May 12, 2018
Have you ever had a scoop and found out about an exciting new musician before your friends. Or maybe you were playing a video game long before it was really popular. Either way, it’s an amazing feeling to be able to accurately anticipate, especially when it is something entertaining.
As fantasy football players, we do something similar when we attempt to find those breakout players before they break out. When we find a player like that in re-draft, we reap the rewards of the potential production from that player. But then after the season, we see all of those low investment-high return players drift off of our teams only for them to be taken with much higher draft capital the following season.
One of the many advantages of dynasty football is that your team remains with you. Those one time sleeper players can become consistent contributors year after year. This means that your player evaluations from one year can affect your fantasy production in subsequent seasons. Arguably, player evaluation is more important in dynasty than it is in re-draft. In this article, I will be exploring the ways in which players are evaluated differently in dynasty as compared to re-draft.
In a lifetime dynasty league (see my article “Types of Dynasty Leagues” for details and explanations) where it is possible to own a player for the entirety of their careers, you will want to project their production over the course of several years. This can be more challenging than projecting for only the upcoming season such as in a re-draft league.
There are many factors that go into fantasy production, such as a player’s talent, their position on the depth chart, how they fit into the offensive coach’s scheme as well surrounding talent. It can be difficult to accurately predict those elements even for the upcoming season, let alone several years later. One thing that I will do is to see how long a player is under contract with their current team. It is also important to note how long a current head coach has been in place, how much longer they have left on their contracts and how successful the team has been under that coaching staff.
With the extensive amount of turnaround on NFL rosters, there is no guarantee that any player plays out his entire contract on the same team, but this can nonetheless be useful information to look at. A good idea is to try and predict if a player’s situation is likely to change and if so, does that move increase or decrease that player’s stock. Try to get ahead of big changes in value by selling players before they decline or by buying them before their value explodes.
In contract leagues (see my article “Types of Dynasty Leagues - Variations” for details and explanations) you can use this information to determine the maximum amount of years for which you would like to own a player. For instance, even if you believe that Mark Ingram can continue to produce like he did in 2017, he only has 1 year left on his contract. While he could resign with the Saints, there is a chance that he is playing for a different team in 2019. Perhaps he might end up in a situation where he is not behind someone like Alvin Kamara. However, Ingram did show he was able to produce even when splitting carries and the odds of him playing for an offensive coach as skilled as Sean Payton are not great. Because of that, for Ingram, I would offer a 1 year contract; potentially 2 years with the intent of trading him away during the season.
While a coaching staff or a player’s contract can change year to year, one element that remains rather consistent is a player’s talent. The best way to evaluate talent is by watching full game videos of players and not just the highlights. You need to see a player at their best as well as at their worst in order to fully understand that player’s talent level.
Personally, I am a numbers guy. A lot of my research, especially in season, has always been about looking at the statistics. The biggest adjustment that I needed to make when transitioning into dynasty was to watch the players in order to evaluate them. This is most important with rookie players as College statistics do not always line up accurately with NFL production.
While team fit and workload may very, even with the same coach from year to year, talent will usually remain in tact during a player’s prime. When playing dynasty, talent is arguably the most important aspect to evaluate.
Talent however, does not remain forever. As players get older, for the most part, they loose a bit of their speed and explosiveness. For dynasty purposes, when looking at a player, one question that you should ask is how many more serviceable years of production does this player have left?
If you feel like a player is close to hitting a wall and having their production decline, you should either avoid those players or trade them away aggressively.
That being said, I am not encouraging a strategy where you do not take any players once they hit a certain age. On the contrary, there can be usefulness in targeting older players as some dynasty owners may not have them as highly ranked as their production should warrant. While you should not give up the farm to get Larry Fitzgerald, he can still be a useful asset for a team looking to win now. Looking at one of his team-mates, say J.J. Nelson, one could see the potential of having him for several productive years. Nelson however, might hold greater value for someone who is rebuilding their team and looking to make a title run in a couple of years.
Speaking of championships, I hope that this article was useful in helping you understand how to evaluate players in order to maximize your chances of winning one. For more awesome analysis, check out the other articles on the Dynasty Dads website as well as the Dynasty Dads Podcast.
-Kyle Senra (Follow on Twitter)