Digging Deep for Devy Leagues: Dynasty Fantasy Football on PEDs
It’s a huge transition moving from one fantasy format to another, such as moving from redraft to dynasty. Perhaps the biggest test of a fantasy owner’s skills and the steepest learning curve involved in any format transition, however, may be that of taking on the challenge of joining Developmental Leagues, or Devy Leagues for short.
The Down-Low on Devy
Despite being a sub-genre of the dynasty format, Devy leagues are much more complex and challenging than your traditional dynasty league. Devy leagues allow owners to draft players that are not yet in the NFL. These players are predominantly college players who an owner believes will transition to the NFL in the future.
Just as I equated dynasty leagues to the long-term holding of stocks in my dynasty primer for FanTrax, Devy leagues are similar in nature to future markets. For those unfamiliar with future markets, such markets allow investors to take a degree of front-loaded risk at the start of the investment with the hope of large returns at the end of the investment. This is similar to Devy leagues in that owners can invest a Devy pick in a player with the hopes that the selected player will develop into an elite prospect by the time they declare for the NFL Draft.
Top Strategies for Devy Leagues
Like any fantasy format, there are some general, high-level strategies that new owners to the format should both be aware of and determine which best matches their style of play and risk tolerance.
It is also important to bear in mind that no matter which strategy an owner decides to employ and no matter how diligent they are in adhering to their chosen strategy, missteps will be made. No one can project how a player will perform not just through college, but in the NFL as well.
It is best to look at these assets as lottery tickets, essentially an asset that may pan out and give you a nice return, but also one that is just as likely to be a bust. That said, there are a few ways to organize your devy picks for maximum efficiency.
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Approach: This approach could be called a talent pipeline. Owners utilizing this approach would make sure to draft one player per position, per season. In year one they might draft a freshman quarterback. In year two they draft a freshman running back. In year three, a freshman wide receiver, and in year four a freshman tight end. They would then start the whole process over again in year five. This allows the owner to have a constantly replenished pool of players at each position within a given three-to-four-year window. The owner would then draft the best available rookies in any given season’s draft as a way to fill in the holes and mitigate any devy failures.
Advantages: The obvious advantage here is the ability to plan a team for years in advance so that a constant stream of top-level assets will be added like clockwork. This also allows owners to pivot in the event that a player doesn’t pan out as expected. Owners in Devy leagues that adhere to a firm Procedural Strategy can also make moves on their fantasy team to work in unison with their talent pipeline. Say for instance a running back is nearing the end of his career, the owner following this type of strategy would know that he has a running back coming down his pipeline to replace that veteran as opposed to simply trying to draft a replacement in the following year. This also allows a very solid and healthy four-year window for any prospect to develop in. All said, the ability for owners to plan ahead is the biggest selling point for this strategy.
Disadvantages: There are several issues with this strategy though. The first is the possibility that a freshman devy asset may never ascend to a starting role while in college, or he may end up injured, in trouble or flunking out of school. The patience needed to enact such a strategy is also severely lacking in many owners, especially those looking to compete at all times.
Furthermore, the clockwork nature of this strategy may tip the hand of the Procedural owner. If opponents are able to spot the trend in drafting practices, they can work to position themselves in a way to counter it most effectively for their own strategies. For instance, if it is the season that such an owner might be looking to draft a wide receiver, owners could trade in front of him to get a more attractive prospect or stay put in they know he will pass over a running back they are looking to draft. The consistency that this strategy employs can cut both ways.
Approach: Unlike Procedural Allocation, owners in Devy leagues who utilize Positionally-Timed Allocation will tend to focus on a specific player class and/or position. For instance, an owner might draft a freshman running back in year one, then draft a sophomore running back in year two, a junior running back in year three and a senior running back in year four. By the end of the four-year plan, this owner could, potentially, have four of the top running back prospects in the draft. What’s more, that owner could, potentially, draft a fifth running back in that season’s rookie draft, absolutely cornering a full season of elite rookie talent.
Advantages: Perhaps the biggest advantage is the potential windfall of talent and value an owner could reap if they played their cards right. Following a future draft class over the entirety of their college career could allow a team who has committed to rebuilding a chance to become a competitor in relatively short order if the decision is made to coincide with the culmination of the owner’s devy draft strategy.
Disadvantages: The term “putting all of your eggs in one basket” certainly describes this strategy. Poor landing spots for one or more of the drafted players could make years of planning seem wasted. Additionally, players drafted at the onset of this strategy could wash out by the time they are ready to be drafted. A lot must go right for owners using this strategy, if it does the owner looks like a genius, if it doesn’t they could look, and feel as if they wasted several years of planning.
Approach: Owners in Devy Leagues who seek to spread out their Devy assets, or who pursue an Evaluative Allocation strategy, look to spread their Devy players out over multiple positions and classes. This serves to spread the risk out over multiple classes and/or positions. This tends to be a strategy implemented in such a way to draft college players who have already shown a high level of performance over one or more seasons. Owners that implement this strategy tend to draft sophomores or juniors who have established themselves as top performers at their positions. Beyond just spreading picks out over class years, owners using this strategy may also spread their picks out across positions, drafting players across multiple positions in addition to multiple classes.
Advantages: This will allow these owners to target well-known players, increasing the likelihood that these assets could be traded away prior to declaring for the NFL Draft. It also allows owners in Devy leagues to go all-in on the hype, and hopes, of those top names. If the selected players draw the attention of the right NFL team then these owners could be in prime position to have an elite talent for the entirety of the player’s career, all because they took a chance on the player when no one else did.
Disadvantages: Going “all-in” on a player or taking a scattershot approach in Devy Leagues necessitates the drafting owner to be right more often than they are wrong. Sure, we all feel like we are right in everything we do, but the reality is often a different story. Plenty of top-end players drafted one year, fizzle out a season later or end up being drafted to an NFL team that either misuses their talents or they get buried on the depth chart. This approach is high risk, but also high reward.
Most owners tend to prefer following an Evaluative strategy, trusting their perception of a player’s skill as infallible. Personally, I have tried all the strategies and find benefits and drawbacks in each. A Positionally-Timed approach has the potential to pay off in the largest way where an owner could hold several top prospects in a draft class heavy on a given position, like this year’s running back draft class for instance. That said, so much has to fall in place for it to work that it is incredibly risky as well. Procedural Allocation provides a ton of consistency for owners patient enough to carry it out but brings with it a significant share of frustration as things rarely go how we expect them to four years down the road.
Devy leagues are growing significantly in popularity within the dynasty fantasy football community due to the equal parts of risk and reward that they provide. Nothing feels quite as good as picking up the consensus number one draft pick back when he was fresh out of high school. If a Devy owner plays his or her cards right they could establish a long-running dynasty from smart devy drafting. I’d encourage any dynasty fantasy football fans out there to give the Devy format a shot, it brings with it the magic you first felt when you drafted your first dynasty team.
Devy leagues are like dynasty fantasy football on PEDs. Head on over to Fantrax to start your own Devy league.
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— The Ghost (@TheFFGhost) June 11, 2018