan Allen, 10.07- Another Rookie I won’t stick up for, but with the recent Danario Alexander news coming out (torn ACL) he will have an opportunity to produce this year, or at least show he belongs in the league. In the middle of the 10th you’re probably gunning for upside anyway, so swing away if you’ve seen something in him you like.

Aaron Dobson, 11.10- I would (and routinely have) taken Dobson over Allen when possible. The fact I can get this human highlight reel a whole round later is just money to me. If Allen is there in the 10th this could be a prime tradedown scenario where you could move back a round here, and likely boost a later pick by a few rounds. That’s a win/win!

Marcus Wheaton, 13.01- I like Wheaton’s talent, and I like his opportunity. At this time last year this was Brandon Lafell/Ryan Broyles territory. I prefer Wheaton over both, and expect more from him this year than I expected from either of those guys last year.

Robert Woods, 13.04- A talented route runner with a wide open WR2 spot up for grabs, in an up-and-coming offense? Sign me up.

E.J. Manuel, 13.12- A rookie QB who will be thrown into the fire sooner rather than later in a rising offense. A solid upside pick who you won’t feel bad dumping after two unproductive season (if it comes to that).

Stedman Bailey, 15.12- Arguably the best WR at WVU last year 10 rounds later than his overhyped college and professional teammate. I’d take Bailey in the 2nd without flinching so looking at my draft pick chart you’ll see I feel great about Bailey here.

Stepfan Taylor, 17.01- Another rookie who has an open competition. If you want an upside rookie rusher, you can talk yourself into Taylor pretty easily. The recent news about Ryan Williams failing to stay healthy is just another boost to Taylor’s outlook.

Charles Johnson, 19.01- He has measureables off the charts, plays in an explosive offense, and has two wide receivers who are currently dealing with injuries on the depth chart ahead of him right now. If people are still holding onto Boykin, there’s no reason to not hold Johnson for a season or two as well.

There you have it guys, my top secret startup strategy, exposed. Hope it helped, and good luck this year! Feel free to hit me up on twitter @TheFFBoss to let me know what you think about the article, my pick values, or whatever else you’ve got on your mind.

As always, be easy.