Spring is a wonderful time to begin a dynasty startup league. With NFL free agency past its peak and the NFL Draft still weeks away, now is a great time to start on the dynasty journey.
If you’ve got a dynasty startup league getting underway soon, you’ve come to the right place. In this piece, I’ll walk you through a full dynasty startup mock draft, providing my thought process for every pick to give you a sense of my overarching strategy. This mock draft is for a 12-team, 2QB, PPR league, so quarterback will certainly be emphasized early on.
Without further ado, let’s get into the picks. For any more questions on dynasty startups or your current dynasty team, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @RealMattBarbato with questions.
- Dynasty Trade Value Chart
- Derek Brown’s Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers
- Dynasty Rookie Draft Pick Trade Strategy & Advice
Dynasty Startup Mock Draft
Round 1, Pick 6: Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI)
This is a two quarterback league, not a superflex, which means I have to start two quarterbacks every week. While picking sixth allows me to avoid runs at positions, I want to start by landing a franchise passer. With Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen already off the board, I’ll roll with Hurts.
Hurts has proven me wrong the last couple of seasons, developing into a better passer than I imagined. He’s got the weapons and stability along the offensive line to be a top-tier QB for years to come. I chose him over Joe Burrow because of his rushing upside.
Round 2, Pick 7: Justin Fields (QB – CHI)
Quarterback is deep from a redraft standpoint, but in dynasty leagues, the position gets shallow pretty quick. I had the choice of Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott and Kyler Murray, among others. I feel there’s a relatively decent drop off from Fields and Lawrence to the rest of this group, which is filled with uncertainty.
Fields has the highest ceiling left on the board, and I could see a massive jump in his fantasy production during year three. Chicago still needs to fortify his protection, but they added D.J. Moore via trade and they are armed with some draft capital to keep building the offense. With Hurts and Fields on board, I can start attacking the deeper positions.
Round 3, Pick 6: Stefon Diggs (WR – BUF)
Dynasty leagues can sometimes get a little ageist, as it feels like players always defer to the younger alternative. But sometimes you just need a proven commodity you can trust, and Diggs is exactly that. Is he almost 30? Sure, but he’s also a lock for 100 catches, 1,200 yards, and double-digit touchdowns when healthy. More importantly, he’s connected to an elite QB. I should be able to bank on Diggs playing at this level for at least a few more years.
Round 4, Pick 7: Tony Pollard (RB – DAL)
Is Tony Pollard a first-round pick in a redraft league? I don’t think so. But in the fourth round of a dynasty league, count me in. Pollard’s only 25 and will experience the largest workload of his career with Ezekiel Elliott departing as a post-June 1 cut. Now, a bigger workload can be a double-edged sword, as Pollard’s durability could become more questionable. Plus, he’s coming off a broken fibula suffered in the playoffs. But with no Elliott to vulture TDs, Pollard feels like a low-end RB1 every week, with upside for more.
Pollard is a good building block for a dynasty squad, and he’s an example of the younger running backs I prefer to target earlier in these drafts. Shoot, that makes me a fantasy football ageist too, doesn’t it?
Round 5, Pick 6: Christian Watson (WR – GB)
I saw enough from Watson in his rookie season to think there’s room for him to grow into a really strong player. He’s got big play ability if nothing else. And while he’s a more volatile WR2, he’s a good player to pair with the steady Diggs. We just need to hope Jordan Love is decent to help unlock Watson’s potential.
Round 6, Pick 7: Jameson Williams (WR – DET)
Why not shoot for the moon? I fell in love with Williams during his final year at Alabama, during which he unfortunately suffered a torn ACL that cost him most of his rookie season. The Lions brought him back slowly, and we at least saw a glimpse (literally, one glimpse) of what Williams’ talent can offer fantasy managers. He has Tyreek Hill-like speed, and I don’t use that comparison lightly. A full year removed from his injury, I’m expecting the Lions to deploy him as a downfield threat alongside Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Round 6, Pick 6: Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
Just a year ago, Akers was one of the hottest commodities in dynasty leagues. He started 2022 on a terrible note and was nearly let go. But then something flipped, and Akers finished the final six weeks of the season as the RB4 on a Rams offense that was without Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp.
I’m willing to buy that Akers flipped the switch in the second half of the year, especially considering how far he fell out of favor with Sean McVay. The draft could change this, but Akers has a clear path to the starting role with little resistance on the depth chart. Could Akers burn me once again? Definitely. But he’s a talented, 23-year-old back who still could be a great buy-low candidate.
I took Akers over the likes of Miles Sanders (changing teams, massive regression candidate), Alvin Kamara (could face a suspension) and David Montgomery (nobody is repeating Jamaal Williams‘ year, but definitely not Monty).
Round 7, Pick 7: Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)
Well, uh, this is awkward. I really hope Alvin Kamara didn’t read what I just wrote about him. If he did, allow me to reverse course. Alvin Kamara is a tremendous value in the seventh round! And I’m not just saying that to flatter him. I genuinely didn’t expect him to be available this late.
Did you know Kamara is just 27 years old? While the cliff is certainly approaching, Kamara’s style of play should give him a longer shelf life than the between-the-tackle plodders. I also really like the addition of Derek Carr to the offense for Kamara’s value, as Carr is unafraid of checking the ball down a million times.
There is the issue with the possible suspension, but I’ve got a coverage plan in case he is out multiple games. As my RB3, the risk associated with Kamara is much smaller. Plus, Kamara’s pass-catching chops will come in handy with PPR scoring.
Round 8, Pick 6: Brian Robinson Jr. (RB – WSH)
I was saddened to see that Khalil Herbert, one of my favorite mid-round dynasty options, was taken before this pick. This forces me to pivot to Robinson, who is a decent consolation prize. Robinson is more of an old school, early down tailback, and he probably won’t catch many passes with Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic still around. But I chose Robinson over Isiah Pacheco because Robinson’s workload feels more stable, even though Washington’s offense doesn’t offer nearly as much upside as that of Kansas City.
As our Andrew Erickson points out, Robinson could also be a prime candidate for some better touchdown fortune. “Robinson finishes the fantasy regular season 13th in carries, but with just two rushing TDs. His 14 carries from inside the 10-yard line were the most of any player to score fewer than three rushing TDs.”
Robinson is a fine plug-and-play option in the event of an injury.
Round 9, Pick 7: Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR – CLE)
Peoples-Jones is like a really good movie trailer: I like what I saw and want to see more. He quietly caught 61 of his 96 targets for 839 yards and three scores. He’s only 24 and with better consistency and efficiency, he could finish the year as a solid WR3 with weekly upside.
Round 10, Pick 6: Pat Freiermuth (TE – PIT)
Drafting tight ends is like a child when presented with vegetables. You never want to eat them, but you know you have to. Freiermuth is completely competent and maybe has a decent ceiling, considering the wasteland at the position. Hopefully he develops a good rapport in year two with Kenny Pickett.
Now where’s my dessert for eating my veggies?
Round 11, Pick 7: Jordan Love (QB – GB)
Aaron Rodgers will get traded at some point, and the Packers are hitching their wagons to the former first-round pick who seemingly fractured the relationship between Rodgers and the team. Nobody knows what to expect out of Love in his first full audition as the team’s starter. If Love breaks out, I have an excellent problem on my hands with (hopefully) three good starting QBs. Love could wind up being a great trade piece down the road. If he stinks, then I cut bait and move on just like the Packers will.
The stakes are a bit higher for Green Bay, though.
Round 12, Pick 6: Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
Would you rather have Michael Thomas or Alec Pierce on a fantasy team? That’s the question I’m presented with in Round 12. To me, the choice is obvious. At this stage in the draft, no receiver on the board presents better upside than Thomas, who it seems the fantasy market has just given up on.
Thomas burnt me last year, and I totally recognize that it could happen again. But if he can just stay healthy, he could thrive with Derek Carr under center. And by thrive, all I mean is play most of his games and finish as a WR2. The ceiling’s certainly higher than that, but we have to start with baby steps.
Round 13, Pick 7: Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV)
Maybe I’m dumb. I guess I should’ve said that earlier in the piece. But Renfrow is a player I like and he’s a high-floor receiver for my team that’s filled with more boom-or-bust assets. Renfrow will work with another checkdown king in Jimmy Garoppolo, and the departure of Darren Waller means the middle of the field is entirely his. I’ll go for the bounce back this late in the draft.
Round 14, Pick 6: Hassan Haskins (RB – TEN)
It’s the last round in a dynasty league draft. While you shouldn’t punt this pick, you also shouldn’t expect to get much out of it. In this situation, I’m looking for players whose roles could suddenly change for the better, and Haskins fits the description. Maybe Derrick Henry is truly invincible, but one injury would have Haskins in line for a big workload. If nothing else, he’s a handcuff and trade bait for the Henry owner who’s cussing you out for taking him.
Draft Grade: C- (71/100)
Well, this makes me a sad panda. I understand why this team might not be a title contender in 2023. But remember, we’re playing the long game here. And this team possesses a ton of long-term upside that might arrive sooner than my colleagues think!