The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and we'll have you covered with everything dynasty fantasy football as you prepare for your startup and rookie drafts. We'll have several dynasty strategy articles similar to this as well as dynasty veteran and rookie profiles, featured rankings, and ways to engage with our analysts in our upcoming 2022 Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit.
“Scared money don’t make no money.” My reputation as a risk-taker in dynasty circles has developed exponentially over the last few years. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever personally used the exact quote from Young Jeezy (or was it Meek Mill?). I think I’ve used the Herm Edwards GIF the most. “You play to win the game! Hello?!” Since free dynasty leagues are the biggest waste of time since Candy Crush, most of us are putting real, inflated dollars on the line. We play dynasty to win money. Winning isn’t easy, especially when the NFL is pure chaos every day of the calendar year. But, it’s still our ultimate goal.
The startup draft is the manager’s jumping-off point and lays the foundation to build upon going forward in the dynasty. Every single move can affect the future, like every cliched movie with time travel. The win-now strategy is the most daring in a dynasty startup draft. Age? Doesn’t matter. Injury-prone? Doesn’t exist. Bright future? I want it now. Win-now is my favorite avenue for dynasty startups. There are a few essential keys to a successful startup, so we’re winning now and next year. It isn’t for the faint of heart, nor the risk-averse. If you have the intestinal fortitude to lace up the wings of wax, we’re gonna flap to the sun until the feathers fall off.
Score the Most Points (Duh)
It drives me up a wall to witness some of the finest dynasty experts drop a player in their rankings because they missed a few games with injury, especially if it wasn’t catastrophic. We all know about the most productive fantasy players in the NFL who have missed time the last couple of years or played poorly through pain. If you were drafting scared last year, you would have missed on huge seasons by Austin Ekeler, Dalvin Cook, and Antonio Gibson. Heck, you would have whiffed on Deebo freaking Samuel. Joe Burrow too. The names have changed this offseason, but the sentiment is the same. Draft the players who will score the most points per game when (not if) active.
It’s a redraft mindset, but dynasty players should keep the short-term in their coat pocket. Pay attention to the league scoring format and roster settings. Build tiered player rankings based on expected points per game this season. Chances are they won’t change much for next year either. And while your opponents are fawning over rookies who might take all year to see significant playing time or develop their game to a professional level, draft on what you know. Most NFL teams play favorites when it comes to veterans on the depth chart. More snaps equal more fantasy points. As much as we wanted Javonte Williams to send Melvin Gordon into the sunset, Gordon outscored the talented rookie by 1.0 fantasy points per game in 2021.
Draft by Situation Over Age
Winning now doesn’t equate to neglecting talented youth for a bunch of grizzled veterans. Get your guys. I have my eye on a handful of the 2022 rookies, some of whom will come at a bargain for their perceived upside this season. It’s no secret that some NFL teams are starving at key positions and will look to quell those needs through the draft. The Detroit Lions lost Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones last offseason, which led to a breakout season for fourth-round receiver Amon-Ra St Brown. For example, St Brown was available much later in startup drafts than Kadarius Toney and Rashod Bateman. Those receivers are still valuable pieces but didn’t help anyone win trophies last year because they weren’t put in a position to do so as rookies. Remember, every pick in startups matters for this year in the win-now strategy (even the later ones).
Conversely, throwing darts in the later rounds on fading veterans is not taboo if trying to win now. Once a receiver turns 30 years old, he doesn’t die or forget how to play football. A 27-year-old running back is no more prone to injuries than a 22-year-old. They play the same game on the same field, and experience is extremely valuable. Injuries are incredibly variable, random, and inevitable. I will have a bunch of Julio Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, and Zach Ertz in dynasty startups for 2022. They are players who have been left for dead by fearful ageists. Each one is going multiple rounds later than their per-game scoring dictates. They are also players who will command full-time work when healthy, without the threat of relinquishing their role with their team.
Read the Room
We have all heard the analogy that dynasty is like the stock market. It’s true. Dynasty is also a lot like poker. Every card has a value that is both real and imaginary. The game is dripping with a nuanced strategy to squeeze as much value out of every transaction possible. The startup draft is the first opportunity to read opponents; to figure out what type of players they are. Everything is a move. Everyone has a tell. Understand yours and master the art of covering it up. Master the science of understanding your opponents’ needs and exploiting them. When the goal is to win now, every move should improve the ability to win now. Not neutral, not for compiling future assets, but points on the board for wins on the schedule this year. If an opponent snipes a coveted player, plan a way to acquire that player before the draft is over as to not allow them to become emotionally attached. Startup picks are like fence posts in wet cement. They’re a lot easier to extract before the cement dries.
Every dynasty manager has a cold-hearted assassin within them who oozes the “mamba mentality.” Play the game to win. The competitive spirit of dynasty is its allure. It is a beautiful mix of risk and reward, with many routes to the trophy. The cutthroat aggression of the win-now strategy is arguably the straightest line from startup draft to glory and often my preferred method of building a roster.
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