From Underdog to Superpower: The Extreme Fake Punt in Dynasty
In dynasty fantasy football, strength begets success, and success begets strength. If you’re better than your league mates, you’re likely to have a good startup draft. Then you can exploit your advantage by improving your already strong team through trades with weaker, needier opponents. The cycle continues until you hit a string of bad luck or your league mates improve. That’s one of my favorite features of the game — except when I’m the weakest owner in the league.
I recently joined a dynasty startup where I am completely outgunned. See if you recognize any of these names: Jonathan Bales, Graham Barfield, Denny Carter, Ben Gretch, Matt Harmon, Rich Hribar, Ryan McDowell, Shawn Siegele, Evan Silva, Pat Thorman, and JJ Zachariason. More than half of these guys make a living playing and writing about fantasy football, and most of the others probably could if they wanted to. So it’s not false humility when I say I’m out of my depth here.
What’s your best fantasy football strategy when playing with folks like this? Embrace variance.I don’t just mean show up and hope to get lucky. I mean use variance to your advantage. And that’s precisely what I tried to do in this startup draft.
Top dynasty players share two characteristics (among others):
- They’re used to winning
- They’re used to being right about players
Each of these characteristics has a corollary:
- They expect their future rookie picks to be late
- They’re not afraid to “get their guys”
That’s where variance is your friend. First, in a 12-team league full of sharks, any given owner’s odds of winning the title is little more than 10 percent, especially in year one. So you can get a windfall by trading for future picks. Second, even the best fantasy football players are wrong nearly as often as they’re right. So you can scoop up value by being patient and grabbing disfavored players.
Fortunately, my favorite startup strategies — Fake Punt and ZeroDrafting — are well suited to this dynamic.1 Before I even learned my draft position, I decided to trade back to acquire as many future firsts as I could. I also planned to focus on youth in the early rounds and immediate production later.
First, the trades:
|Evan Silva||1.10 (Michael Thomas)||3.01 + 2018 1st|
|Rich Hribar||2.03 (DeAndre Hopkins) + 4.10||3.04 + 5.04 + 2018 1st|
|Graham Barfield||3.01||4.08 + 2018 1st|
|Matt Harmon||3.03 + 9.03||4.06 (Willie Snead) + 10.06 + 2018 1st|
|Shawn Siegele||5.04||22.01 + 2018 1st|
|Shawn Siegele||14.10 (Jonathan Williams)||20.01 (Ryan Tannehill) + 2018 2nd|
|Shawn Siegele||22.01||27.12 (Ryan Grant) + 2018 3rd|
On net, the major trades amount to Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins for Willie Snead, Ryan Grant, and five 2018 1sts. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t feel optimistic about, say, Rich Hribar’s rookie first being an early one. But with these owners, some of those picks are going to be in the top half of the draft. I would bet that in six months, the picks alone will be worth more than Thomas and Hopkins combined.
Next, the draft picks:
|3.04||Freeman, Devonta ATL RB|
|4.06||Snead, Willie NOS WR|
|4.08||Moncrief, Donte IND WR|
|5.03||Benjamin, Kelvin CAR WR|
|6.06||Williams, Mike LAC WR (R)|
|7.07||Wilson, Russell SEA QB|
|8.10||Shepard, Sterling NYG WR|
|10.06||Jones, Marvin DET WR|
|11.03||Anderson, C.J. DEN RB|
|11.07||Martin, Doug TBB RB|
|12.10||Thomas, Julius MIA TE|
|13.03||Williams, Jamaal GBP RB (R)|
|15.03||Beasley, Cole DAL WR|
|16.10||Cutler, Jay MIA QB|
|17.03||Forte, Matt NYJ RB|
|18.10||Boldin, Anquan BUF WR|
|19.03||Charles, Jamaal DEN RB|
|20.01||Tannehill, Ryan MIA QB|
|20.10||Allen, Dwayne NEP TE|
|21.03||Brown, Jaron ARI WR|
|22.10||Watson, Ben BAL TE|
|23.03||Darkwa, Orleans NYG RB|
|24.10||Enunwa, Quincy NYJ WR|
|25.03||Roberts, Seth OAK WR|
|26.10||Langford, Jeremy CHI RB|
|27.03||Derby, A.J. DEN TE|
|27.12||Grant, Ryan WAS WR|
|28.10||Mays, Devante GBP RB (R)|
|29.03||Osweiler, Brock CLE QB|
|30.10||Malcolm Brown, LAR RB|
Nary a sexy name in the group, but plenty of guys who should produce in 2017. I don’t expect to win the league. I don’t even expect to make the playoffs. But I can post a respectable lineup each week, and that gives me a chance. And regardless of my 2017, I’ll be sitting on a boatload of picks next offseason. Hopefully that’ll be enough to let me keep fighting above my weight class.
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- The setup of this particular league also works in my favor. It’s a best ball league with deep starting lineups, which means depth matters more than studs. And standings are based on pure head to head results (one matchup per week), which means variance will play an oversized role in the final standings. (back)