When looking at a dynasty rebuild, the first thing to establish is what type of rebuild you need.
I break it into four different categories:
- Retooling – This is where your team is pretty good. You have some cornerstone pieces but have just had bad luck or made some bad decisions, meaning you’re not going to make the playoffs.
- Cut your losses – This is where your rebuild is in its infancy. You still need to commit; you’re still trying to win, but it’s not going well, and you’re likely looking at an aging roster.
- Ground zero – This is where you’re almost starting from scratch. You need clear cornerstone pieces. You’ve sold off any aging veterans, and your most substantial assets are your upcoming picks.
- Green shoots – This is where you’re not in a place to compete, but you can start to see the green shoots of progress. You may have a couple of younger pieces that are coming of age.
No rebuild is the same and should never be treated as such. A rebuild may go through the entire cycle of each step: Cut your losses – ground zero – green shoots. It is also a possibility that you skip or miss out on steps as you go through the process. I will walk through a step-by-step guide with hints and tips for each step as if it is a cycle but feel free to steal from other areas or jump steps.
For me, this is a standalone type of roster. You shouldn’t need to enter the rebuilding phase and are a couple of smaller moves away from competing. You usually can retool in-season to push you towards a title. However, at this point in the season, I’m writing this intending to target 2023 for your rebuild. So if you’re looking at retooling, these are the steps I would follow:
- Take total stock of your entire roster. Work out where you have positional advantages and disadvantages, then identify where your roster is letting you down.
- Once you have identified your weakness, plan how to rebuild it. Could you take an aggressive move at a depreciated asset that could see a significant uptick in value? If you’re short at running back, could you target Javonte Williams or JK Dobbins who both have top-five potential if fully healthy?
- I would also look at ways to improve your draft position without weakening your overall roster. Suppose you have one significantly weaker position group. Could you sell off the remaining parts of that position group to aggressively target that position in the off-season? I.e., if your team is loaded at RB and TE, okay at WR, and weak at QB, can you sell off your remaining QBs to upgrade at WR, leaving you just one position group to attack in the off-season while reducing your chances of winning or producing points and improving your draft pick?
- When retooling, I also think outside of the box and get creative. If you look to acquire future draft picks and go through that cycle, you will probably be unlikely to compete in 2023. So, could you buy some injured players who will be good to go next year? Could you target a player who is likely to see an improved situation in 2023 but is undervalued now? DJ Moore, Diontae Johnson, AJ Dillon, etc.
- The final aggressive move is to take advantage of the 2023 rookie hype (which will reach the fever pitch by February/March) and sell some rookie picks for younger players who will help you more quickly. Can you sell an early first for two later firsts? Can you sell a late first for two or three seconds? Or can you sell some of the earlier picks for multiple bites of the apple in what should be a very deep class?
Retooling aims to round out your roster and push you toward that title without having to blow it up entirely. You will need to embrace risk and take some calculated gambles, but that is always what you must do to win titles and maintain competitiveness without blowing it up completely.
Retooling is slightly different from rebuilding and is more of a standalone process than rebuilding. I will now move on to what I call the rebuilding cycle.
Cut your losses
This is the most straightforward situation to identify and begin to remedy. However, it’s also the toughest to admit. This situation is where you’ve got an aging roster. You’ve tried to compete but have fallen short; you’re not an elite contender; you’re probably not going to scrape into the playoffs, and you need to admit it and move forward. So, it’s time to cut your losses and look forward to the next phase.
I would go through this process whether or not you have your first-round pick. If your roster is genuinely not good enough to compete now and you’re not in a position where retooling is an option, where that first is falling shouldn’t matter. Sometimes by trying to compete, you’re delaying the inevitable and pushing the length of your rebuild into the future. Suck it up, admit what you need to do, and move forward.
- The obvious thing people do in this situation is trying to sell off all their aging players for young studs or draft picks. Yes, that is the right move to try and reduce your age profile and get younger. However, every team in your league is also trying to make the same moves. If you can, go for it but don’t sell players at a discount just because you’re trying to move them.
- My favorite thing to do in this situation is to think slightly out of the box. Can you take some calculated gambles on players who could appreciate over the next six months that you can sell for a profit? Calvin Ridley is the most prominent player to acquire because once he is back on the field, he will likely double in value. But some others could do the same. Tyrod Taylor is the only quarterback under contract for the New York Giants in 2023 and is possibly on your waiver wire. You’re not looking to spend massive capital or necessarily looking for players who will help you compete in 2023. All you’re looking for is a player who will appreciate that you can sell for a profit.
- Another move you can make is to acquire draft picks a year away. While everyone is looking to acquire 2023 draft picks for a potentially super draft class. People are significantly discounting 2024 draft picks. Two things here; firstly, 2024 looks like just as good of a draft class as 2023, and secondly, in six months, those 2024 picks won’t be next year’s picks. They’ll be the nearest draft capital, and in August and September, you can acquire more for those picks than you can right now. How many other assets in dynasty can you guarantee will appreciate between now and when you’re looking to compete in 2023/2024?
If you’ve accepted your fate and torn everything down to the ground, you will now be at our next stage ground zero. If you’ve done it well and made the right calculated gambles, you may have been able to skip the ground zero step altogether, but that is easier said than done.
If you are here, you likely have nothing on your roster to write home about. You don’t have any great cornerstones apart from your future draft capital. If you’re starting your rebuild now, you will likely not be bad enough to benefit from a top one or two pick this year. Instead, you’d be targeting 2024 to compete and are essentially writing off the 2023 season. In this scenario, I am looking to go through at least one entire season cycle so that you can benefit from elite draft capital created by being bad.
- You must identify some cornerstones to start growing and building towards the green shoots phase. We would love to go out and acquire Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and Justin Fields to build around. However, that is not realistic for everyone, particularly if you’re at ground zero. Given your roster situation, you may need to take more flyers on some players with untapped potential. Could you identify a younger WR who could get an increased role? Could you identify a stud yet to break out, like George Pickens or Jameson Williams?
- In this situation, you must consider improving your overall roster value. You should be willing to sell anyone or acquire anyone if you think the move increases your roster value. Acquire an underpriced vet who you think you can sell for a profit down the line. Sell that stud you thought was a cornerstone for an overpay.
- It would be best if you played the waiver wire like a maniac. Every time a quarterback or running back gets injured, you should be rostering their backup to spin them off for a profit. Because of that, I would angle the roster construction towards RB and QB heavy, as volume-based positions are more likely to see a quick spike in value that you can profit from if there is an injury.
Hopefully, after that one-season cycle, you should be in a position where you can progress from ground zero to the green shoots phase.
At this point, you should see the wood from the trees and already be on the path to competing. Hopefully, you have a few cornerstone pieces to build your contending team around. Now it is just a case of rounding out the roster. However, finding those final pieces can be tricky, and you have to be willing to look in unconventional places to find them.
- As a community, we often dream too much about an entire roster where you have an elite player aged 23-26 at every position. The reality of that doesn’t exist if you have your cornerstone pieces, perhaps a couple of elite QBs, a strong RB1, and a couple of elite young WRs, the rest of your roster, can look very different to allow you to compete. You’re trying to build an elite-contending roster, not the perfect one.
- At this point, you should identify your strengths and weaknesses; if you have an obvious hole where you don’t have elite options, attack that position with volume. If you have one elite running back but no obvious RB2, throw resources at the position in terms of volume rather than going out and buying that second elite RB. Can you buy Jeff Wilson Jr, James Conner, Khalil Herbert, and Devin Singletary instead of spending those resources on Nick Chubb or D’Andre Swift? This will likely enable you to score similar points by playing the matchups but also give you greater cover in the event of an injury and allow you to focus your premium resources elsewhere.
- Focus on something other than having every player in that up-and-coming age bracket. Suppose you’ve got an elite player in one position. There is nothing wrong with acquiring a cheaper, older, but still, elite option at the position as long as you’re aware of the associated timeline. Pairing Kenneth Walker with Derrick Henry will likely enable you to compete in 2023 as long as you’re aware that could be the final year you can rely on and probably need to be looking for a new option come 2024.
- Don’t get too aggressive too quickly. Trading away future capital is an excellent idea to push you over the top but make sure you know you’re a contender before you do it. Suppose you’re at the green shoots stage and targeting 2023 to compete. Only trade away those 2024 picks once you’re in season next year. You may suffer a load of injuries and not be as good as you hoped. You may also need that capital to make a winning move as you approach the playoffs.
- Utilize age bias in the off-season. It happens every single year. People get turned off older players in February, March, April, and May as we’re in prime rookie fever. However, once redraft seasons come around, people become intrigued again. Use this to your advantage. Look at buying some veterans on the cheap in stable situations that you can sell for a profit in August, or worst case scenario, they help you to compete in 2023.
General Rules to remember:
- Every player should be available for the right price, regardless of where you’re in the rebuild.
- Set your best lineup but be smart about it. Prioritizing your pick is essential but never obviously tank. Sell off players from one position group, meaning you are always at a significant disadvantage. Buy injured players who are discounted etc.
- If you’re in a deep hole and play it safe, you’re two or three years away from competing. It would be best if you were aggressive in bringing that timescale down. The further away from competing, the more aggressive and risky you should be.
- Think outside the box. If everyone sells older players for picks and sits and waits out, it gets very stale, and you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
- Every rebuild is different and won’t follow a simple, straightforward path. You need to be willing to adapt, adjust and pivot at any stage.
- Be cautious about buying running backs during the off-season. Being such a volume-based position, their value can be incredibly volatile, and their value can disappear overnight should a player get drafted or signed in free agency.
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