Theory: Is Newer Always Better?

By: Brandon Sperle

In traditional fantasy football leagues there are a few different things to consider when putting together a team. An owner may consider positional need, player injury history, and even the team that a particular player plays for. All of this being considered, it is obvious that the main factor on an owner's mind is a player's potential points and production. As I have transitioned into the exciting world of dynasty fantasy football, I have found that this has slightly changed. People tend to get hung up on age and potential performance. I mean, it is a dynasty league. Isn't that the point?

Maybe not... I would like to entertain the idea that younger isn't always better, even in a dynasty league. Rather, if you are efficient at trading, the traditional fantasy football strategy of going after points now rather than potential points in future years is still applicable. Not trying to compare apples to oranges here, but think back to three recent NBA teams: the 2008 Boston Celtics, the 2011-2014 Miami Heat, and now the Cleveland Cavaliers. What do they all have in common? First of all, they have all made multiple NBA Finals appearances over the last eight years. Second, they did this primarily through blockbuster trades and free agent signings rather than through the rookie draft.

The rookie draft can be an intimidating thing for new dynasty owners, especially in leagues with smaller roster sizes. Even NFL teams have a hard time spotting potential talent in the draft. That is why you see a player like Tom Brady getting drafted in the 6th round. There are obvious benefits to the rookie draft if you can pick wisely. You can acquire top, young talent at zero cost to your team. However, let's take a look at a slightly different strategy for those of us who are a bit intimidated by a rookie draft.

Many 2015 dynasty rookie drafts may have played out along these lines:

1.01: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams

1.02: Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders

1.03: Kevin White, WR, Bears

1.04: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

1.05: Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles

1.06: DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins

1.07: Breshad Perriman, WR, Ravens

1.08: Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons

1.09: T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars

1.10: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions

1.11: Dorial GreenĀ­-Beckham, WR, Titans

1.12: Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers

1.13: Duke Johnson, RB, Browns

1.14: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Colts

Todd Gurley was the only RB who finished in the top 10 in points for the season. The next best was T.J. Yeldon at 23. None of the other RBs registered in the top 32.

As for WR, Amari Cooper capped out as WR20 in points and no one else finished in the top 50. Dorial Green-Beckham was next best at 54.

Now some drafts may have gone differently. Some owners may also value these players because they feel like they will be productive in the future. But what is a first round pick worth in your league? This is a good question to ask yourself.

Here are a few of the trades from my league:

  1. 2016 1st round pick for Greg Olsen + Dion Lewis
  2. 2017 2nd round pick for Javorius Allen
  3. Chris Ivory for Jermaine Kearse + 2016 2nd round pick
  4. Adrian Peterson for 2016 & 2017 1st round picks
  5. Brandin Cooks for Jeremy Langford + 2017 1st round pick

Some of these trades you might not personally agree with. That being said, with the exception of drafting Todd Gurley or Amari Cooper last year, any of the players received from trading these picks scored more points than the players taken in the 1st round of the rookie draft.

Rookie drafts can pay off. They can also be hard to predict. Obviously if you wait for a rookie to prove himself you will pay more than you would by drafting him. However, this is a safe way to get good players. Isn't this the same reason why we pay a little more for an Apple iPhone rather than buying the cheaper off-brand?

My thought is this: think a little less about the dynasty aspect and go back to thinking about championships. People in your league may have had luck with the rookie draft in the past and therefore value picks highly. Use this to your advantage! See what you can get for these picks. It doesn't matter if your roster is full of players over 26 if they are elite players. That is, if you are proactive at trading. Sell these older players when you no longer need them and look into selling picks for the current needs of your team. Don't be afraid of having a team of proven vets as long as you trade efficiently. Remember, at the start of each season you have a new set of valuable trade bait with the acquisition of a new year's worth or rookie picks. Just because it is a dynasty doesn't mean that "newer is always better."