A Different Dynasty Strategy - "Year 2"
By Colin Dowling
August 9th, 2011

I've been posting this strategy for a few years now and my hope is that it has helped many of you find a winning strategy when joining a dynasty league. This year's article includes many of the same pillars of previous versions but includes some of the lessons I've learned since its original incarnation. As always, I hope it helps you build a lasting team that can dominate the competition for years to come.

When joining a dynasty league - whether it be a new league or one with a long history - I almost always utilize a strategy for my team that is startling in its effectiveness but decidedly rare in its implementation. Frankly, I've not encountered anyone else doing it, at least not in the same, focused way that I do. (That's not to say I'm the only person building a team this way, just that I haven't seen other folks trying it.)

My strategy is simple: Build for next year. Not "build for the future" or "acquire young players" or "try to win this season." My strategy is to build for the very next season. Thus is born the "Year 2" strategy. It is startling how many people in dynasty drafts draft exactly like they're in a redraft league through the first 6-8 rounds with no thought to what their team will look like in a season or two. And when they finally get around to thinking of the "dynasty" aspect of things, they take long-shot flyers on guys who have a very remote chance of ever being anything more than a bit player in the NFL.

The advantages in the "Year 2" strategy are ample.

  • Advantage #1 - Since next season isn't really that far off, it is fairly easy to make assumptions about players. By targeting players who will be more valuable next year then this year, you are working in a market where the players you are pursuing are all "buy low" candidates. In the past I have mentioned players like Matthew Stafford who had relatively low ADPs in the summer of 2010 but were likely to be much more expensive in 2011. This year, players like Michael leshoure and Roy Williams are likely available at draft positions far lower then they will be this time next year. You're not trying to gauge Jake Locker's future prospects or the chance of Julio Jones turning in to Reggie Wayne. Rather, you are evaluating players that are a year away from the chance to be full-time, top-tier performers. You're looking for players who have played enough to convince you they have a future but not so much that the cat is out of the bag. In 2007, Michael Turner fit the bill and his 2008 season was extraordinary by any standard. Aaron Rodgers could have been had for ten cents on the dollar as recently as January of 2008. The aforementioned Stafford was a 7th or 8th round grab in last summer's startup dynasty drafts.

  • Advantage #2 - Since you are building specifically for next season, you are significantly more focused then people who continually stock-pile young players "for the future." I often see teams interested in acquiring young talent without giving any real thought to how, when, and if that player is ever going to really have a chance to shine. This is what leads to players like Alex Smith and Beanie Wells remaining on rosters for years at a time in the hope that one day they'll turn in to a productive player. Trying to guess who will be the starting quarterback or starting running back of a certain team three years from now is a waste of time. Furthermore, holding on to a player like Matt Leinart or Kenny Britt because you don't want to see them pan out eventually for someone else is equally foolish. If you are thinking about next year and next year alone, you'll find that who to keep and who to cut becomes a much easier decision.

  • Advantage #3 - Your team probably won't be very good this year, meaning you're likely to pick early in the draft preceding the season you're gunning for. Imagine if you traded some older, useful veterans right now for players like those I mentioned earlier AND ended up with a top selection in the 2011 draft. Not only would you already have a potent roster, you are also in a position to improve it even more without giving up any players in a trade.

  • Advantage #4 - The really good teams will overpay for marginal players. Every dynasty league has a handful of teams that look loaded, some more than others. These teams likely have assets that fit your strategy just as you have assets that they covet. As such, trading an older, starting player with lots of miles on him for a younger player might not be that bad of an idea. Two summers ago, I used "LaDainian Tomlinson for Jonathan Stewart" as an example; that one would have turned out pretty well. This year, players like Chad Johnson and Steve Smith (Carolina) might be worth dealing for a younger player like Damien Williams or Donald Jones. The other guy, thinking only about the immediate future, may think he fleeced you and for the purposes of this year he probably has. And next year when his assets are a year older and on the decline, you'll be sitting pretty with a young player with his best years right ahead of him.
  • As a note, one of the cardinal rules of fantasy football is that you shouldn't tank games to improve draft position. In a way, this strategy creeps very close to that line, but never over it. If you go in to this season with Tarvaris Jackson and Alex Smith as the only quarterbacks on your new dynasty roster, so be it. If you want to trade Reggie Wayne for Micheal Leshoure, go for it. If you think that passing on Ahmad Bradshaw for Mark Ingram makes you stronger for Year Two, then do it. As long as you field the best lineup possible from your roster each week, you should have a clear conscience. Every league has team's that are bad; yours is simply bad because you're incubating players who should be very good next year. And when your strategy pays off in about 18 months as you hoist the trophy, you can rest easy.

    So who are some players to target that might be of lower value right now then they will be in twelve months? Who are some players that could be had for cheap that might break out as stars in 2012 and beyond? Here is a partial list...

    Quarterbacks

    Last year I suggest Josh Freeman as a Year 2 candidate. That would have worked out pretty well for savvy owners.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick - Fitzpatrick has had an up and down career to date and there is a wide assumption that the Bills will be bad enough to draft Andrew Luck next year. I don't but it. The Bills are likely to be better then a number of teams this season and gave Fitzpatrick a vote of confidence this offseason by not drafting a quarterback in the 2010 draft. He threw for 23 touchdowns and 3000 yards in only 13 games last season and has even more weapons at his disposal this season. While Fitzpatrick is not a glamorous choice at quarterback, he certainly has shown the ability to be a productive NFL starter.
  • Running Backs

    Admittedly both of these players lack a body of work in the NFL. But the running back position is so crucial that I thought they were worth pointing out for the Year 2 strategy.

  • Montario Hardesty - Peyton Hillis had a great year in 2010 and will be given the chance to do it again in 2011. But the Browns didn't address a "bellcow" backup for him in either the draft of free agency. I think that they believe Hardesty could be a big time player (if he can stay healthy). Hardesty can be had in the latest rounds of dynasty drafts and offers HUGE upside if his inarguable skills can supplant Hillis.

  • Michael Leshoure - Leshoure being out for the season is a boon for dynasty owners employing the Year 2 strategy. Coming out of the gate he was expected to complement Jahvid Best as a tough, inside runner. His value now has fallen greatly. Considering that Achilles injuries are rarely career-enders, you can grab Leshoure late for a big upside running back with a long career in front of him.
  • Wide Receivers

  • Mike Sims-Walker - Sims-Walker isn't being ignored by the fantasy community, but he is clearly being undervalued. He has gone to a team that plays on turf and lacks a true WR1. A mish-mash of receivers in the WR1 spot managed to catch 60+ balls and 900 yards in Sam Bradford's rookie season. With Sims-Walker's talent and Bradford's development, it is entirely possible that the Rams WR1 could be a 90 catch, 1200 yard behemoth for the next half-decade.

  • Roy Williams - For all his troubles, Williams is still in his prime (only 29 years old) and has shown plenty of ability on the field. He is reuniting with his position coach from the University of Texas and Mike Martz, whom under he had his best season as a pro. Williams was deliberate in choosing Chicago and with Jay Cutler's strong arm throwing the ball, he could have a second-life as a star receiver despite being a very low pick in dynasty drafts.
  • Dynasty leagues are fun precisely because you get to build something, tinker with it, tear it down and rebuild it. My experience has been that many dynasty owners think that "rebuilding" is a process without specific goals. (Maybe that's why they always seem to be rebuilding.) Other owners fail to properly value younger players that can be acquired for cheap because they are too enamored with squeezing one more good season out of old horses like Todd Heap. By following the "Year 2" strategy, you can have the best of both worlds and the worst of neither.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to dowling@footballguys.com.

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