2018 Dynasty Start-Up Strategy (Fantasy Football)

by Jody Smith | @JodySmithNFL | Featured Writer
May 16, 2018

Saquon Barkley is far and away the top consensus rookie in dynasty drafts

Much like each NFL Draft differs in quality and approach, drafting a successful dynasty fantasy football roster can vary wildly from year-to-year. While the primary principals of targeting longterm value over an immediate return-on-investment remain the same in all dynasty leagues, there are still different approaches each owner can take to build what they feel is the most competitive dynasty squad.

Evaluation of 2018 dynasty ADP shows us how veteran dynasty players are approaching early dynasty drafts this season. It also opens the door for people who are about to kick off a start-up dynasty league to take advantage of these trends in the market.

Tired and true redraft fantasy draft strategies like being flexible, taking advantage of tiers, and avoiding position runs are all sound advice in any draft and can be useful tools in dynasty start-ups as well. If you’re new to dynasty or are looking for tips to field a strong roster in the inaugural year of your league, here are some tips and strategies that might give you the edge in 2018.

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Draft to Win Now
Too often people get fixated on building a team for tomorrow and acquiring tons of prospects and future draft capital. That doesn’t always end up working out for the inner Sashi Brown in all of us. While planning on tomorrow, many drafters miss out on the opportunity to win now.

Of course, you want to take the future into account. I love Larry Fitzgerald, but if I’m almost as high on Allen Robinson and both are on the board, clearly taking Robinson is the play. But when owners start disregarding established stars still in their prime or continue to trade down for future picks, they might be doing more harm than good.

I understand that joining a dynasty is supposed to be a dozen or more committed owners who are in it for the long haul, but most of the time, you’ll see annual turnover. Usually by the third year, half of the league is new owners. It’s hard to focus on building a future Patriots dynasty if you can’t keep a league at full strength from season-to-season.

There’s a thin line between targeting youth and making sensible choices. If you’re in a situation where seasoned veterans keep falling into your lap, be able to scoop them up, change your approach, and build the inaugural championship roster. Not only will you have bragging rights and possibly even be able to pay for your next few entry fees, if you’re a regular FantasyPros reader, you’re going to have access to the best resources out there that will more than help you prepare to defend that title for years to come.

Don’t Rush the Draft
Established dynasty leagues typically have a draft consisting of incoming rookies or veteran players that weren’t even good enough to be on any roster at the conclusion of the previous season. It’s entirely acceptable to get excited at the end of the NFL Draft and hurry to kick off a four-round draft as soon as possible.

But as we all know, lots can happen in OTAs and the preseason and the rookies that are red-hot commodities in May can have trouble adjusting to the pro game and get buried on a depth chart. That’s all part of the strategy for veteran dynasty drafters, but in a start-up, avoiding these traps can quickly sink a roster and lead to owners new to this type of league to lose interest, which isn’t good for anybody.

Holding off on your initial draft can change the strategy for each owner, but will undoubtedly lead to a much different draft than one that took place too early. Later drafts can also pay off massively for informed owners willing to take a chance on players that they value in the long term but have seemingly slipped or gotten injured in the preseason.

Avoid the Rookie Hype
Saquon Barkley is considered a generational talent, so there’s no fault with taking him in the first round of any draft, especially a first-year dynasty. But after Barkley, there’s not a consensus of who should be next, other than attacking the young running backs is a solid strategy.

Sony Michel could be a monster when you consider the landing spot and the fact that Bill Belichick spent a first-rounder on a running back. But what kind of role with Michel have with Rex Burkhead and James White also in the mix? Also, could Michel find himself riding the pine after his first fumble?

Seattle’s Rashad Penny looks like a good bet to pay off, but what about the Seahawks offensive line and Penny’s three-down ability? Nick Chubb did not land in an ideal spot, Ronald Jones is expected to split time, and Derrius Guice is unlikely to have much of a role in the passing game.

Rookie wide receivers are notoriously slow starters, and tight ends generally take two to three years to adjust to the NFL. Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, Mike Gesicki, Courtland Sutton, and many other pass-catchers are great additions to any dynasty roster, but if you’re trying to win right out of the gate, their current cost is likely higher than you’re targeting.

It’s entirely fine to covet the admittedly intriguing 2018 class of rookies. Just don’t reach for an unproven commodity simply because rookies are all that you hear about in the spring when quality veterans are forgotten about in drafts. As rookies and draft picks go hand in hand, being cautious of the inflated rookie ADP coincides with our next point…

Don’t Overvalue Future Draft Picks
The most significant struggle for dynasty newcomers is placing an appropriate value on future draft picks. This is often exasperated by other owners that are constantly driving up the cost of those picks by proposing an outlandish price for future draft compensation.

Like I mentioned earlier, Saquon Barkley is a generational talent, and there’s little chance that 2019 will offer up a player that’s anywhere near his stature, even though it appears to be another solid draft class. Another factor that hurts is that we had Kareem Hunt lead the NFL in rushing and Alvin Kamara was fantastic in his first season. Deshaun Watson put on a clinic in his six starts, Juju Smith-Schuster exceeded all expectations, and we even had a rookie tight end, Evan Engram, be an immediate factor as a rookie.

All of these performances are fresh in everyone’s minds and helping drive up the cost of the 2018 rookie class and also future draft capital. Don’t disregard 2019 picks, but expecting a repeat of last year’s freshman performances is a risky proposition.

Running Backs Control the Strategy
Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara are also now firmly in the conversation for first-round dynasty consideration, along with Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Saquon Barkley. The re-emergence of dynamic young running backs has a two-fold effect on assembling a dynasty roster.

First, running backs go much faster than they customarily do in re-draft leagues and that means the pool of dependable runners dries up quickly. In many of the dynasty drafts and mocks I’ve participated in, 15 or more running backs are off the board by the end of the third round, and the drop-off to the next tier is harsh. Miss the boat and you could be trotting out a starting lineup of Derrick Henry and Jay Ajayi — fine players, but neither are good bets to get enough touches or have enough involvement as pass-catchers to finish as top-20 PPR backs.

Conversely, that “zig when your opponent’s zag” strategy dictates those wide receivers, who typically are much safer bets from a health and PPR standpoint, are going to slide in drafts. It’s quite easy, and tempting, to begin a draft WR/WR or even to take three wideouts right out of the gate when a proven player like Amari Cooper – -who is only six months older than Calvin Ridley — is staring you in the face as a fantastic WR3.

Just know that hoarding wideouts is likely to cost you at running back, which might not be a deterrent if you feel confident in landing pass-catching specialists like Duke Johnson and Tarik Cohen later on. In short, pay close attention to tiers and know when it’s the right time to pull the trigger on a position of depleting quality, or know when it’s time to take advantage of amazing, unexpected value.

Grab an Elite Veteran QB
By the time the NFL Draft wrapped up, I’d finished writing stat projections for every skill position player in football. Not everybody is insane patient enough to do that, but I walked away feeling pretty confident that I could probably field a competitive weekly lineup with some 25 NFL signal-callers.

It’s an embarrassment of riches and one that is only looking deeper with the looming arrival of young guns like Jimmy Garoppolo, Patrick Mahomes, and Mitchell Trubisky. Not to mention a 2018 draft class that boasts five incoming first-round passers.

What that means is there’s plenty of quality quarterbacks to go around, and they’re likely to slide in a start-up. That makes the opportunity to lock up and elite, top-five quarterback an intriguing one in the fourth or fifth round of a start-up, and even later if you’re willing to target a Drew Brees or Tom Brady.

Aaron Rodgers can regularly be nabbed in the mid-to-late fourth round and should have plenty of QB1 years remaining. Cam Newton just turned 29 and was the QB2 last season. Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins are still in their prime and are overlooked every year.

Targeting young throwers like Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz is ideal, but don’t be afraid to nab a proven starter that likely has more years left than players of yesteryear did. Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are defying those odds by continuing to produce at an elite level, even into their 40s. Pairing a trusty veteran with one of the growing group of talented young passers is an excellent strategy for giving your dynasty squad an edge now and one that can last well into the next decade.

Bookmark the FantasyPros Dynasty Trade Value Chart
Trading is part of the fun of fantasy football, but ask 12 owners to evaluate a player’s value, and you might get 12 completely different answers. It can be frustrating and difficult for a team in “win now” mode to complete a trade with an owner who overvalues future draft pick compensation.

Fortunately, our very own Mike Tagliere has come to the rescue by creating a thorough dynasty trade value chart that helps owners compare and contrast the value of dynasty draft pick compensation against the current and future value of established veterans. This is a tremendous tool that can be used to give you an edge in trade negotiations and to help assure that both parties walk away from a fair deal, hopefully strengthening both teams and the league.


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Jody Smith is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jody, check out his archive and follow him @JodySmithNFL.

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