In last week’s edition of Building a Dynasty, I shared some key differences between dynasty leagues and the typical redraft league. One of the main differences between the two league formats is strategy and the endgame that go along with attacking the initial draft. While a redraft league, as it’s name suggests, gives its’ owners the opportunity to start fresh each year with a completely new draft, dynasty owners are locked into their team and therefore, must use an alternate point of view when preparing for a draft.
While there are many details and intricacies that make up a dynasty startup draft strategy, there are really three basic strategies. Today, I want to outline each of those schools of thought and give you a sneak peek of what your dynasty startup team might look like with each plan.
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Strategy 1: Win Now
This is a popular strategy as you might expect. Many dynasty owners see no reason to postpone winning a championship when they can go for it in the league’s inaugural season. Also, this is the most popular strategy for players that are new to dynasty leagues, as it’s the one most similar to redraft, where everyone is trying to win now.
While rookies and other young players will obviously perform at a high level on occasion, owners using this game plan are often relying on past performance as an indicator of future success. While this could lead to a great deal of success in the short term, it could leave the owner counting his losses by Year three or four of the league.
An owner hoping for a championship in Year one has a couple of other notable characteristics that can help in the short-term, but damages the long-term outlook of the team. First, a ‘win now’ owner will often use future rookie draft picks as trade bait to acquire a veteran player or move up in the startup draft. Again, this owner is using a short window of player evaluation, so a draft pick that is a year or two away has little value to these players. Adding that key veteran could make the difference between a playoff team and a championship, but when all of the “win now” players are a year or two older, lacking those picks to retool which will really sting.
Another characteristic of a win now owner is that he will focus on filling a starting lineup rather than always opting for the best player available. Again, there are some pros and cons with this line of thinking, but an owner focusing on filling out their lineup card can bypass some valuable depth players and end up reaching for a quarterback or tight end.
Let’s take a look at the average draft position (ADP) data from DynastyLeagueFootball.com for the month of July. For each of the strategies I analyze today, this data will tell us who are some of the players those owners might opt for in each round and what their starting lineup may look like.
*Note: For the purpose of this article, I am using a standard starting lineup of 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end and 1 flex (RB, WR or TE)
“Win Now” team:
|1||Jamaal Charles||Running Back||7.7|
|2||Adrian Peterson||Running Back||18.8|
|3||Jordy Nelson||Wide Receiver||23.5|
|4||Arian Foster||Running Back||43.0|
|6||Andre Johnson||Wide Receiver||73.7|
|7||Roddy White||Wide Receiver||77.0|
|8||Vernon Davis||Tight End||86.7|
|9||Ray Rice||Running Back||98.7|
|10||Marques Colston||Wide Receiver||115.8|
|11||Dwayne Bowe||Wide Receiver||128.7|
|12||Frank Gore||Running Back||138.8|
|14||Brian Hartline||Wide Receiver||159.0|
|15||Reggie Wayne||Wide Receiver||173.7|
|16||Anquan Boldin||Wide Receiver||195.0|
|17||Antonio Gates||Tight End||206.2|
|18||DeAngelo Williams||Running Back||218.5|
|19||Fred Jackson||Running Back||225.0|
Potential “Win Now” Starting Lineup:
QB: Drew Brees
TE: Vernon Davis
This team would be difficult to beat in 2014. As I said, this strategy closely resembles that of a redraft owner and any of us would love to trot out this team each week in our yearly leagues. The concern is what happens in 2015 when you’re relying on this same core group of players. Most of these players are already on the wrong side of 30 and may not have many years left as a reliable fantasy asset.
Strategy 2: Going Young
Another strategy that some dynasty owners employ as part of their startup draft plan is going young, which is basically the complete opposite of the win now strategy described above.
When drafting with a focus on young, high upside players, dynasty owners are using a deep window to evaluate talent, possibly as long as five years. Owners using this strategy see the best in every young player, regardless of past track record or current situation on their team. It wouldn’t be a concern if a player like Christine Michael is stuck playing behind Marshawn Lynch for this owner because he is only concerned with the future, not the current season.
These owners feel that stockpiling young talent, both by drafting them via the startup draft and acquiring future rookie draft picks, will put them in a great position to contend year in and year out, once their players are ready to contribute. Also, these owners don’t concern themselves with filling a lineup or ensuring they’ve drafted one of the top players at any certain position. Instead, they focus on drafting the best player available, regardless of position. If that means the draft concludes and a team only has three running backs for example, that is no reason to fret.
This is a strategy attempted by the die-hard dynasty owner who possesses the patience and commitment to not only stick with the plan, but stay in the league. It is always easy to bail on a dynasty league if things don’t go your way early, but when following the going young plan, the rewards will be reaped after a difficult season or two.
This strategy is obviously not for everyone. I’ve heard many say they don’t feel comfortable going into a season, the first season of a new dynasty league, planning to lose. It could be considered a waste of time, and depending on your league, a waste of money.
Take a look at the potential team that could be drafted using this strategy and decide for yourself if this is taking a good idea to the extreme.
“Going Young” team:
|1||Eddie Lacy||Running Back||11.3|
|2||Cordarrelle Patterson||Wide Receiver||18.5|
|3||Brandin Cooks||Wide Receiver||35.0|
|4||Christine Michael||Running Back||47.8|
|5||Jordan Matthews||Wide Receiver||55.5|
|6||Ladarius Green||Tight End||73.3|
|7||Odell Beckham Jr.||Wide Receiver||78.5|
|9||Terrance West||Running Back||103.7|
|10||Robert Woods||Wide Receiver||116.3|
|12||Knile Davis||Running Back||145.3|
|13||Jerick McKinnon||Running Back||156.2|
|14||John Brown||Wide Receiver||169.3|
|15||Jeff Janis||Wide Receiver||182.8|
|16||Rod Streater||Wide Receiver||184.2|
|17||Stephen Hill||Wide Receiver||200.3|
|18||CJ Fiedorowicz||Tight End||212.3|
|19||Brandon Coleman||Wide Receiver||220.8|
|20||Gavin Escobar||Tight End||230.7|
Potential “Going Young” Starting Lineup:
QB: Colin Kaepernick
TE: Ladarius Green
As a seasoned dynasty owner, there are many of the players listed above that I would love to have on my teams, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready for them to be starters. Again, owners using this strategy accept that losing in Year one is a likely outcome and with this roster, it’s almost a certainty. Outside of Eddie Lacy and Colin Kaepernick, each of these players would be considered questionable at best fantasy starters for the 2014 season. Of course, one of the upsides of this plan is that this team should earn a very high rookie draft pick in 2015 to add to the arsenal.
Strategy 3: A Balanced Roster
With each of the above startup draft plans feeling a bit extreme, the best and probably the most popular draft strategy is simply to mix the two, forming a balanced roster.
Not only should the roster be balanced between those safe veterans and young, high upside players, but also across positions. It’s usually not a good idea to use the first few rounds to fill a starting lineup, as I mentioned earlier, but it’s also unwise to completely ignore any one position.
By building a balanced roster, the ideal outcome is that your team has a chance to compete in year one, but also manages to stockpile some young talent to lead to future success as well.
As expected, the 2014 team may not be quite as competitive as the “win now” version, nor would it feature the young talent of the second strategy, but instead a mixture of both.
“Balanced Roster” team:
|1||Dez Bryant||Wide Receiver||3.2|
|2||Rob Gronkowski||Tight End||19.2|
|4||Torrey Smith||Wide Receiver||46.3|
|5||Trent Richardson||Running Back||49.2|
|6||DeSean Jackson||Wide Receiver||63.2|
|7||Reggie Bush||Running Back||81.8|
|8||Lamar Miller||Running Back||90.2|
|9||Bernard Pierce||Running Back||103.5|
|10||Emmanuel Sanders||Wide Receiver||112.70|
|11||Dwayne Bowe||Wide Receiver||128.7|
|12||Andre Williams||Running Back||141.5|
|13||Kenny Britt||Wide Receiver||154.0|
|14||Knowshon Moreno||Running Back||166.3|
|16||Heath Miller||Tight End||193.7|
|18||Dexter McCluster||Running Back||217.7|
|19||Jermaine Kearse||Wide Receiver||219.3|
|20||Mychal Rivera||Tight End||230.7|
Potential “Balanced Roster” Starting Lineup:
QB: Aaron Rodgers
TE: Rob Gronkowski
While this team is a bit below average at the running back position, it clearly features ideal balance across each position with a top-three dynasty asset at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end. The team also features solid depth in case of injury or underperformance. If this team manages to hang onto its’ future rookie draft picks, aging players like Reggie Bush and Dwayne Bowe can be replaced with rookies from the class of 2015, or some of the young depth on the bench.