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5 Mistakes Keeper/Dynasty Owners Make on Draft Day (Fantasy Football)

Jun 8, 2020

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In the fantasy world, predicting the current season is difficult enough. This is why we all enjoy grabbing a group of friends and forming a league to measure the success of our predictions. Building a roster that’s meant to be competitive for years to come in a keeper/dynasty league can be intimidating.

There’s no perfect way to approach a startup draft. After all, that is what makes this whole process fun. However, after going through many startup drafts and analyzing even more of them, I have noticed several mistakes that owners make in their drafts. It’s often said that you can’t win your league at the draft, but you can lose it. Well, let’s explore how to avoid being a “loser” in your startup draft.

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1. Treating Your Draft Like a Redraft League

This one may be obvious, but I still see this occur too often. Even if it is not intentional, many times, owners will take a productive veteran in the early rounds close to the player’s redraft ADP. Yes, we still want our team to score fantasy points. That is the name of the game. However, we also want to ensure our roster can hold value season-to-season.

In a redraft league, a player’s value is directly tied to the current season or even a small subset of games within the current season. The prospective future for the player is irrelevant in a redraft league. For a keeper or dynasty league, youth and future opportunities are critical to a player’s value.

Loading up on players who only have fantasy value for the current season is a dangerous maneuver that can leave you high and dry. While you can attempt to sell these players near the trade deadline, it’s best to have a balance of youth and production that allows your roster to have value moving forward.

2. Putting Too Much Stock into Rookies

“But Shane, I thought you just told us to stay away from one-year players?” Yes, I did. However, the opposite extreme is just as detrimental to your team.

We’re looking to build a balanced roster that has a mix of youth, upside, and production. It’s fine to own some known commodities, such as productive veterans or players who have an immediate role but an unknown future. And while we do want to mix in some youth, we do not want to go overboard either. We’re looking for the Goldilocks roster that is “just right.”

You may have heard the term “rookie fever.” It refers to the tendency for dynasty players to fall in love with the newest class of players entering the NFL. Rookies bring excitement, and rookie draft picks are viewed as the currency of dynasty leagues. However, these players are generally unknown, and they bust more often than their owners would like to admit.

Rostering a team full of unproven players can leave your team with little value. While we can look at the upside and path to success for a rookie, it’is important to remember that the player may not pan out.

3. Setting Your Starting Lineup at the Draft

This is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp for owners who are new to dynasty formats. In a single-year format, we want to emerge from the draft with a balance at all positions. That gives us the best chance to field a high-scoring starting lineup.

In a dynasty/keeper league, your goal is to assemble a roster that holds future value. If we hit on a young, talented player, then we already have some fantasy production. However, future value can more easily be converted into fantasy points via the trade market in a dynasty/keeper league.

I wrote a bit about why, but essentially, a keeper/dynasty league features some teams looking to build for the future and others looking to compete now. That’s not the case in a redraft format, where everyone’s goal is to do the best they can in the current season.

This creates a much more dynamic trade market in a keeper/dynasty league, and it means that you will have more roster flexibility during the season. Because the running back position is so volatile, I will often enter an offseason with only a few of them on my dynasty roster. The position can so easily lose value following free agency and the NFL draft.

As a result, don’t be afraid to select players based on value rather than position in your keeper/dynasty startup drafts. You will be able to retool your roster to score fantasy points if your goal is to compete in the current season. Find value in your draft, because it will be a while before you have to submit a lineup.

4. Looking at a 5+ Year Window

Every year in fantasy football, players bust. There’s always a first-round player who falls flat on his face. If you’re familiar with this, it may not surprise you that the bust rate only gets worse when we review dynasty ADP from prior years.

Many times I’ll see fantasy owners join a dynasty league and think that they are going to build a roster that will compete for many years to come. We have a difficult enough time projecting the upcoming season, and it is nearly impossible to know how the league will look more than three years from now.

I think that numbers can better illustrate this point. Consulting with the startup ADP over at Dynasty League Football, I reviewed the top-24 players from the past five years, and I decided to record how many new players entered the top-24 who were not there previously.

Year New Players to Top 24 Percentage of New Players
2016 7 29%
2017 6 25%
2018 9 38%
2019 4 17%
2020 12 50%

 
We see quite a bit of turnover in the top-24 from year to year. And remember, this is just looking at the first two rounds! We should be nailing these picks, right? These guys should be the sure things. On average, over the past five years, 32% of players fell out of the top-24 of dynasty startup ADP each year.

Players outside of the top two rounds have value shifts that are even more extreme. Seeing that ADP is not even steady year-to-year, we can imagine how much different it looks over a longer period of time. Of course, we want to keep the future in mind when building our dynasty rosters. However, don’t oversell your ability to project many years into the future. Keeping a three-year window in mind is reasonable while attempting to project out five years or more is futile.

5. Being Clueless After Round 12

This one may come off as harsh, but it’s simply the truth. For owners who only have a background in redraft leagues, drafts are typically 16 rounds, and only 192 players are drafted, including kickers and defenses. Finding yourself in a dynasty draft that goes beyond the 16th round can be a challenge for owners.

In a redraft league, you probably only need to select one or two “sleepers.” Rookie receivers may not be drafted much at all, as only the elite would crack the starting lineup of a redraft league in their first year. The player pool for a dynasty/keeper league is much deeper than that of a redraft league, and you need to prepare accordingly.

Your research can rely on all types of sources. We have plenty of content here at FantasyPros — rookie analysis, sleepers, dynasty rankings, etc. You can also listen to some of the many podcasts out there that cover fantasy football. My advice would be to start familiarizing yourself with some of the depth charts around the league. Identify a thin wide receiver room or find some running backs who would greatly benefit if the starter on their team went down with an injury.

In the later rounds, we want to shoot for upside. We want to try to find a player who could skyrocket into a role that would allow for weekly fantasy production. Players drafted outside of the top 200 are not going to be household names for many, but familiarizing yourself with some players that could return value will give you a leg up on the rest of your league.

Complete early mock drafts using our free draft simulator >>


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Shane Bryant is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Shane, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @ShaneBryant31.

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