Fantasy Football is a game of skill. Blackjack is a game of chance. You are playing the dealer and unless your name is rain man, have no idea what your cards will be. For the purpose of this exercise lets treat you the drafter as the dealer of cards. You are staring at the deck, cards facing up, with the ability to pick them one by one to your team. The team in this case being you’re dynasty team and the cards being the available draft pool.
The goal of dynasty is to have the most successful team over the longest period of time. This encompasses strategy on player value, when to buy, when to sell etc. But that’s for another article(s). My focus and the topic of the blackjack theory is the startup draft. The draft is the cheapest and simplest way to acquire your major assets without losing anything. While many think there are only 2 roads in a startup, the first being win-now mode, which encompasses drafting veteran production at a premium, and being the best team off the bat and the latter option being the productive struggle. This “struggle” involves drafting your roster as all young players with high ceilings, putting forth a team that is terrible in year one but has all the looks of a contender in a few years. The ability to find a balance between these two and field a competitive team while also having solid building blocks for the future is where we introduce the blackjack theory.
The theory is simple, target players floor in the early rounds of your startup draft. The higher a players floor is the higher number value he has on his “card” in the startup game of blackjack. On a 1-10 scale, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski are the only 10’s. These three are expected to be the best at the position at their position year after year and have the highest floor in the NFL. A player’s floor is the minimum value you expect them to hit, game-to-game, season-to-season. For example, Rob Gronkowski has one of the highest floors in the league with owners regularly expecting at least a low-end tight end one season. Players in the 9 card range include the big 7 receivers; Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Junior, AJ Green and Antonio Brown. A pattern is starting to develop; the better players have higher floors. In blackjack, you want to accumulate your card total to 21. Ideally, the first two cards given to you by the dealer give you something in the 17-21 range, nearly ensuring you win the hand. As the dealer for your draft, the first two picks should give you the combined highest floor of any two rounds in the draft. Grabbing a Dez Bryant/Andrew Luck or AJ Green/Aaron Rodgers type combo in the first two rounds nearly ensures production from your first two picks. Targeting floor gives you the safest picks and is a safe way to purchase expensive assets. If your given $100 to purchase stocks would you purchase shares in Apple a company that seemingly cannot fall but probably wont get much higher or Uber the hottest company on the market but with potential to be destroyed by taxi companies? If you want consistency and safety, target the asset with a higher floor.
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While floor is almost impossible to avoid in the first two rounds, the theory is really tested in rounds 3-6. And lets keep in mind that you are being dealt cards every two rounds. So while a 19 may seem easily achievable in the first two rounds, the ability to get a 17 or above in rounds three and four takes a commitment to the strategy. As we get into these pivotal early rounds, the variance in player production seems to spike. This is for one reason that we as a dynasty community repeat year after year. As the elite players dry out, people began to target the younger less proven players with higher ceilings. Players like Kevin White, Jordan Matthews, Kelvin Benjamin, Keenan Allen, Travis Kelce, Carlos Hyde, Davante Adams and Martavis Bryant to point a few out (All of those in ADP range 24-48.( ADP Data courtesy of https://dynastyleaguefootball.com ).
In dynasty, young players that have opportunity skyrocket in ADP. We see owners fall in love with the idea of these players, not the players themselves. The idea that player X starting on team Y will immediately produce year after year. We are often shortsighted and too black and white. Those drafting Cordarrelle Patterson in the 3rd round of the startup failed to see a relative lack of college receiving production and a coordinator in Norv Turner who had struggled to feature more than one receiver. This is where targeting floor pays off the most for those chasing production. Dodging potential landmines who could see their ADP drop to WR52 after a putrid 2014 like Patterson and instead targeting players like TY Hilton, Matt Forte, Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders and Russell Wilson.
So how does your team achieve success when targeting floor? Trust the players. Your drafting players with shown production proven by their floor and always have room to exceed that. Floor is the minimum amount of production you expect to see. Players, especially the ones drafted in the early rounds should see improvement year to year. So while you’re tempering your expectations basing your projections on your team’s floor, there’s a very high chance they go above that. Target the floor. Trust the players. And reap the consistent success.