Interest in dynasty leagues continues to be on the rise, probably because the public's interest level in all things NFL has grown astronomically the past few years and fans never have to go very long without important NFL news. The Peyton Manning release and subsequent signing by the Broncos dominated sports talk even as the NCAA basketball tournament and the Major League Baseball season were beginning. The NFL Off-Season seems to have become an oxymoron. This almost insane focus on the NFL ensures that the dynasty format is the most popular for die-hard fantasy players. Most dynasty leagues also keep active all year round, accommodating these highly motivated owners with an avenue for fantasy football activity. If you have never played in a dynasty, but find yourself interested on the NFL year-round, perhaps picking up a dynasty league team would be a great fit for you. Never ending league activities, potential relationships founded and developed with people of like interests and the possibility to develop your very own dominant dynasty team are all within your reach when you join a dynasty league.
In addition to the continuity of dynasty leagues, the challenge to build and especially to maintain a successful team is much more difficult than excelling in re-drafts. That challenge and the resulting satisfaction with success is also why dynasty leagues are so popular among avid NFL followers and fantasy football players.
If you have never played in a dynasty and are considering joining one, think about what league aspects appeal to you. There are a lot of dynasty avenues, with league sizes ranging in size from ten to sixteen owners. There are a lot of scoring variations, primarily points per reception (PPR) and non-PPR leagues, but there are also performance scoring leagues which vary the PPR over different positions and value long distance scoring plays and/or huge individual games with bonus points. There are also an abundance of line-up options, with and without flex positions. Explore several league web-sites, ask friends and experienced dynasty owners for advice and suggestions on leagues and commissioners. Always take a little time and check out league and commissioner histories. You are planning to commit to a long-term relationship and should make sure you make a sound judgment on where you join.
The Start-Up Draft
Dynasties begin in the same manner as re-drafts with the player draft. The difference is that the initial dynasty draft is called the start-up and is the one and only time that all current NFL players are available. Start-up drafts are much more interesting than re-drafts because the dynasty format itself generates a variety of owner approaches. One strategy could focus on maximizing the number of current studs regardless of age in a plan to dominate the league from the get-go and worry about the future later. Another might select all young players so that their eventual success could be more easily sustained to build a dynasty. Another strategy points particularly to the second season, disregarding the first. Of course, these are the extremes and there is a lot of latitude in between, where the best approach may lie. A solid Shark Pool poster stated not long ago that “The only season that you can win is the current one”. Building for the future is a grand idea, but my preference would be to also focus the plan on how your team competes this season.
The initial preparation for the start-up draft must be to understand the league basics. Read and understand the league rules, particularly the starting player requirements and the scoring rules. There can be a tremendous variety in each of these categories across various leagues and you must fully understand the importance and impact of each prior to planning your draft.
Position value varies to a greater extent in dynasties compared to re-drafts. Positions such as quarterback and wide receiver have increased value relative to other positions simply based on the expected longevity of the career at those positions. The position value is also impacted in accordance with the number of scorers per position, the number of teams in the league, the league scoring rules, and even roster limits. Leagues with more starter flexibility seem to be the most interesting of all as they provide individual owners with flexibility in roster construction.
Identify some existing leagues with the same league size, similar starter requirements, and scoring that your league has. Take some time and identify the difference in points scored between the No. 1 at each position and the last starter. For instance, in a twelve team league with one starting QB, compare the difference between QB 1 and QB 12. If the league mandates two starting RBs, compare that difference between the RB 1 and the RB 24. If the league includes flex starters, slot them across the various flex positions and increase the number of starters accordingly. Do this same process for the WR and TE positions. Then compare the value difference between positions. Look at the data for the two most recent seasons. All of this work will give you a better idea of how to gauge value across the positions.
You also need to develop a sense of the available supply. It is not simply counting the number of NFL QBs. You need to determine the quantity of valuable QBs, those capable of scoring significantly in your league. You can set a baseline per game or per season number of points and again review the similar league's previous history to inventory each position. The RB position is probably the most interesting because for years that position more than any other was the basis of winning in fantasy football. Stud RB was much more than a theory, it was almost Fantasy 101. In the last several years, the NFL rule changes combined with the seemingly devaluation of the RB position has been magnified by popular changes in fantasy football, such as PPR scoring and adding flex positions, that drafting RBs early and often has been drastically reduced, especially in dynasties.
The next important factor to consider is age which may be combined with the maximum age per position to determine the number of valuable years each player has remaining. There are multiple philosophies regarding age as well. Some owners only look two or three years down the road, tending to ignore age otherwise. Many folks set maximum age per position and not consider those players. Common limits are 30 for RBs, while WRs might range from 34 to 36, and QBs sometimes even higher. You should also consider reviewing on-line fantasy rankings such as those that are available on Footballguys.com to see how others rank players and to assist you as a tie-breaker on your most problematic rankings or tiers.
The bottom line is that you need to have a solid understanding of several areas to guide you in developing your draft approach. Once the draft is underway, you should take time and evaluate each pick across positions draft value and add as much elite talent to your roster as possible, even regardless of positional need at times. Elite players are absolutely required to compete in dynasties. To evaluate similar elite players across different positions, also remember the league starting requirements, your current roster, and the number per position still available.
I love to use the Footballguys.com Draft Dominator to help organize things prior to the draft and especially during the draft to track positional tiers remaining and the current make-up of other teams. It takes a little more effort to prepare for the start-up draft because of the numerous pre-draft trades and the fact that projections provided automatically in the software are geared for re-drafts for the current year, but it is still an invaluable tool that can assist you during the draft. Get everything set up ahead of time and maybe even run a mock draft to track possible choices you could face early on.
Be willing to consider trading down if you can get added value, either later in the current draft or future first round rookie selections. Make the moves that you are confident will provide you the opportunity to draft the most elite players.
Depth selections come after you secure sufficient starters to meet league starting requirements. Most dynasty owners focus on selecting players they think have elite potential as depth, but it is a good idea to balance those potential players with a few consistent veterans so that you will have available some plug-in players that you can play if and when injuries strike.
Working Trades and the Waiver Wire
Dynasty leagues usually have either a waiver wire order based on current standings or a blind bidding system. The blind bidding system is fairer in that everyone has the same waiver wire budget and opportunity at all players. It gives you the potential to make assessments all year long (as long as you have budget left) to secure waiver wire pick-ups. A lot of leagues also have a first come first serve period following the waiver wire before the week's games begin.
The other avenue to change your roster is to make trades with fellow owners. I prefer to make fair and reasonable offers that have the potential to positively affect each team. There are always disagreements on player values and some offers may not be considered as fair. You have to understand that many trade offers will be turned down. However, you should strive to maintain dialogue with all owners so you can maximize the number of trading partners. The age factor alone is probably the reason that dynasty trading is so abundant and popular. After a year or so, some teams may find themselves fielding a team unable to compete and loaded with older veterans and decide to begin a rebuilding process. Those same veterans might be the answer for another team or two that needs only one more key performer to mount a playoff or championship run. Each owner can and usually does have varying roster needs and that contributes to frequent trading opportunities. The more successful you are making what other league members judge to be fair trades, the more partners you will have. Remember that all offers are made to fellow owners that you want to keep as friends, as well as rivals for a long time.
The remaining method to improve your roster is through the annual rookie draft, when all NFL rookies are eligible to be selected. The rookie picks are usually awarded similar to the methods for the NFL Draft, in that the worse teams from the previous season select first and so on with your league super bowl winner selecting last the next season.
These rookie draft picks are typically also available for trading. Some owners regularly trade their rookie picks for players, while others sometimes hoard rookie picks. It can actually be good to trade some of your depth early in the current season to acquire future rookie picks. The ability to identify and secure potential early round future rookie picks is an art and can significantly improve your roster. It is always nice to have extra rookie picks when you find yourself with little quality depth. The value of rookie picks varies from league to league and from year to year. Always be willing to listen to player for pick deals just prior and during the rookie drafts. In heavily scoring QB leagues, the owner of one of the top three rookie picks this year could reap a potential bonanza similar to what the Rams got for their No. 2 pick from the Redskins just because the perceived value of Trent Richardson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III is so high.
Rookie evaluations, typically a very low priority in re-draft leagues due to the lack of rookies that are capable of leading re-draft teams, is critical to dynasty success. Avid college football fans gain valuable insight in evaluating NFL potential. Again, the time spent watching and reading about players, both college and NFL, typically pays dividends. Each year brings the rookie draft and another way to adjust and improve your roster.
The dynasty format is challenging, but can be very rewarding for those committed to success.
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