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Devy League Primer (Fantasy Football)

by Raju Byfield | @FantasyContext | Featured Writer
Jun 24, 2020

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Intrigued enough about devy leagues to finally take the plunge? An experienced manager looking to fine tune their draft strategy? Whether you are a rookie or seasoned devy manager, being aware of some of the popular devy draft strategies can give you a leg up on your competition. It can, of course, help with your own draft selections but can also help you identify what course of action rivals may be taking. Because devy leagues are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. As such we will take a look at seven of the most common strategies. 

What is Devy?

A devy league is a dynasty league where you can draft developmental (devy for short) prospects prior to them entering the NFL Draft. Managers who draft a player retain their rights if and when they enter the league. These players are often stashed on taxi squads and/or active rosters. Certain hosts like Fantrax allow you to accumulate points from devy players if so desired. The easiest way to think of devy leagues is to think of them as farm teams that you can draft and stash players on until a time that they are ready to make the jump to the NFL. 

Why Devy?

While devy leagues are exploding in popularity, there is still some apprehension from dynasty league managers who are weary of the extra commitment the format may take. Devy leagues – even leagues that have a small fee or are completely free to play – help dynasty league managers brush up on their prospect knowledge. Having some knowledge of upcoming draft classes can give one a competitive advantage in trade discussions for future rookie picks. 

Preparing for Your 2020 Devy Drafts

  • Start with top juniors who decided to return for senior seasons
  • Research top performers by season and month
  • Recruit rankings (24/7 composite combines ratings from the top five recruiting services/sites)
  • Watch tape of prospects you are debating 
  • Analyze market share data
  • Devy rankings (free and paid available)
  • Follow top NFL Draft and devy analysts (start with @FantasyContext and @KyleYNFL)
  • Create cheat sheet

Strategies

Position-Heavy
The position-heavy strategy is a devy drafting strategy where you target a specific position mercilessly throughout multiple devy drafts. This is most common with the running back position. This happens for multiple reasons. One of the major reasons is that running back scarcity in the NFL fuels devy managers to take their chances on a potential lottery ticket at the position. Of course, drafting the top sophomore or junior backs is the easiest way to accomplish a successful position-heavy strategy, but if you do not have a high pick, you will often have to shift focus to freshmen and the latest recruiting class. This is usually a sound strategy, unless of course you are knowingly passing up superior prospects at other positions just to load up on running backs. 

Top Prospects
This strategy is as simple as it sounds. Target the top devy assets regardless of position. If you followed our draft preparation tips above, you should have your own mini cheat sheet from which to work. Someone following this strategy often targets the best NFL prospects based on college numbers and/or tape. They will also look long and hard at the five star recruits from any recruiting class. 

QB-Heavy (SF)
The QB heavy strategy is one unique to Superflex (SF) formats (which most devy leagues are these days). Proponents of this strategy make sure to load up at running back and wide receiver during the startup draft, and use the devy draft to instead solidify the quarterback position. This may call for teams to pass on drafting start-up quarterbacks until the sixth round or later. This helps fantasy managers to have a strong enough lineup to avoid being tempted by the first-round receivers or running backs that may be available. Since quarterbacks often go very early in Superflex devy leagues, proponents of this strategy do extra homework on the previous years freshmen, as well as the incoming freshmen. It is important not to have ‘blinders’ on as far as the position is concerned, as at some point of devy drafts that last more than three rounds, there may simply be no more value at the quarterback position. Only focus on prospects with first round potential. Day-two prospects, especially in today’s NFL, are likely ticketed for a backup role, especially with the current glut of starting caliber quarterbacks currently in the NFL.

Fill Team Needs
This is another strategy that is as simple as it sounds. Simply use your devy drafts to address specific team needs. If you realize you are weak at quarterback, you may spend all of your draft capital in a devy draft on the position in order to ‘ensure’ that you have at least one incoming first round pick. Of course, correctly identifying which quarterback prospects are legitimate first round types is another trick altogether. The same holds true if you are weak at running back. Dynasty league teams can almost always use more talent at running back, something that makes running backs as coveted as quarterbacks in some superflex devy leagues. The easiest position to hit on, simply because of the demand for the position, is the wide receiver position. NFL caliber wide receivers playing at the college level are often very easy to identify, even if they play for bad teams. 

Recruit Heavy
The recruit heavy strategy has its merits, but also has its drawbacks. The main negative is that by focusing only on unproven incoming recruits that you open yourself to a lower ‘hit rate’ than you would see with juniors or seniors. You may also pass on clearly superior NFL prospects due to how well a incoming freshman player looked in high school. The main advantage of this strategy is that it allows you to often draft these top prospects before they start going for a premium. The top quarterback is likely to be a first round pick, but you may be able to snare the top wide receivers or running backs, in the second round, the third round, or beyond. 

Wide Net
The wide net strategy as far as it pertains to devy leagues calls for managers to make a point to draft at least one quarterback, running back, and wide receiver in each season’s devy draft. This a sound strategy meant to achieve balance. It should go without saying that your third-round pick should still be somewhat similarly ranked to your other third-round options. For example, if you chose to go running back in the first round and wide receiver in the second round, it is important to make sure that whichever quarterback you target in the third is a worthwhile investment. Every year there are quarterbacks (as well as running backs) who are NFL-level prospects who do not project to be drafted to start. Being able to identify these players and actively avoiding them, is critical to the success of the wide net strategy. 

Draft Class Stuffing
Draft class stuffing is when a devy manager focuses multiple devy drafts on a draft class 3-4 years out. This also works with classes two years out but is more common with freshmen classes. The 2023 class is expected to be much more loaded than its 2022 counterpart. This is something that has led to many devy managers focusing on that class instead, especially in non start-ups that may have already seen much of the 2021 class picked clean. Proponents of this strategy would exclusively target 2023 eligible prospects during their 2020, 2021, and 2022 devy drafts. Once 2023 comes around, this strategy would potentially give these managers nine or more of the top prospects from the class all at once, something that would instantaneously shift a pretender into a contender, or at least into a team with the trade assets to become one overnight. 

Final Thoughts

Every dynasty league manager should join at least one devy league this off-season. If you do not have the desire to set one up yourself, seek one out. Start by gauging interest with people you know personally, but if you do not have enough interest to form a full league, consider Safe Leagues, or simply search devy leagues on Twitter. Managers new to the format swear by it, with many becoming full converts. Veteran devy players should consider a Campus 2 Canton league. It is a fun and deep format that provides a brand new layer and depth of strategy. This is especially true if they play in devy IDP leagues. As discussed above, there are several strategies one could choose to employ for devy leagues, but with each league and startup roster being unique, there is no superior path. Opt for the strategy that makes the most sense for your particular set of circumstances. If you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out at @FantasyContext on Twitter.


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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyContext.

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