An Introduction To Dynasty Football
There is no doubt that fantasy football is addicting. From start to finish, it is full of twists and turns that leave you wanting more after your 16 weeks are over. Most people start out with standard, 12-team redraft leagues. Sometimes leagues are even as shallow as 8-10 teams. For me, after I won my first championship or two, I started getting the feeling that this wasn’t enough. So, I began to dabble in daily fantasy sports (DFS) tournaments such as DraftKings. This gave an all-new challenge with setting a team based on budget, but your chances of winning big money going up against thousands of other players in DFS is often slim-to-none. So what is the happy medium here? What presents a unique challenge that offers ongoing involvement year in and year out? Dynasty Leagues.
Over my 10+ years playing fantasy football, I was always intrigued but slightly intimidated by the concept of dynasty leagues. Guys in dynasty leagues just seem so experienced and more grizzled like salty sea captains hanging out at seaside dive bars. Everything seems so permanent. Every move in dynasty bears more weight than in a redraft league. Every add, drop and trade has a more significant, long-term impact compared to a redraft league. In dynasty, there is no offseason. Your players are your players until your league burns to the ground.
I decided to finally join the dark side of fantasy when I saw a random post on Twitter that John Moeser of DynastyTradeCalculator.com had co-created this concept called “Dynasty Origins” and he was looking for teams to fill a league. What brought me to decide that I was comfortable joining was the fact that these leagues were only available to people who have no previous experience in a dynasty league. It was the perfect introduction for dynasty greenhorns just like me.
Here is a quick Q&A session that Moeser and I compiled that should help answer questions some of you may have if you have been considering jumping into your first dynasty league.
Question – When did you first start the “Dynasty Origins” project and what drove you to take it on?
John – Dynasty Origins is brand new, started in June of this year. Like 99% of your readers, I started my fantasy career in a standard redraft, but it didn’t take me long to realize it wasn’t close enough to the NFL GM experience I was hoping for. I needed an extra dimension, so I tried a keeper league, and then formed my first dynasty league shortly after.
After the first year, I knew dynasty was more my speed and did everything I could to convince my other league-mates that dynasty was the way to go. Even now, dynasty is considered a niche format, but to me, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to GMing and therefore should be more mainstream. To that end, I continue on my conversion mission on Twitter, espousing the merits of dynasty to anyone who will listen.
The catalyst for the Origins idea came in a @TheKaceyKasem Twitter thread where I saw she’d previously avoided dynasty leagues because of how many complicated formats and permutations dynasty has adopted over the years, but would consider joining a basic league to dip her toes in. This sentiment is hardly uncommon for redraft folks. I’ve run twitter polls in the past asking redrafters what was holding them back from trying dynasty, and the majority of voters were either intimidated by the format or didn’t know how to find a league. So I thought if I removed both of those obstacles for redrafters, I might be able to convert some of them.
The best way I could think of to do that was to start a league only for first-timers. If everyone starts at the same ground level, you’re learning together, and should reduce or eliminate that feeling like you’re going to be chum in the water for the experienced sharks. So I offered to commish a basic style league for anyone wanting to take the plunge, thinking I’d maybe fill one 12-team league. With the help of many retweeters, the response was tremendous. It turns out this format is exactly what the hesitant folks were waiting for.
Question – How many leagues have you created and what has the general takeaway been from new owners?
John – With the help of John Bosch (@EmpireFFL), we’ve been able to fill 4 Origins leagues, with a 5th one on the way! So far, I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the new owners. Even though they have yet to play out the regular season, they’re all immediately seeing what all the fuss is about: THERE IS NO OFFSEASON. Dynasty is the chess to redraft’s checkers. Since they are now truly owning their teams instead of renting them, they have to view every decision with a long-term lens or feel the repercussions for years to come. If you’re a year-round football enthusiast, there’s no better format for you.
Question – What do you expect is the average lifespan of these dynasty leagues?
John – It’s a guessing game at this point, but I have a good feeling about the owners that are in them. The enthusiasm may be attributed to the honeymoon phase, but they all remind me of myself when I first got into it, and I’m still going strong with 10 leagues! The plan all along was to set the leagues up, run it the first year, then hand over the reigns to a new commish to take it from there. Once that happens, it’s up to them how they want to run things. I do hope they are all in Origins for the long haul, but my main motivation is to evangelize them to spread the dynasty word, and maybe inspire them to join more leagues next season!
Question – Where can our readers find you to sign up for an Origins league?
John – Hit me up on Twitter (@DTC_JohnMoeser) and I’ll add you to my tracker. I’ll keep it going all year so don’t worry about missing the 2018 boat, we’ll be back with new leagues as soon as the offseason rolls around!
Dynasty Draft Prep
Your dynasty startup draft is more complex than a standard redraft league as dynasty leagues force you to open a new channel of thought when analyzing a player. You need to consider age and long-term performance of not only the players but the teams as a whole. You should even consider researching contract situations when you’re drafting players so that you kind of know, this guy is likely going to produce consistently on this team for “X” amount of years or is he likely to become a free agent soon and thus have his value significantly altered. For contract information, I have used Spotrac.com extensively so far.
I posted the question on Twitter that I was entering my first dynasty startup league and was looking for tips and advice for my first draft. I was overwhelmed with the amount of responses thanks to some friendly retweets. Many contradicted each other. Some say age is everything, others say it’s not important. Some say reach for an elite quarterback, others say to wait so long that it makes your league-mates eyes roll.
The best advice I received came from some of my fellow Gridiron Experts contributors in our Slack chat which was, “Think 3 years out.” Basically, thinking of what each individual player’s value is for the next 3 years gives you a good opportunity to both win now and build for the future.
My takeaway from all the advice made my general approach to the draft actually quite similar to a redraft league. I like to have a balanced team. So my strategy heading into the draft is a balance of proven players with immediate value and high-upside that can create a team that is capable of winning now while also focusing on rookie and second-year players who have yet to peak in performance. After a few mock drafts using FantasyPros.com’s dynasty mock draft tool, I was ready.
The draft for this league is much larger than a standard redraft league. This is a 12-team league but the draft is a 24 round gauntlet with no kickers or defenses. That means that we are about to go through a process of analyzing and debating between 288 total offensive skill position players.
The Draft: Early Rounds
The first two rounds of the draft were not much different from what you see in redraft leagues. A couple of standout differences were that Odell Beckham Jr. was selected before Antonio Brown as the overall WR1 based on age difference. I got AB with the 8th overall pick in the first round. Using the “3 Year” rule, I think AB is a safe bet to have at least two more elite seasons as long as Ben Roethlisberger stays on the field.
I selected Melvin Gordon at pick 2.05. Gordon is right in the middle of his prime at 25 years old and should continue to have a solid workload. He was also the first-ever running back to have his 5th-year option picked up recently, according to Warren Sharp.
My thoughts this early in the draft were focused on building my team to win right now, and if I was aiming for youth this early, I preferred someone with at least a season or two under their belts. I grabbed Jarvis Landry with pick 3.08 as the overall WR16. Landry is still only 25 years old and has already proven so much. To me, this was worth a high pick based on his previous success, potential future success, and youth on his side. Even if he is on the Browns now.
I took a quarterback fairly early, selecting Russell Wilson in the 4th round. Wilson just finished as the QB1 last season and has been a top-3 option in three of the last four seasons. He is just entering his age 30 season this year and I expect him to continue to perform at a high level for at least 5 more years. I’m paying full price for Wilson taking him as the overall QB3 but, in a dynasty league I would rather have an elite option rather than wait and settle.
I was able to nab LeSean McCoy and Lamar Miller at the 5/6 round turn as my RB2 and Flex. McCoy has passed his prime but is still handling a bell-cow workload and is signed with the Bills for the next two seasons. Miller is slightly passed “prime age” at 27 years old, but still has two years on his current contract as well. The Texans offense as a whole should be in for a huge increase in production over the next few years with Deshaun Watson under center and I am expecting a bit of a bounce-back season from Miller in 2018. With a combo of proven backs filling my starting RB spots and Miller in my Flex, this buys me about 2 years to groom younger replacements on my bench.
With the draft about 30% complete, I rounded out my veteran starters with Michael Crabtree in the 7th round and Jimmy Graham in the 8th. Both of these guys have been touchdown machines in recent years and in a .5 PPR league, that is especially worth something. Graham’s peaks and valleys worry me a little from last season, but I am hoping for a bounce back from him with Aaron Rodgers now throwing him the ball. Rodgers was able to force 8 touchdowns out of tight end Richard Rodgers as recent as 2015 so I feel like Graham can have some success there. Kyle Rudolph was my ideal pick here but he was taken just before my turn. I’m planning on addressing a younger tight end rather soon due to the durability concerns that surround Graham.
At this point in the draft, I was ready to start prioritizing youth as I have a solid core of proven veterans. That was before Kirk Cousins and his man van rolled into my driveway at pick 9.08. I already have Russell Wilson, so my first thought was to still pick a younger receiver. Nelson Agholor was on my mind. When I weighed the long-term benefits of both though, I had to take Cousins. He came off the board as the QB10 in our league which seems low to me. Cousins has been a top-8 QB in fantasy each of the last three seasons and just signed a very secure, $84 million contract with the Vikings.
It’s amazing to think we haven’t even seen Kirk Cousins peak yet. Now with more weapons than ever in the passing game with Diggs, Thielen and Rudolph, a promising young running game led by Dalvin Cook, and a top defense behind him, Kirk could be on his way to a Super Bowl sooner rather than later. With Wilson and Cousins locked in, I can pretty much ignore QB till the last couple rounds of the draft. This also buys me a few years of waiting for a younger QB to take the place of these guys way down the line.
The Draft: Mid-Rounds
Now I was truly set to target some younger guys. My core was built great for a team that could win now easily, but I could be in trouble a few years down the road without younger prospects. The league leaned heavy toward youth early so I am behind the trend on this for now. With my next six picks, I went young, adding depth to each skill position.
For wideouts I added rookie Courtland Sutton at 10.05 as the overall WR47 and last year’s rookie surprise Keelan Cole all the way down at 15.08 as WR70. Sutton was a great grab in the 10th round as he was a first-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts this season. This looks like the last season in Denver for Demaryius Thomas and Sutton is poised to be the incumbent WR1 there in the future.
Sutton was a popular pick amongst my league-mates. I have already fielded trade offers for him and could wind up flipping him along with a future draft pick for a younger running back like Rashaad Penny or Derrius Guice. The future outlook at QB in Denver is pretty bleak at the moment and worries me a little.
Keelan Cole led the Jaguars with 748 receiving yards last season and finished as the WR48 overall in PPR leagues. He’s a big play threat who could make a second-year leap that I feel presented great value in the 15th round.
At the running back position in the heart of the draft here, I decided to add insurance to some of my starting running backs by grabbing D’Onta Foreman at 11.08 and Austin Ekeler at 14.05. Foreman is coming off a brutal injury but showed some serious potential before going down last season. There was even speculation the team could flip Lamar Miller if Foreman were healthy. Foreman’s dynasty ADP on FantasyFootballCalculator.com is in the mid-7th round, so I saw nothing but value grabbing him in the 11th.
Ekeler is a player I am really high on this season and even wrote about him in our “Late Round RB’s to Stash” article earlier this season. Ekeler could fight for standalone value this season as a Flex option and also provides me a solid handcuff to Melvin Gordon.
I loaded up on more young talent by selecting tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins at 12.05 as the overall TE18 and rookie Hayden Hurst at 13.08 as TE20. These are probably two of my favorite picks of the entire draft.
ASJ finally had a baby-breakout last season with the Jets. He was ranked top-10 amongst tight ends on PlayerProfiler.com in overall target share (9th), end zone target share (9th), red zone target share (5th), contested catch rate (6th) and target separation (5th).
Hayden Hurst is a first-round draft pick coming into an overhauled Ravens offense. This is a do-or-die season for Joe Flacco who has always loved targeting tight ends. As FantasyPros.com’s Mike Tagliere noted in his “2019 Starters to Stash” article, “Joe Flacco has loved his tight ends over the last few years, targeting them a combined 285 targets for 214 receptions, 1,740 yards, and 10 touchdowns.”
The Draft: Late Rounds
Now with the majority of the draft over, it’s time to start looking deep for upside plays. In rounds 16-24, there was still a ton of value in my opinion and it made me feel great about leaning towards focusing on solid, proven veteran talent early in the draft. You get a rookie draft every year, so there is always recurring opportunity to add young talent.
At quarterback, I was tempted to just stand pat with Wilson and Cousins and focus solely on more depth at other positions. After conversing with others regarding the situation such as my Gridiron Experts BFF and Fantasy Football 24/7 podcast host, Derek Brown, I decided to add Andy Dalton at pick 19.08 as the overall QB31. Dalton hasn’t been great the last two years, but many forget he was an early candidate for league MVP back in 2015 before his season was ended short. In that year, Dalton’s 18.8 average fantasy points per game matched the great Aaron Rodgers. Dalton is still only 30 years old. I love the upside he gives me as a bench stash and if I ever wanted to try and flip one of my top QB’s for a nice return, Dalton offers some insurance.
At running back, I took Spencer Ware (16.05/RB63), Corey Grant (18.05/RB74), LeGarrette Blount (22.05/RB90) and De’Angelo Henderson (23.08/RB97).
Of these picks, Spencer Ware was my absolute favorite. I was even eyeing him a round or two earlier than this. Ware is only one season removed from rushing for 921 yards with the Chiefs back in 2016 and would be locked in as the starter still this season if Kareem Hunt didn’t lead the league in rushing last season.
Ware will find playing time a little difficult this season but, he is one of the top handcuffs in the league. Ware also becomes an unrestricted free agent next year and could find himself in a solid starting role somewhere else. I find it hard to believe he will be content staying in Kansas City playing second fiddle to Hunt for the rest of his career. Ware isn’t young as far as RB’s are concerned at 26 years old but, there are only 328 total touches on the odometer over his four-year career. There’s still plenty of tread on those tires.
Drafting LeGarrette Blount never feels great, but if you’re going to use a pick on a plodding, 31-year-old running back, the 22nd round seems like a good time to do it. Blount offers moderate value as a handcuff and could surprise some now that he is reunited with former Patriots coach, Matt Patricia.
Jaguars OC Nathaniel Hackett has expressed a desire to get Corey Grant more involved on the offense, as Rotoworld.com has noted. Grant’s real value though is as a solid handcuff to Leonard Fournette who came into the league with injury concerns from college. Grant averaged a solid 6.65 YPC in limited action last season.
De’Angelo Henderson seems like a long shot for fantasy relevance at the moment. Henderson was impressive in preseason last year, however, and Devontae Booker continues to constantly underwhelm. Henderson is a dark horse for change-of-pace work behind Royce Freeman in my opinion.
Since I have Jimmy Graham as my main TE1 and his long-term use is somewhat questionable, I selected Titans tight end Jonnu Smith at pick 21.08 as the overall TE32. Smith is a 92nd percentile SPARQ athlete on PlayerProfiler.com. He is clearly behind Delanie Walker as the team’s lead tight end, however, at 34 years old, Walker is tied as the second oldest tight end in the league behind only Ben Watson (37). If Walker were to miss time, Jonnu Smith could be a huge contributor and is the future of the tight end position for the Titans.
Towards the end of the draft here, I looked for youth and future upside with my last wide receiver picks. I took Taywan Taylor (17.08/WR76), D.J. Chark (20.05/WR89) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (24.05/WR111) to finish my WR group.
Taywan Taylor is a player I am high on even in redraft as a potential second-year breakout this season. Taylor has drawn rave reviews in camp and is expected to be featured this season in three-wide sets. With Rishard Matthews banged up most of the preseason and Corey Davis still needing to prove his worth as a former first-round draft pick, Taylor could see more work than expected to open the season and is a sleeper for WR3 value. Taylor caught my eye in limited action last season and also faired very well in Matt Harmon’s “Reception Perception” entering last season.
With Chark and Valdes-Scantling I was enticed by the speed of each. They were the top-2 fastest wideouts in the combine this year with Chark recording a 4.34 second 40-yard dash and Marquez recording a 4.37 second 40. Chark is a second-round draft pick and has been noted as one of the most impressive receivers in a crowded group at Jaguars camp.
Valdes-Scantling has reportedly made strides in camp after a rough Spring. After the Packers group of rookie receivers got called out by Aaron Rodgers for not performing in practice, Valdes-Scantling exploded for 5 catches, 101 yards and a TD in the preseason opener. If Marquez makes the team, his speed as a deep threat could come in handy with Rodgers throwing the ball. The path to an active role in Green Bay is more open than it’s been in a long time. Davante Adams is the only sure thing there right now with Jordy Nelson gone, Randall Cobb constantly banged up and Geronimo Allison largely unproven as the incumbent WR3.
The Final Thoughts
Here is a breakdown of my squad by position:
- Russell Wilson
- Kirk Cousins
- Andy Dalton
- Melvin Gordon
- LeSean McCoy
- Lamar Miller
- D’Onta Foreman
- Austin Ekeler
- Spencer Ware
- Corey Grant
- LeGarrette Blount
- De’Angelo Henderson
- Antonio Brown
- Jarvis Landry
- Michael Crabtree
- Courtland Sutton
- Keelan Cole
- Taywan Taylor
- D.J. Chark
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling
- Jimmy Graham
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins
- Hayden Hurst
- Jonnu Smith
I am very happy with how this team turned out. I think there is a great balance of proven veterans and young talent with high upside which was my goal entering the draft. The process of doing a draft this long was a great experience. With dynasty league startup drafts, you really have to dive deeper than you do with a casual redraft league. Researching contract situations and evaluating teams by age and trying to predict each team’s outlook 5 years down the road or more in some cases was a real eye-opening experience.
This brings all the excitement and nerves back that I had when I first started doing redraft leagues over 10 years ago. Ron Corkern, a league-mate of mine even said after the draft that he has been playing fantasy football for 23 years and he is pumped. I don’t know why I waited this long to join my first dynasty league, but I am so glad I finally did.
If you have never had a chance to get into a dynasty startup or you feel like you need more of a challenge than the same old redraft leagues you have been doing every year, don’t hesitate to dive right in. Hit up John Moeser on Twitter and get involved!
John Ferguson is an avid fantasy football fanatic with 10+ years of experience in competitive leagues and DFS. Ferguson specializes in draft strategies, trade negotiations (Buy Low/Sell High), DFS value picks, and sports betting amongst other parts of football analysis. He follows the Oakland Athletics closely as a diehard fan and enjoys spending quality time with his beautiful wife and three children. A native of Monterey, California, Ferguson now calls Quintana Roo, Mexico home.