Editor’s Note: This is the first article from one of our new Member Corner writers, Jeremy Schwob. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jerschwob
Dynasty Psychoanalysis: Reflections on the Process of Dynasty Ownership
“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water” – Sigmund Freud
Today, I’m set to meet with John, who is my client attending his therapy session. All I know about John is his brief reasoning for attending a session at the clinic: he would like treatment for depression after recently losing his job. Now even with this very brief description I begin to create a picture of John before I even meet him. When I enter the waiting room to greet John, there are three men present. The first is wearing a suit and tie and is well groomed, while another is a bit younger, wearing a hoodie and sweatpants. Finally, there is older man with scruffy facial hair and appears un-showered. Which one is John? Even with a small bit of information I can likely deduce which is most characteristic of an unemployed, depressed man. However, my initial guess could be completely wrong and would likely be driven entirely by bias, thinking that an unemployed, depressed man should not be dressed up, clean, or young.
As a clinical psychology doctoral student, I am constantly instructed during my training to self-examine, gather perspective on my biases, and adjust my process (i.e., interpretation, internal reaction, and verbal or behavioral response). The purpose of this approach is to attempt to address these biases, but at the very least be aware of them so we can closely observe errors in thinking and ensuing decisions. In the case of John, I should not be bringing what I perceive as a depressed person to the room with me. Rather, I should continue collection of all factual evidence to form a conceptualization of John. It may seem outlandish to make the connection between psychological therapy and dynasty fantasy football, but I assure you, the links are ever-present in dynasty roster management.
Freud’s introspection is a method for examining our thoughts, emotions, reactions, and resulting behaviors in search underlying reasoning driven by past experience. This technique presents a strategy for uncovering and addressing an unstructured, reactive process we sometimes fall into while running a dynasty team. For example, you may be actively attempting to sell a highly drafted wide receiver who has not broken out immediately you were previously burned by spending the 1.01 rookie pick on Laquon Treadwell back in 2016. Past results dictating our dynasty decisions are fairly common reactions. Through this series, I will hope to restrict compulsive desires that arise, helping you define a more structured, metric-based process, rather than one hindered by biased experiences and reactions. So, how can we get out of our own way for the benefit of our dynasty success?
DLF writer Leo Paciga, talks about keeping a notebook tracking the tendencies of our leaguemates. While this is an incredibly valuable tactic, we are often negligent in tracking our personal patterns. This extends beyond comparison of players we are higher on or lower on than rankings, ADP, etc. The philosophy behind this analysis is to dissect your broader psychological perception of characteristics common to players we gravitate toward. To begin your self-examination of your dynasty philosophy, I suggest three initial steps where you will write, examine, and explore.
Let’s begin with a short writing task. If you had to write three-four sentences defining your process, what would you say? Describe your philosophy in terms of roster construction and player characteristics you target. There is no wrong answer here. If you don’t like what you have written, that is perfectly fine. I hope to get you to a point where you can easily describe your process and continually refer and adhere to it in the midst of temptation.
Personally, I value young assets at the wide receiver position who possessed significant age-adjusted production at the college level using college dominator and breakout age metrics. I also tend not to shy away from injury history. Most radically, I typically devalue the running back position, consistently looking to move a productive young running back for additional depth at the more stable wide receiver position – though I am shifting toward a requirement of at least 1 young, top fifteen running back on each squad. Finally, I place very little value on tight ends or quarterbacks (obviously more so in tight end premium and super-flex formats, but still less emphasis than the community-at-large).
Next, I challenge you to self-examine your dynasty ownership characteristics by reviewing each of your dynasty rosters. Do the players you currently own match the three-four sentences you wrote above? If you are not, start your personal introspection to understand your strengths and weaknesses. This early examination stage of your process is an important intervention before continuing to acquire and trade assets based on unstructured news blurb, or perceptions of players.
After conducting this roster examination, I would have you complete a final exercise. Take a look at the top 50 players is DLF dynasty ADP. Do you notice any players whom you don’t own, or even have never owned? If so, what factors prevented them from being on your rosters? What characteristics do you notice amongst those players, ignoring those where you didn’t have the opportunity to draft or trade for them due to their inordinate price tag (e.g., Saquon Barkley or Odell Beckham Jr.)? It is great if you are able to identify some traits in these players that may be things you could place more emphasis on in your player evaluation (e.g., college production, breakout age, NFL team, way they score points such as receptions, yards, touchdowns). This is not to say you must alter your entire process because you did not identify Alvin Kamara in the late first round of your rookie draft in 2017. Rather, this is an initial step to see if your current process may be lacking emphasis on certain characteristics. If you are struggling to find a concrete reason for not owning a player, your ownership may be biased by your perceptions. Using this initial step can help profile your current strategies and help illuminate deficits you can overcome.
Despite a well-intended nature, overemphasis on certain ill-defined aspects of your process risks an increasingly biased approach over time. An aspect such as youth orientation is incredibly important when constructing a dynasty roster. However, we all have someone in our league that is more of a “youth chaser” than others, which begins to guide their overall process toward being biased toward this characteristic of players in a majority of decisions. I will discuss both biases and over-reliance on a single variable in subsequent articles. What I want to highlight here though is a psychological school of thought becoming more and more pervasive in the field of clinical psychology – having a dimensional approach. In more layman’s terms, this is viewing things on a spectrum or continuum, rather rigorous “black and white” thinking. This concept can relate to the severity of anxiety (ranging from only during public speaking to all social interactions to constant future-oriented worry about a number of events), but can also reflect the degree to which dynasty owners emphasize youth, draft capital, or rookie picks. It would be hard to find a league member that does not have any focus for youth, any concern for draft capital, or places any value on rookie picks. This will remain a consistent theme throughout my articles to help guide you toward attending to your perception in a variety of aspects as you develop your process.
Returning to Freud’s iceberg quote, you may be aware of your one-seventh of your process that is in plain view above water. You may know the players you like, the players you don’t like, and the players you currently own the most. My goal will be to help you introspect and undercover what makes up the majority of your mental processing lurking in the subaqueous depths of your dynasty mind.
There are many ways to build a dynasty contender. However, almost all consistently successful teams have been built through some sort of process. Solidifying your process prior to decision-making opportunities help prevent impulsive reactions driven by narrative and bias. This psychological series will cover a variety of dynasty player aspects impacting our psychological attitudes toward players and drive our roster management and dynasty decision-making. Upcoming articles will include further development of your process, attention to your specific biases, perception of narrative, “dream” interpretation, resistance to change, dynasty “depression,” couples therapy with your player, dynasty “relapse,” and more, all culminating in a roadmap to continually refine you own personal process beyond the end of our “treatment” together. Along the way, I will highlight past examples of players that are particularly indicative of these concepts, and ultimately help you become a more process-driven dynasty owner.