Ross Miles on Draft and Trade Strategy – One Year Later
Just over a year ago, I interviewed our own Ross Miles on what was one of the most interesting series of trades I’ve seen in a dynasty league. In all, he made 13 moves in the month leading up to last year’s rookie draft in our PFF Fantasy dynasty league. Now that we’ve finished this year’s rookie draft—which was tamer, even for Ross—I wanted to ask Ross about his opinion on some of his trades now that some time has passed.
After all of your trades last season, you ended up with three first-round selections. You took Tavon Austin with the 1.02, Eddie Lacy with the 1.05, and Johnathan Franklin with the 1.07. Now that a year has passed, has Austin’s uneven rookie season changed how you would approach an early rookie pick? Has it changed your desire to accumulate early rookie picks? Are you happy that you essentially handcuffed Lacy with the Franklin pick now that it’s clear that Lacy is one of the game’s elite backs?
Ross: I went into the draft targeting running backs, but also expected Giovani Bernard to go 1.01. I wasn’t a Bell or Ball fan, and instead I focused on trying to land more than one of Lacy, Franklin, Marcus Lattimore and Christine Michael. Mike Gillislee and Andre Ellington were all on my radar as well but for the later rounds. As it turned out I got Lacy (my No. 2 behind Bernard) and Franklin who was getting hype in some circles. I’m a bit gutted I didn’t target Zac Stacy now! I’m far from writing off Franklin. He did have that one good game last year when given the chance. I’d like to think he can be a RB2/3 for me in a change of pace roll for the Packers.
Although Austin didn’t have a great rookie season, he did flash some fantasy potential as the season progressed. I see upside there and I knew when picking him he wasn’t going to have to start because of the receivers I had entering the season. In retrospect DeAndre Hopkins would have been a safer pick, but I was willing to make somewhat of a gamble on Austin’s high-scoring upside. Perhaps Cordarrelle Patterson would have also been a better option, but the Rams fan in me won that argument.
Your three-year plan to build a young, competitive dynasty roster was put to the test last season when you ended up in the playoffs by a combination of some breakout performances by players such as Eddie Lacy, Antonio Brown, and Vontaze Burfict, and through some good fortune in head-to-head matchups. Did your early success last season cause you deviate from your plan? Knowing how the season turned out, would you have done anything differently?
Ross: No, I really did stay true to the plan in the end. Around mid-season when I was riding that wave of fortuitous matchups, I made some serious and persistent efforts to trade for some elite running backs because I could see I was going to make the playoffs. I knew that with my IDP strength, Peyton at quarterback, and solid wide receivers plus Lacy, I was going to be competitive. I felt I needed that RB1 to push me over the top. I was still sitting on a decent haul of future draft picks, so it made it difficult to talk trades. People wanted me to pay very steep prices, and my original goal was to build a dominant roster, not a one-season wonder. In the end, I trusted in what I had and rode the wave as far as it would take me, which was the championship game…. I lost. No regrets.
One of our in-year discussions about your potential plan to try to win in 2014 centered on Andre Ellington, who you drafted with the 3.03 pick and who may have been the best value pick in the entire draft. At the time, we debated whether Ellington would ever see enough of a workload to become an RB1. How do you feel about him now? Did you offer or receive any trades with Ellington last season?
Ross: It’s funny you bring up Ellington, who I used as a key bargaining chip in most of my mid-season trade offers. I felt that people wouldn’t give up an RB1 without getting an upside running back as part of the deal. I had no biters at all, and Ellington sparked zero interest, even when I put him on the trade block in an attempt to get more future picks to put together a more appealing deal to a team rebuilding. I bet several of the other guys in the league regret not snapping my hand off now. As my team has developed, I feel less inclined to trade Ellington away because he can be a fine RB2 for me, perhaps even an RB3 if I can find another starter.
Last season, a couple of your trades involved me. The one that featured a veteran players had you trading Emmanuel Sanders and a fourth-round rookie pick to me for a second-round rookie pick—you selected Robert Woods—and a 2014 fourth-round pick. One of the reasons I was an Emmanuel Sanders fan at the time was his impending free agency in 2014. Obviously, the second receiver on the Steelers was a nice spot in fantasy, but Sanders seemed to be in demand. If memory serves, the Patriots tried to add him when he was restricted, but the Steelers retained him. Now that he’s a Bronco, I’m unsure if he’s better off as a less-prominent receiver on a better offense. Can you tell me how you would compare the value of Sanders then and now? In addition, what do you think of Robert Woods now that Sammy Watkins is in Buffalo and Stevie Johnson is no longer there?
Ross: In retrospect, I feel that you’ve come out pretty well from that trade. Sanders has taken a step forward and now is in a prime spot in Denver with Manning at quarterback. Although, they have drafted Cody Latimer, which could hurt Sanders’ long-term value there. I still like Woods, and I’m more of a talent over opportunity guy, so I’m happy to continue riding that train, so to speak. Woods will be a starter this season, and although he may not be the focal point of that offense with talents like Watkins and C.J. Spiller on the field, he will see less demanding coverage, which he has the talent to exploit.
Before this year’s rookie draft, you traded a package the featured Hakeem Nicks, a late first-round pick, and a late second-round pick for Zac Stacy. Did the depth of receivers you had on your roster drive that decision to consolidate and add a back? Most consider this draft to be very deep at wide receiver.
Ross: Yes. When I looked at this year’s class, I was struggling to identify running backs I really wanted on my roster. I’m not a huge fan of either Bishop Sankey or Devonta Freeman. Both feel to me like opportunity over talent guys. Nicks was my WR3 or WR4, depending your thoughts on Austin, and as much as I like him and have stuck by him in multiple leagues, he hasn’t really shown much for a few years now. He was expendable.
Also, in this league, we have a hard roster cap of 45 players. That means that if you have a full roster, you need to drop someone to make a draft pick. I had ear-marked around 40 of the 45 man roster I currently had as players I wanted for at least one more year, but that still left me with more draft picks than available roster spaces. Packaging multiple players and picks for one guy is a great way around this, and that played into this move slightly. Trading for Stacy also gave me the young RB1 I had been trying to find, and I felt his value had been unjustly lowered by the recent drafting of Tre Mason, so it was a good time to strike.
You traded a lot of value—Ty Hilton and two future first-round picks—for the 1.01 rookie pick, with which you selected Sammy Watkins. How do you view Watkins as a fantasy player this season and into the future?
Ross: I see Watkins as having top 10 wide receiver potential in dynasty formats, and I soured a bit on Ty Hilton last season due to his inconsistencies. Both my desire for outright domination of this league and the aforementioned roster limitations were also factors in making me pull the trigger on this deal (well, series of deals!). I was also acutely aware that I had devised this Three Year Plan, and I wanted to stay true to the course, so it was somewhat of an all-in moment for me and this roster. I could have continued accumulating future picks and trading down here and there, etc., but I wanted to finish what I started. I’m excited to see how the next year or two plays out and how this aggressive trading strategy pays off.
I gather that you are particularly bullish on rookie WR Paul Richardson of the Seahawks. You selected him with the 17th pick in our rookie pick, ahead of players such as Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Tre Mason. What do you think of Richardson and any potential changes in Seattle’s offense this season?
Ross: Bullish is the right word. I took him in a staff mock draft we did as well and provided the following comment with my pick: “I’ve recently developed a man crush for Paul Richardson. His blazing speed and DeSean Jackson-esque skillset (but with a better catching radius) is a real turn-on. Throw in the fact that Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin are in contract years and my heart starts to beat faster at the possibility of a long, productive future together. I think he’s the one!”
I also watched the press conference when Pete Carroll and Seahawks GM Jon Schneider discussed the Richardson pick, and they said he reminded them of a Sidney Rice/Percy Harvin hybrid. That sounds good to me! You can’t teach speed, and the guy has some nice hands. As I already said, I’m a talent over opportunity guy, and I like what I see. If I like a guy, I take him. Nothing sucks more than trying to be too smart and just missing on a guy.
Now that a year has passed, what do you think your best and worst decisions were in terms of either trades or rookie selections?
Ross: The quarterback duo I took last year of Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson flat out bombed. I’ve cut them both already. I managed to get round two or future round two picks from trading away Brian Quick and Denarius Moore, both of which look like great moves now.
To be totally honest, I try and move on from previous deals if possible, both good and bad. Values and perceptions change (see everyone turning down my Ellington fire-sale mid-season), and I’m always trying to look forward. How close am I to winning a championship? Where is my roster weak? What can I do to get stronger? What’s done is done, but the future is ours to create…
Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt
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