Dispersal To Throne Part I: How I Won A 24 Team Dynasty League With An Orphan
This is part one of a discussion of the strategy used by 14TeamMocker to win Rich Hribar’s 24-team dynasty league with an oprhan last season. Part two can be found here.
“The King is dead, long live the King!” – declaration of French monarchy succession, circa 1422
Rich Hribar, contributor at Rotoworld, Fake Football, 40 other websites, and of course, RotoViz emeritus, invited me last season to participate in his 24-team dynasty league by taking over an orphaned team.
Named after his podcast with Chad Scott, which has cruelly suspended production, the Faked Goods Podcast Listener League is two separate 12-team leagues, with one winner from each emerging after the Week 1 through 12 regular season and Week 13 through 15 playoffs. The two league winners then face-off in Week 16 to declare an ultimate champion.
Unfortunately for everyone else involved, that happened to be me.
These are the four key components I used to turn my orphan into a champion:
- The dispersal
- The rookie draft
- The waiver wire
In this installment I’ll cover the first two, the dispersal and the rookie draft. For part two, detailing trades and the waiver wire, click here.
— 14TeamMocker (@14TeamMocker) April 3, 2016
A dispersal is a term for taking every player and pick held by multiple teams departing a league and having the new owners choose their teams from just that pool. This was a traditional snake draft dispersal going from left to right, so it should be read as Demaryius Thomas being pick three, DeVante Parker being pick four, 1.o1 pick five, so on and so forth.
First and foremost: I won this league because Ben Gretch took Parker over pick 1.01.1 That one sentence wouldn’t make for a very interesting article, however, and there was quite a bit of strategy needed after that point.
It does highlight that, however good you are or however sound your strategy is, you need events like this to fall in your direction in order to win. Conversely, no matter what falls in your favor, you probably still need to employ a thorough strategy in order to capitalize.
This was three weeks before the NFL Draft took place, and Ezekiel Elliott was taken fourth overall by the Cowboys, making him the universal 1.01 in any league that allows owning RBs. Elliott is now no worse than the second most valuable player listed above, and ahead of Amari Cooper for most people.
Who would you rather own in Dynasty right now? Assume 25man, RRWWW and 1 flex
— 14TeamMocker (@14TeamMocker) February 20, 2017
So luck has a lot to do with why I am writing this article instead of reading Ben’s version, where he won because I took Dez Bryant over the pick that became Elliott. Though I’ll take some credit for thinking Elliott to Dallas was a possibility.
No one schills like Dallas beats. This reads: We're taking Zeke 4, please dont trade up to 3. Thx, -Jer Bear https://t.co/dx6vwBu30H
— 14TeamMocker (@14TeamMocker) March 22, 2016
Official wager@14TeamMocker says the Dallas Cowboys draft Ezekiel Elliott 4th overall
@Schlamdl says no
*Mocker gets +400*
— 14TeamMocker (@14TeamMocker) March 23, 2016
Bryant over Thomas was pretty easy for me, as Bryant is eleven months younger, the QB situation at the time was Tony Romo versus Mark Sanchez, and the competition for targets was Emmanuel Sanders versus Terrence Williams. If someone tells you they had Cole Beasley over Williams at that time, ask for proof.
While decrying draft picks as overvalued is part of my schtick, in this dispersal they felt undervalued juxtaposed to the flexibility they had as currency on the open market. The 1.01 was on the trading block through the summer, but, fortunately, nothing ever materialized. The 1.02 and 1.08 were traded when they were on the clock during the draft (more on that in a bit), and 1.12 was traded away almost immediately.
While it’s easy with hindsight bias to say LeSean McCoy and Davante Adams should have easily gone before 1.12 (and 2.01 and 2.02 right after), you’ll notice I had Michael Floyd, Jeremy Maclin, and Ameer Abdullah over both of them, with Floyd and Maclin also above 1.08.
Player evaluation, especially in early April, is hard.
Something like Matt Forte ahead of 1.12 and McCoy may seem odd now, but he was fresh off signing with the Jets, and McCoy was facing a possible suspension, and perceived pressure from Karlos Williams, coming off (what was thought of as) an exceptionally efficient rookie season.
Fast forward, the Bills didn’t make a significant acquisition at RB in the draft, McCoy wasn’t suspended, and Williams got fat, high, suspended, and released. Then McCoy stayed (mostly) healthy, Forte didn’t, and the rest is history. Of course, Forte was the RB2 headed into Week 3, and McCoy was the RB13, so it was quite a while before this fell in my favor.
The main takeaway is that in a dispersal you need to take advantage of what the other people involved are giving you. While I normally shun picks, they appeared too cheap for the time of year and liquidity they offered. Was there an overconfidence on player evaluation and personal value in relation to market value by the other two participants? Maybe, but it’s exceptionally hard to claim that now, blinded by both outcome and hindsight biases.
Another thing that is true not just for dispersals, but for roster management this time of year, is to try and build the highest cumulative value team possible. It’s crucial not to sacrifice optimality in order to fill out a starting lineup five months in the future, or have an initially balanced roster. This league has a starting lineup structure of QB, RB, WR, TE, and five RB/WR/TE flexes, so ignoring positions in April is exceptionally easy.
The QB position provides a good example. There were six starters available at the time, with Aaron Rodgers and Jameis Winston significantly more valuable than the other four.2 If one of the other two participants had taken both Rodgers and Winston, then Romo, Ryan Tannehill, Matthew Stafford, and Brock Osweiler probably would have gone sooner. I suspected, with Rodgers and Winston going to different owners, though, neither would place a very high premium on one of the other starters as their backup. As the players going off the board became more speculative and valueless, I grabbed Romo, knowing that even if Ben took two out of three of Tannehill, Stafford, Osweiler, I would still be able to get another starter with my pick after Romo.
My personal valuation only mattered when I had the choice of all four and had committed to taking one, then on the next pick when I had committed to taking one of the remaining two. I just wanted two starters, and while I had my preference, I wasn’t going to hamstring my draft strategy by pigeonholing myself into grabbing a specific one of them.
THE ROOKIE DRAFT
No, not the troops, I’m talking about trading rookie picks for established players, and taking non-rookies that are available free agents in your draft.
|Pick||Bought For||Used/Sold For|
|1.01||Dispersal pick 5||Ezekiel Elliott|
|1.02||Dispersal pick 8||1.02, 4.01, + Ameer Abdullah for Julian Edelman, 2.02, + 2017 1st|
|1.08||Disperal pick 17||2017 1st|
|1.12||Dispersal pick 23||1.12 + Julius Thomas for Kendall Wright, Kyle Rudolph, + 2.06|
|2.01||2.06 + 2017 2nd||Devontae Booker|
|2.02||See 1.02||Jordan Howard|
|2.06||See 1.12||See 2.01|
1.08 was used on Michael Thomas, which was an egregious error in hindsight. He was an old prospect, and both Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead were expected to command huge market shares. I also thought the 2017 first round pick would be both more valuable in the trade market immediately, and it was much likelier to retain its value into the fall.
Obviously that was a massive mistake judging by results, but drafting Thomas versus trading that pick still seems an intuitive assessment. With high risk, obviously there is always that chance of high reward, but also a decent chance of owning an asset that plunges in value (think Tyler Boyd). Whether I assessed the likelihood correctly or not, this was unarguably an epic fuck up.
C.J. Prosise and Kenneth Dixon went at 1.11 and 1.12, which is what prompted me to trade for 2.01 when it was on the clock, giving me the back-to-back picks needed to take Jordan Howard and Devontae Booker. Whether it was right or wrong, my thinking was that Howard and Booker had clear paths to workhorse roles on their new teams (this was shortly following the NFL Draft).
All four RBs ended up starting in their rookie season (RB attrition is a real thing, don’t let heretics tell you otherwise), and while Booker was a bust, Howard was an absolute boom, making being half right a lot more fortuitous than I probably deserved.
Trading Corey Coleman, Ameer Abdullah, M. Thomas, Dixon, and Julius Thomas (or the picks used on them) for Julian Edelman, Kendall Wright, Kyle Rudolph, Howard, Booker, and two 2017 firsts could have ended disastrously, both short and long-term. It ended up, however, being a king’s ransom of production and value that was critical to winning the championship.
Would I rather be holding that first group headed into this year than the second group? Absolutely — but the second group came with a trophy.
Again, ignoring personal value came into play, as I had no desire to acquire Edelman but hoped that Edelman and the 2017 first would net me a premium player that I badly wanted.
This was a rookie-only draft, so there wasn’t opportunity to take any veteran free agents. If your league offers the ability to take free agents in rookie drafts, focus on who is available that may have gotten a contract in free agency hinting at immediate opportunity. Also be aware of second/third-year players, especially younger ones with higher draft capital, that have been given up on, and may have had a veteran in front of them leave.
CONCLUSION… FOR NOW
We’re halfway to the throne. The second part of this discussion tackles trading and waiver wire strategy, and can be found here.