Don’t Feel Dumb Diving into Dynasty Fantasy Football Leagues
If you love fantasy football and are reading this article in February, chances are that you’re pretty invested, which is exactly why you should try playing a dynasty format if you haven’t already. This article will explore the difference between dynasty and normal redraft formats, why dynasty can be a more rewarding format in the long term, and why it’s advantageous for redraft players to play dynasty.
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What is a Dynasty League?
If you already know what a dynasty league is, then feel free to skip ahead to the next section. For those who haven’t heard of dynasty leagues or who may have heard about them but aren’t exactly sure what they are, it’s pretty simple. The dynasty format is simply a fantasy football league in which each team’s roster carries over to the next season year after year. It more closely mimics the real NFL in that rosters need to be built and maintained for multiple seasons, and offseason activity is heightened in the form of trades and waivers as well as a rookie draft.
Generally, a dynasty league is formed via a startup draft, similar to redraft. The primary difference is two-fold. First, the startup draft includes rookie picks for the incoming rookie class. And second, dynasty players must account for long-term outlooks. For example, a player like Julio Jones may be an elite fantasy producer, but his ADP is likely lower in dynasty startups than what it would be in redraft, as Jones will be 31 years old next season. While Jones may still be a top pick in redraft, younger wide receivers like Michael Thomas and Amari Cooper are likely to be valued higher due to their longer expected fantasy lifespan.
Why Dynasty Can Be More Rewarding Than Redraft
So why is dynasty potentially more rewarding than redraft in the long run? Well, a significant aspect is that there is no offseason in dynasty since rosters carry over to the following year. Instead of going through fantasy withdrawal every February, dynasty leagues generally allow trading and waiver additions throughout the offseason. There is also a rookie draft following the real NFL Draft, which is a lot of fun and keeps dynasty leagues active year-round.
Another important factor is that variance is minimized in dynasty more so than in redraft formats. All fantasy sports are skill-based in that fantasy players must correctly project which players will produce in any given season or single game matchup. However, there will always be uncontrollable factors that impact the outcome. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate variance, dynasty formats give skilled players a greater advantage in defeating inexperienced but lucky players. Though dynasty formats still cannot account for Joe Mixon’s illness in Week 16 leading to just 50 rushing yards in the fantasy championship game or a phenomenal seven-catch, 107-yard game from Hunter Renfrow in Week 16 against an otherwise stout Chargers defense, they can limit the impact of luck and injuries. Here are some instances in which variance is minimized in dynasty.
First, an inexperienced redraft player could very well have decided to draft a high-potential player like Chris Godwin last preseason based on hype. However, smart dynasty players were already trading for breakout candidates like Godwin months before in the offseason or perhaps had even rostered Godwin since his rookie year in anticipation of his meteoric rise. Dynasty allows shrewd fantasy players to acquire breakout stars early ahead of the pack rather than giving every player an equal chance to hit on a star during the draft in a redraft format.
Secondly, a lucky redraft player could have taken a sleeper pick like John Brown late in the draft, or worse yet, lucked into such a player via auto-draft. There’s nothing more infuriating than knowing that a late-round player you’re targeting in the double-digit rounds is about to be automatically selected because Joe Blow left the draft early to go to a movie. Once again, these types of unfortunate events aren’t allowed to occur in a dynasty format because perceptive dynasty players had the opportunity to acquire a talented veteran like Brown on the cheap last offseason based on his projected role after signing with Buffalo.
And finally, while injuries remain unpredictable and can derail a playoff run, dynasty teams are better equipped to handle such variance due to deep rosters and benches. One example is in the case of running back handcuffs. Many redraft formats offer shallow benches with few spots to hold onto unproductive handcuffs and project players. When a league winner like Kenyan Drake or Damien Williams emerges late in the season, there is a mad scramble to the waiver wire in redraft leagues. On the other hand, knowledgeable dynasty owners who had rostered such handcuffs and prospects for months or years in advance were able to capitalize on their sudden ascents to fantasy relevance.
Another way injuries are mitigated in dynasty is through trades. Let’s say that a strong contending team locked into the playoffs last season lost Josh Jacobs to injury right before the fantasy playoffs. In redraft, no one would’ve traded any player of value for Jacobs at that point in the season. But in dynasty, the contending team could’ve sold Jacobs to a rebuilding team already looking toward 2020, perhaps for an older but productive player plus a draft pick. One possibility could’ve been Jacobs for Julian Edelman and an early first-round rookie pick to fill that contending team’s flex spot. Rather than a fluky injury decimating a contending team, dynasty allows that team opportunities to strengthen a roster depleted by a late-season injury.
The value of deep rosters in dynasty is immense. While most redraft leagues allow somewhere between 15 to 20 roster spots per team, dynasty teams can eclipse 25 or even 30 roster spots. Rather than Joe Blow making a fortunate waiver add of Deebo Samuel or Tyler Higbee mid-season on their way to a lucky title run, adept dynasty players already had such players stashed on their rosters. A shallow waiver wire requires more attention and foresight, helping fantasy players who actually invest time and energy in drafting, trading for, or holding prospects.
How Playing Dynasty Helps You Win Redraft Leagues
Dynasty formats are great in allowing fantasy players year-round activity and rewarding more active, knowledgeable owners by minimizing variance. But there’s another benefit to playing dynasty that can also then be applied to redraft, and that is gaining a better understanding of long-term trends in fantasy. While most redraft players will do some research pre-draft and look at player projections, dynasty owners who have done their due diligence on a player from year-round activity and research will still be far better prepared for their redraft leagues.
For example, older running backs are generally riskier assets whose dynasty values decline as they age. Many avid dynasty players avoided drafting David Johnson in the first round of redraft leagues in 2019 as a result. While Johnson’s injuries hampered his performance and eventually cost him the starting job, he was inefficient even when productive early in the season. And though Adrian Peterson continues to be an outlier in defying Father Time, dynasty players know to generally avoid selecting older running backs early in drafts due to higher risk of inefficiency or injury.
Another trend is the development time needed for tight ends when they first enter the league. Rookie tight ends rarely produce in their first year from a fantasy standpoint and are generally not worth selecting in redraft formats. Even a superstar tight end like George Kittle had a quiet rookie campaign and took time to develop into an elite fantasy asset. While redraft players sometimes fall for the hype of rookie tight ends, wise dynasty players eschewed drafting rookies like T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant last year, neither of whom cracked the top-15 fantasy tight ends in 2019.
Many dynasty players are also more aware of contract situations, injury histories, and coaching changes, all factors which affect fantasy production year to year. Contract years can result in spikes in production from a player looking to secure a lucrative long-term contract. And while injuries strike randomly, it’s worth noting that certain players like Alshon Jeffery constantly suffer from soft tissue injuries while others like Jordan Reed are at higher risk of repeat concussions.
And even though there’s plenty of risk in gambling on a new head coach or offensive coordinator’s scheme succeeding, dynasty players who invest in smart coaches reviving a player’s fantasy career can be greatly rewarded. Many capitalized on Carlos Hyde’s relative cheap redraft ADP after Kyle Shanahan joined the 49ers in 2017, and Jared Goff was a league winner at quarterback in 2018 in the second year of Sean McVay’s tenure. Similar opportunities may be in store in 2020 for those paying attention to the hiring of Matt Rhule in Carolina and Kliff Kingsbury’s second year in Arizona.
If you’ve made it through this entire article and have decided to try dynasty and join a startup draft, keep an eye out for Part 2 of this series coming soon, Dynasty Startup Draft Strategies. Yes, trying a dynasty format will have a somewhat steep learning curve, and it also requires additional time commitments in the offseason. But as a fantasy player who plays both redraft and dynasty, dynasty is far more rewarding long-term. And plus, it keeps the fun of fantasy football going from February to July and not just in-season. What more could you ask for?
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