By Alex Kurpeski
In many dynasty leagues, the term “tanking” has negative connotations for good reason. If you’re purposely starting players who will assure defeat for you then quite simply: you are a scumbag. While tanking in this sense is an unsportsmanlike act, there are ways to tank without breaching the moral code of your fantasy league. It’s perfectly natural to lean into a down year in order to assure a better draft pick, especially if injuries have made any hope of a comeback miniscule. With that being said, I present to you my guide to tanking — with style!
The Art of the Tank
Let’s say your team is winless at this stage in the season. Maybe your best player was Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey. For the sake of your team’s future, there’s no reason to trade a guy like this while their value is at an all time low. Hold onto your young players and especially your young studs, for they will be what pulls you out of this hole next season.
The key term to focus on here is upward mobility. If a player on your roster is in the midst of their prime, with no regression on the horizon — he’s a keeper. However, if a player is age 28 or older, they should be in play as a trade chip. There are exceptions to this rule, as guys like DeAndre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, and Davante Adams have shown no signs of slowing down. In general, players nearing age thirty will be in danger of serious regression.
If your roster is decorated with names like T.Y Hilton, A.J Green, Le’Veon Bell, Jarvis Landry, Marvin Jones, Melvin Gordon, Julian Edelman, James White, Brandin Cooks, David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Kenyan Drake — throw those boys on the trade block. With players like this, it’s best to move them now for peak value, rather than holding out hope that they can continue to be starting caliber next season.
All About Dem’ Picks
If you’re a rebuilding team, acquiring and stockpiling first and second round draft picks will be the only way to rebuild successfully. By the end of the season you’ll want to stock your team with players in their first or second seasons and at least three first round rookie picks to kick start the process. I’m proud to say that my most recent rebuild was made successful through obsessively collecting picks. Admittedly, I went a little nutty with the trades, having made over 20 of them during the season. I made the move for several first-year players prior to their breakouts and now my team’s depth chart looks like this:
Kyler Murray, ARI (original draft pick)
Joe Burrow, CIN (2.01)
Josh Jacobs, LV (Trade)
David Montgomery, CHI (Trade)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC (1.01)
J.K Dobbins, BAL (1.05)
D’Andre Swift, DET (1.04)
Cordarrelle Patterson, CHI (Waivers)
Tarik Cohen, CHI (Trade)
Damien Williams, KC (Trade)
Bryce Love, WAS (Trade)
Lynn Bowden, MIA (4.12)
Calvin Ridley, ATL (Trade)
Jerry Jeudy, DEN (1.06)
Deebo Samuel, SF (Trade)
Brandon Aiyuk, SF (1.09)
Hunter Renfrow, LV (Waivers)
Michael Pittman Jr., IND (1.12)
Bryan Edwards, LV (2.12)
Darnell Mooney, CHI (Waivers)
Steven Sims, WAS (Waivers)
Jeff Smith, NYJ (Waivers)
Olamide Zaccheus, ATL (Waivers)
Tyler Johnson, TB (3.01)
John Ross, CIN (Waivers)
Joe Reed, LAC (Waivers)
Jalen Hurd, SF (Waivers)
Hayden Hurst, ATL (Waivers)
Noah Fant, DEN (Trade)
T.J Hockenson, DET (Original Draft Pick)
Blake Jarwin, DAL (Waivers)
Harrison Bryant, CLE (Waivers)
Nick Boyle, BAL (Waivers)
Kaden Smith, NYG (Waivers)
Josh Oliver, JAX (Original Draft Pick)
Jacob Breeland, BAL (Waivers)
Hakeem Butler, PHI (Waivers)
Harrison Butker, KC (Original Draft Pick)
Green Bay D (Original Draft Pick)
Tampa Bay D (Trade)
Detroit D (Waivers)
For reference I had the first pick in the 2020 draft, every other spot was acquired via trade. And yes, this is a 12 team league.
Essentially, my rebuilding process consisted of biding my time for a full year, composing a young roster filled with high upside players, and staying active as a seller on the trade market. Truth be told, it was a lot of fun to be a rebuilding team. As you can see, my roster is loaded with young talent. Some of these guys have already made an impact for my team, and I’m 5-1 this season, with a solid shot to make the playoffs. I still have two future first-round picks from deals I made last season, which I can either sit on or trade for a much-needed WR1 to pair with Ridley. My team is much better off now than it was at the beginning of the 2019 season thanks to my plan.
Potential Trades To Pursue
Looking for some examples of smart deals for your tanking team? Here’s a few that I would suggest doing.
Matt Ryan for A young QB (Drew Lock or Gardner Minshew) and a second round rookie pick
Kenyan Drake for a rookie second round pick, Mecole Hardman, and Zack Moss
Jarvis Landry and T.Y Hilton for a rookie second round pick, Laviska Shenault, and Tee Higgins
David Johnson for a rookie first round pick
Brandin Cooks for Brandon Aiyuk and Drew Sample
Zach Ertz for T.J Hockenson, a rookie second round pick, and Darnell Mooney
Adrian Peterson for a rookie third round pick
Jared Cook for Devin Asiasi and a rookie second round pick
Larry Fitzgerald, Frank Gore, and Julian Edelman for Eno Benjamin, Damien Harris, and Denzel Mims
Julio Jones for Diontae Johnson and a rookie first round pick
A.J Green for N’Keal Harry
Marvin Jones for a rookie second round pick and Gabriel Davis
Though it’s unlikely that these exact deals could be pulled off, the basic idea is engrained in them. You want youth and upside in exchange for players who are past their prime. When negotiating these deals, avoid lowballing without underselling your assets. A winning team will often overpay for a flex starter down the stretch, so allow your prices to be haggled down, particularly with much older players like Gore and Fitzgerald. Moreover, when negotiating larger deals, be sure to talk up your own players without overhyping them. You want your trade partner to want the player you are sending them, after all. Attempt to do so without derogating their players, as you want to avoid offending your trade partner.
Disclaimer: Not every prospect becomes an NFL star. However, the odds of a prospect becoming a star are higher when your roster is densely populated with high upside players. Do not be afraid to weed out those who look to be going belly up though.