Tackle the Competition
Winning at Fantasy Football can be difficult when you do not have a strategy or know how to operate within your league. With Fantasy Guides, my goal is to create a series of guidelines that I have developed over the past 17 years of playing fantasy football, which I have found increase the chances of winning your league. When you have a leg up on your competition it makes playing the game easier and more fun.
This guide will help you master your Dynasty Leagues!
What Is A Dynasty League?
Once you start, redraft will never be the same.
For most people who play Fantasy Football, one or two redraft leagues every year is par for the course. You do your draft, have either a good or bad season, and then call it a year come December. That's assuming you make the playoffs. For me, it never felt like enough. I always got bummed when the season came to an end. The season went by too fast. I wasn't ready. I still wanted to play. This was especially true when I would have horrible luck at the beginning of the year with a season-ending injury to a player, sometimes before the season even started. They would get injured during the preseason and my season was over. Then I started hearing about dynasty leagues and how people had been in them for 10 or 20 years with the same teams and same people. It sounded intriguing, so I started researching it more.
When I read about it, it sounded a lot like the Franchise Mode in the video game Madden, which I was a huge fan of when I used to play those games. For those of you who didn't play Madden, it was a mode in the game where you took over as the GM for an NFL team. You decided which players you were going to keep or cut. You got to make trades, draft picks, etc. I loved it. So much in fact that I spent WAY more time messing around in franchise mode than I ever did playing the actual game. I didn't care, it was great. I was able to fine tune my team to be exactly how I wanted. And usually after just one simulated season, I was ready to dominate. I was excited to do the same thing with fantasy football.
Now, for those of you who are familiar with keeper leagues, but not dynasty leagues, there is a difference. A keeper league is sort of a hybrid of a redraft and dynasty league. In keeper leagues, you keep a select number of players that the league decides on. It varies quite a bit from league to league on how many players you can keep each season. Once all the keeper players are decided, there is a draft with the remaining available players. Dynasty leagues vary quite a bit from league to league as well, but for the most part, and how I will be talking about it, each team keeps every player from their team year to year. Below is a breakdown of what a typical 12-team dynasty league looks like when compared to a redraft league.
|# OF PLAYERS DRAFTED
|# OF PLAYERS ON A TEAM
|SNAKE + REGULAR DRAFT FOR ROOKIES
|A FEW DAYS TO A FEW WEEKS
|JULY OR AUGUST
|INAGURAL DRAFT AT ANY TIME, ROOKIE DRAFTS TYPICALLY SHORTLY AFTER NFL DRAFT
|SIMILAR TO REDRAFT, BUT THEN TRADES CONTINUE AT SEASON'S END
|TYPES OF TRADES
|PLAYER FOR PLAYER
|PLAYERS AND DRAFT PICKS
Why I prefer Dynasty leagues
It's not for everyone, but if you're reading this, it's for you
Fantasy Football is a very competitive game within a game. We as the fantasy gamers have no control over the outcome. We can plan to the best of our knowledge, but come Sunday all we can do is watch. It is also chalk full of randomness. That randomness is what allows your girlfriend who knows nothing about football to be able to win your fantasy league. We've all seen it happen. Why? Because she looked at the app on her phone or computer, it told her who the best available player was, and because of it she just won the league. That's the reality of a redraft league. Technology and apps have made redraft leagues more flat. It's harder to get that advantage. That randomness can allow a lot to go either right or wrong and one season isn't always enough time to be able to adjust to it. In a dynasty league however, over time the cream rises to the top and the good players start to separate themselves, and that's why I love it. Here are a few reasons why I prefer the dynasty format.
Interest Never Dies: If your team starts of 0-6 in a redraft league, you're out of it. Mathematically and mentally. By week 8 the commissioner is having to remind you to set your roster every Sunday. You're not going to win it and you lose interest. In dynasty the season never ends. Rather than just packing it in for the year, you can start making moves with that 0-6 team. You can start trading away your older players to the teams who are making that playoff push. You can trade Julio Jones for a 1st or 2nd round pick. You can start planning for next season.
Dynasty makes you better: Before I started playing dynasty I only knew about maybe half of the relevant players, and only the big name rookies. But, because dynasty leagues are so much deeper, you know everybody. I knew about Darren Waller back in 2015 because I drafted him as a WR in one of my rookie drafts. When I heard about the Raiders trading for him, I paid attention, and during the 2019 season, I had him on all of my redraft teams. So, in turn, you get better at redraft as well.
Trading: In a dynasty league, trading is probably more fun than the actual games. Especially during the offseason or at the regular season trade deadline. And you're not just trading player for player. You're trading draft picks for draft picks, or players for draft picks. It adds a new layer to trading, and because rosters are so large, there is little left on the waiver wire, so teams are forced to make trades to improve their teams, which in turn makes the league more active and more fun.
Rookie Drafts: I still think my annual in person live redraft league drafts are the most fun, however rookie drafts aren't far behind. They are typically held shortly after the actual NFL draft when interest in the NFL perks back up. They are typically 4-5 rounds and can easily be completed over a weekend during a online slow draft.
Building a Dynasty: In the NFL, teams don't just start over the next season to where we don't know who is going to be good or bad. We know who the contenders and pretenders are. The same can be said for a dynasty league team. If you've built a powerhouse, you get to reap the rewards of that hard work for years to come and you get rewarded for your knowledge and hard work. Your team can remain strong for years and years.
Where can I play?
What platforms to use
Dynasty leagues are growing. We see more and more every year. It still is however a MUCH smaller number than those who play in redraft leagues, so it can be a little harder to find a league to join, but not to worry, I have you covered. Here are a few of the platforms where you can play.
How to dominate your dynasty league
There is no secret weapon at winning at fantasy football. The way to win is to do your best, make the best calculated decisions and let the chips fall where they may. You have to understand, you're going to be wrong sometimes, and that's ok. If you follow a sound process however, you're going to win more often than not. Here are a few general guidelines I follow when playing in a dynasty league.
Gather as much info as possible
There are unlimited resources to read about fantasy football. You can uncover as much as you want. The more you uncover, the better you will be. In a dynasty league if you're taking in more information than your league mates, that will carry over year after year and your advantage will grow and grow.
Too often people get stuck in one way of thinking about fantasy football and don't adapt. Football changes, and it changes quite frequently. Coaching tactics change, schemes change, rules change, etc. These all have effects on fantasy football. So pay attention to those changes and be willing to change with them.
This may sound funny as far as fantasy advice goes, but it goes much further than you think. Be polite and respectful to your league mates. It goes a long way in helping you win. Your league mates are much more likely to want to make trades with you when you're fun and easy to work with.
Trade or attempt to trade frequently
Not only is trading fun, but the more offers you send out and more negotiating you do, the better you understand your league mates. You start to see their tendencies. Player A. really likes rookies. Player B. only trades for running backs, etc. The better you know your league, the easier it is to win.
Outwork your league
You don't have to be the smartest player in your league to be the best. The more work you put into it, the more you will win. It's that simple.
Initial startup draft
DON'T F THIS UP!!!
The initial draft is a BEAST. It's the longest draft you will ever do. It's typically 25-30 rounds and can take up to a month. But this is the most important time when starting a dynasty league. Screw this up and you can set your team back for years to come. I've done enough start-up drafts and there is a system for it that works.
It's all about value!
When doing your initial startup you need to realize your chances of winning year one are about as good as they are in a redraft league, which isn't good. Of course we all want to win right away, but the reality is that you only have a 1 in 10 or 1 in 12 chance of winning depending on your league size, and assuming your competition is on a similar skill level as you. The main goal of your startup is to accumulate as much value as possible during the draft. Think of each player as a stock, where the younger the stock, the more value it holds. Derrick Henry might be a top 5 player in redraft, but he is worth significantly less in dynasty, and next year he will be worth even less. Yes, Henry might give you a little bit better chance to win in year one, but it's only slight....and it's not THAT much more than it would be drafting a player like Justin Jefferson who will maintain his dynasty value much MUCH longer. So when doing your startup draft the main thing to keep repeating in your head is VALUE VALUE VALUE! You will be able to use that value to trade later on, and potentially trade for Hopkins at a lower cost if he's on a bad team. I have traded for a lot of veterans at a discount right around the trade deadline. What happens is teams with these older players who's teams are not going to make the playoffs want to cash out and get draft picks.
Step #1: DRAFT YOUNG / PROVEN TALENT FIRST
As mentioned, in dynasty age matters. Draft players like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor, D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson, etc first and foremost. Not only are these some of the best players in fantasy football right now, but they will be for years to come.
Step #2: AVOID OLDER PLAYERS
DO NOT DRAFT players like Julio Jones, Travis Kelce and Adam Theilen. Yes, these players get drafted high in redraft leagues, but they shouldn't be in dynasty. Dynasty is all about value and the younger and better you are, the more value you have. A player like Tee Higgins can be a top 10 dynasty asset for 5-6 years. A player like Julio Jones can go from top 10 to barely top 100 with just one bad season. A few years ago before Rob Gronkowski's final season he was ranked inside the Top 25. Then word leaked that he was thinking about retiring. That's all it took and his value plummeted and you pretty much couldn't get anything for him at that point. So, do not draft these guys, trade for them. I'll touch on that later.
Step #3: TRADE BACK TO MAXIMIZE YOUR STARTUP DRAFT
Have you ever noticed that New England is ALWAYS trading back in the draft? The reason they do it is to maximize their draft. The NFL draft is a crap shoot. It's hard to predict if a player will be good or not. Fantasy drafts are the same. Players bust all the time, so if you can trade back to get multiple picks or future rookie draft picks, do so.
Step #4: DRAFT USING A TIER SYSTEM
For those of you who are not familiar with it, a Tier System helps to define a range of players within overall rankings. Fantasy football rankings are VERY subjective to the creator of those rankings, myself included. That's why so many times there are disagreements over who should be the 1.01 pick of the draft. This is why tier systems are so helpful. With a tier system you don't need to be tied to a specific players. Instead, you should be happy with a range of players. That way if the guy you wanted to draft gets taken before you pick, you don't feel stuck, and it doesn't screw up your draft strategy. More than likely there are a range of players you would be more than happy to take. And with a startup draft, since there is so much time between picks, you can afford to shop your picks and try to make trades.
Let's say you have the 5th pick in your startup and you are on the clock. You like 4-5 players all about the same. You are doing your team a disservice by not trying to trade back to the 8th or 9th spot. If all those players are the same in your mind, then trading back locks you in to get one of those players, but you've also been able to add another pick in the draft or possibly a rookie pick for later on.
Step #5: WAIT TO DRAFT A QUARTERBACK
I'm sure there are others who would disagree with this strategy, but I've won a lot of dynasty championships, and I've never done it with Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. This isn't to say you CAN'T draft one of the stud quarterbacks, but I recommend only doing it if you can get them at good value. The simple reason is that veteran quarterbacks are insanely cheap in dynasty. I have won championships with Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and even Alex Smith as my quarterbacks. In dynasty they are easy to acquire. About 4 years ago I was able to trade Trey Burton straight up for Drew Brees. I was able to get Ben Roethlisberger around the same time for a 3rd round rookie draft pick. They give you almost as good of production as the big time quarterbacks at a fraction of a cost. Get 2-3 of these older quarterbacks and STREAM them. Two years ago I did this with Big Ben and Drew Brees and the results ended up being almost as good as Patrick Mahomes 2018 season. I'll touch on QB Streaming later.
Step #6: TARGET RUNNING BACKS AND WIDE RECEIVERS EARLY
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise and it's similar advice in redraft leagues, but it's simple math. The more positions you have to start in a lineup, the more important it is to take as many players for those positions as possible early. This is especially true for running back. There are only a handful of elite running backs in the league, so you need to take one of them early, preferably in the first round if possible. The drop off from a round 1 running back compared to a round 2 running back is drastic, let alone rounds 3, 4 or later. The same holds true for wide receiver, though to less of an extent than running back.
Step #7: AVOID DRAFTING A QUARTERBACK OR TIGHT END EARLY
Unless your league is 2QB, Superflex or Tight End Premium, you should avoid taking the position early. The simple reason is you only have to start one in most leagues. It's always easy to find a suitable quarterback or tight end, and not so much for the Running Back and Wide Receiver positions.
Step #8: DRAFT HANDCUFFS
This is not a philosophy I adopt in redraft leagues, but it's necessary in dynasty. The simple reason is that you have the bench space to do so. Trust me, when you have 20 bench spots on your roster, you're going to want to have those spaces dedicated for your running back's handcuff. In one of my dynasty leagues this year I had Mike Davis. One of my opponents had Christian McCaffrey. All offseason I tried trading Davis to him for cheap, but he wouldn't budge. I ended up losing Saquon and he ended up losing McCaffrey. Had he just used the last pick of the startup on Davis as insurance, he would have made it deep into the playoffs, but instead he missed out and I nearly won the league. Most of the time they don't cost anything more than just a roster spot, so go get them.
Step #9: DO NOT DRAFT A DEFENSE OR KICKER
A lot of dynasty leagues do not have kickers or defenses, but if yours does my advice is: DO NOT DRAFT a Defense. In 2019 the Patriots DST scored the 4th most points by a fantasy defense over the past 20 seasons. However, did you know that there has never been a fantasy defense repeat as the number 1 overall defense two years in a row over the past 21 seasons. In fact, it’s much worse than that. Over the past 10 seasons the number 1 defense averages 62 less points the next season. The average ranking goes from 1 to 12, which is exactly what happened to the 12th ranked New England Patriots in 2020.
The same goes for kickers. The really good ones like Justin Tucker, Harrison Butker, Will Lutz and back in the day Stephen Gostkowski can provide a very slight edge. But it's only slight. The problem is that they get drafted too early, even in dynasty. You're better taking a chance on a player or drafting a handcuff. Stream the kicker position and add a kicker who is playing in a game with a high projected points total.
ROOKIE DRAFT STRATEGY
After the initial startup draft, the Rookie Draft is probably the second most fun part of dynasty. I find that two weeks after the NFL draft is the perfect time to have your draft, because people are still excited about the NFL draft. It give owners two weeks to get familiar with the rookies. If you wait much longer to hold your rookie draft, it starts to creep into the dead zone of the NFL offseason where excitement from the NFL draft starts to fade.
There are two ways to approach a dynasty rookie draft. One is to sit back, wait for your pick and make the best selection based on your rookie research. The other is to be active during the draft by either trading up in the draft, trading back or trading for veterans. How you approach your rookie draft should all depend on what picks you have, and what you think you can get from the other owners in your league. Let's take a look.
SHOULD I KEEP MY ROOKIE PICK?
Whether you decide to keep your rookie pick or trade it should depend on a number of factors and my answer will vary with each pick. There are a few different scenarios you can run into with each pick.
#1: Is my pick the 1.01?
If you have the 1st pick in your rookie draft, then 9 out of 10 times I would recommend keeping the pick and making your selection. I'm only interested in moving that pick if someone is offering me a proven Top 10 dynasty player.
#2: Is my pick the start of a tier?
Let's say you have the 4th pick in the draft, but you feel like there are about 3-4 players you like about the same, then I would attempt to trade back from that pick. It's better to draft a player you like about the same and get an additional player or pick on top of it then to just make your selection.
#3: Is my pick the end of a tier?
If you have the 8th pick in the draft, but you feel there is a drop off in talent at pick 9, then you should not be attempting to trade out of that pick. Keep the pick and make your selection. Not only is it a better process, but you won't be kicking yourself later in the season if the player you would have drafted ends up hitting.
#4: Do I have the last pick in the 1st round?
I'm always going to try and trade the last pick in the 1st round of a draft unless it's the end of a tier. The reason being that because it's a 1ST ROUND pick and not a 2nd adds a layer perceived value that's not really there. Just because your pick is a first rounder doesn't mean it's any better than the owner who has the pick right after you at the start of the 2nd round. If I can trade back from the 1.12 to the 2.03 and get some added assets for it, I'm doing that 90% of the time.
#5: Do I have a bunch of late round picks?
If you have a bunch of picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds my first advice is to try and trade those picks for some proven veterans, but if you're intent on making the picks or can't trade out, something to consider is drafting multiple players from the same position. This is where I'm likely to load up on wide receivers. Let me give you an example. Let's say you have 4 picks in the 3rd round. You have the 3.1, 3.3, 3.5, 3.8. Use every one of those picks on a wide receiver. If you do that, take a look at what you could have easily drafted in each of the past 3 rookie drafts during the 3rd round:
|Equanimeous St. Brown
In each of these examples, three of the wide receivers you drafted are likely cut material, but that doesn't matter. You just need one of them to hit and in each of these scenarios that happened and can happen.
TRADING AWAY MY ROOKIE PICK
Rookie Fever is a real thing in dynasty leagues. I've seen some crazy trades where owners gave up really good assets to acquire rookie draft picks during the draft. I attribute it to, "well there isn't much else to do, and I want to have some excitement." During the draft is the absolute best time to trade away your rookie draft picks, and I recommend at least trying to during the course of your draft. You should at least be entertaining offers. If you can get another owner to overpay for your draft pick, you should be doing that every time. Just make sure the value is there. I'm not looking to give away my rookie picks. Here are the types of trades I like to do when I'm trading away rookie draft picks. These are just examples, and what you can get back in return is going to vary from league to league. The players below are relevant to the current 2020 offseason and of course the value of the draft picks can vary based on the quality of a particular draft class. This is just to give you an idea.
MY PICK WHAT I should get back in a trade
1.01 Only a Top 10 dynasty player in return
(e.g. Alvin Kamara, Tyreek Hill, Saquon Barkley)
1.02-1.06 Only a Top 25 dynasty player in return
(e.g. Aaron Jones, Chris Godwin, Darren Waller)
1.10 Top 50 dynasty player + pick
(e.g. Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods + 2nd rd pick)
1.12 2021 1st round pick + a player
(e.g. 2021 1st + Noah Fant)
or something like: 2.02 + 2.03 + 3.06
2nd round pick Target an older proven player that others might be
getting nervous about their age + a pick.
(e.g. Jarvis Landry + future 2nd rd pick)
3rd round pick Target a veteran that the league is scared to death of:
(e.g. Zach Ertz)
I have traded 3rd round picks for James White, Julian Edelman, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady to name a few. I have literally won leagues with these guys. Nobody wanted James White when the Patriots signed Mike Gillislee, or Julian Edelman after he tore his ACL during his age 32 season. Just like nobody wanted Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger after down 2017 seasons. If others are panicking on players like these, send them your 3rd round picks. The chances of hitting on a rookie 3rd round pick is small. It's better to take a chance on an older vet that your league has soured on.