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How to Play Dynasty Fantasy Football | Vol 1: The Basics

Thinking about dipping your toes into the cool clear waters of dynasty fantasy football? Enter here.
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So you’re thinking about dipping your toes in with dynasty fantasy football.  You want to find out what all the fuss is about, but you have questions on how to play dynasty fantasy football

You have questions, we have answers. 

DynastyNerds will be running this series over the next few months to give you a quick primer into the ins and out of dynasty fantasy football, and a roadmap for newcomers to the format.  We love dynasty, and we know you will too, so we’re going to share our experience and make it easy to jump in with both feet.  

So, First Up- Why Dynasty?

There are as many answers for this as there are dynasty fantasy football players.  But here are some things people told me when I asked: 

If you love fantasy football enough, dynasty gives you the full experience, almost like owning a team. You can make trades in the offseason and actually look forward to incoming rookie classes and the draft more. (If you’re not that into college, this may change that)

Nick C

If you do it right you don’t have to work to draft “your guys” each year. You already got em. But most of all trading. All year round having an idea of player value and maximizing your opinion of where those values are heading.

Ben C

The best parts about dynasty are there is no off-season, trading, and even in a down year you can still be fully engaged and make moves for the future. Competing teams make moves for a run at the title and rebuilding teams can acquire assets to help build their foundation.

Kyle B

A wise man once said, even if you’re losing in dynasty, you’re still winning. It’s fun to look forward to making your rookie picks and building your team through trades that can impact your team for the long term.

Al D

Dynasty is the best thing that’s happened to me other than meeting my fiancé and beating cancer. It makes redraft seem like the JV and Dynasty is the Varsity. Redraft starts in August. Dynasty is ALL YEAR LONG! Even when you’re losing you’re winning

Alexa D

In short- it adds more drafting, more trading, more ways to go about winning, and more excuses to watch football. 

That either sounds great to you or it doesn’t! If it does, you’re in the right place.

2019 NFL Draft (SB Nation)

Dynasty v. Keepers v Redrafts

You might have heard these terms, but they can be confusing. Let’s clarify.

Redraft is what players who play in alternate formats call “normal” fantasy leagues. You draft a team in August; you play with ten or twelve of your friends; there’s a waiver wire, there are some trades, and if you play well you make the playoffs. You win or you lose and the next year you do it all over again.  

keeper league is essentially what it sounds like. It’s like a redraft league in that you draft a new team each year but you also keep a certain number of your players from one season to the next. The number of players varies from just a few to as many as you want, and there are many different ways of handling a “cost” for the keepers, from missing the pick you had previously chosen them with, to an additional penalty, to no cost at all. Each league handles keepers differently. Often in a keeper league, you can make off-season trades and/or trade your draft picks as well.   

In a dynasty league, you have a “startup draft” in which teams are drafted, and those teams are generally very deep, often with 25 or more players each. Each year, the league has a “rookie draft” in which incoming rookies are drafted- quite like the NFL draft- and that’s it! You build your team through the draft and through trades. Rookie draft picks are often traded, adding an element to the game that’s not part of redraft.   

In Dynasty, You’re Always Winning!

FF Champion Ring (Pintrest)

In a redraft league that went poorly those last weeks of the season seem like a waste of your time. You set your lineup so as not to be a jerk to your league mates, but once it’s clear you’re on the outside of the playoffs looking in, there’s not much to do.

In dynasty, even when you’re losing, you can win. You can make trades to improve your ailing team a lot more easily than in redraft; players are more willing to move assets because most understand that trading is essential to winning. It’s not unheard of to start 0-5 and make the playoffs or even take down the ‘ship- just play smart and make moves.

Even when it’s clear you’re not going to take home the pot there’s always a way to progress and improve your team.  You can trade your aging vets for younger prospects, trade away that stud running back that’s gotten a little long in the tooth for a shiny new model that hasn’t broken out yet, or jettison some pieces for rookie picks, looking ahead to next year.  

We call that “rebuilding” or sometimes “productive struggle.”  If your team is really rotten you have a shot at the coveted 1.01 and the chance to land an elite prospect, the type of player that can change the fortunes of your team; a Saquon Barkley or a Dalvin Cook can flip your fortunes fast. Rebuilding can be as much fun as being in “win-now” mode if you’re active and aggressive in improving your squad.

The Dynasty Calendar

Dynasty leagues offer more ways to engage with the sport we love.  Watch college football, box-score scout, grind film, check out the metrics, keep the pulse on free agency, and see dreams come true for these young bucks at the NFL draft; there’s always something to do.   

And it’s always trading season! As players are traded in the NFL, sign with new teams, find their homes in the draft, or claw their way up a depth chart, opportunities arise for a dynasty player to deal. Picks become currency as we buy and sell the players we think will take us to the top.

But What if It’s Too Much?

Look: We don’t care what you’re hearing elsewhere. If it’s too much, and your dynasty league isn’t fun anymore, put it up for adoption. Let your league mates and commissioner know what’s going on, and move on. No big deal. You might be out a buy-in if it’s midseason, but there’s no harm done. Someone will pick the team-up.

I’m In- What’s Next?  How Do I Start? 

There’s a few ways to dive in.  

Join a Startup League.  

Even an experienced redraft commissioner might find there are lots of new things to consider in a dynasty league, so it’s likely smart to get some experience playing in the format before you charter your own. There are dozens of places to find a league, from postings on Twitter or Reddit or league classifieds of all types.  

As in joining any FF league with strangers, it’s safest to use LeagueSafe or a similar treasurer resource instead of sending money to a stranger with Venmo.

Finding and joining a startup will get you right into the mix- and you’ll probably make some new friends, too. 

Take Your Redraft League Into Dynasty

Converting your redraft league into dynasty offers some challenges, but it might be the best fit for the manager that wants to enjoy dynasty while also playing with the same group of friends from years past.  Some platforms will let you convert your league into a dynasty format or to choose keepers, which, with some tweaks, can work just the same.  

The disadvantage is that there are many things you’ll have to work out along the way, from determining rookie draft orders and rules for tanking to FA periods and taxi sizes… But there’s plenty of resources to find help with those puzzles, including the next parts of this series.

Pick Up An Orphan 

Little Orphan Annie (The Movie Database)

Another option that can be fun is to pick up an “orphan,” a team another player has abandoned in an already established league. There’s a lot of reasons a manager could walk away from a team: they got too busy with other obligations, they joined too many teams, they had a personality conflict, or they just plain got bored with it.

Do please give careful consideration to the league you’re joining if you go this route; while they’re uncommon, there’s certainly leagues with “bad vibes,” where maybe there are players that aren’t much fun to hang with or a commissioner that doesn’t do their job right. Hop in, pay attention to the chat, ask around, see what the feel is. If it doesn’t seem like a great fit, bow out gracefully before you start sending out money.

There’s many, many more orphans in great leagues with awesome, fun managers, so don’t get discouraged if the first one you check out isn’t for you.

Orphans might be strong teams, or they might be in rough shape.  Part of the fun is inheriting a team filled with players that you might not have drafted or ever owned

Make a few savvy moves and draft well and you can go from the junkyard to the winner’s circle in just a season or two- and there’s no better feeling.   

Co-Manage a Team

If you’re interested, but it still seems a little overwhelming, invite another FF player to run your team with you.  This can be a great way to jump in without overcommitting yourself or dropping the ball on your leaguemates. 

Give Me More!

To get the full dynasty experience is to network with other players. Twitter, Reddit, and our Discord have thriving dynasty communities, places you can meet other players who love fantasy as much as you do. There are endless conversations on player evaluations, trades, actual NFL football, and so on; it’s a blast if this is your hobby, and the Twitter community, in particular, is incredibly welcoming to new folks and new voices. Just, you know, it’s Twitter, so there’s obviously humans out there that aren’t so nice as well; don’t mind them.

Podcasts can help get you the background you want to feel prepared in your drafts or to make those shark-like trades that win leagues. DynastyNerds is a fantastic pod for draft prep & dynasty trades, as is the DynastyTools pod, or Dynasty Happy Hour. For IDP players, there’s IDP Nation or Rated IDP Live. There are too many good ones for me to list here, so I’m not going to try. Explore and see what’s out there.

Written content can give you a leg up as well. DynastyNerds has draft profiles of all the prominent prospects that will enter the NFL this year, and their writing team churns out free, high-quality content all year round on a variety of dynasty topics.  Sites like DLF, DFF, and The Undroppables have rookie content as well; some of it is behind paywalls, but much of it is free.  

The Film Room is a sweet resource for doing your scouting. The DynastyNerds scouting team makes cut-ups of all prospects- 2021 guys and beyond- and splices them together. This lets you watch every play a player is involved in, in just a few minutes. You need to subscribe to the #NerdHerd to access the film room, but the yearly subscription is less than is the buy-in for most leagues.  

What Are These Guys Talking About?  Clearing Up the Jargon

If you get on dynasty Twitter or into pods, there’s a lot of terms flung around that you might not know if your experience has mostly been with redraft leagues.  Let’s take a second to de-mystify some of the jargon; nothing’s worse than watching people zing cryptic acronyms across the chat and being left scratching your head on the sideline.  

Superflex (SF): Superflex is a newer trend in FF, and many dynasty leagues choose to go the SF route. A Superflex league is like a 2QB league, but, in that second QB spot, you can also choose to play any other skill position player. So if your backup gets hurt or you have a different flex play that you love you can opt to only play 1 QB and then an additional FLEX.  

Two-QB and Superflex leagues have gained popularity because they make the QB spot more valuable. It makes it impractical to stream the position and changes the draft, making it a viable strategy to draft one or even two QBs early instead of waiting until the late rounds for your signal-caller.

Tight-End Premium (TEP): A tight-end-premium league adds an additional PPR bonus for tight ends. This is similar to the idea of SF as it increases the value of a position which many savvy players would otherwise have “punted” to the late rounds, using the first half of the draft to stock up on juicy “skill-position” players (RBs and WRs). An alternative to the TEP league is the 2TE league; it accomplishes the same goal through a different method.  

Tiered PPR: A tiered PPR league is akin to TEP, but has a different PPR amount for RBs, WRs, and TE. Commonly the RB will get a little less (.75), the WR will get the standard amount (1), and the TE will get a little extra (1.5). The idea of tiered PPR is to attempt to create parity amongst the positions, opening up more viable strategies to win.  

Individual Defensive Player (IDP):  The IDP format gives the NFL’s defensive studs their due, booting the “team defense” or “DST” spot in favor of drafting actual players from the other side of the ball.  Some leagues have “IDP” spots which will take any defensive player while others break it down further into “DL” “LB” “DB” or even further “OLB,” “ILB,” etc. 

Onward and Upward!

Jump in!  Go find a league right now.  Hit me up on Twitter @ekballer and I’ll help you find a home, and we’ll get you following some of the smartest players and the most enjoyable personalities in the community.

If you still have questions, let me know. We’re going to get deeper into different aspects of dynasty throughout the rest of this series, delving into startup drafts, scouting, trades, rebuilding, and more. So if there are specific things you want to know more about, shoot me a note, and we’ll get you where you want to go.

Have fun! 

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