Intro to Building Yourself a Championship Caliber Team – RZ101-01
By Professor Cory Astin, MBA
Madden is a complex game. You are putting yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t know what you are doing. So many times I will watch people building a team and they make moves that are head scratchers. Things like signing guys because they know they need to do at least something, but the guys they end up with aren’t the guys who they should have targeted. Knowing you have money to spend but spending it in all the wrong places. Poorly managing your cap that screws you over in the long run. These are all mistakes guys have and will repeatedly do, and they will NEVER climb their way out of the depths of Red Zone hell.
This guide does not necessarily need to be followed exactly, but rather it is to help you in areas you might struggle in. For some of you, this will require a big change in how you do things. Embrace it. People are almost always resistant to change, but you need to do this if you want to improve. Grab yourself a water, put on your comfy pants, go use the restroom, and when you are ready, let’s dive on in.
LESSON #1 – KNOW YOUR ROSTER INSIDE AND OUT
This sounds simple, right? Well don’t make it simple. I mean really get to know your roster. Know your depth, know approximate ages on guys, and know who is making $800k and who is making $10M. Know whose contracts are going to be up when. Know who will be on your 3+1 and know who will not be getting their next contract from you. I know, I know… this is a lot of information to take in. The best way that works for me to know all this information is to put everything into an excel file, which I pull directly from Daddy Leagues. I grab the information I need from two places: your actual Team Roster, as well as logging in, going to “Front Office”, and going to “Salaries” to get all of my contract details I need (see below if you haven’t ever ventured to that part of Daddy Leagues).
After I get all of the data together in Excel, I will then sort things how I want and rearrange the sheet based on positions so that I can get an overall view of my roster and the details that I need. Here is an example of the sheet that I used last cycle:
“Conditional Formatting” is used on each column so that good numbers (Lower age, higher OVRs, etc) are green, and bad numbers are more red. Now I have all the information I will need right in front of me.
LESSON #2 – CREATE AN IDENTITY AND BUILD AROUND THAT
Alright, we have our current roster. We did it! I am proud of each and every one of you…. except you over there in the corner eating the paste. Put it away and focus up. Now we need to examine each position group and ask ourselves what we want from each, such as what kind of HB do we currently have, and what kind do you prefer. Maybe you want to just run guys over and pound the rock, but you currently have a small, speedy back instead. Knowing what you want from each group will help you with your overall team construction. Maybe you want a big, tall WR as your WR1, but a speedy deep threat at WR2. Create an idea and go for it! If a guy doesn’t fit your scheme/identity you have created, then prepare yourself to move that guy and replace him with what fits. Don’t just settle on guys based on their OVR if they don’t match what you want to do. Feel free to put guys on the trade block and get what you can for them.
Another part of creating your own identity is really knowing what each and every attribute does for each position. For example, if you want a DT to plug up the run, you should really be focusing on STR and BSH. If you want good pass rushers, PMV and FMV are some of your top attributes to look at. Examine your roster right now and see if the attributes on your guys match up with what you actually need.
Don’t forget about analyzing what your division mates are doing. If you are in a pass-happy division, it might be good to start investing in ways to stop them. They are creating a track team at WR? Well your 87 speed CBs might not cut it anymore. Your identity should be set, but also receptive to change as the cycle progresses.
LESSON #3 – HAVE A PLAN, BUT BE FLEXIBLE
We have our roster, and we know what we want. The cement is laid. Now it is time to start our construction of our roster. Just like building a house, the foundation had to be set before we build. If your foundation is weak or non-existent, your house is going to crumble and fall. Some guys plan for the upcoming season, and some planning is better than no planning. However, I personally prefer to look bigger picture, and I encourage you to do the same. I like to look at things on a 3-5 year outlook. What will your team look like by then? Will you have some glowing needs coming up? Maybe your 3+1 is going to be disgusting 3 years from now, where your entire WR group will ultimately be gutted. It would be nice to prepare yourself for that beforehand. Be proactive, not reactive. That might start with drafting replacements a year or two earlier. You should almost know in advance who will be on your 3+1 well in advance.
HOWEVER, sometimes things fall in your lap that may make you adjust, and that is okay! You will just need to adjust things as you go. One example that comes to mind was when Von Miller hit FA last cycle. I hadn’t planned or even really needed him, but his talent was too good to pass up. I had the cap and I knew it wasn’t going to hurt me long term (see Lesson #4). When I added him, that would ultimately end up pushing someone else out of the 3+1 later on when I needed to re-sign him. Maybe it meant in 2 seasons I wasn’t going to be able to resign my CB2. Now I know that will be a priority coming up as I am building my team. Cause and effect; everything you do will have a reaction somewhere.
LESSON #4 – NEVER SACRIFICE TOMORROW FOR REWARDS TODAY
Some guys like to go “All-in” for a season. They ramp up with veterans and try to win it all this season. If that is your strategy, that is fine, but that is not what this guide is meant for. This is meant for building and maintaining. Trading away future picks to draft right now can have it’s time and place, but there is much risk in doing such. A good example of this would be the S52 Saints. They went all in and almost won the SB. Moji knew this was Brees last season, and he went for it. There’s nothing wrong with that if you think you can do it, but it has its repercussions. Now Moji is essentially QB-less for the long term and he has no draft picks to replace Brees. It is a rough spot to be in for most of us. He is almost certain to regress this upcoming season. If he was not a top 5 user it would hurt him even more, but that is why he can afford the risk more than others can.
Another side note when it comes to current and future draft picks, I would suggest not going heavy in one season if you can help it. It might sound nice to enter a draft with 13 picks in the same season. However, that is up to 13 roster spots you need to ensure you have room for, and if you absolutely nailed your draft picks, you will only be able to sign up to 3 of those 13 picks in 4 seasons when it comes time to resign them, and that is assuming there are not any other players on your team that need resigned at the same time. I would suggest taking those 13 picks, combining a few of them, and get better draft positions by moving up. Always, always, always…. Quality >>> Quantity.
LESSON #5 – KEEP YOUR TEAM AS YOUNG AS YOU CAN
A lot of information thus far, and maybe you already knew all these tips so far. That’s great! That just means you are doing things to help your team succeed. We all know how progression/regression works. Young guys get better, older guys get worse. That’s the easy part. Knowing this fact, AVOID OLDER PLAYERS WHEN YOU CAN. Does that mean never add/keep a veteran? No. Just don’t get tied down to one. If you have a MLB who is 82 OVR right now but is 32 years old, should you keep him? I would say no. Yes, he will still be good right now. But remember, never sacrifice tomorrow for today. If you give him a 3-4 year deal, he’s going to be garbage in the last few years. That is a waste of cap space, and a waste of one of your 3+1 slots. When deciding your 3+1, you should try to keep the following rules when you can:
- Maximize the deal, giving 4-5 years. By doing so, they won’t be hitting your 3+1 as quickly.
- Avoid giving out 3 years or less. See above reasoning.
- Prioritize guys who won’t be hit with regression. Even if it is deciding to give a long term deal between a 25 year old starter, or the 24 year old backup, if the ratings are close enough, it would be a better investment spending that on the younger guy.
- Calculate the financial risk in your re-signings. It might be nice to bring that player back, but do you really want to invest the money on a guy if you have a salvageable replacement on the roster on a cheap deal. This rule is more for those who are riding the cap very tight.
Rookie deals are GREAT, especially for backup players. Don’t rush out to free agency to build depth on guys who might never see the field. Why spend $2M on your DT4, when you could draft one in the 6th round and only pay like $350k. It all adds up. Free Agency well too often sucks guys into paying more than they should, and it makes sense. You know what you are getting in a free agent, whereas a rookie is unknown. There are times to take calculated risks, so don’t tie your money down on spots that you don’t need to. Draft a late round punter over signing one in FA. Do you really notice the difference between a 94 KPW punt and an 87 KPW that you might end up with in the draft? All I know is I can tell the $2M difference between them. More youth -> more chance to progress players -> lower contracts -> more money to spend on your elite players.
LESSON #6 – BE PREPARED TO CUT TIES WITH PLAYERS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
I think we have all been there. A guy just turned 30. You notice he just regressed this past off-season, but it was very minor. Maybe he lost only -2 block shed and -1 finesse move…. For now. The writing is on the wall. He could hit one of those regression cliffs at any time. Maybe the next off-season he’s going to be hit hard and lose -8 OVR. Now he’s lost all his value. If you absolutely need him that season, then sometimes you just bite the bullet. However, if there is a market for the guy, throw him out on the block and take what you can get before he drops off. As a common theme I am trying to stress in this guide, BE PROACTIVE! Plan ahead! Avoid financial traps! Avoid holding on to guys past their expiration date (but you shouldn’t have signed them that long to get them to that point, right?).
LESSON #7 – DON’T MOVE JUST TO MOVE
The off-season is great. League activity is at its peak. Players are flying from team to team, and you feel like you need to keep up! STOP! Don’t just sign or trade someone without a good JUSTIFICATION. Don’t trade your young stars, unless you absolutely cannot afford them. We are trying to build your house, not keep knocking down walls. Your stud players are what holds this house up! You build around them at all costs. If the FA class in the position group is not good, don’t settle and overpay on a guy. Sometimes, doing nothing, or close to it, in the off-season is the smartest thing you can do. Bad contracts will ruin everything. An upgrade of 1 or 2 OVR might not justify spending more money.
LESSON #8 – TANKS FOR EVERYTHING
Okay, little rant time. Stop tanking early in the season. You are hurting yourself more than helping. Success and meeting goals is a key contributor to player progression. Play your games for a purpose, and build your team. If you tank for a top 3 pick for a QB, I understand. However, if you are “tanking” starting week 9 and end up with the #9 pick instead of #16, the quality of player between the two is very minor compared to the amount of lost XP you sacrificed for the rest of the 53 players on your team. It is simply not worth it. If you tank, only sacrifice the last week or two of the season’s worth of what I call “success XP”.
I hope this guide provides some help for some of you guys. I know a good number of the users in here don’t need any of this information, but even if it helps one person enjoy the game/league more, then it was worth it.