We’ve covered a lot here in the first two installments of this Dynasty Fantasy Football series, from choosing the right dynasty league format to taking over an orphaned team in an already-running dynasty league. Going through particular facets of a dynasty format like league settings, roster settings, start-up drafts, rookie drafts, and taking inventory of a roster in the previous two articles, we’ll now dive into one crucial aspect of dynasty leagues: trading and acquiring draft picks.
Time truly matters.
Before getting into the actual business of trading, it’s essential to align ourselves with some time windows that will make it much easier to put a specific value on the draft picks you currently have or will be acquiring.
If you’re looking to acquire rookie draft picks, well, that time is not now. The best time to acquire these picks is during the NFL season when opposing managers understand that those picks not scoring any points and lack current, defined value for a dynasty manager at that time. Those rookie draft picks are essentially free trade assets to some looking to win a dynasty championship. Trading the draft picks to acquire players that can help now can help you gain an edge on other managers for championship contention and fast-track a dynasty roster rebuild. Buy low.
The value of rookie draft picks does fluctuate wildly at specific times of the year, with the time between the NFL season ending in mid-February and your rookie draft is one of the most significant windows as far as the SELLING draft picks. Chances are, there are some big-time college football fans in your dynasty league, and for the most part, they’ll be wanting to add the likes of Breece Hall, Treylon Burks, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and other high-upside dynasty fantasy league talents to their rosters for 2022. We call that “rookie fever,” and you can capitalize on that by selling your picks for players that can help you right now. Sell high.
The best part about these two trading windows is that the windows are predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. So you can bank on these two trading windows every single year. The simple theory of buying low and selling high is highly applicable to dynasty fantasy leagues.
Each draft class is different.
Not all draft classes are created equal. As players either graduate or juniors and sophomores declare for the NFL Draft, the strength of a particular draft class begins to take shape with different strengths and weaknesses.
We look at famous classes like the 2014 wide receiver class that included stalwarts like Davante Adams, Odell Beckham Jr., and Mike Evans. If you weren’t a wide receiver in 2014, you were likely having a bad time, with dynasty fantasy busts like Bishop Sankey, Johnny Manziel, Terrance West littering the first round of rookie drafts.
Recency bias aside, the 2021 rookie class may approach this class in terms of star power with Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Elijah Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and DeVonta Smith asserting themselves, plus Kyle Pitts, who is a wide receiver masquerading as a tight end.
The 2022 rookie class is seemingly a great class for wide receivers, a balanced tight end group, and some potential elite running backs.
Determining the ACTUAL value of rookie draft picks?
So, what is the actual value of these things anyway? The current season’s rookie draft picks are always the most valuable. I typically take a step-down approach to the next season’s picks. What does that mean?
Taking into account having a full complement of draft picks for 2022, 2023, and 2024, I would value certain rookie draft picks the following way:
- a 2023 first-round pick value is reasonably close to a 2022 second-round pick
- a 2023 second-round pick to a 2022 third-round pick
- a 2024 first-round pick to a late 2022 second-round or early third-round pick
What about trading rookie draft picks for specific players?
Don’t be afraid of embracing variance and making stands on players.
This one will take some research, player knowledge, and prediction. This tends to go out the window due to variance and sheer luck. The NFL is chaotic. It’s a week-to-week league that thrives on chaos, and Week 2 is a different animal than Week 1. Need more proof? Of the running backs in Week 1 of 2021 that finished in the top-12 of PPR that week, only one of them repeated as a top-12 running back in Week 2 - that being Christian McCaffrey. That’s just one example of how topsy-turvy the NFL can be.
So what does this all mean for dynasty fantasy football?
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. It’s a quote from Robert Burns that means no matter how carefully something is planned, something can still go wrong.
Variance happens. It can win you a week convincingly or sink you. Dynasty fantasy football is not without risk. Like in typical redraft leagues, if you feel like the market is inefficient towards a particular player because you think he should be valued more, those are the players to go after and target in trades. Buy low and sell high return as a guiding principle here as well. Trading windows open and close all the time due to roster transactions, injuries, suspensions, and other events.
Here are some scenarios to ponder:
- With the NFL’s free agency looming, maybe you think the Arizona Cardinals don’t add a wide receiver in free agency to replace a potentially departed Christian Kirk. Could that benefit Rondale Moore? He had a down 2021 rookie season and wasn’t used very much, so maybe he’s worth a late-second round or third-round pick to acquire?
- What if you already roster Gabriel Davis, who in his last game action scored four touchdowns in the playoffs and is now one of the hottest and buzziest commodities in dynasty fantasy football? What if the Bills don’t add a single wide receiver in free agency? Well, that opens up a lucrative window for trading Davis between after free agency and the NFL Draft.
- The recent event with Calvin Ridley’s year-long suspension opened up a window for people to attempt to acquire him on the cheap, and some managers are unloading him off of their rosters for third-round picks or lower. Of course, Ridley may never play football again, which is in his range of outcomes due to the gambling circumstances of his suspension. Still, that’s the kind of quick reaction to breaking NFL news that could get you a player of Ridley’s caliber for very cheap.
What about acquiring rookie draft picks?
That endeavor is much easier than trading them because of a specific instance: selling off your team to rebuild. If your team just stinks, you can unload your roster piece by piece (or pieces) for rookie draft picks to get either an infusion of young talent through the rookie draft or pooling picks together for a player you want. This is much easier to do during the season than in the offseason. Perhaps you can use the draft picks you already have to trade for a group of picks after selling off pieces of your team. There’s no wrong way to acquire picks, as having more choices will only help rebuild your team that much faster.
If you have some young pieces but are hit by the variance bug and are having a terrible season, trade some veterans to contending teams for draft picks. That’s a practical approach to acquiring draft picks. You’re thinking in the long-term while contending dynasty managers are not. That’s an advantageous position to be in.
Still need help trying to put values on picks?
Use a trade calculator! Several dynasty fantasy football sites host trade calculators like Dynasty League Football and Dynasty Trade Calculator. Some like KeepTradeCut crowdsource their rankings by periodically asking questions about specific players. These calculators have algorithms for valuing draft picks and player values to give you a baseline value on trades for whether they are fair or not. These calculators are not gospel but give you a baseline accounting of a potential trade.
The name of the game in a dynasty is to have fun, but you want to make your team better, which is not rocket science. The things I’ve listed here aren’t hard and fast rules. At some point, you’ll probably go against every single one of the things I put in here if you play dynasty long enough. You won’t win every trade you make, the takes you have won’t always be correct, and the stand you take on a player could just as well be completely off. It happens. That’s variance. Success for your dynasty fantasy football team comes down to being right more often than wrong, and with some of these tenets and strategies, that will take you on the path towards being right more often than wrong.
Want more fantasy football dynasty content? Check out the articles below!
- 2022 Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues: Taking Over an Orphaned Team
- 2022 Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues: Choosing the Right League Format