News & Analysis

Fantasy football draft strategy: Dynasty trading in a rookie draft

Jun 12, 2018; Owings Mills, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to throw during minicamp at the Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

A dozen current and former PFF Fantasy staff members recently completed our 2018 rookie draft in the long-running PFF Fantasy Friends & Family Dynasty League.

If you want a sense of what an actual rookie draft looks like in 2018, you can view the full draft results here. Saquon Barkley went first (obviously), followed by Sony Michel at No. 2 and Derrius Guice at No. 3.

In fact, the first six picks were all running backs. It wasn’t until pick 1.07 that D.J. Moore came off the board, which started a run on wideouts. Between picks 1.07 and 2.04, seven wideouts were drafted.

Analyzing the draft results can be beneficial, but the real fun in this league revolves around the number of trades that take place — especially during the draft. Below, we’ll highlight and analyze some of the major trades that went down in the league to help you understand what to think about when trading in dynasty. Swapping players (or picks) in dynasty leagues is always challenging; predicting the future isn’t easy, apparently.

Six picks in the first round were traded

Exactly half of the first-round picks in this year’s draft were traded. Let’s break down three of the during-draft trades that involved first-round picks.

Trade 1

Pat Thorman gives up:

Wes Huber gave up:

Thorman effectively gave up Ridley and a few prospects in exchange for Collins and Jackson. Obviously, context matters here, so let’s dive into that a bit.

Thorman’s team finished third in the league last year, while Huber’s was third-worst. Huber’s team is in more of a rebuild mode (hence the pick stockpiling) while Thorman is taking more of a win-now approach (by taking an RB who will make an immediate impact).

Huber had already drafted Guice with pick 1.03, and he has Dalvin Cook and Rex Burkhead on his roster as well. For him, Collins was expendable in exchange for Ridley — one of the top two wideout prospects in this year’s glass — and an extra pick in the middle of the draft. Rudolph is a potentially sneaky-good pick with Ben Roethlisberger seemingly playing on a year-to-year basis.

Meanwhile, adding Collins gave Thorman some safety behind Le’Veon Bell, while selecting Jackson added some armor his shaky-looking group of quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor).

Although Thorman certainly seems like the immediate winner, that’s what happens when a team looking to win now deals with a team taking the rebuild approach.

Key takeaway: The rebuilding process can be slow, but you have to be comfortable trading away decent assets to stockpile picks. With that said, when you swap a player for picks while rebuilding, make sure you can afford to do so at that position; otherwise, the rebuilding process never ends.

Trade 2

Tyler Loechner gives up:

Shawn Siegele gives up:

After selecting Royce Freeman at 1.08, I had a tough choice to make. I was debating between Kerryon Johnson, Calvin Ridley, or trading back. My team needed receivers more than running backs, but I wasn’t in love with this year’s draft class (next year’s has my eye).

Agholor gave me a young player (he’s only 25) in one of the league’s best offenses with one of the league’s best young quarterbacks. Agholor’s ceiling may not be tremendously high, but he is a good starter in a deep league (we can play up to four wideouts). In my mind, grabbing Agholor and a future second-round pick added a good starter to my team while giving me some ammo to potentially trade up for a star next year.

Siegele selected Kerryon Johnson at 1.09. Johnson was the last truly good running back left on the board — no other running back was selected until 2.06. Siegele got a desperately needed running back (Jay Ajayi was his current No. 1) while dumping off Agholor, who he didn’t really need anyway — he’s loaded at wideout, with Davante Adams, Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, Will Fuller, Jarvis Landry, and others.

Siegele’s decision to use Agholor as trade bait was the perfect example of “evening out the portfolio.” While Agholor will be a good starter for my team, he likely would have just wasted away on the bench behind Siegele’s better starters. Siegele did a great job of matching my weakness (wideout) with his strength (wideout) to fill a needed void on his roster (running back).

Key takeaway: Don’t hoard players if you have a surplus of talent at a single position but holes at another position. Having depth is great (obviously), but diminishing returns set in at a certain point. That guy on your bench might be a good starter for another team — and they might have something you need in return. It’s okay for a trade to benefit both parties; there doesn’t always have to be an outright “winner.”

Trade 3

Mike Clay gives up:

Joey Cartolano gives up:

  • 2018 Draft Pick 2.04** (James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
    • **Clay ended up trading this pick, a few later-round picks, and Vance McDonald for a 2019 first
  • 2019 Round 3 Draft Pick

Joey gave up a 2019 Round 3 pick — which isn’t a total dart throw in rookie drafts, but it’s nearing the edge — to move up four slots. In a vacuum, this was a fair trade.

The problem is that there really isn’t much of a difference between Sutton and Washington as prospects. They are usually ranked within one or two slots of one another (with Sutton usually appearing higher). Was it worth giving up a future third-round pick to get Sutton instead of Washington? It depends on how you feel about certain prospects, but, personally, if the talent at my position of need isn’t about to drop off a cliff, I’d prefer to stay put.

At the end of the day, Clay essentially traded pick 1.12 for a 2019 first that will likely be within the top six picks (and a 2019 third). As the No. 1 team in the league from 2017, Clay doesn’t need to make any immediate moves, so skipping his first-rounder this year for a likely-better first-rounder next year should only benefit him.

Key takeaway: If you have a few players ranked relatively evenly, don’t trade up just to get the guy whose official “ranking” is higher. Additionally, it’s okay to delay your drafting by a year (or two) if your team is in good shape. Walking away from a rookie draft with no first-rounder can be a bummer, but it can pay off in the long run.

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