|3792 words. Not sorry.|
Usually when someone rips the “Tale of Two blanks” title it’s to set up an article that follows the same sort of motif that Dickens utilized throughout the novel - that is, a stark and direct juxtaposition. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. This isn’t meant to be a literary review (and if it was I certainly wouldn’t choose someone as boring as Dickens, I welcome your @s if you’re wrong and disagree) but simply to set up that despite ripping that title, that is not what I’m doing here.
In this tale of two rebuilds there are no best of times and it certainly doesn’t describe a season of light. "It was the worst of the times, it was the worsterer of times" would be more appropriate because what follows is the story of two rebuilds that got kicked off in Season 3 and centered around accumulating Season 4 draft picks. I know, looking back at (and usually mocking) the Yeti rebuild has been done over
. Yes, this is another one of those articles. Though I think I'm more sympathetic than kckolbe
If you’re unfamiliar with the Season 4 draft here’s a link
. Check that out. Perhaps you’re new to the league, perhaps you’ve scrubbed it from your memory but either way you probably recognize very few names there unless you’re involved in the DSFL. It was a truly abominable draft because the draft class was sliced in two in the midst of the first DSFL season. Players who created before the 7th of September were Season 3, players who created after the 4th of October were Season 5, and everyone in between formed the worst class in NSFL history.
A month of recruits may not sound bad but it was moreso how that stacked up with the league calendar that season. The 6th of September was the S3 draft and the 4th of October was Week 10 of S3. That meant, of course, that there was no offseason recruiting involved for this draft, it was solely in-season recruits. This minor snag in the creation of the DSFL makes the Season 3 rebuilds of the Colorado Yeti and Las Vegas Legion look hilarious and sad in hindsight. So in short (lol this isn’t going to be short at all), this is a tale of two rebuilds that were doomed from the outset because life is bleak and pointless and depressing and hope is nothing more than foolishness. I guess maybe a Dickens motif did make its way into this after all.
The Colorado Yeti
A week after the Season 3 draft the Yeti made a series of trades that saw them add a bevy of draft picks as well as a fair few players as they sold off their assets. I wasn’t involved in Colorado (or the league, at the time) so I won’t pretend to know the thinking and rationale behind these moves but will simply look at them at face value.
On the 10th of September they got things started by making a blockbuster trade with Arizona. They sent Big Bot
and Phillipe Carter
to the desert in exchange for Mayran Jackson, Vash Erikson, and Arizona’s Season 4 2nd round pick. This appears to be a widely panned trade at the time but I do think it looks a little better for Colorado in hindsight.
They continued things the next day by trading Wyatt Fulton
, their Season 4 2nd, and the recently acquired Arizona Season 4 2nd to Yellowknife in exchange for Brice Boggs and Yellowknife’s Season 4 3rd and 5th. Now, looking at that in hindsight it looks like an absolute fleecing but Daybe
had just been named Colorado's co-GM and those deals often look much better for the team acquiring their co-GM than the team losing that user. Fulton was a Season 1 linebacker on an expiring contract and Boggs was a Season 3 cornerback so the Yeti got younger at the cost of moving back fairly significantly in the Season 4 draft. Fulton was traded to the Legion for cap considerations ($6m over two seasons) before retiring in that
retirement. As for the picks, the two the Yeti received were lost since there were too few prospects and the two the Wraiths received currently sit at 50 and 57 TPE, respectively, though the Season 4 Colorado 2nd will still play a role.
A third trade in as many days saw Colorado send Blaster Blade
and Jon Ross
to Las Vegas for Philadelphia’s Season 4 1st, Las Vegas’ Season 4 4th, Las Vegas’ Season 5 5th, and Bisquiteen Crockner. Wowza. This was initially seen as a big win for Las Vegas, bringing in two actives. In an odd twist of fate, Blade would later be traded for Big Bot - two former Yeti traded for eachother (amongst other things) after being traded away from the Yeti days apart.
Four days later, Colorado made a minor move with Arizona to acquire Vincent Draxel for their Season 5 7th round pick. This is very unlike the other trades because it came after
a Noble scandal and before the Yeti had Pierno so they needed a quarterback. Draxel had been Arizona’s quarterback in Season 1 before King Bronko took over and they picked up a bridge quarterback for nothing.
That’s when the fire sale began. On the 16th of September they traded Luke Tiernan
to Yellowknife to get back their Season 4 2nd round pick they lost in the Boggs trade and Yellowknife’s Season 5 5th round pick. Oh yeah, and a quarterback by the name of Nicholas Pierno. Tiernan appears to be a quite good Season 1 linebacker who has been serviceable even in inactivity but was on an expiring contract that the Yeti turned into draft capital and their long-time quarterback, not to mention a great user by all accounts. Exactly the kind of trade rebuilding teams have to make.
They followed up the next day by flipping Mayran Jackson
(who had been on the team one week) along with Torque Lewith
and Gadget Tech
to San Jose for Ben Longshaw, San Jose’s Season 4 1st and Season 5 3rd and 5th. Giving up 3 actives always hurts but word is that the three wanted out of Colorado. Ben Longshaw retired a couple seasons later but has returned to the team in the form of Howard Miller and the 1st rounder they acquired was spent on one of the few actives from the Season 4 draft, current Head Office member Haruki Ishigawa. The other two picks became Ben Urlacher and Lamarcus Mills. A trade that Kolbe once said “might be the worst” out of the Season 3 Yeti trades doesn’t look like it turned out quite so bad in the long run.
And completing the 4 trades in 4 days challenge, the next day the Yeti shipped out Kieran O’Connell
for Michael Newman, Arby Krimlaw, and a Season 4 4th round pick. A trade that featured 3 basically inactive players (after one of the most pedantic arguments in league history, Krimlaw actually did end up updating twice for the Yeti) and a pick this didn’t exactly have far-reaching consequences.
There was one more trade the Yeti made that significantly impacted their Season 4 draft. The day before the draft, Colorado owned the 2nd and 3rd picks in a draft that looked like it would only have a handful of actives. I was in this draft and have known Keyg_an
for nearly a decade now so he was determined to pry one of those picks from Colorado. In the end, Colorado sent Las Vegas the 2nd and 6th picks in exchange for the Legion's Season 5 1st round pick (!) and $2m in cap space. We'll cover this trade more below.
So to sum that up the Yeti traded away:
S4 Colorado 1st (#2 - Blackford Oakes)
S5 Colorado 7th (#49 - N/A)
S4 San Jose 1st (#3 - Haruki Ishigawa)
S4 Yellowknife 3rd (#20 - N/A)
S4 Philadelphia 4th (#30 - N/A)
S4 Yellowknife 5th (#36 - N/A)
S5 Las Vegas 1st (#2 - Andre Bly Jr.)
S5 San Jose 3rd (#20 - Ben Urlacher)
S5 San Jose 5th (#36 - Lamarcus Mills)
S5 Yellowknife 5th (#39 - John Mueller)
$2m in cap space
That looks brutal on balance but that’s mostly because they never got the chance to use nearly half their acquired picks due to the truncated Season 4 draft class. Had that been a normally sized draft class here are the types of players they might’ve expected to get. These are the Season 3 and Season 5 players selected within 2 picks of the Yeti’s S4 selection:
#20: Wallace Stone, William Ridley, Rico Rodriguez, Calkewlated Chambers III, Jimmy Cox, Kenny Omega, Brandon Carter, Ben Urlacher, Peg Leg, Sidney Spinelli
#30: Jaquan Young, Sammy Walters, Joseph Askins, Vincent Valentine, Juan Andres, Victor Ball, Wolverine Justice
#36: Arjen de Ligt, Jonathan King, Jughead Jones, Kiko Bakari, Al Sims, Lamarcus Mills, Nathan Clearwater
Had they been able to get a player like Wallace Stone or Vincent Valentine with one of those picks they’d be in better shape right now. Would it have turned them from 0-14 into a playoff team? Certainly not. But Stone was a big part of the trade that brought a 600 TPE (at the time, over 800 now), active Wide Receiver to New Orleans and Valentine has turned into a 550 TPE safety that’s a big part on the defense of the team that may be the Ultimus favorites. Adding a player or two like that would have been a big addition to their current core that's rounding into shape.
They also got back their Season 4 2nd rounder which ended up being #10 overall. The S3 and S5 players selected within 2 picks of 10th are:
Franklin Harris Jr., Francois Lameroux, Trey Willie, Clifford Rove, Vash Erikson, Tegan Atwell, Michael Tilman, Terrell Brister, Fresh Booter, Darren Morris
How much different would the last few Yeti seasons have looked if they were able to get a solid 400ish TPE contributor like Rove, Harris, Brister, Tilman, or Atwell let alone someone of Willie’s caliber? How much more dangerous would their current core look? Instead they had to use the 10th overall pick on someone that didn’t update a single time.
Despite their misfortune that the Season 4 draft sucked, they were able to sell reasonably high on several of their players. Very few of the players they traded away ended up being long-serving, major franchise pieces the way Boggs and Longshaw became for them:Big Bot
- traded with a Season 4 1st to Las Vegas for Blaster Blade. Blade had a solid season in Arizona with 45 tackles and 14 for loss before walking in free agency. Phillipe Carter
- walked in free agency after Season 3. Had 57 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 26 passes defended for the Outlaws. Wyatt Fulton
- traded to Las Vegas for $6m in cap considerations after Season 3. Had 114 tackles, 12 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a safety for Yellowknife.Blaster Blade
- as mentioned above, he walked in free agency.Jon Ross
- Had 87 catches for 1,285 yards and 5 touchdowns before being involved in the mass retirement.Kieran O’Connell
- inactive, had 778 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns over 4 seasons in Philadelphia.Luke Tiernan
- Over five seasons with the Wraiths Tiernan was a stud, recording 467 tackles, 20 for loss, 30 sacks, 4 interceptions, 33 pass defenses, and 6 fumbles either forced or recovered. Definitely a big loss here, no doubt.Mayran Jackson
- Another big loss for the Yeti, Jackson has become a cornerstone of the Sabercats. Over five seasons he’s had 419 catches for 6,832 yards and 37 touchdowns. Would he have stayed in Colorado for five seasons? It doesn’t sound like he would have so you can hardly fault them for missing out on that production.Torque Lewith
- Similar to Jackson in that he has been a mainstay in San Jose and a big contributor to their stingy defense over the years but would he have stayed in Colorado? I don’t know. They could have certainly used his 456 tackles, 16 for loss, 16 sacks, 12 interceptions, and 60 pass defenses.Gadget Tech
- In his two seasons as a Sabercats offensive line, Tech had 68 pancakes and 11 sacks allowed. Solid for sure but he was not re-signed for Season 5.Blackford Oakes
- I've been solid for Las Vegas/New Orleans but considering they got Bly in the trade I doubt Colorado is looking me up wistfully on Facebook all these seasons later, opening up a message box and drunkenly spilling their guts before sobering up and apologizing only to do the same thing the following weekend. Which isn't harassment, Kara, it's a romantic gesture. You'll come around.
Tiernan, Jackson, and Lewith stand out as players that had great careers for the teams the Yeti traded them to while many of the rest were simply rentals. Tiernan is probably the only one that would’ve actually stayed in Colorado long term.
The Las Vegas Legion
This is going to have a slightly different tone than the Colorado one simply because I’m good friends with Keygan and was around for the Season 4 offseason so I know a bit more about the personal/user side of the trades as compared to the Yeti trades where I’m basing it mostly on sim performance and TPE while guessing at the other, more important dimension to sim league trading.
So unlike the Yeti trades which came in a flurry, the Legion’s accumulation of draft picks was slow and spread out over a couple months. The first domino to fall was Mark Ramrio
who was traded to Philadelphia for a Season 3 3rd, Season 4 1st, and Season 5 1st. Huge return just days before the Season 3 draft. This was a sign-and-trade for Ramrio and gave the Legion significant draft capital to build back up after their gamble to compete immediately failed.
A few days later one of the more interesting trades I’ve looked at was posted. The Legion traded two Season 3 3rds (Arizona and the Philadelphia pick they just got) plus their Season 4 2nd to Yellowknife in exchange for San Jose’s Season 3 6th, Yellowknife’s Season 4 1st, and Yellowknife’s Season 4 2nd. At the time it seemed like a savvy move for both sides given their relative timelines. As iamslm22 opined at the time
“I like th[e] trade for the Legion as long as next years draft isn't terrible.” Haha whoops.
A week later Las Vegas was involved in the previously mentioned trade with Colorado that saw them acquire Blaster Blade and Jon Ross. We already covered this but I’d like to highlight that the Season 4 Philadelphia 1st was involved after being acquired in the Ramrio trade. No particular reason. (This is foreshadowing.) I must say, though, adding Jon Ross was a big deal behind the scenes as he was incredibly active in our SHL-heavy locker room.
Later that month, the Legion traded away Stormblessed
in a definite rebuilding move on the heels of trading picks for established players. Definitely some mixed signals going on here but adding Baltimore’s 1st and 2nd to their draft stockpile as well as Jon Baker was a nice return for the Legion and looked to kick start their rebuild.
A month later, just before the Season 4 draft, Blaster Blade
was flipped to Arizona in the Big Bot
and a 1st trade detailed above. Blade hit free agency after the following season while Big Bot was another great addition to our locker room. I’m sure exactly when people realized that the Season 4 draft was going to be garbage tier but I imagine it must’ve been before this so I’m hesitant to chalk the acquiring of Arizona’s Season 4 1st up as an unlucky turn.
And finally, the final piece. With Colorado and Las Vegas owning all but 2 picks in the Season 4 first round, Las Vegas paid to price to ensure they got their man (hi) by trading their Season 5 1st (oof) and a bit of cap space in exchange for Colorado’s Season 4 1st (#2 overall) and Philadelphia’s Season 4 1st (#6 overall). By this point, Philadelphia’s Season 4 1st had been passed around more times than a Surrey hooker. It was sent to Las Vegas for Ramrio then traded to Colorado for Blade and Ross then traded back to Las Vegas for their Season 5 1st. The 1st round pick that selected Lonzac was traded more times than the number of games he actually played in the NSFL. Wew.
So, again, to sum that up. The Legion traded away:
S3 Arizona 3rd (#24 - James Warner)
S4 Las Vegas 2nd (#9 - Forfeited by the cheaterbois in Yellowknife for cheating)
S4 Las Vegas 4th (#25 - N/A)
S5 Las Vegas 1st (#2 - Andre Bly Jr)
S5 Las Vegas 5th (#35 - Pass)
$2m in cap space
And in return they added:
S3 San Jose 6th (#42 - Tyler Grant)
S4 Colorado 1st (#2 - Blackford Oakes)
S4 Yellowknife 1st (#4 - Steven O’Sullivan)
S4 Philadelphia 1st (#6 - Trey Lonzac)
S4 Baltimore 1st (#7 - Andres Waiters)
S4 Arizona 1st (#8 - Shawn Ariel)
S4 Yellowknife 2nd (#12 - Den Bavis)
S4 Baltimore 2nd (#15 - Pass)
S5 Philadelphia 1st (#5 - Dean Jackson)
Man, what could have been. Even throwing out the late addition of #s 2, 6, and 8 that were acquired because of the weakness of the draft class, a team that picks 4th, 7th, 12th, 15th, and 18th in a draft is usually set up well pretty for the future. In Season 3 those selections were used on Benson Bayley, Julian O’Sullivan, Vash Erikson, Charlie Law, and Wallace Stone. In Season 5 they were used on Cameron Taylor, Ryan Sierra, Darren Morris, Jacob Lattimore, and Kenny Omega. In Season 6 they were Norman Bagwell, Borro Gore, Bogdan Wojcik, Borkus Maximus III, and Micycle McCormick. Obviously two different teams in two different drafts can’t be expected to pick the same player but overall having 5 picks in the top 18 picks is going to get you a great core of players to build around. Unfortunately for Las Vegas, that wasn’t to be as they walked out of the Season 4 draft with Steven O’Sullivan, Andres Waiters, Den Bavis, and Brent Lane from those picks. Not an active to be found.
In order to make the draft not a total loss, the Legion had to give up their Season 5 1st rounder - which everyone knew would be a high pick - in order to trade up to #2 overall and pick me. That 1st rounder, of course, became Andre Bly Jr. That’ll be an interesting trade to revisit in the future but I have to imagine Colorado is happy with the way that it’s turned out, considering Bly has been their franchise cornerstone and long ago passed me in TPE despite being a season behind.
Aside from missing out on Bly (or Crush or Wachter or Taylor or Jackson or etc, no idea how those top 2 picks would’ve gone if Colorado didn’t own both) and dealing Ramrio, the Legion didn’t really give up too much that they’d end up regretting. Ramrio had a disappointing (?) Season 4 in Philadelphia with 36 tackles and 13 for loss before being traded to Arizona along with Lincoln Jefferson for Godfrey King, Ryan Flock, and a Season 5 3rd that was used on Sidney Spinelli. Stormblessed put together a great Season 4 in Baltimore and has filled a role nicely since but getting a 1st and a 2nd for an inactive is the move you make to rebuild, even though Stormblessed for Andres Waiters and John Baker is a travesty in hindsight.
So there it is, one view of the story of two rebuilds that failed spectacularly. New Orleans has now built around their Season 6 draft and the Yeti their Season 5 and 7 drafts so I think it's safe to say that whiffing so brutally in the Season 4 draft set the franchises back 2-3 seasons. If not for loading up in that draft, perhaps last year the Second Line would've made their first postseason appearance. Lord knows we were close. Colorado almost certainly doesn't lose 912 or whatever straight games and they're spared the endless mockery. Hell, with a couple good S4 players (either the players themselves or assets acquired from trading them) maybe the Yeti beat Arizona, San Jose, and New Orleans at home last season, pull off one more upset and the NSFC's worst team suddenly has the same record as a playoff team in the ASFC. Probably not, but maybe.
Maybe an alternate timeline where the Season 4 draft had a normal amount of talent leads to more parity but maybe it leads to the opposite. If the Legion were 5-9 and on the upswing instead of 3-11 in Season 4 would the discontented players have still mass retired or would they have stuck around to go inactive instead? Perhaps we have no mass retirement memes and bovovovo
never takes over the franchise. With no mass retirement do players like AsylumParty
volunteer to leave the Outlaws and Otters respectively to help turn around the distressed franchise? Probably not. If Las Vegas and Colorado win more than a combined 9 games in Seasons 4, 5, and 6 maybe all the discussions about parity never occur.
This is all bullshit, of course, but it's interesting to imagine a timeline where we all have a fair bit less TPE from not being to automatically predict against Colorado and Las Vegas/New Orleans the last few seasons. It's easy to wish the Season 4 draft had been more successful for the Legion but perhaps the way it turned out it is a far, far better thing.