There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-- A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.
The Balanced Strategy
The two main questions you need to ask when drafting for your dynasty startup:
Can this guy help me win now?
Can this guy be on my roster for a while and continually produce?
As we look to answer these questions, we find ourselves balancing three attributes: Talent, Age and Volume.
Talent is the ability to consistently produce and create plays. Looking for consistent production lets us capture Talent statistically, while looking for playmaking ability lets us capture Talent stylistically. Receivers and running backs that make contested catches, rack up yards after the catch and break multiple tackles play after play are going to be top players. Some of this is best understood through film, other times it can be quantified by stats. For example, the top 12 RBs had at least 22 broken tackles and the players that were most consistent had a broken tackle rate of 5.9 rush attempts per broken tackle. An easy method of quantifying fantasy Talent is to use Production or Efficiency statistics. Points Per Game is a simple way to account for a players value apart from injury. Players that average 15+ points per game (PPG) are top tier players. The table below displays how the average top tier fantasy player stacks up statistically and can be used as a framework for identifying Talented targets.
Total Points in PPR format. PPG = Points per Game. PPO = Points per Opportunity. Data covers fantasy players from 1994-2019. Collected from the Astronauts' Data Asteroids available on Patreon.
Volume can be measured by the amount of opportunity a player earns. We can quantify opportunity by counting targets and rush attempts. In 2019, the top 12 RBs had at least 230 opportunities (targets + rush attempts) and the top 12 WRs had at least 116 opportunities. These top 12 RBs provided at least 15.0 points per game (PPG) and their WR counterparts provided at least 14.8 PPG. RB2s gave you at least 162 carries and scored at least 10.8 PPG. WR2s were given 87 targets and scored at least 13.6 PPG. Your flex positions are going to be your WR3s and RB3s. WR3s had at least 93 opportunities in 2019 and RB3s had at least 145 opportunities. They gave you at least 9.1 PPG if they were a RB3 and at least 10.7 PPG as a WR3. Tight ends differ because you typically only start one. TE1 had at least 64 targets in 2019 scoring at least 8.5 PPG. TE2s will be another flex option and in 2019 they scored at least a measly 5.7 PPG. These are the minimums for your positions and the opportunity they see. The table below displays average volume by tier. Use this when drafting to decide who to take.
Data covers fantasy players from 1994-2019. Collected from the Astronauts' Data Asteroids available on Patreon.
In dynasty, player age is one of the most important components to manage. In order to maximize value, you have to be willing to sell good, aging players in order to replace them with younger assets.
RBs are the most productive from age 23 until 28, and then their careers start to decline. In the last 25 years, after a RB hits age 30 there have only been a total of 54 RB2 seasons and 21 RB1 seasons. Only 9% of RB2 seasons and 7% of RB1 seasons come from players over 30.
WRs have a longer span of productivity which lasts from age 23 until about age 32. They start to decline at age 29, but are able to produce more consistently until their age 32 season.
After age 28, RB productivity hits a steep decline. While WR relevance can linger for a few years more. @JetPackGalileo dives deep into the age data in his series on Age Adjustment. Data collected from the Astronauts' Data Asteroids available on Patreon.
Draft RBs as rookies, hold them until they turn 27-28 and then sell them for draft picks to restock them in your rookie draft. This will maximize your value, potentially giving you 3-4 RB1 seasons or 6-7 years of RB2 seasons. The window for peak WR production opens a bit later, and a good time to draft a player for optimal value is after their rookie season. The rookie hype may have died down, but the player has learned the game and may be ready for breakout. Acquire WRs when they are 23-24 years old, hold until they are 28-29 and sell for younger WRs in that 23-24 year old range. This will give you a max value of five WR1 years and at least 6-7 WR2 years. IF you hold aWR longer you may be able get 3-4 more WR2 years, but selling a 32 year old for a good value to replenish your roster will be more difficult. I would buy players like Devin Singletary, Aaron Jones and Joe Mixon. At 23-24 years old we can expect 4-5 seasons before you need to sell them and their careers start to decline. WRs I would look to buy are Michael Gallup, Preston Williams, Auden Tate and Diontae Johnson. While these receivers are considered the WR2 on their own team, they have the talent and baseline volume to become a WR2 in fantasy and potentially overtake as the WR1.
A prime example of the post-rookie boost, Courtland Sutton's value took a massive jump following the breakout during his second season in the NFL. (Stephen Maturen/Getty)
Applying a Balanced Strategy on Draft Day
Tier 1: Rounds 1-3
In the earlier rounds, Talent must be the number one priority. Tier 1 is your studs. Your every week starters. These players should be getting you 15-20 PPG on average.
Take the best player available (BPA) If you can get the BPA under age 27, then take him! Especially if he is a guy with high volume of targets/receptions/carries can be especially valuable in Rounds 2-4, like Courtland Sutton or DJ Moore. In the table below you will see averages scores by tier of player. This is what you should look for on average for these tiers. So this needs to be the BPA who will be a RB1 or WR1 in 1QB PPR leagues. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are QBs that could go here as well.
Tier 2: Rounds 4-6
Tier 2 players are starters that should be getting you 10-15 PPG fairly consistently. Rarely will you bench these players based on matchup. Age is slightly more important and I would try not to draft a player over age 27, so that you can keep him longer because he will more likely be a RB2 or WR2 in this range. They have the best opportunity to take over as an RB1 or WR1 from the older players in those rankings. If you can get a top 5 TE in rounds 4-7 take them. If it breaks the cycle of positional balance, you have the opportunity to get back on track later. However, if you cannot get a top 5 TE you need to take a younger TE later, so that he can grow with your team. TE take longer to take a hold of their target share on their teams, but can consistently produce longer either as a safety value for their team or a target in the middle of the field.
Tier 3: Rounds 7-10
In the middle rounds of your draft is where volume and opportunity become a priority to provide balance to your top end talent of your draft. Situations to focus on here are when do your starters have bye weeks, who are your starters’ backups, and which one of your starters could lose their job or will be in a timeshare. For me this is a huge time to take RBs who are the receiving back on their team or RBs who are going to back up an injury prone starter. Think James White, Tarik Cohen or even Jamaal Williams. Jamaal is a bit different from the first two because he is truly just a back-up, BUT the coaches on his team clearly like him and want to give him a shot. He’s also a different back from Aaron Jones, could even start both in a pinch (Aaron at RB, Jamaal at FLEX).
Tier 4: Late Rounds
Later rounds of your draft = YOUTH. Unless there is a guy you absolutely LOVE or trust (Jason Witten for me), you need to be drafting guys that are young to fill out the back end of your roster. Guys you liked in college that are new to the league and haven’t been given a shot yet are perfect guys to take in the late rounds. One for me is Miles Boykin. Although the Ravens offense didn't feature him last season, he is Talented enough to earn Volume as Lamar and the passing attack grow together.
With the raw athleticism to take over the league, Boykin is the perfect late round dynasty stash.
With the Coronavirus rampant and wild, stay safe and enjoy those extra drafts you get into!
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.