An Interview with Ross Miles on Draft and Trade Strategy
A few days after the NFL draft, the PFF Fantasy staff had the rookie draft of our 12 team dynasty IDP league. As you can imagine, craziness ensued. I don’t think Ross would mind me saying that he may have been the craziest of all. From April 12 through May 10, less than a month’s time, Ross made an incredible 13 trades. I’ve included a timeline of those deals, and I got Ross to answer some questions about those moves and the strategy behind them.
1. You already positioned yourself well for the 2013 rookie draft with some moves in 2012. You had four first round picks, two second round picks, and ten picks in total. Did you enter the original draft a year ago with the intention to build a team that would peak in later seasons?
I actually had five round-one picks after the 2012 draft. I used one in a trade involving Ryan Williams for Mark Barron (and a second round pick) during the season while Eric Berry was struggling.
Yes, when we started this league I decided to take an ambitious and risky three-year approach to my team building process. The goal was to manipulate an incredibly young offensive roster that would, if done correctly, allow me to have a very competitive team with lots of trade leverage and championship potential after year three. There is nothing like being able to build a dominating roster in a staff league and have bragging rights over your peers. As for the specific draft strategy, I feel that the turnover at the running back position is so high in the modern NFL (think career span and upside-down draft strategy) that I could neglect that position during the start-up draft and concentrate on building a very deep and dominate IDP roster. The plan was to grab just a couple of short-term veterans (Peyton Manning, Roddy White) and focus on rookies and young, upside players. I felt I did a decent job in achieving that as I owned Daryl Washington, Bobby Wagner, NaVarro Bowman, Sean Lee, Vontaze Burfict, Demario Davis and Miles Burris, and I then flipped Lee and Davis in the build-up to the 2013 rookie draft for additional picks. The Vick Ballard and Robert Turbin picks turned out to have a little more about them than expected, while the Ryan Williams/Beanie Wells pairing failed to deliver (hence the aforementioned trade).
It was always the plan to aggressively target RBs in the 2013 draft, but generally speaking I was going to take a “best player available” strategy and stick to my draft board, although it was slightly weighted towards choosing RB talent over other positions. I had already planned to totally neglect IDP during the draft due to the strength of the roster I had.
2. What were your impressions of this rookie class? Was the quality of the class part of your decision last year to acquire picks? Or to trade some of them for additional picks in 2014?
I was very underwhelmed by the talent at the top of the class, but I did like the depth on offer in the top 20-25 picks. I was also hoping that while other teams grabbed the top IDP talent I would see more offensive talent slip.
When I made the decision to try this three-year strategy, it wasn’t really related to the projected 2014 draft class. Things change a lot in 12 months and, being a London-based Englishman, I don’t get anywhere near the same access level to college football to allow me to evaluate college players year-round to have that sort of insight. I was aware of Marcus Lattimore and Montee Ball twelve months ago though and Lattimore was one player I had my eye on, before his subsequent knee injury.
Once I had established that the 2013 class wasn’t a dazzling array of RB talent, I was prepared to move down and out of the early part of the 2013 rookie draft. However, there is only so long I could “put off” making some picks, adding some talent to my roster, and actually trying to win than telling myself “next year, next year.”
3. You traded away three receivers with upside in Brian Quick, Denarius Moore, and Emmanuel Sanders. Given that you built a team to be competitive in the years to come, that seemed a bit strange to me. Do you think their value was at the highest point now? Or did you simply prefer Tavon Austin and Robert Woods, who you drafted, or have excessive depth at the position, thanks to your trade for Hakeem Nicks?
It was simply a case of having too many players and picks. The league rules called for a hard roster limit of 45 players, so unless I released or traded players my array of draft picks could not be used. Denarius Moore was the easiest player to part with as I have lost a lot of confidence in him. Brian Quick was the hardest as I do see the potential, but Bryan was willing to pay me a 2014 second-rounder for him. I tried to offload numerous players for draft picks the following year to get under the roster limit, but the players who make up the back end of your roster often have little trade value, so it’s those upside guys that you can actually get some value for.
When reviewing my roster I felt that with Roddy White. Hakeem Nicks, Antonio Brown and Tavon Austin (as well as Robert Woods), the receivers I traded were all relatively expendable as we can only start three WR each week. Better to get some more ammunition for the “final pieces of the plan” next year than just release some players and gain nothing in return.
4. Of the eight picks you actually made, none were defensive players. In addition, Sean Lee was the only star defensive player that moved in one of your deals, and you traded him away. Since you are an IDP staff writer, I infer that you have confidence in your ability to find contributors that may be off the radar. Tell me your reasoning behind the offensive draft strategy.
Yes. I meticulously plan my projected start of season roster and projected starting line-up so I have a clear idea of what roster holes I have and where my depth is. As previously stated, I was very confident in my IDP depth and, as you inferred, in my ability to find value via waivers if it is needed. I also felt the rookie IDP class was weak at DE (a position I need help at) and then deep at safety, so I wasn’t looking to make any moves there.
5. Shawn Siegele was your most frequent trade partner. I found it interesting that he was willing to trade away his entire 2014 draft for the 1.05 and 3.03. Then, he gave up Hakeem Nicks for the 1.03 and 2.04 and a swap of cornerbacks before trading you back the 1.05 as well as the 5.02 for the 1.10 and 2.08. It seems clear to me that he had a specific player he wanted badly. He selected Le’Veon Bell at the 1.03. Did you have any discussions about the player specifically?
We did mention we must both have targets with those early picks, but Shawn was a little cagey about revealing who exactly he wanted. I was always selecting Bernard or Austin. As for the trading process, the way I saw it was that I wanted to turn these 2013 picks into immediate talent (Nicks) and 2014 picks (hoping for better top-end quality), so that is why I pulled the trigger on these deals.
6. I’m especially curious, since you had the 1.02 and selected Tavon Austin there, if any of those trades were contingent upon your not selecting Bell at the 1.02?
I made it clear to Shawn once I knew we might have enough common ground to make a trade that I was after Bernard or Austin. Bell was never a factor for me which probably helped Shawn make the deal in retrospect.
7. You selected both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin at the 1.05 and 1.07. What are your thoughts on the Green Bay backfield situation, in 2013 and in future seasons?
I had Lacy at No. 6 and Franklin at No. 7 on my board. Having missed on Bernard and selected Austin at 1.02, I needed to make a move for the RBs my roster was so badly lacking. If it wasn’t for the toe/workout issue, Lacy would have been the consensus No. 1 pick, I think, so I liked the value there. I was also very high on Franklin talent-wise and was worried that Kevin (who picked back to back at 1.08 and 1.09) would pick him as I felt his roster was also RB-deficient (he picked Lattimore).
I’m much more of a subscriber to talent over opportunity in dynasty leagues, and with the team-building strategy I was taking (swing for the fence with multiple rookie picks), both Lacy and Franklin were players I had identified as players to target. I was much more concerned about getting the best players on my roster and letting the NFL coaches and teams worry about playing time and percentage of carries. It’s very easy at this time of year to look at a rookie class and assume everyone we are talking about will be a multi-year contributor at the NFL level, but this is not the case. It’s not an elegant approach, but there is security in numbers.
8. With me, you traded a net result of the 1.11, 4.03, 5.02, a 2014 2nd, and Emmanuel Sanders for my 1.07, 2.07, 4.07, a 2014 3rd. How do you like the trades in retrospect?
Although sometimes on paper my trades don’t look like I extracted “maximum value” so to speak, but the reason I made so many moves was to go and get “my guy” or at least get the players I saw as significant value at that point of the draft. I had an excess of picks in 2013 and 2014 so used them to force my way back into rounds when I felt there was a player that offering significant value. The trades I made with you [Scott] were to go and get Johnathan Franklin, Robert Woods at pick 19 when I had him as 9th on my board and then to swoop in for Matt Barkley. I like Barkley’s potential in a high tempo offense and was worried that colleague Jeff Ratcliffe (an Eagles fan) would pick him late in round four. Jeff tells me this wasn’t the case, but I wasn’t willing to find out after we had been in several rookie mocks together.
9. Do you have a favorite trade of the bunch?
Good question. Not sure I do really. I felt like it was all part of this giant master-plan (okay, plan) so it did all start to merge into one mega-deal at a few points. I like the 1.05 trade for all of Shawn’s 2014 picks as that felt like I got a lot of value. I also like the Nicks trade because I see him a dynasty WR1, and it essentially cost me the 1.03 and 2.04. Forcing my way back into early round three twice for Kelce (3.01) and Ellington (3.03) was also a pleasing few hours because I snagged a much-needed TE and even more RB depth.
10. You already have two 1st-round and three 2nd-round selections in the 2014 draft. Any early thoughts there?
Not yet, other than it will be a “plug the holes” style draft I would expect. Year 1 was all about dominating IDP. Year 2 was outright aggression and offensive talent accumulation, with a focus on RBs. Next year will be all about taking stock of my roster and adding some immediate impact players; that might mean trading picks for established starters, but who knows? I’ve a lot of young talent on my roster so it’s hard to accurately say what I will and will not need. Hopefully I’ll be trading from a position of strength.
11. Thirteen trades in a month is a lot of trades. Any final thoughts on why you like to trade so frequently?
It’s funny you say that, but this really isn’t my usual style of play. I wanted to try this three-year strategy and see where it left me, and where better than a no-financial-commitment staff league? If I do build a monster roster I’ll be unbearable to the other PFF writers for several years! Essentially though I took the aggressive trading style to the extreme this off-season in this league, and it’s not for the light-hearted. It required a lot of persistence, IMing, e-mailing and late nights, but it was certainly fun. The confidence I had in my IDP roster allowed me to be so dogged in getting offensive players I liked this year, while protecting the five picks in the first two rounds next year.
Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for The Hardball Times and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research associate for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt
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