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League Winners and How They Used the Salary Cap

League Winners and How They Used the Salary Cap

By Steven Van Tassell (@SteveVT33)

We’ve almost figured out how Dynasty Owners need to put together their rosters on Draft Day to give themselves the best chance possible to win their League. That’s good because with the NFL Draft being held this weekend, mock drafting including rookies will be available soon, followed by real 2021 Dynasty Owner start-up drafts.

To summarize, by analyzing the draft data from all 2020 drafts and particularly League Winner drafts, we’ve learned the following:

  • There’s no “magic formula” associated with your type of league, draft date or draft slot so go ahead and do whatever you want and can afford.
  • Dynasty Owners who drafted players with lower salaries in the first round were more likely to win their League title than those who drafted higher salary players.
  • Alvin Kamara was the “best” first round selection in 2020 Dynasty Owner drafts, followed by Patrick Mahomes.
  • The recommendation to “Draft at Least Three Starting Quarterbacks” is not backed up by the 2020 data and should be discarded for 2021, while the jury is still out on drafting three kickers.
  • Using most of the $110 million salary cap in 2020 was the strategy that more League Winners employed as the average League Winner kept about $8 million in reserve.
  • The contenders for the Chase for the Ring spent more of the $110 million salary cap than regular League Winners when drafting.
  • League Winners spent a lot of their salary cap on Draft Day, but not more or less than the rest of the Dynasty Owners in their respective Leagues.

The next step is to break down how League Winners spent their salary cap on Draft Day by position. I remember someone asking Christopher Harris during a podcast back before last season what was the ideal breakdown of how much to spend by position. He (nor anyone else) had a good answer. Because the structure of Dynasty Owner changed between 2019 and 2020 with the institution of the hard salary cap and the addition of the FLEX position, no one could really have answered that question properly for 2020. However, I always wondered about it and since we have the 2020 draft data available, I decided to go ahead and analyze those data to find out for 2021.

Please keep in mind that we are looking at how to help Dynasty Owners who will be drafting a new team in 2021. These are data only from 2020 Dynasty Owner drafts – it doesn’t account for trades or acquisitions after the Draft. Teams could have changed dramatically (or not much at all) between Draft Day and the end of the season. However, the Draft is the starting point for all Dynasty Owners. Knowing the best way to construct your roster when drafting and having a plan built upon what has worked in the past going into Draft Day will help Dynasty Owners not only draft well, but also maximize their ability to make trades and pick up players off the Free Agent Auction later on in the season.

All salary data listed are from the 2020 Dynasty Owner season which had a $110 million salary cap on Draft Day, but was increased to $112 million for rosters due to COVID-19 considerations.

Overall Salary Cap Usage Summary

In last week’s article (https://dynastyowner.com/2021/04/how-much-of-the-salary-cap-should-i-use-in-the-draft-part-ii/), we determined that the average League Winner spent just over $100 million ($100,419,671) in salaries during their 2020 Dynasty Owner draft. This was less on salaries than the average Dynasty Owner ($101,651,629) by over $1.2 million!

While draft spending by League Winners ranged from a low of just under $69 million($68,897,854) to a high of $109,997,204 (only $2,796 under the salary cap), we found that League Winners were more likely to be in the bottom half of spending in their individual league. In fact, three-fifths (60%) of them were in the bottom half. Clearly, it’s not necessary to outspend the other teams in your league to win.

However, League Winners who finished in the Top 25 in the Chase for the Ring spent more than just a regular League Winner when drafting and were more likely to be one of the bigger spenders in their draft. Half (48%) of the Top 25 in the Chase and three-fifths of the Top 10 were in the top half of spenders in their League, compared with two-fifths (40%) of all League Winners.

So, we have a problem. Everyone wants to win their League, but also contend for the Ring and join Eddie and Viktor as Ring winners. We know to leave some money unspent on Draft Day and that it’s not necessary to spend more than everyone else in your League to win. However, just knowing overall draft spending doesn’t tell us how they spent their salary cap money. That’s the next step, figure out how much you should spend at each position (QB, RB, WR, TE, K) to win your League.

Position to Spend the Most Money On

Quarterbacks are the highest paid players on the football field. Not on every team, but on most of them. The rankings of highest paid players always have a bunch of QBs before you get the first non-QB. Last year in Dynasty Owner, there were 17 QBs at the top of the list of largest contracts before Amari Cooper and his $20 million per year salary appeared. Does that mean Dynasty Owners spent the most on QBs?

Out of the five positions in Dynasty Owner, it is clear which one League Winners spent more on than any other position. And it’s not Quarterback! Believe it or not, it’s not a kicker either. Or even tight end, but that’s at least closer. The position that over two-thirds of 2020 League Winners spent the most on during their draft was: Wide Receiver.

Position% of Leagues% of Top 25% of Top 10
QB26%28%30%
RB4%4%10%
WR69%68%60%

It’s true for the Top 25 in the Chase as well as the Top 10. More of those teams spent more on WRs than any other position.

Salary Cap Usage by Position

Now that we know League Winners spent more on WRs than any other position, we can go on and determine how much did they spend on WRs versus players at the other positions. The breakdown by position is as follows:

Average Salary Cap Spending by Position

On average, nearly two-fifths (37%) of the salary cap for a League Winner was spent on WRs, followed by about one-quarter (23%) on QBs and one-sixth (17%) on RBs. League Winners spent just a little bit more on TEs (10%) than they left unspent (9%). And last, but certainly least, League Winners spent just 4% of the salary cap on kickers.

In dollar figures using the $110 million salary cap, the average amount spent on Draft Day by League Winners in 2020 was:

PositionAmount SpentPercentage Spent
QB$ 25,731,39323.4%
RB$ 18,615,74116.9%
WR$ 40,951,00537.2%
TE$ 10,499,3289.5%
K$ 4,622,2044.2%
Not Used$ 9,580,3298.7%
TOTAL$ 110,000,000100.0%

The average League Winner spent about $41 million on WRs, $25.7 million on QBs, $18.6 million on RBs, $10.5 million on TEs, $4.6 million on kickers and left just under $9.6 million unspent. The average League Winner spent less on QBs than the individual salary for many QBs, including Russell Wilson ($35 million) and 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million). The same is true at TE where they spent less than what Hunter Henry ($10.607 million) or Austin Hooper ($10.5 million) made in 2020. Don’t forget about kickers as Justin Tucker ($5 million) cost more than the average League Winner spent on all of their kickers combined ($4.6 million).

Winning your League is first and foremost, but since your ultimate goal is to win the Ring, do you need to spend differently to make the Chase for the Ring leaderboard? We already know that most of the Chase for the Ring contenders spent more on WR than any other position. What about the percentage that they spent, is it different or similar than all League Winners?

When we look at all League Winners compared to those who finished on the Chase for the Ring leaderboard, we don’t see a lot of differences in the percentage of the salary cap spent by position. From an earlier article, we already knew that the Top 25 and Top 10 on the final Chase leaderboard spent more of the salary cap than all League Winners (https://dynastyowner.com/2021/04/how-much-of-the-salary-cap-should-i-use-in-the-draft/).

Now, we can see that they used that additional spending on QBs and TEs, while spending less on RBs and kickers.

Position% Spent by Winners% Spent by Top 25% Spent by Top 10
QB23.4%24.8%25.5%
RB16.9%16.4%14.8%
WR37.2%37.0%38.0%
TE9.5%10.5%10.7%
K4.2%3.4%3.6%
Not Used8.7%8.0%7.3%

The differences aren’t a lot by percentage – just a point or two in most cases, but when you put them in dollar figures, that’s almost $1.6 million more on QBs for the Top 25 and $2.35 million more for the Top 10. Chase for the Ring leaderboard League Winners spent over a $1 million more on TEs than a regular League Winner as well.

Position$ Spent by Winners$ Spent by Top 25$ Spent by Top 10
QB$ 25,731,393$ 27,300,861$ 28,087,673
RB$ 18,615,741$ 18,044,324$ 16,326,575
WR$ 40,951,005$ 40,656,355$ 41,840,164
TE$ 10,499,328$ 11,561,373$ 11,746,967
K$ 4,622,204$ 3,691,732$ 3,977,715
Not Used$ 9,580,329$ 8,745,355$ 8,020,905

Projected 2021 Spending by Position

That’s great to know, but that was then, and 2021 drafts are right around the corner. Let’s project these data for this year and see how much Dynasty Owners should be spending at each position. Based on the $127.75 million salary cap for the 2021 Dynasty Owner season, here’s how much the average League Winner will spend on each position during their draft.

Position2021 Amount to Spend
QB$ 29,883,504
RB$ 21,619,645
WR$ 47,559,009
TE$ 12,193,537
K$ 5,368,060
Not Used$ 11,126,245
TOTAL$ 127,750,000

If you follow these averages, you can’t draft Patrick Mahomes ($45 million), Dak Prescott ($40 million), Russell Wilson ($35 million) or Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million) as your QB. Don’t take George Kittle ($15 million) or Travis Kelce ($14.3 million) as your TE either. You can afford any RB or WR you want with plenty of room for more of them. You’ll even be able to afford Justin Tucker as your kicker, but you just won’t have enough for a backup.

Conclusion

We’ve figured it all out! Now we know how much of the salary cap you need to spend to win your start-up Dynasty Owner league in 2021. Of course, this assumes that the averages will be the same in 2021 as they were in 2020. There’s going to be more leagues and more new players in 2021, but if these figures hold true for 2021, everyone knows how much to spend. Now, you just have to figure out who to spend it on. Good luck with that!

It’s not just good luck but research and preparation that will help you draft the best team you can on Draft Day. A team that can go out and with some modifications during the season and smart game day decisions on who to Start and who to Bench, can make you a League Champion. Looking back at 2020 is just one piece of the entire process of constructing a 2021 League Winner.

Fortunately, the construction process is going to start happening very soon as we are in the middle of the NFL draft. After that, rookie drafts for everyone who is in a league started in 2020 will commence. There will also be those 2021 start-up drafts beginning soon afterwards as well. The season is getting closer!

Starting next week, we have a new publication schedule for articles and videos. That’s right, videos will be back starting next week to accompany the weekly articles by each of our writers. All of the articles and videos will be released at 1 PM (Eastern). My articles and videos to get you ready for your 2021 Dynasty Owner start-up league team will be released on Saturdays throughout the off-season. Keep an eye out for new articles from the rest of our team of Dynasty Owner writers as well. Nate Christian (@NateNFL) will continue to break down rookies in his Prospect Preview, now available on Tuesdays. Matt Morrison – The Jerk (@Dynastyjerk) is doing a deep dive into contracts by teams that you can check out on Wednesdays. Jay Pounds (@JayPoundsNFL) looks at how to rebuild your Dynasty Owner roster and everyone will get his insights on Fridays.

Please read all of their articles and follow the four of us plus Dynasty Owner (@Dynasty_Owner) on Twitter. Hope you were able to watch the Livestream that Tim and I did for the First Round of the NFL Draft. Thanks, and have a great day!

Follow us on Twitter: @SteveVT33 and @Dynasty_Owner

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