Five tips to gain an edge over your league mates
This is part one of a two-part series
Everyone loves fantasy football. Who doesn’t? It is a terrific game that makes the NFL larger than your favorite team. Likewise, for die-hard fantasy football players like myself, dynasty fantasy football is a way to make the NFL larger than one season.
Dynasty is a league format that has one “startup” draft and that’s it. Owners maintain the same roster and only add to it via trade or through the annual rookie draft, which is a mini draft that includes the new rookies.
The format forces people to think beyond a season, and to anticipate offseason moves. It adds complexity to those who view a normal fantasy league (“redrafts”) as simple and straightforward.
But no matter how savvy the owner, the transition from redraft to dynasty is a tricky one. Here’s some tips to remember.
- Don’t overvalue age.
This is the most common mistake made by rookie dynasty owners. They look at young players with rose-colored glasses and laugh at older players. While age is incredibly important as it ties into their long-term value and their offseason value in the eyes of general managers, don’t underestimate those tried-and-true veterans. Atlanta’s Julio Jones comes to mind. I was able to trade a package centered around Mecole Hardman early in the 2019 season because of Jones’ age (30 years old when the trade was done). He was a huge piece of my championship run, finishing as the WR4. Other undervalued players right now include Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He may just be a one-year rental, but he finished as the QB8 in fantasy-points-per-game (FPPG). There’s always a place on your roster for someone of his caliber, and he can be had for a late pick. Jordan Howard, who should lead Miami in rushing yards behind a revamped offensive line, is currently being drafted as the RB46 according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Don’t forget the proven talents that will help you win games. There’s no shame in winning with dusty veterans.
- Remember to win now.
This is a solid tip to transition into. Some rosters are not championship ready. They need to rebuild and play for the future. But too many owners focus on the long-term situation without ever buying-in. Sure, it’s appealing to get a fresh, young player but building up draft picks is like casting a larger net over an ocean. There are a lot of places to fish, places where you have had good fortune before, but you focus on this spot because of the few times you caught a monster fish.
To put it in simpler terms, the draft is a crapshoot. The pieces therein are very important since it’s the main influx of talent into the league and are very important to accumulate during a rebuild. But feel free to move these unproven players or picks for veteran production when you get close to contention. Flip a pick or two for an unexciting guy like Keenan Allen or Allen Robinson, two talents who have proven their worth time and time again. Around the draft, rookie fever gets crazy. Trade those picks for proven assets and push to contend when your roster is ready.
- Lower your non-running back rookie expectations.
As mentioned, rookie fever is real. We all draft our players after months of scouting them, excited to have them on our rosters. But more often than not these players need time to find their stride. Rookie running backs are the exception, as they can have immediate impact due to their shorter careers. Rookie wide receivers rarely make an impact early-on in their rookie seasons. A.J. Brown took time to become as dynamic as he was. Courtland Sutton in 2018 didn’t show much until the last few weeks. Time and time again rookie wide receivers have shown that they require time; it took five years for DeVante Parker to put it all together. Rookie tight ends make even less of a mark, rarely showing more than a few flashes of greatness. San Francisco’s George Kittle was the TE20 as a rookie. Kansas City’s Travis Kelce didn’t see the field as a rookie and got hurt halfway through. Even the great Tony Gonzalez put up just 368 yards and two touchdowns while not starting a single game. As for quarterbacks, temper expectations. The ceiling of a rookie quarterback (that isn’t a prolific rusher) is around what Baker Mayfield put up in 2018 — QB16 in FPPG.
The point to remember is not to sell any of these guys low based on early expectations. Sophomore players like Parris Campbell, Dwayne Haskins and T.J. Hockenson are all people I would buy right now from owners who are feeling burned from the high draft picks invested in them in 2019.
- Draft for talent, not for need.
Sure, more structure is needed in your startup draft. After all, it would be dumb to leave your draft with two running backs and 12 wide receivers. But as the mid-to-later rounds emerge, remember that this league functions around trades. Having valuable pieces at positions you have depth at allows for better trade bait rather than reaching for a position of need. This happens all the time with wide receivers who get pushed later and later by owners who want to fill up on running backs early. Also remember that no matter how late the round, each pick is valuable. Darius Slayton went in the 31st round of my startup draft in 2019. Raheem Mostert went in the 30th round. Preston Williams went in the 28th round. Need I go on?
This tip is very important to remember in rookie drafts. Positional need can be a tiebreaker, but there are great prospects at every position. There is so much fluidity in dynasty leagues that having the most valuable piece is more important than having the best fit on your roster. Trades are commonplace and expected. For example, if Dallas’ Ceedee Lamb is on the board and the best running back available is Ke’Shawn Vaughn, I’m taking Lamb there regardless of positional need because of the value that Lamb has over Vaughn. This tip becomes more in play as the rookie draft progresses.
- Know when to buy-in, and more importantly, know when to sell-out.
The hardest thing to do in dynasty leagues, understanding where your roster stands in terms of competitiveness can be a challenge. Moving draft picks by the handful can be a scary proposition, but if that’s the piece to put you over the hurdle, make that deal. Move those picks for proven players that can help you win right now. Ultimately, that’s the goal. As mentioned, I moved younger assets to gain Julio Jones. I moved Rashaad Penny, Will Dissly (before both suffered injuries) and two first-round picks for Ezekiel Elliot and Golden Tate last season. It’s a hard thing to do, but if your team can win, give it every chance possible to do so.
Likewise, when your team cannot compete, recognize this. Maybe you start off 0-3 and there aren’t a ton of players impressing. Maybe you get some incredible youth or pick-centered offers for your players and take the value. While it’s important not to sell low, don’t hesitate to move pieces for picks and younger players. The draft has more busts than booms, so keep that in mind, but accumulating picks and playing for next season is a solid strategy. Rookie drafts always draft linear, so the worst teams get the best picks. I can confidently tell you that non-competitive teams in 2019 are very happy right now if they shipped out Mark Ingram, T.Y. Hilton or even Adam Thielan. These were pieces that fetched a handsome price entering 2019, and now are bargain-bin pieces. The goal of rebuilding teams should be to have as many young, talented pieces as possible while accruing as many picks possible within the top 24 selections. The first round is particularly valuable, tiers ahead of the second round, so keep that in mind. Picks two years down the line in 2022 are almost worthless to the average contender today, so if you blow up your lineup, know it’s not a one-year fix and grab those picks on the cheap.
Recognizing a player’s timeline relative to your own is one of the hardest things to do in fantasy football but doing your best to sell-high and buy-low is the way to win in dynasty.