Dynasty League Football

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Identification, Evaluation and Correction of Dynasty Issues


Who hasn’t had this gut wrenching experience: it’s the last week of the fantasy football season and you’ve just missed your league’s fantasy playoffs by one win, or worse yet, a handful of points? If you haven’t had your fantasy heart pulled out and handed to you by the scenario I just outlined, then you haven’t been playing fantasy football long enough. I hope you never have to experience it, but if you have, you know it’s just absolutely soul crushing and you don’t want to interact with another human for a long, long time in its aftermath. I’m here to tell you, it’s easily avoidable and with some easy calculations, bold action and just the smallest bit of luck.

This article will show you how.

Say after week three you’re in the basement of your division with a record of 1-2 or sit at a miserable 0-3. You’ve taken some close losses and can’t figure out for the life of you why your team is floundering. You’re considering packing it in, having a fire sale and rebuilding for next year – the equivalent of stepping out a window on onto a ledge.

Don’t jump, I’m your dynasty negotiator and I’m here to tell you, it will be OK!

This problem, just like all others, has both a root and a solution. First, let’s identify the problem; it’s more than likely your team has one or more problem positions, or positions that are dragging your team down. Objectively, it’s hard to pinpoint most times, but numbers, well they never lie!

First, let’s start in the third week like I mentioned above. You’re feeling bad about your early poor record. This record is due to one of two reasons – you’re either the owner of a team with real problems or you’ve just faced some horrible luck. One can be fixed; the other can’t, short of a rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover and a box of Lucky Charms. If your team has problems, we first need to identify what those problems are. If you’re in a league with a history longer than one year then you’re in luck, you’ve got a blueprint by which playoff teams are made…last year’s playoff teams.

Since your dynasty league has some history, let’s put it to good use.

First, identify the top scoring teams last year. For the purpose of this article, we’ll say four teams make the playoffs in this hypothetical league, Team A, B, C & D. We are also going to assume that all the top scoring teams made the playoffs. The assumption that the highest scoring teams directly translate to playoff teams is obviously far from true, however, on average high scoring teams make the playoffs, or at the very least put themselves in an excellent position to do so. Always use the highest scoring teams and not simply the teams with the most wins in your analysis. Wins are based upon luck, where points scored increase the probability of gaining wins. What we will do first is build up an average of your team through the first three weeks this season as well as an average for the top four scoring teams through the first three weeks of last season. If you are in a league in its initial season, you can do this exercise on the top scoring teams through the first three weeks. The results will be less reliable, but it’s better than nothing.

The reason for using points versus wins in this exercise is that wins are arbitrary and deal solely with luck. You may have been the second highest scoring team during each of your losses, but that kind of bad luck doesn’t last forever and as long as you’re scoring well, those kind of points you will get the wins your team deserves. Additionally, working within a three week window keeps the teams being observed fairly static and accounts for some swings of luck. This window slides as the season goes. For instance, if it’s prior to the kickoff of week nine then you should be looking at weeks six through eight.

Now then, if you scored 100 points in week one, 110 in week two and 120 in week three, we’re looking at an average of the three weeks of 110 per week (100+110+120/3 = 110). Let’s say “Team A” had an average of 200 points, “Team B” had an average of 175 points, “Team C” had an average of 150 points and “Team D” had an average of 125 points. We are looking at a range of 125 points to 200 points for those teams making the playoffs last year in the same time frame. If your team is scoring 110 points on average and never once reached the low mark of 125 established by the lowest scoring playoff team in three weeks then changes need to be made, but where?

Luckily, problem areas are easily identifiable using a similar method to what was just outlined. First, we need to look at the starting lineups for the same three week period. We will want to break the lineups down by position. Let’s take quarterback for instance. If our quarterback scored 15, 20 and 25 points during our first three weeks, then on average our quarterback is posting 20 points per week. If last year “Team A’s” quarterback scored 30 points on average, “Team B’s” quarterback scored 28 points, “Team C’s” quarterback scored 26 points on average and “Team D’s” quarterback scored 24 points on average, then we’ve effectively identified a potential problem spot that we need to address – our quarterback.  If our running backs are outpacing last year’s playoff teams, we’ve identified a strength from which we can draw upon to shore up or weaker positions. Identifying strengths and weaknesses early in the season are absolutely essential in order to have a successful season, the earlier we can identify them, the better.

Since we’ve identified an issue and we’ve pinpointed the cause of the problem, let’s start developing a solution. In order to do so, we need to identify two things. First, are there any free agents outperforming our problem players and second, are there any teams in our league with players who can address our issues? The first item is self-explanatory; if a free agent is better than your current player, get him. Problem solved! However, the second item requires much more thought and research. The same exercise we’ve outlined thus far needs to be performed league-wide on all the teams. Identify teams with strengths and weaknesses complimentary to your own as they will make for more accommodating trade partners most of the time. Conversely, also identify teams in the “playoff bubble,” if you will, that are weaker at a position you are also weak at as last ditch trade partners.

Unfortunately, there are times that trading with teams on the “playoff bubble” are unavoidable. However, a good rule of thumb is to avoid these trades whenever realistically possible. Trading with them will help you, but not as much as trading with a team not in the “playoff bubble.” The reason for this is that trading with a team not on the “playoff bubble” strengthens you against all four “playoff bubble” teams while trading with a team inside the “playoff bubble” only strengthens you against three of the four teams and may actually strengthen the other “playoff bubble” team, your trading partner.

The goal of this exercise is to maximize your strength while keeping the “playoff bubble” teams the same, or if possible, weakening them by conducting trades with them at their weakest positions. Under no circumstances should you trade to a “playoff bubble” team’s strength! If they are heavy at quarterback, the position you are weak at, and have two or three studs or even above average quarterbacks in a league that allows you to start only one, resist the temptation to trade with them no matter how hard it may be. Such a trade may seem to benefit you, but in reality it actually hurts your chances to make the playoffs since you’ve now strengthened one of the “playoff bubble” teams and helped solidify their position within that bubble.

As contrary as it may seem, if you are offered to two trades, one with a team inside the “playoff bubble” that plays to their strength and the other trade offer from a team outside the “playoff bubble” that is actually a marginally weaker deal, it actually strengthens your chances to make the playoffs. The reasoning is simple – if you accept the marginally weaker trade, you are still strengthening your team, while effectively blocking the “playoff bubble” team from strengthening their position, at least temporarily.

It can’t be overstated how important it is for owners to constantly re-evaluate their position within a league. Since the dynamics of a league are constantly fluctuating, the vigilant owner must change as the league changes. One cannot simply draft and hope to be champion or, better yet, develop into a dynasty without remaining observant to how the league changes around them.

I would encourage every dynasty owner to perform evaluations on their team several times a season and especially before your league’s trading deadline in order to make that final push into the playoffs. Every season presents new challenges which successful owners overcome. It never hurts to do a post-season and pre-season evaluation either to be better prepared. Those owners unwilling, or unable, to face the challenges presented to them never get to raise the trophy at the end of the season.  Now that you’ve got the tools to properly evaluate your team throughout I season, I expect to get several “Thank You” cards or emails come playoff time.

Just don’t forget to cut me in on some of the winnings.

11 Comments
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Ryan Brown
10 years ago

I’ll be sure to inc.ude your name in the fine print when my name is engraved on the trophy this year ghost

Cato
10 years ago

I like a lot of the thought processes here. It’s always good to look at your league, not just your roster but everyone’s roster, not only your own. That said, I think better goal posts for a trade target are BPA or value.

I can’t see approaching a trade or a draft market with “need” as a primary force, actually allowing you to come away with the best value or best players. I think Mike Mayock says it best, with “Need is a poor evaluator”. He was of course referring to the real NFL draft, but I feel it’s equally applicable here in parallel.

If it works, great, but I think the chance of people to see you sweating RB2,or whatever position is potentially a good way to be on the losing end of a trade negotiation for long term dynasty value.

My 2 cents.

kelsier
10 years ago

Yeah, I’m not buying this technique. This seems like overreacting in the opposite direction. You should know your team weaknesses long before week 4 of the season, you should never trade out of desperation (in this example, to make a playoff push), and you shouldn’t use such a small sample size (3 weeks of positional data) to analyze your team’s weaknesses. This is the kind of approach that would lead you to trade a star prospect off to a poor start for an overachieving veteran.

Also, if you’re 80 points a week deficient of the top team in the league, it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than a couple trades to close the gap. Even making it to 4th best in the league, with that kind of point gap, will likely get you nothing more than an early playoff exit. I feel the recommended approach works counter to the long-term building philosophy needed in a dynasty format. This approach is fitting for a redraft league, but not for dynasty.

tresslerc
10 years ago

I think that your team’s gain should weigh more than helping another team. If it helps make my team stronger going forward, I don’t care who I help. I want to make my team as strong as possible. Especially in a dynasty league. This strategy seems very short sighted to me. The other weaker team may be who your fioghting for a playoff spot next year. I wouldn’t leave value on the table and take a weaker player. I’d want the best option available to make my team the most competitive for both this year and the future.

T-Money
Reply to  tresslerc
10 years ago

Couldn’t agree more. It is always about making my team better, especially in a dynasty league. This strategy might work well for a keeper or redraft, but in a dynasty league you need to be trying to make your team better, especially if you are as Kelsier says scoring 80 points less than the top team per week. This strategy would be helpful if you are in competition to win the league, as you would not want to help out others who you are competing with for the title, but if you are at the bottom/on the playoff bubble and clearly weaker than the top teams I think this strategy would not be all that helpful.

reddaddy32
Reply to  tresslerc
10 years ago

Agree with some of what you said here, specifically about using this method to determine who to trade. I think this does a good job of identifying weaknesses and strengths, a great job actually, but then you need to take what you have and look a little deeper at the causes. Look to see if injuries, poor situations, bad luck has at all influenced the players performance over the seasons. This guide works well for generalized concepts, but you I dont think can take that and then apply it to the end decisions on who to trade.

On the trading advice, and specifically your last line, I agree with your attitude, but disagree with your conclusion. I also want to have the most competitive team now and in the future, but I dont think trading with teams already better than you accomplishes that. You help one of the fringe playoff teams as the author said, and all of a sudden you miss the playoffs because you helped them.

It clearly is going to be a case by case study, but assuming that you do not need all the value of the best trade to improve your teams win/loss performance, then I see the logic in trading with teams you are not directly competing with. Saying it is shortsighted and fails to look at dynasty can work both ways, and one might argue trading with teams you are constantly going to be battling with for playoff spots is shortsighted as well.

Chris Russell
10 years ago

Great article. Definitely happens to all of us. Sometimes you can only stay the course and wait for the luck to even out. Unfortunately luck doesn’t care whether you actually are in need of it!

Cyrus
10 years ago

First, I want to point out that the numbers were arbitrary to show an example. Therefore, the gap between the first place team and your team doesn’t matter, it is just to show an example of how to calculate it.

Second, I agree with many others that I want to improve my team without regard to who I help strengthen. Honestly, my number one goal in a trade is to benefit my own team and my number two goal is to benefit the other team in any way that is not detrimental to my own. Win-win trades make for better trade partners in the future. For example, I have included fringe players from my bench for “free” before if the other owner shows a great appreciation for that player. This can be done either as a bonus (If you do the trade before the weekend, I will include Danario Alexander) or as a net-sum-zero trade (If you really like Danario, I will include him for Austin Pettis in return).

While the first trade outcome does mean you are “giving up value,” treat your team like a corporation and include the value of goodwill. The second trade outcome really is net-sum-zero if you have the two players on the same tier but the other owner prefers your guy.

Third, I would calculate my positions of bench strength in addition to my starters. In the article above, the author calculates the starter points to determine a position of strength. However, my starters could be a position of weakness but my bench a position of strength, in which case I can trade from depth, or my starters can be a position of strength but my depth so bad that trading is not recommended.

Example 1: I have four RB’s who score between #12 and #24. I lack an RB1, so my starters are below average. However, I have four RB2’s, so I can trade one RB2 to another team as an upgrade over their number two RB who scores around #30 or lower. I am trading from a position of weak starters but great depth.

Example 2: I have two stud RB’s who are both top 10, lets say McCoy and Forte. However, my bench is DeAngelo Williams and not much else. Trading either of my studs will actually hurt my team because the dropoff to DeAngelo is larger than any upgrade.

I like some of the ideas of the article in terms of using statistical analysis, but I think you need to include a larger sample size, some form of dynasty rankings (to weight studs who are underperforming) and to factor in bench players and depth.

Danton Goulet
10 years ago

I definitely like the concept of this article and think it helps me make an informed decision.
This is another tool to use to your advantage. That doesn’t mean that you make hasty decisions in trading off talent for soon to be has beens. Or maybe you do if it helps you win this year. I take the point as use this to evaluate your individual positions on a case by case basis. It doesn’t say to go out there and blow out all your young talent just to win now.
Some of you may be just outside looking in and this helps in making an informed decision on where you would score if you did change things up a bit.
If I am that close to making the playoffs and scoring close to where I need to to possibly win it all that year, then I am more inclined to trade off younger talent to acuire some stability to make a run right now.
If it still doesn’t get me close then I stock up young talent and prepare for next year.
But I am in it to win it so if I have a shot I go for it!

StevieMo
10 years ago

I enjoy these articles so everyone can assess their own leagues and make adjustments, as needed.

I know most leagues allow waiver pickups on a weekly basis, but I am going to make the case for not allowing that in dynasty leagues.

Our league doesn’t have a separate rookie draft, so our preseason draft is a major, early-September event, as owners have the ability to pick up rookies and any available veterans. This makes for lots of trading, and draft picks become quite valuable in anticipation of the draft.

We allow 4 man “taxi squads” beyond our rosters, taken at the preseason draft, and owners have 3 weeks at the start of the season to either activate those guys or lose them. If they activate a TS guy, they have to waive a roster player at the same position. No weekly waiver picks are allowed during the season, so these taxi squads are crucial and strategic.

As we allow no waiver wire pickups, we then have a midseason draft after Week 7 of the NFL season. Again, this makes for a terrific 2nd draft, as the NFL landscape has begun to define itself and high draft picks are valuable. Trades are plentiful and it’s another highlight of the season.

Allowing weekly waiver wire pickups would kill this midseason draft; by not allowing those pickups, we get to have another significant draft, with attendant trade strategy. By virtue of injuries, benchings and young player development, this is one of the most expert drafts available in the game, plus you can trade players or picks in preparation of the following season, or stock up for the stretch run. It’s a win-win and well worth giving up on weekly waiver wire activity.

I’m interested in hearing what my fellow dynasty leaguers think.

Cyrus
Reply to  StevieMo
10 years ago

I think you should expand the taxi squad to be in existence during the regular season, but that might lessen the appeal of the midseason draft.

I love the idea of the midseason draft. It makes depth a big deal because you can’t fill holes for several weeks. However, positions like kicker and DT would be difficult for bye weeks, because you wouldn’t want to hold an extra player for 7 weeks just for 1 bye week.

One other perk of the midseason draft is it adds up all of the WW players for the first 7 weeks of the year. In a typical dynasty, I hate how bad teams are given the top picks and there are scraps to fight over– it almost makes me want to start slow out the gate so I can get the best WW add in the first 3 weeks. Waiting for 7 full weeks means that there should be a full round of quality players to grab.

My favorite league avoids this by having blind bid waivers– good or bad teams can bid on players and the winning bid keeps them.

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