So you inherited an ugly, orphan dynasty team. First of all, mazeltov! Much like children in real life (I assume), you don’t need to have birthed a dynasty roster in order to take it in and love it like it’s your own. Unfortunately, unlike in real life, some roster babies have faces even a mother can’t love. That’s where you come in.
The process of rebuilding a team is a beautiful and frustrating one, as you’ll no doubt get a sour feeling in your stomach the first 3,000 times you look at your lineup. Luckily for you, it doesn’t have to stay that way. With the right tools, some gentle guidance, and a whole lotta patience, you can take that ragtag group of misfits and Gene Hackman them into a serious contender!
Rebuilding An Orphan Dynasty Team
Develop A Concrete Strategy And See It Through
I’m going to talk a lot about the specifics of getting your team from zero to hero, but before I do, I need to make one thing very clear: You cannot give up on your strategy. To paraphrase the incomparable Bryan Adams: Whatever it takes, even if your heart breaks, you should be right there waiting to see your plan through. Once you develop your strategy — whether it uses the guidelines below or not — you must stay dedicated to it, even if it doesn’t pan out right away. Just like in the actual NFL, rebuilding takes time and can be incredibly frustrating if you’re not constantly keeping the bigger picture in your peripheral. Believe in your method and see it through.
Identify Each Player’s Value WITHIN The League
Sounds stupidly simple, doesn’t it? But sometimes it can be difficult not to put the horse before the cart when you take over an abandoned team. Before you start ruthlessly gutting your roster or punching that Submit Trade button like it’s Glass Joe, take a little time to acquaint yourself with your guys. The biggest benefit of stepping into another owner’s shoes with an orphan team is that you should be able to look at the team more objectively than the previous owner. You didn’t draft these guys, and you don’t know what the other owner’s plans were for them, so there should be no biases present when you start analyzing their values.
And while you may have some preconceived notion about Player A and Player B, consider whether you need to adjust their value based on the league settings. Maybe you already have some lovely shares of Theo Riddick in other full-point PPR leagues…but this is a 0.5 dynasty, jabroni! Adjust his value accordingly before you start scheming.
Know Your Trade Partners
Here’s another one of those basic bits of retcon that not everyone has the patience for. You have to feel out your league mates and how their perception of “value” before you can start to get the most out of your roster. Do they value draft picks above stable, 2nd-tier players? Do they overvalue youth? Are they fast and furious trade flippers with a full workup of everyone’s roster pinned up in their bedroom connected by multi-colored strands of yarn like a deranged serial killer? Or are they more of a bi-annual trader?
Suggest reasonable trades based on what you learn. Don’t be the person who wanders into the league and immediately offers up their 1.05 draft pick and a bunch of waiver wire fodder in exchange for Ezekiel Elliott and Aaron Rodgers. Not even the dumbest of dum-dums would consider the trade, and it makes you look like a punk, causing your incoming trade offers to drop faster than a pass to Eric Ebron.
Play Hard to Get With Initial Trade Offers
Remember how I literally just told you not to be the jerk who offers up bad trades just to see if someone is dumb enough to accept? Well, given that you’re the newbie in the league, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll receive a handful of those offers yourself. Some guys will try to get one over on you right out of the gate just to gauge your knowledge and gullibility levels.
It’s unlikely anything worthwhile is going to come your way in that first couple weeks, so don’t be tempted to make moves just because a trade showed up on your stoop. It can be easy to fall into a trap of making moves simply for moves’ sake, especially during those long, cold offseason months before the draft. Be strong, stay alert, and let them know you’re a serious player.
Acquire As Many Injured/Suspended Players As Possible
Okay, it’s time to start actually making moves. So where do you begin? Depending on what time of the year you’ve been added to the league, there’s one quick way to bolster your roster: Scroll through the list of available players and start grabbing all the injured players you can find. Figure out if your league mates dropped guys like Spencer Ware, Malcolm Mitchell, or Cameron Meredith to make room on their bench. (It’s unlikely, but it never hurts to check.)
During the year, play the part of an ambulance chaser. Every time a prominent player gets injured in-season, try to pry that player away from his owner. Play on their fear and sadness. You can probably get that player for 10 cents on the dollar, especially if their owner is in win-now mode. To put this in perspective, if you timed it correctly last year (and played it cool), you might’ve been able to pick up David Johnson in exchange for C.J. Anderson and Mike Gillislee, both of whom were Top 12 backs in Week 2. So yeah…it pays to chase injured players.
Know Your Upcoming Free Agents
While everyone else in redraft leagues is obsessing over who this year’s breakout players will be, you should be focused on next year’s potential breakouts. There’s obviously no exact science for determining who that will be, but there are some key factors to look for, starting with player contracts. Which players are set to hit free agency after this season? Do those players have a chance at landing with a team that will give them a larger role? Players that look great on film but are currently part of a crowded position group could become tremendous fantasy assets once they get scooped up by teams with a greater need for their talents.
Sites like Spotrac are a bastion of information and offer useful tools for tracking upcoming (and possible) free agents. Keep those guys on your radar and stash them before they become hotter commodities.
Acquire As Many Draft Picks As Possible
Depending on who you ask, the yearly rookie draft is either the most essential part of building your dynasty team or a worthless endeavor that overvalues shiny new toys. The truth is somewhere in between. Yes, rookie draft picks are valuable — each one is a lottery ticket that has the potential to boost your team — though not always because you actually use them in the draft.
You can stock up on draft picks by shipping off your steady-but-underwhelming players (Isaiah Crowell, Nelson Agholor, and Mike Wallace) or your super frustrating boom-bust players (DeSean Jackson, Devin Funchess) for some 2nd and 3rd rounders, individually, or maybe even a 1st if you package them right. Every player that you deem “dispensable” should be turned into something, even if it’s just a late 4th round pick, rather than simply dropping them to the waivers. I promise you they’ll add up.
Upgrade/Flip Those Draft Picks
I’m not saying to get rid of all of your draft picks. But in your first couple of seasons caring for your ugly little orphan, you should focus exclusively on the 1st and 2nd rounds. The odds of you drafting a top-tier player obviously diminish the further down the draft board you go, and there’s no reason to clog up your roster with “serviceable” types of players right now. Turn your Sashi Brown-esque stockpile of draft picks into gold, baby.
Because each pick is a lottery ticket, you should be looking to wheel and deal with the biggest gamblers in your league. Know someone who prefers as many chances in the rookie draft as possible? Send them a handful of 3rd and 4ths for a mid 2nd. Hell, toss in that Agholor type of underwhelmer and see if you can’t sneak your way into the back of the 1st. However you do it, group your draft picks in a way that will make someone else feel like they’re getting value — because maybe they believe themselves to be a true draft guru — while simultaneously putting yourself in a better position to either grab a stud early OR trade away your new batch of high draft picks for some top-tier players.
Pay Close Attention To The Actual NFL Draft
Don’t forget this fantasy game of ours is modeled on the real world. Whatever draft picks you choose to roll with, be as knowledgeable as you possibly can about the players on your radar. Also, understand that the values you place on certain players will inevitably differ from those of your league mates. For instance, they might steer clear of a solid quarterback prospect who was drafted to be the successor to, say, Eli Manning or Drew Brees, because he likely won’t see the field for a couple of years. But that guy might be perfect for you since your team won’t be ready to compete until then anyhow. Knowing each player’s real-life circumstances — and how those affect the perceptions in your league — will help you get the best value out of your rookie draft.
Don’t Stress About Roster “Balance”
You know how many players at each position you need to field a team every Sunday. That should literally be your only restriction on which players you’re picking up and cutting loose. Don’t worry about how running back heavy your roster is or stress about your lack of a decent tight end. Obviously, if there’s a strong player you want that also bolsters a particularly weak position group, go get him. But you should really focus less on the position after the guy’s name and more on gathering up as many top flight players as possible, regardless of where they line up on the field.
The balance will sort itself out down the road. You don’t want to pass up a bargain trade or stretch yourself thin going after a mediocre “upgrade” trying to achieve a more rounded roster. At least not right away. Remember: Value is value. Get it wherever you can.
Don’t Completely Abandon Your Veterans
The first thing most rebuilding fantasy owners will do is go on a cutting spree of any player who was alive when Duck Tales was on the air. The mentality is similar to the real NFL: Acquiring youth is how you build for the future. And while that’s partially true, you shouldn’t overestimate the importance of keeping your team’s median age low. Players who are obviously on the edge of retirement (Larry Fitzgerald, Frank Gore, Jason Witten) should be shipped off without a second thought since your team isn’t going to compete right away. But don’t go trading away an established star player for the hot new thing just because he’s a few years younger.
There are some owners who would gladly take the unproven youth of Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay over the proven experience of 30-year-olds Demaryius Thomas and Michael Crabtree. You have to decide which side you fall on in that debate, knowing that you might only get a couple of years of high production out of the latter group once your team is actually ready to compete. There’s not necessarily a wrong answer here, just that you shouldn’t fall into the trap of ditching guys just because they’re nt fresh from the combine.