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Win Now Dynasty Startup Strategy (2023 Fantasy Football)

by Bo McBrayer | @Bo_McBigTime | Featured Writer
Feb 23, 2023
Austin Ekeler

Don’t lie to yourself. You’re not playing fantasy football for any different reason than anyone else. Whether for money or glory, the intention behind drafting a team is winning. Dynasty leagues operate on the same exact premise but with more permanence and ripple consequences than redraft. Like the Cowboys in the 1990s or the Patriots in the 2000s, a dynasty is a sustained pattern of winning championships.

It’s a proven fact that a team cannot win multiple championships before winning the first one, so why doesn’t every dynasty fantasy football manager employ the “Win-Now” strategy in the startup draft? The simple answer is that there is a simultaneous obsession with hitting on successful rookie picks and a stigma around players who are “too old” to build around for the future. Drafting breakout rookies is the gold standard in boasting about one’s ability in dynasty. It simply makes you look really smart. At the same time, getting “stuck” with quickly depreciating veteran assets makes you look really dumb.

Expert Consensus 2023 Dynasty Superflex Rookie Draft Rankings: Top-50 >>

Win Now Dynasty Startup Strategy (2023 Fantasy Football)

Don’t Be a Lemming

Truthfully, veteran players hold a lot more value on a roster scoring fantasy points than in trades between managers. A real win-now roster will have a nice balance of young players on the rise and veterans with meaningful roles. Last season, I covered this topic here and brought up injury fears as a reason why dynasty managers will shun extremely talented players who score a ton of points when on the field. I mentioned those risk-averse managers who missed out on Austin Ekeler and Deebo Samuel breakouts in 2021 because they were “older” and “injury-prone.”

2022 was the year that many were kicking themselves that they wrote off a pair of generational RB talents because of injury history and watched their opponents hoist trophies thanks to Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. Tyler Lockett went from old and suffering a “downgrade” at QB to the greatest value at his average draft position (ADP) at the WR position. Even elite veterans like Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill slipped behind young stars Ja’Marr Chase and CeeDee Lamb in ADP, but each outscored them by nearly three points per game in PPR formats. Are the younger guys stronger assets for the next five to six seasons? Yes, but the preferred outlook window in dynasty is only two to three seasons. In dynasty startups, rookies are as overvalued as veterans are undervalued.

The honest truth is that the best football players will continue to get better each season, far past the arbitrary “age cliff” assigned to their respective position by some dynasty experts. While I do believe the data that is tied to age-related production, I also believe we shouldn’t apply it to every player. There needs to be a level of trust in one’s own player evaluations that supersedes the need to build a dynasty roster on ego.

For example, I was in love with Garrett Wilson last season and believed him to be the clear rookie WR1. At the same time, I placed his draft value in a startup well below second-year player DeVonta Smith. This went against the grain and rookie helium that didn’t compute well in my brain. Smith went on to score nearly three more fantasy points per game last season and is still quite young. This year, a few veteran players I will be looking for at a value include Daniel Jones, Najee Harris, JK Dobbins, DJ Moore, DeAndre Hopkins and George Kittle. Players like these, who have fantasy-friendly skills, don’t fade from prominence very quickly.

The Iron Stays Hot

This season brings another crop of young talent into the fray. Make no mistake, rookie fever will afflict the community. Before blindly clicking the draft button, do some comparative analysis to support it. Ask yourself whether a player’s age really matters over the next two to three seasons. Winning now also demands more emphasis on building around players in good situations. A lot of smart people invested in Jalen Hurts when he was a “questionable passer” because he was surrounded by excellent coaching and a talented roster. Others invested in Kyler Murray, who has a boatload of talent and contract stability, but is now on an island in the desert representing a dysfunctional-at-best franchise while recovering from an ACL injury. It could turn around quickly for Murray and sour for Hurts the same, but drafting to win now means you must gravitate to stability and certainty.

Talent wins championships in real and fantasy football. There really isn’t one strategy that works better than the other, but patterns exist that demonstrate that dynasty managers don’t always draft their rosters in the best interest of winning. It really is simple. Build a startup roster that has the best players who will stay healthy and score the most points, but don’t forget about the ones who have already demonstrated the ability.

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