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Playing Dynasty Football 101

Dynasty fantasy football is the biggest thing in the community. If you never played, what are some things you need to know if it's your first time?

So, it’s your first time playing dynasty? Perhaps you’ve heard friends talk about it, and you’ll be curious about it. You are unsure how to proceed since you’ve only played regular redraft leagues. We will break out some things you should understand if this is your first time playing dynasty. Or if you are still new and want to improve. I’ll share some of my experiences that have helped me become a better dynasty owner.

1. What is Dynasty?

So Dynasty Fantasy Football is much different than any redraft/seasonal football league you have ever played. Instead of restarting every year, you keep the team you drafted year after year unless you make moves to move them off your team. In a dynasty league, you’ll draft closer to 25-plus players than the normal 14 to 15. Instead of redrafting players, the only time you’ll be drafting is for the upcoming rookie class. You’ll start learning about players who play more of a backup role than just the stars in fantasy.

Photo Courtesy of Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire

Building up a dynasty like you talk about with an NFL team can be exciting. You can also go all in, like some NFL teams like the Rams, for a while and hope to win every year. It will require more commitment, and you should only play if you are dedicated to playing. You don’t just play September to December but all year round. Don’t get my words twisted; you don’t have to be fully involved 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s essential to evaluate your team consistently and make the moves to have your team the way that you want. I know that I made mistakes early in my dynasty career, but you need to keep improving your team, and you’ll stay competitive as long as you want.

You must find a league that you are comfortable playing in. Playing with your friends or people you know is more fun, as it can make playing very special. Don’t be scared to play with strangers; it can still be enjoyable. I don’t know many people outside of their Sleeper app name in most leagues I play in. If you go with the stranger route, try to protect yourself from bad commissioners, as they could ruin your experience. You want someone fair, responsive, and reliable.

For a first-timer dynasty owner, it would also benefit you from not being the commish as that takes on a lot of responsibility that will take you away from understanding the dynasty.

You should also keep it simple with your league as well. Following the simple setup of a league:

  • QB, RB,RB,WR,WR,WR,Flex,SuperFlex & 15 to 18 bench spots.
  • Four to six for passing touchdowns
  • Play with some type of points per reception (PPR)

Once you’ve mastered some normal settings, you can look into expanding or playing in more complex dynasty leagues. There is a whole world out there for dynasty that can make it even more fun than you can imagine, but that’s for another article. If you are ready for such a more complex dynasty league, please reach out to me on our discord at Steven Pintado (@coachstevenp)

2. Start-Up Draft

What is a start-up draft? A start-up draft is at the forefront of your dynasty team. It will decide which direction you take in dynasty. Dynasty Nerds has given us articles, and the boys have discussed it on podcasts. The two most common strategies are win now and win later.

A win-now strategy is, as it sounds, a way to build your dynasty team around players who can help you win in that first year. You also play dynasty as a redraft team and do not worry about age or the long-term outlook of your team. This move is because you could win the league in year one and then have the funds to continue playing for free.

It’s easy to fall into this direction because everyone knows the big names of fantasy. But they may not be the best options in the dynasty. Examples would be players like Austin Ekeler and DeAndre Hopkins. They are two great players outside their prime and could still perform solid production in 2024. Their outlook after this season is very cloudy. Both players could easily be without a team in 2025. Then you have players on your dynasty roster who are no longer playing in the NFL.

Photo Courtesy of Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

A win-later approach means not worrying about winning so much in year one. You want to build a team that will keep you competitive for years. This approach can lead you to have a terrible first year in the league, but it will allow you to have a top pick in the rookie draft the following season. Those who go after that approach will want to build around young, unproven players who have a chance to be stars in fantasy. This works itself out if you research who should be able to progress well at the next level. It is also risky since many young players don’t pan out at the NFL level, leaving you with very little assets if that happens. It also could be one of those things where you hit on many players, and then you have a truly dominant team for a four- to five-year window.

For me, what has always worked is to understand the setup of your league. If you play in a Superflex league, quarterback should be considered a priority. If lineups have three starting receivers, you’d want to ensure you have those. Even in tight-end premium leagues (leagues where tight ends can get extra points per reception), I’d like to attack the tight-end position early. I always say take value when it’s given to you. I usually like having elite quarterbacks and receivers fill my dynasty rosters. I’ve made mistakes by not having elite quarterbacks, which failed me. My running backs have always been a position I’d prefer to trade for rather than draft in start-ups. Whatever you do, try to have balance to your team so you have a great starting lineup but depth pieces you like long term. 

2. The In-Season Plan

So, you made it through your first start-up draft and will be going into the season. As a new dynasty owner, how should you handle this? Dynasty football leagues are a wait-and-see as you progress through the early part of a season. You know what you plan on doing in your dynasty league. Sometimes, you can respectfully tank the season as you build towards the next season. You may be going all in on the season and expect to do well. It would be best to see your team’s performance during the season to ensure you know your plan.

I would usually wait until about week six to fully understand which direction my team is going. I always play to win no matter my situation, but you usually understand your team. If you plan to throw away the season, start looking at your team and evaluate players who don’t fit your long-term plan. Look at older players and try to sell them off for young assets and draft picks. In-season draft picks are the cheapest, as owners don’t care as much if they push for a championship. Look at the Dynasty Nerds GM trade calculator and get the best value for your players. Also, don’t sell to sell; you want the best for your value.

The same can be said if you are looking towards the playoffs. This is where you’ll have to pay up for players if you want to win. For you, draft picks don’t matter, and you need players to boost your starting lineups. Be careful in trading for players that could hurt you in the season, like trading for players that haven’t had their bye week yet. A trade like that can waste the value you trade for them since you are losing them for a game.

Take advantage of what your league offers you as well. The waiver wire won’t be exciting every week, but there are ways for you to do well there. Ensure you have your roster as full as possible. If you have IR spots that allow you to put “OUT” players, then do so and pick up someone to have for the weekend. It may not be great players, but anything is possible in fantasy football. 

3. Your First Offseason

So you made it through a season and now in your first offseason. It’s essential to reevaluate your team after the year is over. While it’s easy to listen to podcasts to find out your dynasty information, it’s also important to look at the team you have players with. If you know the team is switching coaching staff, then changes to the offense are likely to bring in their guys. If you know that players’ contracts are expiring, then you have to expect your player’s values to come up or down.

As soon as the season is over, look to move players who dominate late in the season, as that is a great way to get value from players. Dynasty values are only as fresh as the mind remembers. If player A dominates in December and January, other owners may not remember that come May or June. If you want to acquire draft picks, you better do it sooner since the closer to the rookie draft, the more valuable they become. 

Photo Courtesy of Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire

It’s a great time of year for the rookie draft, as most of the events happen in May following the draft. How should you attack a rookie draft? Sometimes, owners go in thinking they need so and so and will take those players. I’ve learned from experience that this is not always the case. The better option is to go with the best available in rookie drafts. If you have heard KeShawn Vaughn in the 2020 NFL draft, that is why I still have nightmares. You can always trade for a need by draft, but talent can usually help you win out. If players are in similar tiers, take the player that will help your team, but don’t reach for a need when there is a great player who may turn out to be Justin Jefferson one day. 

As a dynasty owner, it’s important to understand the rookie coming in. While I have been creating content in the fantasy place, I like to understand the rookies, but you should, too. The Dynasty Nerds film room is a great tool to view the film on these players and make your analysis. I was higher on a player like Rashee Rice, which worked for me in the last season. (He is not the best example now with his situation, but during the season, he was) Also, Don’t assume the landing spot will always be key for these players. We’ve seen too many times that landing spots for rookies are one big dream rather than a reality. Talent usually wins out, and that is something I’d follow as a new dynasty owner.

4. Other Important Things to Know

You may hear the word Taxi Squads in the future. Taxi squads are usually four roster spots that you hold on to for the young players who you believe can one day be productive in fantasy football. There is no real strategy behind it, but you should ensure that you fill those spots no matter what, or you are just wasting potential.

It is essential to understand the trade cycle for the dynasty as well. During the season, draft picks lose their value, and players gain a ton of value since owners need them now to help you win. It’s better to buy low on draft picks season. The same can be said shortly after the rookie draft since owners focus on the season. Another smart thing to remember is that you shouldn’t always look to pick draft picks for the next rookie draft. If you know an owner seems like an elite team, I’d much rather go after their rookie pick in two years than the following season. The chance they won’t finish outside the top eight is greater than the current year.

The offseason side of trades is that players lose their value more times as everyone goes crazy over the rookies coming into the league. Everyone loves the new hot thing. Suppose you could sneak players on the cheaper end rather than wait until the season comes. It is a riskier move, but it could pay off if you buy in March than in July.

For lineups, you could stack players. There is nothing wrong with that. It can give you an advantage. If you go Superflex and don’t have three good to elite quarterbacks, grab a few backups who could start for you. I don’t like stacking up on weapons in the same offense, as it can limit the upside of your dynasty roster. Don’t be scared of having too many of one position because injuries occur, and backups are essential. In the end, have fun with it, and if you need help, then look at Dynasty Nerds and their discord to all the dynasty advice.

Get the Dynasty Nerds app in the Apple and Google Play stores. Mock drafts for Superflex, 1QB, and Standard. If you are a DynastyGM subscriber, it even syncs with your actual teams so that you can do rookie mock drafts with ALL of your actual picks, also on your desktop.

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