The Supplemental Draft and Dynasty Football: Learning From Averted Disaster

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If your league has no answer for a star player entering the NFL Supplemental Draft, you’re not alone. We may not face that question in 2020, but it’s a question the dynasty community should have an answer for.

A little inside baseball here, I fully bought into the super supplemental draft theory. It made sense. Many highly regarded draft-eligible prospects opted for a senior season in anticipation of CBA (collective bargaining agreement) changes, but those changes never came. Then, (as you may know) the world was hit by a global pandemic, casting the 2020 college football season in doubt. Not only had I bought into this theory, but I was in the process of researching an article for the upcoming supplemental draft. Not to worry, because I have an interesting pivot.

Recent news means we no longer have hopes of a historic supplemental draft. That said, what would your league do if Travis Etienne were to enter the supplemental draft? Many of you probably can’t answer that question, maybe that should change. For the sake of this exercise, let’s ignore recent news and act like Etienne is entering the draft anyway, just for the sake of future-proofing our dynasty leagues.

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The last major skill position prospect to enter the supplemental draft was none other than Josh Gordon. It’s easy to get into a wormhole just by mentioning that name, but let’s avoid that here and merely say that Josh Gordon is (sometimes) a player that dynasty managers want. Josh Gordon is worthy of his own section in the fantasy football museum, but one exhibit forgotten is the “Josh Gordon Rule.” In his 2013 article, Doug Veatch came up with essentially the same three options I did. Let’s spell them out.

Option 1: The Waiver Wire

This is the option most leagues are likely to default to, but it’s also kind of a terrible one. If a team gets someone like Travis Etienne off the waiver wire it will tear leagues apart. Firstly, if Etienne is available most teams will undoubtedly drop 100% of their FAAB on Etienne. This means that the waiver order will serve as a tiebreak and hand out Travis Etienne in a wholly unsatisfying manner. This option is one to avoid at all costs. People will quit leagues if Etienne is acquired this way.

Option 2: Delay the Draft

This method is a drastic improvement over option 1, but there are some drawbacks. It changes the value of a given draft, meaning those who traded away picks are losing more value than they believed, and visa versa for those who traded for draft picks. Also, the preference for having dynasty drafts in late April or early May, can’t be discounted. Frankly, it makes the league much better. Lastly, this method weakens the following draft. That may seem inevitable, but the last method accounts for it.

Option 3: A Supplemental Draft of Your Own

Seven years ago, Doug Veatch came to the conclusion that option 2 was best. For what it’s worth, I believe option 3 is the best. For those who need it here’s an in-depth breakdown of the supplemental draft. To keep things simple here: supplemental draft choices are optional. Using a 1st round pick in the 2020 supplemental draft means you forfeit a pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. For our purposes, this means forfeiting a pick in the 2021 rookie draft. This method means that rookie drafts can happen on time and draft saturation levels remain the same. The biggest drawback here is the draft order. In the NFL, the supplemental draft order is determined by the order of the preceding draft. In dynasty, that would mean one team gets back-to-back 1.01 level picks in the instance of a player like Etienne.

There’s No Perfect Solution

Option 3 is my favorite, but it’s far from ideal. Maybe your league could get more creative with the draft order, but even then problems would arise. I believe most problems could be lessened by a Josh Gordon level player as opposed to a Travis Etienne level one. That said, let’s all be thankful we won’t have to answer this question in 2020, because there are no good answers. At the same time, let’s be prepared. Advanced preparation will cause less hostility should a high-level prospect ever enter the supplemental draft. It’s harder to dispute a rule that’s been on the books for years as opposed to one that’s improvised.


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