Loss Aversion in Dynasty

In many of my leagues, I have an issue with many of the managers in the league not wanting to trade their players simply because they are their players. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people value their players so much more than others. I believe the answer lies in psychology around the value of losing something that belongs to you: “Loss Aversion”. I intend to explore this here and the application in fantasy football.

Loss aversion is the observation that human beings experience losses asymmetrically more severely than equivalent gains. This overwhelming fear of loss can cause investors to behave irrationally and make bad decisions, such as holding onto a stock for too long or too little time [Investopedia].

I think you can see where this is going. A practical example of how this happens is that in a fantasy football draft, a manager would take player A over player B, yet when made the same offer for player B in a trade for player A, they would make an excuse to not make the change. ‘Doesn’t fit my build’, ‘don’t like trading similar players’, etc. this is how I see loss aversion in dynasty, for me as managers we far too often take this approach as if the person making the proposal is trying to fool us in public. In my home redraft leagues, trades are rare if not impossible to come by as people value what they have more highly than the alternative

But of course, we all do this! We all hold on to players for a range of reasons, well I paid a lot for him in the draft/trade/FAAB… it’s fair and logical but ultimately every decision you make should come to do you think player A will score you more fantasy points over time than player B. Think of it when a friend asks you ‘who would you take – Elijah Moore or Devonta Smith, you have obviously put a decent amount of thought and may even have these guys ranked WR16 and WR17 but take a step back from the offer and think if one isn’t your player, who do you want?

These picks of your players aren’t your children or your team which you have to stick with through thick and thin, our human instinct is to hold what we have but when it comes to dynasty it stops making sense, if you can trade your 18th ranked wide receiver for your WR16 and then the WR16 for the WR14 and so on, you are making strides. Tiers and rankings have a huge role to play here of course but it still comes back to this detail if you see player-a above player-b but you own player-b, try to step back from the ‘who you own’ component

I think within the first year of a dynasty start-up it’s fair to say that people would have thought through the logic for making their picks, but think about it, in a dynasty draft, how long do you really take picking between two players you rank similarly in the same position, 5 minutes including a stats check, team and contract check, then a few sniffs around consensus favourite analysts views and maybe consideration for your diversity of players. Realistically it’s not a lot, compared to the following 12 months and a whole season of actual football.

We’re in my favourite part of the dynasty season – the offseason, values can and will fluctuate. My way I like to propose a question here is why would you not want to go from 1.10 to 1.09 in the rookie draft, everyone would always do this if they could. Now, if you know your league you could trade your way up the ranks with a few savvy moves. For every 2-3 rank difference in players you will find a league mate somewhere that likes X over Y, their team status being a crucial one, contending v rebuild teams have different priorities.. A recent one I used was Terry McLaurin who I traded for Elijah Moore as I had Elijah two spots higher. Proven production vs potential in this instance. Speaking today could be the difference between the 1.06 and 1.05 in the rookie draft. But then we could look at climbing the ladder again by trading my Elijah for Godwin/Devonta (if your ranks have it this way). The upcoming NFL draft is going to put people’s rankings in a spin and the important part of this is to:

  • Not overvalue your own squad
  • Ensure that if consensus puts a player you like close in rank to a player you don’t hold just because its your player, then maybe you should sell and try to get someone at their former ranking

I hope you can all take something from this, but next time you look at a trade offer, take the fact the player is yours out of the equation and simply ask yourself “if I was choosing between these players in a start-up today, which player would I pick?”. I think you will find yourself making more trades which has to be the most fun part of dynasty and accumulating a better team closer to strengthening your squad. Good luck with your dynasty squads this offseason and I hope that you treat every day like a start-up with the new information you have acquired. Your freedom to move on/off players should be rewarded in the long term!

What do you think about this piece of psychology in Dynasty? You can follow Paul on Twitter @ffgoatball to keep up with his work. Keep your eyes peeled for more articles from our great Dynasty team, coming soon. Remember to tune into the 5 Yard Dynasty livestream every Tuesday at 8 pm (GMT)!

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