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Case Study: Dynasty Trades HQ Listener League – Productive Struggle

Have you ever wondered what went into creating a championship team? Over the next month, I will go through how I turned a team into a championship contender in two years. Here's part 1: The Start-Up.

Superflex Dynasty Start-up: May 2020

A productive struggle is where you punt the first year in a dynasty league and prioritize draft picks, younger players, and more stable positions. By punting the first year, you guarantee a high draft pick in the next rookie draft.

My strategy going into the start-up was to focus on trading back as much as possible to keep accumulating following year draft picks and multiple picks between rounds 8 through 10, drafting QBs, WRs, and TEs. I held off on drafting RBs unless they have the potential to increase value throughout the season. Also, I was graced with the 1.01 in the start-up, so in a Superflex league, you know who I had to draft! Now let’s get to the picks and trades:


  1. Patrick Mahomes, QB
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes was a slam dunk pick for a productive struggle team in a Superflex dynasty league because he is THE QB1, and his value is likely secure for at least five years, if not more.

Traded 2.12 & 3.01 FOR 3.12, 4.01, 2021 1st, 2021 2nd, and 2021 3rd

This trade ended up being a HUGE deal for my productive struggle team. The 2021 picks ended up being the 1.01 in the rookie draft next year, and I used the 2.12 and 3.01 to trade back further and accumulate more value.

 Traded 3.12 & 4.01 FOR 5.03, 7.03, & 8.10

I continued to trade back and accumulate value by moving two earlier picks for 3 middle picks and focusing on high upside players.

Traded 5.03 FOR 9.06, 2021 1st, and 2021 3rd

Another trade to move back and acquire more depth and upside picks. The 2021 1st became the 1.09, and you will have to stay tuned to see who I could pick with that pick…

Traded 7.01 FOR 9.09 & 10.04

This is the one trade that I do not like that I made. I did not receive enough to move back three rounds. Some potential players I could have picked at the 7.01 were Stefon Diggs, Deebo Samuel, Robert Woods, David Montgomery, Terry McLaurin, and Justin Jefferson. All of those players would have been infinitely better than who I ended up picking, which was Christian Kirk & N’Keal Harry. So the lesson learned is to never move back just to move back. Do it with intention.

7.03- Deebo Samuel

Photo: Cary Edmondson, USA Today Sports

Photo: Cary Edmondson, USA Today Sports

Deebo, this season has been legit, but back in the 2020 offseason, a lot was unknown. I picked Deebo because of his massive upside, which he has shown this season. The sad thing is I traded Deebo before the 2021 season…

Traded 8.08 FOR 15.11 & 2021 1st

This is an example of getting enough upside to move back multiple rounds. Just by adding a 2021 1st, my team’s potential going into the second season increased.

8.10- Evan Engram

During the 2020 offseason, I saw Evan Engram as a high upside TE with the potential to have his value increase, but I was wrong on this thought. This is a pick I am fine with at the time of the draft.

8.12- Marquise Brown

Marquise Brown was another high upside WR, and he proved to be a really solid pick for my team at the time.

9.05- Hunter Henry

9.06- Diontae Johnson

Credit: Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images.

Diontae Johnson has proved to be my top pick in the 9th round and for the same reason as I picked the other. I wanted high upside players, and it is important to remember that not all of them will hit, but if a couple of them hit along with rookie picks, your team can compete easily.

9.08- Derrius Guice

Guice was my top RB to draft in the later rounds because he was coming off of an injury and had a decent chance to have an explosion in value. But we all know how this story ends, and it did not work out for me. Another pick I am OK with, but it did not work out.

9.09- Christian Kirk

10.04- N’Keal Harry

10.12- Austin Hooper


11.01- Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben was a perfect pick for my team in the 11th round because QBs maintain their value as long as they are starting, and I expected Big Ben to play for at least two more years. My goal was to move Ben for a younger QB with more upside after the start-up draft.

11.08- Mecole Hardman

12.12- Curtis Samuel

13.01- Sony Michel

15.06- Eric Ebron

16.12- Tony Pollard

Traded 14.12 FOR 19.11 & 2021 3rd

Traded 15.01 FOR 20.06 & 2021 3rd

Traded 15.11 & 23.01 FOR 15.06

The three trades above are pointless trades that I should not have made (except for the last one because I had an excess in picks). A third-round pick a year out is not worth it to move back four rounds and really is just a wash trade. The only players that turned out to be fantasy-relevant in these trades were Ronald Jones and Darnell Mooney. So again, don’t make trades just to make them, instead focus on acquiring as much upside as possible. A couple of players I could have acquired at the 14th, and 15th turn were Parris Campbell, Adam Trautman, Darrell Henderson, Ronald Jones, or Nyheim Hines.


QB- Patrick Mahomes

RB- Ty Johnson

RB- Tony Pollard

WR- Diontae Johnson

WR- Christian Kirk

WR- Mecole Hardman

TE- Evan Engram

Flex- Deebo Samuel

Flex- Logan Thomas

Flex- Curtis Samuel

Superflex- Sam Darnold

As you can see, this starting roster is not winning any championships anytime soon, but the beauty of not having solid flex options and a starting RB is that you are destined to score fewer points, leading to a higher draft pick. Also, after the start-up draft, I had added 3-2021 1sts and 2-2021 2nds.


  1. The goal of performing a productive struggle is to acquire as much high upside value as possible. Also, do not be afraid of drafting veterans if you think you can move them before their value drops.
  2. Focus on drafting QBs and WRs with upside. I focused too much on drafting TEs in this start-up. It is not worth spending a lot of draft capital on TE because the position is a wasteland, especially in the middle of the pack with players like Engram and Hunter Henry.
  3. Do not trade back just to trade back instead. Always go for rookie picks in the 1st and 2nd round because you never know when they may turn into an early pick, and you improve your team quickly.
  4. I messed up by not taking a chance on high upside rookie picks during the draft. I should have taken a couple of chances on rookies in the middle rounds or saved an early pick and gotten a top WR like Ceedee Lamb. Do not draft a rookie RB unless you expect them to have a large increase in value.
  5. Lastly, one thing I have learned about performing a productive struggle is having a very good draft class the year after the start-up is crucial to a quick turnaround. The 2021 draft class was a fantastic one and 2023 is looking to be a similar strength, so start-ups this year are yet another good time to perform a productive struggle draft.

Part 2 will talk about the trades and waiver moves I made in the 2020 regular season to set myself up for the 2021 offseason.

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