The DLF Mailbag

Eric Hardter

Welcome to the latest edition of the weekly mailbag.

Send me your questions using the DLF Mailbag Form and I’ll include the best in future articles.  Remember the guidelines to have the best chance at seeing your question get posted:

1.) Dynasty questions only, no start/sit questions

2.) Help me help you by providing sufficient information about your league (e.g. line-up requirements/PPR or non-PPR/etc.), and include your first name and where you’re from.

3.) Your chance of getting your question answered is inversely proportional to the length of the question.

Let’s get to it!

*Editor’s Note – For total team evaluations, please be sure to use the DLF Newsletter Team Advice Form!*

  1. I am in a non-PPR IDP league, with 12 teams with fairly shallow rosters (17 starters, 29 man roster). I’m a contending team (third last year) and just traded picks 1.10 and 3.10, Kevin White and Telvin Smith for Keenan Allen and pick 3.02. I am pretty deep at receiver and linebacker, but have slight regrets at giving up Smith. Good trade, bad trade, or fair all round?Chris in IL

I think it’s a good trade for you, but also a fair trade all around, if that makes sense.  Chargers receiver Keenan Allen is clearly the all-star of the deal, as his current May ADP falls just outside of the first round as the 15th player taken.  Of course, there’s the caveat here that the ADP data reflects a non-PPR format, and as I posted in a recent Mailbag Allen had endured a startling phenomenon where over his past two seasons, he has the same number of total touchdowns (eight) as he had in his rookie year, but on exactly double the number of targets.  Regardless, I’d rather bank on him finding the end zone again while keeping up his ball-hogging ways, as opposed to the thoroughly unproven Kevin White.

With that said, many people, myself included, remain fans of the Bears sophomore, and he still finds himself as a third round pick in startup drafts.  Adding the first round pick and one of the top IDP linebackers was clearly enough to sweeten the pot in this instance, and if the rookie pans out your trade partner could have three future starters for one.  At the end of the day though, you got the proven talent and were able to capitalize on “upside” assets – on value alone it’s about even, but I still like this type of consolidation move, especially in a shallower format.

  1. I was just able to acquire Rob Gronkowski, so my starting lineup is looking really solid. The Aaron Rodgers owner just put him on the trading block, looking for running backs. I feel like I’m still in good shape, but this may be an opportunity to package Matt Ryan and a couple of running backs (Le’Veon Bell, Lamar Miller, Ryan Mathews, Jeremy Hill and Matt Jones) to really put my team over the edge. I also have Philip Rivers at quarterback. Should I hang tight, or attempt to obtain Rodgers?Bob in MO

If you have bench players to spare, I’m always a fan of looking to package them for a top asset (see:  Question #1 above).  In this instance, as much as I like both Matt Ryan, and especially Philip Rivers, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers represents such an upgrade.

It’s also a good time to buy the cheesehead, if you still believe in his abilities (which you should).  After often going as a fringe second round pick in startup drafts at this time last year, Rodgers has now fallen to the tail end of the fourth – while this could be due to a massive paradigm shift in quarterback valuation (one to which I’m not opposed, for what it’s worth), more likely it’s a combination of shortsightedness and fear by owners who saw how (relatively) poorly Rodgers played last season, especially compared to his draft position.

While I wouldn’t give up Le’Veon Bell or Lamar Miller in this deal, I would have no hesitance flipping Ryan and any two of the other three ball carriers you listed for Rodgers.  Each carries significant question marks (durability, sophomore slump, and proven NFL ability, to name a few), and while they could wind up playing well, that’s a risk I’d be willing to take for the man who is arguably the game’s best signal caller.  The “depth versus starters” lineup is always a fun one to debate, but at the end of the day it’s the latter that wins you games – I’d seek out a deal.

  1. In my 10-man non-PPR league we are going into our rookie/free agent draft and I have a team ready to contend now.  Like most, I’m thin at running back and thinking of trading Jeremy Hill (which would leave me with CJ Anderson, DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Langford, Buck Allen and Justin Forsett), Mike Evans, 2016 picks 1.08 pick and 3.07, and a 2017 first round pick for the first overall pick to take Zeke Elliot.  Am I giving up way too much here?Adam in OH

In a word, yes.

I understand the non-PPR format will make running backs more valuable, but even given that I don’t think I could justify trading Bucs receiver Mike Evans straight up for Dallas rookie Ezekiel Elliott.  The sophomore struggled at times, yes, but the fact is he improved nearly everywhere with the exception of scoring the ball.  As with Keenan Allen above, I’d rather bank on the fact that will regress back to the norm.

Adding two first round picks and change just skews the balance even further.  Yes, Elliott is the best running back in the 2016 draft, and yes, he went to the best possible situation.  But the hype surrounding the young man is simply too much in my opinion – I recently made the comparison that he’s basically the Bill Brasky of fantasy football, and I stand by it.  I’m aware I’m more risk-averse than most, but I just can’t see selling the farm for a completely unproven, albeit talented, asset.  I’d much rather stand pat, grab a few ball carriers in your 2016 draft, and keep your 2017 picks as well.

  1. I have a trade on the table to trade DeAndre Hopkins, pick 1.11 and Donte Moncrief, and I would get Sammy Watkins, pick 1.01 (Ezekiel Elliott) and Nelson Agholor.  At running back I really only have Carlos Hyde, and at receiver my main guys are Hopkins, Moncrief, Josh Gordon (praying), DeVante Parker, and whatever rookie lands at pick 1.04. Should I make this trade?Cristian in AL

I like the deal.  Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins is the best piece here, but rising Bills junior Sammy Watkins isn’t terribly far behind.  Sure, he just suffered (yet) another injury, but unless this broken foot somehow turns out to be chronic, I simply can’t bump guys with hard tissue issues too far down my rankings – this is dynasty football, after all.  Just looking at the numbers, Watkins ended the 2015 with such a flourish that he was actually the most efficient fantasy receiver in the league.  Given his draft pedigree, it’s not unreasonable to assert he surpasses Hopkins in both value and fantasy scoring prowess over the next one to two years.

Continuing, Ezekiel Elliott is worth a lot more than Colts pass catcher Donte Moncrief at the current moment in time.  The latter actually had a fairly solid sophomore campaign, which was made to look worse than it really was due to Indy’s quarterback carousel.  Nevertheless, as mentioned above Elliott landed in a plum situation and has vaulted up draft boards – as I see it, he’s a lot closer to Hopkins and Watkins than he is to Moncrief, tipping the scales in your favor.

Nelson Agholor did precious little as a rookie, and it’s fair to assert he’s a bust waiting to happen.  But unless pick 1.11 in a relatively weak draft yields a productive weekly starter, the value is still on your end.  You’re easily getting two of the best three players, and are upgrading a position of need.  I’d do it.

  1. Any suggestions for how to stop tanking at the end of the season? Owners are opposed to a fine for the last place team, but tanking is a huge problem in our league of record. It’s a keeper league and future picks are traded, but we do a draft lottery for non-playoff teams, and teams aren’t starting their best players on purpose. – Jay in NC

Sure – find a new league.

I had to sound brusque, but I just can’t imagine a league where owners aren’t trying their hardest on a weekly basis.  Moreover, I’m also not a fan of de-incentivizing losing teams with a lottery.  This isn’t basketball, and most times bad teams are just bad, and need the early rookie picks – giving them a chance to lose them via lottery seems counter-intuitive to me.

Other suggestions I’ve seen include the following:

A round robin to decide draft pick order of non-playoff teams during the playoffs – I don’t like this because it doesn’t solve any in-season problems, and just gives the “best bad team” the highest likelihood of cashing out.

Use “best possible points” – This is even worse to me.  If you’re not playing “best ball” with actual results, it shouldn’t be used as a tiebreaker for draft order.  It’s also effectively double jeopardy, since a team that already lost a game by starting a sub-optimal lineup (not on purpose, of course) will get penalized again when the bench players who scored more are held against him/her as a tiebreaker.  Unless the same methodology is used to sort out the playoff teams as they lose, the lack of consistency here would be maddening.

Penalize the owner with picks, or kick him/her out – Blunt and to the point, but also definitively subjective.  My main dynasty league uses this two-step process.  If a player is believed to be tanking, the first instance is a loss of a first-round pick, and the second instance gets the owner booted from the league.  The biggest issue here is proving that tanking occurred, and the backlash may not be worth it for most leagues, but it’s easily the most effective method.

All told though, you want to keep your league together, and get owners to try their hardest while the season still matters.  As such, I’d propose the following:

Set up a round robin for the non-playoff teams as described in the first point above.  However, let the prize for the winner be an additional first round pick (at the end of the round), and give the owners a sort of “home field advantage” based on points scored (either for the season, or for whatever range of time you deem to be prime “tanking” territory).  In other words, the non-playoff team with the most points scored would get an added five (or however many) points to start week one of the non-playoffs, giving him/her a higher likelihood of victory.  This would hopefully incentivize non-playoff teams to put their best foot forward, given the possibility of an extra, valuable first rounder, based upon actual in-season performance.  It’s not perfect, but it could possibly go a long way to helping your current epidemic.

  1. I just made a trade and I want to make sure I did the right thing. This is a salary league with years placed on each player. I traded Mike Evans for this year’s pick 1.09, a 2017 first rounder and C.J Anderson. I know Evans for Anderson isn’t close, but getting next year’s first sealed the deal for me. I would also like to put that I would have Evans at a pretty good price for the next three years. Anderson is at an okay salary and I can keep him as long as I put on him, probably two years. It’s done now, but would it have been better keeping Evans?Stephen in TN

I think you would’ve been better off.  As you mentioned, you had Mike Evans at a palatable salary for three years, which is positively huge in a salary cap league.  Getting, and particularly hitting on, rookie picks is also a massively underrated thing in this type of setting, as their salaries are typically controlled for the first several years, but at the end of the day they still represent unproven talent.  As stated above, despite the raw stat reflecting a “down year,” Evans is still a lot closer to NFL and fantasy stardom than any of these picks are.

And ultimately, I think that’s where the hype and mystique of the 2017 class is getting a bit out of control.  First and foremost, we don’t even know who’s going to declare next year, and we also can’t predict things like injury and drop-off in play.  I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but there’s always the possibility of the perceived blue chip players simply not closing out their collegiate careers with a bang, and falling off the radar.  I get that you can’t play the game scared, but accepting that each and every player has a downside is a definitive part of evaluation, at least to me.

Though I might be nitpicking here, the way this was phrased as “getting next year’s first sealed the deal for me” has become a bit too prevalent for my liking.  Mike Evans represents the here and now, and having him in his starting lineup means your trade partner’s pick is likely going to be worse than it was before the deal was struck.  But the legend of the greatness of the 2017 class has seen many an owner trade out of the present for the future – I’m not calling you out specifically, because I’ve seen many similar trades on Twitter, but this afforded me an example with which I can pontificate.

In short, there’s no guarantee any 2017 guy even approached Evans’ ceiling.  Also, Evans is going to be scoring you points in 2016, and likely even more in 2017 while the rookie gets his feet wet.  Especially when time to fantasy relevance is mission critical, as it is in contract/salary leagues, it’s just hard for me to view trading a cheap stud for future potential as a win.

  1. I currently have an offer on the table: AJ Green, Tevin Coleman, and a 2017 first round pick for pick 1.01, Jay Ajayi, and 2017 first, third and fifth round picks.  I’m the team with AJG currently.  I expect to be a contending team while the other team is one of the bottom teams.  I’m stacked at receiver, so a running back is very much needed.  How does this trade look and who wins?  Also, is it worth trading a top-15 asset now and for the next few years for a guy I hope will be a top-five running back in the future?Scott in LA

It’s the Zeke Elliott Mailbag, folks!

All joking aside, Mr. Elliott seems to be quite possibly the biggest lightning rod in all of dynasty football right now. Clearly, the long and short of it is he’s valuated roughly two to three tiers ahead of the rest of the 2016 rookie class, and as such owners are doing whatever it takes to obtain his services.  Though this is purely personal and anecdotal, I don’t recall similar types of deals being thrown around last year to inquire upon players like Amari Cooper and Todd Gurley.

And once again, my answer is the same – stick with the bird in the hand.  AJ Green was once again a PPR WR1 last year, and appears to have the inside track to the lion’s (Bengal’s?) share of targets in Cincy this year.  His consistency has actually reached the point where it appears to bore the masses, who are now looking towards younger, “sexier” options.  In a value-driven world, I can understand it, at least to an extent, but my conservative nature will see me nearly always side with the proven talent.

So if you consider the first rounders a wash, you’re essentially stacking up Green against Elliott, and Tevin Coleman against Jay Ajayi and change.  I view it as a decisive win for Green, and a decisive win for Ajayi, with the aggregate leaning towards what you currently have.  But if you’re truly hard up for running back talent, and don’t mind gambling a bit, it’s not an unreasonable proposal.

  1. In my 10-team PPR league I’ve got picks 6, 7, 15, 16 and 26 in this year’s rookie draft and am going to have to drop/trade away as many players as I keep from the draft.  Which picks or players would you drop out of the following:  Kirk Cousins, Colin Kaepernick, Isaiah Crowell, Jonathan Stewart, Chris Ivory, Tavon Austin, Martavis Bryant, Victor Cruz, Dwayne Allen and Ladarius Green. This question is all about developmental talent, as I am happy with my starters.  I am also trying to trade multiple picks and players for studs to thin the roster.Jerry in FL

For starters, dump your pair of quarterbacks.  You’re in a shallow league, and your starters are already established.  There’s no need to hang onto these guys (especially Colin Kaepernick) when higher upside players are on the board.

Next, I could see cutting Victor Cruz.  The Giants drafted Sterling Shepard in the second round, and clearly they view anything they get from the former fantasy stalwart as a bonus.  Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong here, but as a Cruz owner myself, I simply don’t see the upside.

As you don’t have any other imminently droppable options, I’d finally look to package Martavis Bryant with picks 16 and 26 to see what you can get.  There are many who remain high on the Steelers’ problem child, but I stand by my belief that it’s just as likely, if not more so, that he never plays again versus the possibility he becomes some kind of fantasy force.  Remember – it’s a long time between now and the next time he’ll be able to score you a single fantasy point, and given his track record, I simply just don’t trust him to keep things clean off the field.

If you have to throw in some ancillary players, so be it, but Bryant would be the headliner here.  If you could move back into the late first round I’d view that as a huge win.  It would also give you more of the developmental talent you desire, while ridding your roster of a massive question mark.

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eric hardter