The 2023 Fantasy Football Dynasty Draft Strategy Primer is not your father’s dynasty strategy primer. That’s because I’m going to tell you a few things here that you won’t read anywhere else. And it starts by telling you that the term “dynasty league” is a misnomer.
I’ve been in a number of dynasty leagues over my (cough cough) 30+ years playing fantasy football. And NEVER has any team actually accomplished having a “dynasty.” Yes, there have been some back-to-back winners. And others that came within a TD of say having three titles in four years. But never has any team in any of my leagues sat on the throne year after year after year.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun trying!
And similar to the guillotine leagues that I discussed earlier this month, dynasty leagues can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. For example, you can do an auction dynasty league that has a salary cap. Or not. You can make your dynasty league a “best ball league”. Or not. You can add a common wrinkle and include IDPs. Or not. You get the idea.
Regardless of your league format, there should be at least one tip below of the many that will increase your chances of success in a dynasty league. I will try to split this up a little however between the “start-up” dynasty year and “subsequent years” for your convenience. But looking to make a dynasty like the Romans, Mongolians, or even those from the Ottoman Empire? Let’s take a look at my 2023 Fantasy Football Dynasty Strategy Primer.
2023 Fantasy Football Dynasty Strategy Primer
Start-Up Dynasty Strategy
Dynasty leagues are growing in popularity. Some of that is due to the never-ending nature of dynasty leagues. Although it is not always fun and games…
When someone gets injured in the offseason for redraft vs. dynasty pic.twitter.com/wGXVpIGbyJ
— Sleeper (@SleeperHQ) July 20, 2021
Memes aside, even with all the articles, podcasts, tweets, and so on, you’re still playing the same game. The complexity comes with the additional variables unique to a dynasty league. And that’s especially true during the draft. Player age, draft capital, upcoming rookie class, and contract situation all help shape our evaluation of a player and, subsequently, their ADP.
Let’s just focus our first-year dynasty strategy on the draft for now.
Out-Strategize the Strategists
Most roster construction strategies associated with redraft also have a place within a dynasty league. Examples like ‘Late-Round QB’, ‘ZeroRB’, or ‘Modified ZeroRB’ have dynasty tweaks to them based on the longevity at the respective positions. The core concepts remain, but the previously listed variables bend the strategy to the new format. But here, we’re less concerned with the strategy and more concerned with how often that strategy will be used by the league. Here’s where game theory comes into play. Let’s use a few redraft examples to illustrate.
Late-Round QB Strategy
The ‘Late-Round QB’ strategy is prominent amongst most analysts. Replaceability at a ‘onesie’ position diminishes the need to sacrifice opportunity cost. It’s a viable strategy, but there’s an edge to be had in these situations. Career production and age are two primary components of dynasty ADP for quarterbacks. In Superflex leagues, at least 20 quarterbacks will fly off the board within the first six rounds typically. In dynasty leagues, at least half of that sample was born after the Barcelona Olympics (i.e. under 30 for those who don’t remember the ’92 Olympics).
But other positions can be filled as the younger QB talents are acquired early. The quarterback position can be addressed with an older, high-upside quarterback paired with a younger talent with potential. For example, Kenny Pickett and Aaron Rodgers are both going outside the top 20 quarterbacks in Superflex Dynasty drafts. Yet according to Fantrax’s consensus QB rankings, Rodgers is inside the top baker’s dozen QBs this year and Pickett is inside the Top 25 as well. If you couple Rodgers with say a top rookie like Bijan Robinson and/or Jordan Addison, both of whom are expected to produce THIS year, you could have yourself a lethal team.
Pickett might not be the ideal QB2, but he should be Pittsburgh’s starting QB every game this season and you can be patient with him as he develops. Or can you do the same with Jordan Love if you prefer him over Pickett. Worst-case scenario, you can always pick a young rookie QB next year from the ’24 class which is supposed to be even more talented at QB.
Zero RB Strategy
Running backs have one of the highest injury rates, so especially in dynasty leagues, “set it and forget it” WRs are often overly pursued. Rightfully so, rookie WRs like Jordan Addison, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnson, etc. are going to go extremely early in your startup drafts. (They’ll go early in your rookie drafts for those in Year 2 or later as well). However, that means that those zero RB strategists are going to be picking from RBs outside the top 30 while you have already secured the services of a couple of stud RBs.
And the drop from those top rookie WRs to those outside the Top 50, especially when looking at the long term, is a much smaller drop-off. I’ve already talked about some of the much deeper options like Puka Nacua, but even shallower options like Jayden Reed and Marvin Mims will be available to you. Reed and Mims might not be their teams’ WR1 or WR2 but should see some playing time in 3 and 4-WR sets this season. And in the case of Mims for example, that might be for a limited time. Cortland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy might both be gone before the 2025 season, making Mims the top option in Denver.
And speaking of contracts, that brings us to another 2023 Fantasy Football Dynasty Strategy Primer key piece.
Always Look at Contract Situations
Bijan Robinson running CRISP routes 🔥pic.twitter.com/mq0FqLjVp5
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) July 31, 2023
Should Bijan Robinson be the first rookie RB off the board in your dynasty league? Without a doubt. But if I’m playing in a dynasty salary league, there is no way I’m breaking the bank for him. For one, while I do expect Robinson to start over Tyler Allgeier this season, Allgeier isn’t going away anytime soon. Allgeier does not come become an unrestricted free agent until 2026. Plus, since he has an average salary of less than one million dollars a year, the Falcons will have very little motivation to cut him.
But we’re not even done with the Falcons. Many folks like Robinson because of the lack of passing attack options in Atlanta this year. I agree with that. But they are going to have plenty to spend next year. So even if they don’t bring in another RB next year, they could easily invest in some top WRs. While the 2024 salary cap isn’t set yet, the Falcons are projected to have about $68.5 million to spend in 2024. That’s some decent coin. Furthermore, with some creative cap management and should they make a few non-painful cuts, that number could balloon closer to $90 million. See how by looking at the financials Robinson might not be such a “must get”?
The Other Side Of The Coin
Or looking for a situation where the current contract situation makes a player more attractive? Take a look at the Bengals. Let’s not get crazy–Jamar Chase aint going anywhere. For that matter Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd will continue to be an integral part of the Cincinnati offense this season. However, Higgins is entering the final year of his rookie deal and Boyd is also a UFA come 2024, so there might be some opportunity for a Cincinnati WR playing on his rookie deal next year. Hello Charlie Jones!
But Jones isn’t the only one. Tyler Scott and A.T. Perry are just two of many options who might not be very valuable this year, but given their team’s financial situations, could see a big leap in 2024.
Subsequent Years Dynasty Strategy
I’m not going to lie to you–subsequent years in dynasty leagues are sometimes a little less fun than the initial start-up year. That’s because you might find yourself in dynasty purgatory. Your team is neither good enough to make the playoffs. However, it is not bad enough to restart and look to next season. So how can we avoid being in that painful middle? Here are some recommendations.
It’s Not Always About Ceiling
Yes, you’re playing in a dynasty league. And you need to have those roster anchors who can keep you competitive year after year after year. But not every one of your players needs to be a player with a huge upside and a long, successful career ahead of them. Sometimes you just need to fill some of the holes in your roster with players who will give you a handful of points each and every week without providing 30+ point explosions.
Kirk Cousins-Adam Thielen on play action for 43 yards to set up a @Vikings game-winning TD.
Thielen was targeted on 30% of routes today (9 targets, 7 receptions, 129 yards), after being targeted on 13% of routes since his return from injury in Week 15.#MINvsNO | #Skol pic.twitter.com/SBdRPnZO4K
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 5, 2020
We all knew that as an eight-year veteran and on the wrong side of 30, Adam Thielen was unlikely to be a Top 10 WR for the 2022 season. And surprise, surprise, he wasn’t even a WR2 last season. But here’s the rub. He was still a top 30 WR last season, averaging double-digit PPR points per week. Not once did he put up the dreaded goose egg, which is more than we can say for one of last year’s popular rookie picks, Josh Palmer. Thielen not only finished ahead of Palmer, but he also finished a few points ahead of first-round pick and top-three rookie WR pick last year, Drake London.
Some “boring, but adequate” options for this year include but are not limited to the 31-year-old DeAndre Hopkins or 10th-year pro, Mike Evans. If those two are too shallow for you, consider Cortland Sutton, Juju Smith-Schuster, and even Curtis Samuel.
Just Do It
Nope, not a Nike commercial. Instead, I’m going to go Ahr-nald on you:
And what exactly am I saying you need to do now? You have to make a decision, albeit a tough one, of whether or not you can contend this year. If you can, great, start making moves to better your team for this year. Trade up in your draft for example. Engage in trade talks with those owners placing veterans on the trade block. Whatever it takes, git er dun. One of the worst feelings in any dynasty league is looking back and realizing that if you had just made that one move, things would been have so much better.
On the flip side, if this is not your year, embrace it. It’s a hard decision to swallow. But better to make it now and start acquiring picks and players for the future. Don’t kid yourself–you are not going to guarantee yourself a 2025 title by making moves for the future now. But you are going to have a lot more options now than if you make that same unfortunate decision say week 9 of this season.
The reason is simple. Far more owners think they have a shot for this season during the preseason than they do three months from now. If you’re really lucky, you might find yourself in the midst of a bidding war.
Whether you are in the “this is the year” camp or “playing for a brighter future” camp, make the decision now. Either side of the road can be productive as well as fun. But trying to go middle of the road you are asking to become road kill.
If In Doubt, Trade Out
Here’s another truth–nobody KNOWs anything. They might be able to speculate, project, and strategize with the best of them. But even the true “experts” are wrong at least 15% of the time. And I am being very generous. The point is we really don’t know what will happen with any given player or team, this year or next. Yes, we knew Jameson Williams was an injury concern last year. Yet, did anyone know that he’d be missing the first part of this upcoming season for gambling reasons?
So if you are unsure what to do, acquire additional draft capital. Trade out of a round. Trade down. There is not a single player you are going to take at Pick XX that you can guarantee me is going to be better than a player you are going to pick say ten picks later. And if trading down or out yields you additional draft capital, that’s the way to do it. If you are shrewd enough (and if you’re reading this article I’m guessing you are), you can always use draft capital in the future to better your team, one way or another. But you have to have the draft capital to do so. Future draft picks are gold. Their price will go up and down, but they’ll usually spike right before your league drafts if not during the draft.
I will add that part of the reason I am saying this is because the ’24 draft is projected to be even more talented than the ’23 draft. So that doesn’t hurt. Of course, we don’t really know and won’t know until maybe five years from now. But just like a game of chess, the more pieces you have than your opponent, the better positioned you will be to win.
That will do it for my 2023 Fantasy Football Dynasty Strategy Primer. There is plenty more I could have added. Feel free to comment below or hit me up on Twitter (@markstrausberg) with your thoughts!
For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!
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