When Fantrax first approached me about writing a primer on dynasty fantasy football I thought to myself, “That should be easy, I have played the format for well over a decade.”
However, the more I thought about the piece, the harder it became. The difficulty in writing about dynasty goes a long way towards demonstrating that the format itself is something that needs to be played to be fully appreciated and understood, but I’ll give it my best shot nonetheless.
Dynasty vs. Redraft
If you’re like most fantasy players, you come into your yearly fantasy football draft with a win-now attitude. You have a clean slate and you’ve convinced yourself that you need to draft the best and most consistent players available for the coming season. Past and future success means very little. It is all about effectively projecting how a player will perform over the next few months.
For anyone familiar with the stock market, redraft leagues as they’ve become known, are the equivalent of day trading. Your assets, the players you’ve drafted, must perform within a narrow and specific timeframe. Suspension, injuries, and rookies who need time to develop are all huge liabilities to redraft owners.
What if you’re an owner who wants to take a long-term view of things, a person who wants to worry less about week to week injuries, someone who likes to see players develop?
Well, in that case, the dynasty format is made just for you!
How Dynasty Fantasy Football Works
Dynasty leagues start off the same as any redraft league, the entire league comes together for an initial draft where the basis of each team is formed. These drafts can be live or what are called slow drafts where each team is on the clock for a set period of time and each team is notified, usually by email or text message, when it is their turn to make a selection.
As the name would suggest, initial drafts only occur at the onset of a dynasty league. After the competition of the initial draft, the rosters for each team will roll over from one year to the next with rookie-only drafts occurring the second season and going forward.
Don’t misunderstand, the rosters aren’t static, not by any means, they simply are an on-going piece of art that each owner is continually crafting and, hopefully, improving year over year.
Once a league completes its initial draft, owners may trade players or the future rookie draft picks I mentioned earlier. They can add and drop players via waiver moves, or make other roster moves as they see fit, such as adding players to injured reserve or their taxi squad.
And the Dynasty Begins
At the completion of the initial season, the team the owner has created is rolled over into the next season. Just as an NFL franchise retains all of it’s contracted players each season, so too will dynasty owners.
The ability to keep players and retain the progress you’ve made towards winning a title is so much of the charm of dynasty leagues.
Additionally, the strategy involved in being an effective dynasty fantasy football owner changes as well. Sure, you can try to come into a dynasty league with a win now approach, and it might even work for a season or two, but if an owner is not adjusting their approach after that time then the likelihood of success will sharply decline.
Effective dynasty owners must consistently work on cultivating talent and planning to keep their teams competitive two, three or even four years in the future. As such, there are a few dynasty fantasy football strategies owners will need to be aware of.
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Dynasty Fantasy Football Strategy
The Win Now Strategy
The Win Now strategy focuses on, you guessed it, winning right out of the gate. Owners pursuing this strategy will draft high performing veterans, no matter where they are, perceived or otherwise, in their NFL career. A Win Now team in a league starting out in 2018 might feel totally comfortable drafting Tom Brady who will turn 41 during the inaugural season of the league, or Drew Brees who is 39 years old.
Beyond age, a Win Now owner might feel that the risk of drafting someone like Brandon Marshall, now that he is on the Seahawks, might make sense for the production he could provide this season.
Put another way, the risks of age, injury, or contract situation are generally ignored with the hope of capitalizing on the points scored by a player.
Win Now teams may trade away future rookie picks to acquire players who can contribute immediately. This strategy seems to be the most comfortable for first-time dynasty owners as it most closely represents the mindset of redraft owners. That said, this strategy does force the new owner into some very difficult decisions which will be outlined in the Rebuild strategy later in this article.
The Future Competitor Strategy
If a team isn’t concerned with winning immediately at the start of a league, then they will likely be pursing a strategy that positions them to be a competitor in the future. The culmination of this strategy varies in terms of years needed to see it to fruition.
Unlike the win now owner, the future competitor is planning to compete in two, three, or four or even more years. No owner pursuing this strategy can realistically determine when their team will be ready to make a title run, everything is generally estimated.
Future Competitor teams will seek to accumulate future draft picks and young players with the hopes that when their team is ready to push for a title, it will be built to compete for several years. Future Competitors may pass on veterans who are in the middle to twilight of their careers as those players don’t fit into the long-term plans of such a team.
The logic behind this is that the aging players will be beyond their prime when the team is designed to compete. They will just be adding points to a team that isn’t looking to win immediately and will be losing value year after year.
Future Competitor teams might seek to trade away any veterans that they acquire in an effort to accumulate younger players or future rookie draft picks. Adherents to this strategy must be patient and prepared to trade away players viewed as sure things for prospects or picks.
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The Rebuild Strategy
Those owners who are pursuing a Rebuild strategy are almost certainly in possession of teams that were engaged in a Win Now strategy only a season or two before.
The Rebuild strategy is very similar to that of the Future Competitor strategy with some small differences.
A Rebuild team must first accept that the glory days of their past team are over, done, in the past. The veterans that are on a rebuild team will likely need to be sold at a discount for future draft picks or younger talent.
Those in a Rebuild strategy are easy to spot and are, unfortunately, easily exploited by other owners.
Rebuild teams differ from their Future Competitor cousins in that Rebuild teams are in transition, or flux, while Future Competitor teams have made the transition away from veterans.
Future Competitor teams are also able to demand better trade offers while Rebuild teams often need to make trades below market value.
Developed Team Strategy
Teams that have accumulated a sizeable pool of young and developing players will likely begin to transition to a Developed Team strategy.
In such a strategy a Future Competitor begins its transformation into a Win Now team. This is achieved by slowing down the acquisition of rookie picks and young players, while increasing the acquisition of veterans that can begin to make the team a contender over the coming seasons.
This strategy is more about the realization in the mind of the team owner that the window for their team to compete for a title is at hand and not staying in a perpetual cycle of rebuilding.
This can be tricky for some owners as they may struggle with the timing aspect of implementing this strategy. Too early and your team may not have the firepower to go all the way. Too late and the youth acquired by the owner is squandered.
The Growth of Dynasty
Dynasty fantasy football has grown in recent years due to the challenge it presents to fantasy owners, as well as allowing everyone to build their team as they see fit.
The format has also seen innovations in the fantasy game flourish with individual defensive players (IDP), salary cap, and auction formats all embracing and enriching the dynasty format as a whole.
While dynasty might seem a bit daunting at first to the redraft owner, the satisfaction of winning a championship, or multiple championships for that matter, is so much more fulfilling and meaningful than that of winning a redraft league.
To see the team you’ve created over multiple seasons come out successful makes all the struggle and hard work well worth it.
If you haven’t already, give the dynasty format a try, you’ll be glad you did! Start your dynasty league today!