Talking Dynasty Fantasy Football


Surviving A Poor Dynasty League Startup Draft -- A Look Back At A 2009 Draft

I find it useful at times to look back at prior years’ startup drafts to examine what I did wrong in hopes that I could avoid the same mistakes in future drafts. Just as important is examining what I may have done right in order to consider if strategies that worked in the past could be effective again in the future. Barring that, it would at least be entertaining to mull over some of the goofball picks I may have made.

I joined a startup dynasty last year with a very interesting and challenging rule set -- the Great American Thorouhbreds Dynasty League, a $100 12-team dynasty league.  For the most part, scoring in the league is standard PPR, but what made this league different from all of my other leagues were (1) there was an extra flex added to the typical WCOFF lineup (QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, 2 Flex) and (2) the annual rookie draft would be serpentine! 
The extra flex made for a lineup that would go deeper than any other 12-team league in which I have played, redraft or dynasty.  This would mean that every team in Year 1 would likely be starting a scrub (or two), especially during bye weeks, which really interested me. This rule was coupled by a roster size limit of just 20, which made it even more of a challenge to limit the number of scrubs in the lineup on any given week (since half the time, teams would be looking to the waiver wire to cover for players on bye).
I felt that the lineup requirement particularly suited my typical draft style (drafting WR after WR at the expense of RBs) allowing me to put together a team that could compete both right away and for years to come (if you believe, as I do, that WRs are better long term investments than RBs in dynasty). Although the league requires that you start 2 RBs (raising the value of RBs relative to WRs), it also allowed you to start 5 WRs (bringing WRs’ value back up to par with or exceeding that of RBs). Anticipating that we would have to start a few scrubs anyway, I figured that those scrubs might as well be RBs.

As for the rookie draft rules, I thought the serpentine rookie draft might work to my advantage as well (assuming that the 5WR strategy would net me an upper echelon team for 2009 in this format and thus a lower end pick). 

Another factor that attracted me to this league was that I didn’t know a single person in the league at the start, and no one knew me or my drafting/trading tendencies, which gave the league a whole different feel over my other leagues (where most participants were familiar with each other) and added some spice to my league portfolio.  It also allowed me the freedom of trying new things or making questionable draft picks without worries about getting ridiculed too badly. With that in mind, rather than go with my typical Cavalier King Charles team name, I decided to go with Extreme Horsepower (get it, “Horse” power – “Thoroughbreds” Dynasty...ok, lame, I know).

Here’s my draft from last year:

1.04 Larry Fitzgerald: My #1 pick all of last year (took him at 1.01 in several leagues).

2.09 Roddy White: Another solid pick, White was my WR7 or so last year.

3.04 Brandon Marshall: I actually had Marshall ranked just ahead of White last year, but I knew he would slip here due to the hip issue and all the well documented problems he was having with the coaching change in Denver. Marshall was my 1.06 pick in another league last year (albeit before all the news broke out about the coach troubles).

4.09 Marshawn Lynch – Yikes! Ouch! Should’ve stuck to my WR plan. Marshawn Lynch was considered a pretty decent dynasty RB last year (and just a year removed from being considered among the very elite) and I guess I thought 4.09 was a good enough value to take a chance. My, how things can change in one year.

5.04 Roy Williams – Double Yikes!! Maybe this WR thing is not all it is cracked up to be. Maybe I should’ve gone with the TE strategy? Seriously, though, this was a really bad pick. I had a bad feeling about it after the draft then (and successfully avoided him in every other startup draft), and it obviously looks even worse now.

6.09 Greg Olsen – Wow, the hits just keep coming. Remember all the Olsen hype with Cutler coming into town? Oops, too bad I bought into it. Still, with the Fitz/Roddy/Marshall start, it would be hard to end up with a bad team even with 3 dud picks in a row.

7.04 Dallas Clark – Alright, back on the right path, another starter worthy player.

8.09 Larry Johnson – Never mind, this draft officially sucks!

9.04 Kenny Britt – Decided to go with an upside rookie, which could end up paying off big time (although has not yet).

10.09 Ben Roethlisberger – Nice value for my QB1.

11.04 Steve Smith (NYG) – In addition to the top 3 picks, this pick had more to do with a successful season than any other.

12.09 Jamal Lewis – Lynch, LJ and now Lewis? I was really stretching here for a starting RB. Maybe the scrub RB strategy wasn’t so smart after all.

13.04 Trent Edwards – I really liked this guy last year. Makes me think twice about the same feelings I have this year about Mark Sanchez.

14.09 Mark Clayton – I thought at the time that this pick would really pay off - It didn’t.

15.04 Philly Defense – Nice pick in hindsight.

16.09 Mike Bell – Another decent pick in hindsight...if I hadn’t waived him before he became a starter!!!

17.04 Stephen Gostkowski – Solid kicker pick.

18.09 Mushin Muhammed – Looking for a decent backup, didn’t quite get one with this pick.

19.04 Jerome Harrison – Great pick....again if I hadn’t waived him before he became the starter. I ended up waiving Harrison in October and keeping Jamal Lewis. Roster management at its best.

20.09 Jason Campbell – Kept him all year and is still on my roster so a good pick, I guess.

Overall, I have to give the draft a C grade (and thats only because the draft was saved by the first 3 picks and Smith - could have been a D otherwise). My top 2 RBs last year (Michael Bush and Marshawn Lynch) scored a combined 206 points through week 17 in PPR. I had to scrape the bottom of the waiver wire to start guys like Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver and Chris Brown during most weeks. I was lucky enough to be able to pick up Michael Bush during the year off the waiver wire, but that didn’t really help much in 2009. To say my RB corp was a joke is an understatement. Still, through the strength of the first 3 picks, Dallas Clark, Steve Smith and Big Ben, this team finished second in points, received a bye in the playoffs and lost the championship game by a last minute Sidney Rice touchdown on Monday Night Football (Week 16).

Despite the horrendous draft, at year’s end, I was feeling pretty good about this team and its long term viability (although the loss in the championship game still stung). The WR strategy should, in theory, make for an even stronger team in Year 2, especially if you assume that by then, you’ll have a decent back or two on the team (something I did not have in Year 1).

Year 2:

During the offseason, I finally made my first trade in this league. I traded rookie picks 1.11 and 2.2 for the 1.5, anticipating that CJ Spiller would slip due to his “bad” situation in Buffalo, and slip he did. CJ Spiller could be huge for this team long term, as I REALLY needed a bright spot at RB. Coupled with Michael Bush, my RB situation was looking to improve dramatically (I know, Bush and Spiller may not inspire, but considering the strength at WR, the two should be plenty good). I then proceeded to trade Dallas Clark straight up for Randy Moss to further enhance the strength at WR (not sure I did the right thing there, but not a terrible trade in any case). Finally, I just recently accepted an offer of Fred Jackson for Marshawn Lynch in order to capture the better part of the RB points out of Buffalo. I am now looking at FJax, Spiller and M.Bush as a pretty nice trio at RB.

Interestingly, there was only 1 trade made in the entire league last year (none by me). With so many starters required, no one was able to build up a deep enough team in order to make trades really worth it for most teams. In year 2, with rosters settling and new blood joining the league, there have already been 39 trades! Goes to show that the dynamics of a fantasy football dynasty league can change dramatically from one year to the next, especially between years 1 and 2.

The team today (after expansion to 24 roster spots in Year 2 by league vote, but a minimal amount of moves otherwise):

QB Big Ben, Brett Favre, Jason Campbell, Charlie Whitehurst
RB M.Bush, F.Jax, Spiller, Rashad Jennings
WR Fitz, Marshall, Roddy, R.Moss, S.Smith(NYG), Britt, Roy Williams (shakes head), Eric Decker, Andre Roberts
TE Olsen, Watson, Shockey, Garrett Graham, Ed Dickson
Def Philadelphia Eagles
K Stephen Gostkowski

The team is almost certainly stronger in 2010 than it was in 2009 with a fantastic starting group of WRs in Fitz/Marshall/Roddy/R.Moss/Smith. This is not a special or dominant dynasty team by any means, but it has enough to be a top candidate again to grab a bye spot in 2010 and still has a nice long term outlook (particularly if Britt and Spiller hit it big), something I would not have thought to be the case after looking at my startup draft.

Some possible takeaways from this experience: First, a team can survive a bunch of bad picks if it can just get the first 3 right (i.e., contrary to popular thinking, a dynasty league CAN be won during the first 3 rounds). I wish this were instead a story of how I masterfully worked the waiver wire, made great trades, etc. to survive the poor draft, but I did none of that. It was all about those first 3 picks and getting them right (or more accurately, not getting them wrong). Second, a strong group of WRs can keep a team in contention year to year. Without any deep research to back it up, my gut from experience tells me that elite WRs are more likely to stay at or near the top longer than comparably drafted RBs and are better suited to serve as the core of a dynasty team. Third, it is possible to compete despite having REALLY bad RBs in a dynasty league, even in a minimum 2RB league. This team took this concept to an extreme, and the concept is not something I would necessarily recommend trying (remember, I did at least try to form some semblance of a RB group in Lynch, LJ and Jamal during the draft – I just failed miserably at it). Finally, roster management (making the right calls on cutting and keeping players), particularly in a smaller roster league, is absolutely critical. Had I kept Harrison on the roster, I would have won the championship game. Unfortunately, I can’t call this particular skill one of my strengths (thus my poor showing in a number of higher profile non-draftmaster redraft leagues).
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