Every year, there are new explorers in the fantasy football waters. Each new season, someone is playing for the first time. For those more experienced players, you might be itching for something new. Maybe it’s an auction league or a keeper league. We are here today to discuss your first dynasty league. Dynasty leagues come in all shapes and sizes, but here are the major differences from a typical redraft league:
- Deeper rosters
- Keep all/ most players from year to year
- More trading
- Startup draft and subsequent rookie drafts
In dynasty leagues, your roster is perpetual. Let’s say you take Saquon Barkley at the 1.01 in a startup this year. He is now yours until you dump him or trade him. You get Barkley forever if you want him. Rosters are also deeper. In my first dynasty league, each team drafted 25 players and we kept every one. In a more recent startup, we went 30 rounds deep. You are going to have deep rosters, and this means you need an eye towards the future. You will take some players who probably won’t play this year, but could be big next year if their situation breaks the right way. So, a dynasty startup requires you to think for the present as well as for the next 2-3 years.
In a league where each team has 25-30 players, you can imagine how bare waivers are. This means that the primary way to acquire new talent is the yearly rookie draft. As the league begins, you still do your normal startup draft. Everyone takes their players and then you play season one. After that season, the only new talent coming in is the rookie class. Teams draft in the rookie draft based on how the last season finished (worst team picks first like in the NFL draft). This is one of your primary ways to plan for the future. The other is trading.
Like in the NFL, every asset on a dynasty team is tradeable–players, rookie picks, and even your FAAB budget. This is important; in a league of 12 managers, it’s doubtful everyone is contending year-to-year. Managers are generally aware of this, and you will see trades where someone picks up talent at the cost of future currency. Say I have a chance to win it all in 2020. Julio Jones (31 years old) is valuable to me as he’s currently going in the first or second round of redraft startups. He could be the reason I finish with the trophy. However, say my team sucks–Julio is all but worthless to me at his advancing age, and I would much rather have a rookie pick or two instead of someone who may be washed up by the time I need him again. Unlike redraft leagues, dynasty creates a market for teams to sell this year in exchange for more value next year.
Approaching the Draft
So, how does the draft change? Here are some important factors to consider:
- Favor younger players in your startup. If your team flops this year, will you still like it in another year? Does your team have the chance to get better, or is it going to get worse with each passing season? A core of young guys will allow you to start strong for at least the first few years. If things go wrong, they are easy to move and rebuild with.
- Pick a team that has room to improve. The more your guys can improve, the more inherent value your team can have. This also helps with trading later on. AJ Brown, Terry McLaurin, Christian Kirk, and Curtis Samuel are examples of WR going in different rounds who have room to jump a tier or more. A couple of running back examples would be David Montgomery, Ronald Jones, and Alexander Mattison.
- Grab at least one stud running back. It’s hard to get more running backs once the draft is over. Each manager inevitably looks at this team and sees a hole here. Leaving the draft with at least one young stud (CMC, Barkley, Zeke, Kamara, Cook, Mixon are my top six) makes life much easier later on.
- Embrace trading. Unlike a startup, dynasty drafts are built for trading. Everyone has a bevy of value and wants to leave the draft with certain names. This means you should be ready to move up or down as value dictates. Let’s say you want a wide receiver and the next five guys are all roughly equal in your mind. Why not move back 4-5 spots if you could? Pick up more value later and still get one of your guys.
- Don’t ‘reach’ early. We all have our favorite players. I was a big-time Peyton Manning fan, but I almost never had him on my teams. Why not? He was overpriced. I loved him in real life, but he wasn’t worth the cost in fantasy. I’ve seen guys reach multiple rounds to grab their guy and it always hurts. Let’s say you badly want Patrick Mahomes and so you grab him at 1.12–just to be sure. In most drafts, he goes around 3.01. So, you just wasted 12+ draft spots worth of value. That value loss (12 spots early on) is roughly equivalent to giving away Kareem Hunt, Russell Wilson, or Hunter Henry for nothing.
- DO ‘reach’ late. Early on, we can all agree on ADP for the most part. It’s not too hard to predict the first five picks in a draft, and usually the first twelve. Once you leave the third round, though, it’s the wild west. There are guys I could see going as early as the fourth and as late as the seventh. What that means, then, is you need to get your guys. Sure, don’t take Mitch Trubisky early–that’s dumb. However, don’t worry about when someone else might take DJ Chark if you love him; just go get him. Once you have your core of 3-4 guys, go get the ones you love. Then you can still be excited about your roster moving forward.
I think the biggest mistake everyone makes with rookies is getting too caught up in the hype. We see the highlights on a few running backs and suddenly convince ourselves that 8 guys are can’t miss. Don’t even get me started on all the beastly receivers destined to take over the league. Here is the simple truth: rookies are more likely to flop than excel. More than 50% of receivers drafted in the first round of the NFL draft will NEVER put up a 1,000-yard season. That’s abysmal! You should not be expecting rookies to come in and be a surefire hit. It’s just not the case. This doesn’t mean rookie picks are worthless; on the contrary, they are highly valued in most leagues. So what should our approach be here?
- Move rookie picks for startup picks. During a recent startup draft, I made a deal to send all of my 2020 and 2021 rookie picks (4 picks in each year) in exchange for the 1.02 in the startup. This meant that my team started year one with an extra “Saquon Barkley” worth of value. Sure, I won’t get better for the next two years. However, that’s because the other teams are catching up. Startup picks are always worth more than rookie picks because you don’t have to wait 1-2 years for the impact. I would probably value a rookie first as roughly equal to a sixth-round startup pick.
- Move rookie picks for impact players. Let’s say an owner with Julio Jones is doing poorly and offers you Jones for your rookie first and second. Is it worth it? If your team is a contender, then of course it is! Jones could be the reason you hoist the trophy. You win the championship and who cares what it cost. What about a rookie first for McLaurin or Chark? Both are young receivers with a year of ‘proof’. I’d gladly take either over Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, or anyone else from the rookie receivers.
- Add rookie picks for ‘hot’ players. Each week, another Tevin Coleman or Chase Edmonds goes out and has a huge week. You have two choices: buy into it and hold or sell while you can. Most of the time, the flash-in-the-pan player doesn’t follow through. However, someone in your league is usually a believer. Try to sell in these cases for future value before the player fades away again.
- Sell off if you are eliminated. If you are fading fast in your season, don’t be afraid to sell. Those older players may be the perfect piece for someone else. Trade older talent for potential. You can always still sell your rookie picks later to get ‘your guy’.
- When drafting, bet on talent–not situation. This happens all the time. Someone drafts the hot situation instead of excellent talent. They get stars in their eyes for someone who could start right away behind an excellent offensive line. Here’s the thing: a bad talent is bound to get replaced. Situations change quickly. The only constant is a player’s ability. Sure, situation has an impact. It is much less important than ability, though.
While I said not to fall in love, I understand that some of us have our guys. Maybe you badly want Lamar Jackson or George Kittle on your roster. I get it. If you have to have that one dude, then get him. Above all, this is supposed to be fun. Maybe you want a studs and duds roster–4-5 elite dudes and then a mish-mash behind them. Perhaps you sell your early picks for depth and youth so that you can compete for a long time. You could trade for more rookie picks or trade them all away. Whatever you do, always think about the team you have and how the next move will impact it. Each and every move should be building towards something. Here are some last notes to wrap up:
- Be ready for a much longer draft–do your research.
- As always, wait on QB and TE (except for SF/ TE premium leagues)
- Take falling value early (at least rounds 1-3)
- Go and get your guys later on (starting round 4 or 5)
- Trade when you need to during the draft (move up for the last guy in a tier or move back when there is depth)
- Have a plan for the rookie draft–whether trading away picks or stockpiling