Dynasty Overview
By Jeff Tefertiller
May 2nd, 2012

Dynasty and keeper leagues are growing in popularity as fantasy owners search for an offseason fix to the fantasy football habit. Teams in these leagues keep some or all of their players indefinitely. These leagues are active the entire year. To many in these leagues, the offseason is more enjoyable than the regular season. There are many types of dynasty and keeper leagues from which to choose so you can select the one that best fits what you are seeking. They differ in number of teams, roster size, scoring, starting lineup, and other variables, so find the one that best fits your desires.

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  • 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 owners fall in between these two extremes.
  • 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. With this waiver method, 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 owners have their own preferred method of waivers.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 may to choose to 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 and keeper owners. 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 are embarking on a time of the year when football news will be prevalent. Offseason training camps will soon 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, Arian Foster, Marques Colston, Miles Austin, and many other very good players who were seemingly buried on depth charts to begin the season.
  • 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 and keeper 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 cycle goes on year after year. Owners are best to buy proven players in the offseason while leaguemates are concentrating on the rookie draft and buy rookie picks during the season.
  • 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.

    How should I approach the initial draft?

    Dynasty and keeper leagues are growing as fantasy owners thirst for year-around fantasy football. The players on your roster are yours to keep indefinitely. Most dynasty and keeper leagues begin with an initial draft. This initial disbursement of players is very important. For this reason, we will look at how to develop a plan for your initial draft. 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, you 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 12-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 league, 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 and are valued accordingly. 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 on the season, 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. 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 was not created 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 all leagues this season 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 far 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 if your league was a redraft league. Compare your list of players against the averages. 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 owners 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 most 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 in the draft. You can always pick up a kicker and defense in the preseason.

    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-around. The players on your 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 shows.

    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. 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?

    The different types of waiver wire systems are discussed above. Whichever mode is used in your league, 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 WILL have poor seasons. It happens to every owner. But, many fantasy owners are all too quick to give up on these players whom they absolutely loved a few months before just because of injury or situation. 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. 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. We all have bad days, even football players. 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 you should 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 on other sites. Get to know the rules. Also, each of the sites has either customer support or forums on the site to answer your questions.

    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 Larry Fitzgerald? 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. This method is only useful soon after the initial draft. 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 more than the rest. 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. As mentioned above, 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 - at various positions - 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

    To many owners, the offseason, highlighted by the league's rookie draft, is more enjoyable than the regular season. 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. The yearly rookie draft is the best place to locate a future stud of tomorrow.

    The value of these rookie picks is different for every league. With the possibility of getting the next Calvin 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 it rich with a young stud they may keep "forever". This can be 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, but the downside is an aging roster without an infusion of youth. 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 and worth more than elite players. 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, 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. But, what happens next year when another ball carrier is drafted by the NFL team? 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, in his first professional season.
  • 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 an elite player at his position. Many of the best fantasy quarterbacks did not enter the NFL with much fanfare. Think about Tony Romo or Tom Brady or Kurt Warner. But, after the first ten to fifteen 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 decreases 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.
  • There is definitely an art and a 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 draft slow up or down can make a huge difference. Keep in mind that 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.

    Keeper league drafts look and feel much differently than dynasty rookie drafts. In these keeper drafts, all veteran and rookie players are available to select except those kept for the coming season. Although draft strategies differ, owners must decide if they want to draft to win the title this season or try or some upside picks in hopes of having a great young nucleus for years to come. With only a few players kept by each team, it is always best to select the players who are projected to produce the most points this season. In keeper drafts, the optimum strategy should be to draft veterans in the early rounds, and take chances on young players in the middle and later rounds.

    Assessing Player Values

    As stated above, assessing player values is difficult. Each player's value is made up of several variables working together. First of all, values are dynamic. They can change every day or 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. Yes, that may sound 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 may 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 - This was discussed above. 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.
  • 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 Atlanta. 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.

    Dynasty and keeper 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. These are your players indefinitely. The goal is to get as many star players, having the most value, on your roster.

    Please feel free to email tefertiller@footballguys.com or tweet Twitter with any questions or comments.

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