Begin Your Rebuild With a Single Step (and Then Four More)

Brian Malone


January is the time of year when orphaned dynasty teams find new, ambitious owners who had no idea what kind of mess they were getting themselves into when they signed up for this. That’s why you’ll find people in the Team Advice forum asking, “I just took over a team comprised of Jeremy Maclin and twenty-three scrubs, six of whom are retiring; what do I do now!?” What you do now is read this article, a five-step guide to starting the rebuilding process.

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Step 1: Assess your team’s “value.”

This step has two benefits. First, it gives you some information about how much work you have to do. Second, it’s easy. Rebuilding is a tough task, so it’s best to start with the easiest step.

Open a new Excel spreadsheet (or pull out a piece of paper), and list every player on your team in the first column. Don’t worry about positions, just the players. In the next column, list that player’s dynasty ranking, using DLF’s ADP (or 2QB rankings or whatever makes sense for your league). In the third column, use the chart below to assign a “value” to each player.   This isn’t about perfection; you’re just getting a rough feel for your team.

single step 1

Once you have these three columns filled, your spreadsheet should look something like this (with about 20 more players):

single step 2

If each team rosters 25 players, the average team’s value should be around 1100-1200. Yours is probably lower. That’s OK. That’s why you’re here.

Step 2: Know your end game.

This one is about personal preference — though you should also take the odds into account. Do you want to build a playoff contender as quickly as possible? Then you need an average team, which would be in the 1100-1200 range based on the value chart above. But if you’re aiming for a league-crushing team, you’re going to need something in the 1800-2000 range. That’ll take much longer (and may never happen). Either way, choose your end game and acknowledge how good your team needs to be to get there.

Now, I know “value” doesn’t win fantasy leagues. Points do. But you use value to buy points, and even if you’re particularly skilled at buying points (in other words, even if you’re good at acquiring undervalued productive players), you need some capital.

Step 3: Choose an optimistic (but not crazy) window.

Let’s suppose your team’s value is 650 (pretty rough, but not the worst), and your goal is to become a playoff contender. That means you need to gain about two first-round startup picks’ worth of value to meet your goal. Optimistically, you can do that over the course of two seasons (and three off-seasons), so if you’re taking over this team in February 2016, your goal should be to contend by the 2018 season.

Step 4: Trade like mad, with your window in the back (not front) of your mind.

For some reason, dynasty owners hate to make “lateral moves” — trades where they don’t gain value or move forward toward a goal. But lateral moves are a great tool, especially in the early stages of a rebuild.

Perhaps most importantly, lateral moves help you establish a reputation as an owner who likes to trade. No one likes to propose a trade offer knowing that the recipient is going to mull it over for four days, spend another week negotiating over non-essential pieces, and then ultimately back out of the deal. Act quickly and with confidence, and you’ll show your new leaguemates that you (1) know what you’re doing and (2) are fun to deal with.

Now, if you’re new to dynasty, (1) might be an issue because you actually don’t know what you’re doing. That’s OK. As soon as you get a trade offer, take it to Twitter, the DLF War Room (for subscribers), the Ask DLF forum (same), or the Team Advice forum (open to all). If you like the deal and no one’s telling you you’re crazy, go for it.

All that said, you don’t want to move away from your goal. So you’re not going to want to trade a draft pick for Arian Foster. But don’t hesitate to swap Mark Ingram for Eddie Lacy (in either direction). Once you’ve established yourself as an active, decisive trader, then you can start focusing on deals that improve your future.

Step 5: Indiscriminately seek value on the waiver wire.

When you’re not planning to compete this season, it can be tempting to focus on young, high-upside waiver wire additions. Resist that temptation. Most of the players you add from waivers won’t be on your team in two years, regardless of their age. You’re looking for players who will increase in value. If they provide value in the form of 2018 fantasy points, great! If they provide value by helping you upgrade from a 2017 3rd to a 2016 2nd, that works too.

Talent matters, but it’s often hard to separate potential waiver-wire adds based on talent. So as a rule of thumb, target running backs for situation and wide receivers for opportunity. That means don’t worry about whether a running back is second or third on the depth chart; worry about whether he’s in a productive rushing attack. On the other hand, an NFL team’s fifth wide receiver isn’t likely to help you much, even if he plays for the top passing team in the league. Instead, you want a guy who may get nine targets per game for a mediocre (or worse) passing offense.


There are few things more satisfying in this hobby than taking a team from dumpster fire to top of the heap (even if, like me, you’re the one who set the dumpster on fire originally). Get your bearings and then get active, and before long you’ll be looking for the next challenge.


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