Dynasty leagues offer the closest experience to run your own fantasy football organization from player selection and valuation to drafting, scouting, trades, and working the waiver wire. Here are highlights from the footballguys staff responses in what makes for a good dynasty general manager:
Matt Waldman: My two base strengths in dynasty leagues are the rookie draft and the waiver wire (big surprise, I realize...). Most of my leagues are dynasty formats and they're split among Internet leagues with serious fantasy owners who consume everything online--including the Rookie Scouting Portfolio--and writers and/or site-based leagues where maybe one-third to one-half of the writers buy the RSP.
For the past 5-7 years, this dynamic as put me in a unique situation where a healthy amount of my competition knows how I value players and often use my work as a guide. It has forced me to push outside my comfort zone of leaning on the draft and free agency to acquire game-changing value because those players aren't there for me as it was in the past.
I've experimented with a lot of different methods during this time--some ideas more extreme than others:
- Blowing up a team of veterans in an attempt to get value ahead of their drop-off (that failed miserably).
- Drafting a veteran-heavy start-up and using the waiver wire as my method of infusing the roster with underrated talents (which had success in one league when I landed successful young players before the vets experienced a drop-off).
- Drafting and fielding less-conventional lineups in terms of positional allotment to earn a draft-day and waiver-wire edge.
- Increasing my volume of trades during the draft and the season.
- Reaching two or three rounds earlier for players I value.
- Trading away all of my draft picks and going two or three years without picks.
The common thing I discovered regardless of my experimenting is leveraging the bubbles that your leagues' owners leave available on the waiver wire. I've had numerous rebuilds where I've inherited bottom-dwellers and turned them around within a year or two because I could look at the previous two or three seasons of waiver transactions, find the talent that the league isn't good at identifying early, and use that to prioritize which method I'll use to build my squad.
This point is so vital because it helps you learn how much depth you should stock at each position, who will be available on the waiver wire, which positions that you need to draft early, and which ones you can add during the season. Do this, and it will guide your decisions about each component of team management.
Daniel Simpkins: My greatest strength as a dynasty general manager seems to be my ability to trade. I work the trade market relentlessly. I talk to general managers and feel them out about how they like or dislike certain players. I make careful mental notes about how they react to my offers and what I might be able to change to get a deal done. I find out what traits they value in players and keep that in my mental Rolodex for future deals. For every trade I do complete, I would estimate I had 20-25 offers that were rejected. It can be a grind at times, but I find it fun to pull off good deals that other people in the league look at and think, "Why didn't I try to make a deal like that?"
I find trading especially important if you are a general manager taking over an orphan team. Usually, these teams aren't in great condition and need a lot of love to get back on track. It's going to be critical in those early stages to build some relationships and make deals to speed up the process of your rebuild.
Jeff Tefertiller: Understanding value. Value is what enables me to know what price I would like to buy or sell a particular player. Most focus on buy low vs sell high, but there are aspects like time of year where youth is worth more in the offseason while producing veterans are worth less. This flips as we approach Week 1.
Bob Henry: I agree with Jeff that understanding value is key to having and executing your strategy in dynasty leagues. There are ebbs and flows to player valuations given the amount of focus and importance that goes into rookie drafts (rightfully so). That means veterans can be acquired cheaper, especially when you're willing to take on some risk onto your roster, earlier in the summer and offseason. The rookie values hit a premium during this time and leading up to and into when you conduct the rookie draft.
The other side of this is in-season roster management. Your competition's focus often wanes late in the regular season. This is when forgotten players can be acquired for essentially free if you continue to scout all available players. The golden rule is to always scout your league to understand where the value bubbles can be leveraged for gain. It's not always rookie or free agents. Sometimes, it's another roster with a compelling need to make a move because of injury, making a move with the playoffs in mind, etc.
Lastly, the answer to every question never asked is always no. That's stupid obvious, but as GMs, we often get busy in the day to day world and lose sight of these opportunities. Consistent focus and understanding of your league's dynamics will reveal numerous opportunities to make offers. It's hard to work the trade game if you're not putting offers out there. Don't be the owner who always wants to make a deal, but consistently replies to owners with the classic "sounds good, make me an offer". Get in the game and make those offers. Keep a steady drip of them throughout the year. If you're the GM who is always trying to peel someone's melon, then you'll be cast as such, and the trust level won't be there. Don't be afraid to give up what feels like a little too much to get the player(s) you really want. Nobody is undefeated in the trade game, but you have to take risks to get on top and/or stay on top.
Jason Wood: For me, it's not forgetting the goal of dynasty leagues is the same as redraft leagues -- to win titles. Too many dynasty leaguers fall in love with rookies and other young players and overvalue them while criminally undervaluing veterans. The average NFL lifespan is less than four seasons, and very few players have long stretches of elite performance. Yet, guys who are approaching 30 years old and have proven to be elite get treated like they're on the precipice of irrelevance. You can often trade a first- or second-year player that has literally done nothing in the league for a veteran that has a high floor and high ceiling. Everyone is convinced they're building a team that will dominate in two or three years, at the expense of winning this year. Unfortunately for them, we live in the now, not the future.
Will Grant: I don't know if I'd call it my greatest strength, but I can absolutely see the difference in my teams when I actively work the waiver wire during the season and when I do not. With dynasty leagues, especially deeper rosters, there is a tendency to think that all of the good players are gone, and the draft or trading are the best ways to strengthen your team.
But injuries happen. Players emerge. Guys who are hungry get their opportunity and work their tails off to keep their spot. Just because you won't find Todd Gurley or Ezekiel Elliott on the waiver wire doesn't mean there isn't value to be had. Even if you come out of the draft with the strongest team in the league, you should still be looking at the waiver wire to surround your studs with the right players to get you deep into the playoffs.
Andy Hicks: There are so many more facets to a dynasty league than a redraft, which is great for the all in fantasy manager. You get to grab a player before they are stars and keep them for their entire NFL journey for the best of them. Personally, it is great to draft or identify a player that is underrated and then watch them become a fantasy starter. David Johnson and Kenyan Drake come to mind as recent examples. Opportunity is key to identifying the underrated rookie running back. Find a weak starter and a rookie that was drafted in the first three rounds in particular. David Johnson was expected to sit behind Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington and not contribute much. He was not seen as NFL quality yet, but it was clear that Chris Johnson was past his best and Andre Ellington was unsuited to the role of lead running back. Kenyan Drake had Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi ahead of him when drafted. Arian Foster soon retired and Jay Ajayi had issues that were clearly identified during the draft process and evident in incidents during his time with the team. Now there are many weak starters in the NFL and rookies that aren’t going to be much better, but you have to be prepared to make mistakes and grab value where you can.
Another key skill is combing the waiver wire. Many owners are too patient with younger players, while others discard a player too early in their career. Identifying the weaknesses in your team and looking ahead is crucial to targeting the waiver wire.
Trading is an area that can be equal parts frustrating and rewarding. Getting trade requests from owners who can't place a realistic value on their own players and expect a future first round pick for a player such as A.J. Derby is a waste of everyone's time. On the other hand, you need trades to offload players where you have an abundance of strength or where you need to get younger. Having Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green is great for right now, but all are almost at or over 30. All have high value and could do for years, but they could also lose value swiftly ala Dez Bryant. Sometimes it is better to let a player go a year or two too early than hold on for too long.
Fortunately for dynasty players, you can be weak in some areas and strong in others, but ultimately the league champions make the best decisions over the long term. An injury can kill you in a redraft, this can be overcome with careful roster management in dynasty leagues.
Chad Parsons: While I have grown to love the waiver wire weekly churn in-season over recent seasons, I make my biggest gains in valuing and scouting incoming rookies better than the dynasty league average. Young players often yield the biggest gains in market value and demand over the initial 12-24 months of their dynasty life cycle. One key is putting drafted rookies into different buckets. Will they be a cornerstone player on your roster, holding for the long haul when/if they produce? Will they be a flip player when they produce as you like them enough to draft, but concerned about their ability to sustain a role and production long-term? Are they a short-term bet for any chance to sell and if something (anything) goes wrong you will swap them for the waiver wire flavor of the week? Creating an initial plan for each player can clarify future moves and price points to solidify an overall roster plan to not be blinded by short-term production and opportunity swings.