An Introduction to MDL 5 With Team Construction Strategy Talk

By

Keith Roller

Hey everyone, welcome to the first of what I hope becomes at least a once weekly column discussing salary cap dynasty league football. I am a member of 3 leagues in what we call MDL, which stands for My Dynasty League. This article will explain how one of those leagues works and get you up to speed on what makes it tick. The league in question is known as MDL 5, or Size Matters, depending upon who you talk to. It is the newest league in the MDL network, with 2016 being its second year in operation.  It is by far the most complex league I have ever taken part in, but I will do my best to explain its nuances. Let’s go over some league specifics.

  • One 32 team player pool, split into 2 conferences with 4 divisions in each. These divisions are named after the NFL divisions (AFC and NFC North, South, East, and West). Divisions are realigned every year based on the previous season’s finish.
  • A hard salary cap equivalent to 1/100,000th of the NFL’s actual salary cap, adjusted year to year along with the NFL’s changes. This year MDL5 and all of the MDL Leagues will carry a cap of $1,552.70 in comparison to the NFL’s cap of $155.27 million.
  • A 45 man roster, starting the following players:
    • 1 Team QB
    • 2 RB
    • 3 WR
    • 1 TE
    • 1 RB/WR Flex
    • 1 WR/TE Flex
    • 1 TEAM PK
    • 1 TEAM PN
    • 2 DE
    • 1 DT
    • 3 LB
    • 2 CB
    • 2 S
    • 1 Defensive flex (any defensive position)
  • A 5 round rookie draft held about 2 weeks after the completion of the NFL draft. Rookie salaries are scaled based on pick level.
    • Rookies may be kept on a 15 man Taxi Squad where they can stay until they are called up. Taxi Squad players only carry 25% of their salaries as cap hits and can be dropped for no penalty at any time.
  • A massive auction held for the entire month of August where all free agent players are available.
  • 1-4 year contracts for players, with a 20% inflation rate from year to year. All drafted rookies are assigned 4 year contracts.

So, as I said before, this league is intense. With one 32 team player pool, there are not enough superstars for everyone. This makes them even more valuable than they tend to be in other, smaller leagues. It is necessary to carry team QBs, PKs, and PNs instead of individual players at those positions for league balance. Just one team would have to win two starting QBs to leave one team without one, putting that team at a large disadvantage. This is a far cry from covering all the details of how this league works, but this provides enough of the basics that you can get somewhat of an understanding. If you’d like to read all of the bylaws yourself, check out the league site at http://www61.myfantasyleague.com/2016/home/33790#0 and click on the bylaws tab.

The offseason is almost more fun for me than the games themselves. You’re presented with an extremely difficult situation. How am I supposed to put together a complete roster with such a shallow pool of available players? The answer is, you are not going to be good everywhere. But, if you spend wisely, draft well, and try to avoid as many zeros as possible on your box score week to week, you can put yourself in a good position. Let’s go over some possible strategies you can employ and my personal opinions on them. You can apply these strategies to any auction league really, but I will speak about them in the context of MDL5.

Studs and Scrubs

This strategy is probably my personal favorite in terms of team construction in this league, but it’s not without its problems. There are very few elite players from each position. If you can acquire 2-3 of these players (spending a large portion of your cap doing so), and fill in the rest of your roster with cheaper players, you can succeed. When looking for cheaper players, look for those that contribute on special teams. Special teams tackles from offensive players do count, and returners are worth their weight in gold. Drafting well also helps, as these cheaper contracts contributing fantasy points is a great thing to have.

I employed this strategy last year, spending up on Antonio Brown, Adrian Peterson, and Jeremy Hill and made a playoff run. Going into this year, I no longer believe it is right to go huge money on RBs, but it is fine to pay up for elite WRs and TEs. TE is such a barren position in this league that if you can get one of those top 3 guys, you have a huge advantage. One pitfall to this strategy, however, is one or two injuries can almost derail your season and leave you scrambling to make up a lot of points.

The Draft Pick Hoarder

This strategy seems to be a decent one. I believe the logic behind it is sound, anyway. The draft pick hoarder trades players of value for future draft picks. Several teams have employed this strategy this year, and I am interested to see how it works out for them. The idea is to have so many darts to throw come draft time that at least some of them have to hit and give you cheap sources of fantasy points for the years to come. Filling in the blanks with the free agent auction then gives you a full roster, and may even afford you the space to get a stud or two.

This is where the 15 man Rookie Taxi Squad really comes in handy too. You draft a ton of guys and stash them on your taxi squad, where they only carry a fraction of their salary as a cap hit. If, after a year or so, those players do nothing for you or get cut from their teams, you can drop them yourself for no penalty. The weakness of this strategy is that you need to hit on a decently high percentage of these picks you’re making. If all your picks turn into Odell Beckham Jr, you are set, but if all your picks turn out to be Trent Richardson, you’re in trouble. This is also probably not a strategy that’s going to win you the league right away. Developing talent takes time and it could be a season or even 2 or 3 seasons before you start to see some of your drafted players blossom.

The Middle Man

This strategy is not appealing to me personally, but it did work for a couple of teams last year and carry them deep into the playoffs, so I’ll cover it here. The idea for the middle man strategy is that you’re looking to fill your roster with mid-level talent everywhere. No studs, no scrubs, just mediocrity throughout. Mediocre players certainly carry value in this league, and a lot of it too. A player that will give you 8-10 points week in and week out doesn’t sound super exciting, but put together a whole team that does that and you’re going to win some games. Some of your players may even grow into higher tier players as the season goes on and give you some great efforts.

This strategy also avoids the injury bug to a decent extent, as there are no studs that will kill you if they go down for the year. My issues with this strategy come from a lack of explosiveness. Sometimes your studs go crazy and put up 50 or even 60 points by themselves, leading to a massive points putout from your team. The Middle Man will put up consistent stats week to week but will have trouble winning when Antonio Brown hangs up 50 on them.

The Tanker (Or the Sam Hinkie)

I will preface this entry by saying that intentionally fielding an invalid lineup Is a violation of the league bylaws and can face severe penalties, up to and including removal from the league, so tread carefully with this one. This is also my least favorite strategy, as I play to win every league every year until I can’t possibly win anymore. Players employing this strategy look at their rosters heading into a season and see no path forward. They trade off all their players of value on expiring contracts and pick up draft picks, similar to the draft pick hoarder. Then they field the worst valid lineup they can (a valid lineup must have ALL active players, so you do need to make sure they dress week to week), and plan on losing every week to get the number 1 overall pick and draft the BPA, hoping that stud on a rookie contract will propel them forward.

Can this work? Sure, but the Sixers have been employing this strategy for years now and they’re even worse now than when they started, so you better have a plan and be damn sure the guys you’re drafting early will produce for you, or you will become the Sixers of MDL5 and you will be mocked mercilessly.

These are just a few of the ways you can look to build a team in this league. I can’t say which the best one is, perhaps it’s some combination of them. But in general, if you draft well, and don’t overspend to the point that you can’t fill your roster with valid players, you have a chance. This league is young, and the league economy is still being established, but I am super excited to see where it goes. That’s all I have for now, but watch out again soon for my next article where I’ll be giving team roster breakdowns, pointing out team needs and cap situations, and giving a look at the upcoming franchise and transition tag auctions. Thanks for reading!

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Eric

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