Strategy for Punting This Season

With the NFL trade deadline looming, we always look at this week as the point in the season where you can tell which teams have little or no hope of making the playoffs, let alone winning a championship.  By week 9, there are usually 2-3 teams that would need to win out and still get lucky to have a chance.

In most fantasy formats, that often brings out one of the more frustrating elements of the game when those owners stop caring about the current season.  Hopefully they respect the spirit of competition enough to continue setting their lineup, but they certainly aren't making moves to improve their team?

In Dynasty Owner, this is arguably the absolute MOST important time for those owners who season didn't go as planned.  Why?  It's simple, right now the market demand for your assets is at the highest point between weeks 9-12.  In most leagues, there are 8-10 teams vying for playoff positioning and with each passing week, that number can start to dwindle.  That's why we consider week 9 to be the trading sweetspot if you are going into re-building mode.

Start Shopping High Contract Studs

Marshawn Lynch is a perfect example of a guy you want to start shopping if you are punting 2014 if you own him and aren't in position to compete.  He has the 6th highest contract in terms of average yearly salary at $7.5MM year.  However, there is a great deal of uncertainty around his future in Seattle, and it's been widely speculated that while he will get the full workload this season, he's probably out after this year in Seattle.  They have young talent they spent a high draft pick on in Christine Michael and Lynch is rumored to be a tough player to get along with both from teammates and coaches.  

All that said, he's still a very effective fantasy RB and projects to be in the top 10 in overall RB scoring the rest of the way, so chances are there is at least one owner thin at the RB position (or just looking to bolster their flex position) who would pay a premium another #1 RB.  

Similarly, you want to look at other vets who are producing and have value for the rest of the season but appear to be right at the edge of their prime and have bloated contracts to boot.  Other guys who fit this mold would be Frank Gore and Lynch at RB, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and  Tony Romo at QB, Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald  and Andre Johnson at WR to name a few.  All approaching or over 30 years old, all still playing well enough to have a market and all carrying a top 15 contract for their position.

Seek Out Young Talent and Draft Picks

So what are you looking for in return?  It's simple, draft picks and young talent.  You can't get caught up in getting equal value for a player by today's standards.  You are looking for draft picks or young talent that is in their first 3 years on their rookie deal who have shown promise but haven't quite broken out yet.  Chances are you aren't going to be able to get a young superstar who is still on a rookie deal like an Andrew Luck, LeVeon Bell, or Kelvin Benjamin because those guys are performing at an elite level and will be needed for the rest of this season for anyone in contention.  

You should be looking to young guys who might not have gotten opportunity yet or have shown flashes of production but are too inconsistent to be relied upon and started each week by contenders.  

The first place to look is always at the backup RB position.  The shelf-life for RBs is so short and GMs and teams generally spend high draft picks to ensure that backup running backs are ready to carry the load if [when] the starter gets hurt or starts to lose a step.  Some great examples are the backups to the aforementioned aging tailbacks - Christine Michael (SEA) and Carlos Hyde (SF).  

At WR, this is where you can get the most in a mid-season trade.  With Wide Receiver and Tight End, there are hundreds of guys who are capable of having a big week on any given sunday but only a couple dozen who can be relied upon for guaranteed production every single game.  But for you as the owner punting this season, you can trade one of those WRs for a promising but inconsistent wide-reciever who has showing flashes of greatness this year but haven't yet become elite.  Great examples from this group would be Mike Evans (TB), Brandin Cooks (NO), and Odell Beckham (NYG).  They don't have to be rookies either, but rookies have the longest period of being on their cheap contracts obviously.

Use Your Available Cap Space

If you are looking toward next year, any room under the cap you have is virtually meaningless but could be quite valuable to an owner in contention.  With Dynasty Owner, you can trade any combination of picks, cap space and players.  Cap Space is a great kicker to add to a deal if you are close on terms but not quite able to convince someone to do a deal.  

If you have enough cap space, you can even parlay that into a draft pick on it's own if an owner is desperate to win now and has a high-priced free agent or player they want to add via a trade.  This is how 3-team deals get consummated all the time, especially in the NBA, as one team is usually involved to simply provide or receive salary cap relief through the transaction.  

Similarly, use this opportunity to take on big contracts that are underperforming this year, usually due to injury, but should bounce back next year.  Two superstars that come to mind from this category would be Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.  Both have seen their seasons decimated by nagging injury, and owners who want to win now and upgrade at another position but are handcuffed by those contracts could be persuaded to deal them to get them off the books.    

Traps to Avoid

Occasionally, we'll see owners who punt the current season go overboard in clearing big contracts from their roster even when that player has several good years of production left.  Don't go overboard liquidating assets if you think that player would be a big contributor next year when you are setting up your roster to compete.  This is a mistake you often see with poorly run real franchises, especially in sports like baseball where certain teams are constantly getting rid of stars before big paydays and thus find themselves in perpetual rebuild mode.  

Additionally, don't overvalue draft picks.  Yes, they are great assets that can increase the odds of you finding young talent next year but remember after your initial season, every subsequent draft is a re-draft meaning a 1st round pick isn't nearly as valuable as it would be in the initial draft.  This sounds obvious but we've seen people overpay because they are enamored with high draft picks.