So, you’ve ventured into the marathon race that is dynasty fantasy football. Now what? Surely, you know by now — or will soon learn — that building a dynasty fantasy football team is different than constructing your typical redraft one.
The big question then, which I will answer in this post, is how to build a dynasty fantasy football team.
There isn’t one right away to do it, but this is the one that has enabled me to sustain a competitive franchise year-in and year-out for a long time.
Here’s a quick overview:
- Play for the present or build for the future?
- Always keep an eye on the horizon
- Focus more on high-ceiling players than high-floor ones
- Age matters, but is more a tiebreaker than a rule
- Always draft value before need
- Buy low and sell high
- Leverage your draft picks at the right time
- Watch, or read more about college football
- Pay attention to “all the little things”
- Stay in constant contact and regularly send out feelers
- Master the art of misinformation
- Take advantage of fantasy (or football) “fatigue”
- Have a deeper quarterback and tight end depth chart
- Get running backs on their rookie contracts, receivers on their second ones
- Always ask “why” to trade proposals
- Run trade proposals by other dynasty veterans
Play for the present or build for future?
The most important question you’ll have to ask yourself is if you intend to play for the present or build for the future. And this isn’t just a one-time question for owners in a dynasty startup. You will constantly re-evaluate your team’s outlook each season.
The reason why is simple: your player acquisition strategy changes depending on your answer to this question. If you’re playing for now, you will choose to get rid of draft picks and young prospects for proven veterans. If you’re trying to rebuild for the future, you have no need for seasoned pros.
The best dynasty owners have a good balance of both present and future. They can compete for a title each year but still restock with young talent. But sometimes, if you’re stuck in the middle and feel like you’re a long ways off from a title, a good rebuild might be just the ticket. Don’t underestimate the value of a good tank job.
Always keep an eye on the horizon
If you’re new to dynasty fantasy football, you might find it challenging to transition from present-day thinking to long-term planning. You must think “will this help me next year?” beyond just “can this help me win a title this year?”
With every draft choice you make, every trade proposal you ponder, every player you release, ask yourself what the long-term ramifications could be. Because all too often, a player might not be helping you now but could offer much better value next season and beyond.
And conversely, a player on your roster might offer you tremendous value this season but could see his value drop precipitously the next year. In which case, he’s a good sell-high candidate.
Focus more on high-ceiling players than high-floor ones
In redraft leagues, owners are focused on drafting players who they feel can help them win a championship this season. They tend to select high-floor players. Which means, they want to know that this player has at least a certain competency they can count on.
In dynasty leagues, those “floor” players could actually be a negative. If you know what a player is because he’s been in the league a while, and he doesn’t offer great upside, it’s probably best to steer clear of him.
Instead, you can take a swing at a guy with a high ceiling who might offer a better return on investment. Sure, there’s always the possibility he turns out to be a bust. So, you must understand your risk tolerance. But I’d much rather take chances than settle on low-upside players.
Age matters, but is more a tiebreaker than a rule
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “dynasty fantasy football?”
Ooo, I get to keep players for a long time!
Inevitably, the ensuing thought is:
Ah, that must mean I need a bunch of young players.
While it’s true that younger players generally offer better value because you can keep them longer, that’s not always the case.
Go back to your strategy: play for the present or build for the future? If you’re trying to win a title now, go get that seasoned veteran who is going to help you win the title. Don’t pass up a more talented, older player for a younger, unproven one just because you’re worried about age. If two players are about the same, then age helps break the tie. But still focus on value.
Always draft value before need
This is a universal rule of fantasy football, as consistent as gravity. Whether you’re in a redraft or dynasty league, you must target value.
If you’re looking at your depth chart and see that you are a little weak at running back but loaded at receiver, that means you should avoid taking that stud receiver and reach for a running back, right?
Always take the best available player and worry about filling needs via trade. You can get much more bang for your buck that way.
Buy low and sell high
Another universal fantasy football rule is buying low and selling high. Heck, it’s the cardinal rule of investing, which is basically what dynasty fantasy football is.
Obviously, when a player’s value is at an all-time high, you’re going to have to give up an arm and a leg to get him. It’s not worth it.
If you’re trying to acquire more talent, you have to have long-term vision and sense when players are due for a rebound of sorts.
Look for players whose stock is down — maybe they’re coming off an injury or had a disappointing rookie season — and go after those guys if you feel reasonably confident that they’ll rebound. When you target them when their stock is low, you won’t have to give up as much for them.
Leverage your draft picks at the right time
Draft picks are the lifeblood of a dynasty league. They’re what you use to draft the next wave of rookies and talented young prospects who could fuel your team for years to come.
Don’t be careless with them. Don’t easily dismiss them just because they come with risk. I know a lot of owners who would much rather trade draft picks for proven commodities because there’s an element of the “unknown” that comes with them. But I’d much rather take the chance on the rookie.
If, however, you’re insistent on trading a draft pick, you have to know the right time to do it. Draft picks increase in value as your draft draws near. Your fellow owners will get rookie fever and generally be more willing to give up assets. Wait until then to trade your pick.
Watch, or read more about college football
If you’ve played in redraft leagues for a long time, hopefully you’ve learned by now that rookies don’t exactly make the best draft picks. It takes them a while to adjust to the speed of the NFL and they are tremendously inconsistent and unreliable.
In dynasty, everything changes. Because you roll over your rosters, rookies become the primary targets each offseason. You have to know more about these rookies, and the best way to do that is to watch more college football, or at least read more articles about these prospects.
Knowledge is power, and the more you know about these rookies the better it’ll prepare you for your rookie draft.
Pay attention to “all the little things”
It’s amazing how much the “little things” matter in fantasy football. This is particularly true for dynasty leagues.
Is a player entering the final year of his contract? What’s going on with your running back’s offensive line? Is a new coaching staff coming in? What will this free agent acquisition mean for your player’s touches?
So often, there is more to evaluating players than talent alone.
Stay in constant contact and regularly send out feelers
You can’t participate in a dynasty fantasy football league while operating in a bubble. Not only is it not fun but it’s less productive.
Stay in constant communication with your fellow owners. Talk to them about your league and about the NFL as well. Get their opinions about various players. Have fun, but spirited debates and conversations.
Send out weekly feelers during the season, and at least monthly ones during the offseason. Gauge their interest in a potential trade. Ask them flat out, “What do you think of Player X on my team?”
Knowing this information will help you shape your roster and formulate potential trades.
Master the art of misinformation
As important as it is to stay in communication with your fellow owners, you must beware the possibility that they are feeding you misinformation or throwing up a smoke screen.
At the same time, you must practice and master the art of misinformation. Feel free to give your fellow owners your true feelings on certain players that you don’t intend to add to your roster, or those you don’t intend to trade from your roster.
However, if you have your eyes set on a certain player to acquire, or you’re looking to unload someone from your own roster, you must coyly manipulate the conversation. Talk up the player you want to get rid of. Make other owners think you so highly value that player or that he’s worth a lot. Talk down the player that you are interested in acquiring to try to lower his value.
Be forewarned, though: you can’t say in one breath, “Hey, Player X on your team is really headed for a rough season. I don’t think his outlook is that good.” And then in the next breath say, “Hey, what do you want for him?”
Another owner will see right through that. You have to master the timing of it all.
Take advantage of fantasy (or football) “fatigue”
If you’re like me, you never get tired of fantasy football. It’s a sickness, I know. But not everybody operates like that. There are plenty of owners who get “fatigued” by the end of the football season.
And that’s your golden opportunity to strike.
Fatigued owners will often let down their guard at the end of a season. Maybe they’re upset after a lousy season. Or maybe they just experienced heartbreak by losing the championship. These owners often have the results of the season fresh in their minds and aren’t thinking long-term.
But not you. As a smart owner, you’re already pondering what will happen next year and you’ll use that to your advantage. This is the golden opportunity to unload a player who you feel has an all-time high stock and is bound to drop. Or, it’s a great chance to cheaply acquire a player who is coming off an injury and whose stock is otherwise low.
As long as your league permits trades in January and February (and why wouldn’t they?) then get at it!
Have a deeper quarterback and tight end depth chart
A lot of fantasy football experts will say that quarterbacks and tight ends become more valuable in dynasty leagues, and thus you should draft them in dynasty startups sooner than you normally would in redraft leagues.
I agree that there is some validity to that. But I personally would still avoid taking either of those positions until at least the middle rounds. You will still get much better value picking up running backs and receivers early in your startup draft.
With that said, I feel it’s wise to have better depth at the positions in dynasty leagues. Whereas you might only roster two quarterbacks and tight ends in redraft, you should look at going three- or four-deep in dynasty. Not only will you have depth in the case of injury, but you will have more lineup flexibility.
Additionally, you can look at drafting a rookie quarterback and tight end to keep the flow of talent coming in.
Get running backs on their rookie contracts, receivers on their second ones
The shelf life for running backs is so short that your best chance for value is while they’re still on their rookie contracts.
Conversely, receivers often take a while to get their careers going, and are often at their best value when they get their second contracts.
However, as I have mentioned before, you have to buy low, which means you have to acquire these players before they hit their peaks.
That means you have to draft running backs because trying to acquire them during their rookie contracts is like trying to find gold. With receivers, I’d recommend going after them after their second season, assuming their trajectory is pointed upwards.
Always ask “why” to trade proposals
This is a good rule of thumb for both redraft and dynasty leagues in general. But it’s particularly important in dynasty due to the long-lasting ramifications that come from trades in that type of league.
I’m quite the inquisitive person by nature. Since childhood, I’ve always wanted to know how things work and why things are the way they are. In fantasy football, this is a good quality to possess.
When someone approaches you with a trade proposal, the first thing you have to do is ask, “why?” What are they trying to do? Are they trying to improve at a position of need? Or are they trying to unload a player they don’t want anymore? Or is it both?
You’ve surely heard the expression, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Unless you’re dealing with bad fantasy owners, there has to be a reason you appear to be getting such a good deal (if it seems that way).
What’s wrong with the player that this owner is offering to you? Is he headed for reduced playing time? Is his role going to change under a new coaching staff?
Smart owners don’t just abandon good players for nothing. Ask yourself why and get to the bottom of it.
Run trade proposals by other dynasty veterans
Because trades in dynasty leagues can have long-lasting ramifications, another good practice in dealing with trade proposals is running them past other dynasty veterans.
Reach out to the experts online. Talk to friends or colleagues who might be in different dynasty leagues. You could even shop the trade around to your fellow owners.
When you show a proposed trade to other owners in your league, one of three things can happen.
1) the owners will tell you that the trade looks fair
2) the owners will tell you that you’re nuts and you’re getting ripped off
3) the owners will be intrigued by the trade and propose a better deal than the one you were originally offered
Whatever you decide to do, and to whomever you go for advice, you don’t have to operate your dynasty team in a bubble.
Making the leap to a dynasty league can be daunting for fantasy newbies. It’s challenging to break out of your old redraft habits. But once you get some experience playing in dynasty leagues, you’ll be able to balance your participation in both types of leagues.
It’s important to remember to clearly define a strategy, determine whether you are playing for now or in the future, identify talent and buy low/sell high, and always keep an eye toward the horizon.
Do this, and you will not only do just fine, but you will succeed!