I love dynasty leagues and I now play almost exclusively in them. I think I am pretty good at them as well and would like to pass along a few tips to those currently playing in a dynasty and for those of you thinking about joining one. Over the past few years I have played in five main dynasty leagues against what I consider to be excellent competition and I have been fortunate enough to amass a record of 150-45 (a .769 win percentage), making the playoffs with every team, playing in ten championship games and winning seven titles. I truly enjoy playing against the same quality players each year, watching them try and build their team and, well, trying to be better than them. With some luck and skill and hopefully the use of these tips, you as well can enjoy building a dominant dynasty team.
The most common mistake during a dynasty draft is either drafting too young or too old. To achieve a competitive team that will not burn out on you, you need to draft a quality mix of both youth and veterans. Don’t make the mistake of passing on the established veteran who can give you 2-3 years of quality starts for the unproven rookie. The ideal veteran to draft is a player that if everything goes smoothly, has 3-4 years left in the tank and can still produce at a high level. Once you get some value out of him, you can then look to deal him while he still holds decent value and can get you something in return. Watching your former stud decline or even retire on you is a bad place to be in. When drafting rookies, only invest a top draft pick on the truly elite, the Calvin Johnsons and Adrian Petersons of the world, the guys everyone just knows will be true studs in fantasy terms are who you should take the risk on.
A few more tips I utilize in any draft but especially in a dynasty draft are pretty common sense but may be overlooked.
Don’t draft a kicker or D/ST until the last two rounds. If your league allows you to skip drafting a full starting line-up, pass on both positions and take fliers on young players who may break out in camp. Kickers and D/ST are virtually unpredictable from season to season. I will always prefer to take a shot on a skill position and pick up my kicker and D/ST on the wire before the season starts.
In the late rounds of your initial draft, stack your roster as much as you can with the first and second year players that are sitting near the top of their teams’ depth charts. Last June, when many dynasties start to draft, Arian Foster could be had in the 16th round. Marques Colston, LaGarette Blount, Miles Austin and Cedric Benson all come to mind as hidden gems depending on if your draft started prior to camp.
For the most part, in-season play is the same as your regular redraft leagues. I feel there is a little more importance in doing the little things in a dynasty league compared to a redraft league. A mistake or a missed opportunity can affect your dynasty team for years to come instead of a single season.
Don’t burn a top waiver wire priority. Be patient, don’t panic and make sure you get a player of value instead of just filling a minor need. Using your No. 1 priority on Derek Anderson last year instead of being patient and getting Michael Vick, I believe only a week or so later, will have a huge impact on your team that takes years to build. Unless you are playing in 16-man leagues or larger, you can always find a backup quarterback, kicker or D/ST.
Use your low waiver wire priority. Don’t be afraid to use that 9th to 12th priority over and over again. You have nothing to lose so you might as well take a chance. Most dynasties have deeper rosters than a redraft league allowing you some leeway for adding and dropping players. Take the risk on the young WR who came out of nowhere to put up a stat line of 6/110/1. You lose nothing and you may be rewarded with a player who can contribute for years to come for your dynasty team.
Stash players at the end of the season. This goes hand in hand with low waiver wire priorities, but this tip is the next level of experience in my opinion. When your league’s waiver wire is about to close for the season or just at the end of the season if waivers do not close, make sure you cut all your dead weight and fill your roster with young players with potential. This includes any aging veteran who is way down your depth chart and any backup D/ST or backup kickers. If the wire remains open until the end of the season, take it a step further and cut your starting kicker and starting D/ST. You don’t need them anymore, so why keep them? I love this strategy as it has yielded me Michael Turner and Brandon Marshall among others. Last year Jacoby Ford was my target, and we will see if I get rewarded.
Trading is important and you tend to see more blockbuster deals in dynasty leagues. Draft picks get involved, sometimes future picks as far ahead as a couple years can be thrown into deals making you think even harder about whether a deal will work for you. There are generally three common kinds of trades. The first is the simple deal — I like a guy on your roster, you like a guy on mine, let’s cut a deal. There’s also the playoff run, where an owner is willing to sacrifice some of his youth to bulk up his roster. Finally, there are trades for the team that just needs to rebuild, dealing away veterans for youth or draft picks. The last two are where you can really take advantage and improve your team.
For an owner that is missing that one piece they feel is needed to make a playoff run, they will overpay. If you have that piece, make them pay and if you are in a position of power, push the limits to see how much you can get. Dealing that top three TE for a top 15 WR and a decent draft pick is a deal I will take all day long. Then we have the guy dumping his roster cause he sucks, his team sucks, his fantasy career sucks. Everything sucks when you are 2-9. Perfect, get his players and get them fast. Don’t wait for him to post that certain players are available as now the entire league knows we is looking to deal. Look over his roster, choose who you want and go get them. Quite often you will get them for a reasonable price, sometimes even cheaper then you thought. Despair is your friend when making deals in fantasy football.
Some fantasy players tend to overvalue rookies, and you can take advantage of this. Each season there are elite rookies. These players are very limited and can usually be counted on one hand. A.J. Green, Julio Jones and perhaps Mark Ingram can be classed as the sure things for 2011. Beyond that, it is a crap shoot. Some players have better situations, others have more talent but when it really comes down to it, it is very hard to predict who will have an impact in their rookie season or even make it in the NFL. I may think that the guy going at 1.04 is going to be great but if I get offered that veteran who has put up five years of solid stats and has 3-4 more years producing the same numbers, I will make the deal. What is that saying — a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? Two years ago I essentially dealt my first and second round rookie picks (1.11 and 2.11) and a scrub WR for Calvin Johnson. I still don’t know why the guy was down on Johnson, but he wanted picks, and I gave them to him. Deals like that are very rare, but countless times I have seen what turned out to be a useless Round 1 rookie pick dealt for a top 15 WR or RB.
The second part to having successful rookie drafts is to study. It’s pretty simple, but it truly is key to figure out on your own why you think a rookie will not only make it in the NFL but be meaningful in fantasy terms. If you can figure out why you should have taken LeSean McCoy instead of Donald Brown or Knowshon Moreno then you are on your way to becoming a dominant dynasty player. It isn’t easy, but it is straight forward. All the information you need is readily available on the Internet and if you can piece it together, it will give you a decided advantage over your opponents.
Things to key in on in your study are:
1) Amount of carries – Be cautious of the RB who had 300-plus carries a year for multiple years in college. More often than not, he will burn out fairly quickly.
2) Pro offense – Move him up a notch or two, regardless of position, if they did come from a pro style offense. The learning curve is that much easier for them when they hit the NFL.
3) Yards per carry or reception – This is a very important stat to look at. The RB who put up 4,200 yards on 1,300 carries moves down on my list. Same thing goes for the WR who averaged under 10 yards per catch. You want to see some play-making ability rather than just guys who get fed the ball a lot.
4) One year wonders – Guys can fly up draft boards both at the NFL level and in fantasy based on their senior season. It isn’t an exact science, but these players are not usually NFL caliber players.
Lastly, if you have the 1.01 pick in a rookie draft, it has been my experience that someone in your league really wants it. They will lowball you, then probably lowball you again. Stand your ground and make them pay. If they won’t step up with an offer you like, make the pick and make sure he is a sure-fire superstar; you are going to need a superstar if you want to build a dynasty.
Michael Hawes is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. Nearly 20 years of FF, had to have learned something in that time. You can catch up with Michael in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bungle613.
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