How To Build A Dynasty

July 10, 2020

Five tips to gain an edge over your league mates
This is part two of a two-part series

by Michael Sicoli

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. This addition includes some important notes for first-time dynasty commissioners as well as other crucial pieces of information. Here are some more tips to remember in the second part of “How To Build A Dynasty.” Check out part one if you missed it.

  1. Be wary of buying running backs.

The mentality of the redraft player is to acquire top-end running back talent, given their constant usage and relatively high-floor, high-ceiling situations. The mentality of a dynasty player is to acquire top-end talent. Running backs are still important, and their fantasy production can easily be the difference-maker between a championship and failure. But the average career length of running backs is just 2.57 years, the lowest out of the fantasy positions. There is simply too much turnover at the position. Rookie running backs are always a hot commodity, and they should be for fantasy due to their contracts. But when they dry up, they can often be found twiddling their thumbs on the free agency bench. Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson and Leonard Fournette were all top ten picks in 2018. Sure, Gurley may have won you a title in 2018. But beyond that season, each of these prospects are significantly weaker assets today. There is risk built into every pick, but the odds that a running back falls out of favor a year or two after being drafted in fantasy is far more likely than a wide receiver. It also hurts your team more if you miss on a running back given the assets needed to acquire one.

So, be careful. Buy players with favorable contracts and youth. Target those who can pass-protect and catch the ball as that ages far better than their rushing ability, hence why Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey go ahead of Ezekiel Elliot and why Alvin Kamara is worth more than Derrick Henry. As someone who is trying to sell Henry on a rebuilding roster, I can assure you that moving him requires a very niche owner. Remember that a good wide receiver, quarterback or tight end will likely last longer than a good running back.

  1. Be invested.

Dynasty leagues are built with the intention of lasting years and years. While your championship window may be just a short window, the league will continue beyond that.

Tough luck. It’s time to rebuild or reload. This league isn’t a one-and-done type of system. It’s an ever-changing roster through trades and rookies rather than a complete redraft. The worst thing you can do is to sit on your hands. That’s the perfect strategy for a mid-level finish. Be active. Start some conversations, make some friends. Put some players out on the virtual trade block and see who comes knocking. Engage in negotiations rather than just shooting out wordless offers.

Be engaging and others will want to deal with you. It’s a good recipe for success, especially when you find yourself buying or selling in a major way.

Lindsay flashed in the 2018 preseason as an undrafted rookie, leading the team in yards-per-carry (5.4) before breaking out during the regular season, finishing as the RB12.
  1. Scan the wire and read a little.

This can be said for any league format, but dynasty is a special beast. With benches being abnormally deep, the wire typically lacks anyone appealing. Some of the top guys available in most of my leagues are Cincinnati’s Auden Tate and Tennessee’s Kalif Raymond, for example. Not exactly Hall of Fame talents. But the NFL is an ever-changing landscape, and players miss time. They get hurt, suspended or maybe even benched. It’s important to read what the coaches say after practices or after games in press conferences. This is even more applicable in the offseason. Those who paid attention in 2019 might have seen the Terry McLaurin breakout coming, given that, as a rookie, he barely played in the preseason. That’s not normal, and then-head coach Jay Gruden loved him. Dynasty owners can make that connection. Running backs Miles Sanders and Tony Pollard both popped on screen during the preseason as well. In 2018, preseason games would have clearly shown people that undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay was someone to watch out for, and we all remember crossing our fingers, hoping to get him on the team. If you do your due diligence in a dynasty league, he would have been owned weeks ago. For every one of those, of course there are busts like running back Darwin Thompson and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (Remember that frenzy?), two players that looked great in the offseason only to make a minimal impact during the fantasy season.

But you can’t control the busts. Watching the offseason as intently as possible, listening to quotes and paying attention to each transaction, can reveal a pattern that helps to predict how a team will function in the fall. Each of these players, whether they pan out or not, held decent fantasy value at some point. Owning them gives you the potential for a breakout or gives you the option to sell-high. More importantly, doing this extra research will certainly give you a leg up on any average league mate.

  1. Stay true to your path.

Some of you are reading this tip and are wondering what I’m talking about. Is this life advice? Nope, this can be a team-breaking tip. When you decide to go into a rebuild, blowing up your roster, don’t half-ass it. It takes time to get the roster you want in order to compete. Don’t accumulate first-round picks and then cash them in for aging assets. Sure, if you can get value for the picks that will serve you long-term, go for it. Trade for someone like Terry McLaurin, though the price is likely not worth it. But do not go out there and give up assets for players like T.Y. Hilton, Derrick Henry or Robert Woods. These people are heading out of their prime fantasy value and will not provide you with fantasy relevance when the rest of your roster is ready. Buy-low on players with high ceilings and continue to stockpile picks, like N’Keal Harry or Marquise Brown. Feel free to trade picks as rookie fever gets crazy over the offseason.

But don’t sell your rebuilding assets (picks and youth) for pieces that will get you to a sixth or seventh place finish. You are rebuilding because you are multiple pieces away. Remember that and stick to it.

Ultimately, your league should be about fun. Don’t be like Goodell — be cheered rather than booed.
  1. Some commissioner tips…

Setting up a dynasty league as a commissioner can be a daunting task, so here’s some tips to help those stepping up to organize this.

  • Get owners that are there for the long haul. It may sound obvious and it definitely sounds difficult, but this league is meant to last beyond a year or two. The people that know that are more active and better for the league, so be selective when starting this up.
  • Try to spice it up. If it’s a league with your friends, make it a bit different than the normal redraft you do. If it’s a league with random people, challenge yourself to try something new. “Superflex” leagues and two-quarterback formats allow you to play two quarterbacks each week, which raises the value of quarterbacks quite dramatically. Tight end premium leagues give larger point bonuses to tight ends to make up for the fact that they don’t really matter. Give bonuses for big plays or first downs. The possibilities are endless, and you can easily look up some bizarre fantasy formats to excite your league mates.
  • Don’t veto. Trades are too important to be held up by a flawed veto system, and no one ever knows how a trade ends up. People who traded Todd Gurley for a first-round pick entering the 2019 season, while ridiculed then, are likely happy with their decision, or at least content. There’s too much fluidity and too many variables to deem a trade worthy of a veto, and while I have seen some horrific trades, the veto system hurts the concept of trade more often than not. Let it play out.
  • Stick to your format. You can’t switch to a two-quarterback format a year or two in because you want to switch it up. People made moves for their teams with the current system in mind. If a unanimous decision is made, plan for a format change two or three years down the line. Give people time to adjust.
  • Collect payments before the rookie draft in a safe place. The rookie draft is integral to the dynasty league, and each owner should be able to make the picks for their team. Let this be the start of your league year and collect payments across the board. If cash is the way, go for it. I like to use leaguesafe.com *not a sponsor* since the program locks in payments until the league year ends. It is designed for fantasy leagues and it works well.
  • “Sleeper” is my favorite platform for dynasty fantasy football. Other platforms either do not have the option or lack the customization. It’s simple to manage and has continued to update itself to create a better experience for players. For example, they recently added a trade block.
  • This is completely optional, but I do love using the Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) over the traditional waiver wire system. Each team gets a set amount of money to spend before the season on waiver wire players. Teams are welcome to use $0 bids. Each time waivers run, a blind auction is done where the best bid wins, but no one knows what people bid. It’s a terrific feeling to see you win by $1, and a hilarious feeling to watch someone drastically overpay. It adds another layer of strategy to the game, which I always welcome.