Fantasy Football 101: The Mindset of a Dynasty Manager
If you are new to dynasty fantasy football, welcome! Dynasty is a really fun format for those who are itching for more fantasy football in the NFL offseason. Unlike redraft leagues where rosters reset every season… dynasty is forever. That sounds daunting, but it really isn’t. Whether you have the best team in the league or the worst team in the league, a lot can change in two years. And in dynasty, two years is pretty quick.
After the initial startup draft, there are only a few ways to modify your fantasy team: trading, the rookie draft, and the waiver wire. It’s a different animal compared to redraft or keeper. In dynasty, you can build your dream team and gamble on long-term trends. For example, J.K. Dobbins was a player who was highly touted in 2020 but he was viewed as a player that would be more valuable in 2021 and beyond (as Mark Ingram phased out). Are you building to win now? Are you building for three years from now? The options are endless…
In this article, I outline how to put yourself into the mindset of a dynasty manager, which is very different than the mindset of a redraft manager.
Just like redraft and keeper leagues, the goal in dynasty is to win a championship. Many fantasy managers get too caught up in trying to build a team that wins five years straight. Why? Just like the NFL, it would be incredible to be the Patriots from 2001 – 2019…but that’s just an unrealistic expectation. Take a step back and focus on winning one championship at a time.
In dynasty, there are two basic strategies: (1) win now or (2) rebuild. You can’t convince me otherwise. In both situations, you are trying to win a championship by pooling resources together for a specific timeframe – whether that’s right now or in two years.
“Win Now” Mode
If you have a talented roster and have a shot at the title, go all in! It’s better to win now and crumble afterward than to finish 3rd for three years in a row. And what if you win now and also enter the following season in a good position?
“Win now” players include older players and players with uncertain futures after 2021, such as Chris Carson, Raheem Mostert, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Tom Brady, etc. These players are more valuable in redraft than in keeper or dynasty. If you’re in “win now” mode, I recommend trying to trade for “win now” players. But it’s not that simple. In dynasty, player value is tied to fantasy production and longevity. It’s a combination of both. But if you want to win now, longevity is less valuable. The “win now” type players are typically at the tail end of their fantasy production. Conversely, younger players like rookies have a very wide range of outcomes but will typically ascend in fantasy production over the coming years. For example, rookie wide receivers and tight ends typically take a few years to grow into a productive fantasy role. Similarly, rookie QB’s take time before they can achieve their full potential.
Let’s look at an example of a win-now player (Tom Brady) vs an ascending talent (Trevor Lawrence). Lawrence is the new hotness and is valued WAY higher than Tom Brady in dynasty (as he should be). But I would bet that Tom Brady outscores him (pts/g) in 2021. So whether you play in redraft or dynasty, I believe that Tom Brady has a greater probability of helping you win in 2021. He could easily finish as a top-5 fantasy QB, and by comparison – it’s highly unlikely that Trevor Lawrence finishes as a top-5 fantasy QB. Lawrence is significantly more valuable in dynasty (compared to Brady) because he has the potential to be a stud QB for the next 20 years. Conversely, Brady will only have one or two more seasons of fantasy production. I put together a theoretical graph projecting Brady and Lawrence’s fantasy production over the next few years.
In dynasty, you should use long term value to your advantage so that you can stack your roster for a 1-2 year window where you’re trying to win. For example, on several trade calculators (which are just a gauge) – Trevor Lawrence in 1QB dynasty leagues is roughly equivalent to Tom Brady and Curtis Samuel. I’ll take the Samuel / Brady side a million times out of a million if I have a shot to win in 2021. If I don’t have a shot to win, I’d prefer the Lawrence side.
TO BE CLEAR, do NOT feel pressured to trade away all your future dynasty assets immediately. In fact, you’ll get a better return on a 2022 rookie pick in November than you will now. Furthermore, you’ll have a much better idea in November of who you’ll want to roster for the fantasy playoffs than you could predict right now. Similarly, you will likely have some injured players on your roster when the 2021 trade deadline approaches that you could use as trade assets. Dynasty is like chess!
If you can’t “win now”, then I recommend that you start planning for the future. As I said earlier, plan for a window where you’re pooling together resources for a championship run. If you’re rebuilding, I would aim for a comeback in 2-3 years. Rebuilding teams should trade for future rookie picks and ascending younger players who haven’t hit their ceiling yet. Interestingly, when you’re rebuilding…it’s advantageous to have a terrible fantasy team that first year. The worse your team is, the higher the likelihood of getting a top rookie pick in next year’s draft. For this reason, I recommend trying to ship away players that are more valuable today than you expect them to be in 2-3 years (the “win now” players). You should be trying to make trades with the top contenders in the league, as they are most likely to trade future rookie picks for players who can produce this year.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to rely exclusively on all your rookie picks when you start to make a comeback in 2-3 years. In fact, I am in a league (shout out Trent Richardson Memorial League) where a manager started rebuilding and hoarding rookie picks a couple of years ago. After only one year, that manager switched gears and started trading those same rookie picks for proven players. In fact, he barely used any of the rookie picks to draft new players. He assembled a pretty incredible team by using this strategy and is a strong playoff contender.
You should be willing to make trades where you’re not fleecing the other player. You don’t always win every trade in fantasy football – nor should you expect to. If you’re rebuilding and you have someone like Tom Brady or Jarvis Landry on your team, be willing to ship them off at a discount if no one bites at your valuation of them (although be patient). Brady and Landry should be productive in 2021, therefore hurting your chances of getting the first overall pick in 2022. Furthermore, Brady and Landry will likely not help you win in 2-3 years when you push for a championship run.
There is one final message I’d like to leave you with to get into the mindset of a dynasty manager. If your league is filled with managers who are new to dynasty, everyone is probably mentally tied to redraft player valuations – which means that the market is skewed. In this situation, you can gain an edge by making trades that are more advantageous in dynasty than they are in redraft. For example, the top tier rookies are likely undervalued (i.e. Ja’Marr Chase) and veteran players are likely overvalued (i.e. Tom Brady, Julio Jones). Fantasy managers that can adapt quickly have an opportunity to gain an edge in their league.
What are your favorite ways to get into the mindset of a dynasty manager? Let me know on Twitter (@TheFantasyEng)!