Are you thinking about joining a dynasty fantasy football league for the first time in 2022? Dynasty leagues kick off with the initial startup draft. This draft is immensely important, and there are a few different ways you can attack it. Let’s discuss the different types of startup draft strategies and how each impacts your ability to be a successful dynasty manager.
Dynasty startup draft strategies
There are several strategies you can employ when drafting your initial dynasty roster. Within these strategies, there are further ways in which we can break down how you approach your draft. I certainly cannot cover everything in just one article.
Let’s tackle a couple of general dynasty startup draft strategies as well as cover a little bit of the specifics regarding how you can implement those strategies.
Punting Year 1
A very common strategy in dynasty startup drafts is to completely punt the initial season. Unlike in redraft leagues, you can’t conceivably win every single season. Your ability to compete will ebb and flow. If you really get things right, the duration of your competitive streak can be lengthy. That’s what this strategy seeks to do.
The goal in punting the first season is to sacrifice one year for the purpose of building a super team that can dominate for several years.
How to effectively punt Year 1
The general theory may seem simple — build for the future. Of course, there’s a bit more to it. In the initial startup draft, your focus should be primarily on wide receivers and running backs, but more so toward wide receivers. The average running back’s shelf life is much shorter both in the NFL and fantasy football than a wide receiver’s.
If you were able to land Julio Jones or A.J. Green back in 2011, you got a decade of elite production. By way of comparison, if you hit on Le’Veon Bell in 2013, you got one of the best RBs in fantasy football history, but only for about five seasons. If you can establish a core of strong wide receivers by drafting young players, you can set yourself up to dominate for years and years.
Just about every year, running backs emerge that you can either find on the waiver wire or acquire via a cheap trade. Rookie RBs are also far easier to project than rookie WRs. Draft rookie and sophomore wide receivers in your initial startup. Then, once you’re ready to compete for a championship in Years 2 and 3, focus on running backs in your rookie drafts.
Using the same historical examples I mentioned above, the ideal plan would be to secure a locked-in WR1 like Jones or Green and then draft an RB like Bell the next season or two. Of course, that’s easier said than done as there are 11 other managers who also want good players. Being able to adapt and improve your team is a skill you will cultivate and learn as you progress in your dynasty campaign.
Drafting to win now
While the primary goal in dynasty fantasy football leagues is to build a dynasty, the ultimate goal of every season is always to win, if you can.
Very often, veteran players will be significantly devalued in dynasty startup drafts. Fantasy managers are looking to build rosters that can compete for years. Drafting a player that will be done in a couple of years doesn’t comport with that strategy.
How to effectively draft a win-now team in a dynasty startup
I would never go into a dynasty startup with the plan of drafting a win-now team. It’s difficult to win a fantasy football league in any season. In redraft, every team starts on a theoretical level playing field with a 1/12 chance of winning a championship. The nature of dynasty is it empowers you to shift those odds heavily in your favor by building a juggernaut over the years.
In Year 1, you won’t be able to put together a juggernaut because you don’t have the advantage of multiple years of finding undervalued players, making trades, pickups, etc. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t scenarios where it’s worth trying to win immediately.
The decision to shift your strategy in an initial startup to win-now needs to be made on the fly. You will have to diagnose it quickly and it’s easier to shift in an auction than a snake draft. If you notice your league-mates heavily favoring rookies and young players, leaving talented veterans available far later than they should be, you can gobble up all the value.
Dynasty managers tend to overvalue age. This is not to say age isn’t important. It’s that they place too much of an emphasis on very young players. Established players, more specifically wide receivers in their mid-to-late 20s, may still have half a decade’s worth of production left in them. Yet, these players are often overlooked because so many managers are laser-focused on youth. If you can load up your roster with multiple older — but still good — players, you can dominate in Year 1 while everyone else waits for their young players to break out.
The hybrid approach
It should come as no surprise that there is a dynasty startup draft strategy incorporating the tenets of both winning now and building for the future. This is the startup version of what is known as the competitive rebuild approach.
A competitive rebuild is a strategy for rebuilding a dynasty roster several years into the league whereby a manager makes moves geared toward the future but doesn’t completely tank the upcoming season. The idea is that while the goal is ultimately to build a dominant team for the future, if things break right, you can pivot to trying to win now.
How to effectively implement the hybrid approach in a dynasty startup
For starters, you are still targeting young players. The focus, as always, is on running backs and wide receivers. The primary difference in a hybrid approach is your willingness to take older players.
In the win-now strategy, you are entirely focused on established veterans and scooping up value on older players. In the punt-Year-1 strategy, you’re not taking any older players and focusing exclusively on young players that you believe will ascend in value the following season. When implementing a hybrid approach, you’re taking players from both groups.
You want young players that can increase in value, but you’re willing to take younger veterans — guys we know are already good. You’re also not ruling out older players. Think guys in their late 20s that are near the end, but not quite done. By drafting veteran players you can rely on as well young players that haven’t reached their peak, you give yourself the option to go in either direction as the season progresses.
If your older players disappoint, you can begin to sell for the future. However, if they have better-than-expected seasons or the young players breakout early, you can make a push to win now.
The real genius of this strategy is that you can stay competitive while neither mortgaging the future to win now nor giving up on the present to build for the future. In fantasy football, anyone who makes the playoffs has a chance. With your hybrid roster, even if it’s not a dominant team, if it’s good enough to make the playoffs, you give yourself a chance to get lucky.
Other draft strategies
In addition to these overarching strategies for building dynasty rosters in startup drafts, there are also specific draft strategies that apply to all types of leagues. You’ve probably heard of this before in redraft, but they also apply to dynasty. Zero RB, Hero RB, Robust RB, Zero WR, stars and scrubs (if you’re in an auction), etc.
You can apply any one of these specific draft strategies to the more general team-building philosophy you’re going for. There are many different ways to win in fantasy football. Stay tuned for future articles and podcasts at PFN discussing various draft strategies in more detail.