Good football teams draft talent over everything. Good football teams draft the top guy on their board, regardless of need.
However, there’s a point where talent and team needs meet. When a team has five five trophy defensive ends and only are using two or three while they have a running back that shouldn’t even be anywhere near the starting lineup on the field, then your team has a problem. And does your fan base.
This scenario of talent versus needs for general managers in the NFL is something that’s as tough as nails to perfect. And likewise goes for dynasty fantasy football owners. The two situations coincide. As a manager of either team, you’re job is to evaluate a player’s value, need, and, as a dynasty football owner, the situation.
Most recently in the NFL draft, we saw teams such as the Giants and more specifically the Cowboys carelessly reach for a player at a position that they need. For the Giants, it was guard
Justin Pugh in the first-round. For the Cowboys, even more carelessly, they selected center/guard Travis Frederick, who was commonly graded no higher than a third-round pick. Both were picks based on needs? So how does this translate to dynasty?
Should I draft Johnathan Franklin, the remarkably talented running back who can do it all as an NFL back but is projected to come into the season third on the Packers depth chart? Or should I go with new Jets quarterback Geno Smith? Franklin is almost unanimously seen as more talented than Bell by draftniks (not only myself), but he was drafted two rounds after the Packers selected Eddie Lacy, the Alabama product with more miles on him and a recently infused big toe. However, (in this example) Ryan Tannehill is my only quarterback, and E.J. Manuel is already gone. Smith is my last option, so can I really believe in Tannehill to be a solid, every-week quarterback?
For me, it’s easy: go with the talent, if you can at all afford to do so. Certainly we’re going to have to dig deeper to find which is the right choice, as we’ve only grazed the tip of the iceberg in this introduction.Let’s take a look deeper into the mind of a dynasty owner as he sits on the clock in his rookie draft. I’ll use the Franklin vs. Smith example through the article, so if it’s referenced, remember that it’s up here in the intro.
Bad Front Offices Draft Need Over Talent in the NFL
Plain an simple. The strategy to draft for position, unless you are absolutely dry at the position (which shouldn’t ever happen after free agency), there should never be a gap so atrocious that you must draft for a need. If there is a need that large, then the front office is already doing it wrong. The Giants, and especially the Cowboys, did it wrong.
Instead, there were teams like the San Francisco 49ers. Their key losses in free agency included free safety Dashon Goldson, defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois, and tight end Delanie Walker. So what’d they do in the draft? They addressed their needs appropriately, as they grabbed free safety Eric Reid, defensive end Tank Carradine (despite a knee injury), and tight end Vance McDonald with their first three picks. From there, it’s obvious they went with the best available players on their board. with another defensive end, a wide receiver (after they just traded for Anquan Boldin), a running back, a defensive end, a linebacker, a quarterback, a offensive tackle, and a corner back. There’s no rhyme or reason there. They got who they liked. They got who they believed was talented. That’s why they were in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, and that’s why they’ll contend to get there again this year. The balancing of needs and talent, and doing it right.
Teams such as Dallas who continued to reach throughout the draft and find little-to-no value in the rounds succeeding the first (save for their sixth-round pick) will continue to fail in the NFL, and fan bases will ask questions as to why? Because talent wins over everything. If a team is drafting only for needs, and reaching for those needs, that player is a lot less likely to pan out than a player that is ultra-talented and is mentally prepared to step on the field and put on a show at any time.
As I said before, this situation in the NFL correlates directly to dynasty leagues. You desperately need a quarterback and Geno Smith is dangling. However, there’s a very talented running back still out there too, but you already have your starting running backs! This is an obvious case where talent wins out. Draft the talent, no the gap filler. It sets you up for long-term success if you hit on your talented players.
Long-term solutions over gap fillers
On the surface, drafting that quarterback you need seems great for your team, and, just like any rookie, he might even develop into a solid starting quarterback! But, as I’ve already stated, you must find a medium here too. It’s a hard concept to grasp, because you want immediate success for your team, but that’s just not how a dynasty league of NFL team works.
For example, if you draft that mediocre quarterback. He’s going to most likely be a below average quarterback that will be replaced in three or four years, tops, unless he’s a Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck. What about the running back with legitimate talent, without a good situation? Well, the more talented he is, the sooner he’ll get on the field and impress. Even if his success takes a year or two, that’s what dynasty football is about, and he’s going to come out and shine when he gets his chance.
If Geno Smith (or another QB talent) goes before your next pick, it’s better to wait until the late rounds and draft another below-average quarterback who will have to take major developmental steps to be starter in the NFL. Mediocre quarterbacks are going to be available late in your draft. However, you won’t be able to grab a talented running back late in the draft. Those guys are very well coveted.
Once you’ve got talent, you can go get value for your needs later in the draft. Talent first, needs second. There’s always going to be value players.
These two primary factors, among others, is how to build your dynasty team, even if it means waiting. Here’s a quick bullet-point breakdown of what we’ve discussed
- Draft talent over need. Talent will go quick. You can fill your needs with mediocre players later in draft and get much more value
- Drafting a a blow-average need player in a good situation will give you mediocre numbers for a short time. Talent players have a much higher ceiling, and, although you will have to wait for a variable amount of time, these players have a much higher ceiling.
It’s also important to acquire extra picks in trades, never overpay for players (if it’s a capped league), and always look for value in trades, but that’s all for another day. As for now, I hope you enjoyed the article, one of my first ever on dynasty football. I’ve been playing in dynasties for two years now and finally starting to get the hang of it and get my head around it. It’s unlike any other type of fantasy because you’ve always got to be looking ahead.
Tomorrow’s blog: Looking at the pros and cons of different types of fantasy leagues.