Happy fantasy football season! If you’re reading this, you’ve probably decided to take the plunge and join either a dynasty or a keeper league this year. You’re also probably wondering how you should go about tackling your roster. Well, you’re in the right place, as this will be your one-stop shop for how to build a team for the long haul.
First off, let’s get the definitions out of the way for clarity sake. A dynasty league is a format where you maintain the same roster from year-to-year. This is a stark difference from standard fantasy leagues where you start from scratch each season and draft entirely new rosters. For example, if you decided to draft, say, Patrick Mahomes, Elijah Mitchell, and Justin Jefferson, those are the guys that will be carrying your team for years moving forward, unless you decide to either trade or cut them from your roster.
It works in a similar fashion to being an actual general manager of an NFL team and that means you have to be extra judicious in determining who will benefit you both now and in the future. For example, a veteran quarterback like Tom Brady may bring you immediate success, but you may be scrambling to find a new starter in a year. At the same time, a young quarterback like Trey Lance may project to be great long term, but you may have to live with subpar results as he develops. It’s about finding that perfect balance.
Keeper leagues work as a hybrid between standard and dynasty leagues where you’re allowed to retain a handful of players after each season while the rest goes back into a draft pool. The strategies of dynasties and keepers are similar and for the purposes of this article, we’ll hone in on dynasties.
Like standard leagues, dynasty’s can be adjusted based on the preferences of the league you’re in. They usually work with the standard format of 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 D/ST, and 1 kicker for the starting lineup, but the bench is much deeper considering that it’s designed to be a multi-year commitment. Some leagues go as far as to throw in a second FLEX option into the lineup but again, that’s up to how your league wants to set it up.
Like the actual NFL, whoever you decide to choose in the first round of your dynasty league is going to be the foundational piece of your team for years moving forward. Age and mileage should be just as much of a factor as skill as ideally, you’d want a player who is entering his prime and has several years of elite production ahead of him.
Similar to standard leagues, you’d probably want to go with a running back with your first few picks considering that dominant, young runners are at a premium. Jonathan Taylor and Najee Harris are perfect examples of who you’d want to target as both are under the age of 25 and are coming off seasons where they produced over 300 fantasy points in PPR formats. Established backs like Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, and Dalvin Cook would be fine choices to too, but you should proceed with caution considering their history of injuries and age.
Using a first-rounder on an elite wide receiver like Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson would also be a good decision for your team. But considering how the NFL has transformed into a pass-happy league where young, explosive wideouts are sprouting up all over the place, you could definitely find value in the third and fourth rounds.
When to draft a QB?
Typically you’d wait until you’ve got your top four skill position players squared away to take a crack at a quarterback, but there are some exceptions.
Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert are the only gunslingers who crack the top-50 in dynasty league rankings according to Fantasy Pros and have already established themselves as the faces of the league for the next decade. If you decide to lock in one of these guys to be your cornerstone of your team with an early pick, that would be understandable. If not, there will still be other QB’s 25 and under like Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow to choose from.
Once that tier of QB’s have gone off the board, you have multiple options with what you could do next. If you’re playing the long game, this is where someone like a Trey Lance or a Trevor Lawrence would go. If you’re in win-now mode right out the gate, a pick like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady would maximize your QB depth for this year. This strategy also works if you don’t value the current crop of up-and-coming QB’s and would elect to take someone like a Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud in your league’s rookie draft next year.
When to draft a TE?
Everyone would love to lock in someone like a Kyle Pitts or Mark Andrews for the long haul, but where to draft them is a tricky proposition. If you use a pick on them early, you might miss out on fortifying your running back/receiver depth. If you wait too late, then those potential game-changers will be off the board.
With these tight ends, go with your gut. If Pitts, Andrews, or even an older player like George Kittle are right there for the taking in the early rounds and you feel confident, take them. Otherwise, get what you can get to be your starter right now and focus your energy on finding a project to develop. Perhaps someone like a Trey McBride or a Cade Otton would be a nice piece to stash away.
Hitting on sleepers is a valuable skill for the longterm viability of your team and it would be wise to study average draft position while analyzing certain situations players are in to determine who will outplay their current value.
For example, Houston Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce is currently the 40th ranked dynasty running back and has an ADP of 46. Early training camp reports have him running away with the starting job and considering the lack of skill position depth in Houston, he will be fed a heavy dose of carries this season. The number of touches he gets should vault him up into a being a top-20 back in the league by the end of the year and those who had the foresight to take him will have found their workhorse running back for years to come.
Finding those diamonds in the rough depends on how much homework you do before the draft, so get to studying.
Players to fade
It’s been said here before, but age and injuries are at the centerpiece of determining which players to stay away from in dynasty leagues. Quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford are on borrowed time and shouldn’t be considered if you’re playing the long game.
The same can be said for other skill position stalwarts like running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and even tight end Travis Kelce. For players hovering around the age of 30, chances are that their best days are most likely behind them.
Running a successful dynasty league team is the closest you’ll get to stepping into the shoes of an NFL GM. It requires an ample amount of preparation, foresight, and a little bit of luck to create a roster of champions for the future. Do your due diligence and you could dominate your friends for years to come.