As a long time IDP dynasty league player, I believe that understanding dynasty rankings and the strategies that were used to create them will go a long way in helping you put together a solid core of players that will help you contend for championships for many years to come. This article focuses on strategies used to build and maintain a solid IDP dynasty team, and also learning how to analyze IDP dynasty rankings. Fantasy players are better equipped to use someone's rankings if they have an understanding of the strategies and thought processes used to rank the players. Everyone must also realize that those of us who provide rankings use different criteria and analyze players in different ways. Another important thing to consider is that your current team will dictate how you use rankings to draft and manage a team. Obviously contenders and rebuilders use different strategies and understanding how a person ranks players will help you make the right choices for whatever situation your team is in.
There are several strategies used in dynasty leagues that are vastly different from redraft strategies. First on the list, to the surprise of nobody, is the fact that you have to peer into the future in dynasty leagues. A player's age is one of several key factors in determining where a player gets ranked. The goal should be to build a solid core that will allow you to contend for several years. That is best accomplished with young, talented players. But it doesn't mean you should ignore older players altogether. I generally will have older players ranked at a point where I would not be able to pass them up if I was in a draft. I also want to note that the situation of your current team will impact how a player's age affects his value to your team. Obviously if you are a contender, you will value older players like London Fletcher and Ray Lewis much higher than you would if you were rebuilding. When I mention value, I am referring to the value those players have to your current team, not their trade value.
A prime example of the differences in redraft and dynasty rankings is a player like Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher. As of this writing, I have him ranked fifth in redraft because he is still a great player, but 29th in dynasty because he is 37 years old. One would think he would be on his last leg at 37, but Fletcher keeps on defying father time and is still an elite fantasy linebacker. Determining where to rank older players is one of the hardest things to do in dynasty rankings. In addition to understanding the rankings of older players, you also have to determine whether your team will be rebuilding or contending this year. If you are a contender and own London Fletcher, you absolutely must hold. Rebuilding teams should be looking to move Fletcher, but at this point (before preseason) you do not need to be in any hurry. In fact this is probably the worst time to make trades because most owners are not motivated enough to pay fair value. Just be patient. In addition to players like Fletcher, there are also players that are older but still likely to play a couple more years. In this instance you have to use your own judgment to determine how long you think the specific player will play. Generally, if I am rebuilding and believe a player has two or fewer years left, I am going to be actively looking to trade the player. On the other side of the coin, these players can be acquired for a relatively inexpensive price and contenders should be looking to make a deal.
The same thing holds true for rookies and other young, unproven players. The talented rookies have to be ranked somewhere, but where? You have to use things such as your knowledge, scouting reports, and news from beat writers to determine a rookie's long-term outlook with the team that drafted him. Slotting an unproven player in the middle of proven NFL players in dynasty rankings is not easy. There are several factors that go into play in ranking rookies. I consider talent to be at the top of the list, along with opportunity and the scheme they will play in. After looking at someone's rankings, you must then be able to apply them to your strategies and the situation of your team. If you are rebuilding, you want to place greater weight on younger players with upside and less on situation because situations change fast in the IDP world. In this case you can get away with having some extra players that are not playing right now, as long as their long-term outlook justifies it. A contender may not have roster space to hold several younger players.
Another thing you should be aware of is a player's contract situation and also the scheme they play in. Some players may be changing teams in the next year or two, and that can drastically affect their long-term value. A great example of this was the past situation of Jonathan Vilma. I am going to refer to what I wrote about Vilma in the 2008 version of this article. Although that was several years ago, I think Vilma's past situation illustrates this point better than any other situation I can think of. Those comments about Vilma from the 2008 article are below in italics:
I have Vilma ranked 11th in dynasty. You may ask why I would have him so high, when he really struggles in the 3-4 defense installed in New York by Jets coach Eric Mangini. The reason is because I know Vilma's contract expires after the 2009 season. There are several scenarios' that are possible. One is that Vilma has another subpar season in the 3-4, and the Jets will want to trade him after the season, rather than losing him to free agency. Another is that he may leave as a free agent after the 2009 season because the Jets will not want to pay him as much as he could command on the open market. People sometimes forget that Vilma was the top fantasy linebacker in 2005, when he played middle linebacker in the 4-3 defense. Should he go to a team that plays a 4-3 defense, he could very well be a stud linebacker again. He may not be putting up big numbers right now, but if you look ahead at the possibilities, you may be able to acquire a future top five linebacker for a great price.
As you can see, there are times when it can pay to look ahead regarding the status of a player's contract and the scheme they play in. If you do that and your competition doesn't, you can often find some tremendous value that the other owners will never see. Vilma went on to have several strong years as a middle linebacker in the 4-3 defense used by the Saints. If you paid attention to Vilma's contract situation and scheme, you may have bought a stud linebacker for a cheap price. Vilma turned into a stud fantasy linebacker and paid huge dividends for those who had him on their rosters at the time. Mario Williams is another player that falls into this category. He has played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense for the past two seasons and was nothing more than a mid-LB4. But Williams was in a contract year in 2011 and owners that were aware of this could have had a potential stud defensive lineman for a reasonable price. After playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, Williams is now playing defensive end in a 4-3 defense and once again will be a stud defensive lineman. There are situations like this every year and keeping tabs on them should be an integral part of your management strategy.
In addition to a player's contract situation affecting the player himself, it also affects his backup. If there is a player who plays a prime fantasy position and/or has a talented player behind him, you should be targeting the backup before the starter potentially leaves. You want to do it now rather than later because the backup has low current value. This includes both expiring contracts and contracts that are large enough to cause a player to be cut for salary cap reasons.
Another topic that must be addressed is a team's coaching situation. If a coach is on the hot seat, you should be prepared for the changes that may occur in the event there is a coaching change. This not only includes the head coach, but also possible changes at both offensive and defensive coordinator. Scheme changes go hand in hand with a coaching change, and can have a drastic effect on a player's value. This not only involves the head coach, but the defensive coordinator as well. Unfortunately, it's hard to know exactly what a new coaching staff will do, but if you suspect a player may be in a new scheme due to a coaching change, you should be on top of the situation and prepare several strategies to account for the various possibilities that may occur.
There are a few other things that factor into dynasty strategies, such as talent and upside, opportunity to play, the quality of the team a player is on, and the injury history of a player. I place a high value on talent in dynasty leagues. Talented players have the best chance to be fantasy studs and I rank them higher than good players who are in a good scheme, and also higher than players who benefit from opportunity, but who don't have elite talent. I look for players with upside and often will have them ranked ahead of players who are a little more productive, but who don't have as high of a ceiling. The hard part is determining where to rank these players in dynasty rankings. As I stated above, the objective is to build a long-term core of players that can make your team a contender for several years. The middle of the road players who put up decent numbers but have no upside are easy to find compared to the talented players with a high ceiling. They contribute to a winning team, but studs win championships in fantasy football.
There is one key thing that I give a high priority to when building an IDP dynasty team. I want the majority of my IDP lineup to put up consistent fantasy numbers from week to week, and this shows in my rankings. This assumes you aren't in a league that is weighted toward big plays. My rankings use Footballguys.com scoring, which is balanced pretty even between tackles and big plays. The most consistent players at any IDP position are those who get a lot of tackles, solo tackles in particular. If most of my starters can put up solid and consistent tackle numbers, it lessens the chance of having a really bad week from your IDP squad because it would be unlikely to see an entire team of consistent tacklers all have a bad week at the same time. For example, if your league starts 11 defensive players, and the majority are solid tacklers, you will find that the bad weeks are few and far between. It is fine to have a player or two who are considered big play players, but if you have too many, I think you risk the chance of a bad week because these kind of players tend to have a lot of highs and lows. The benefit is they also are more capable of putting up huge numbers at any time, so a strategy of mostly consistent player, mixed in with a couple of big play performers can be the best of both worlds.
My rankings reflect my strategy in building a championship dynasty team. I place a greater weight to consistent tacklers, so when looking at my rankings and reading the strategies I have written about in this article, you have to take that into consideration. The point here is that everyone who ranks dynasty players has certain criteria that are a higher priority than other things. It is important to be able to read someone's dynasty rankings and have an understanding of how they determine where to slot the various players. If you understand, then you can use the rankings to your advantage, even the ones you disagree with. Nobody is perfect when ranking, but I think dynasty rankings that are used in conjunction with the ranker's strategy can be beneficial to the building of your championship team. I hope the above explanation of my strategy will help you when using my rankings.
I want to wish everyone the best and I hope this information will help you build and maintain a championship IDP dynasty team. After all, the objective is to win your league championship. And if you build the correct dynasty team, you can contend for many years to come. Good luck in your quest to build and manage a great IDP dynasty championship team.
Any questions or comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.