Waldman riffs on his strategy and broader points about team-building in a recent staff dynasty league mock.
In a part of the city where the streets are named after states and the mansions straight out of William Faulkner intermingle with the squalor of Harry Crews, Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama isn’t much unlike the outdoor arenas where I spent my Friday and Saturday nights watching high school football in the 1980s. Before former Browns GM Phil Savage took over the event in 2012, Ladd-Peebles had seen better days. If Joel Buchsbaum ever ventured from his New York borough to experience it, he’d doubtlessly give it his infamous “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” label.
Its outer shell of concrete and steel stood impressively from the parking lot but once inside, it had the look and feel of a run-down boxing gym—except it was soaked in beer and Gulf breeze instead of sweat. The bleachers had more dents than the losing entry in a demolition derby. The upper reaches could double as a wind farm for the surrounding metro area for most of the week. The fencing that was in place to guard fans seated in those rows above its tunnels to the concession areas was so loose from its moorings that anyone leaning on it for support was begging for reconstructive surgery courtesy of a 15-foot drop.
Then there were the bathrooms on the bottom floor in the north stands. If desperate enough to venture there, they looked like the setting of an Eli Roth production. I heard Skip Bayless went in there as a respected journalist in Dallas and Chicago, disappeared for several years, and came out the ESPN talking head we see today.
Thoughts of what happened to him in there sometimes keep me awake a night.
None of us were there—or continue making the pilgrimage to Mobile—to make aesthetic judgments with architecture. What happens at the grassy center of Ladd-Peebles is what transfixes us for much of these six days in January. And it was from these dilapidated stands in 2010 that I saw Joique Bell for the first time in 2010.
The Wayne State star had everything but the name: power, balance, agility, burst, good hands, and a chip on his shoulder. Other than LeGarrette Blount, who shined despite the coaches doing their best to deep him under wraps, Bell was consistently the most impressive back in those practices.
The impression didn’t carry over to April. The NFL by-passed Bell in the draft and the Harlon Hill Trophy winner and two-time Division II All-American bounced from Buffalo, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, back to Philadelphia, and finally to New Orleans before the calendar turned to its page to 2011. Each of those stops featured Bell doing something impressive in practice or a preseason game.
Eventually, he stuck in Detroit and the rest is history. Bell played five years in Detroit, averaged four yards per carry, scored 22 rushing touchdowns, and from 2013-14, earned top-14 and top-17 fantasy production at his position. Considering Bell was an undrafted free agent who couldn’t stick with four teams as a rookie, it’s a good story.
Bell exemplifies what I love about dynasty leagues: long-form storytelling. Like novels, epic cinema, jam bands, orchestral or improvised music, or a well-crafted television series, dynasty leagues encourage us to experience the subtleties of long-term development. We have more room to dictate our place in the story arc and there’s greater investment in the characters.
Last week, I participated in a staff mock draft that was a dynasty start-up. Here are the rules, scoring, and how Chad Parsons critiqued each team. After we finished the draft, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to discuss dynasty strategy in greater depth—philosophy, execution, and individual players.
Parsons labeled my strategy a “balanced approach” based on my mix of youth and experience and depth at each skill position. He labeled Leonte Carroo as my best value pick and Travis Kelce as my worst value pick. His overall evaluation is that I lacked a back who can serve as a “cornerstone asset in their prime or a blue-chip talent.”
It’s a fair short-term assessment. But I’ve always had the philosophy that building a fantasy football team is like constructing a table and the draft is only one leg. Leaning only on the draft to build a winner is a limited strategy, especially in a format where trading happens far more often and the waiver wire offers greater returns.
Here’s the team. As I take you through my pick-by-pick thoughts, broader philosophic and strategic ideas will become apparent and helpful to your dynasty builds.