Dynasty Football: Anatomy of a Draft
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With this past weekend being Father’s Day, it provided an opportunity to reflect on the influence my dad has had in my personal life. My dad is a great man who taught me many valuable lessons. Two such lessons are the passion he instilled in me for NFL football and the ability to make sure to have a well-thought plan for any task I decide to undertake. Those two qualities combined this year as I took on the challenge of dynasty fantasy football. I started last season by doing a lot of research and have already learned many valuable lessons that I want to share for others beginning the same challenge. The lessons I will be covering are tier rankings, knowing values, league types, and being patient.
Lesson 1 – Tier Rankings
One of the more critical parts of having a successful dynasty football team is to determine how you rank each player overall and positionally. It is also essential to consider the typical lifespan of each position, age, situation, and talent. With that perspective, I started to set up a tiered ranking for each position. Using my tiers, I could look at what kind of players I could grab at my draft spots to build the best team possible. Once complete, I started preparing for my first ever Superflex dynasty draft.
I decided that in this kind of league in the third position, I should target WRs early as my foundation. I was able to get DeAndre Hopkins and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the first two rounds. It was easy to not go with an elite running back, that position can fluctuate rapidly in a three-year period. For example, the fourth and fifth place RBs in 2016 were LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray. Now those guys are afterthoughts for that skill position. With wide receivers, the top guys are much more consistent if healthy. Therefore, I can expect my guys to continue producing high numbers for the next three years minimum.
The next two rounds I took two guys with the highest upside in my third tier of running backs. Unfortunately, my picks further prove the concern with that position. My first running back was Sony Michel. When I drafted him he seemed to be primed for a stellar sophomore season. Then came the news that he had received a knee scope. The Patriots also drafted another young, talented running back in Damien Harris. My second running back holds a lot of promise. At only 21 years old, Kerryon Johnson is expected to improve this year with more receiving in the backfield.
By the time I got to the fifth round, my ranking system had provided me with enormous value. While other players were busy drafting what I consider to be third-tier quarterbacks, I was able to get a top tier tight end. I drafted George Kittle, an elite prospect. Several of my quarterbacks were taken shortly after, as expected in a Superflex league. Nonetheless, I was able to get Lamar Jackson, who I believe has a lot of potential. Due to my tier rankings, I was ready to jump at the value of a high tight end.
The draft went about another six rounds before I started to have problems with who to select. My rankings were not as deep as I would have hoped for. It is important to make sure to set your own tier rankings because each person values players differently. Making your own rankings gives you time to determine who you like and want to target at various rounds. Doing that will give you a leg up on your competition, and give you multiple options with each pick.
Lesson 2 – Understanding Value
My next couple of picks were in the range of high upside guys that people are willing to trade for. I decided to take a chance after my guys were taken before each of my picks in the seventh and eighth rounds. I set up three trades which saw me lose my seventh, eighth, and tenth round picks. These picks became DJ Moore, Tyler Boyd, and Mike Davis. I gained a ninth, eleventh, a 2019 rookie 2nd, and a 2020 1st. Those picks became Ben Roethlisberger, good QB1 for at least the next two seasons. Josh Rosen as my third quarterback in the late 11th. Andy Isabella with the 2019 2nd who now has potential in the Cardinals new-look offense. Currently, the 2020 1st appears mid-round range with potential to swing early if projections hold close.
I did not feel like I was missing out on value with the picks I traded away. In hindsight, my team could have profited from Boyd. I believe Moore and that offense will start slow so I may get a chance to buy again at a lower cost. Even with missing on some younger QB2 options, I still feel confident with waiting until the ninth round to get a considerable sleeper in Damien Williams and Roethlisberger.
This trade can be difficult to decide who came out the winner. I gained two quarterbacks, a young wide receiver to develop, and a 2020 1st in a hyped upcoming draft class. I checked with a lot of dynasty football trade calculators, such as Dynasty League Football’s trade analyzer, which all showed that I came out ahead. Some people will look at this deal as a loss for me, but I was able to get some help at quarterback along with two young players in Isabella and a 2020 pick. This wouldn’t have been possible without my tier rankings and value expectations.
Another important factor to consider when evaluating players is to look at their age. For positions outside of the quarterback, going into your thirties can drastically drop the value of players. Mike Tagliere outlines each position in an article he wrote last summer. He found that wide receivers are normally top 12 between the ages of twenty-five to thirty-one. That fits the narrative of third-year breakouts and shows good players can normally stay at the top until the age of thirty-one. He also found that tight ends normally produce as top six options between twenty-seven and twenty-nine years of age. They have the ability to stay top 12 for a while longer before and after that range.
All this is to say that you should consider looking at players and their age to determine if you can find value. Try to find promise with players going into their prime. It also eludes to the fact that talented aging players, such as Julio Jones at his age, may only have a few years of production left. If you are looking at a few years of rebuilding, trading Julio now for young talent and some picks, may help you in the long-term. While there will be outliers for age, this gives an extra layer to consider when looking at the value of players and picks.
Lesson 3 – League Type
It is important to pay attention when deciding to join a dynasty league. I see a lot of people eager to join a number of leagues. It is crucial that you know the scoring system that the league you are joining has. There are a number of scoring oddities these days, knowing what your league uses will change your rankings and values. For example, if your league is points-per-reception (PPR) then a player like James White or other pass-catching backs becomes more valuable. However, if no points are given to running backs catching then those same players are worth much less. There are also leagues who will place limits on how many players you can have at each position which is something important to know when you start drafting.
Knowing your leaguemates also helps when trying to plan your draft. Starting conversations with other owners or looking through the transaction history of old trades gives you important information. You can see which owners like certain players, teams, or preference for picks. Knowledge of your competitors can give you several advantages. Knowing who might overvalue can help you sell older guys or overvalued rookies. In one league where I took over an orphan, I saw how much a guy wanted Mike Evans. I saw this through old trade proposals for one of his keepers so I got him to make a trade for JuJu who I like better for his talent and age.
Lesson 4 – Being Patient
When it comes to dynasty football, remember that this is a long-term process. A story I like to think about is how last season in a redraft startup draft I had the second overall pick. I ended up selecting Le’Veon Bell and Jerrick McKinnon in the first six rounds. That cost my team as I limped into the playoffs. If that had been a dynasty team, I could have potentially traded future assets to load up and try to compete.
When it comes to dynasty football, it is important to know that owners need to pace themselves as this is a marathon. It also allows owners the full year experience on managing their team through the offseason as free agency and the NFL incoming rookie class causes changes to teams. So even if a team is having a bad season, that just means they are closer to a high round pick to either use as big trade value or to select a high-caliber player for their team.
Overall these are just a few things I have picked up on during my introduction to dynasty football. I wanted to share with others looking to also get the best result with fantasy football. The four topics I discussed all can prove useful to gaining an edge over your opponents for the short and long-term. Ultimately, even if a plan goes bad for one season, you can use future seasons to rebuild and compete. That is the fun part of dynasty football and the reason I recommend trying it. Even if you are losing, you’re winning.
by Andrew Woodruff, @ff_awwoodruff33