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Building a Dynasty

Dynasty League 201

by Jeff Haverlack
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

The dynasty format continues to grow in both popularity and content coverage on a daily basis.  Hard-core fantasy football fans looking to take their experience to the next level have found this particular style of game strikes the perfect balance between the excitement of a redraft league but with the added allure of also assuming the General Manager role.  There’s just another level of depth through not only drafting players to your team, but then controlling the rights to them until such time that you wish to trade or drop them.  Once you go dynasty, you won’t go back!


But even given the increasing numbers finding their way to the dynasty format, I still encounter those who feel it’s too complex, detailed or will take too much time to learn.  While there are more variables, strategies and opportunities to be aware of, realize at the base-level, it’s still the game you’ve come to love, just with more depth and immersion.  Just like the redraft format, the more work and time you are willing to put in, the better your team is likely to perform, but there isn’t a single recipe for success.


If you’re relatively new to the dynasty format or, perhaps, even a complete rookie, you’ve probably already read a few Dynasty 101 articles that explain many of the basics such as roster size, off-season preparation, team-building and draft mechanics.  There are as many strategies and ways to build a team as there are words in this article.  However, let me assume you’ve graduated from the entry-level 101 class and you’re ready and eager to take that next step toward building your dynasty.  Let’s go a bit deeper and cover a few of the areas to give consideration to when building or managing your team.


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1.    Age vs. Longevity


This could also be called “win now vs. dynasty later.”  In redraft, we know every coach will be in “win now” mode, there’s simply no reason to build your team any other way.  It’s the drive-thru fast-food choice of fantasy.


In dynasty, this strategy comes at a cost.  The upside is easy to see in that productive players are easier to rank and select with roles easier to forecast.  The downside is also plainly visible given the fact Father Time is always working to limit your players’ productive longevity.  Most rookie coaches do not spend enough time determining what type of team they want to assemble.


The “Win now” approach focuses upon aging and productive veterans to anchor your team in most positions while adding youth only after being comfortable with the veteran production.   Going young with the hope of building a dynasty is fraught with risk in that younger players have less history, may not be fully established within their teams’ systems and are often highly variable in production.  Rookies, even those selected in the first round, bust at an extremely high rate and your risk building in this way will be significantly higher.  But choose well and you could build a dynasty team from which legends are born.  Or, split the difference and balance veteran production with youth for growth.


The take-away here is not that there is only a single way to build your team but in the absence of a pre-draft strategy, you will be selecting likely via average draft position (ADP) or, worse yet, hope and prayer.  Both aspects have their place in a new draft, but they should exist on their own as a strategy.


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2.    Point Disparity and Tiering


Fantasy point disparity is important in any style of fantasy football or, for that matter, any fantasy sport.  In brief, point disparity is the understanding of when there exists a notable advantage of fantasy point productivity from one player or position to the next.  Looking at kickers, you will find little disparity and far too much variability exists within the position to ever prioritize one based on his productivity.  The simple fact is that our ability to forecast kickers’ production such that we can gain any significant advantage from one kicker to the next is a fool’s folly.


When properly used within positional rankings, players can be separated into tiers using past or expected production toward answering value-based draft questions.  For example, should a team still require a tight end but those remaining all scored very similarly last year, whereas there exists two higher tiered receivers remaining before a large drop in fantasy production, this point disparity suggests a selection of one of the remaining receivers.  To the inexperienced dynasty coach, it may seem foolish to not fill the core starting requirements, but remember, the end goal is to generate the most points week-to-week, not be the first to assemble a legal starting lineup.


Point disparity can occur often with Individual Defensive Players (IDP) as much as it can within the offensive skill positions.  This is why it’s important to have intimate knowledge of your scoring system.  Are there certain scoring plays that elevate one player over his peers?  For example, in IDP leagues that reward points for special teams production, cornerbacks who also return kicks and/or punts may be significantly elevated over those who do not.  The same can be true for Point Per Reception (PPR) leagues for those running backs not active in the passing game or receivers who don’t often score touchdowns.


The point here is that within every scoring system, players will fall into particularly visible scoring tiers when looking at historical, or forecasted, production.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but understanding how to gain an edge by selecting that last remaining every-down back instead of that receiver who will score similarly to the other 20 around his current ADP can make for a big difference in overall team performance in a given year.


At no point is it more important to understand the tiers and available point disparity as it is during your inaugural dynasty draft.  You successful navigation of this step could be the most important of your dynasty coaching career.


3.    Roster Analysis


Roster analysis is an important coaching skill regardless of your preferred format.  But in dynasty, the long-term implications cannot be ignored.  For the purposes of trading, draft pick forecasting or simply for understanding the trends of your fellow coaches, roster analysis must be performed and the results acted upon.


Unlike redraft leagues, dynasty drafts are forever.  Some will perform well, others will try strategies that simply don’t work and most others will succeed and fail multiple times in each draft, the end result(s) for all to see at the conclusion.  This is where a good dynasty coach keeps the pedal to the metal.  Who is heavy in receiver? Who badly needs a running back?  Which coach failed to land a second quarterback when you have four?  Which coach went far too young and took too many chances but thinks their team is championship caliber (my personal favorite)?  Find the coach who believes he’s going to run away with the league and target his draft selection in next year’s draft.  After all, if he’s going to win it all, he’ll be choosing last next year anyway, right?


Like most leagues, trades and collaboration with your fellow coaches are pivotal points toward making a good team great or a great team a dynasty.  At all times assess your team and seek out opportunities to improve it via mindful additions through trades.


4.     Free Agency Mining


Closely related to point number three above, mining your free agency pool is a step many coaches simply fail to give enough attention to.  I’ve heard plenty of excuses as to why it’s not done and none of them hold water in my book.  Simply put, if you’re not willing to stay on top of news stories, breaking or not, year-round, you’re leaving nuggets of gold on the surface for another coach who puts in the work.


While it’s far easier to spot rising and falling players during the season as games play out, successful dynasty coaches are combing not only the breaking news from reliable news sources in the off-season, but also digging deep via tuned-in beat writers for specific teams during training camps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs).  You should have a list of at least one beat-writer blog or report for each NFL team and visit each at least once a week, if not more.


Performing this task well could be the difference between being first to that coveted player weeks before others even knew they existed and lamenting your inaction.  Sure, you’ll strike out far more times than you will uncover the next Victor Cruz or Arian Foster, but it’s far better to have the player(s) on YOUR roster than to see them explode on someone else’s, where they may be for years to come.


In short, don’t get outworked.


5.    Use Your Resources


I know this will come off as self-serving but I assure you it’s not.  Involving yourself with like-minded individuals as part of a community is one of the fastest ways to absorb knowledge, get tips and improve your own performance as a dynasty coach.  I firmly believe this works with any endeavor you have, fantasy-related or not.


Staying objective and seeking out trusted resources or forum advice is one of the best ways to grow your knowledge and increase your performance as a coach.  I always admire those who have a history of winning their league but remain humble enough to seek out advice and input toward ensuring that they aren’t missing an angle.


The best part about this practice is that as you perform this for yourself, you naturally provide the same service to others.  Compile a list of the best news sources, dynasty content and active forums toward ensuring you have a tool belt with everything you need to stay on top.


6.    Go to College


No, I’m not suggesting a college education will improve your fantasy results, but studying tomorrow’s stars today most certainly will.


Every coach will value rookie selections slightly differently.  Many will simply try to acquire draft picks and build their team via the NFL draft.  Others will be sellers of first round picks and acquire currently productive NFL players instead, rather than risk getting nothing via the draft.  Whatever path you prefer, you still need to assess the depth of the incoming rookie class toward fully understanding the value of the picks you hold, or those you wish to acquire.


Many sites can help you with this step but realize that anyone with access to a video streaming service can consider themselves a draft scout or expert.  Use multiple sources, keep great notes and develop a list of trusted sites over time.


If you aren’t willing to engage in the time-sink that is becoming an accurate college player evaluator, at least do the work each season to understand the depth of each rookie class, especially in relation to each position.  Every year will offer a different level of depth of incoming talent and proper valuation of this pool will go a long way toward determining rookie draft selection value.  Following this exercise, the only step left is to then apply it to your own team needs and determine your approach to your upcoming rookie draft.


7.    Roster Management


Without fail, every year I witness inexperienced dynasty coaches make the same roster mismanagement mistake of abandoning the plan (if there was one to begin with) and fall victim to the siren’s song in the form of the sexy free agent addition du jour.  This isn’t to say you shouldn’t add free agents who explode on the scene, but you must understand at what cost the addition will come.


Loosely speaking, I recommend all dynasty coaches reserve at least one roster spot for the current hot pick-up or addition, adding one more for every five roster spots beyond 20.  I consider these players “Developmental (Devy)” and view them differently than both my core and bench players.    The key is in the understanding that these roster spots are earmarked for high-risk, high-reward, players who aren’t likely to pan out.  Thus, a coach must not be married to them.


At no time should you begin pruning legitimate veteran or bench production and increasing the ratio of these devy additions.  It’s exciting to be the first to land the young hot name with an entire career ahead of him, but never do so at the cost of more core-oriented names.  Keep your devy stable in check.


In summary, your dynasty experience should be far more challenging and rewarding than redraft.  The aspect of owning your team, year-in, year-out, can offer a level of immersion that just can’t be matched.  But with that fact should also come the understanding and realization that with that extra level of enjoyment comes an extra level of commitment needed to perform well.


The dynasty format mitigates redraft’s luck factor over a longer period of time but also accentuates the success level of those coaches who can properly navigate the additional strategic variables.  But more than anything, a dynasty coach simply has to commit to doing the work, in season and off.  In fact, at DLF we have a saying:  There is no off-season!


Have a great season!