Three Strategies to Dominate July
1. If the opportunity arises to sell high on a 2nd year breakout candidate, take it. Every offseason, the market for the previous year’s rookies gets insane and the soon-to-be 2nd-year players are vastly overrated (on average). For every sophomore who has a breakout season, there are usually three or four who underperform the unrealistically high expectations of the dynasty community. Take the 2013 rookie class for example: At this time last year, Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, Montee Ball, Giovani Bernard, Justin Hunter, Christine Michael, Jordan Reed, and others were all trendy breakout candidates (with Ball, Patterson, Allen and Bernard all going in the top 25 of 2014 dynasty startup drafts). All were major disappointments and left their dynasty owners with weaker rosters than if they had cashed out last summer when the hype spiraled out of control. The summer of 2013 saw the stock of Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Robert Griffin III III and Kendall Wright soar as that group prepared to enter their 2nd seasons (Richardson and Martin went 1st and 2nd overall of many 2013 dynasty startup drafts!). Le’Veon Bell and DeAndre Hopkinshad legitimate breakout second seasons, but they were the exceptions as the majority of their classmates failed to meet inflated expectations.
A whopping 12 of the current top 50 players in dynasty ADP are second-year players: Odell Beckham Jr, Jr., Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Jeremy Hill, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant, Carlos Hyde and Jarvis Landry. The historical odds are that only three or four of these twelve players will emerge into legitimate fantasy stars. Maybe five or six if the 2014 draft class ends up being really special, which still leaves half of the group failing to meet expectations in 2015.
What does this mean for dynasty owners? Don’t be the dynasty owner who gets suckered into the sophomore hype and vastly overpays for one of these guys. The group including Watkins, Cooks, Matthews, Robinson, Adams, Bryant and Hyde is an especially risky group because none made a real fantasy impact as rookies but all are being valued as if they are highly likely to be impact fantasy players. Keep in mind that the odds of a disappointing season far exceed the odds of a real breakout campaign for these young guys that haven't already brokend out and don’t fall into the trap of valuing them at their absolute ceiling. If you already own these players, don’t sell low but if someone is willing to give a bounty of rookie picks up, take it. Similarly, if you can upgrade to an equivalent younger player that has already proven himself at little cost, that's the type of trade worth pursuing this summer because too many underestimate just how many of these guys won’t breakout as expected.
2. Pay attention to which rookies stood out in the early OTAs and do not hesitate to adjust your valuations accordingly. Last summer, the Panthers coaches, players and beat writers were all raving about Kelvin Benjamin’s work in OTAs. Benjamin was a risky draft pick and it would not have been a surprise if he had disappointed and looked like more of a project in OTAs. Having the knowledge in your back pocket that Benjamin was exceeding expectations instead of struggling made it easy to target him as a value pick in later rookie drafts and as a summer trade target. On the other hand, there were early reports regarding Eric Ebron (struggling with drops) and Bishop Sankey (struggling to beat out Shonn Greene) that indicated they were failing to meet expectations. Quickly adjusting your valuation downward on both guys also would have led to better decisions.
One of the common mistakes made my many dynasty owners is making a pre-draft determination of a prospect's value and then being too inflexible and not putting enough value upon further information as it becomes available. Let's look at a specific rookie, Phillip Dorsett, as an example. Dorsett received mixed reviews from the top talent evaluators pre-draft with some unimpressed by his film. Using these scouting reports should be the first step in determining Dorsett's dynasty value, but if you stop there, you're making a mistake. The first (and biggest) adjustment is made after the draft when we see where a player is picked and how highly the NFL scouting community (and especially one specific team) values the player. Dorsett was drafted in the first round and Colts GM Ryan Grigson raved about his talents and gave strong indications that Dorsett should have a big role in the Colts' offense going forward. Dorsett's valuation should go accordingly. After the draft, Dorsett went out and impressed a wide range of observers at OTAs including his coaches, fellow players and the beat writers covering the team which was further evidence that Grigson and the Colts' evaluations were accurate. Again, this needs to factor into the valuation and Dorsett should get another little boost.
In general, post-draft you want to start putting players into one of three categories based upon all of the available reporting: (1) exceeding expectations, (2) meeting expectations, or (3) failing to meet expectations. While this process requires some reading between-the-lines and a close reading of the news, it is worth the effort. Based upon early reports, Dorsett, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson Jr, T.J. Yeldon, Nelson Agholor, Marcus Mariota, Matt Jones and Clive Walford are some of the more prominent rookies that seem to be exceeding expectations. Jameis Winston, Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Melvin Gordon III all seem to be meeting the lofty expectations of their lofty draft status with mostly positive reports on their progress. Breshad Perriman and Dorial Green-Beckham are a couple prominent names who have struggled at times in early OTAs, which is not reason for over-reaction but should at least be accounted for in up-to date valuations.