4 easy steps: How to start a dynasty fantasy football league

Do you enjoy fantasy football but are looking for a new challenge? Start a dynasty fantasy football league!

Redraft leagues are fun and refreshing because they give you a clean slate each season. And you know what they say: hope springs eternal, and there’s always next year!

But if you’re looking for a new challenge and want to try to build a team that you can sustain year after year, then dynasty football might be for you.

But how does one join a dynasty fantasy football league? You could search online or ask some of your fellow fantasy football owners. Or, you might just want to start your own league.

(Related: 21 tips for starting a dynasty league (or keeper league))

Here’s how to start a dynasty fantasy football league in four easy steps:

Step 1: Understanding dynasty fantasy football

Before you can begin a dynasty fantasy football league, you must know how one operates.

Dynasty fantasy football explained

For the newbies and the uninitiated, dynasty fantasy football is a league that rolls over its rosters from year to year. It injects a touch of reality into your fantasy league.

Real NFL general managers are tasked with building a successful ball club that competes for a title every season. They sign free agents, draft rookies, and try to build a dynasty.

As a dynasty league owner, your job is basically the same. The challenge is sustaining a competitive roster.

If you have a bad team one year, it’s all the more difficult digging it out of a hole for next season. But if you have a successful team, your job is to try to win multiple championships with the same players.

(Related: How does a keeper (or dynasty) league work?)

What’s the difference between dynasty and keeper leagues?

Dynasty and keeper leagues are terminology that are often used interchangeably.

Both are essentially the same in that they allow you to keep — or “protect” — players from one year to the next.

But the primary difference between the two is generally the quantity of players you retain. In keeper leagues, there’s generally a limit to how many players you are allowed to protect; it could be as few as one, and maybe as high as five or six.

But in dynasty leagues, you typically keep most, if not all of your players.

What are keepers in dynasty fantasy football?

Before you can begin a keeper or dynasty fantasy football league, you obviously have to know what keepers are!

The players who conclude one season on your roster and then begin with your team the next year are called “keepers.” You determine which players you want to keep each offseason and then replace all others with rookies or other available veterans.

Salary cap leagues explained: Should your dynasty league include a salary cap?

If you want an extra challenge for your dynasty league, consider implementing a salary cap. Players are given salaries and you must keep your combined team salary under the league’s cap number.

The cap number is negligible: players’ values will fluctuate accordingly to whatever cap number you set. But since I like round numbers — who doesn’t? — I’d suggest setting the number at something even, like $100 or $200.

Generally, salary cap leagues work best with auctions. You allow player salaries to be set based on how much money each player brings in via the auction bidding. But if you prefer to have a draft, you can assign player salaries to draft slots. For example: Picks 1-4 might earn $40, Picks 5-8 will earn $39, Picks 9-12 will earn $38, etc. Play with the numbers and you can decide a final cap number based on that.

How does dynasty league free agency work?

Dynasty league free agency shouldn’t work any differently than you’re used to in standard, redraft leagues. At least, it doesn’t have to.

If your league has a waiver wire period each week, after the waiver wire period is over, any free agents not on one of your fantasy league’s rosters will be available for claiming.

Players can be awarded to teams on a first-come, first-served basis. Or, if you’re running a salary cap league, you can allow private bids to be made on free agents. The highest bidder is awarded the player.

(Read more: Top waiver wire pickups: The fantasy football waiver wire explained)

How do trades work in dynasty leagues?

The art of trading becomes even more complex in dynasty leagues. In standard redraft leagues, owners attempt to better their team by trading an excess of strength for areas of deficiency. But you’re only focused on narrow, short-term success.

In dynasty football leagues, when attempting to make trades, you not only have to focus on the short-term benefit (i.e. “will this trade make my team competitive this year?”), but you have to focus on the long-term picture as well (i.e. “am I acquiring players who have a bright future who will help me next year and beyond?”).

Should you allow owners or the commissioner to veto trades? Generally, I’m against this practice in redraft leagues. If you get smart, intelligent owners to play, you won’t have to worry about one owner fleecing another. If a rip-off trade does occur, maybe you ought to rethink the victim’s ownership in your league.

But in dynasty leagues, it might make sense to allow owners to veto a trade they deem unfair, for one specific reason: in a dynasty league, a bad trade could make the league lopsided and for a prolonged period of time. And who wants to play in a league where the competitive balance is weak year-in and year-out?

(Related: Fantasy Football Trade Advice: How to Trade in Fantasy Football)

Step 2: Choose the right type of owners for your dynasty league

Now that you have a good understanding about what a dynasty fantasy football league is, the next step is finding owners for your league.

And not just any owners … but quality, responsible ones.

Yeah, sure, everybody enjoys the lovable rube who shows up to the draft in a decades-old football jersey (maybe with his surname on the back), drinks like he’s at a frat house, pokes fun at others’ expense, and uses his “profound football intellect” to outsmart his fellow owners.

At least, he thinks he does.

But if John Doe doesn’t change his lineup each week and goes 1-12 on the season, was it really worth having those few hours of enjoyment back in August? Sure, he might have donated his money to the winner’s purse, but he destroyed the competitive balance and credibility of the league.

Characteristics of good fantasy football owners

To really operate a successful dynasty football league, you should choose owners who exhibit some — if not all — of the following characteristics.

  • Dedicated and not flaky — Participating in a dynasty league requires a high level of commitment. You want someone reliable and dedicated to the league. If a guy can’t commit to a woman for two-plus months at a time, what makes you think he can commit to a fantasy league two-plus years at a time?
  • Responsible — Does the guy have a job? If you called him and asked for a favor, would he follow through? Does he live by the clock or on a whim? You must have owners who are responsible.
  • Fiscally aware (for salary cap leagues) — If you’re operating a salary cap league, you must have financially responsible owners. Does a guy live in a dingy apartment but drive a BMW? Does he flip burgers for a living but have all the latest technological gismos and gadgets? Has he ever done a budget?
  • Passionate about fantasy football — We’ve all seen them: the intelligent football fans who never miss a game. Maybe they have the NFL Sunday Ticket or religiously watch the Red Zone channel. Maybe they’re an encyclopedia of stats, history and terminology. But if they don’t know a lick about fantasy, and don’t care to, they’re worthless for this type of league.
  • Knowledgeable about football — Seems kind of a minimum baseline for a fantasy football owner, doesn’t it? But we’re not talking about owners who know how many points a touchdown is and what receptions and rushing attempts are. Do these owners know personnel? Can they rattle off the majority of starting quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends off the tops of their heads?
  • Not gullible or capable of being swindled — Please, for the love of God, do not invite gullible people to be owners in your fantasy leagues. In my quarter-century of playing fantasy football, one thing I’ve come to despise more than most others is a league without competitive balance. Not because of injuries or unfortunate luck. But because owners give away the farm to a sneaky salesman in the league.
  • Willing to commit to playing many years — This is a dynasty league, after all. Don’t invite tepid owners to play in your dynasty league. If they’re “unsure” about playing, then the answer is no. Participating in a dynasty league is for enthusiastic people. They should enjoy talking about your league year-round. If they’re the type of owner who says, “Don’t talk to me about football; it’s the offseason … football doesn’t start til July,” then they’re not the owners you’re seeking for your league.
  • Pays attention and checks their email regularly — I’ve participated in many leagues where half the owners don’t pay attention to what is going on. I’ve tried to reach out to them for trades, or simply to remind them to change their lineup for the upcoming week because they have three players on bye. It’s frustrating that in a league of 12 owners, maybe 6 of them are active and make trades with each other.

Do yourself a favor and put as much time into finding quality, reputable owners for your dynasty league as you do for any other step in the process.

Step 3: Choose a dynasty league management service

After familiarizing yourself with dynasty leagues and finding committed, dedicated owners to participate, the next step is finding a hosting service for your league.

If you’re passionate and dedicated enough, you can host the league by yourself and keep track of rosters, and maybe set up a simple website for your owners. But this won’t give you live scoring, so it’s probably best to find a hosting service.

Here are just a few of the places you can start to explore:

If you know of any other dynasty league hosting services, drop me an email.

Step 4: Establish your dynasty league rules

Okay, so you have a clear understanding of dynasty league football, you’ve selected passionate and dedicated owners, and you’ve chosen a hosting service to manage your league. Now, it’s time to get down to specifics.

How many roster spots should your teams fill?

Some fantasy football leagues like to fill their rosters with as much talent as possible. Others like to limit the roster size to leave room for waiver wire and free agency transactions.

With a dynasty league, I would recommend doing the former.

The point of the dynasty league is to keep rosters intact from year to year, allowing for offseason moves to be made. But if you allow too many waiver wire and free agent acquisitions, then the teams in your league are going to look dramatically different from the beginning of the year to the end.

What’s the point?

I would suggest a roster size of at least 20 players, if not as much as 25. If your team has injuries, you dig into your bench for replacements as opposed to the waiver wire.

What should your starting lineup look like?

How many FLEX positions do you want in your starting lineup? Should it be a superflex? Should you start one running back or two? Two wide receivers or three? Do you want to have team defenses or individual defensive players? Should you include kickers, or kick those turds to the curb?

Sometimes, owners can be finicky and they’ll choose not to participate in a league with funky lineup rules. That’s fine. And you might want to consult with owners about what kind of rules you’re considering before you invite them (see Step 2). You don’t want owners bailing on your league after you’ve tried setting the rules.

Full-PPR, half-PPR, no PPR?

To PPR or not to PPR? (Or do it half-assed?)

“Points per reception” is a remarkably polarizing concept in fantasy football. Some owners have no interest playing in leagues that award points per reception. Others are firmly entrenched in such leagues. And other leagues choose to award a half-point per reception as a compromise.

I prefer to participate in points per reception because it widens the talent pool. You can select fringe players to round out the bottom of your roster and, if you’re ever in a pinch and are forced to throw them in your starting lineup, you can hope for a few receptions for a few points, rather than a big zero.

Draft or Auction?

Will your dynasty league hold an annual draft, or will it conduct an auction? Or, how about a hybrid of both? In one dynasty league that I’m in, we hold a rookie-only draft followed by a veteran auction.

Whatever the case may be, choose what you feel is best for your league and in the best interest of its owners. This may be another topic you bring up with prospective owners before inviting them to join the league.

Should you institute a salary cap?

A salary cap can be a fun, enjoyable way to make your league both more realistic and challenging. It also helps prevent teams from stockpiling too much talent.

For instance, if you have an auction and the best players in the league have the highest salaries, even if a shyster in your league attempts to swindle an unsuspecting owner out of his best talent, that shyster is going to have a hard time fitting extra expensive talent under the salary cap.

Pick a date for your league’s draft/auction (and stick to it)

As a fantasy commissioner, one of the most frustrating duties I have — just below chasing down owners for their entry fees — is trying to schedule the draft on a date that all owners can make.

One of the most important, yet unheralded, aspects of a successful fantasy football league, whether it be dynasty or redraft, is picking a date for your league’s draft or auction.

The single most important date of the fantasy calendar is the draft day. Even in dynasty leagues. This is the day when rosters are shaped the most. And, let’s be honest, it’s the most fun you’ll have any given year.

Thus, why would you want to participate in a league where several owners can’t show up to the draft because of other commitments, and instead they send a proxy in their place who doesn’t understand your league?

When should your draft or auction be held?

My advice would be to schedule your league’s draft on the same weekend every year. Obviously, days will change each year, meaning you can’t schedule it on a specific date unless you want to have a weeknight draft. But pencil it into a specific weekend every year.

My recommendation is to schedule it for the third or fourth Saturday or Sunday of August. These weekends are after the third preseason game, meaning injuries that occur after your draft will be minimal.

Those are just some of the specific rules and guidelines you need to consider. Take the time to think over even more scoring rules and league functions than that. They can be as specific as you want.

Just know that not every league is created the same, nor will your league be perfect the first year or two of its existence. It takes time to hone and fine-tune it to get it just the way you want.


Fantasy Football is one of the most popular and insanely fun activities you can do. It’s also quite the challenge for those who are up to it.

If you’re ready to take the challenge to the next level, then a dynasty fantasy football league might be right for you.

But be forewarned: if you do not take the proper steps to set up your dynasty league, you might be stuck with lemons as owners and the league could be a total flop.

Set the rules, get dedicated and committed owners who are willing to abide by such rules, and then get ready for a wild ride!

(Related: Dynasty 101: How to build a dynasty fantasy football team)