Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Pete Acquaviva. Follow him on Twitter @PDAcquaviva.
My fantasy football mindset boils down to one idea: short memory. You’re going to make mistakes. The longer you play, the more you realize you’re going to make a significant number of preventable errors.
I can’t tell you how to fix your errors before they happen. I wish I could. But the errors you will make in the future are ones you don’t even know exist yet. Donald Rumsfeld summed it up excellently, “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
I’ve gone back to assess my process, drafts, player pickups, trades, and I’ve seen patterns and trends emerge. I can show you the lessons I’ve learned from my own mistakes. Maybe you make some of the same errors, maybe you don’t. But hopefully, either through the process of reflection or the connection of comparable decisions, you leave thinking, “Yeah, I won’t do that.”
My 2QB Dynasty Startup Story
Let’s start with a dynasty draft from a season ago. This was a home league (as you’ll be able to tell from some ADP right away), which in many respects is more difficult to prepare for than a draft with your typical analyst/fantasy devotee. There are dozens of mistakes in this draft alone, but I will focus on five of these aspects of my experience and go into what I was thinking, why I was wrong, and what I would do differently knowing the outcome.
This example is a 10-team league starting 2QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, 2 Flex, 1 D/ST, a kicker (I’m sorry), and a punter (sorry, not sorry). I had 1.04 and immediately planned to select Antonio Brown, assuming Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, and Odell Beckham Jr. would be first off the board. The drafter in front of me zigged to get Brown, so I happily scooped up Beckham, my desired 1.01. In round 2, Mike Evans, my 1.06, was somehow around, no hesitation there. At that point, I was so concerned with stacking receivers, I actually believed for a minute, “You know, maybe Sal’s right. A Joe Flacco/Alex Smith team might not be the worst thing in the world”.
I was wrong. It sounded like a reasonable idea for a patient man. However, I am not that patient. Here’s how my draft played out after the second round:
My first quarterback off the board was Andy Dalton. Later in the year, I shipped off a package of Dalton and Cole Beasley for what became the 1.03. This deal still seems incredible to me, as Dalton has been a fringe QB1/QB2 for most of his career. At his best, we saw him as a top-6 fantasy passer for the 2015 season, but he dropped back down a year later. Dalton was safe for a QB2, but as my first quarterback, I knew I had work to do.
Mid-season, I traded my first-rounder for Tom Brady (plus a third-round pick swap), a bold move I hoped would land me a championship. The first I gave up eventually became the 1.04. At the time, it was a general first, but missing the playoffs with four losses skyrocketed the value of that pick. Even though this move is objectively a failure, it turned Dalton into an extra trade chip, and I was able to get value back in the move described above. In the end, 1.03 + Brady = 1.04 + Beasley + Dalton. The Brady trade was a mistake, but rather than compound it, I made a move to get out of the hole. Granted it’s a short term solution, but I ended up with the QB1 I was looking for, at least until Gisele and Tom decide they can’t live without sugar anymore.
Another move I made involved acquiring a younger passer to pair with Brady. It happened one week into the season and was the first move of the league. Had I waited any longer, it would have never happened. Don’t be afraid to make a move, if you have someone you want on your team, do what you need to get them. What you’re trying to get from your fantasy experience matters, but if rooting for the players you like isn’t included in your priorities, you might be doing it wrong. I traded Laquon Treadwell, John Brown, and Ryan Tannehill for Jameis Winston and Danny Woodhead. Looking back now, this only could have happened at a very specific moment. If you don’t propose trades, you never know. Get your guys.
The elephant in the room is out. I drafted Jamaal Charles in the sixth round of a 2016 startup. Not a day goes by I don’t wonder what was I doing. But here’s the thing, it’s all about short memory. At the time, I thought to myself, here’s a perennial asset, coming back from surgery with a lower price, and I can ride the one-to-two years he has left. I got hyped by analysts saying how Charles might be the top back in an unsure year, how you can only judge talent and situation, and he still had both. They were wrong, and I was wrong. The mistake wasn’t chasing an aging player, the issue is I did it too soon. In the sixth round, I should have looked for an asset I could hold on to for years to come.
Decide your strategy going in. Be flexible, but keep in mind the initial goal. If you’re here to win now, hedging your picks with the Breshad Perrimans, Josh Doctsons, and Derrick Henrys of the world provides diminishing returns. If your goal is to do the “productive struggle” and punt early, then don’t get sucked into a sixth round running back coming off his second ACL surgery. I went for a little of both, and a year later I’m left with a questionable asset and a mixed strategy requiring another season to fully clarify.
Personal Values vs. ADP Values
One of my friends in this league knew I was high on Austin Hooper. After the draft, he said he knew I would reach to get Hooper, and since he valued Hunter Henry higher than Hooper, he just waited for my move on Hooper and then grabbed Henry on the next round. At the time, I felt good I grabbed my guy. If I were paying attention to the valuations of my league mates, I could have known Henry was the more desirable asset and waited on Hooper until after Henry was selected.
On one hand, this is a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking. What if someone else mirrored my value on Hooper? Would it be worth the risk of losing him to save a round or two of value? That question never occurred to me at the time, but in reflection, I would have been perfectly happy to get Hooper or Henry at their values. Going in, however, my mind was too fixated on one player, and I didn’t read the room appropriately. Have your guys, but don’t make drafting them the be-all-end-all of your strategy.
Acquiring Trade Bait
Trades are the most fun part of fantasy football. You get to project all your beliefs and hopes onto the players you’re looking to acquire. There are so many insightful voices in the fantasy trade community, so I won’t go into specifics here, but I do have some general trade advice from a social perspective.
In a league where you know the other owners, I find it most effective to initiate trades in one of two ways:
- Shoot them a text: “Hey, would you be open to a trade involving A, B, C, or D?” I ask for their values on players in relative terms. For example, “Say we’re drafting again right now, would you take Randall Cobb before or after DeVante Parker?”
- For longshot trades, I make a direct proposal right away. If they don’t respond in the week after I fire my offer, I know next time I need to approach the owner with a call or a text.
Of course all of this only works if you have assets people want. In my league’s format, quarterbacks and wide receivers were in high demand, so I based my draft strategy on it. I loaded up with five signal callers and eight pass catchers (ballooning to 11 wideouts on my 25-man roster roster by mid-season). I had little to no intention of playing Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, or Martavis Bryant, but I knew they had long-term value in a 2QB league. Yes, even Jay Cutler had value. I ended up swapping him for Gates after Dwayne Allen didn’t pan out. In the Dalton/Beasley trade, Beasley was my WR5/6. I had picked him up off waivers and was happy to immediately flip. Both these trades were possible because I had depth on the back-end with an expressed point in cornering the markets for quarterbacks and receivers.
My experience in the 2QB format certainly helped during the draft. Despite almost all of the league having been in a 2QB redraft league for the last four years, my five quarterbacks were more than any other owner. The strategy paid off handsomely. Other owners are still trying to acquire even middling talent at the position. A QB4 to me was someone else’s QB2. That’s where I found my value discrepancy.
Revel in Victories, No Matter How Small
There are a lot of missed picks in this draft. I made many drops to the waiver wire I shouldn’t have. I got the short end of a trade or two. But you know what? I also had a great number of positive moves, and taking a moment to appreciate theem before moving on helps take a bit of the edge off of fantasy football.
Fantasy gets stressful, and you remember the defeats a hell of a lot more than the victories. I lost a league after I won twice in a row and felt like nothing from before had any lasting impact. It meant nothing. As a former philosophy major, when I feel like nothing matters, I consult Sartre and Camus, and am reminded that what matters is what you make matter.
You enjoy fantasy football. You’re reading a site devoted to a style of fantasy football, and you’re at the bottom of an article about reflection, not analysis of statistics. You on some level must enjoy this. Whether you made a great trade, won a blind bid on a player you think has huge talent, or avoided the relentless offseason hounding of a last-place finish, you get to play a game about a game and take it seriously. Take a moment and soak it in.
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