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This One Weird Trick Will Make You a Better Dynasty Owner

The “quantified self” is mainstream. We count steps. We track our feelings. We count the number of times our partners say “I love you” – well, most of us don’t, but some of us do. Yet when it comes to fantasy football, a hobby that lends itself to tracking, we’re as self aware as a golden retriever.

Sure, Adam Harstad keeps a “fantasy journal” that’s more safe for work than it sounds. And Leo Paciga keeps a handwritten notebook with more information about his league mates than they’re probably comfortable with. But we can (and should) go farther. I mean, we’re building regression trees and learning programming languages to create a tiny advantage in prospect evaluation. Why aren’t we using simple, available tools to do some self-evaluation? Consider this a start.

I looked at one dynasty league and recorded every trade I made from April 2013 (immediately after the startup draft) to May 2016.1 Then I used the Dynasty ADP App to calculate the trade “equity” at the time of the deal and in present values. For future picks, I used the 8th pick in the round as a placeholder at the time of the deal. For current valuations, I used the draft spot where the pick actually ended up.

Here are the results:

DateGaveGotEquity thenEquity now
4/2/2013Danario Alexander + Tyler EifertBenJarvus Green-Ellis + Lance Moore + 2014 1st (1.05)10-6
4/4/20132014 1st (1.05)Chris Ivory6-12
7/26/2013Knile Davis + BenJarvus Green-EllisJoe Flacco + Julian Edelman + 2014 2nd (2.04)144
10/31/2013Maurice Jones-Drew + Larry FitzgeraldJordy Nelson-2120
2/15/2014Vance McDonald2015 3rd (3.05)135
2/15/2014Christine MichaelTrent Richardson + 2014 2.01410
6/1/2014Lorenzo Taliaferro + Austin Seferian-Jenkins + 2015 2nd (2.12)2015 1st (1.11)60
6/3/20142015 3rd (3.12)Delanie Walker-1313
8/19/2014Trent Richardson + Mike Evans + 2017 1st (1.01) + 2017 1st (1.11)Rob Gronkowski + Larry Fitzgerald + Pierre Thomas-77-54
9/5/20142017 1st (1.12)C.J. Spiller16-12
11/26/2014Aaron Rodgers + C.J. SpillerOdell Beckham + Tom Brady-2879
1/13/2015Charles Johnson2015 2.06 + 2015 2.123517
1/13/20152015 2.06Jerrick McKinnon-64
1/16/2015Brandin CooksJeremy Hill0-29
2/9/2015Devonta Freeman + Chris PolkJoe Flacco + 2015 2.08-6-30
3/11/2015LeSean McCoy + Larry Fitzgerald + 2016 1st (1.10)A.J. Green-42-5
7/20/2015Jordy NelsonT.J. Yeldon + 2016 1st (1.10)187
9/3/2015Delanie Walker2016 2nd (2.02)29-5
9/24/2015Golden Tate + 2016 2nd (2.03)Justin Forsett + Arian Foster25-31
9/27/2015Chris Ivory2016 2nd (2.07)-7-2
10/10/2015T.J. Yeldon + 2016 2nd (2.10)Adrian Peterson126
10/15/2015Darren Waller + 2016 2nd (2.07)Antonio Gates + 2016 3rd (3.09)33
10/27/2015Arian Foster + Jeremy Hill + 2016 1st (1.10)Melvin Gordon + Danny Woodhead + Eric Decker-4318
3/2/20162017 1st + 2017 2nd2016 1.10 + Arian Foster-6-6
4/30/20162016 1.10 + 2017 3rd2017 1st + 2016 4.09-2-2
5/11/2016Melvin GordonGolden Tate1111
5/18/2016Justin Forsett2016 3.0100
5/18/20162016 3.09Mike Davis-4-4
5/19/2016Adrian Peterson + Jerrick McKinnon2017 1st-33-33

As you’d expect, it’s a pretty mixed bag. Here’s a summary showing the total value of my past trades at any given date. Note that the 2016 trades have identical “now” and “then” values.

Quantified fantasy self

There’s a pretty clear trend that I take losses on present value but end up winning more deals than I lose. That’s weird, because I preach not “getting your guys” unless the value is right. But my strategy is to target systematically misvalued players, so maybe it makes sense that my trades look bad at first but end up OK.

Another note is that acquiring Odell Beckham in November 2014 – when folks were still a little skeptical – is the only reason I’m in the black. That trade is +79 in my favor right now. The sum of my other trades is (-73). That’s actually not a surprise. My goal isn’t to accumulate as much value as possible. I want to win as many titles as possible while breaking even on team “value.” Though I lost equity on trades, most of that was replaced by draft picks each season, and I probably added a bit on waivers too. Indeed, this team won the title in 2014 and finished third in 2015 (with the best all-play record both seasons). And I’m still near the top of the league in terms of total team value.

* * *

This was a pretty easy exercise, and I plan to do it for all my teams this offseason. I recommend you do the same. It’ll give you some insight into your dynasty style and where you can improve. For instance, I need to focus more on maximizing value at the time of a trade. Here’s a primer on the Dynasty App to get you started.

For more big-picture dynasty talk, read Jason Laso’s series quantifying the age premium in dynasty. Then you can check out Kevin Zatloukal’s tips for exploiting that age premium and my post talking about age premium in prior seasons.

  1. Actually, not every trade. I omitted trades involving just draft picks. They were the toughest to quantify, and there were tons of them.  (back)

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