Rebuilding Strategy: Part 1

Rebuilding Strategy: Your Team Sucks, Now What?

The fantasy season comes to an end. A champion was crowned, but it wasn’t you— not by a long shot. You would have even taken making the playoffs, but you were playing in the Toilet Bowl instead. Face it, your team sucks. It may be completely your fault, or you may have been forced to pick up the pieces from a previous owner, but either way, this abysmal dumpster fire is all yours. The question is: what are you going to do about it? Assuming you don’t want to lie down and become the Cleveland Browns of your league, you’re going to have to make some changes and you’re going to have to play smart to get your team competitive again. Let’s look at the first steps for going from worst to first.

Assess Strengths and Weaknesses

This is probably the most gut-wrenching part of the process. You need to sit down and analytically look at your (so-called) team. Most likely, if you’re a cellar dweller, you’re going to have a lot of weaknesses and very few (if any) strengths, but you need to know what they are. This process could shock you; you could be closer to competing than you thought. If that is the case, great! If not, don’t fret. You only can work with what you have, anyway.

The first thing you need to look at is draft capital. You need it, and you need lots of it. Hopefully, you should have pretty high picks in each round due to finishing so poorly, but if you don’t, you need to think about doing whatever it takes to increase your draft capital. In my experience, draft capital is much easier to get than young, proven players, so that’s why I put it at top priority for you.

Using my own experience, I took over a dynasty team in 2016. It was weak in pretty much every area except tight end, which was a position of strength. Without getting into scoring and roster settings, believe me when I tell you that Hunter Henry, Eric Ebron, Maxx Williams, Clive Walford, Austin Hooper, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were looking like I had way too many viable tight ends when I had so many other needs. So, I used what I had to make our next step happen.

Trade Old/Gratuitous Players

You have to level with yourself; you’re not competing anytime soon, so you have to look toward the future. This is where savvy and patience comes in for you. Chances are, your team is not completely useless. You probably have some nice pieces that other players want that will be all but useless to you.

Say you have Larry Fitzgerald, or Tom Brady. Yes, it seems like these guys might play forever, but realistically they have 1-2 more good years left for fantasy purposes, if that. It’s time to get rid of them. Find a team who is in their championship window and could use these guys in the time they have left, and make them an offer for their draft capital. In my experience, a player who is hungry for that championship will be willing to mortgage pieces of their future to get an edge over the other teams.

Old players aren’t the only commodities you need to be moving, however. Going back to my situation, I knew that having all that TE depth was absolutely useless because the rest of my team stunk, so I started moving pieces for draft capital or young proven players when the price was right. All told, I picked up multiple draft picks as well as a few young prospects that have mostly stuck around on my team since. I made some mistakes, but I mostly came out better.

Build Draft Capital

Did I mention draft capital is important? If you think of dynasty football drafting as a dartboard, then think of your picks as darts. The more darts you throw, the more likely you are to hit the board, that is, have good players (in theory). As mentioned above, one way to accumulate draft picks is to trade away players, but it is not the only way. You can also trade away picks to accumulate more picks.

I had the 1.02 coming into the 2017 draft, but I was not in love with the talent at the top of the draft. I also knew that it was going to take more than one good player to get me out of the bottom, so I looked for trade partners. I ended up moving to 1.07 and accumulating some young prospects and draft picks in the process. I stayed and picked at 1.07, but I ended up trading other picks to pick up even more draft capital. Those picks have helped me turn my fortunes around pretty quickly.

One caveat, however. If your dynasty league is anything like mine (and I assume it is), there are sharks in the water who are looking to get your high draft picks for chump change. Typically, the people at the top are looking to stay at the top and they have much more expendable pieces than you do. Before you make a trade, do your due diligence and make sure that a trade (especially for your draft capital) is in your favor.

Be Patient – Play the Long Game

The difficulty with rebuilding is watching your team get crushed and knowing you just have to sit there and take it for another 1-2 years. You may get frustrated, impatient, and want to help your team now. While I’m not suggesting you have to field an uncompetitive team, getting impatient can cost your team and put you right back in this same situation two years from now. There are deals that you can make now that will help you now, but also help you in the future. Make those deals. Be competitive.

But don’t be afraid to lose, either. Look at the Los Angeles Rams. They were the laughing stock of the league for years, all the while building up draft capital and making picks like Aaron Donald, Jared Goff, and Todd Gurley. Now, they’re arguably the best team in the NFL. Yes, they lost the Superbowl, but at least they were in the Superbowl. They played the long game and it looks like it worked out for them. 

You can only field the players you have, and sometimes that team is not going to be competitive. Just remember that it doesn’t have to stay that way, and you have to keep your eyes on the future in order to make that happen. Your team sucks, but play your cards right, and it won’t be for long.