Dynasty Strategy: Startup Drafts (Fantasy Football)

by Kyle Richardson | @krich1532 | Featured Writer
Jan 31, 2018

Since WRs have longer primes, Antonio Brown in his age-30 season might be a better dynasty pick than an elite younger RB

There are many strategies when building a dynasty franchise. Unlike a redraft league, however, failure to execute your strategies in dynasty could lead to multiple years of misery instead of one year of misfortune. We have reached the time of year where those strategies start to form.

After your championship concludes and trades open again for owners, everyone will be ready to start making moves. You better be ready to go before other owners start and leave you behind.

The second part of my dynasty strategy series will cover startup drafts. Some new leagues have already started drafting, even though the current season is not technically over.

It can be difficult to start planning for a fantasy draft before free agency and the rookie draft. There is no offseason in dynasty leagues though.

Dynasty leagues can be so unique these days. Regardless of what kind of league you play in, hopefully, I will have some tips to help you with your startup. Prepare early, and you will be more successful.

Let’s look at different types of draft strategies and different types of leagues. Just keep in mind, the most successful fantasy owners can work with what the draft gives them, which bring me to my first point.

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Always Be Flexible

No matter the advice I offer in this article, you always need to be prepared to dump your plan and change the course. A player will go too early, or owners will make a run on positions, which will leave you thin and desperate to grab one. It’s the adjustments that you make during the draft that will make you much more successful than the game plan you come up with before the draft.

Just be sure to keep your flexibility and read the draft as it moves along. If you are doing a slow draft that allows several hours for a pick, use the time if you need it. Remember to be respectful of your leaguemates and draft quickly if you are ready, but if the situation changes and you were not prepared, take the time before making a pick.

If you are in a quick draft, have lists prepared ahead of time. Lists with your sleepers, players to avoid, targets and more. You won’t have time to pull off extra research in the middle of the draft, so prepare accordingly.

Draft Position

Everyone is going to have a difference of opinion on the best spot to draft from. Drafting at the top can land you one of the best players in the draft. Drafting at the end can land you two players within the top 15. It’s all about preference.

The only place I don’t like drafting from is the middle of the round. I like having the ability to grab two players quickly at the turn.

If you are drafting towards the top of the first round, it’s critical to grab someone with high upside, but with a high floor as well. Whoever your first pick will be needs to be your most reliable player. You won’t get another shot at a player for a while.

You must make that first pick count. There is a reason owners with David Johnson and Odell Beckham Jr. struggled through the season. It’s difficult to replace talent like that from the top of the first round.

If you are drafting in the middle of a round, you need to be careful of the dreaded “position run.” This is when you get caught off guard when someone decides to go with a quarterback and then everyone makes a run on them, leaving you with less to choose from. It can happen at any time and any position, and if you are caught off guard, your plans will need to be adjusted quickly.

Don’t be overly concerned with ADP here. If you reach a little for a player to ensure you get someone, that’s okay. Remember, most ADPs are biased toward recent performance. In a dynasty startup, you are building for now but also sustained success over the next several years.

Best Position to Draft First

I get this question a lot. “I have the second pick in my dynasty startup, what position should I go with?” There is no right answer to this question. I have been vocal with my love for running backs. We are coming off a season in which we saw an explosion of running back talent.

If everyone stays healthy next season, can you imagine the numbers we will see? If I am picking at the top of your draft, I am going with an RB that does it all. Either Ezekiel Elliott or Johnson would be my pick.

If Le’Veon Bell can get a deal done in Pittsburgh, he would be next off my board. I always lean running backs if they are a guy who will provide solid all-around numbers and get the majority of carries.

In PPR formats, you can start to look at your top wide receivers after these guys. PPR formats offer a major boost to receivers and launch them into consideration ahead of most running backs. Receivers also get the benefit in dynasty leagues. More than likely, they will last longer in the league.

Even an elite receiver in his early 30s like Antonio Brown should be considered over most running backs in these formats. More than likely he will be around long enough to give you a solid return on investment for a mid-to-late first round pick in a startup.

Unless you play in a superflex, two QB league or TE premium league, stay away from those positions during the first couple of rounds. You just won’t get the same return on those positions as you will with a running back or wide receiver this early in the draft.

If someone else wants to take Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Rodgers in the first couple of rounds, more power to them. I’ll wait.

Best Available

When it comes to the age-old question of whether you should draft a position of need or draft best available, I am always a “draft best available” owner. Stockpile all of the talent you can. After a draft has ended, owners will be ready to start trading pretty quickly.

Even if you run thin at a position, hold your best players and watch things start to shake out. Work the waiver wire in search of depth. Even if you have four running backs and can only start three, one of two things will happen. You will either have someone come looking to trade for one of your backs or injuries will happen. That is when you will be happy you have those extra players.

The only time taking the best available may not work is if you are in a league that has roster limits. Some leagues will limit the amount of players you can carry at a particular position. If that is the case, best available will need to be skipped over if you have reached your limit at the position.

Make sure you identify late round sleepers early if you have this restriction in your league. That way you can save one of your final spots for a guy you think could be a breakout candidate and take a position of need earlier.

As I mentioned above, throw ADP out the window. Anything can happen in a draft, and if you want a certain player, there is a good chance someone else will want him just as bad. Jump a little early if you want to.

Is he the best player in the rest of your league? Maybe not, but he is best available to you, and that’s what matters. There is always one crazy owner who will jump for a player a few rounds too early and set off a frenzy of over drafting.

If this happens in your draft, don’t worry about the late round sleepers and keep an eye on the consistent players sitting in front of you that are being passed over. One owner’s garbage is another owners treasure.

Draft Pick Trading

I will admit up front, I am not a fan of trading draft picks in a startup draft. If it’s just a rookie draft? Yeah, go for it.

In a startup draft through, you can get too trade happy and realize you don’t have a pick for several rounds. At that point, you just sit around watching players fly off the board, and your plans go in the tank.

Trading draft picks tends to lead to overthinking. Roll with what you have and come up with a great game plan.

With that being said though, sometimes offers fall in our laps that can’t be passed up. Be open to all opportunities and look for maximum value. If I do trade a draft pick, I like to make a move after the first few rounds.

Look for owners wanting to move up and get a couple of picks in return. This is where I start to stockpile for late-round sleepers. If you are in the seventh round and there is no one you want, look for someone willing to move up and grab an extra pick.

You could sneak one of those sleepers on to your roster with that extra pick. The middle rounds seem to be a time when owners settle for a guy at the position. The stars are off the board, but the run on sleepers hasn’t started yet.

Just don’t trade too far back. Trading back one to two rounds at a time is the furthest you should fall.

Startup Drafts That Include Rookies

Now, this is where things get interesting. The happy medium between grabbing a heralded rookie and obtaining enough established veteran presence that your team doesn’t spend two years getting off the ground. Either way, do not buy into the rookie hype!

If your startup draft is taking place before the actual rookie draft for the NFL, don’t be the owner hoarding all of the rookies. Let the wolves fight over those players or picks. In a recent 12 team, dynasty startup, the 1.01 rookie pick went 14th overall.

Who was taken after that? Davante Adams, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green. Now that is rookie hype at its best.

In a startup draft that includes rookies or rookie picks, I am steering clear. This past year’s rookie class has completely shattered all sense of reality. Give me guys that have been in the league and shown success in the NFL.

If I am adding rookies or rookie picks through a startup draft, it’s picks in the later rounds that could offer some great late round candidates who have the potential to be starters down the line. With the pick I mentioned above, the owner took the 1.02 rookie pick 34th overall.

In the time that team took the 1.01 and 1.02, someone added Adams and Devonta Freeman. Give me Adams and Freeman over those picks in a startup draft. The only reason you should be worried about rookies or rookie picks in a startup draft is if you are okay with building for a year or two before having a powerhouse.

I am always looking to win now though. Going into a startup draft thinking about losing is not a recipe for success.

IDP Leagues

The very fun, but rarely discussed IDP league…if you are playing in an IDP league that offers balanced scoring, kudos to you. That is dedication. If you don’t, I highly recommend trying it at least once.

IDP leagues with balanced scoring means your top defensive players could score as much as your offense players. The names don’t carry nearly the same weight, but the positions could carry nearly the same points.

The thing to keep in mind when playing in an IDP league, it’s essential to consider consistency, just like any other position. Don’t be afraid to be the first owner to jump on IDP positions if there are no offensive players at your pick worth taking or have upside.

In an IDP draft, don’t be afraid to build a stout defense either. A defense full of strong, reliable scorers can beat an offense any day of the week. Try to find the right balance, but if the draft gets out of hand, keep your IDPs in mind.

Don’t start reaching for offensive players you don’t want if you can get top IDP options. Keep an eye on your linebackers. They are the bread and butter of your defense.

Trust Your Gut

In any draft you do, trusting your gut is the number one priority you have. Make the picks you like, grab the players you love and don’t worry about the noise. If you wanted a player heading into the draft, trust your research enough to still grab that individual.

Don’t let the draft dictate what you do, dictate what the draft does. Move first and often. Don’t let others lead the draft and leave you behind.

If you feel like a pick will be a good pick, make it. If you feel like a pick will be a bad pick, don’t make it. Trust yourself.

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Kyle Richardson is a correspondent for FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @krich1532.

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