First of all- congratulations! Adopting an orphan fantasy team in need of a loving owner is a noble and praiseworthy endeavor. It can, however, be quite stressful and often feels like it should come with an instruction manual. To that end, I, r/DynastyFF darling and licensed family therapist JanMichaelLarkin, have provided a summary of what I feel are the essential steps to ensuring that your orphan transitions into a healthy, growing team capable of sustained success in the future.
Step 1: Accept your orphan for who they are and recognize their value.
Unpleasant as the reality may be, if a team has been abandoned by it’s owner it is unlikely that they are immediately ready to compete for a championship. An important first step to bonding with your orphan is to accept this fact and embrace a mindset of growth and consistent progress. Demanding immediate results is an unrealistic expectation of a team that has more than likely gone through severe roster trauma, and attempting to force it could exacerbate the damage. It is also important not to be dismissive of what your new team brings to the table simply because it is not of championship quality, however- every piece counts in a rebuild, and a savvy and determined trader can find value in almost any player. Accept your new team for who they are, and recognize and affirm their value. If you don’t believe your players have value, neither will your potential trade partners.
Step 2: Assist your orphan in removing toxic influences from their life.
Orphan teams are rarely abandoned by their owner for no reason. A newly orphaned squad is likely to find itself inundated with the sorts of players that will inhibit their ability to heal and grow. As it so happens, many of the players considered to be the current top dynasty assets represent the types of toxic influences that need to be removed- players that tie up too many assets, players with three or fewer years left in their projected prime, and currently-producing running backs.
Disclaimer: The presence of a player on the below lists does not indicate that they are not a valuable dynasty asset, it simply means that I don’t believe they are the type of player who is best suited to help a rebuilding team get back into contention.
Odell Beckham/Mike Evans (Archetype 1: Problem of Premium)
Dealing OBJ or Evans is, from the point of view of a rebuilding team, admittedly counterintuitive- both are very young and have already posted at least one top-5 and multiple top-10 seasons, and both play the position with the best combination of stability and value in dynasty. They are ideal cornerstone building blocks, and if your team possesses enough other assets that you can still make moves without including them, it might behoove you to hold. However, orphan teams are most likely to become such because their roster lacks either talent or balance or both, so if OBJ or Evans are present it is likely they represent the majority of the orphan team’s assets. A top guy like Evans or OBJ can be parlayed into three or more quality starters in the future (I moved OBJ for Stefon Diggs, Spencer Ware (immediately flipped for Derrick Henry), Hunter Henry, 1.7, and 2.7), which is far more valuable to a shallow team in rebuilding mode than one superstar. The urge to hold on to an elite player like these two is understandable, but it can be harmful if it leaves you handcuffed in terms of trades with an otherwise thin roster.
Similar Lower Tier Players:
Julio Jones/Antonio Brown (Archetype 2: Problem of Age)
Like OBJ and Evans, the issue with these two players is obviously not insufficient production. The problem, simply, is age. Older elite receivers like these two can put up points at an impressive clip and will win you a few games by themselves, but if you’re starting with a cast-off roster they will likely be out of their prime (or on their way out) before you can realistically compete for a championship. Three years down the line, all they will likely have provided is a few regular season wins and a few draft picks that were lower than they otherwise would have been- obviously not ideal for an orphan trying to grow, especially when such a player could be flipped to a contender for a king’s ransom instead.
Similar Lower Tier Players:
Ezekiel Elliott/David Johnson/LeVeon Bell (Archetype 3: Problem of Volatility)
As much as I hate to repeat myself, we’re still dealing with first-round startup picks here so I feel compelled to say that the issue is obviously not production. Any of the Big Three running backs represent a world-beating talent who will win you games singlehandedly just like Julio or Antonio, and they will likely do it on an even more consistent basis because of their position. However, their position is also why they are problematic for an orphan team transitioning into a growth phase and why they represent a troubling archetype for a rebuilding team. The running back position is simply so volatile that if your championship window is not open either now or next year, buying or holding a currently producing RB is the equivalent of holding a ticking bomb for which you can’t see the timer. Maybe your guy will still be putting up quality numbers in 2019, but considering the number of variables that factor into RB performance and the rate of attrition at the position, statistically speaking it would be foolish to count on it. Knowing that, the smart move for a rebuilding team in possession of any of these players is the same as with OBJ/Evans/Antonio/Julio- shop them extensively.
Similar Lower Tier Players:
Another type of player to keep an eye out for are backup RBs, who can often be sold to the owner of their starting counterpart as insurance for greater than market value. Handcuff/change of pace RBs who seem likely to retain that role next year include:
Additional Players to Sell
In addition to handcuffs and the three archetypes represented by the top assets, there are also players who are considered to have value far above what I feel is reasonable, or who I feel have little to offer a rebuilding team. It is my therapeutic opinion that owners should cut off all contact between their team and the following players, for the following reasons:
Kelvin Benjamin- Kelvin Benjamin plays wide receiver despite being slower than some defensive linemen (4.61 40 yard dash and agility and burst scores in the bottom 20% of WRs). He commands close to WR1 prices despite sometimes being outshone by Devin Funchess, has issues with drops, generally looks sluggish and lazy on the field, showed up after this offseason out of shape, and is dependent on a return to form by Cam Newton, who could easily spend next season just as punch drunk as he spent this one. At his current price point, I’m selling to the first buyer I can find.
Will Fuller- Wide receivers get paid to catch footballs, and Fuller has shown himself to be as likely to drop the football as catch it (if not more so). He strikes me as a one-trick pony who flashed for a few games as a result of coordinators underestimating his speed, then quieted down once defenses knew to expect him. Despite this, he is still largely valued around a late first-round pick and at that price I am selling all day, every day.
Spencer Ware- Ware, in my humble opinion, is the very definition of a JAG (Just A Guy). A converted fullback with unspectacular measurables does not strike me as the sort of guy who Andy Reid will commit to long-term, and I would not be surprised to see the Chiefs select an RB in the upcoming draft. Ware still commands the price of a starting running back and I do not believe he will be one for much longer, so sell while you can.
Cam Newton- There are few if any players who have endured more physical trauma over the past several seasons than Cam Newton. Given the fact that his style of play is largely dependent on his ability to continue enduring said trauma (and the fact that getting hit by an NFL linebacker is not dissimilar in terms of impact to being hit by a car), I have absolutely no interest in investing in Newton. Sell him before the injuries pile up and his value drops further.
Jordan Reed- Reed is different from the rest of the players on this list because I think he is a fantastic piece for a contending team, but a terrible one for a rebuilding orphan, not because of his age, but rather because of a list of concussions rivaling Moe from the Three Stooges. While I am as sold as anybody on Reed’s ability to produce, to bet on him to still be in the NFL by the time a rebuild is complete seems willfully foolish.
Step 3: Introduce your orphan to new, healthier influences that will encourage growth.
If you followed Step 2, your orphan will have lost much of their social structure and will be in need of new, healthy influences to help them grow. It is your job to provide these. There are various types of players that can be positive influences for an orphan team in transition, the most common of which are listed below. Since assets are at a premium for teams in full rebuild, the key to pursuing players on this list is to keep your ear to the ground in search of owners who are (for the reasons listed below) willing to move them for less than market value (see the sticky thread at the top of reddit.com/r/DynastyFF for polls on market value). Note: Attempts to buy players for less than market value will result in failure much more often than success, but a combination of persistence and targeting the right players will increase your chances of winning trades and increasing the overall value of your team.
While there are no hard and fast rules for allocating assets, I am of the opinion that a rebuilding team should invest primarily in those that offer a combination of two things- long-term stability and upside potential. While the following estimates can be extremely variable depending on what buy-low targets are available in a given league, I believe that assets should be divided roughly along the following lines to begin the growth stage (these will eventually change as your orphan transitions into a contender)- 50% WR, 20% RB, 15% TE, 15% QB.
The following is an example of an ideal team I would attempt to build if I had the requisite assets and was able to acquire the players listed for lower than or at market value (remember, there is no guarantee that you will be able to acquire these players at the prices listed, but you also very well may be able to acquire them for cheaper):
Russell Wilson (~1 random 1st)
Kirk Cousins (~1 random 2nd)
Derrick Henry (~1 random 1st)
Tevin Coleman (~1 random 1st)
Eddie Lacy (~1 random 2nd)
Jerrick McKinnon (~1 random 2nd)
Sammy Watkins (~2 random 1st & random 2nd)
Stefon Diggs (~2 random 1st)
Tyler Lockett (~1 random 1st)
Martavis Bryant (~1 random 2nd)
Hunter Henry (~1 random 1st)
Austin Hooper (~1 random 2nd)
Disclaimer: I have not included what price I feel is reasonable for any of the players listed below (as valuations are so heavily dependent on league depth and structure), so suggestions to buy operate under the assumption that you are able to acquire said player for lower than market value (as a rebuilding team is in no position to overpay). There are a few players in particular who I feel strongly will succeed and would be willing to pay market value or slightly over for even in a rebuild, and the names of those players are in bold.
Archetype 1: Overshadowed by Incoming Draft Class
Archetype 2: Developing Too Slowly For Impatient Owners
Archetype 3: Injury Discounts
Archetype 4: Elite Talents Coming Off Down Years
Archetype 5: High-Risk High-Reward Flip Investments
Archetype 6: Players Who Have Cultivated Too Much Mass (But Try and Move Them, Bro)
Archetype 7: Players Who Seem To Often Be Inexplicably Undervalued
Step 4: Be patient and stay the course.
While at this point you should have a strong foundation on which your orphan can grow, it is important to remember that progress is usually slow and incremental in dynasty football. Very few players will pan out immediately, and even those who do will inevitably suffer some setbacks. Have faith in your team and resist the urge to be reactionary, especially when it comes to younger players and players at positions that take multiple years to hit their stride (quarterbacks, tight ends, and most receivers). If you show your orphan the love and care they deserve, in time they will grow into the team that they always had the potential to become.
Step 5: See my receptionist for billing.
I don’t accept HMOs.