Fantasy Football: Building for Next Year, This Year
Beyond our fantasy football content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – which optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football draft season.
In keeper and dynasty leagues, building a team for your current season is the utmost importance, but setting your team up for the next season should one of the main factors in your draft selections. If it’s your first time playing a keeper or dynasty league, I’ll take you through drafting a team for the present and future, or if you’re an expert already looking for some new tricks, I’ll supply those, too.
In the chart below, I cover five players from each position who is 25 years or younger that you should focus on drafting, including rookies. They’re ordered from first (top) to last (bottom), and set for a standard league. This draft class has a powerful impact right away from players like CeeDee Lamb, Michael Pittman Jr., and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, to name a few. If you weren’t as lucky as me to inherit Derrick Henry orDalvin Cook in my first-ever dynasty league, then these are guys to focus on building around. Landing one player from each position on this list would set you up now and later.
Players under 25 years old for you to build a roster around
Once in a while, you land a diamond in the rough when drafting a rookie or first-year starter quarterback, like Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson. However, most of the time, you’ll want to refrain from drafting a rookie quarterback (except in dynasty), as only Andrew Luck (9th) and Robert Griffin III (5th) finished as top-10 quarterbacks in their rookie seasons.
Using a roster spot on a rookie quarterback as a back-up isn’t ideal, but it can benefit you in the long-term. The only quarterback worth stashing this season is Joe Burrow, and that’s not as a starter, but as a bench spot and keeper option for year two. In a dynasty league, Burrow is a solid option, and I would strongly consider Tua Tagovailoa as well — for the rest, I’d leave them free agent pick-ups.
Running backs are going to go the quickest in dynasty and keeper leagues, so building around the right one makes a difference. Running backs like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor are going to be everyone’s top targets, but J.K. Dobbins and Cam Akers are just as capable. You can complete as many mock drafts as you can and compare your draft grades versus FantasyPros’ experts through the simulator. This helps give you an idea of where most people value the players I mentioned and their ADP.
Here are a couple more sleepers and busts for this year.
Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
Kupp holds a projected high of 173.5 fantasy points, ranking higher than Mike Evans (171.1), DeAndre Hopkins (164.4), and Kelly Golladay (163.6). In PPR, he’s very valuable, and he has a good chance to finish as a top-10 WR with his reception and touchdown output through three seasons.
DeVante Parker (WR – MIA)
Parker, paired with Tua Tagovailoa, could become a dangerous combination for AFC East opponents. Parker finished fifth in receiving yards (1,202), tied for fourth in touchdown catches (9), while tied for just 30th in receptions (72). In December 2019 (5 games), Parker recorded 26 receptions, 507 yards, and five touchdowns on 45 targets.
Sony Michel (RB – NE)
All the talk is about Tom Brady leaving and Jarrett Stidham taking over, but where is the Michel talk? He finished top-10 in carries (247) and red-zone touches (45) last season while facing seven men in the box 47 percent of the time per PlayerProfiler. His game script was +4.50, ranking second in the entire league. Let’s give credit to his legendary coach — bet on Michel to have a productive season for a mid to late-round selection.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE)
The Kevin Stefanski hire directly impacts Baker Mayfield and his receiving corps. He’s a rushing coach, and his work with Minnesota in 2019 made it an easy hire considering the Browns have one of the best backfields in the league. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are going to not only get more rushes but more touches in the passing game. In a PPR league, Jarvis Landry has the potential to outproduce Beckham Jr. this season, and with that being said, I don’t think he is worth a first or second-round pick in 2020.
T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND)
Hilton has missed eight games over the last two seasons dealing with five different injuries. These have included his hamstring, quad, calf and pectoral. Those are mostly lower-body injuries, and the list includes two separate quad strains in 2018 and 2019. His health is becoming an issue quickly, and the selection of Michael Pittman will be beneficial to Philip Rivers in what might be his only season as a Colt.
Phillip Lindsay (RB – DEN)
With the addition of Melvin Gordon, the Broncos’ backfield became a little more crowded. Denver also made a splash drafting Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler to give Drew Lock a plethora of weapons. All these weapons mean that both Lindsay and Gordon are risks to draft this year unless you plan on stacking them — which is not something I recommend. If you’re going to stack a backfield, better look at Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or the LA Rams.
Should You Make Trades for Players or Picks?
Over the last three years, I was able to land D.K. Metcalf, Marquise Brown, Dallas Goedert, and Darren Waller in addition to starting my dynasty career with Cook and Henry. You don’t always have to keep these players for the long-term either. Goedert and Waller are both trade options to be able to land another wide receiver to complement Brown and Metcalf.
Always value running backs like they are valued in real life — once they peak, you have to sell to who wants to reach. Derrick Henry is a perfect example, as he’s coming off two stellar seasons, including a league-best performance in 2019. He’s unlikely to have a better year then last season, and now at 26 years old, he only has a few more years of dominant play. Sell Henry at his highest value for a combination for two players that hold value but haven’t reached their potential or prime yet, such as Miles Sanders and D.J. Moore, or Kareem Hunt and Calvin Ridley.
Determining whether to make trades for players or to move up in your draft can be a difficult decision. You can view FantasyPros’ projections to determine whether a player’s ceiling is high enough or you to strike a deal. However, if you rely on gut feeling more than other opinions, building a dynasty team through the draft can be a tough task, no matter your experience.
Trading for experienced second or third-year players with promise are recommended, such as D.K. Metcalf or Calvin Ridley, but there’s nothing wrong with trading for superstar talents like Michael Thomas or Christian McCaffrey — if you have the capital. In a keeper league, it’s worth going for the big-name player rather than the high-upside rookie like you should in a dynasty league.
Which Strategies Work the Best?
I wrote about my favorite fantasy football strategy, the “The Three-Headed Monster at RB,” but plenty of experts have their way of drafting and dealing. The best strategies are consistent and allow you to copy a draft routine each year. When you draft the best available player, you always don’t reach your best potential as a team, but when you draft by a system, you should never end up on the outside looking in when December comes around. Find a system or strategy and stick to it.
What Stats or Sites are Worth your Time?
For all predictions and rankings, FantasyPros has you covered, but if you’re looking for some deeper numbers on individual players, there’s plenty of sites out there that I recommend. PlayerProfiler is a good resource when trying to find a player’s catchable target rate, target share, and red-zone information. BestBall10s is a good site to find where most players are being mocked in between certain dates. There’s also Pro Football Focus, NFL NextGen Stats, and the FootballDataBase for NFL and NCAA stats.
Heading into 2020
This year will be much different from those in the past due to the coronavirus and associated rule changes. With the NFL adding a new playoff team from each conference and the preseason to be cut in the near future, now is the time to do your homework on players and team situations. If you follow some of these guidelines and do your homework, you should be on top of your fantasy league in no time.