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Dynasty Orphan Journal – Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Last year, Charles Kleinheksel journaled about an orphaned dynasty team. His flurry of moves, the new roster construction, and his discussion of the mindset behind the changes made them a reader favorite. 

The Dynasty Orphan series offers insight into how I approach dynasty. Here are the installments prior to last season:

So, how did my 2017 season turn out?

Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

— Count Galeazzo Ciano

As you might guess from that quote, it didn’t turn out great. Let’s look at what went wrong, what went right, and what I’ll do next.

Season Recap

The team I inherited went 7 – 19 in 2016.1 In 2017, I finished with an 11 – 15 record.

GREAT SUCCESS!

Just kidding. Yes, I improved the team’s record, but I still finished outside the playoffs, so it’s not much of a victory. I might have made the playoffs had I done a better job with start/sit decisions. My team finished sixth in potential points, but I managed to be one of the least efficient managers in terms of getting the most out of my starting lineup.

Maximizing start/sit decisions is something I’ll be considering this offseason. I’ll approach this from two angles. From a personal point of view, there’s a time management issue I need to address. I didn’t always find enough time to think through every lineup decision. That’s on me. The other aspect here is more of a structural one. One way to build a roster is a “stars and scrubs” approach. That makes start/sit decisions really easy – just start the studs. But the “talent” (that is, point-scoring ability) of my roster is distributed more evenly, so it requires more effort (and yes, luck) to pick the right players to start. I’m not sure I want to change my approach to building rosters, but there’s definitely some food for thought here.

Early Season Roster Moves Gone Bad

Shortly before the season, I traded Marqise Lee and Zay Jones for Larry Fitzgerald. At the time, I also had Allen Robinson and didn’t want to be rostering both Jaguars starting wide receivers. Fast forward a few weeks, and Robinson was lost for the season.

Partly from a desire to stay competitive, and partly because I have a lot of exposure to Robinson, I made the following trade:

GAVE: Allen Robinson, 2018 3rd

RECEIVE: Jordy Nelson

You know what happened next, right? Aaron Rodgers was lost for the season, and Nelson produced an underwhelming campaign. This trade didn’t work out at the time, and it might not work out in the long run either. I think Nelson is a great bounce-back candidate so I don’t mind having him. But I surrendered two assets for one and didn’t get the immediate return that would have really justified the move.

In-Season Roster Moves

Once it became apparent that I wouldn’t make the playoffs, I executed a number of future-oriented moves.

Trades

GAVE: Larry Fitzgerald

RECEIVED: Jermaine Kearse, 2018 3rd

GAVE: Theo Riddick

RECEIVED: Wendell Smallwood, Corey Coleman

Waivers

DROPPED: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Detroit Lions DST, Zach Miller, Wendell Smallwood

ADDED: T.J. Yeldon, Jalen Richard, Charles Clay, Adam Shaheen

If your league allows it, you should always drop team defenses for positional players. I did this before the season ended, but certainly do this before the offseason. In almost any dynasty league that has team defense, there will be viable waiver wire options. Take a shot on a positional player who might break out next year instead.

Fiedorowicz and Miller were easy injury-related drops. Smallwood may have some appeal depending on what happens with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, but given the small roster size, he was expendable.

The new running backs aren’t that exciting, but there’s a bit of potential there. If Chris Ivory or Marshawn Lynch are released, then T.J. Yeldon and Jalen Richard have slightly better outlooks. Ivory can be released for a $3.6 million cap savings, and Lynch’s release would net $6 million against the cap. Richard averages double-digit opportunities when Lynch or Deandre Washington miss a game and nearly half (four of nine) of Yeldon’s games produced double-digit PPR points despite playing behind Leonard Fournette. Of course, the draft and free agency could kill the outlook for either player, but since their acquisition cost was zero, there’s not much downside.

Adding Shaheen and Clay gives me three tight ends (along with Jason Witten), which is more than I usually like to carry. However, there weren’t really any other RBs that justified a roster spot, and I’d like to have someone on board if and when Witten declines or retires. Clay should remain a streamable player next season, and Shaheen offers some real upside. If Chicago can make some strides on offense, there’s not a lot of wide receiver competition.

Player Trade Review

If you read any of the earlier installments, you know I love to trade. For the most part, my trades turned out okay. Other than sending away Marqise Lee, none of the players I gave up made a huge impact. You can see breakdowns of individual trades in the earlier installments in this series, but here’s a look at the net movement:2

GAVE RECEIVE
Allen Robinson Bilal Powell
Ameer Abdullah C.J. Fiedorowicz
Anquan Boldin Coby Fleener
C.J. Fiedorowicz Colin Kaepernick
Charcandrick West Danny Woodhead
DeMarco Murray Isaiah Crowell
Donte Moncrief Jermaine Kearse
Isaiah Crowell Jordy Nelson
Jared Cook Keenan Allen
Jay Ajayi Larry Fitzgerald
Jeremy Maclin Marqise Lee
Larry Fitzgerald Mike Wallace
Marlon Mack Sammy Watkins
Marqise Lee Shane Vereen
Matt Ryan Theo Riddick
Taylor Gabriel Travis Benjamin
Zay Jones Will Fuller

On the “gave up” side, Ajayi and Murray were my two big sells when I took over the team, but both finished outside the top 20 in PPR leagues. I regret sending away Marqise Lee, and I still think Zay Jones has a lot of potential. But for the most part, it didn’t hurt much to lose those players. The big question is Allen Robinson. If he returns to his 2015 form, I’ll regret losing him. But 2015 was kind of a long time ago, no?

On the “receive” side of the ledger, getting Keenan Allen was obviously huge. Will Fuller has a bright future, and there’s certainly WR1 season potential in both Sammy Watkins and Jordy Nelson.

Where I missed is at running back. Bilal Powell had nice moments but doesn’t have much potential to be a cornerstone of my roster.

Note that I didn’t discuss trades of draft picks, of which I had many. Suffice it to say that I’ve got just a single third round pick for 2018, and I’m okay with that.

Before and After

Here’s the team I inherited vs. my present roster.

THEN POS NOW
Kirk Cousins QB Kirk Cousins
Matt Ryan QB
Ameer Abdulah RB LeGarrette Blount
Frank Gore RB Frank Gore
Jay Ajayi RB Latavius Murray
DeMarco Murray RB Bilal Powell
Charcandrick West RB Jalen Richard
James White RB James White
T.J. Yeldon RB T.J. Yeldon
Anquan Boldin WR Keenan Allen
Brandin Cooks WR Brandin Cooks
Taylor Gabriel WR Corey Coleman
Jeremy Maclin WR Will Fuller
Jordan Matthws WR Jordan Matthews (IR)
Donte Moncrief WR Jordy Nelson
Allen Robinson WR Mike Wallace
WR Sammy Watkins
WR Jermaine Kearse
Jared Cook TE Charles Clay
Zach Miller TE Adam Shaheen
TE Jason Witten

I’m much better off at WR and TE, but I definitely have work to do at RB. As the league’s rookie draft approaches, I’ll be targeting teams with extra RB depth with some trade offers. Stay tuned.

Conclusion

A modest improvement in record and a stronger roster are nice, but I’m very weak at RB. One of the questions I’m frequently asked has to do with the volume of trades I execute. Obviously, they didn’t help me win a title this year, but I think overall they helped. None of the RBs I gave up had a great 2017, nor do I think that any of them have a slam-dunk outlook for 2018. I’ll be scrambling at the position for sure, but I have a lot of strength at WR to facilitate trades, plus a reloaded waiver budget. To make that work though, I’ll need to figure out a better way to handle start/sit decisions.

  1. Apex Dynasty Leagues use a weekly doubleheader format.  (back)
  2. Struck-through players were traded or waived.  (back)

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