12 Steps to Turn your Cellar Dweller to an Emerging Dynasty

This article is the fourth in a series applying economic principles to dynasty fantasy football. The first is an introduction to the Pareto Principle which addresses key concepts discussed in this article. The second, third and fourth are Part I and Part II and Part III of this series – giving the first nine steps for turning your cellar dweller into an emerging dynasty.

Part IV: This is How You Win

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“This is why you lift all those weights…”

It is quite the achievement. 

What do I mean? It’s somewhat unclear. But whether I’m referring to building your worst roster into a title contender, or simply getting through my nerdy article series, I heartily congratulate you.

The next step is ultimately the most important. After all, whether for pride or fortune, dynasty fantasy football is ultimately a game about winning. The final step in this series sets you up to maximize the potency and length of your championship window. In other words..

This is how you win.

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Step 10: What to Consolidate When You’re Consolidating

If you’ve done this correctly you walk into the season with a high value roster with your assets dispersed widely. 

Bring yourself back to the first article section on conversion vs. consolidation:

“So, you have a productive veteran on your team with limited upside and you want to make a move… how do you know when to consolidate verses when to convert? This requires self evaluation. Is your team above the median value of the league? If so, look to consolidate that value among an elite starting lineup. If your team is average or below, you don’t want to be consolidating. Star players have the highest market value but the least fluidity.”

Finally, your roster value is great enough you no longer need the acquired assets to accrue more value. Your most important goal is now maximizing the points you can put in your lineup each week. You are ready to become a consolidator. 

However, your next most important goal should be positioning yourself to contend for a long window. Picking the right pieces to trade away, is essential to maintaining a high value team. 

Trade the Devil You Know

Think back to Step Two. It’s unlikely you’ll have an abundance of depreciating assets at this point, but you should apply the same process (age and athleticism) now in terms of what to trade away. Try to keep assets with the highest chance of appreciating. Draft picks from years beyond the upcoming season are guaranteed to be worth more later, so trading such selections should be a last resort. If you have to move future assets, the best candidates to use in your consolidation trades are underperforming young players. Remember our discussion of Raiders wideout Henry Ruggs? History suggests his value is unlikely to improve despite his perception as a plausibly ascending asset.

A thread by Drew O@DFBeanCounter – discussed the fallacy of sophomore bounce backs. Drew found 61 per cent of wide receivers taken in the first round of rookie drafts held or improved their dynasty ADP the following year. Of the remaining wideouts, just 26% improved their value from their second to third year. While the market is often willing to give high profile rookies a mulligan, it rarely pays off. Furthermore, among wideouts taken in round two, 63% improved in value in their rookie campaign. You’re over twice as likely to accrue value holding a second round pick, than a disappointing former first rounder.

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Big plays like this were sparse from Ruggs in 2020

You will have to make tough compromises in the road to your championship, moving players you wished to keep. But using disappointing sophomores such as Ruggs as an additional piece to consolidate your RB2 into an RB1 is a better way to improve your roster short and long term than giving away picks or rookies.

Step 11: Mastering the Waiver Wire Churn

This section – based partly on tricks I have picked up from “law firm guy” – could be an article in and of itself. But nobody is better equipped to win the waiver wire than a rebuilder in transition. Entering the year, many of your assets are draft picks which do not take up roster spots and consolidation trades will open up roster space for you.

Players on your bench are money in your checking account. You need some stored to make purchases, but you’d prefer to keep only what you need. The rest should be held in tax free savings accounts like taxi squads and mutual funds like your draft picks. When making waiver claims, avoid roster fillers. A player toiling on your bench is fantasy football’s service fee. The best claims are short term investments to sell for the double the price or liquidate at zero cost. My rule of thumb; if you can’t picture a player either being sold for a third round pick or in your starting lineup there is probably a better option.

You want to play a game of six degrees of separation. How many different outcomes would need to occur for this player to hit one of the aforementioned criteria? If the answer is one, they are worth a pickup. We call these handcuffs: if player X gets injured, player Y is not re-signed etc. they accrue value rapidly. Add in the factors discussed in Part Two for assessing the likelihood of appreciating value and pick the players with the clearest path to generating and maintaining increased value.

If you can get an asset for a player you got on waivers you should probably take it. Most players on waivers in your dynasty leagues are there for a reason. Either they failed when given opportunity, or required an injury to get their current one. Jaguars running back James Robinson was an exception. His athletic profile far surpassed his (lack of) draft capital and he had a lead role secured throughout 2020. Younger, athletic players you can afford to be more patient. But the shorter a player’s window of opportunity, and longer our window of evaluation on the player, the more likely you should sell fast.

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No player gave a better return on investment than Robinson in 2020

 Your latest pickup is probably not the next James Robinson

Not only does your sale of each waiver claim secure a profit on your investment, but it unlocks hidden value by re-opening a roster spot. If you churn your bench for draft picks multiple times, you can use those picks to consolidate toward a high level asset for free.­­

Step 12: Don’t Forget Where You Came From

Much ink has been spilled on who to bring onto your rebuilding team, and who to move away. I have yet to discuss who to trade for as you become a contender.

In general, you want to apply the reverse process you used in terms of who to trade. If you can acquire a young star set to appreciate value, you should be willing to pay up, rather than opt for a prime or depreciating asset. Over the last five years, 23 players were drafted as an RB1 in dynasty at 23 years old or under (symmetry!). Of those, 69.6 per cent were RB1s for the upcoming season. 

Of those drafted at 26 or older – after the age apex – 40 per cent – finished as such the following year. This shows you two things:

  1. Running Backs 23 or younger account for over twice as many of the dynasty market’s RB1 slots as their 26 or older counter parts.
  2. The market hits on young running backs at a much higher rate than older running backs.
Green denotes an RB1 ‘hit.’ Red is a ‘miss.’ Red with black text is a miss due to injury.

Age + Athleticism Gets You an ‘A’ in Dynasty

Let’s dig deeper.

Of the six individual running backs 23-and-younger who did not immediately produce an RB1 season, three produced one in the future. Not one of the five 26 and older running backs who fell short put up an RB1 season again. If your stud running back is 23 or younger, the last five years suggest he has an 87 per cent chance of putting up an RB1 season. If he is 26 or older, the odds are 40 per cent. 

Of the running backs who have not paid off an RB1 season yet, two – Kansas City’s Clyde Edwards-Hellaire of the Chiefs, and Philadelphia’s Miles Sanders – remain 23 or younger and have a chance to hit an RB1 season this year. This only leaves then Bears’ RB Jordan Howard – and the second iteration of Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon, who could also plausibly accomplish the feat this year.

Recall the second major factor we use to project value appreciation: athleticism.

In praise of Washington’s Antonio Gibson and Green Bay’s A.J. Dillon, I’ve discussed the correlation between speed score and future RB1 value. Among running backs who defied father time, the Titans Derrick Henry and then Cardinals back David Johnson both have speed scores in the 90th percentile or above. None of the backs 23 and under who have yet to produce an RB1 season score above the 80th. Meanwhile, six of eleven backs in the younger group who were successful in their first year had speed scores above the 90th percentile.

Target youth and size-adjusted athleticism when trading for a running back, with Gibson, the Colts Jonathan Taylor or the Rams Cam Akers. The odds they retain their market value and produce for you this year are much higher.

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In sum, don’t forget where you came from. Not all superstars are created equal, and applying the same mindset as you did when rebuilding will turn your contender into a dynasty.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts…

Congratulations! You were patient, analytical and consistent applying market principles to your roster rebuild and I trust you are set up for success. But as you know, nothing is guaranteed in fantasy football. So sit back, root for your squad and enjoy. All that’s left for you is to give your boys a killer pre-game speech!

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Catch Jakob on twitter at FF_RTDB to ask any questions on the series, and check out the full Fantasy Intervention gang on YouTube and Twitter.

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