There's a lot of really strong dynasty analysis out there, especially when compared to five or ten years ago. But most of it is so dang practical-- Player X is undervalued, Player Y's workload is troubling, the market at this position is irrational, take this specific action to win your league. Dynasty, in Theory is meant as a corrective, offering insights and takeaways into the strategic and structural nature of the game that might not lead to an immediate benefit, but which should help us become better players over time. (Additionally, it serves as a vehicle for me to make jokes like "theoretically, this column will help you out".)
Paradigms? We Talkin' About Paradigms Again?
Yeah, we're talking about paradigms. Not the game; not the game that we go out there and die for and play every game like it's our last, not the game, we're talking about paradigms, man. As I said last week, I think they're the quintessential "Dynasty, in Theory" topic, given that changing your paradigm doesn't actually change anything about your team or your league. It has no first-order practical benefits. But changing the way you see and think about roster construction can lead to better decisions, which results in long-run benefits.
Last week I talked about one of my new favorite paradigms, the idea that players who don't crack your starting lineup are "positionless" (or, more accurately, they belong to a 5th position called "prospect" whose goals and benchmarks were substantially different from the primary four positions-- quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end). That paradigm builds on assumptions from one of my old favorite paradigms, the idea that there are functionally two types of value in dynasty leagues. The value of the "primary four positions" can be measured by how successful they are at providing the first type of value, while the success of prospects hinges entirely on how successful they are at providing the second.
When I first landed on this paradigm, I referred to these two types of value as "actual value" and "perceived value", which was unfortunate because it implied that "actual value" wasn't based on perception and "perceived value" wasn't actually value at all, neither of which is true. I stumbled along with those names for years because by that point the idea had spread and those were the terms commonly used to talk about it. But now, with a reboot of Dynasty, in Theory and an opportunity for a clean slate, I'd like to take this opportunity to rebrand the two types of values. I think player value can be broken down into two components: production value and market value.
The "Two-Value" Paradigm
Again, the key hallmark of paradigms is that they change nothing in reality. I could say Chris Olave's value to my franchise breaks down into two core components, five components, or sixty-four discrete and measurable components, and none of those paradigms will change the number of games and championships Ja'Marr Chase helps me win over the next decade.
But those paradigms can be useful when it comes time to make decisions about what we want to do with Chris Olave. Hold him and start him? Trade him away, and at what price? If he's on someone else's roster, do we acquire him, and if so, at what price? Or are we content without him, do we feel like there are bigger edges to be found elsewhere? And that's where I think the Two-Value Paradigm comes in handy.
At the end of the day, whether you win or lose in fantasy football comes down to whether you score more or fewer points than your opponent. As a result, a player's value is directly tied to how efficiently he puts points in your starting lineup. But it's helpful to remember that there is more than one way to put points into a starting lineup.
In early September 2018, I traded Marcus Mariota, Josh Rosen, Derrius Guice, Ty Montgomery, Allen Robinson, John Ross, John Brown, and O.J. Howard for Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Doug Martin, DeAndre Hopkins, Josh Doctson, DeSean Jackson, Jimmy Graham, and Tyler Eifert. I wanted Hopkins, the other guy wanted Guice and O.J. Howard, and the rest of the players were just there to balance things out-- Allen Robinson so he was getting a starting-caliber receiver in return, then Wentz because I wanted a bit more value coming back my way for all I was giving up, then Mariota because he didn't have a backup quarterback once Wentz was gone, and so on.
Crucially, I wasn't interested in Wentz qua Wentz. I was well below the consensus opinion on him at the time. But the league was very quarterback-heavy, and I felt he balanced the "trade value" fairly well. Wentz spent two weeks sitting on my bench before he was gone. And yet Carson Wentz has put more points into my starting lineup than anyone else involved in that deal by a significant margin. He might even go down as the single most-impactful acquisition in my franchise's history.
Because while I was right about Wentz's "production value" being lower than commonly believed, I was also right about his "trade value" being strong, and two weeks later I was able to flip him in a package for Patrick Mahomes II.
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