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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".)
Dynasty Is A Game of Pricing Risks
Everything about Dameon Pierce's trajectory suggests he's going to be a star. He received effusive praise for his work during training camp before earning the starting job in advance of Week 1. He quickly dispatched all trusted veteran challengers and has seen his role increase until he became a clear every-down back before midseason. Through his first eight starts, he has 678 rushing yards (at 4.6 yards per carry), and while he's not really an asset as a receiver, he's added 98 receiving yards (albeit at just 4.9 yards per reception) and scored a total of 4 touchdowns.
Everything suggests he's going to be a star... except for one little thing. Dameon Pierce was drafted in the 4th round.
In 2013, everything about Zac Stacy's trajectory suggested he was going to be a star. He received effusive praise for his work during training camp, and while he didn't earn the starting job in advance of Week 1, he earned his way on the field in Week 5, quickly dispatched all trusted veteran challengers, and saw his role increase until he became a clear every-down back before midseason. Through his first eight starts, he had 692 rushing yards (at 4.4 yards per carry), and while he wasn't really an asset as a receiver, he added 106 receiving yards (albeit at just 6.2 yards per reception) and scored a total of 5 touchdowns.
Everything suggested he was going to be a star... except for one little thing. Zac Stacy was drafted in the 5th round.
Despite his strong rookie performance, the Rams drafted Tre Mason in the 3rd round following Stacy's rookie campaign. Mason followed the "positive signs" career path, too, taking a bit longer to win the starting job from Stacy but finally wresting it away from the trusted veteran and having a strong second half of the season of his own in 2014 (686 total yards and 4 touchdowns in his first eight starts).
And then the Rams pulled the rug out from under Mason, too, drafting Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
This is the NFL reality for later-drafted running backs. Plenty of them make good on the flashes of promise and go on to be the stars they seem destined to become. Undrafted Arian Foster became a 6-year starter for these Texans before injuries laid him low. Undrafted Priest Holmes put up one of the greatest stretches in fantasy football history. 6th-round pick Terrell Davis went on to win two Offensive Player of the Year awards and a league MVP with the Denver Broncos.
But plenty of them never earn the sort of long-term trust and support required to flourish like that. Before Holmes became a fantasy superstar, he got rug-pulled twice by the Baltimore Ravens, posting 1200 yards in 1998 before losing out to free agent acquisition Errict Rhett in 1999 and 5th-overall pick Jamal Lewis in 2000. The same Broncos that committed to Davis pulled the rug from under 4th-rounder Olandis Gary after 1300 yards and 7 touchdowns in 12 games in 1999 and from under 5th-rounder Mike Anderson after a whopping 1650 yards, 15 touchdowns, and a Rookie of the Year award in 2000.
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