Compete vs Rebuild: The Value Of Balance
“Compete vs Rebuild: The Value Of Balance”
The weekly question dynasty managers ask themselves is simple. Do I compete or do I rebuild? I think the more appropriate questions to ask are the following:
- What does it mean to rebuild?
- How long will it take for me to become competitive?
- How risky is your current strategy and do you have a backup plan if that strategy falls through?
A dynasty owner’s fatal flaw is treating the concepts of compete and rebuild as polar opposite ends of the dynasty team spectrum. Going into a “full rebuild” or going “all in” for the current season are both potential ways to hurt your competitive chances in the years to come. Fantasy football is an emotional game. It’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you from week to week but it’s typically best to take a breath and objectively evaluate your strategy after some time has passed. A league juggernaut is an injury or two from falling apart while a slow-starting team is a hot streak away from sneaking into the playoffs. Calling your shot on a particular strategy takes away from your team’s flexibility for the future and may make it difficult to reverse course.
As I’ve mentioned in past articles, being competitive simply means you’re either currently in the playoff picture or are within striking distance with enough time left to make a run. As we all know, once you get into the dance all bets are off and anything can happen. Someone leaning into a win-now strategy can take some of the following actions:
- Trading future draft picks for veteran players
- Trading younger upside players for veteran players
- Packaging multiple players and/or picks to secure an elite veteran player
- “Deleveraging” a stud on your team. This refers to moving a stud for multiple players. This is done to create more depth on your team while hopefully getting a return that will produce more average weekly points combined than the stud produces.
The most important part of the win-now strategy is creating both floor and upside. Your star players typically represent both of these concepts. Outside of your team’s elite core, the flex positions and bench players should be a mix of players that can produce a solid floor and players that can go out and have spike weeks. People utilizing this strategy must be careful to not ship away all their future assets for the pursuit of the current season’s championship. While I personally will take established/proven players over picks any day, draft capital as well as younger players allow you both trade flexibility as well as more future team longevity.
Rebuilding, in the general sense, is a misnomer. There will always be teams in your league that decide to throw in the towel and tank after a rough beginning to a season. You’ll often begin to see these teams in the group chat mentioning they’re going into rebuilding which typically means they want to move their players for draft capital. Rebuilding teams will typically target deals that are the inverse of the compete now teams including some of the following:
- Trading veteran players for future draft capital (1st and 2nd round picks are ideal)
- Trading stud veterans for multiple younger players
- Accumulating waiver wire free agents with the hopes of trading for future draft capital.
I think a lot of the fantasy community has developed a recency bias toward rookie picks based on some of the recent exploits of top draft pick rookie season performances. The Herberts, Jeffersons and Chases of the world have made NFL play seem laughably easy. That is NOT the norm. In 2021, rookies made up 8% of the top 24 QBs, RBs, and TEs. That percentage was a whopping 13% for WRs. While Najee Harris volumed his way to a monster 2021, Cordarelle Patterson finished 5 spots behind him in half ppr after most likely going undrafted in all startups. The stellar rookie campaigns of both Chase and Pitts were matched if not beaten by the likes of Gronk and Mike Evans. There’s a lot of age fear within dynasty leagues. While some of that fear is warranted, a dynasty owner should be equally fearful about rookie landing spots, rookie offensive roles, average expected touches and all the other unknowns that come with rookie picks. While picks and youth are pivotal to a rebuilding team, experienced players certainly create a more reliable floor for future years.
Always remember that the value of any dynasty asset, player or pick, is fluid and dynamic. While amassing picks seems like a solid strategy for the future, you must be mindful of which team’s pick you are moving or trading for. Not all picks are created equal and you might be acquiring a 1st that’s closer to a high 2nd or on the flip side you might be acquiring a 3rd that’s closer to a low 2nd. Pick placement becomes more difficult to project based on the unknown nature of how many or which team will begin tanking. While you don’t want to overcompensate when moving older players for picks, you do need to be mindful about contracts and understand and anticipate potential trades and/or free agency signing. Older players like a Derek Henry, while productive and valuable, continue to lose trade value as they get further into their careers. If your team isn’t ready to compete now, you need to think about moving older players for reasonable value before their value begins to drop off a cliff. None of this is a perfect science. There will always be unforeseen circumstances like injuries and unexpected NFL trades that shake up seasons and leagues. The ultimate key to a soundly built dynasty team will always be balance. Balance between player age. Balance between players and draft capital. Balance between positions of top end players. Depending on where you’re at in the season and league standings, the temptation to go all in or to blow up your entire team will always be there. Managing your risk and continuing to have contingencies if your bets don’t pay off is the only way to sustain success and hedge against risk.
I hope you all can take something away from this week’s article, stay tuned for next week’s and as always, stay true!