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Intro to Dynasty Vol. 2: The Startup

Thinking about joining a dynasty startup, or even about launching your own league? @ekballer has the info you need

Intro to Dynasty

So you’ve decided that dynasty looks fun. You’re in.  Where do you start? 

One option is to hop into a new league that’s just starting up- or even start your own.  We’re going consider both of these options, and then take a good look at the startup draft to prep you for success. 

A second option- picking up an orphan- we’ll talk about a little later in this series.

If you’re not quite there yet- maybe you have some basic questions, or don’t really know what dynasty fantasy football is all about- check out Intro to Dynasty Vol 1, where I covered those topics.


Finding a Startup To Join 

There’s a lot of great places to find a dynasty league startup.  I sketched through some in Vol I, but we’ll go a little further here, and I’ll give you links.


Dynasty Nerds League Classifieds

  • Dynasty Nerds League Classifieds
    • It’s free
    • Run by reputable guys
    • All types of leagues & players
    • Network, meet other players from the DynastyNerds community
    • DynastyNerds isn’t commissioning the leagues, so it’s still on you to vet the league and commissioner, and you should still use a treasurer service of some type
  • Twitter.  @ me (@EKBaller) and I’ll tag you with a bunch of people. We’ll get you into a league with people from the community.  
    • It’s free
    • You’ll network and meet other players
    • All types of leagues & players
    • Lots of good people but it’s on you to vet the leagues
  • Reddit League Classifieds
    • It’s free
    • You’ll network and meet other players
    • All types of leagues & players
    • It’s on you to vet the leagues
  • Leaguesafe League Classifieds
    • It’s free 
    • Run by reputable guys
    • Leagues will generally be run on Leaguesafe, reducing the chance of fraud (leaguesafe does charge a fee)
  • Safeleagues
    • Run by reputable guys (Scott Fish & Ryan McDowell)
    • Safeleagues charges a fee
    • Leagues will generally be run on Leaguesafe (Leaguesafe does charge a fee) 
  • DLF Forum
    • It’s free
    • Run by reputable guys
    • All types of leagues & players
    • Network w/ community
    • DLF isn’t commissioning the leagues, so it’s still on you to vet the league 

There’s some other great services that come recommended as well, such as Master’s Fantasy, FFPC, Apex Leagues.  Honestly, when I posted this on Twitter, there were far too many responses to link them all. Here’s the thread. Check it out if you want more options.

The first leagues I picked up were off Reddit, and that worked fine for me.  I landed in with some good people.  

I also ran into some cautionary tales.  One league I encountered had all responded to a classifieds ad and joined a league.  They Venmo’d the commishioner… and never heard from him again. So…


Use a Treasurer Service!


LeagueSafe Home Page
Graphic

Leaguesafe has a very low cost, it keeps the finances organized and visible, and it helps protect you from fraud.  

Fantrax Treasurer is another good option that accomplishes the same purpose, although I believe that it’s only available for Fantrax leagues.


What Kind of League Should I Join?

Well, what kind of league do you want to play in?  Is superflex your speed? Want the added wrinkle of TE-premium? How about adding a few IDP players- or a whole defense? Do you want a bigger league- 14 teams- or a small one, with only 10? How about an auction league?

If you don’t know what some of these terms mean, check out Intro To Dynasty: Vol 1, where I included a mini-glossary to explain the jargon.

All of these options are good options.  Trying new things is awesome. Just: know your league settings.  In SF, the elite QBs are drafted with the elite RBs. In TEp, TEs like Kittle and Kelce move up with the top-tiers WRs.  In big SF leagues, QBs get very scarce, but in ten-teamers they don’t have quite the same value.

In an auction, you won’t have a traditional snake draft;  instead you’ll all bid on players, giving you a shot to land any player combination you choose.  Want to build your team around CMC & Michael Thomas? Pay up, and fill those other roster spots with low-cost scrubs.  



League Culture


cul·ture/ˈkəlCHər /Learn to pronounce noun

2. the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/culture

Far more important than a league’s settings is it’s culture.  Who’s in the league? What are they like? Are these people you want to hang out with for, oh, the next decade or so?  

Hop in the chat room before you start sending out payments for dues and see if it’s a league you want to belong to. 

In the league where everyone got burnt, from my earlier story, the chat was nothing but rancor about the guy that had taken conned them.  They were angry- and justifiably so- but it quickly became clear that that league wasn’t going to be much fun.  

The final straw was when they set the draft order and me & my other friend that had just joined were at the 11 & 12 spots.  When I asked the commissioner if he’d randomized the order, he said “the guys that got burnt deserved a leg up.”  

Needless to say, I was out of there, post-haste. 

Even in instances that aren’t that extreme, there’s some leagues with owners that are just not very active.  They can be fine, but they’re not as fun, and less chatter might indicate less activity, fewer trades, etc. A lively group makes for a league that you’ll want to stay in, and it makes for a league that lasts.  

Here’s what some of my fellow players had to say when I posed the question of league culture to them:



All respondents agreed on one point: the right managers make a good league.

A Word of Advice

Before you join a startup, make sure you have some good resources to understand player values.  Even if it’s a decent bunch, you’re probably going to get some trade offers you should snap reject.   It’s probably a good idea not to make any trades your first few weeks.  Relax, watch things unfold, and get a better idea of how the league plays before you start launching offers out there.



We’ll get into the concept of trade values in a later part of this series, but, for now, get some people you trust to help you with evaluation.  The chart later in this article should help, as do trade calculators, but don’t rely too much on any one tool.

The FF Twitter community is a huge resource for learning values. @me and I’ll RT your trade / value questions & tag a ton of smart people for you; there’s other FF accounts that really focus on trades and retweeting trades, so seek some of them out as well.

At the very worst, you’ll get an idea of what other people think of the values; they might not always be right, but having an idea of the popular consensus is helpful.


Starting Up a Startup

Maybe you have a good group of guys you like playing with and you’ve finally talked them into a dynasty league.  Instead of joining a startup, you’re launching one.  

Hopefully you have a bit of experience as commissioner already.  Whole books could be written just about that. But here’s some thoughts from other players on starting up your first dynasty league as commish:

Treat it as a democracy. Energy major decision should be voted on

@dynastyRich

Dear future start up commissioner: have a solid set of rules in a document ready to share with future team owners

@ffspotlight

Listen to @CommishPod before starting and write your bylaws before you get people. If you are going to commish a league make it one you want to commish.

@Daniel K

Him: be open to everyone’s opinions. The point is to enjoy it. (Unless its some SOB complaining about superflex (ed. – he’s talking about me)

@him_hersports

Really, this thread was rife with great advice, so please check it out.

My biggest suggestion was also the most common suggestion in the thread: have a league constitution that deals with the major questions you’ll face.  


Here’s some common issues you’ll want to address:

  • How are playoffs seeded? Are there divisions? Does seeding go by points or by record?
  • How is the rookie draft order determined?  By record, points max points, or some combination thereof?
  • Is tanking for draft picks ok? If not, what constitutes tanking, and what do you do about it? 
    • (Ed. Note:  there’s savvier ways of eliminating the issue than being the arbiter of other player’s lineup decisions.  Try using max PF for draft order, or awarding extra picks to the winner of the toilet bracket)
  • Are there reviews or vetos on trades? What do you do if a trade goes through that league members deem unfair? Are there specific types of trades that are not ok?
  • What constitutes collusion? What do you do in a situation deemed collusion? 
  • When are league fees due?  Do managers have to buy in a year ahead? Is this affected by trading future picks?
  • How do you handle unpaid dues? 

Trust me, you don’t want to wing this stuff! It will lead to nothing good.  Get the doc in place.  

The easiest solution for all this is to take someone else’s constitution, copy it, and edit it to meet the needs of your league.  

On that note:  Here you go!

Here is the constitution for the DHH / DynastyNerds writer’s league, as prepared by @thesofacout.  Thanks Jeff! 

Here’s another constitution, this one for an auction league. Thanks, Justin Peek!

Another great idea is to listen to Scott Fish and Ryan McDowell’s pod, Commission: Impossible. Here’s their Twitter handle. They’re very helpful, and generally willing to answer questions.


Which Platforms Are Best?

Here’s some of the responses I got when I kicked this question to the community:

Flea Flicker. It’s free, and easily customizable (for most types of leagues). MFL is second, not free, takes a minute to navigate but once you learn it, it’s great to use.

Jonathan Smith

@MyFantasyLeague and isnt close for me. Have used them for over a decade and nothing but class. On spot support, listening and adjusting site as the industry continues to grow thru listening to the people that play and not the masses. Nothing but class

Oklahomie Doug

I can’t say it’s my favorite, because it’s super basic in many respects, but for my favorite TYPES of leagues (Campus 2 Canton types), nothing beats @Fantrax because they offer active college FF leagues and players. It’s not sexy, and it has its flaws, but it’s fine really.

Brian Shacochis


Sleeper. Super easy to use and it’s very intuitive. The only platform I have interest in using going forward

Mike Dimatteo

You get double points every time a unicorn farts a rainbow. If you wanted to, you could make that a scoring option on MFL. We use it for all our dynasty leagues.

Rich Dotson

You can see there is literally no consensus on this!

Sleeper, MFL, Fantrax, FleaFlicker, Yahoo… They all have advantages and disadvantages. 

For most people, I’d recommend Sleeper for a first league. It’s a clean and simple interface with enough flexibility to meet the needs of most. 

I have leagues in Fleaflicker as well; all the same things apply there, but there’s ads. My only other knock on Fleaflicker is that you can’t draft on the app.

 If you want to dip into devy, you’ll have to look at Yahoo or Fantrax, as they are the only two platforms that currently support college league setups.

If want more customization, MFL might be the best option; many insist it’s simply the best option anyway.  If you do use MFL, the Platinum app makes it quite a bit more user-friendly, but that’s only useful for in-season management, all drafts are email / web app based.  


Scoring & Roster Settings

This could be a book of its own, so we’re not going to get bogged down too much here.   We talked about a lot of different scoring settings earlier. PPR is generally the default.  SF and / TEP / tiered PPR are becoming quite common.

The other current trend is to offer multiple flexes (3-5), which rewards depth and a balanced roster more so than just drafting the one lotto ticket stud that drags you to the championship. Other interesting options are to add a second TE spot or a few IDP players instead of a team defense. 

Few new leagues require any kickers or defenses to be played.  

Rosters are generally deep, although how deep is a matter of preference.  Some will cap out around 20-25 roster spots, five taxis, and one IR; others will be 30 spots or more plus taxi and multiple IR spots.  Varying roster size will change the way the league plays; a SF, 2TE league with 20 spots will have a rich waiver wire, and that will be part of your strategy;  a 35 roster spot league will have hardly any waiver action at all, so you’ll need to trade to maintain your team.  

Even in a deep league it’s still worth scouring the UDFA class when they come in. There’s always a few gems that don’t go in the rookie draft, like Darius Slayton this past season, or lower-tier guys like Steven Sims.

I asked my Twitter people for their own favorite setups. Here’s what they said:

PPR with expanded starting lineups (3 RB, 5WR, 2 TE). Promotes depth and team building as opposed to superstar chasing.

Sean Garrity

SF, TE Premium with tiered PPR (points based on how far the catch was, .25-2) and start 11-13 starters so you have to prioritize deep teams

MysticWombat

SF/PPR/IDP123 1point bonus for 100 yard passing and rushing games. Money shot

Jordan Rains

16 Teams Half PPR: SF, WR, WR, WR/TE, TE, RB, RB 7 IDPs: DT, DL, EDR, LB, CB, DB, DP K

Nick Mazzetti

What’s Next?  

So you’ve got your league filled, you’ve got a constitution in place, everyone’s claimed their teams and paid their dues (hopefully for two seasons).  What now? 


It’s Time to Draft!

How you go about your draft might be determined by the time of year.  If it’s before the NFL draft, you might be having a startup draft of veterans followed by a rookie draft to take place after the NFL draft. 

Alternatively, you might draft the rookie draft picks during the main startup draft; commonly, kickers are used to represent those picks.  I’ll talk a little more about in this shortly.


Draft Strategies & Roster Construction 

In dynasty, there’s as many ways to win as there are players. 

Here’s a poll to prove my point:


There’s players that will draft stud RBs and take WRs and QBs in the middle rounds to flesh the roster out. 

There’s players that will fill out their core with young stud WRs and QBs and then worry about RBs in the rookie drafts.  

There’s players that will go to the extreme  of best-player-available, drafting 6 or more stud QBs or RBs- wherever they think there will be scarcity- and then build their roster through trades.  

Some players load up on the discounted “aging vets,” taking the value on 30+ year old WRs and 35+ year old QBs to build a short-term powerhouse (Julian Edelman went in the 14th round of one of my startups!). 


The Face of the Veteran Discount (Julian Edelman, Getty Images)

Some like to “punt” the first year with the intention of getting the studs from the next class to push their team over the top.

Don’t even get me started on IDP, that adds hundreds of other viable paths. 

There’s million ways to win, so just pick a strategy and go for it. 

My first piece of advice is to know your strategy and follow your values: if you are trying to build a young team, don’t draft that 27 year old RB or 30 year old WR.  If you’re going for hardcore win-now, don’t take that hyped-up sophomore over a proven vet that’s a few years older. But don’t be so rigid with your strategy that you pass up an obvious value that’s sliding; take what the draft offers you.  

And, importantly, know your league’s settings. If you’re in a SF league, punting QB is a viable strategy, but it can certainly backfire. ADP might not reflect the value of QBs in a SF or 2-QB setup; similarly, ADP for TEP will likely not account for the scoring boost, so look for value there.


How Do I Value Startup Picks?

This is one of the most common questions I see, and it’s tough to answer, so I made a tool to help you out.   

I made a chart out of a recent startup to help serve as a rough guide to what you can expect in the draft and to the approximate values of players. It was a SF, TEP league, so you’ll see QBs and TEs going higher than you’d expect if you aren’t used to those settings.

Across the top of the chart, I noted the range of the value in picks for the 1st round players.

Along the right, I did the same with the rest of the draftboard. I used gradients to represent the values (that’s how you should think about this, more so than as bright-line tiers).

Note that this draft is full of reaches and full of players falling, so there’s certainly individual picks in each round that are worth more or less than the value stated. 

Particularly, the glut of QBs that went in the “middle first” range are undervalued there; that is likely where they’ll go in drafts, but try trading someone a late first for a top-15 QB and you’ll get laughed at. Also, be aware that every SF startup is different; some run through the QBs early, so pay attention, and be willing to adjust.

There’s some vets that fell past where they should have; that will always happen.  And then at the end of the positional runs, someone often panic drafts a lower-tier player (case in point:  James White in this draft. That was me. Don’t @ me).

In this draft rookie picks were drafted as though they were players, with the actual rookie draft scheduled for after the NFL draft. Those picks are labeled. You’ll see that some were reaches where they went while others were great values. 

The Chart

Draft Board Cheat Sheet
Draft Board Cheat Sheet by @ekballer

Trading up / trading back

Trade to add another stud? Trade back to accumulate more picks? 

There’s devotees of each. Personally, I don’t often trade up. I do like trading back and acquiring future picks, particularly if I can still get a player from the same tier. Even if you’re dropping a level in player value it’s often well worth it, depending, of course, on the haul.  

Similarly, if the cost to move up is reasonable, and there’s a player that’s drastically better than what will otherwise be available, an argument can be made for that as well.

It’s all about the value, and, the reality is, values are all over the place from one league to the next.

Personally, if I’m dropping back a round, I want to add a pick that’s no later than the second round back. So if you want my 4th, I want a 5th and a 7th at the very least. I’d take a 5th and a rookie first, too, though that’s sometimes harder to get.  You also need to factor in where in the draft this is (there’s some areas where the value falls off a cliff) and where the picks are within the rounds (in a 14 teamer, moving back a round could be 27 picks or 8 picks, depending on where the other player’s slot is).

Here’s some trades from our recent DynastyNerds / DHH draft:

  • Team 1 gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 8.02; Year 2021 Round 1 Draft Pick from Team 1; Year 2022 Round 1 Draft Pick from Team 1
  • Team 2 gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 2.08
  • Team 1 gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 4.14; Year 2021 Round 2 Draft Pick from Team 1; Year 2022 Round 2 Draft Pick from Team 1
  • Team 2 gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 4.03
  • Team 1 gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 5.11; Year 2022 Round 3 Draft Pick from Team 1
  • Team 2 gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 6.10; Year 2021 Round 2 Draft Pick from Team 2 ; Year 2022 Round 2 Draft Pick from Team 2 
  • Team 1 gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 7.03; Year 2021 Round 1 Draft Pick from Team 1 
  • Team 2  gave up Year 2020 Draft Pick 5.13

This chart can be useful for navigating trade ups / trade backs as well, although you’re going to have to apply some common sense (as you should be when using any trade-assist-tool) as that will get a little spottier.  

Pick the player that corresponds to each spot (who we picked, or who you would pick there). 

What do you need to add to make it happen if it was a normal trade? Boom. There’s your cost to move up. 

Here’s an example:

You’re on the clock at 5.05. 

The guy in the two slot wants to move up to get Allen Robinson. His sixth-round pick is 16 picks away.


Trade example

If you take his 6th and 8th, in this draft you could have gotten Sam Darnold and Mike Williams back. In SF, that’s a nice haul.

What Do About Drafting the Rookie Picks?

That’s going to depend on your league and your personal preference. Hopefully the chart will give you an idea of where they might go, but every draft is going to be different.

Generally, when drafting the picks, it’s best to put a player to the number. So if you’re considering the 1.01 in a SF draft, ask yourself, “Do I want [Joe Burrow / Tua / Swift] in this position, or is there a player I prefer?” You need to have a decent idea of the players available in the rookie pool to do this. I’ll get more into rookie drafts and scouting in the later installments of this series, but there’s a ton of resources available to help you with this, not the least our own Dynasty Nerds rankings and film-room.

Often, there’s a better player available, but the allure of the unknown sways us to the rookie picks; accordingly, the rookie picks will sometimes be overdrafted. “Rookie hype” is real, so be the guy that uses it to your advantage. Make sure you’re not passing up a locked-in stud for an prospect that might bust.

In the draft I used for the chart the players did a fairly good job of drafting the picks accordingly. The 1.06 and 1.07 look a little overdrafted; the 1.09 and 1.10 slid a little, and the 1.11 and 1.12 were great values.

That’s it for this one. If you have any questions, or if there’s anything I can help with, let me know! I’m @ekballer, hit me up for anything at all.

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