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Faceoff: Overall Dynasty Strategy

August 4th

Clayton Gray: Let's discuss building a dynasty roster. Do you target specific positions? Do you eschew older players? What is your basic strategy in a dynasty league?

Jeff Tefertiller: I am a win now type of owner. While it is nice having youngsters on the roster, the key of all leagues is to win. I usually swim upstream in most of my leagues. While many dynasty owners devalue running backs and love great, young receivers, I like the value of top RBs and aging wideouts. Also, I tend to underappreciate the tight end position compared to most owners. A guy like Winslow or Cooley is enough to win the title.

I try to fill the bottom half of my roster (in leagues with 300+ players rostered)with upside guys. I want players who have a chance to be worth something if the situation changes (injury, etc.). Some of the guys I have at the bottom of most of my rosters are Matt Flynn, Mike Kafka, Ricky Stanzi, Plaxico Burress, and Blair White. All were acquired via the waiver wire.

In the offseason, I usually do not roster any kicker or team defense. I prefer an upside player.

Matt Waldman: I used to be a build for the future guy in dynasty leagues. I wanted to build teams from scratch and make them an enduring dynasty. In other words, I wanted to be the fantasy football Hugh Hefner.

As I've matured (somewhat), I believe in building a team with a balance of players at various stages of their careers. Clayton's questions are ones I actually combine to form my general approach.

I tend to eschew having a preponderance of younger quarterbacks if I can help it. Good quarterbacks have lengthy careers so I'd rather not "grow my own," when possible. The timetable can be too long to build a team quickly. I'd rather have a veteran 5-7 years into his career. The elite QBs tend to have careers that double that span and they tend to produce until perhaps the final season. Trying to hit the bull's eye on a quarterback in a rookie draft is tough. I'll take that chance sometimes, but only if the league hoards quarterbacks. Most of the time I try to build a strength at a position and deal for a quarterback rather than draft one.

I believe tight end is a good position to deal for as well. Since most leagues only start one QB and one TE I try to avoid having too many of these players on my roster. Trying to draft a rookie year after year or collecting tight ends in leagues where you only start one seems to be a waste of a roster spot for players who can help you now. A top QB and top TE might be great for making deals, but the easiest currency for trading are runners and receivers. If I really believe a tight end can be an impact player right away, I'll take a young one behind the established stud I try to acquire.

The other reason I believe in taking as many runners and receivers as I can is that the top-producing quarterbacks and tight ends tend to have less turnover each year. These guys are foundational players. I'd rather solidify those positions and then focus on getting the positions (RBs & WRs) that have more turnover year to year. This is why I believe backs and receivers should be drafted early and often.

I try to keep an even mix of youth and age at receiver. I believe veteran receivers in the range of 180-200 lbs. who are regarded as possession players with some vertical ability (Isaac Bruce, Derrick Mason, Donald Driver) tend to have long careers. I'll hold onto these players until they wear out. I'd also rather have a team rich at receiver because they generally have a lower turnover rate than backs.

Running back is the position of highest demand because it has the highest turnover. I tend draft as many as I can. If I were smarter, I'd probably try to wheel and deal for as many picks in the first two rounds as I could over period of 2-3 rookie drafts, select nothing but runners and then deal from a position of strength to build the rest of my team.

What I generally do is assess the strength of my team, build on it, and then deal it for players at other positions.

Will Grant: Matt and Jeff have really hit on team management so I will talk a bit about drafting. The draft is an exciting time and one that can really help you build your team, both now and for the future. I like to acquire draft picks and then wheel and deal once things have started. When the hot rookies start to fly off the board, people get anxious and tend to overpay to move up, especially if you are on the clock. Don't be so quick to make your pick, especially in email and slow Internet drafts. You will be surprised how offers can come in from teams you never expected to trade with.

Don't fall in love with anyone unless your drafting in the top three or four slots. Be willing to move if the offer is in your favor. Don't be afraid to trade down or trade out to next year either. The third and fourth rounds are good for this because a team might give up next years second rounder for the one guy they still like this year. This can land you two or three high draft picks in next years draft, or give you that veteran with a year or two left in the tank that can put you over the top.

Mark Wimer: Most of my dynasty leagues are IDP as well, so I have to speak to the importance of weighing the value of various positions. Obviously, as always, scoring system is a paramount consideration. Once you apply the scoring system to the top tier of players at each position, you'll see which are the most potentially valuable to roster. Those are the positions that will be in biggest demand during the free agent auction and the draft.

For example, usually, it turns out that good DBs are the easiest players to pick up off the waiver wire, and good LBs are the hardest on the defensive side of the ball. That's because LBs generally score more fantasy points, and so are heavily drafted/kept on rosters (and most leagues I play in require 3 LBs start each week, while 2 CBs and 2 safeties are required). DBs don't score as many fantasy points in most formats, so they are carried more lightly on most fantasy rosters and they get "churned" on bye weeks more often than the LBs. Simply put, there are more quality DBs on the waiver wire than there are LBs.

As Matt pointed out, it's a good idea to have a mix of "in their prime years" players with younger players at each position, if possible. Here's one of my LB corps for 2011, from a $75 salary cap league:

  • Connor, Dan CAR LB (P) - $0.20
  • Cushing, Brian HOU LB - $2.40
  • Hawk, A.J. GBP LB (P) - $0.30
  • Lofton, Curtis ATL LB (P) $7.30
  • Matthews, Clay GBP LB - $1.50
  • Pace, Calvin NYJ LB - $0.60
  • Curry, Aaron SEA LB - $0.10

Lofton is the guy I drafted initially to anchor this cadre two years ago, and I extended his contract for another 2 years this year - which cost me a lot in cap. Happily, I drafted Cushing and Matthews and so they are relatively inexpensive compared to their production. A.J. Hawk was a lucky scoop off the waiver wire, while Connor and Pace are older guys who may have a shot at productive years in 2011 - they came cheap, and Pace especially is valuable when he gets on a roll sacking the QB. Aaron Curry hasn't lived up to the draft hype yet, but I got him super cheap after the rest of the league blew their cash in the free agent auction, and I think he may yet become a solid fantasy LB - he enters his third year in the league this year and may really start to produce (especially given how bad the Seahawks offense/QB corps looks post-Hasselbeck: Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst). In all, $12.40 of the $75 cap is invested in LBs (16.4% of the cap). In comparison, in this league I've got $3.60 invested in safeties (4.8% of the cap) and $5.10 invested in CBs (6.8%). The amount of the cap I've got invested at each position roughly equates to the amount of my weekly fantasy points I can expect to generate from those defensive players' positions.

Generally speaking, I tend to use a hybrid approach of growing through the draft and through waiver wire/free agent auctions. Wherever I see a potential for value I make a move.

For example, this year in the above-referenced league, I saw an opportunity in the draft to trade picks and move up to land two rookie RBs that I liked as well as secure (I hoped) Blaine Gabbert to back up David Garrard who I already had rostered. The plan worked out and I netted Shane Vereen at 1.06, Jacquizz Rodgers at 1.12, and Blaine Gabbert at 2.06 - this at the cost of a 2012 first rounder and a third in 2011. Next year I won't be in the running for any of the top players, but I felt that Vereen and Rodgers fit into my RB stable well and I've secured the starter in Jacksonville for the foreseeable future (I also drafted Ricky Stanzi late to back up Matt Cassel, my other starting QB in this league).

The 2011 draft was shaped by my club's unique needs - Jacksonville opted to draft Gabbert, making it important for me to land him if I wanted to stay invested in Jacksonville's passing attack, which I did. I was weak at RB2 and flex RB last year, so I rolled the dice on two RBs early and ignored other areas of need. I went into the draft with a plan and executed it - now we'll see how that pays off in fantasy points for 2011!

Jeff Pasquino: Some teams play for win now, while others build for the future.

I think you can do both.

Strategy Point #1 should be to acquire as many RB1 / WR1 / TE1 / QB1 players that are truly elite, and do what it takes to get them. One stud doesn't win a league - but several do, and by a wide margin.

After that the roster should be about 1/3 prospects. Rookies, high potential guys, draft picks - or all of the above - should constitute the last 30-35% of your roster.

If you have done both points and have 3-4 studs, at least 15% of your roster is now full (when you factor in the prospects). Now add a 50/50 mix of veterans that can be startable and also a key handcuff or two for RBs on your roster. Dynasty emphasizes not just owning the RB1 for a team, but you also probably want a bigger piece of that team's ground game. That means if you own Frank Gore, you should be going after Kendall Hunter hard and do it quickly.

Another tactic I try in really deep leagues is hoarding prospects at a position of weakness. The theory here is that if you have say 10-12 QB2s/QB3s from around the league, 1-2 might pan out. Once you know how it looks for that pool of 10-12 guys, you can make several cuts and then apply a similar approach at another position. Constantly look to get better.