There have been a number of trades in the DynaBowl now, several of which have been seized on for their possibly lopsided nature (including one I have been involved in), while I am also aware of a number of trade offers or negotiations made which, to my mind haven’t always offered fair value. This isn’t malicious but I do think expectations may be off in the value of some players (and draft picks for that matter). Ultimately, we GMs value our players and picks however we value them and we are quite entitled to do that. If we can find someone willing to pay a price then that is what whatever we were selling was worth. But these are not houses and players and picks are not traded for money. They are traded for one another. It should be easier to evaluate the value of the component pieces. I’m writing the following from my own perspective, to let you know how I value players. This may help if you want to negotiate for one of my players, or it may help you in your own valuations when it comes to dealing with other people. Or it may be something you really don’t care about.
So there are 5 factors I consider in the value of a player:
- Past production
These all contribute to a bottom line of what the player’s future production may be. Well, except the contract.
So, taking those one at a time.
Age. This is dynasty so while the right now matters, so does building for the future. Younger players are valued over older players. Running back value will start to fall in the late 20s and will probably fall off a cliff in their 30s. Frank Gore is the exception not the rule for the longevity of a productive RB career. Wide receivers on the other hand tend to stay relevant until their early 30s, but from 32 onwards there’s the risk of terminal decline. Generally speaking, if a player has 3 years until they hit these threshold ages, I’m not going to factor it into the cost. A lot changes in 3 years in dynasty and in the NFL, so as long as I feel assured I’m getting 3 years minimum out of a player, I won’t really change my value.
Health. We all know that the NFL can be brutal, but some players seem better placed to make it through a season unscathed (*cough* Andrew Luck). As this is about missing games, I’ll factor in suspensions as part of ‘health’ overall. So, what are the chances the player misses games? Are they above the baseline based on history? Ultimately, anyone can get injured and miss a game here or there, but has the player made a habit of it? Compare Arian Foster to Marshawn Lynch. Regardless of anything else, Foster is always going to be valued slightly lower because he has shown himself to be more injury prone. Josh Gordon’s value, likewise, is never going to be the same as Julio Jones, because he has the suspensions hanging over his head and one more strike and he could be out of the league, no matter if he comes back (eventually) to put up back-to-back league leading seasons.
Past Production. While you’d instinctively say that this is key, you’d not always be right and that’s because of rookies and potential. But yes, what a player has done before is a good indicator of what they will do again. However, this is more so at some positions than others. I’ve looked into consistency of production from year to year and some positions are significantly more volatile than others. RBs are more volatile than WRs, for example. Cornerbacks? Horribly unreliable. Some of that lack of consistency at RB is undoubtedly down to the greater likelihood of injury at the position. But I need to look at how likely a player is to be able to repeat what’s gone before – DeMarco Murray is a great example. He has had one great season but how much was him and how much was the next category, situation? And what about his health? Hasn’t he almost fallen apart previously? There are plenty of players who have turned out to be one season wonders, so while a breakout season is great, I’ll pay more if there’s a longer record of good performance.
Counter to that, of course, is the rookie or sophomore player. There’s nothing (in the way of NFL performance) to go on with the former while the latter could have got lucky and the league might catch up with him. That obviously takes evaluation and can be very personal. Some people may see Kelvin Benjamin’s rookie year as the floor to his future performance, others may say that it won’t get much better than that. Neither is right or wrong – it’s just personal
Situation. This is mainly relevant if something is significantly different from previous seasons, or if it’s about a draft pick’s chances after landing somewhere in the draft. Jordy Nelson has done well in Green Bay, he’s still in Green Bay, everyone else relevant is still in Green Bay, our evaluation can tick all the boxes and move on. Where situation really matters in an evaluation is where the player is on a new team, or the team has a new coach or quarterback or competing player. Or perhaps last year the offensive line was really unlucky and injured the whole time so the RB didn’t get much in the way of yards before first contact, but the line has now been upgraded and is fitter so the RB might be undervalued because his situation is better than it was for last year’s performance. All sorts of ways to evaluate this.
Contract. This is – not an afterthought exactly – but a lesser consideration. For now. In future years when bigger name players come up for free agency because their teams can’t afford the renewals, this will be a bigger issue, but right now this has not proved to be a major concern. Obviously if I am looking to trade for a player I need to make sure I can afford them and whether the contract is a fair valuation on the talent of the player. Likewise, how the guaranteed money has been spread out (is it frontloaded so the player gets cheaper – which can be changed post trade of course) because the figure on MFL isn’t necessarily a good guide to the cost of the player over the course of the contract.
Other leagues have pointed out ‘salary dump’ trades which may be a thing we come to in the future. This is where a player is on too high of a contract and it is hurting his team’s chances. Rather than take a hit by releasing the player, the team trades the player to a team with loads of cap space as well as a second player that is cheap and has some value – eg Crippled Underperforming Veteran ($55) and Cheap Highly-Rated Prospect ($2) both get traded from Team A to Team B, with nothing going in reverse. What Team A is getting for this deal is cap space, which is a legitimate return, while team B gets the prospect as well as losing a chunk of cap space. I am led to believe this genuinely happens in the NBA.
Balancing A Trade
So those are the factors to consider, but how does one balance a trade? You have to consider the ceiling and the floor of the players involved and assess the likely returns and the context of where a player is going. An older player with only 1 or 2 seasons of good production left may be a valuable final piece to a team challenging for titles but be worth next to nothing to a rebuilding team, for whom 2 years of good production will be over before they stand a chance of competing. You’re unlikely to find a perfect balance between 2 players, so instead it’s about trade offs – Team A loses X but gains Y – that may be losing guaranteed performance but gains the potential for a higher level of performance sometime down the line, or perhaps loses an average player in a good situation but gains a player with better historical performance who has now moved to a worse situation.
But often to balance a deal there needs to be some kind of exchange of draft picks. Draft picks are a flexible currency that can fill any gap, be it by an exchange – eg swapping a 2nd round pick for a 3rd – or complete handover of a pick. Where you might not be able to find a player on your roster that a) has the appropriate level of worth to balance things out and b) that fills a position or role of need on your opponent, a draft pick can be the perfect make-weight.
How I Value a Draft Pick
And here is the nub of the issue. Let’s get some basics out of the way first. A pick in future drafts is worth less than a pick in the current/next draft. Why? Because you’re effectively paying interest on the pick because the person receiving it doesn’t get to use it for a year – you’re paying for the trade on Hire Purchase (H.P.) rather than in cash upfront. The general rule in the NFL is that a future pick is worth a round less than one in the current draft – e.g. to buy a 2nd round pick now you must pay a 1st round pick next year. The DynaBowl allows you to trade picks two years in advance (so picks in the 2017 draft in 2015) and I wouldn’t knock a 2017 pick back another round, personally, but the one round rule is pretty fair.
There is a second reason for the deflation of value of future picks though and that is you don’t know where they will end up in the draft. Which is more valuable in a 10 team league – the 1.06 in 2015 or a 2016 first? The 1.06 because you know where it is. That 2016 first could be 1.01 but it could also be 1.10. You can project based on the team where you think it might end up but bad teams can do well and good teams badly so that will only get you so far. As such, even a team I might project to get a high pick in 2016 I would ask for more than the 2016 first for my 1.06. Then you factor in the H.P. nature of using next year’s picks and I might also be wanting a 3rd/4th round pick for losing out on my first now.
As for equating a player with a pick, I’ll try to talk you through a few of my players and the kind of value I would place on them:
AJ Green – 3-4 first round picks
Green is one of the elite WRs in the NFL. The above price is generic first round picks rather than specific positions – if I had a sense of where they might fall I could specify whether it was 3 or 4. If I knew they were the 1.01, 1.02 and 1.03 in the next draft, that would do it. If they were spread over a couple of years drafts and projected being mid-to-late round picks then I’d want 4 (that’s if I’d sell at all).
My thinking behind this kind of price is that, despite a poor year last year (dogged by a foot injury), Green is one of a select group of players who should put up top 10, if not top 5, performance at his position for the next 3-5 years. The chances of me finding a player in the first round of the draft who can put up elite levels of performance consistently are slim, even with top 3 picks. There aren’t many of these players and if there were they wouldn’t be called ‘elite’. Having several shots in the first round certainly won’t guarantee me a like-for-like replacement but it should mean I grab several players who will be meaningful contributors.
Because this is all picks and working on the assumption that I won’t get to use some or all of those picks before the next season there’s an H.P. element to this valuation too. I would have these picks but they would no longer contribute to my points in the next season (or seasons if some of those picks stretch to 2017). That’s another reason the number of picks is so high.
Kelvin Benjamin – 1.02-1.04
Benjamin has one season under his belt, so has a long time to go in the NFL and in the DynaBowl. He was one of three rookie WRs to make it to 1,000 yards, something which is usually a pretty rare feat. He is the primary WR in a team with a pretty strong QB (whatever you think of Cam, this isn’t like having the Jets or Bills QB throwing him the ball). He is a player we know can produce decent numbers in the NFL but equally there are a few red flags on him that suggest he’s not that likely to join the group that features Green, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown etc. As such the assumption at this point would be that he represents the middle ground of what you would expect from a top tier draft pick – he’s not a bust but will probably settle just outside the elite guys. He is a solid WR.
The upside of selling at this price is that you could draft someone who does become one of the elite players. The downside is that you could draft a bust (for example, Justin Blackmon or Trent Richardson). Trading for the pick would be a bold move in that you’re willing to take the gamble.
In the latest draft, I would have put Benjamin ahead of Parker and behind White and Cooper, placing him between 1.03 and 1.04 in the DynaBowl draft as it turned out, but the 1.02-1.04 cost is meant to be more generic.
Andre Ellington – 1.09-2.01
Ellington still has a lot of potential, but he was also a little too injury prone in 2014 and, with the drafting of David Johnson, has a threat on his own team. He’s an exciting pass-catching running back but may well become part of a committee. That doesn’t mean he can’t be effective and useful in fantasy though. The end of the first round/beginning of the second is a place where there’s a lot more risk than at the top of the first. Ellington has shown he can do it in the NFL, when fit, but has also raised question marks and risks. if we were looking at what he’d shown in 2013 he’d probably be a fraction lower than the Benjamin valuation but he’s dropped back now.
Some people are going to be lower on him and would never pay this price, and that’s fine, but some are going to see the upside and be happy to pay this. If the league isn’t as high in general a price for sale, might have to be a bit lower.
It’s at this kind of level that valuations tend to become more varied from one owner to the next.
Michael Floyd – 2.02-2.06
Floyd hasn’t suffered injuries, he’s just ended up as a pretty bog-standard lead-off receiver. Nothing special. Will do a job as the 3rd or 4th receiver in a Dynabowl line-up. 2014 had been touted as the year he would break out and it never happened, at least in part down to the multiple injuries at QB in Arizona, but also due to John Brown coming out of nowhere. He could still go big but it’s looking less and less likely.
Terrance Williams – low 3rd/high 4th round pick
Williams now seems defined as an average WR2 in Dallas which means that in fantasy terms he might be handy as a bye-week fill in or in case of injuries. He’ll have the occasional 100 yard game and will probably grab somewhere between 3 and 6 TDs a season, but he’s probably not a reliable every-week starter.
To be honest, he’s probably not going to get traded directly for a pick, but Williams might be the kind of makeweight who gets packaged into a deal and this is the kind of value I’d associate with him were I to deal him.
Josh Huff – low 3rd/high 4th round pick
Huff is kind of the opposite of Williams. He’s a guy who’s done next to nothing so far but is an interesting prospect. He’s supposed to be well liked in Philly and the Chip Kelly offense gets (some) people excited. Huff is the kind of player a lot of GMs like to stash because he might breakout. There’s a low chance but, the theory goes, if he does breakout he could go big. Part of being a dynasty GM is being primed for when undervalued players blow-up and taking advantage. Huff could be one of those guys. Or he could be nothing and be out of the league in 2 years.
Andre Williams – 4th round pick
Williams came into the Giants as a back-up to Rashard Jennings and was called into duty when Jennings unsurprisingly got injured early in the season. He clocked up over 850 all-purpose yards and 7 touchdowns, though didn’t look great while doing it. He was fine, but nothing more. The 4th round is where back-up running backs were drafted recently (a few at the end of the third round too). These are players unlikely to see much playing time, but if the guy in front of them goes down they will likely take on the workload. The value is probably higher to the person holding the lead back, ie Rashard Jennings, in this case, than anyone else, but the value is still there. Especially for a player backing up someone injury prone.
Mario Williams – ???
This is tough. I genuinely have no idea where I’d value him. At DE he was a consistent top 5 player and the drop off after him was fairly steep, but at LB I don’t know that he’s as valuable. Equally, in the new Rex Ryan system (see situation above), I have no idea if he will generate as many fantasy points. I wouldn’t want to let him go but there’s always the chance an offer could come in that would make me sit up and think.
I put this in just to illustrate that you can’t always put a price on everyone’s head.
Does it matter if people’s valuations differ?
No. They are bound to differ. One person will look at a player and see all the risks while another will see all the potential. And, as I said before, a veteran with a 2 year window is of no use to someone rebuilding but is loads of use to someone challenging for the title.
Players sold for significantly under market value present two problems for the league – the small picture and the big picture.
The small picture is that every trade that occurs establishes precedent and influences negotiations that happen in future trades. “I’m not paying Z because he only paid X to get Y”, “If A is worth B then C must be worth D”. While one or two trades might not have an impact, the more that occur, the harder it will be to construct a fair trade.
Likewise, the GMs involved in selling off players or picks under market value may find themselves a target for unbalanced trade offers looking to take advantage of them which could lead them to misinterpret value or to back away from trading. Likewise, other players may stop trading if they can’t see a clear (and big) win for them in the trade. Ideally trades should give each side a win, but it’s inevitable that each trade can be interpreted differently and so could be seen as a win for either side by different GMs. If GMs get used to seeing trades in which there’s a clear (and sizeable) winner, they may not wish to work on producing a balanced trade, insisting on the big-win-or-nothing approach.
And then there’s the bigger picture which is that lopsided trades inevitably lead to the significant weakening of one team and strengthening of another, altering the competitive balance of the league. At first this should be part of the ebb and flow but if it becomes a consistent trend my concern would be that one or two teams could become very strong and one or two could become cut off at the bottom. The ongoing risk from this is that the GMs at the bottom decide they don’t want the challenge of turning their team around and quit. Likewise, GMs in the middle could get despondent if one or two teams become particularly dominant based on lopsided trading.
I don’t think this is an issue now. I think we’re all new to this and minimal trading has gone on before. Everyone is slowly making their way through it and learning how to get the most out of what they have. This post wasn’t to castigate. It was supposed to offer an insight into how I value players and provide something to think about how others do. You may agree or disagree with my values. That’s fine.
However, I think that as this is a friendly league rather than one with a bunch of internet randoms (though you could argue we are friendly internet randoms, of course) we shouldn’t try to take advantage of each other. Too much. Everyone wants to be the guy who gets one over on another owner but given we all have different experience levels and have done differing amounts of research, there’s always room for a little rip-off.
If you’re not sure if you’re getting good value in a trade, there are resources. If you google dynasty fantasy football you can find plenty of sites (I’m not going to hand this to you on a plate – find the URLs yourself). Check out ADP (average draft position) information to get a sense of how valuable players are considered in general. There are forums you can ask questions. If necessary, and if you feel comfortable doing so, ask a fellow league member, someone you feel you can trust. I am happy to offer my services and I am sure a few others would too, though whether you trust us is a different matter.