Home Columns Sunshine on the Sideline: STEM, Astronomy & Dynasty Draft Strategies

Sunshine on the Sideline: STEM, Astronomy & Dynasty Draft Strategies

by Tom Cuda

I have a deep love and appreciation for science. I have ever since I was a little kid sitting outside with my dad in the cold-Pennsylvania air looking in awe at the moon through a telescope for the first time. 

It was a moment that cemented a strong desire to learn and understand the world around me. Science, specifically the scientific method, is the tool we use to do that. So, I took to it like a moth to flame. 

The scientific method is one of the greatest tools humanity has. It gives us a way to take things we don’t understand, slow them down, go step-by-step through theories and hypotheses and piece together the complicated world around us. 

We’ve used it for centuries to cure diseases, build modern society and connect people all over the world. It touches all areas of our lives and helps us improve our quality of life. It was something that filled my childhood with discovery and learning.

As I got older the creative side of my brain developed and edged out the more math-inclined part of me and I’ve found that I like working with people more than complex mathematical equations. 

But, that innate sense of wonder and curiosity toward the universe, even in the most mundane and overlooked things, still remains with me. As does my tendency to examine things through the lens of the scientific method. 

Just ask my wife, it’s not uncommon for her to stumble across me staring out a window pondering the existential ramifications that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have on humanity in the next fifty years. Or to find me wondering what goes on in the mind of the gopher tortoise living in our backyard that makes it intuitively know exactly what plants to eat and how much of each to eat as it forages its way across our lawn. 

I try my best to maintain a proficient level of scientific literacy so I can succeed at being a good citizen in the 21st century. I owe that desire for continued learning, in large part, to my parents and teachers for encouraging my natural curiosity as a child. 

I want to do my part to support the encouragement of that same curiosity in the generations to come. To do that, I believe we need to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

STEM programs are built to encourage children to take up science as a career, or at the very least have a high level of scientific literacy so they are better able to help navigate the quickly changing and complex issues we face as a society. 

Aside from the need to improve our public school system we can also support any number of non-profit groups working to help with STEM education.  

Specifically, I want to highlight the National Math + Science Initiative (NSM). A non-profit dedicated to helping students across all age groups pursue education and careers in STEM. They also have a perfect 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

NSM is working to transform partner schools for the better. 

In 2017 alone, Pennsylvania’s Trinity Area High School saw a 186 percent increase in qualifying math, science and English scores after partnering with NSM making it the No. 1 school among the more than 5,000 that had at least 50 qualified scores in 2015-2016.

These kinds of results help maintain a highly intelligent and motivated scientific workforce. They also help foster a community that will help humanity continue to grow our wealth of knowledge and to continue to make scientific discoveries.

AB Aurigae is a star system approximately 520 lightyears from Earth that could contain a new exoplanet.

For example, scientists, from the European Southern Observatory, have identified dust and gas spiraling around AB Aurigae, a star system approximately 520 lightyears from Earth, according to an article from Futurism’s Victor Tangermann.

There is a twist at the center of this cluster that scientists think denotes the point of formation of a new exoplanet. We know very little about how these exoplanets form and this could potentially help us gain a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

This discovery instantly took me back to the memories of searching the night sky through the lens of a telescope. It helped me understand life and how, out of chaos, beauty can be made.

If the astronomer’s theory holds, that swirling bit of gas and dust could hold life someday. It could be home to billions of other life forms, some possibly pondering the same questions we do now. 

At the very least, it’s the creation of something that through observing and studying will help us make sense of one more part of the vast, expanding universe around us. And that is something that we should all be excited to pass along to the next generation. 

Creating beauty out of chaos is not unlike fantasy football itself. It’s a fast-paced game, both on the field and our rosters. It’s too  easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of draft day if you aren’t prepared. The details matter, and the prep work before going into draft day are as important as the decisions you make on the clock. And in dynasty, it matters for years down the road. 

Creating a draft day strategy and knowing what type of team you’re going to be creating will help immensely in the quest for the perfect draft. 

Here are a few dynasty draft strategies to help figure out what’s best for you:

Know Your League Rules and Scoring

This one is an easy one to miss. Everyone is used to the standard redraft rules and scoring systems. But, in dynasty, it can be quite different. 

QB values are fairly low in 1QB leagues, but in 2QB or superflex leagues, they make a huge difference. Just take the time to study everything and make sure you’ve and crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s before you begin your master plan to dominate your league. 

Zero RB Doesn’t Translate to Dynasty

It really doesn’t. I’m not a fan of the strategy in redraft, but it has its merits. In dynasty, however, it’s a recipe for disaster. Running back is the position with the steepest fall off and the most sparsely populated with players who hold starting gigs. 

I’m not saying taking Micheal Thomas at the 1.04 is a bad choice. I’m saying that waiting three, four or five rounds before getting a running back will cost you in the long run. 

If you wait until the fourth round, D’Andre Swift is the top RB available to you by Average Draft Position (ADP), followed by J.K. Dobbins, Kenyan Drake, Leonard Fournette, Cam Akers and Todd Gurley a list full of rookies and aging talent with low job security. Not exactly how you want the most scarce position in the league to look on your roster for the foreseeable future. 

If you had drafted Ezekiel Elliot in the first or Josh Jacobs in the second, that list of running backs in the third and fourth rounds is going to look an awful lot more compelling. 

Receivers do hold their value longer, hence why I said Micheal Thomas is a strong first-round pick. But, I think it’s crucial to build a strong foundation for your running back core early on to avoid the woes that can come with putting all your chips on your rookie draft selections. 

There are of course those who would suggest that zero RB works as you have an abundance of talent at other positions to trade for running backs. In my experience though, people don’t like to trade away running backs without getting one in return. In fact, it’s generally a rule of my own as well. 

Know Whether you Want Experience or Youth

This is a sliding scale and can change over time. But, when it comes time to draft, it’s important to know what kind of balance you want on your team. 

Do you want to take a large number of younger players and attempt to make your run at multiple back-to-back championships in a of couple seasons? Or do you want to go heavy on veterans with established roles and known scoring tendencies and make a run at the championship year one? 

I tend to prefer landing my slider just slightly to the youth side but close to a perfect balance. There are no wrong answers here. A good manager will manage and trade talent to meet the needs of whatever style they choose. It’s just important to know beforehand so you can confidently assess picks and ensure you don’t find yourself on the clock and panicking. 

Get Your Man

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. If there’s a player that you love, but maybe you have to reach a bit below their ADP to get them, go for it. 

For example, if I were at the beginning of Round 6 and looking to lock down a QB, I’d see Deshaun Watson first at the 60 ADP spot. 

But, I’m a huge Russell Wilson fan, and he’s sitting nine spots away and likely won’t make it back to me. I’m most likely going to reach and draft Wilson to ensure that I have my favorite player in the NFL. 

I’m not saying you should do this for every pick – I advise against being too much of a homer – but, if there are one or two players you’re dying to have on your team, it’s worth stretching a little to get them on draft day instead of getting fleeced in a trade later because one of your league mates knows just how badly you want them on your roster. 

This piece of advice also applies to situations where you have a high valuation on a player to outperform their ADP and want to draft them ahead of players with a higher ADP. Of course, you assume some risk tolerance here, but it can pay off beautifully, and it’s always better, in my mind, to get the player you really believe in and have them underperform than get the better value and watch the other player explode on someone else’s team. 

Age is a Major Factor

Julio Jones has finished as a PPR WR1 in seven of his nine NFL seasons.

Player rankings in dynasty are wildly different from player rankings in redraft. And, for obvious reasons. Julio Jones is still a great grab in re-draft with an ADP of 12. But, in dynasty, his ADP falls to 26. That’s because he’s 30 years old and, going by statistical averages, this is his last high-performing season before falling off the cliff. 

For Jones, it’s unlikely he simply falls into oblivion at the end of this season, but he likely starts to slow down and it’s important to consider when you’re drafting him to have until he retires or you trade him. 

Dynasty changes the way age interacts with player value, and it truly makes the debate between a young rising star and a seasoned veteran a much more nuanced one. 

WR Value Tends to Hold Longer

“Mothers, don’t let your kids be running backs,” is a saying for a reason. The position is one of the least secure and shortest elite production positions in the league. An elite receiver can enter the league at 22, blossom into a scoring phenom at 24 and go strong until 30 or 31, usually peaking around 29 or 30. 

A running back that enters the league at 22, can hit elite production that same year or the next and then hold that level of production for just three or four more years. A fairly hard cliff comes around age 28 for the truly elite. Most running backs have largely put their best years behind them by the time their rookie contracts expire. 

It’s a genuinely sad thing to see from a pure football perspective, but as far as fantasy is concerned, it’s a clear statistical trend and another reason I advocate so strongly for having a large bullpen of running backs to ensure the long-term success of your team.

 Get yourself some young superstar receivers and let them be the most consistent and long-term players on your team so you can focus on value at positions with higher turnover. 

Do Your Research

I talked about my guidelines for evaluating players in my last column and that follows over to draft strategy. Taking the time to do deep dives on every player you can, will pay off when your start up draft comes. 

There’s an immense amount of flexibility and power that being prepared and knowledgeable brings to you in a draft. 

For example, when you’re getting into the later rounds of your draft, and Royce Freeman, an RB in Denver who has an ADP of 195 and is a player with little chance of contributing to your team, pops up at the top of your suggested list, you know better. 

Because just a few spots away sits Boston Scott, an RB in Philadelphia with an ADP of 197, who has a growing role and a chance at fantasy relevance.

Even if he doesn’t become a main contributor, he may have a stretch of good weeks and become someone you can trade or use to fill in for bye weeks or injuries.

The deep picks do matter and going into your draft with personal rankings and a wealth of knowledge will be a huge part of your success on draft day. 

Finally, Have Fun

It’s the simplest rule of them all. This is supposed to be a hobby, a source of joy and a way to relax and forget the stress of life. 

So, do all that research, get yourself ready, but never forget to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember why you started this hobby in the first place.

Find me on Twitter @ThomasCuda and check out my other columns here on In-Between Media.

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