Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire
I have always enjoyed fantasy football. I’ve played in the same auction keeper league for a decade, I’ve done redraft for the last 20 years, and I never miss a Bears game. What I never tried up until last year, though, was a dynasty league. In dynasty leagues, you keep every player on your roster. There is an initial startup draft, and then that’s your team moving forward. Sure, you can make trades with other owners. You also draft rookies before each new season and there is still a waiver wire. It’s your team, though, and you run it how you want to. The toughest part of this is if someone else grabs your guy, you may never see him. Good luck paying the price Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley will likely cost you on the open market as they dominate each season. The nice part is that you keep the guys who break out for you. At the end of the year, you don’t have to redraft them again. Did you predict the Lamar Jackson explosion? Sweet! He’s yours forever–if you want him to be. You get to capitalize on your scouting next year as well. It’s a whole new way to play the game, and I fell in love as soon as I started.
Since my first dynasty league was so much fun, I decided to create another–a staff dynasty league here at QBList. The goal was to design a league that would give our writers more firsthand experience with dynasty as well as to help drive our content for years to come. This article isn’t a one-off, but rather the start of a seasons-long journey we plan to take with you. We will be here for you throughout the season–whether you end up with the championship trophy or next year’s first overall pick. Like with any league you join, it all starts with the draft. So, I figured we would start by diving right into our own draft. How did our staff draft and what can we learn from it? Over the course of this week, we will examine our entire startup draft day by day. We will talk about our picks as well as our general thoughts about how things are going. Here is the article schedule:
- Monday: Rounds 1-2 (what you’re currently reading)
- Tuesday: Rounds 3-4, each manager’s strategy and how well they have stuck to it thus far
- Wednesday: Rounds 5-8, each manager reviews his team thus far
- Thursday: Rounds 9-14, each manager’s favorite and least favorite picks so far
- Friday: Rounds 15-25, manager’s final self-review and grade of their teams
The last item worth mentioning before we dive into picks was our draft style and league specifics. We decided to use a slow draft as it allows for the most trading between teams. It is also the most flexible for people on different schedules–like many of us are. I completely recommend slow-drafting if you have the time as it adds so much strategy. If you are used to redraft, trading will likely be the biggest change you experience. Ask any of my league mates, and they will tell you I love to trade. It’s rare I pass up on the chance to move up or down a few spots, especially if I see the right value on the board. I have rarely made a trade in my redraft leagues, but each dynasty league I’ve joined has included at least a dozen moves during the startup process alone. Here are a couple of examples: I traded my first, second, and 22nd-25th round picks for another owner’s 3rd-6th and 10th round picks. Later on, I traded my rookie picks for 2021 and 2022–the next two years–for the 1.02. The 1.02 later became more picks as I moved back once again. I am certainly more the extreme than the rule, but trading is an important dynamic of dynasty leagues. I think there was only one team not to make any trades during the draft. As for our league scoring specifics, here are the important details:
- League size: 12 teams
- League Scoring: PPR
- QB Scoring: 4-pt pass TD
- Roster Size: 25 players
- Starting Line-up: 1 x QB, 2 x RB, 2 x WR, 1 x TE, 3 x Flex
You should always know your league settings. You want to build a team around your league’s rules. In the case of this setup, only needing 2 running backs and 2 wide receivers gives each team the flexibility to build up either position stronger than the other if they so desire. You could choose to start five running backs and two wide receivers (check Paul’s start), five wide receivers and two running backs (watch my team), or any combination in between. This league type also places less value on the quarterback and tight end: you only need one of each position. As such, even the best quarterback and tight end will pale in comparison to the value of a top running back or wide receiver. For me, this league type meant I wanted lots of depth at WR. Receivers are safer to me than running backs and are therefore my preferred investment. Others prefer the guaranteed workload of running backs. Both approaches have merit, and I love the option to choose your own method. Whatever you decide, know your rules before you start and plan accordingly. The last thing to remember is to have fun. Ultimately, we are doing this for amusement, so make sure you have a good time with your draft and your league mates. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the first two rounds. (We won’t be grading teams after each round because of trades and certain teams not having picks in certain rounds. Instead, we will be discussing individual picks and then the entire teams once the draft is complete.)
Rounds 1 & 2
Note: Each pick was made by the name at the top of the column unless stated otherwise on the pick itself. For example, pick 1.01 was made by Ryanh while pick 1.02 was made by dadams0323–not Fenkostan. The color of each pick represents the position of the player (green is RB, blue is WR, orange is TE, and red is QB)
The first six picks of round one went exactly as I expected. Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley are a safe bet for the top two picks in almost any league. I personally prefer Barkley, but making a case for either back is splitting hairs. Both are excellent values above all others. Michael Thomas, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara would make up my 1b tier and they finished out the top six picks. Each of these four players feels safe, and three of them represent young running backs with proven value. An important note here: running backs will go extremely fast in most dynasty startups. In this draft, there were eight RB and three WR gone after the first round. Continuing that trend, eleven of the first 15 picks were running backs as well as 18 of the first 33 picks. If you don’t grab a running back early, things will turn ugly fast. This is also why the only non-running back in tier one was Michael Thomas: the safest WR in the league. After the first six picks, both Miles Sanders and George Kittle were a big surprise to me. I had both players marked with a valuation in the early third. Here’s the thing though: there is nothing saying they would have made it that far. Colin and Corey made sure to get their guys, and I can respect that as I have my own guys I love. Sanders could have a big season if he can become the workhorse in Philly–especially with how everyone else fell apart last season. Kittle is the most valuable tight end in dynasty, and it’s not close at all. He is young and uber-talented. Still, realize that TE has a low ceiling of value in this type of draft. That’s why I had him as a late second.
The rest of the round was calm–two more wide receivers (Deandre Hopkins and Chris Godwin) and two more running backs (Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb) that typically land in the first round. Why were those last four not in my tier one? Deandre Hopkins has the risk of being on a new team that likes to spread the ball. On top of that, we are likely looking at a shortened offseason–less time to build chemistry with the team. Chris Godwin is also working with a new quarterback that will be 43 when the season starts. It’s hard for me to be confident that I know who Brady’s favorite target will be: Chris Godwin or Mike Evans. It wouldn’t surprise me to see either receiver suffer a major dip in touchdowns. Joe Mixon is probably just shy of my tier 1 and I wouldn’t be opposed to giving him the bump into that top group. I could see him going as early as pick six if Michael Thomas slides. His uncertain contract situation does cause a little bit of unrest though in terms of future value. As for Nick Chubb, I think it’s fair to be worried about Kareem Hunt. Chubb is an excellent talent, but Hunt is no slouch either. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see either back lead the team in scoring this year. Honestly, I could even see both finishing in the RB1 range if Cleveland’s offense plays like everyone thought it would last year.
In the second round, we saw the first two rookies off the board. Clyde Edwards-Helaire landed in the best situation of any rookie back (Kansas City) and should be a target monster right away. If he also becomes the workhorse, he’s a locked and loaded RB1 for at least the next half-decade. My one reason for pause, at least short term, is that CEH is–at best–the third option in the passing game behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. There is also the possibility that Damien Williams steals carries as well. Still, the upside is ridiculously high. Jonathan Taylor was considered the top talent in the class by many and he will play behind one of the league’s best offensive lines in Indy. Like CEH, he should have a huge impact if he grabs the workload right away. My biggest worry here isn’t Marlon Mack stealing carries, but rather Nyheim Hines grabbing the passing game. Taylor can still be successful without it. Josh Jacobs went next, ending what I would consider the top value in running backs. Sure, there are other names with talent or good one-year situations. I just see a sizable drop off at this point in particular. The draft board reflected this as the next six picks, and seven of the next eight, were non-running backs. I was supposed to make my first pick at 2.05, but I was torn between the top-two receiving options remaining. Tyreek Hill is one of my favorite receivers in the league, and he is a nightmare for opposing defenses. I might have taken him at pick 1.08 if I hadn’t traded back. Davante Adams, meanwhile, is a target monster when healthy and Green Bay added no real competition during the draft. He averaged 10.5 targets per game last year, and I still don’t see any competition. I had both players as locked first-round talents, so I was excited to be guaranteed at least one of them. So how did I decide between them? Well…I didn’t. I traded up to grab the 2.04 pick as well. I used my first two picks on Adams and Hill, setting me up well at the position for the next few years. I think it’s fair to wonder why these receivers both fell into my lap. For Hill, it is certainly the injuries last year as well as lingering character concerns. One year ago, I wasn’t certain he would ever see a field again due to everything going on. For Adams, it’s also injuries (concussions) along with a lack of season-long success. Adams has been impressive when healthy, but he still has only one thousand-yard season to this point in his career. There are worries, and ones I’d call fair, about how much longer he can hold up. Still, the value was too good to pass up.
Moving on, two more receivers went off the board (Juju Smith-Schuster and Odell Beckham Jr.) before we saw our first quarterback at 2.08 in Patrick Mahomes. I totally understand the pick: if you want to guarantee your guy, don’t take a chance by waiting until the third round comes back around. Mahomes should also offer value at the position for another 10 years–much longer than any RB or WR could ever reasonably expect to offer. Still, I prefer to wait on QB. I like the look of my team more when I have the chance to load up at RB and WR early, and the position tends to be replaceable in 1-QB leagues. Jumping back to Juju, I am not high on him moving forward. He seemed to be exposed last season with no Antonio Brown to take the attention of the defense. This next season could be “make or break” for his value. Odell Beckham Jr was another receiver who struggled last year, but I expect a bounce back. I have seen enough talent to still be a believer moving forward. It’s no coincidence that OBJ and Baker Mayfield both tremendously struggled together. The second round finished up with Mike Evans, Derrick Henry, D.J. Moore, and Austin Ekeler. Mike Evans was my favorite remaining pick of the round. He has put up 1,000+ yards in each of his six seasons, and here are his per-season averages thus far in his career: 139 targets, 77 receptions, 1,210 yards, and 8 TD. That’s a career average of 246 fantasy points per season, or a WR10 finish last year. As volatile as Evans can be from game to game, he never fails to deliver over the course of a season. With the end of round two, I reached out to each manager for some thoughts on how their drafts were going. Here is what they thought about their draft start. I’ll begin the recap.
Me (Mike Miklius): As I said above, I originally planned to move completely out of rounds 1 and 2. I successfully pushed back from the first but had to pivot once I saw Hill and Adams still there. I always try to roll with the flow of a draft. I won’t get caught up in runs (I didn’t reach for a running back), but I will grab value whenever someone lets it fall. Here’s to hoping for more later on.
Ben Brown: My strategy going into the draft was RB/RB early on, so of course I went WR in the 1st and traded out of the 2nd once all the RBs were gone. After Paul took four straight RBs, there was only one guy available I would consider with my 2nd round pick: Josh Jacobs. He’s young and will have plenty of carries behind an offensive line that was above average in 2019 and should improve in 2020. Naturally, he was taken right before me so I ended up trading my pick for a 3rd and 5th rounder, where I think there is plenty of value to be had.
Marc Salazar: Since I am picking in the top half of the round, I wanted to secure a foundation running back for my lineup. I was hoping that Zeke would fall, but Cook is a good consolation prize. Injury concerns aside, he should have two or three more seasons of production and that works for me. I decided to take the first quarterback off the board, going against conventional late round QB strategy. There were tons of solid, similar options at receiver and the reliable running backs had been picked through. While I have won dynasty championships with guys like Ryan Tannehill and Alex Smith, having Mahomes is almost like a cheat code. I can lock him in for the next half decade and easily have a Top-5 QB each year.
Ryan Heath: I consider young RBs the best pieces to build around in dynasty, so I’m worried to see the run on them that’s happened with Sanders, Mixon, and Chubb all off the board in the first. In hindsight, I probably should have traded back in the first round to do what Paul did. McCaffrey had better be worth it. While my preferred target of Jonathan Taylor didn’t make it anywhere close to my pick, I’m stubborn and refuse to draft a WR this early in a startup. The position has flattened out so much in the last few years, and RBs still provide much higher value over replacement. I’m going with Austin Ekeler here, who should see a ton of passing game volume on a bad team. Losing Rivers could hurt, but the 24-year old is the only real option I see here. Joshua Kelley is more of a threat to Justin Jackson in my view, but this offense as a whole could be a mess. Note: Ryan initially drafted Austin Ekeler but ended up trading him during the draft for multiple picks
Ryan Kruse: Going chalk with the third overall pick and grabbing Michael Thomas felt like a bad idea after everyone started grabbing running backs. That being said, I’ve got no complaints building my dynasty around the guy with the most receiving yards after contact since 2018 and the most receptions since 2017. Thomas just turned 27 years old and is at the top of his game. What’s not to like? Derrick Henry wasn’t exactly the sort of value I was expecting to find at RB in the second round. I believe I had Henry ranked as the RB12 in my list so I decided to just pull the trigger. Henry is still only 26 years old and the Titans are trying to work out a long-term deal before July 15. Not the best but I’ll take it (Damn you, Paul!).
Matt Bevins: I spent a decent amount of time flipping between Zeke or Nuk at 4. Zeke is in a potent offense while Hopkins basically just became Kyler Murray’s hot new toy. I couldn’t avoid going running back after realizing how quick young rushers would likely be taken, so Zeke was the pick. Mike Evans at almost the end of the second? I’ll take it. I was hoping that I could have had Juju or Davante fall, but I still ended up getting one of my favorite wideouts in a high octane offense. I’ll take it.
Colin Weatherwax: The top 6 picks are pretty chalky so I knew that going in I would need someone to fall or I’d have to choose between safety/risk with this pick. As expected, the top 6 picks went according to plan so it was time to choose between safety like Hopkins, Chubb, or Mixon or risk it with Sanders. I honestly love Sanders and was drafting him everywhere last year. Without Jordan Howard there this year and with the Eagles not drafting a running back, Sanders should excel both this year and moving forward in a creative offense with a competent QB.
Corey Saucier: I came in with the #6 pick hoping to land Alvin Kamara, and thankfully Marc had his eyes on Dalvin Cook at #5 instead. I really had my heart set on George Kittle, and since I feared he wouldn’t make it back to me at #19, I traded my 3rd and 4th round picks to get back into the first round to grab him.
David Fenko: Within a few weeks of signing up for the draft, Mike offered me his entire lot of 2021 and 2022 rookie draft picks for 1.02. I’m a Giants homer and would have loved owning Saquon in dynasty, but the allure of starting with twice the number of picks for the next two seasons was too much to pass up. I generally tend to shy away from runs, so despite the rapid reduction in options at RB, I snatched up DJ Moore at 2.11 without a second thought. With Kyle Allen at the helm, Moore actually saw an increase in average depth of target, which coupled with a consistent 65% catch rate, led to 1,100 yards. With Teddy Bridgewater under center, I expect that Moore will be able to anchor my WR corps for years to come.
Erik Smith: After the top 6 running backs came off the board, I could have drawn a name out of a hat and been happy with any of them. I decided to go wide receiver, as I felt the remaining running backs had enough questions to keep them from being an elite dynasty option. I also felt fairly confident I could land a running back I liked in the 2nd round. After debating Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, I ultimately chose Chris Godwin. Godwin is the age of a rookie, with the added bonus of an already stellar NFL track record, and he should be on my team for the long haul. The Packers’ questionable offensive philosophy and team building and Hill’s off-field and contract questions were what made me pass on what are likely superior options for the 2020 season. Paul somewhat blew up my plans with his four consecutive running back picks, as I figured I would see one of Mixon, Chubb, or the top-two rookies falling to me. However, I also do not view Mixon as being that much better of a dynasty option than Jacobs, so I was happy to take the second-year running back. Jacobs’ 27 targets from last year are certainly a concern, but even with that lack of passing game work he still averaged 14.74 PPR points per game. That’s more than Mixon scored in ’19, and Mixon himself saw a lackluster 45 targets. I’m not overly optimistic that the Raiders feature Jacobs in the passing game in ’20, but if they do, I have a top option at the position. And even if Jacobs never evolves into that role, I have a 24-year-old running back that already has established himself as one of the better pure rushers in the league.
Dan Adams: I didn’t really love any of the running back options that I thought would be available at the 1.08, but I also was really only interested in trading up if it meant securing either McCaffrey or Barkley, who are probably in their own tier as far as dynasty assets go. It hurt to trade my 2nd rounder for a pick at the end of the third round to move up, but securing Barkley felt worth it especially after seeing the run on running backs to end the first round. After seeing Paul’s move to draft four running backs and essentially corner the market on what remained of the RB1s / exciting rookies, I’m glad that I got out of this round when I did. Before the draft started I had planned to try to move back up if either Miles Sanders or Clyde Edwards-Helaire had started to slide, but with both going higher than I could have traded for, I opted to stay put and sit this round out–none of the receivers were enticing enough to warrant trading up for.
Paul Ghiglieri: I worked a series of trades to position myself with four picks in the top 15. While this strategy left me without picks in Rounds 4, 5, and 10, I liked the flexibility it offered when building an elite foundation for a dynasty roster. With 1.11, 1.12, 2.01, and 2.02 in hand, my intention had been to open the draft with two top-5 options at both WR and RB. If I didn’t like what fell to me, the option of trading back with one or two of those picks would be available. Part of this strategy rested on the assumption that Chris Godwin would fall to me at 11. Much to my chagrin, Erik took him at 10, so now I had to pivot. I had no interest in Tyreek Hill, a lower volume WR with off-field issues, in a PPR league like this, and I worry about Davante Adams’ potential in Green Bay’s evolving scheme after Aaron Rodgers departs. The Packers seem to want to move to a more ground and pound, ball-control offense like Tennessee. I’ll look see what a trade back will fetch while I weigh my options holding the next two picks in the draft. I went with proven workhorses that had health and youth on their side. Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb are sure-fire fantasy studs under 25. They both offer elite three-down aptitude. I’m less worried about Kareem Hunt in Kevin Stefanski’s offense than others are, especially when Chubb nearly led the league in rushing despite Hunt’s presence last year. I expect more 12-personnel with Hunt split out wide rather than Chubb relegated to a two-down thumper role. I didn’t like the offers on the table for either of these picks. Rather than reach for another WR with Godwin gone and my reluctance to invest in Hill or Adams, I opted to go with value and take the top-four RBs on my board. I opted to reach for Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor: the consensus 1.01 and 1.02 picks in every rookie draft this year. I felt like I was locking in what will likely be four first-round picks a year from now. Barring injury, I should have the best rushing stable in this league for at least the next three or four years, likely longer. Plus, I can add to it which is terrifying in the best of ways. I’ll need to get creative at WR later, but I’m only required to start two in this league, with three FLEX spots open to accommodate all four of my elite RBs every week. I hadn’t planned on going four straight RBs to begin this roster, but losing Godwin made this move more attractive to me.