Dynasty fantasy football is growing year on year and I’m here for the journey. I have a lot of conversations with dynasty newbies about this format. The most common question that comes my way is ‘What is the ideal dynasty strategy?’. Without taking the easy way out and saying there is no right answer, I will try to explore a few different directions you could take. I will look at the three big stages of the dynasty season: The start-up, in-season and the off-season, before coming up with some advice for each step and giving my preferred way to play.
The Start-Up Draft
The start-up draft for your dynasty team is the most important step along the journey in my opinion. For many, it is the pinnacle of the fantasy calendar. The key to a successful start-up is to have a specific dynasty strategy in mind. Let’s discuss a couple:
The ‘win now’ dynasty strategy
The idea here is to win in the first year, and if not, the second year. A caution here…it might turn into a difficult situation in the years to come if unsuccessful. You are essentially drafting a dynasty team with a redraft mentality.
Pros – Only a handful of teams will adopt this strategy. Dynasty managers tend to look to the future rather than here and now. Instead of your odds being 1 in 12 to win a normal redraft league, it could be as good as 1 in 6 if you stick to the redraft approach better than most. If you win, of course, you will be playing with ‘house money’ for the next 5 or 6 years.
Cons – Given the odds of winning in year 1 or 2, it is still relatively difficult to win a fantasy league with sound, active league mates as there are still a lot of factors that could swing it. Injuries being the biggest one. You could have theoretically drafted a win now team in 2021 of Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson and Robert Woods. Granted the team described has some life still in the coming years, but everyone becomes a year older and your win now window closes slightly. It can be demoralising if you miss your window as it’s a long road ahead to be competitive again.
The ‘productive struggle’ dynasty strategy
This dynasty strategy was all the buzz when I first jumped into dynasty about six years ago. The idea here is to take as many young players as you can with each selection, with the appreciation that it may take a couple of years for your team to turn into a championship winning team. You are targeting specifically young WRs who have the traits to become the alpha on their teams and young RBs who are on their rookie contracts. Acquire as many future rookie picks as you can in the start-up draft, someone will want to pay up for the win now pieces on the board described above.
Pros – You will have drafted a young team for many years to come. There is no pressure to win the first couple of years as that is not in your strategy. Instead accumulate as much value as you can, and remember, half of the league will be battling to win now, giving up some good future pieces in the process. If you are successful in this approach, it probably means you will be picking early in the next season also and therefore taking a top player.
Cons – It may feel like you are drafting players in your start-up that are more ‘hopeful’ rather than ‘proven’. This can be demotivating during a start-up, especially when comparing your team to others with a different strategy around you. You may also get demotivated in a league where you are unlikely to win most of your matchups. You may also get a feeling after the draft that this team will never turn into a championship team, leaving you with a lot of work to do.
When in the thick of the season, you may sometimes find yourself forgetting that you are in dynasty league (especially for newcomers to the format). It is key to remember that you will have this team for many years to come. Again, your approach in-season will be determined on where you believe your team is positioned with respect to the rest of your league. It is very important to be honest with what your team can achieve and what it’s limits are at this stage:
I’m going to ‘win now’
Ensure that you are active in trading for proven veterans off teams that are struggling. Be aggressive with your FAAB. There will be waiver wire gems that will help your team in the short-term. Do whatever it takes to get a win that week and try to play with a redraft mentality.
I will ‘struggle’ to win
Look for players that have been dropped that are not performing, especially those who are young and have potential. Trade some of your older performing players for future picks. Do not be afraid to be aggressive for any young studs on challenging teams that have had significant injuries ruling them out for the rest of the year.
Ah, the beauty of dynasty football, there is no off-season. You want to stay as active as you can in these 6 or 7 months as every NFL event, from Free agency to the draft to camp buzz, will provide opportunities to define your dynasty team no matter what dynasty strategy you have selected. Again, honesty is the best policy with your team evaluation at this stage.
I’m ready to ‘win’ this coming year
Trade for veterans as their value almost always is lower in the off-season rather than in-season. During the free agency process and the NFL draft, there will be veterans that will be named ‘winners’ of roster shake ups. These may not be on the radar of half of the teams in your league who are consistently looking to the future.
I will ‘struggle’ to win this coming year
Do not worry about being balanced in your starting lineup for the coming year. Do not chase positions if you are weak in certain spots. Pick up the best player available in your rookie drafts where you should have more picks than normal. Maybe put even more work into the rookie class to ensure that your 3rd and even 4th round rookie picks have slightly more chance of hitting.
During the start-up draft, pick one dynasty strategy and stick to it. You can be fluid across positions/best player available etc, if it fits with your chosen strategy. Don’t get tempted to switch strategies halfway through the start-up draft, you may be paying for it for years.
During the season be honest with your team. If you are near the top and feeling confident, go all out for the ring. Don’t look back, eggs in one basket, do what you need to do to put your team in the best place to win this year. However, you may start off thinking you are ‘win now’ but injuries or a few tough losses have derailed you and you can see yourself blowing it up in the offseason. If that is the case, prepare for that scenario now, in-season.
During the off-season stay up to date with the latest news and developing stories. Like dynasty football, the NFL has no off-season. Roster moves and contract negotiations are being made at all times, providing you with opportunities to solidify your dynasty strategy when other league mates may be missing in action.
It is important to note that of course there is no right answer to which direction to go. My personal favourite way to play dynasty is now to take advantage of others over valuing youth and go all out for the win now approach. Get the bag – then blow it up if you like and dabble with a rebuild strategy afterwards. When I first started playing dynasty, this was definitely not the case. Those ‘productive struggle’ teams then either develop into what I thought they would be (after 2-4 years of work), or they do not, leaving yourself essentially stuck in the middle of your league for years without an identity.
That’s all for this dynasty strategy article. You can follow Antonio on Twitter @FF_LightsOut7 to keep up with his work. Keep your eyes peeled for more articles from our great Dynasty team, coming soon. Remember to tune into the 5 Yard Dynasty livestream every Tuesday at 8pm (GMT).