Here at Dynasty League Football, our motto is, “There is No Off-Season.” Sure, that’s a cute saying and all, but in reality, the off-season is a season of alternating seasons and off-seasons. When I took that to the DLF brass and pitched a new slogan of, “There is a Short Off-Season Followed by the Combine and Free Agency Then another Brief Off-Season Interrupted by the NFL Draft and Dynasty Rookie Drafts Which Give Way to a Third and Final, Longer Off-Season” I was told it was, “Too verbose.” I guess catchy is more important than accurate.
As you may have figured out, we are right at the beginning stages of off-season number two. It is also our first real taste of off-season angst, with most of us counting down the days to the aforementioned draft. Because fantasy folk are half a chromosome away from throwing our poop at each other while peeling bananas with our feet, we handle our impatience in the most annoying way possible: by arguing on Twitter. A lot.
One of the most common arguments you are about to get beaten over the head by is which matters more, talent or situation? It is a nuanced issue that could not be worse-suited for the arena in which it is most often fought. Hopefully by bringing it here, you can avoid the hot takes and spend some time outside. Seriously, those bed sores aren’t going away if you don’t get off your office chair.
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This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but there is no right or wrong answer here. If you are looking for immediate production and potential for near-term return on your investment, situation is what should matter most. For example, if last off-season you invested in Isaiah Crowell because he was the clear starting back in Cleveland, you got a nice RB2 season. Even better, he is positioned to have a very nice 2017, making him a poster boy for investing in situation.
There is a downside to looking too heavily at situation alone, though. Enter Matt Jones, a replacement level back who had a minor knee injury turn into being a game day inactive when the similarly boring Rob Kelley looked not-awful in his stead. If you ask a talent guy, they may cite just such an instance as to why their strategy is best.
Of course, it is ridiculous to point to anecdotes to prove your point. To that point, the situation crowd often looks to quarterback play to define how a receiver will perform. DeAndre Hopkins had a brutal year on the back of a league-worst quarterback situation. But, if quarterback play was the end-all, be-all, Jarvis Landry wouldn’t be a perennial WR1 and Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders wouldn’t both have been inside the top-20 with Trevor Siemian throwing them the ball.
With all of that said, if I have to pick one of the two in a vacuum with no player, team, or anything else attached, I would take talent pretty easily. The nice thing about going with talent over situation is situations change, but talent remains. If we go back to Snead for a moment, you can see a wonderful example of this. With Brandin Cooks now plying his trade in Foxboro, Snead’s situation is about to match his talent. Fantasy goodness is sure to follow.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the better, more relevant question: how can we use talent and situation to shape our drafting and trading to find the most value?
As we head into the NFL draft, there are going to be some talented players who end up in awful spots. If you are a rebuilding a roster that can wait a couple years, or have a deep team that isn’t in need of immediate help, investing in these sorts of players at a significant discount from their pre-draft prices can help you win games down the line. You’ll have to be patient and ignore other owners sniffing around looking for their own discount, but I believe in your ability to do so. You are good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.
This can also be applied to veteran players. I have a rebuilding roster where I targeted guys whose situations had potential to improve. This free agency period saw that pay off, as Jameis Winston, Quincy Enunwa, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jack Doyle, and our friend Willie Snead all saw their stock go up. Things don’t always work out so well, but in this case, I came up aces.
The draft will also bring some lesser talents up draft boards as they find perfect fits. Imagine Alvin Kamara in Indianapolis. He could easily inject himself into the conversation with Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey, nipping at the heels of Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. (Yes, I am aware a few folks have him there already, but the majority certainly do not.) Especially with players taken in the first two or three rounds of the NFL draft, their values will be insulated, giving their owners a great shot at early production and a window to move them on, often at a profit, if they have a suspicion the situation may dry up.
As much as I prefer to invest in talent, I am patently aware there is no magic bullet. Instead of trying to make a point or argue a side, I’d rather spend my time identifying players who I should be investing in for whatever it is about them that brings value. Spend some time with this incoming rookie class and see if you can spot a few situations where you can make dynasty hay. It is an easy edge to gain over even veteran owners who are too involved in getting their guys or arguing why Corey Davis will be fine catching passes from the Jets’ new quarterback, Brock Osweiler.
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