Early Trends in Dynasty Startup Drafts (Fantasy Football)

This part of the year is an interesting time because the draft presents us with a lot of new information to use for fantasy purposes, but the season is still way too far away. If you haven’t tried out a dynasty league yet, this is a great time to do it. The same way the month of August is red hot for normal fantasy drafts, the months of June and July are typically considered dynasty season. It brings a unique mix of predicting what might be coming before we see training camp, and discussing whether or not the production from last season will continue. Startup drafts are an absolute blast, especially because you get to hold onto the team for the long haul, so when something big happens in training camp, you feel like a part of the front office or a die-hard fan for that period of time. 

Over the past three weeks, I’ve jumped into a handful of startup drafts at varying levels of experience, and I have been taking stock of trends I see so I can provide them to the #FootClan for their startup drafts coming up. Most of this information is compiled from eight startup drafts. All of them were 12 team leagues, Baller’s preferred scoring, and a few of them had the added element of a Superflex spot. As usual, if you have any questions you can find me on Twitter @TheFFGator. Also, a quick side note: go grab the 2020 Ultimate Draft Kit before you join any leagues. You can find dynasty & rookie rankings, career consistency information, and plenty more that’s crucial for dynasty startups. This article is just a quick overview of what I have personally seen in real startup drafts. Let’s get to it:

Two Players Consistently Drafted Earlier Than Their ADP

Keep in mind the ‘official’ ADP listed is the mean draft position across all dynasty drafts, but a lot of you may play in more serious leagues that will have some sharks jumping up to snatch players ahead of their projected draft spot. ADP movement happens slowly during this part of the year, so it’s not something you can always prepare for if you have to wait for the ADP to adjust before you realize someone might have been worth a higher draft pick. 

A.J. Brown – WR, Titans

ADP: 27 Overall, WR9
ADP I saw: 17.5, WR7

Brown has been a popular name since the season ended, and apparently it’s continued right into startup season. I saw Brown go as early as the WR5, and as late as the WR11. In every draft I participated in, Brown was selected earlier than his overall ADP, so if you want him you will need to reach a bit. I would guess the main things driving this are the re-signing of Ryan Tannehill and the decline of Corey Davis‘ fifth-year option, making Brown the top target for a locked-in starting quarterback.  I personally passed on him everywhere because his efficiency numbers are almost guaranteed to see regression and I don’t totally buy Tannehill as a pocket passer. I love Brown as a talent, but the price is too much for me. If Tannehill can continue to improve, my league-mates from this draft cycle will look like geniuses. 

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Tyler Higbee – TE, Rams 

ADP: 112.33 Overall, TE12
ADP I Saw: 91 Overall, TE9

This makes my heart happy. If you follow me at all, you know I’m a huge fan of Higbee and project him to break out big time in 2020. I don’t love it when a player starts to climb the ADP board this early in the year, so let’s hope the hype doesn’t get out of control. If he ascends to anything much higher than this, I will be a bit concerned as it creeps into ‘he needs to produce huge numbers or be a giant failure’ territory. I can’t handle another OJ Howard fiasco. If you’re drafting soon, you should plan on Higbee going earlier than you expect him to, and if you want to roll the dice then you will likely have to do it in the round 7-9 range, not at his ADP. 

Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Two Players You Can Draft at a Discount 

There’s a few guys I saw stuck at the top of the board time and time again with no real explanation. It’s important to remember that youth is a good thing to have, but you still have to play this year, and next year, and the next one.  Passing up on a proven producer for a project just to save a few years is not always a good idea. Early on, you want to swing for upside with guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster and D.J. Moore because of their overall profiles and draft capital, but later in the draft, you get a lot of question marks that make passing on a solidified vet a poor choice. The ability to project young or unproven players gets increasingly difficult the further you get into the draft because situation and draft capital is not as clear, so sometimes a productive veteran does more for your squad. 

T.Y Hilton – WR, Indianapolis Colts 

Hilton fell to the back of the 13th round in our Footballers startup draft, and I consistently saw him going off the board in the double-digit rounds in all the others. His ADP is around pick 95, so he’s not slipping too far past that, but he should certainly be going earlier. Hilton has been the engine of the Colts offense for a long time and Phillip Rivers will have no issue targeting him often as we saw his tendency to develop tunnel vision with Keenan Allen. A good run game should be there for Indianapolis this year, and Hilton has been a solid fantasy producer for years. He’s certainly no spring chicken, but he should easily produce at a high level for another two or three seasons and he has been a bonafide week winner plenty of times in his career. He’s being drafted after guys like Derrius Guice and Diontae Johnson. I am a huge fan of Diontae of course, but Hilton is a bonafide WR1 on his team and a backend fantasy WR2 that you can draft as a flex player. 

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Marquez Valdes-Scantling – WR, Green Bay Packers 

We all saw the Packers completely blow it on draft day, but shouldn’t that have triggered a positive boost for this guy? Davante Adams is the alpha dog of course, but besides him, Valdes-Scantling has only *checks notes* – absolutely no one to compete with for targets. The Packers have said they want to have more explosive plays, but also committed to the run game on their roster, so frankly, it’s a huge mess. I snagged him in rounds 21, 24, and 25 in three of my drafts and that blew my mind. He was being drafted as a player that may not even make a roster, when he has a clear path to being Aaron Rodgers’ WR2 which has been a great position to be in. He didn’t do much last season when he had the same opportunity, but his production wasn’t so awful that he should have dropped this far. The NFL draft was another indication that he is an obvious sleeper pick (see: Marvin Jones for the exact same reasons). He’s basically free at this point, and he should have no issues outplaying his ADP for the next season or two. 

Two “Dart Throws” to Consider Late in Your Draft 

This is the time when plenty of league owners say things like “all of these picks are just luck” or “these players barely matter” or even worse, they don’t spend a lick of time deciding on their picks. This is when you can build a monster team if you tread lightly (or just use the UDK). Most high upside running backs will be gone by round 20, so these suggestions are true ‘sleepers’

My Favorite Late Round Dart Throw in Normal Leagues: Josh Reynolds – WR, LA Rams

Reynolds has a path to targets this season with Cooks and Gurley leaving town. He saw some significant snaps last season and may move to the outside to fill in for Brandin Cooks. He’s going in the 20th round and later, so I love the upside here. 

My Favorite Late Round Dart Throw in Superflex Leagues: Taysom Hill

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I KNOW!…..I know. That thing you are probably thinking…. I know. Hill is not going to be the next Drew Brees, please don’t think I am saying that. The only reason I love snagging him in Superflex drafts is that he has an ADP of 223, which is “this dude may get cut” territory. Not only have there been some eyebrow-raising reports of him being the potential successor there, he also gets playing time right now. Most quarterbacks that even have a chance to see the field are snagged long before this, so Hill is a great choice for both long term upside and desperation flex plays in the short term. 

Two Pieces of Advice: 
  1. Try to start a positional run, not chase one. This is especially true if you draft near the turn (picks 10, 11, 12 in 12 team leagues). Oftentimes league mates will end up chasing you if you grab that first big quarterback or tight end. That means you can not only get your choice, but you will often still see the benefit of a decent positional player when it comes back to you because everyone will spend picks on the same position out of fear of missing one.
  2. Draft based on a three-year window, nothing longer. Youth is often overrated in these drafts. If you pass on production just for youth, you are openly committing to having a worse team in the next one or two seasons. Don’t snag every veteran possible, but don’t pass up on guys simply because they have been in the league for a long time, especially if they have done well for fantasy. Players like OBJ, Julio, Zach Ertz, Adam Thielen, TY Hilton, Marvin Jones, Robert Woods and even Julian Edelman are being drafted way later than they should be in a lot of leagues I’ve participated in. If you can start building a dynasty with an OBJ/Julio combination in rounds 3-4 or 4-5, you could easily have a juggernaut for at least two years. Isn’t that the purpose of building a dynasty anyway? Why not just do it now? You will still have rookie picks you can use to build youth, and there is always the trade market and the waiver wire. Don’t overvalue youth and don’t undervalue winning.

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