With just two weeks left in the dynasty season, many teams are already done with their regular season, and half of the remaining teams will set their final starting lineup this week. For dynasty GMs, it is time to get back to business - improving their roster through trades, rookie draft strategy, and proper player valuations for next season and beyond. Here are some lessons learned from 2022 and strategies for 2023:
CONTEND UNTIL ELIMINATED
One of the bigger mistakes by dynasty GMs is throwing in the towel too early. Some lose in September and are already looking for the exit on the season. Others double-down on not contending in the offseason, viewing being stuck in the middle of the standings as the worst potential outcome and avoiding it even at the expense of contending seasons.
My take: Contend until you are officially eliminated. This is a very NFL-type take. Two games to play and need two wins? Try to win the first one and go from there. Need some wins and some help with a month to go? Take it week by week. Do things look rough in July? Wait until October to assess things, minimum.
The best team in a dynasty league does not always win the title. Fellow Footballguys staffer Adam Harstad has broken down the math of winning a title in a variety of circumstances in previous articles. In short, the 'field' has a better chance than any singular team, even once the playoffs start.
In a previous installment, I outlined a 2021 example of a team overcoming the categorical slow start to contend and finish in the money:
"To include one 2021 glaring example of not throwing in the towel from my own dynasty portfolio, one of my weakest teams is in the championship game this week. This team finished 7-7 with a tepid 60% all-play record. I needed a win in the final week to scrape into the postseason. After 10 weeks, I was 3-7. After Week 6, I was 1-5 and 0-4 after the opening month. These are woeful season starts. It is also easy (or easier) to throw in the towel in a devy league (with Superflex and 2TE with premium scoring dynamics) as the trade options are vast to acquire future picks or devy players in exchange for current production.
Instead, I held firm with Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger as notable quarterbacks; James Conner and Alexander Mattison provided timely starts with point-per-carry for the stretch run. Mike Evans and Amari Cooper did the same as I rose in the standings. Having a strong corps of tight ends was a major impact as well, with Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert, plus Zach Ertz, providing a punch at arguably the most position in the format.
Both weeks of the playoffs, I have the highest score, including taking down the top seed in Week 16. Will I win against the No.2 seed this week? Only time will tell. While blowout outcomes happen all the time in fantasy football (most matchups are not overly close), view matchups in the 40-60% prism. Even if a favorite, do not assume more than a 60% favorite. If an underdog, there is still probably at least a 40% shot at a win. This applies most importantly in the playoffs where every team has played well at some cross-section of the season to deserve to be there."
On to 2022, and my example from my dynasty team portfolio is more on the macro level. I highlighted 12 teams which were 2-4 through six weeks as critical watch moments. Being 3-4 versus 2-5 is a massive probability difference to making the postseason. I had three of the first six weeks with a 50% or worse head-to-head winning percentage across my leagues. 2022 was a categorical slow start season. It can be easy at 2-4 to look ahead to the following season, shedding productive players, and mini-tanking for the next two months. However, the season is not over. These 2-4 teams were by no means eliminated, and with a running back-heavy roster construction, allowing the season of injuries to play out and benefit primary backups on your bench to see spot starts of clarity is a vital aspect mid-season and later. The result from these 12 teams was five of them making the playoffs (more than 40%), including one winning its division. Three of the teams also won their first-round matchup in Week 15. These are all examples of staying the course, competing, and not throwing in the towel in October.
Entering the offseason, it is vitally important to have your goal of contending and making the postseason in 2023. That is 10-11 months away. The offseason of drafting, trading, and the waiver wire sets the table. Trading, the waiver wire, and setting lineups during the season have the same goal in mind: contend this season. While a simple premise, most leagues have some teams operating under a different vision, improving the odds of the remaining teams achieving said goal. The final reminder is a point from early in this section - contend until you are officially eliminated. At 0-4 and 3-7, I was not officially eliminated in this example and, more obviously, no team in the league is eliminated in the offseason.
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