Mind of Miller: Jeff the Builder

Jeff Miller

I like to win. A lot. So much so that when I’m not winning, I’m not having fun. Because of that drive to succeed in any sort of competition, my dynasty philosophy is simple: I want to win as much and as often as possible.

Over the years, I’ve found a nice balance where I’m able to live that philosophy in most of my leagues on an annual basis without having to undergo full-on rebuilds. But as much as I try to avoid it, sometimes one of my rosters needs to be thoroughly reworked. As I promised in this space last week, I’ve come to you today with a tale of just such a time.

I took over a team in Ryan McDowell’s Hyper Active 4 (HA4) league early in 2014. The format is fairly standard, with PPR scoring and starting requirements of QB/RB/WR/TE/DST and four flex spots. Where the league is a bit unique is in the two 12 team divisions, each with their own player pool, whose champions showdown week 16 for the overall league title. It is a fun league with very active owners and a swell guy as commish.

Upon my entrance into HA4, there was a dispersal draft with myself, Matt Williamson, and the FF Ghost. Because the pickings were slim and none of us was going to compete year one, my goal was to draft the most valuable player at every stop with an eye towards flipping them for youth and upside.

I don’t have an exact record of how my roster looked post-dispersal, but I threw together a log of all the deals I made during the 2014, and all subsequent, season/s. It is much too long to post within the article, but if you click here you can see the trades and a comment on each one. Please note there are tabs at the bottom for each year.

Yeah, I know, there are a lot of bad trades in there. Going back and looking at old startup and rookie drafts or trade logs is a very humbling experience. Even in leagues where my roster is fantastic, I get borderline physically ill when I see all the mistakes I’ve made. Thankfully, you don’t need to be perfect. All you have to do is be better than 11 other owners.

The main aim of the 2014 season was to build for 2015. I occasionally got lost on the way, but mostly moved in the right direction. The end result was a roster that had the bones of a playoff contender. More importantly, I had traded Cordarrelle Patterson for actual useful players.

This is how things looked at the conclusion of the 2014 campaign:

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2014 roster

Coming off a 4-8 season you’d think I would be concerned about my chances in 2015. You’d be wrong. I felt like my mishmash of running backs would provide a weekly starter and loved the combination of Michael Floyd, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, and Jordan Reed. This confidence led me to make a handful of aggressive moves to try and shore up my starting lineup. As before, I’ve logged them all here on the tab labeled 2015 Trades.

In case the comment on the Marshall trade didn’t tip you off, 2015 was magnificent. I cruised to a 9-3 record, won the points title by a whopping 14%, captured my division, and then the overall title. It was a perfect storm, with Reed, Chris Ivory, Delanie Walker, Jarvis Landry, Marshall, and Ryan Fitzpatrick (!!!) all having massive seasons. I also got a major boost from Tim Hightower coming in at season’s end to score a combined 60 points the last three weeks of the playoffs. 

The most important trade of the year was almost certainly my acquisition of Walker. He has never gotten the credit he deserves in fantasy circles, but after his 242 point showing that season, he will always have a place in my heart.

Here is the championship winning team:

2015 roster

Before we move on, I suppose I must address the elephant in the room. Calvin Johnson came to me after week four in a blockbuster. To say things didn’t work out as well as I planned would be an understatement. I was OK with him having a down year by his standards, as he managed a respectful, but un-Calvin-like, 15.9 PPG. With a title in hand, I was at peace with having given up the farm, the kitchen sink, and the whole kit and caboodle to acquire Johnson. Then he retired.

Here I sat with an aging roster that didn’t have a great chance of recapturing the magic of 2015. I had no Megatron, no first or second round picks in 2016, and no first round pick in 2017. I spent months agonizing over what to do when an opportunity presented itself. There had been dispersal draft, which, as luck would have it, included my 2017 first. A devious plan was hatched.

I contacted the owner who ended up with the pick and pitched the idea of trading it back to me, which would give me incentive to blow up my roster and gun for the 1.01. The other option I presented saw him hanging on to the pick, me going all-in on another playoff run, and him ending up with mid to late pick. Dr. Evil would be proud.

After weeks of negotiation, the plan worked. I got back my draft pick and set out to begin rebuilding my empire.

Every one of the deals I made focused on being competitive in 2017. I was/am uninterested in a prolonged rebuild, so I did everything I could to make moves to help me as soon as possible. In my fervor, I traded away two depth pieces I wish I still had in Mike Wallace and Cole Beasley. I also moved Jordan Reed for Doug Martin due to concerns over Reed’s concussion history and the intoxicating effects of Martin’s 235 point 2015. Other than those three, I don’t have anything in the way of regrets.

The most important trade involved Derek Carr, Marshall, and Walker going out, and Willie Snead, the 1.12, and a 2017 first coming back. I then used that first to re-acquire my personal 2017 first in the dastardly deal. I’m also quite proud of snagging Jameis Winston for Tyler Boyd and making the leap from Landry to Keenan Allen. Both moves have major upside, even if Allen is a bit riskier than Landry.

After the dust had settled, here is what things looked like at the end of last season:

2016 roster

I left myself with significant issues at running back, very little depth at wide receiver, and a glaring hole after Jack Doyle, who was a waiver pickup, at tight end. What’s a boy to do? Trade more!

As you can see on the Google Drive doc , I’ve been pretty active early in 2017. I made moves to shore up depth with Rex Burkhead and Jared Cook and to improve my starting lineup (Melvin Gordon, Stefon Diggs, Pierre Garcon). I also added some upside with Laquon Treadwell at a bargain basement price.

My current starting lineup should look something like this:

2017 roster

I don’t have the best team in the league, but there is a realistic scenario where my wide receiver corps explodes and carries me to glory. Better still, this roster has a fairly large window to be competitive. I won’t have to do much over the next few years outside of adding depth and replacing Garcon. Because I built the roster this way, I felt comfortable trading away my first two picks in next year’s draft to add Diggs to the fold.

My biggest takeaway from this process is a rebuild doesn’t need to take multiple years. If you are willing to work at it, you can flip a bad team very quickly. Even I am a bit surprised at how fast I made myself competitive again. Beyond all that, I’m not sure dragging out a rebuild has any positive effects anyway. You lose buy-ins for several years without any guarantee of future success.

It is also important to note I’ve gotten my roster to where it is without making most of my draft picks. Instead, I used them to acquire young, proven talent with upside. I’ll let others assume the risk and wait for their reward while I push on towards another playoff run.

As ever in fantasy football, there is more than one path to success. But when it comes to rebuilding your kingdom once you’ve burnt it to the ground, you need not turn it into a long-term process. Hit the streets, shake hands, kiss babies, and make trades that will help you make your team great again.


jeff miller