Beginner's Guide To Dynasty Leagues
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 29th, 2011

Dynasty leagues are growing in popularity as fantasy owners search for an offseason fix to the fantasy football habit. Teams in dynasty leagues keep the same players indefinitely. These leagues are active the entire year. To many dynasty leaguers, the offseason is more enjoyable than the regular season. In this series of articles, we will examine the different facets of dynasty leagues. While these articles are written for the newcomers to dynasty leagues, we will include some thoughts for the more experienced dynasty owner. There are many types of dynasty leagues from which to choose the one that best fits what you are seeking. They differ in number of teams, roster size, scoring, starting lineup, and other variables.

  • Most leagues start with an initial draft or auction. Just as with redraft leagues, the draft plays the biggest role in determining the future success of your team. It is very difficult to overcome a poor initial draft or auction since you are now "stuck" with these players indefinitely. This initial draft is how an owner acquires most of the players for his team. For this reason, a plan will be needed to chart a course for what you want your team to look like. Some owners prefer the older veterans because they are more of a sure thing. These owners choose to target a title run in year one. On the other end of the spectrum are the owners who prefer the young, up and coming future studs. These fantasy owners are looking to build a "true dynasty" with their teams. Most dynasty owners fall in between these two extremes. We will take an in depth look at the start up drafts in a future article.

  • After the initial dynasty draft, there are only two other ways to acquire new players before next year's rookie draft: the waiver wire and via trades. There are many types of ways leagues choose to run their waivers. Some leagues operate on a first come, first serve (FCFS) basis. This means that you are free to pick up new players at any time. Leagues using FCFS waivers encourage owners to check in often. This means that when news breaks, the owner who makes it to the computer first gets the desired player. Just think, you are watching a game, and you see a starting running back or quarterback go down with injury, there is a mad dash to see who can be the first to pick up the backup. This was the case in 2008 when Patriots passer Tom Brady went down early in the week one contest against the Kansas City Chiefs. There was a rush to pick up no name quarterback Matt Cassel. Some owners in leagues that use FCFS waivers complain that they cannot go to games or enjoy watching at a friend's house, or anywhere away from computer access. This is a very valid concern. To address this issue, many leagues use a blind bidding system which means that waivers "process" once a week. This means that the highest bidder wins the player. All of the players available are up for bid on the same day every week. Each owner is given a set amount of waiver wire cash to bid on players. The owners can use it all on one player or parse it out over the season. There is a third option that combines the best aspects of these two systems. It offers a bidding system, but the waivers become first come, first serve after the bids are processed and new players awarded. The leagues using the hybrid waiver process lock the waivers at the kickoff of the first game of the week. Most dynasty owners have their own preferred method of waivers. We will take a deeper look into dynasty waivers in a future article on the subject. Dynasty trades will also be included. The focus will be on basic strategies on using the different waivers and evaluating trades.

  • Rookie drafts are the highlight of the offseason for many dynasty owners. Most of these leagues award the picks according to last year's record with the worst teams getting the highest picks. These rookie drafts hope to even out the balance of the league. The poorer teams should get the best players in the rookie drafts. The drafts are straight drafts, usually with three or four rounds. Straight drafts are ones which an owner will have the same pick in every round. The worst team will have the first pick in all rounds. These draft picks hold value and are frequently traded. We will dedicate an entire article to the rookie drafts.

  • Roster distribution is one of the most important parts of building a team. You want this team to mirror your preferences on how you want your team to look. But, there are some things that every dynasty owner should think about when shaping the look of his (or her) squad. There are some questions each owner should answer. How many of each position should I roster? How do I best manage the bottom of my roster? Since I keep these players indefinitely, how can I turn around a struggling squad? If I think my team is on the cusp of making a title push, what moves should I look to pull off in order to improve my chances to bring home the championship? Roster improvement and distribution is one of the most important, yet least talked about, aspects for even the most established dynasty leagues. This is especially true for new owners taking over existing or abandoned teams. How do I best evaluate the strengths and needs of my team? We will have an entire article focused solely on getting the most out of your dynasty roster.

  • We are embarking on a time of the year when football news will be prevalent. As training camps open, there becomes almost too much news to sift through. How you process this information is very important. There are two basic ways to get the most out of the football news while not having to read every article from a local beat writer. First, take five or ten minutes to read the Footballguys.com news each day. To save time, just bookmark the link and read it for information on players of interest. You can also set up a team in the Footballguys.com "MyFBG" application. It will sort the news just for your team. The downside to this mode of catching up on the football news is that you miss the happenings of other players. Watching preseason games is a good way to form opinions on the lesser players who may become the future stars. This is how many dynasty owners picked up Tony Romo, Marques Colston, and many other very good players. We will take a look at evaluating the news in an upcoming article. The focus will be on finding sleepers or undervalued players.

  • One of the toughest aspects for all dynasty owners, whether new or the most experienced, is how to value players. How do I compare the value of Player X versus Player Y? This comes into play in talking trades, picking up players on the waiver wire, and every other facet of dynasty leagues. One interesting point on player values is that younger players with potential are worth more than the proven veterans during the offseason. Owners are wanting to strike it rich by discovering the next great player. A proven player's age is a huge issue. Dynasty owners think about how many serviceable years the experienced players has left in the tank. But, as the season begins and owners have to submit lineups, the proven players become much more valuable. Those "future stars of tomorrow" are difficult to insert into fantasy lineups. This roller coaster in value will be just one aspect of determining player values addressed here.
  • Dynasty leagues are a lot of fun. It is a challenge to build the best team possible and then to see the games begin to test how well you evaluated your team strengths and needs. This is your team indefinitely. There are no "do overs". This adds to the challenge.

    The Initial Draft

    Dynasty leagues are growing as fantasy owners thirst for year round fantasy football. The players on your dynasty league roster are yours to keep indefinitely. These leagues have activity all twelve months of the year. To many, the offseason is more enjoyable than the regular season. This series of articles will take a look at the different facets of dynasty leagues. The first installment was a general overview of dynasty leagues. This article will take a closer look at the initial draft in dynasty leagues. While these articles are written for those new to dynasty leagues, we will include some thoughts to for the more experienced dynasty owner.

    Most dynasty leagues begin with an initial draft. This initial disbursement of players is very important. The draft plays the biggest role in determining the future success of your team. It is virtually impossible to quickly overcome a poor initial draft. These players are now yours indefinitely. This initial draft is how an owner acquires most of the players for his team. For this reason, we will look at how to develop a plan for your initial draft. Dynasty teams are as varied as their owners. Some select the older veterans because they are more of a certainty. These owners look to make a title run immediately. There are other owners who prefer the young studs of tomorrow. These fantasy owners are looking to build a dynasty for many years. Most dynasty owners fall in between these two extremes.

    So, how do I make the most out of the start up draft or auction? It starts with a plan. In order to best formulate a plan, we need to take a closer look at your league rules. Look for the answers to the following questions. How many teams in the league? What is the scoring? How many players start at each position? How many players can you roster total?

    Dynasty leagues vary in size from eight team to sixteen teams. The size of the league is a huge variable, with twelve teamers the most popular. One rule of thumb is that the larger the league, the larger the effect of studs. This makes sense. In a sixteen team league, only a handful of teams have elite quarterbacks. The point per game differential between the top passers and the lower starters is enormous. The margin can be as much as ten points some weeks. This is the same for the Running Back position as well. Scarcity also comes into play. The more teams that participate in the draft, the quicker the quarterbacks and running backs fly off the board.

    Just like with redraft leagues, the scoring makes a huge difference in determining which positions are the most valuable. Some leagues reward points for just yards and touchdowns while some also offer points per receptions (PPR). In standard non-PPR leagues, passers and ball carriers benefit. When thinking about the balance of backs to receivers, ask yourself which position (and player) has the better chance to amass 100 total yards or a touchdown on a weekly basis. Point per reception leagues were established to even out the balance across positions. With some wide receivers catching in excess of 100 passes, the top fantasy wideouts produce similar numbers as the top ball carriers.

    One variable that is commonly overlooked is weekly starting lineup requirements. How many players start at each position? How many "flex" positions are included in the starting lineup each week? In most leagues, the fantasy owners can start a running back, wide receiver, or tight end at the flex position. The more flex starters in your league, the more flexibility you have to build your team to meet your preferences. Some extreme leagues start one running back, one wide receiver, one tight end and three or four flex starters. This type of league allows an owner to build a team around players of value and the owner's preferences.

    Some dynasty leagues have very large rosters, while some like the smaller ones. The difference is bigger than most might think. The waiver wire is emphasized in the leagues with fewer players rostered per team. This makes sense. The more players on rosters in a league means that there are fewer viable options available on waivers. The large roster leagues reward the teams who can best identify sleepers on the waiver wire.

    So, how do I know what positions my league emphasizes? Which positions are most valuable? These are very legitimate questions that need answers. It is highly advisable to input all of these variables into the Footballguys.com Draft Dominator. Yes, the Draft Dominator uses redraft projections, and not for made for dynasty leagues. But, the Draft Dominator will rank players according to their assigned values according to your league rules. A dynasty owner is able to see which positions are ranked highly. This positional distribution would be the same for redraft and dynasty leagues using the same set of league rules.

    Now, that I know what positions are favored in my league, how do I approach the initial draft? The first thing to do is to make a cheat sheet, or list, of the players I want to draft. This does not have to be too detailed, just the players you would consider drafting. If you would not touch a player like Michael Turner with a ten-foot pole then there is no need including him on the list. So, you have a list of players in order of preference broken down per position. Then what? Compare your list to the Footballguys.com Dynasty Rankings. It is best to look per position just for the sake of simplicity. These rankings should give you a better feel for how you ranked players compared to the consensus of Footballguys.com staffers. No matter how long you play fantasy football, there will be players you like exceedingly more, or less, than others. That is what makes this such a great hobby.

    The next step is to look at the Average Draft Position (ADP). This will give you a good feel for where each player should be drafted. Compare your list of players against the averages. If you love a player who has an ADP of the ninth round, there is no need to take him in the sixth. But, if you really like the player, and want to make sure you get him, consider "reaching" for him in the seventh round. The ADP will give you a good feel for when the quarterbacks and running backs go off the board. This is a key component of developing your draft plan.

    How do I form a plan? You have your player list and compared it to the ADP listed on Footballguys. The Draft Dominator results have given you the positions valued in your league. The next step is to ask yourself, "what are my personal preferences as to what I want my team to look like"? It is YOUR team after all. What are the strengths you want your team to have? What positions are you ok with deferring until later in the draft? These are important questions so give them some thought.

    Some dynasty players like having the comfort of an elite fantasy starting quarterback. There are a couple of reasons why. In most all fantasy leagues, the fantasy passers are the highest scoring players. Having a top player at the position means getting consistent points most every week. Also, the top quarterbacks have an extended career longevity when compared to the other positions.

    The stud running backs give their teams a huge advantage over the others in the league. The issue is that the average career span for good rushers is not that long. You might get a few good years out of a ball carrier, but history has shown that running backs start slowing down as they approach the magical age of 30 years old. Compare this with the quarterbacks and wide receivers who are able to be productive well into their 30s.

    Wide receivers are able to be effective throughout their careers. They do not take the pounding that the running backs endure. The fantasy wideouts over the age of 30 do come at a discount. These older receivers offer good value compared to their younger counterparts.

    Now, how do I implement a plan? You might run mock drafts on the Draft Dominator to get a feel for the draft. But, remember that the Dominator ranks players based on redraft projections, not dynasty. One thing to think about is how long of a "Dynasty Window" you want to employ. This is important. How distant in the future do you want to project players? The dynasty owners who like the proven veterans use a two, maybe three, year "window". This means they look for players who should produce the best points over the next two seasons. The owners who prefer youth may utilize a four year window. This is just a matter of taste. During the draft, it is best to track the players and the teams using the Draft Dominator. Pay special attention to positional runs, especially at the Quarterback and Running Back positions. If your league does not mandate selecting a kicker or team defense, consider drafting a couple of upside players with the last two picks. Kickers and defenses will come and go, so you might as well take a chance on striking gold. You can always pick up a kicker and defense in the preseason. We will discuss roster distribution in a later article.

    The initial draft is very important. Put thought into what you want your team to look like in terms of strengths, positional distribution, and depth. After this initial dynasty draft, there are only two other ways to acquire new players before next year's rookie draft: the waiver wire and via trades.

    Waivers and Trades

    Dynasty leagues provide fantasy owners with enjoyment year round. The players on your dynasty league roster are yours to keep for the foreseeable future. To many, the offseason is more fun than the regular season with a rookie draft and and the ability to add and drop players no matter what month the calendar says it is. We are in the middle of series taking a closer look at the different facets of dynasty leagues. In the first couple of installments, we gave a general overview of dynasty leagues and talked about the initial draft in dynasty leagues. While these articles are written for the newcomers to dynasty leagues, we will include some tenets for the more experienced dynasty owner.

    Most dynasty leagues begin with an initial draft. This initial disbursement of players is very important. The draft is the biggest key in determining the future success, or failure, of your team. It is virtually impossible to quickly overcome a poor initial draft. These players are now yours indefinitely. This initial draft is how an owner acquires most of the players for his team. You have now completed your draft. Now what? Do you like your team? What are your team's strengths and weaknesses? What positions do you need to address? How do I go about addressing these shortcomings?

    This is why we talked about the importance of the the initial draft. After this initial dynasty draft, there are only two other ways to acquire new players in order to address weaknesses before next year's rookie draft. They are the waiver wire and via trades. We will first look at different waiver wire types and strategies, then on to the trades.

    There are many types of ways leagues choose to run their waivers. We looked at some of the most popular waiver types in the opening article to the series. Some leagues operate on a first come, first serve (FCFS) basis. This means that you are free to pick up new players at any time. Leagues using FCFS waivers encourage owners the active of having to check in often. These fantasy leagues reward the owners who make it to the computer first after news happens. They get their desired player. Imagine it now. You are watching a game with some friends, and you see your starting running back go down with a nasty injury, you will make a mad dash to see if you can be the first to pick up the backup. Some owners in leagues that use FCFS waivers complain that they cannot go to games or enjoy watching with friends, or anywhere away from computer access. This is a very valid concern. To address this issue, many leagues use a blind bidding system which allows owners to bid on players they want. The waivers "process" once a week. This highest bidder wins the player. All of the players available are up for bid on the same day every week. Each owner is given a set amount of waiver wire money in which to bid on players. The owners can use it all on one player or a little at a time over the season. When a star player goes down to injury, some owners throw all of their remaining waiver money on the backup. This is a strong move for the right player. Who would have thought you could get a fantasy starter off of the waiver wire? There is a third option that combines the best parts of these two systems. It offers a bidding system, but then first come, first server waivers start after the bids are processed and new players awarded. The leagues using the hybrid waiver process lock the waivers at the kickoff of the first game of the week so the owners can watch the games and not worry about being near a computer. Most dynasty owners have their own preferred method of waivers. But, whichever mode is used, an owner is left thinking "How can I make the best use of my waiver system?".

    There are some things to think about. You should look at your team and decide which players you will not cut regardless of what happens in the season. Some rookies and other youngsters have poor seasons. It happens. But, fantasy owners are all too quick to give up on these players whom they absolutely loved a few months before. So, make a commitment that you will only consider dropping certain players. Then, as you consider what moves to make, compare the players available on waivers to your players available to drop. We will talk more about roster distribution in another article. These bottom of the roster players should be ones with upside and potential. So, do not even think about cutting an untouchable player after a bad game. It happens. But, in the NFL, things change quickly. The impatience exhibited by some owners, in dropping players after a poor outing, costs them in the end. We see it all of the time. A player rebounds a week or two later and is worth a ton after a big game. Just like with trades discussed below, do not judge a player's value on the happenings of one or even two weeks. When bidding on a player, there are a couple of useful hints. Go back and look to see what similar players usually attract for bids. This will help be your guideline. It is not advisable to spend most, or all, of your waiver cash in the first quarter of the season unless it is on that special player. Injuries seem to be frequent over the latter half of the season. The owners strapped for waiver cash are not able to bid much. If there is a situation similar to the Tom Brady injury of 2008, then bid a ton on Matt Cassel, of course. You are getting a starting quarterback for nothing other than waiver cash. Lastly, different leagues use different league hosting sites. Become very familiar with the waiver process. Some hosting sites give preference to when the bid was placed while the order of your bids may determine the outcome. Get to know the rules. Also, each of the sites has either customer support or forums on the site.

    So, if you come out of your draft with a real need for a backup tight end. Look to see who is available and who you want to drop. To make this easier, most of the sites have a feature where you can sort available free agents by how many points they scored last year (or so far this season). Do not feel the need to be locked into dropping a player to match the same position as one added. It is ok to pick up a tight end and drop a running back if that is the best player to cut.

    Dynasty trades are one of the more fun aspects of the leagues. You get full control of changing the look of your team. But, how can you make sure you do not get taken to the cleaners. One of the more difficult things to do is to ascertain value of dynasty players. Comparing players of different positions and ages is not easy. How do I compare the value of Ray Rice to that of Frank Gore? The first thing most owners will use to assign values is where the players were taken in the initial draft. You can then plug the picks used on the players into the Footballguys.com Pick Value Calculator. Below are some very general rules on dynasty league trades:

    1. Many times, youth is worth more than proven experience, just because perceived career longevity.

    2. Quarterbacks are not worth as much as they should be. There are so many decent ones that only the very top passers are worth much. The same goes for tight ends.

    3. Many fantasy footballers overvalue recent events. This opens up good situations in order to buy players at less of a price than before.

    4. There has been a recent shift in many fantasy circles to undervalue veteran wide receivers over 30 years of age. These pass catchers are proven and have a few very good years left.

    5. Running backs will see their relative value decline considerably as they approach 30, even 29 years old. Few ball carriers can be productive after turning the big 3-0.

    6. Many experienced dynasty owners feel that the team winning the trade is the one getting the best player. These deals usually involve a quantity of players on one side and one or two stars on the other. A matter of quantity vs quality. It is much more difficult to find another stud than to acquire depth.

    7. Use the Footballguys.com Dynasty rankings, both overall and per position, in order to get a feel for how the players are ranked by the Footballguys staff.

    8. The top, young (under 25 years old) running backs are worth more than any players in the league. These are the players you should never trade away.

    9. Studs win championships. Try to acquire as many studs for your team as possible. After the top players at each position, most of the rest produce about the same number of points each week.

    10. Make the team your own. If you make trades, look to acquire players you like to watch play. This makes watching the games much more enjoyable. But, do not let your bias, for or against a player, affect how you value the player. This is easier said than done. Also, if your leaguemates know you love a team, or player in particular, you will have to overpay in order to acquire the player.

    Another idea to judge player values is to look in the "Dynasty Trades" thread in the Footballguys.com Shark Pool forum. This long thread has tons of trades. Just reading it through helps to anticipate how certain players are worth in comparison. Another thought is to go in the Assistant Coach forum and look at all of the threads asking for trade advice. See if your take on the player trades matches with most of the responses. Doing both of these will help to get a pulse on player values.

    Only with the waiver wire and via trades is an owner able to improve the team before next year's rookie draft. One last caution: do not trade away future rookie picks for proven players until you have been in the league for a couple of years. Different leagues have their own economy for valuing picks. Good luck with the trades. You can post any trade question in the "wannabee" thread in the Assistant Coach forum.

    The Rookie Draft

    Many fantasy owners want a league that operates all year. If your team suffers a couple of unlucky injuries, then there are moves to improve the squad for next season. This is preferable to seeing your top player go down to injury in a redraft. At that time, you just give up. In most redraft leagues, few owners are engaged and active by week eight. Dynasty leagues provide fantasy owners with activity and excitement all of the year, not just during the season. The players on your dynasty league roster are yours to keep indefinitely. To many, the offseason, highlighted by the league's rookie draft, is more enjoyable than the regular season. The rookie draft will be the topic of this installment in the series. We are taking a closer look at some of the basic aspects of dynasty leagues. While these articles are written for those new to dynasty leagues, we will include some ideas and strategies for the more experienced dynasty owner.

    After the initial draft, the only ways to change the look of your team is through waivers, via trades, and the annual rookie draft. In most leagues, the waivers and trades are the only vehicle to make personnel moves during the season. The waivers are great for identifying the next sleeper candidate or finding a backup tight end. But, rarely is a fantasy starter found on the waiver wire during the season. Dynasty trades are so much fun. It is difficult to judge player values, but trades allow an owner to upgrade team weaknesses. It is virtually impossible to get a stud in a trade without giving up a very good player, or three. The yearly rookie draft is the best place to locate a future stud of tomorrow.

    Rookie drafts are the highlight of the fantasy offseason for many dynasty owners. Most of the dynasty leagues award the rookie picks according to last year's record with the worst teams getting the highest picks. The drafts serve to even out the balance of the league. The goal is for the poorer teams to get the best players in the rookie drafts. The drafts are straight drafts, usually with three or four rounds. Straight drafts are ones which an owner will have the same pick in every round. The worst team will have the first pick in all rounds (1.01, 2.01, 3.01, etc.). These draft picks hold value and are frequently traded.

    The value of these rookie picks is different for every league. With the possibility of getting the next Chris Johnson or Ray Rice, some dynasty leagues go bonkers for the picks. Many owners in these leagues trade productive veteran players for a chance at striking gold. This is a very flawed viewpoint. Why give up a player with known talent, situation, and productivity for a chance on a younger player hoping to achieve similar numbers? This is what happens in rookie drafts. For this reason, some owners trade their future rookie picks away for veteran players. This is a solid move over time. The percentage of rookie picks that hit it big is remarkably small. But, it is highly advisable not to trade away your top rookie picks until you have been in a league for a couple of years and get a good feel for the picks' values. Far too many players new to dynasty leagues trade away their future first round pick only to see the pick become the first or second pick overall. This is why it is best to wait to see how the league values picks and so you can get a good feel for how high your pick might end up. Obviously, if your team is young and building, you should not look to sell your future picks, especially your first rounder. Below are some general thoughts and rules for dynasty rookie drafts.

  • The top picks are most likely to succeed. Usually, these are the players who are chosen early in the NFL Draft. In most leagues, without regard to scoring, the top running backs are valued highest and are selected with the top rookie picks.

  • Always, always, always draft talent over need. Yes, there will be times your fantasy team has a gaping hole at the quarterback or wide receiver position and you want to use your pick to address the need. This happens to everyone. But, if you poll experienced dynasty owners, you will find that most have at least one regret where they drafted to satisfy a team need over the best player available. If you continually draft the most talented players, it will be easy to trade an existing player on your roster for a quarterback (or other position) to address the team weakness.

  • Do not confuse a player's talent for his chance of success in the current situation. Many times, dynasty owners overvalue a player's situation. It happens all of the time. A certain running back is valued highly because he has little or no competition for carries. That is just the way it goes. But, if you continually select the most talented players, you will find success in rookie drafts.

  • Do not feel as though you have to be an college football expert or watch a ton of collegiate games in order to make good decisions in dynasty rookie drafts. There are many NFL Draft sites, including Footballguys.com, which have a lot of expert content on the incoming players. In addition, do not pay too much attention to the NFL Combine numbers. They reflect a player's size, speed, and quickness ... not his ability to be a NFL star. Too many elite players were downgraded because of a slow time in the 40 yard dash. Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens are good examples. If you do not have a good feel for the incoming rookies, look at the results of the NFL Draft. The players selected higher have a much greater chance of success than those taken lower.

  • Do not take a tight end in the first round of rookie drafts. The Tight End position is one that is very difficult to transition quickly to the NFL. Rarely does a rookie tight end make an impact, especially in fantasy football. The position is very deep this year in the NFL. If you are looking for a rookie prospect, there are a couple in the second and third rounds that offer as much upside as the one taken in the first. This happens most years. The tight end taken early was also selected early in the NFL Draft. But, the NFL rewards tight ends who are adept at blocking, as well as catching passes. But, it is the pass-receiving tight ends who are sought after in fantasy football. These are the players selected later in the NFL Draft just because they are one dimensional.

  • Selecting quarterbacks in the first round is not a good move unless it is with a late first round pick. Think about how few quarterbacks produce elite fantasy statistics. The number is very small so do not waste a high pick on a player who is unlikely to be a top player at his position. Even the elite fantasy quarterbacks did not enter the NFL with much fanfare. Think about Tony Romo or Tom Brady or Kurt Warner. But, after the first nine or ten players are taken, the quarterbacks offer value. Even if the odds are not strong that the passer will become a fantasy elite, the top fantasy quarterbacks have held their value the past few years. This trend should continue with so many NFL teams having horrible situations at the position.

  • Do not take a wide receiver early in the first round unless the player is elite. Too many of these pass catchers have flopped in the last decade. Many times, the second or third wideouts selected in rookie drafts will outproduce the top-ranked wide receiver. The position offers value after the first wave of running backs are off the board.

  • The chance of success is slim for a player chosen in the second or third round of rookie drafts. For this reason, many experienced dynasty owners will trade these lesser picks for established players. The most common move is to trade away a second or third round pick for either an aging (yet still productive) wide receiver or for a prospect whom most of the fantasy world has given up on. In both of these cases, the owner giving the pick gets players he likes and has a good feel for their talent level. Also, a second round pick can be used to acquire a backup quarterback ... if there is a need. For the same reason quarterbacks should not be taken high in rookie drafts, an average backup (i.e., Jason Campbell, David Garrard, etc) can be acquired for a late round pick if there is a dire need at the position.

  • There is definitely an art and science to trading up and down the rookie drafts. Before making any type of deal, write down which player you would want with each pick and see if the move makes sense. All too many dynasty owners move up in the draft with no goal in sight. The price is usually very steep for these top picks, so there needs to be a clearly defined goal in mind. There is usually a value drop-off after the first three or four picks in the rookie drafts. Do not trade out of one of these picks unless you get FULL value. One pick can make a huge difference. Also, the picks gain in value as the rookie draft approaches.
  • Dynasty rookie drafts are a lot of fun. It is the best part of the dynasty offseason. This is your chance at connecting on the next great player. Star players can be found in every round. Few remember that Chris Johnson and Ray Rice slipped to the late first, and early second of rookie drafts. Brandon Marshall went in the second and third rounds of rookie drafts. There are many examples of fantasy owners finding success in all parts of rookie drafts. The Footballguys.com Shark Pool is a great place for rookie talk all offseason.

    Roster Management

    Dynasty leagues are a lot of fun as these leagues are active the entire year. An owner gets to put his (or her) own stamp on the team. When discussing the topic of "Roster Management" or "Roster Distribution", most think of "What are my favorite players?" or "What positions do I want as strengths?". We will look at these questions, but the topic goes much deeper. In this article, we will look at different strategies and ideas on ways to optimize your dynasty roster, as well as putting your own personal stamp on the team.

    Whether thinking about your initial draft, or for an existing team, one important item to ponder is roster distribution. It is a topic that is just as relevant in year five as it is immediately after the initial draft. Every fantasy owner should always be thinking of how to improve their roster. It starts with an objective assessment of the fantasy squad. Here are some questions to ask while looking at your team's roster of players:

  • What are the team's strengths and weaknesses? Are these the strengths I want or do I need to change some things? Most every team will have weaknesses. Are you ok with the shortcomings of this team? If not, you know what areas need to be targeted for improvement.

  • What positions will need to be addressed in the next year because of too many aging players? This is where personal preferences come into play. Many owners are perfectly fine having an "older" team if the chances are high for success in the near term. The goal of fantasy football is to win after all.

  • What do I think would push my team over the top? And, how do I go about making it happen? Every owner needs to compare his or her team against the others in the league. Only through honest assessment will you be able to see what is needed in order to be a league favorite. If your team does not compare well to the favorites, you might consider some level of rebuilding. We will discuss this topic more in depth below.

  • Do I have too many young players who might prevent me from competing this season? This is a tough one for the dynasty owners who fall in love with the upside potential provided by young players. It is so easy to think of how great these youngsters could be while forgetting that the large percentage these young, unproven prospects fail.
  • Roster distribution is one of the most important parts of building a team. You want this team to mirror your preferences on which strengths you wish for your team to possess and which weaknesses you are fine with accepting and compensating. But, there are some things that every dynasty owner should consider when shaping the look of his or her squad. In the first article of the series, we suggested that there are some questions each owner should answer in order to put their own unique stamp on the team. We will answer the questions below:

    1. How many of each position should I roster? The best rule of thumb is to multiple the starters at each of the skill positions by two to know how many bench players at each position. Then fill in the rest with the best players available. With bye weeks, and deeper rosters, it is best to carry three quarterbacks in leagues that roster approximately 300 players, or more. The key is to roster as many talented players as possible. It is even better if the bench players have a shot at contributing in the next two years. Many times, the Quarterback and Tight End positions have players come from nowhere to become valuable. Think about Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, and Matt Schaub. All were forgotten on waiver wires before emerging. At the tight end position, this is the case as well. Chris Cooley, Antonio Gates, and even Jermichael Finley were found on the waiver wires. So, if your team lacks talent and you want to take a chance, you might consider a tight end prospect like Zach Miller (Jax), Fred Davis, or John Phillips, all of whom have been dropped in some leagues.

    2. How do I identify studs and get more of them on my team? This is a tricky question. Far too many people were tricked into thinking Eddie Royal was a stud. Sometimes, it is best to see production over two seasons in order to anoint a player into "stud" status because other teams are going to want a premium for the top performing players. Caution is advised. Many players will cost the same, or similar. So, if you are trading for a stud, make sure he is not a flash in the pan. Also, a fantasy "stud" cannot be player at the end of his career span. There is no reason to pay the same for a player at the end of his career as one who is in his prime. This knocks on the topic of "Dynasty Window" we touched on in an earlier article in the series. In order to acquire studs, there are only two ways. You either have to give up a star player or consolidate players. If giving up a stud to get one, try to get a younger player on the rise. I try to think of what the values will be this time next year. This helps with the concept of value. We will explore the topic of value in a later article. As far as consolidation, it is discussed below.

    3. How do I best manage the bottom of my roster? This is a tough one for many dynasty owners. I try to keep two or three spots at the bottom of my roster open for upside players. There is no reason rostering a player if there is no conceivable way for you to ever insert this player into your fantasy lineup. Players like Jason Campbell and Colt McCoy come to mind. While each may be a NFL starter, I would prefer to roster a potential sleeper. The great thing about rostering the risky upside players is that if they do not pan out, there are plenty of other options on the waiver wire. Try to look for younger, unproven players who have fallen out of favor lately. History tells us that there will be fantasy starters picked up off waivers this year, even in deep leagues. So, when identifying sleeper prospects for the bottom spots on your roster, look for talented players who need as few things as possible to happen in order to become viable. This is why Quarterbacks and Tight Ends can emerge from seemingly nowhere.

    4. Since I keep these players indefinitely, how can I turn around a struggling squad? This would also fall under the topic of rebuilding. As discussed above, there are times when you compare your team to the top fantasy teams in the league and you do not see a way for you to win. You have two choices: stay the course or rebuild. If you are looking to rebuild, the first thing you should do is to look at your roster and determine the players you will keep for the long haul. There are definitely some things to definitely avoid. Resist the urge to "sell" players all at the same time. If your leaguemates get the hint that you are rebuilding, you likely will not get near full value. Secondly, it is best to move proven veterans in the middle of the season. Teams looking for the missing piece (like the question below) will trade youth for production. If you are trading away top players, look to acquire strong prospects AND future first round picks, not just one or the other, in every deal. Yes, you may have to throw extra pieces into the deal, but look for future studs and first round picks for the coming two seasons. The value of the picks is lowest in the middle of the season.

    5. If I think my team is on the cusp of making a title push, what moves should I look for in order to improve my chances? This question almost seems like part two of the question above. There are a few ways to acquire a player or two to make a playoff push. The thing not to do is to trade an elite player for two good ones. But, you should look to combine a bench player with a starter in order to upgrade a position. Like the answer above, most of these deals involve giving up a good young prospect in order to upgrade the starting lineup. Just like with the rebuilding phase, look at your roster and identify which young prospects are off limits and which are available. Only trade the youngsters you are fine with moving. Also, resist the urge to trade away future first round picks. When looking to get the missing piece for your team, trade away a player from your position of strength, where you have depth. Many times, this move involves a team having two strong quarterbacks and trading one and a running back to get a better ball carrier.

    We introduced the concept of consolidation above. This is an idea that is foreign to many dynasty owners. When consolidating, an owner will pool a few midrange prospects, or fringe starters, in order to get a stud. These are quantity for quality deals. The consolidator is giving up a few players who likely are not difference makers on his squad in order to acquire a stud. This move upgrades his starters by trading away good depth players. Yes, this decreases much-needed depth, but the thought is that depth is easier to acquire than studs. Depth can be found on the waiver wire and via the rookie draft. Fantasy leagues are won and lost by the studs. The elite players are the only ones who give their owners a substantial advantage over the competition.

    When discussing the idea of roster management, we would be remiss if the topic of kickers and defenses was not explored. It is best to not roster a fantasy kicker or team defense in the offseason unless it is a league requirement. During the season, only roster one kicker and one defense in order to maximize roster spots on upside players. Injuries happen and you could hit the lottery with that one roster spot. There are plenty of good options at both positions (kicker and team defense) available on most leagues' waiver wires each week. During the first week of preseason, identify a good kicker with a late bye and ride him as long as possible. There will be good options available, who have passed their bye weeks, you can pick up midseason. For the team defenses, eye the upcoming schedules. Try to look two weeks ahead. Fantasy defenses are difficult to predict. There might be a week or two where you carry two defenses because you want to hold a certain defense for a couple of weeks, but that is fine. Sometimes, it is best to target defenses playing bad teams. You could do much worse than a starting defense facing the Cleveland Browns each week. Quarterback Colt McCoy rarely throws down the field and will not challenge defenses. Add in so few weapons for him to target and the nasty Cleveland weather, and it is easy to see why opposing fantasy team defenses might be a good play. Far too many dynasty owners carry kickers and team defenses in the offseason, sometimes more than one of each, when they could be rostering upside prospects. Teams playing against the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings will also be good plays this coming season.

    Roster improvement and distribution is one of the most important, yet least talked about, aspects for established dynasty leagues. No matter your experience level or the state of your team, you should always be looking to upgrade the talent on your roster.

    Mining the Fantasy News

    Dynasty leagues are a lot of fun. But, there is so much to absorb with the NFL becoming more and more an all year sport. As soon as the Super Bowl has ended, the focus turns to the NFL Combine and then on to the NFL Draft. After the Draft, the rookie camps begin. The summer is filled with minicamps, OTAs, and then training camp as we move into August. We are very close to the opening of the training camps now, with the preseason games less than a month away. With the quantity of news available, dynasty owners are left trying to find, decipher, filter, and process the news. This can be overwhelming for even the most experienced dynasty owner. This article should serve as a guide for all dynasty owners in their quest to get the highest quality of news the soonest. Many future stars were discovered in preseason games. While it is neither practical nor likely for you to watch every game, the next best alternative is to read those who follow teams and players closely.

  • How can dynasty owners find the best news? The advent of an internet presence by every news outlet has led to so much information available, even to the point of overload. There are a variety of recommended ways to find quality news. The first is take five or ten minutes to read the Footballguys.com news each day. To save time, just bookmark the link and read it for the day's information. You can also set up a team in the Footballguys.com "MyFBG" application. It will sort the news just for your team. The downside to this mode of catching up on the football news is that you miss the happenings of other players not on your squad. Also, you will benefit from reading the source article for many of the news blurbs. The Footballguys.com Shark Pool message board also has news stories posted as soon as the news breaks. There is always football talk in the Shark Pool, no matter the time, day, or month. If you still want more news and football talk, Twitter is a great place. For those who are not familiar, Twitter has comments that are only 140 characters or less (about the size of a text). So, it takes little to no time to read several comments or "Tweets". Most of the Footballguys.com staffers are active on Twitter and it is a great way to discuss current topics. The staffer Twitter addresses are listed at the bottom of the article. If you still thirst for more football news and analysis, most of the beat writers who follow the NFL teams post often on Twitter. These beat writers are very accessible on Twitter, and will answer questions. A large, but not comprehensive, list of writers is at the very bottom of this article. It is not advisable to "follow" every writer because it can be overwhelming. To start with, try to get one or two beat writers for each team. You will see news on Twitter before it is actually reported publicly. Also, there will be interesting comments by these plugged in beat writers, especially with training camp and preseason almost upon us. One way to spend the least amount of time and get the full effect is to set up the beat writers into a "list" on Twitter. It would take less than fifteen minutes a day to catch up on all of the day's happenings and be way more informed than your leaguemates. If you want the week's news analyzed with a dynasty slant, look for the "Dynasty Implications" articles at Footballguys.com. The articles take the recent news and offer analysis for the dynasty owner.

  • After we find the news, how do we know what to believe? One of the most difficult things for every fantasy owner is filtering and deciphering the news. We now know where to find the news items, but how can we know who/what to believe? This is a very legitimate question. Training camp stories will be full of fluff. It is not easy to separate "real" news from just a coach saying something without really saying anything. One of the first things to do is to realize that many coaches will make a strong positive statement about a reserve player in training camp because he wants open competition. This is why many coaches will call a situation an "open competition" even though the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Whether we want to believe it or not, coaches and team officials use the media for their own benefit, most of the time to motivate players. Some coaches say nothing but glowing comments about their players. The Chicago Bears offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, is known for this "fluff". While in San Francisco, he would wax poetically about how great of a tight end Vernon Davis has become and how much he would be involved in the offense. But, when the action started, Davis was left out of the gameplan. He continued this fawning over his players when arriving in the Windy City. If fantasy owners believe Martz, the Bears will have three high-performing wide receivers (who are ideal fits for his offense) and tight end Greg Olsen will have a big year. With coaches like Martz, who are known to lay on the fluff, just take his comments with a large grain of salt. There will be a lot of preseason hype very soon. When reading comments, avoid the more general comments and quotes (Player X is catching the ball well or is having a strong camp) and pay close attention to the more specific ones (Player Y is having difficulty in pass protection or Player Z has a real chance to start, even though he is a relative unknown). Other comments to ignore include: "We want to run the ball more" (which team doesn't?), "We want to give our starting tailback more, or less, carries (so easy to say in the middle of the summer), and the ever-popular "We like the depth we have at the position" (translated: "we wish we had better starters so we would not need this so-called depth"). Many of the beat writers do a good job filtering the comments on Twitter. Their candid comments make following them on Twitter so entertaining and beneficial. These local team writers do a good job breaking down the coach's comments and are great resources for dynasty owners. It is usually the beat writers, not the coaching staff, who give the first hints of a potential breakout player. The writers are the ones to pay close attention to as we will have news coming in fast and furious.
  • Dynasty leagues are a lot of fun. It is a rewarding challenge to ascertain the circumstances and find the diamonds in the rough. There will be fantasy starters emerge out of nowhere this year ... just like in years past. It is such a satisfying feeling to be the first one to grab the next Marques Colston, Tony Romo, or Ryan Grant. This can be you by following the steps above.

    Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.

    Footballguys Staff Members On Twitter

  • @Joe_Bryant - Joe Bryant

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  • @fbguys - the Footballguys.com news

  • NFL Beat Writers On Twitter

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  • Minnesota Vikings - @TomPelissero @JuddZulgad @VikingsFootball @VIKINGS @PurplePride

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  • Baltimore Ravens - @JamisonHensley @Duffstar @ravensinsider @WNST @1WinningDrive @DanKolko

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  • Oakland Raiders - @Jerrymcd, @bydavidwhite, @OAKLANDRAIDERS

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  • Green Bay Packers - @Greg_A_Bedard, @RobDemovsky @PeteDougherty @PackersNews @packers

  • Detroit Lions - @JohnNiyo @TomKowalski36 @lionsinwinter @detroitlions @Detroit_Lions

  • New York Jets - @TheJetsStream @ManishMehta1 @NYJetsDailyNews @thejetsblog @Jets__News

  • Jacksonville Jaguars - @jaguarsinsider @Jaguars__News @ask_vic @jagsreporter @vitostellino

  • New York Giants - @TheBlueScreen @NotoriousOHM @newsdaygiants @NJ_Giants @N_Y_Giants

  • Atlanta Falcons - @AJCFalcons @FalconsJMoore @TheFalcoholic @Atlanta_Falcons @Falcons_News

  • Philadelphia Eagles - @Geoffmosher @MovingtheChains @BrianSeltzer @GarryCobb @eaglesbuzztap @Eagle__News

  • Miami Dolphins - @OmarKelly @EdgarThompson @Jeff_Darlington @MiamiDolphins @Dolphins_News

  • Dallas Cowboys - @CalvinWatkins @TMacMahon @toddarcher @Cowboys @Cowboys_News @dallascowboys

  • Indianapolis Colts - @JohnOehser @coltsbuzztap @Colts_News @ColtsGab @Colts_Football

  • Kansas City Chiefs - @ArrowheadPride @Chiefs__News @kcchiefs @kb_kcstar @JoshLooney @@kentbabb

  • San Diego Chargers - @SDUTSullivan @bolttalk_com @glorifythepast @SDUTChargers

  • Arizona Cardinals - @Cardschatter @AZCardinals @ACardinals_News @CardinalsGab

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers - @rickbrown91 @NFLSTROUD @HolderStephen @pewterreport @TBBuccaneers

  • Cincinnati Bengals - @joereedy @CinBengalsNFL @Bengals_News @bengalsbuzztap @Bengals__News

  • Cleveland Browns - @TheOBR @Browns_News @OfficialBrowns @brownsbuzztap @BrownsGab

  • Buffalo Bills - @salmaiorana @MattRichWarren

  • Houston Texans - @stephstradley @ChronicleTexans

  • Chicago Bears - @BradBiggs @skjensen @mikecwright @davidhaugh @Chicago_Bears

  • San Francisco 49ers - @MaioccoCSN @mattbarrows @49ers_com

  • New England Patriots - @MikeReiss @projopatsblog @PatriotsInsider @albertbreer

  • Denver Broncos - @PostBroncos (my favorite Bronco beat writer Frank Schwab is not covering the Broncos any more)

  • How To Evaluate Value

    Dynasty leagues are growing in popularity because the leagues are active and a lot of fun. Dynasty owners seek activity for the entire year in their fantasy leagues. Teams in dynasty leagues keep the same players indefinitely so there are no "do overs". One of the most difficult things is in dynasty leagues is assessing these player values, especially with the constant news and events that alter those values. The offseason is chock full of happenings which make values of some players rise while the worth of other players drops on the same news item. To many dynasty leaguers, the offseason is more enjoyable than the regular season because it is a challenge to constantly improve your team. Something is always going on to affect player values. It is a challenge to keep up. This is why we dedicated an entire article on how to evaluate the news.

    While this series is written for the newcomers to dynasty leagues, we have included some thoughts for the more experienced dynasty owner. There are many types of dynasty leagues from which to choose from so find the one that best fits what you are seeking. They differ in number of teams, roster size, scoring, starting lineup, and other variables. These differences in leagues make it very difficult to easily compare values from one league to another. Add in the personal preferences of the league owners, and it becomes more of an art than a science.

    One of the toughest aspects for all dynasty owners, whether new or the most experienced, is how to value players and picks. How do I compare the value of Player X versus Player Y? This comes into play in talking trades, picking up players on the waiver wire, and every other facet of dynasty leagues. Different dynasty owners value players, and rookie picks, differently. Some love the young, up and coming stars of tomorrow while others appreciate the proven production of the veteran players. We will give broad indicators to help you value players. One of the first things you need to do, as referenced in an earlier article, is to determine what "Dynasty Window" you prefer. Do you like the younger players or the older, more established performer? The "Dynasty Window" is merely the length of time in the future used to evaluate future performance.

    In order to get a broad pulse on comparing players, use the Footballguys.com Dynasty rankings. This lists the rankings, overall and broken down by position, from the Footballguys staffers. Since all leagues are different, these rankings should be used as a rough guide for your league. But, they give key indicators as to whether a players is considered elite, or totally off the radar.

    This article will serve to help you establish a way to assess and determine player values for your league. Since the player values will partially depend on your own personal preferences, it is best to find a way that best works for you. Below is an idea that should make it easier to compare and contrast different players from a value standpoint.

    Each player's value is made up of several variables working together. First of all, values are dynamic. They can change every week. It is safe to assume that the value of each and every player (from the standpoint of fantasy football) has changed since the Super Bowl. I know that sounds crazy. But, the player movement from free agency and the NFL Draft has effected the value of all players. So what are the variables that alter a player's worth and how do I evaluate these values?

  • Talent - The talent of the players should be the foremost factor in evaluating value. Talent trumps the other variables since the cream usually rises to the top, even if it takes a while.

  • Situation - Comparing players in different situations is difficult. This is one place where the "Dynasty Window" comes into play. If you are evaluating players over a three-year period, imagine and project the situation over the time period. Situations are so fluid. The longer the "Window", the more changes to expect. Each year, some players change teams while others unfortunately get injured. It can even be a change in the coaching staff that effects value.

  • Past Production - How a player has performed in the past effects what he is worth today. Look at his numbers from the last few years and consider the chances of repeating those statistics going forward (Dynasty Window again). When thinking about the future fantasy performance, make sure to account for the player's age and injury history. Those are the two negative factors in projecting past production into the future. If a player is aging or has a history of injury woes, then assuming the great numbers last year will translate into similar production this year might be ambitious.

  • Positional Weights For Your League - Each league's scoring and starting lineup (and roster) requirements will decide which positions are worth more than others. Traditionally, the Quarterback and Running Back positions are valued higher than the others ... just because there are so few elite options at those positions. If you are unsure as to which positions your league values, plug your league variables into the Footballguys.com VBD or Draft Dominator applications and see which positions are represented in the Top 40 or 50 players overall.
  • So, when you are deciding whether you want to accept a trade of Player A versus Player B, first see how they compare in the Dynasty Rankings. The next step is to consider the talent possessed by each player and the situation for each. Is the situation changing, or recently changed? Next, check to see how each player has produced in fantasy points (for your league) ... and compare. Lastly, how does your league value different positions? Sometimes, it is easiest to assign a ranking between 1-10 for each player's talent, situation and past production. Talent trumps every other variable, but we all have seen very good players hold lesser value just due to situation. Think how many years Michael Turner languished behind LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego before getting his chance. In the end, it was Turner's talent seen in preseason and limited duty which gave fantasy owners belief his value was on the rise.

    Many dynasty leagues value younger players with potential more than the proven veterans during the offseason. Owners are wanting to strike it rich by discovering the next great player. Sometimes, a proven player's age is a huge issue. Dynasty owners think about how many serviceable years the experienced player has left in the tank. These concerns are many times overblown in the offseason. But, as the season begins and owners have to submit their fantasy lineups each week, the proven players become much more valuable. Many times, those "stars of tomorrow" are difficult to insert into fantasy lineups. Even if you KNOW the player will be great in the future, it does not mean you can rely on the player as a fantasy starter. The seasonal changes in player values are just more reason why assigning values to players is difficult in the ever-changing world of fantasy football.

    One of the most difficult things is determining value of rookie picks compared to veteran players in new leagues. First and foremost, it changes every year and depends on the league. There are no hard and fast rules. Footballguys.com member "beto" had a study back in 2005 which gave us a rough idea as to comparing the value of rookie picks versus the established players in startup dynasty drafts. But, it should be re-stated that each league is made up of a different group of owners who bring their own preferences with them to the league. The link to his post, and a long discussion in the thread, is here. The scoring and roster rules may be different, depending on the league, but it gives an overview of value. It is surprising that the value of the top rookie picks is equal to some of the most elite fantasy players. But, the value of the rookie picks drops off sharply after the first few. Even the most experienced dynasty owners struggle with valuing rookie picks compared to veteran players so do not worry if this is confusing.

    Dynasty leagues are a lot of fun. It is a challenge to build the best team possible and then to see the games begin to test how well you have done. This is your team indefinitely. The goal is to get as many players, who will have the most value, on your roster.

    Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.

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