Happy New Year! We did it. We made it through 2018. Some of us perhaps had better fantasy seasons than others (I’m a proud part of the “others”), but it’s 2019 now. Everyone’s 0-0. In this new series to kick off the new year, I’ll be looking at five actions you should be taking each month to put your dynasty teams in the best positions to succeed in 2019. These are all actions I take myself wherever possible and have found to be particularly useful and worthwhile. Through these five steps each month, you’ll be ahead of the competition in your preparation and strategy.
1) Drop your kicker and defense to add high upside waiver players
If your dynasty league still has kickers and defense, the best thing you can do is drop them from your rosters heading into the offseason. As dynasty owners, we look to gain every advantage we can get over our competition. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to do so. Take a moment and look through your league. I’d be willing to bet at least half the teams have at least one kicker and one defense still rostered. Given how the positions hold no real dynasty value and are largely unpredictable year over year, there is almost no reason to hold onto even the elite at the positions.
So who should you be picking up instead of holding onto your kicker and defense? My advice is to look at two key factors: free agency and the draft. It seems obvious, as these are the two main huge changes any NFL team incurs throughout the offseason. Last season, when I dropped my kicker and defense, I added players like Trey Burton, A.J. McCarron, Chester Rogers, Chad Williams, and Travis Benjamin.
Now, of course, most of these players didn’t work out, but this is essentially a free money play to expand your roster for high upside players heading into the offseason. Players like Burton, Rogers, and Williams had legitimate trade value (for at least a third-round rookie pick) at one point or another last offseason. Best case scenario? You cash in or have a new bench asset for your team. Worst case scenario? You drop these same players for your rookies or defense/kicker again when the season starts.
1b) My target end-of-bench stashes
So who are some high upside players you can target? This season, I’ve targeted four main guys that may be on your waiver wire still at this point: Jonu Smith, Nick Foles, Ryan Switzer, and Justin Watson. All four of these players have legitimate potential to see real playing time in 2018.
Smith is an exciting young tight end who could see an expanded role in 2019. Nick Foles will very likely be given the option to be a starter in 2019. He could be a valuable piece on your roster even in a start-one QB format. Switzer and Watson both profile as athletic slot receivers, and both could be impacted by teammates leaving their respective teams. Justin Watson, in my opinion, could fully replace Adam Humphries should the latter leave in free agency. Meanwhile, all the Antonio Brown trade rumors have pushed up James Washington, but Switzer remains an interesting prospect – one that I believe is capable of commanding 80 targets in the near future.
Even if your league’s waivers are done for the season, there’s still a possibility to get these players if they’re on rosters through small trades, dropping your kicker and defense in the process. If you’re looking to gain players in a two-for-one or similar move, you can drop your kicker or defense in the process and lose no real value.
The moral of the story here is, don’t waste valuable roster spots on positions that have no trade value, no offseason value, and simply just sit there on your roster until August. If you can’t get rid of them in your league altogether, you might as well use it to your advantage.
2) Make a spreadsheet of your roster (with rookie picks), highlighting Keeps, Depth, and Drops.
I can’t speak highly enough of this task and how it can put you in the right mindset heading into the offseason. In a spreadsheet, list out your current roster as well as all of the draft picks you have heading into 2019. Below, I have an example of one of my own spreadsheets for a main league of mine. I’ve highlighted players I’m definitely keeping in green, would like to keep in yellow, and are definite drops in red. Then, on the side, I’ve listed all the draft picks this team has for the 2019 rookie draft.
On this team, you can see I have nine yellows and reds across the 25 roster spots as well as eight draft picks. Now, of those nine highlighted, three (Dalton, Lewis, and Olsen) I’d like to keep on my team for depth or because I think they have real fantasy value. However, with eight draft picks, I will have to eventually get rid of two of the three. Realizing this, I can go into the offseason with the understanding that my roster cannot hold all of my assets. I should look to package up in the draft, move players for future picks, or consolidate depth into another stud.
I do this with each of my eight dynasty rosters, and while it takes some time to do, I feel it’s an important first step to the offseason. It allows me to identify areas of weakness and strength and ensure I’m making the most out of my roster spots. While others in your league are taking time off, this is one activity you should do this month to keep you in the right mindset.
3) Follow a diverse set of Mock Drafts
There’s an old saying about models: “All models are wrong, but some are useful”. This works for mock drafts as well as we head into January 2019. Every single mock draft that is put out there this month is going to be wrong – by a lot. However, there’s value to be had in looking at various different mock drafts even this early in the offseason. Specifically, take a look at which teams are building their offensive lines or taking skill position players. As prospect analysis gets going and people start spitting hot takes about them all over Twitter, focus your attention on what players could be impacted by the selection of specific positions.
While it’s natural to also look at your favorite prospect’s landing spot, the more important consideration at this point is understanding draft capital estimations. Sure, Damien Harris being mocked to the Chiefs is mouth-watering, but if he’s being mocked in late round three, there’s a reason for concern. Try to dig into the prospects yourself to understand why a player is a day three prospect to one person but a first round pick to another.
A wide range of outcomes is often indicative of a player who will fall throughout the offseason process. In January 2018, Auden Tate was a guy I saw mocked as high as round one and as low as round five. As the offseason went on, he became a guy who was falling fast and ultimately wound up being a seventh-round draft pick. Was the mock draft that put him in the first round very wrong? Yes. In aggregate, however, we saw that Tate had a wide range of outcomes early on and was a high-risk prospect.
4) Join a new league
It’s January, and fantasy football doesn’t start again until September. There’s plenty of time to do this, so why in January? Well, with the fantasy football season over, it’s fresh in your mind what you liked and didn’t like about the leagues you are currently in. I love all the leagues I participate in. However, there’s always an incredible feeling joining a fresh new league that has all the rules I want to try. Whether it be Superflex, points per carry, tight end premium, points per first down or some combination of everything, I always look to try out new league types each season. Fantasy football is meant to be fun and enjoyable! This is one step I take in January to make sure each season feels like a new, fun experience.
5) Follow FFStatistics for fantastic, free offseason content
Shameless plug for the site. FFStatistics has such a diverse set of content creators, data, and podcasts that anyone can enjoy. From dynasty to playoff DFS, prospect analysis to veteran buy-lows, we’ll be churning out all the data and content you need to become a better fantasy player. Be sure to check out the data pages and downloadable excel files to play around with yourself. It doesn’t take a fantasy analyst to come up with a new, unique way to look at the data found here on site.
If you’ve found something interesting, send me in a tweet with it @FFzinger! I for one am looking forward to an amazing offseason and new year. I hope you’ll be along for the ride!