There’s nothing I love reading more than seeing some of my favorite analysts break down the teams they draft. Whether it’s dynasty or redraft, I find it intriguing to see their process behind team building. It’s fun for me because I get to see their rationale for doing trades and making draft picks, which then allows me to refine my process and see drafts from a different perspective.

I recently joined a startup with some buddies and wanted to document all of my transactions throughout the draft. I’m hoping that this will help you challenge your own process when you are in dynasty leagues and enhance your perspective.

This is the first of multiple articles to discuss my dynasty process. This article will focus on the advantages to be gained in startup drafts and pre-draft trading.

Advantages To Be Gained In Startup Drafts

Unsurprisingly, my goal in this league was to accrue as much value as possible. I define value by ADP as that is the “market value” of a player. I am building my team in an attempt to select players whose value will increase in the following year.

Drafting a DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., or Davante Adams is amazing, and the price to acquire them is very high, but at one point they were all cheaper assets (according to 2014 DLF ADP Hopkins, Beckham and Adams were going in the 4th, 6th, and 7th rounds respectively).

Therefore, the real question is: how can we find the next stars before their prices increase?

1. Trade Down

The first step would be to trade down. Most of next year’s stars aren’t priced as stars just yet – so you can trade down and acquire multiple picks in this range and even acquire future 1st round picks at a cheap price (the “Bill Belichick Method, if you will).

One of the biggest advantages to be gained in startup drafts is through trading because there exists a huge market inefficiency when it comes to trading picks. It could be because owners look at them as picks and thus their potential is intriguing more so than actual players – this exact phenomenon occurs in the NFL. Regardless, it’s clear that owners are overvaluing early picks and there is huge value in trading down.

At some point, you have to actually pick players and identify a “sweet spot” in which there is value to mine players from. As shown in a study by Jordan McNamara in his book “The Analytics of Dynasty”, we see a pretty steep drop off in hit rates after the first five rounds of a startup draft. This would suggest that we trade down to get as many picks as we can in the top five rounds to help build depth with solid players with upside.

2. Target Rookies and Second-Year Players

The second step would be to target rookies and second-year players that have a good chance to elevate their value in the short run. Targeting rookies in startup drafts seems to be a cheat code if we are only focusing on accruing value.

From 2018 ADP to current ADP, we can see that the majority of rookies last year have increased in ADP to this year. Of last year’s rookie running backs, only Ronald Jones, Rashaad Penny, and Royce Freeman are losing value in terms of the market (or ADP). While players like Saquon Barkley, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Phillip Lindsay, D.J. Moore, Kerryon Johnson, Calvin Ridley, and more have risen in ADP by a large amount.

This is obviously just one season of data, but it falls right in line with the incredible study by Brian Malone on why “Dynasty Rookies are Free Money”. We also want to target second-year wide receivers as they are the most likely to break out and are undervalued compared to their rookie counterparts.

3. Future First Round Picks

The third step involves adding future first-round picks by trading down. Future picks are safe assets that hold their value and then you can draft a rookie and watch his value likely increase after his first season. There is a huge edge in knowing how to value rookie picks in startup drafts and you can consistently gain value and get more lottery tickets for that lucrative first overall rookie draft selection.

In startup drafts, future first rounders are equivalent to a late fifth-round pick in startup/redraft leagues but depending on the varying degrees of talent in each draft class, one could argue they are worth a late fourth round pick. Rookie picks are the best way to acquire running backs – as running backs are typically overvalued in startup drafts.

Currently, 21 running backs are being drafted in the first four rounds of a startup draft. You are paying a premium and more than likely the running back that you are drafting in rounds three and four (unless it’s a rookie) will likely lose value due to the short shelf life of the position.

Now that we know the advantages that we can gain, let’s breakdown the specifics of the league.

The League

Each team in this league has 27 roster spots and the starting lineup is as follows:

1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 Flex (RB/WR/TE)

I landed the seventh pick in the draft. This is a quality pick that allows me to be in the middle of every round and scoop up value. This also is a fantastic place in the first round as it guarantees me one of Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Christian McCaffrey, DeAndre Hopkins, or Michael Thomas.

As much as I would love to have one of those guys on my team, it wouldn’t align with my goal of accruing value. Knowing this pick was extremely valuable I was able to get quite a haul for it.

Pre-Draft Trading

Trade 1: I give Picks 7 (1.07), 138 (12.06) and 162 (14.06) for Picks 24 (2.12), 25 (3.01) and 49 (5.01)

As mentioned above, I made this trade because in startup drafts owners tend to overvalue high leverage picks. They value them as if they now have two first round picks.

Using DLF’s trade analyzer, I plugged in the current ADP of each player at that specific pick to see the market value of pick and therefore, determine who won the trade.

GiveValue GetValue
Pick 7857.8Pick 24572.6
Pick 13850.5Pick 25572
Pick 16243.2Pick 49313.8
Total951.5Total1458.4

According to the market value of each pick, I gained value in the trade. I essentially now have three high leverage building blocks for the price of one.

Trade 2: I give Pick 18 (2.06) and 2020 2nd for Pick 29 (3.05), 77 (7.05), and 2020 1st

GiveValue GetValue
Pick 18593Pick 29543.2
2020 2nd112.9Pick 77294.9
2020 1st171
Total705.9Total1009.1

Knowing Pick 18 was a premium spot with guys like Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Keenan Allen still available, I was able to leverage that pick for a future first next year in what is likely to be a loaded class. Adding in an early seventh-round pick was just gravy to the deal in what should net me a solid starter. Giving up a 2020 2nd hurts a little, but it’s nice to upgrade it to a 2020 1st.

Trade 3: I give Pick 24 (2.12) and 2021 3rd for Picks 43 (4.07), 48 (4.12) and 2021 1st

GiveValue GetValue
Pick 24572.6Pick 43382.2
2021 3rd36.8Pick 48303.6
2021 1st251.3
Total608.8Total937.1

This was a pretty steep drop of almost two full rounds but I was able to acquire another premium pick in the top five rounds and add an additional 2021 1st for fairly cheap.

With most of my league mates being well-educated on the talented 2020 class it is difficult to gain those future draft picks. With 2021 being two years away and the mystery surrounding that class, it was much cheaper and easier to acquire those picks in trades.

Trade 4: I give Pick 25 (3.01) and 2020 4th for Picks 39 (4.03), 74 (7.02), 2020 2nd and 2021 1st

GiveValue GetValue
Pick 25572Pick 39393.6
2020 4th16.6Pick 74253.5
2020 2nd112.9
2021 1st251.3
Total588.6Total1011.3

There is a tier drop that takes place around Pick 25 so I don’t mind moving down and I was able to leverage that for a couple of future picks and a pretty solid pick at the beginning of the 7th round.

Moving back completely out of the top 25 is tough as most teams already have two solidified studs in place, but as we can see in these trades so far I’m setting my team up for success in the future as well as in this draft by continuing to acquire more solid picks.

Not having an early round “stud” heading into the season will likely hurt my immediate chances of competing, but with this approach, I am aiming for my young team to peak in the second half of the season, as well as into Years Two, Three, and beyond.

My next article shows my draft picks with detailed explanations as to why I select each player. The article also features some fun trades that took place during the draft.