The Definitive Dynasty Startup Strategy Guide

You’ve followed the sage wisdom of @FF_DownUnder and leaped head first into dynasty. Now it’s time to start thinking about and preparing for the draft. The pressure of a startup dynasty draft can be exponentially more intense than in a redraft league. These are players that will be on your team for years, decades possibly. Missteps in a startup can put a team back several years from a realistic chance to compete for a title. Entering the draft feeling prepared and having a strategy is essential.

As with redraft, there are some considerations for how to approach team construction, each with their merits and pitfalls. Below the team at @DFF_Dynasty walks you through several draft strategies that can lead to a roster set up for success:

Wide Receiver early and often (@DFF_Tom)

Building the core of your dynasty roster around elite receivers is considered to be the traditional and foundational approach to dynasty drafting. Until recently, the first round of dynasty ADP was dominated by receivers. The logic behind this approach comes down to consistency and longevity. The season-long — and year over year — production of wide receivers is more predictable than running backs. This means there is less turnover at the position, which in turn leads to steady production on a fantasy roster.

Additionally, the longevity of a receiver’s career is much greater than a running back. There is a less physical toll on their bodies compared to running backs, and their skill set can rely less on explosiveness/burst for success. Receivers take several years to reach their prime but then can provide consistent elite production into their early to mid-30s. As detailed in this article, the window for a receivers prime ranges from ages 27-31. If a receiver can contribute in the early stages of their career (ages 22-26), this creates nearly a decade that a player can be in a fantasy starting lineup.

An important element of this argument is that much of the above is a complete inverse for running backs. Running backs have shorter careers, less year to year consistency, and reach their prime (and thus their decline) at a much earlier age. This article from Fantasypros shows that rookie running backs can be reliable contributors, and the prime for a running back seems to be ages 26-28. But there is a significant decline at age 29, with “just 5 of 164 running backs who’ve been able to make it into elite territory” after hitting 29 years old. While running backs can provide early production, they typically fade more quickly. This can be a dangerous proposition on a dynasty roster if there is frequent turnover. A few misses can quickly put a team into rebuild mode.

Running Back studs (@DFF_Tom)

Elite running backs score more points than wide receivers. The top 12 running backs averaged 21.24 PPR points/game in 2018, whereas receivers averaged 19.64 (Top 6 RBs averaged 24.37 vs. 20.76 for receivers). A team that has a core of 2-3 legit stud running backs have a weekly advantage that is nearly unmatched in the fantasy world. While receivers may have more consistency year to year, running backs have more consistency week to week.

Dynasty football is about winning championships. A popular view for dynasty roster management is in a 2-3 year window. Arguably, there is so much turnover and unpredictability in the NFL, it is futile to predict 5-10 years into the future, so focus on the near term to win. Based on this perspective, the shorter careers of running backs are a non-factor and loading up with as many backs who may leap to elite status is worth the gamble.

Another factor is scarcity. A replacement level running back (24th finish, Lamar Miller, HOU) scored 159 PPR points in 2018. Thirty-two wide receivers eclipsed this point total, supporting the notion that the receiver is a deeper position with more available options. So if a team can roster several top 24 running backs, this deprives other teams of a needed and scarce resource, while providing a weekly advantage of more average points in a flex spot.

So while a running back approach is riskier from a long term proposition, it provides a higher weekly upside and can lead to “win now” opportunity. Keep this shorter window in mind when drafting, and prioritize more proven veteran talent at other positions. Pairing multiple elite running backs with consistent receivers in their prime (vs. young receivers needing development) can lead to swift fantasy glory.

To chase youth or not (@DFF_Cog)

A common trend among those newer to the dynastic realm of fantasy football is the lean towards the youth movement. Many owners believe they should forfeit (or not focus on winning), during year one of startup. Meaning if they load up on young talent, rookies and rookie picks, that will eventually have a powerhouse team for years to come.

Trust me, I have tried this, and I have drafted several busts. I once felt entirely comfortable going into a season with a rookie named Bishop Sankey (fourth round startup pick) and Andre Ellington (sixth round startup pick) as my starting running backs. Go ahead and laugh, I welcome and deserve it. At the time it wasn’t that crazy of a plan. No matter how good you think you are at drafting, you are likely to have a similar crushing story.

In startups, I believe you have to nab veteran talent and lots of it. You can always move vets for rookie picks in the offseason. I also believe in the big four. This is a theory that there are four truly strong fantasy rookies in every draft class. This does not mean they always get taken with the first four rookie picks. This idea also means these players are not going to be easy to spot in a 20 plus round startup draft. I generally like to build a solid talent base at each position in startups before I think about taking on rookies.

Guys like Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL), Todd Gurley (RB, LAR), and Saquon Barkley (RB, NYG) are the exception to that rule. That one studly rookie is always going to garner extra reach-worthy attention. After you build your base, you can then choose to take some rookies, or you can handcuff your top players. Or, you can build real depth that will help you absorb the inevitable injury bug.

Truthfully, I just don’t think a youth movement is ever going to lead to your team being a future force. The dynasty tides are not that visible, readable or reliable. If you think you can pull off the youth movement, you have to be a flawless drafter. I have yet to meet one, but more power to you, and yes I will buy/read your book.

Two Elite Tight ends (@DFF_RyanB):

Grabbing two elite TEs early (2ETE) in drafts has been fantasy football’s best-kept secret for two years now. In 2017, drafting Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE) and Travis Kelce (TE, KC) together was a cheat code in both best ball and dynasty leagues, posting over a 25% win rate in MFL10s.

You dominated your league in 2018 if you drafted Kelce and Ertz together while everyone else fumbled over choosing between starting Ricky Seals-Jones (TE, ARZ) or Jesse James (TE, PIT) at TE.

In 2019, 2ETE should once again be your go-to startup draft strategy in dynasty at the 2nd/3rd round turn.

Dominate Your Flex Spot, Deprive the Competition

The elite three TEs in 2018 were all essentially WR1s or high-end WR2s:

Drafting two elite TEs allows you to start a WR1 at TE AND a WR1 in your flex spot. Even better, you don’t have to pay WR1 prices. Combined WR/TE February DLF ADP:

Travis Kelce (KC): WR/TE 12
Zach Ertz (PHI): WR/TE 14 (tied)
George Kittle (SF): WR/TE 14

Further, 2ETE is far better than simply taking WRs or RBs of similar ADPs from a game theory perspective. With only three genuinely elite TEs and two of them on your team, none of your competitors can come close to competing with you at the position:

Point Gap Between TE3 to TE12 in 2019: 125
Point Gap Between RB3 to RB12 in 2019: 139
Point Gap Between WR3 to WR12 in 2019: 82

While the point gap for RB was more significant than TE, this works in favor of the 2ETE strategy. 2ETE in the first place is likely only possible if you pick at the 2/3 turn, which means you would also have a top-five pick. This allows you to get an elite RB, and then pair him with two of Kelce, Ertz, or Kittle. You can completely maximize the current point disparity in fantasy football at both RB and TE.
Take advantage of the current TE wasteland in fantasy football. Go 2ETE and enjoy your many championships for years to come.

Some thoughts on Superflex (@FL2drinkMinimum):

The new hotness in fantasy football is none other than Superflex. Superflex allows you to play a QB at a designated flex spot. It’s more fun to play with the fantasy football players that are the most important to the football team and just so happen to score the MOST points. Let me say, again, quarterbacks score the most points from top to bottom to sideways and any other way you can think of. Across most scoring formats, a minimum of 50% of the top 24 fantasy point scorers were QBs. In some of my leagues, Dak Prescott (QB12, DAL) scored 2.5 more points than Antonio Brown (WR3, PIT) and Cam Newton (QB12, CAR) scored six more points than DeAndre Hopkins (WR2, HOU). Get it now?

It’s SuperFlex startup time. If you read this and only take one thing from it, it’s the very next sentence: Quarterbacks are cheapest during the startup draft. QBs can play into their mid to late 30s with no issue and sometimes maintain high fantasy performance year in and year out (see Brees, Brady, Rodgers, Big Ben). QBs and WRs statistically produce and play longer in the NFL. Draft your startup team filled with these players. I prefer to draft QBs early and often, sprinkled in with top end WRs. Wait to draft RBs coming into the league from your rookie drafts and dominate for years to come.

A final note

An important takeaway is that the number one strategy for a startup is flexibility. Enter a draft with a strategy, but be prepared to adjust if the situation calls for it. If you enter a draft with a philosophy of drafting a young team but everyone else has the same approach, then there will be huge value in veteran players and vice versa. This is a team you will be managing for years to come, and it’s important to have players you want. Draft a team you’ll be excited to field week in and week out. Good luck!

Thanks for reading! Follow us:

@DFF_Tom, @DFF_Cog, @DFF_RyanB, @FL2drinkMinimum, @SuperFlexPod

And here’s a great SuperFlex podcast episode talking about startup draft strategy right here.

tburroughs

Dynasty and Analytics writer for @DFF_Dynasty. Fantasy football and Dynasty fanatic. Lucky husband and father to two wonderful girls. I am interested in the practical application of analytics and next generation statistics to fantasy football. Follow me @DFF_Tom

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