Draft Strategy: Approaching a Dynasty Draft
So I walked you through your first snake and auction draft while David Fenko helped you learn the finer points of playing in best ball leagues. What’s left? I’m glad you asked. On top of everything we’ve covered, there is still IDP (individual defensive players), 2-QB leagues, superflex leagues, keepers, auction keepers, and dynasty leagues. Really, I could write an article on each league type and go all year long. I can’t speak towards every possible league format, but today I’ll finish my advice series with dynasty leagues. We’ll discuss differences from ‘redraft’ and ‘keeper’ leagues, how you should plan to attack, and how to make sure you love your team.
Redraft vs. Keeper vs. Dynasty
Let’s start with the differences between the three major league types: redraft, keeper, and dynasty. In a simple redraft league, you start from scratch each season as though the previous season never happened. Each year is a fresh start, and the previous results don’t matter. If you have a horrible team, it’s quickly swept under the rug and you move on. Win the league? It’s all gone now. Redraft is a great way to see how well you know the current talent and how well you can predict order of finish.
Moving on to keeper leagues, we now have the beginnings of retained value. Keeper leagues involve holding on to some talent from the previous year, and each league tends to have it’s own unique rules. Some let you keep one guy while others let you keep as many as you want…at a cost in the next draft. This is a step in the right direction, but I still prefer more; I’ve always wanted a league where I controlled everything. I wanted a league where every guy on the roster was mine, and the choices I made would stick with me for years to come. That’s why I joined my first dynasty league.
The beginning of a dynasty league is the startup draft. The startup draft works much like any snake draft, except it’s longer. A typical dynasty startup will go somewhere between 20 and 30 rounds and includes every player in the league…both experienced veterans and rookies who’ve never played a snap. Draft spots are randomized, and then it’s a normal snake draft from there on out. How do you draft? Early on, values don’t change much. The top-10 in a dynasty league will look nearly identical to that of any other league. The biggest difference will be how the older players are valued. What is Julio Jones worth–taking into account that he might only have two to three more elite years left in him? Sure, he’s a top three wide receiver this season. Is that high ceiling worth the shorter shelf life though? These are choices we have to consider as we build our teams. So let’s look at drafting:
How to draft a killer squad
Which drafting strategy should we use in dynasty? Zero WR? Zero RB? Grab a premium tight end or a premium quarterback? As I said earlier, strategy should be similar to any other league. We should keep in mind that wide receivers tend to last longer, but otherwise we are drafting to have a good team immediately. If the best player in the first round is a running back, then take him. If it’s a wide receiver, grab him instead. Try to take the guy you think is the best player available. I like to do this using tiers (read more about tier-based drafting here) and assessing as I go. I’m not worried if my first two picks are running backs, because I can find wide receiver talent later. I’m likewise not worried about starting WR-WR because there are plenty of running backs in rounds three through eight. I will say that I don’t like drafting quarterback or tight end early because I feel like I’m limited on depth and talent at running back and wide receiver, but that’s me. I personally won’t take a tight end until round five (Travis Kelce would be an exception in round three) and I won’t usually take a quarterback until round seven or eight (with Patrick Mahomes the exception if he somehow made it to round five). What if you get to your pick and you don’t like anyone on the board? Or, what if you love a guy and you’re still six agonizing picks away? Trade!
Learn to love trading
One of the things I most looked forward to in my dynasty league was trading. In redraft leagues, trading tends to be limited because everyone is playing for now. All twelve guys desperately want to win each trade, and they want the best player in the deal. With dynasty, there are bound to be a few guys ‘tanking’ for the next season who are more than happy to trade a Julio Jones, David Johnson, or other high-profile asset for a bunch of draft picks and young guys. Trading begins in the draft, and it should be on your mind all season long.
During my startup draft, I began in the 1.10 position. I really wanted a top-4 running back, and I hoped one would fall to me. I swapped 1.10 and 2.03 for 1.05 and 2.08 and I didn’t have to give anything up to make the move. That was a win because moving up in the first is more valuable than moving up in any other round. I missed out on my beloved running backs, so I traded back down from 1.05. I gave up the 1.05 and my 9.10 for someone else’s 2.05, 7.08, and their 2020 first round pick. That pick became Julio Jones–a guy who is by all accounts a top 10 player this league. I’ve made more trades than anyone in the league, picked up an extra first round pick, and constantly looked for ways to improve. Here is the result:
|first option||second option||third option||fourth option||fifth option|
|Quarterback||Drew Brees||Philip Rivers||Will Grier|
|Running back||David Johnson||Devonta Freeman||Mark Ingram||Kenyan Drake||Tevin Coleman|
|Wide Receiver||Keenan Allen||Adam Thielen||Allen Robinson||Curtis Samuel||Keke Coutee|
|Tight End||David Njoku||Irv Smith Jr.|
|RB depth||Ronald Jones||Justin Jackson||Justice Hill||Bruce Anderson||Damarea Crockett|
|WR depth||Quincy Enunwa||Equanimious St. Brown||Miles Boykin||Kelvin Harmon|
|2020 Draft Picks||1st round||1st round||2nd round||4th round|
|2021 Draft Picks||2nd round||3rd round||4th round|
Whether or not you love each individual player I took, this team represents a lot of value and it certainly has a chance to win this year. Not only that, but I have the ammo to make another big move if I want to later on. If you need advice on trading, I recommend two sources that greatly helped: the FantasyPros Trade Value Chart and the Dynasty 101 Trade Calculator. These resources can help you estimate fair return until you develop an innate sense of value for different players. Before I began, I had no idea if a Julio Jones was worth two firsts, more, or less. Now, I know he’s worth more than two firsts, and I should only trade him for around that amount. In all the trading, though, it’s important to remember something else:
You don’t have to ‘win’ every trade
With all the trading you will hopefully do, you have to remember not to go out and try to ‘win’ every transaction. Sure, you might be able to outsmart your league mates. You winning every trade will make others bitter, and they won’t want to work with you anymore. From the start of my league, I always laid out what I thought was fair for both teams, and I explained how I created the offer as best I could. I wanted my partners to know I wasn’t ripping them off. Given a flipped situation, I wanted them to know I would take the other side of the deal. In addition to establishing good relationships, we also have to think about situational value. Trade calculators don’t always tell the full story.
According to FantasyPros, the combination of Daniel Jones, Andy Dalton and Tom Brady is worth more than Russell Wilson. Which would you rather have though? Wilson of course. These values are not meant to say A is better than B; they are meant to help you see if a reasonable deal is roughly fair. Patrick Mahomes is roughly worth a 2020 first and Marquise Brown. With the way people value quarterbacks, though, you’d probably have to give up a bit more. Saquon Barkley is worth roughly a first and Antonio Brown, but again you’d likely have to give more. It tends to work out that the best players in the league come with an added premium. We have to be ready to give something valuable in order to get something back. Here are some trades I made once the draft finished:
|What I received||What I gave up||Why I made the deal|
|Trade 1||Miles Boykin, Philip Rivers||Darwin Thompson, Ryquell Armstead||Needed a second QB|
|Trade 2||David Njoku, 2020 first||O.J. Howard, 2020 second||like Njoku; draft picks|
|Trade 3||2020 first, Devonta Freeman, Curtis Samuel||Julio Jones||Love Samuel, extra RB|
|Trade 4||David Johnson||2020 first, 2021 first, 2020 second||wanted high-end talent|
I made the Miles Boykin trade because I like his upside and I needed QB depth desperately. My trade partner desperately wanted Ryquell Armstead because he has Leonard Fournette. I made the David Njoku trade because I view his value similarly to O.J. Howard. My trade partner greatly preferred Howard and was willing to give up some draft capital for the swap. I sent Julio Jones away to get RB depth and future value, and then I picked up David Johnson once I found out he was available from a rebuilding team for what I thought was a great deal.
Remember the “three year window”
In sports, we often think towards the future. It’s the quickest way to find hope in a dismal team–just ask Oklahoma City Thunder fans about their 75 (or so) draft picks coming in the next five years. However, with the hopes of planning for the future we sometimes mortgage our present. If I were the real life Atlanta Falcons, I wouldn’t trade Julio Jones for any reason; he is a beloved member of the team, and he could help them win a championship in the next couple years. So how do you decide? Think of your teams in terms of three year windows. Do you have a good or great chance to win in the next three years? If so, hold your best players and make moves to further improve your team. Are you stuck in full rebuild mode? Trade away the ‘Julios’ for draft picks and younger talents who could become something…by the time you’re good again, Jones may be retired or in decline. Dynasty leagues involve a constant self-evaluation so that you are always ready for the next step. This leads me to my last point:
Draft the team you want
I can tell you that Saquon Barkley is X amount more valuable than Nick Chubb, but what if you just don’t feel that way? What if you like Chubb more? What if you hate the Giants and wouldn’t put one of their players on your team no matter what? You can still draft Barkley; just trade him and get Chubb and a wealth of riches on the side. At the end of the day this is your team. These are your players, so you should make sure you actually want them. Part of the reason I made my Julio Jones trade was because I love Curtis Samuel and value him way more than most. I made the O.J. Howard trade for the same reason: I prefer Njoku, so I did what was necessary to get him. I’m still working on obtaining some other players I love, but things are starting to really shape up. Maybe you prefer draft picks and their promise? Trade away your studs and get more. Want to have the best team on paper from day one? Trade away your picks and you should be able to get another couple studs. Just make sure you’re getting fair value, and most importantly–have fun!
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)