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Dynasty Strategy: How to Take Over an Orphan (Fantasy Football)

by Kyle Richardson | @krich1532 | Featured Writer
Feb 5, 2018

Rebuilding dynasty squads should aim to trade away old, but productive players, like Larry Fitzgerald

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.

In the final piece of my dynasty strategy series, I’ll be supplying you with tips on taking over an orphan team. Every year, dynasty leagues face turnover and need new owners to jump in and take over teams. Taking over an orphan can be a difficult task if you are working with a roster thin of top talent, or it can be easy if you come across a playoff roster with riches galore.

When you take over an orphan, you have to get to work right away. Whether you need to flip the entire roster or just make some complimentary moves to assemble a winner, it’s important to get up to speed. Don’t miss out on a chance to take a team from zero to hero quickly.

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As soon as you take over an orphan, it’s time to research. You won’t just be researching your roster, but you will be researching scoring, settings, other rosters, and anything you can find about the league. It’s important to know everything that is going on right away.

You can be sure every league has a couple of owners that would like to welcome you with a one-sided trade offer or advice that helps them more than you. The more you know, the less likely you will be to get caught up in that.

Know when your trade deadline is, when rosters lock, when waivers process, and all roster-related moves that need to happen throughout the year. Don’t miss out on any deadlines because you didn’t read the fine print.

Find anything in the rules that can be of a benefit to you, especially as a first-time owner in the league. Some leagues may have provisions built in that allow you to drop a player or get rid of a contract with no penalty for taking over a team.

Most importantly though, you need to size your roster up against the others in your new league. This is very important for two reasons, which I will cover later, but also for the fact that you just need to become familiar with which players are on which teams. Depending on when you join, some players may have already been dropped to free agency, so you will want to also become familiar with the player pool.

Determine Your Path

It’s important to determine early on what your path will be heading into the season. If you have a roster built to win now, then you will want to come up with an offseason plan based on strengthening your weak positions, building depth, and filling minor holes. If you are lucky enough to happen upon an orphan with the potential to win a championship, you shouldn’t have many changes to make, unless it’s just adding your favorite players and subtracting players you are not confident in.

If you have a great roster, don’t overthink it. When you are new to a league, you may feel a need to make moves and show you deserve to be a part of the league. You could end up trading yourself out of a championship roster.

If your roster is the opposite, then a rebuild is in order. This tends to be the most common roster you will come across when taking over an orphan because an owner probably gave it up for a reason.

Far too many times in dynasty leagues, an owner will make a bid to win it all and realize the roster doesn’t have what it takes. They give it up, move forward, and now you have a commissioner looking for an owner willing to take on a project.

The Complete Rebuild

If you ever have the chance to take on a complete rebuild of an orphan team, I would highly recommend it. It can be one of the most difficult tasks in dynasty fantasy football, but one of the most rewarding if you can turn it around. If you find yourself in the middle of a complete rebuild, patience is key.

The only way you can turn around a complete rebuild in one year is nailing your draft. That can be incredibly hard if you don’t have multiple first round picks.

Give yourself at least two years to get a team turned around. Two drafts and two years of trading should be enough if you make good moves. The two-year time frame should be kept in mind when looking for players to add to your team.

Grabbing guys with upside, but that won’t contribute right away will give you the best bang for your buck. In a complete rebuild, you want to stockpile your roster with as much young, high-upside talent as possible. The best way to do that?

Research All Trade Options

This is where you will put in the most work when taking over an orphan. Depending on the direction of your team, you will have different philosophies when it comes to which players should be your targets. As I have said before, practice patience.

Whether you have a winner or need to tear it down, don’t jump right into the fire and start shipping players out. Do your research and get the absolute best deal for your team.

If you have a winning roster and you know a championship run is possible, look to add solid, veteran players to help with that run. You should be looking at rosters that don’t appear ready to compete and sending young, unproven players or picks their way. Don’t jump into a league and trade all of your future assets.

That could make other owners nervous that you may not plan on sticking around long. Do what you need to to win though.

If you are working on a rebuild, then it’s about hoarding all the future assets you possibly can. If you have veterans on your team, start looking for teams in win-now mode and look at deals centered around picks and young, unproven, high-upside players.

Remember the two-year rule above? Keep that in mind. Players who disappointed in their rookie season but are now heading into season two would be perfect targets.

When you are trading veteran talent though, make sure you are getting good value for everyone. There is a difference between trading Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Brown.

Fitzgerald has been a great receiver and would be a great trade piece as he probably only has a year left. Brown is a superstar.

He’s crossed the age 30 line, but would still warrant a tremendous package in return, which leads us to our next point…

Keep Your Superstars

In a dynasty league, it is very important to hold as many superstars that you can get your hands on. Superstars will obviously help you win more, but you can’t get rid of superstars unless you are getting the same level in return or players that you truly believe will reach that status someday. A team full of mediocre to good players will win some games, but you will be hard-pressed to keep up with teams that have multiple, top-level players on them.

Unless you plan on getting them through the draft, it may be difficult to add that caliber player back to your team.

If you take over an orphan that has a player like Brown, don’t hesitate to rebuild through that player if the deal is right. The best time to make that deal is during the season though.

At some point, another team will be facing injuries or ineffective play from their roster. If you hold out long enough, owners will be willing to pay the price to ensure they can make a run.

Never settle on only picks for top-level talent though. Make sure you are getting picks and players that could contribute within a couple of years or quicker.

If you take over a good team with multiple superstars, keep the pack together as long as possible. Make as many runs as you can with your superstars and fill in holes through waivers, the draft, or even trading your draft picks.

I have made too many trades in my day where I gave up a superstar to get as much talent and depth as possible because I was faced with injuries. The trade may seem good during the season, but as soon as it’s over, you will regret making that move unless it brings a championship home.

If you take over a team without any superstar talent, then start searching for those players. You can have a good team with good talent, but maybe a superstar player is all you need to push over the top? If it is, then go get it.

Combine players, picks, and whatever else you can think of to add a top level player. If you go all in on getting the player and it doesn’t work out, then ship him out for more pieces during the season. Again though, the deal has to be right.

Contract Leagues

There are so many types of leagues these days, but contract leagues are becoming more popular. It can be a little intimidating to jump into a league like this, but the quicker you become familiar with the league, the easier things will be. When taking over an orphan in a contract league, there are couple extra things you want to keep in mind as you move forward.

I mentioned above that you need to become familiar with the rules and settings of your league right away. This is important in contract leagues due to deadlines.

You will have times throughout the year that you need to submit contracts, cut players, and even extend them. Become as familiar with these as possible because some rules could be to your benefit and allow you to dump certain contracts.

Get rid of as many bad contracts as possible. It’s important to clear as much cap room in the beginning, so you have more opportunity to make trades and give yourself more flexibility in future seasons. Trying to rebuild a team can be even more difficult when you have bad contracts holding back your ability to make moves.

Most importantly though, if you are willing to take on a bad contract for a year or two, it becomes a huge bargaining chip during trade talks. Helping another team clear out a bad contract during trade talks could allow you to gain more value in the trade. The only way to do this though is by having the cap space.

When acquiring players, look for individuals that have low salaries but more years remaining on their contacts. The key is flexibility and growth with these players.

Lower salaries on young players with upside will allow you to add veterans through free agency or waivers when the time is right. Then when a big free agent becomes available, and you have the money to spend, you can outbid everyone for the player to help put your team over the top.

The Social Aspect

Yes, this is a part of fantasy football I take seriously. When you join a new league, it’s important to be personable with everyone. Adapt to whatever the league is.

If it is serious with hardcore owners, then play the part. If it is a loose league with relaxed owners, then crack jokes and have some fun. Fit in as much as possible.

Get to know everyone. Don’t be afraid to have side conversations with owners and ask questions.

Does someone live in the same area of you? That’s awesome, find out where and talk about it.

Forming a connection with other owners in your league helps to create a personal bond that lasts. This will be to your advantage in trade talks and more.

A good friend of mine, who we will call Jesse, can be the complete opposite. He comes in hot with every league he plays in. He has no problem getting on you for a bad trade or a hot take that he thinks is ridiculous.

In contract leagues, he will wait to snipe your player last second in free agency. If you have a conversation with him about a player you are targeting, he will get that player and hold him over your head.

Don’t get me wrong, Jesse is a great guy. A word of advice though, don’t be the “Jesse” of your league.


I love taking the opportunity to answer specific questions about the topic of the article. Some followers were gracious enough to send questions about taking over an orphan.

“When more than one team needs a new owner, should you just randomly acquire a team or should there be a supplemental draft for those teams only where all players from said teams are put back in the PA pool?” – @redraftwarrior

This is a great question, and honestly should be voted on by the league. In my experience, you should keep the teams the same and find new owners if it’s just a couple of teams. If you have more than two teams to replace, then you could think about this option.

The best time to add all players into the free agent pool and have a supplemental draft is when one team is stocked with good players, and the other two teams are not. Not only will this make teams more appealing to a new owner, but it will help balance the competitive nature of the league. As I mentioned though, a commissioner should give current owners the opportunity to vote on the process.

“Previous owner decimated team and gave away all 2018 picks. Clearly not winning this year. What do you focus on with very little trade value on your weak team?” – @FFA_Marc

This is a league’s worst nightmare. When an owner trashes a roster, it kills everyone around it. In this situation, my two-year rule becomes three or four years. This is where it is critical to add as many buy-low candidates as possible and work the waiver wire.

Add as many players from free agency or waivers as possible. Loading up on veterans that could offer some value in a potential trade later are excellent pieces to have.

Another great option is to add backup running backs. Add as many running backs as possible that are backups to current starters.

These players become valuable if injuries hit. You could then flip them to the owners of injured players for picks or young players with upside. Work that waiver wire and free agent pool every day.     

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