Fantasy Football 101: The Mindset of a Dynasty Manager

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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.

Basic Strategies

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.

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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!

“Rebuild” Mode

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.

Final Thoughts

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)!

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Tom says:

When I do a dynasty startup, I actually combine the win-now and rebuild approaches (and successfully, I might add – won 3 dynasty startups last year, and all will be competitive for years to come). What I do is hyper-focus on players on the left side of their career bell-curve who have been in the league 4 years or less. I mainly try to draft 2nd and 3rd year rising players, and also high potential rookies. Last year, I reached on a few players to follow this strategy – but it paid off magnificently – on one team I drafted Metcalf, Ridley, McLaurin, and J. Taylor all higher then their ADPs. I complemented those players with D. Watson and Cousins at QB. I ran away with the ship. Another strategy I follow is to generally ignore the TE position – at least the high tier ones. I know the ballers love them some “positional” advantage TEs like Kelce and Waller, but I’ve found that it’s just not worth passing on a higher caliber RB or WR to draft a TE. Again, to great success. TEs ranking 5th to 12th shift every year, and a lot of the times, you can pick them on waivers, or trade for them cheaply. So after experimentation and sticking to the rookie/2nd/3rd year player strategy, you can field a very competitive team and build for the future at the same time.

Johnny Varin says:

Hi Jeff,

Nice article, but as a Dynasty manager of more than 30 years (ok, it means I am old) I can tell you that there is only one thinking and it’s WIN NOW only. The rebuilding is done at the same time. My league started in 1991 and I won with players like Moon QB, Emmit Smith RB, Andre Rison WR, Shannon Sharpe TE and Chip Lohmiller K.

If you can tell me on which team Lohmiller kicked without checking the internet, you are good!

We have a draft before the season and a redraft at midseason. You have to sacrifice 1 player at each position for every draft, all the others players are yours for life. So, if you have a great roster, you only change 5 players per draft. There is no waiver wire in the season, only the midseason draft. Trades are permitted at drafts only. So, I drafted Emmit Smith in year 1 and kept him till he went to Arizona but some other Manager took him when he went there. Our roster is 20 players (4QBs, 5RBs, 5WRs, 3TEs, 3Ks). It was 15 players in 1991 so 1 less per position but injuries and bye weeks were a real problem so we added 1 player per position a few years later. The weekly roster is 1QB, 2RBs, 2WRs, 1TE and 1K. you play against only 1 another manager per week. There are no playoffs so the manager with the most total wins is the champion. Most of the time, the League Winner wins by 1 so like 11-5 and the second place is 10-6. We had some ties and the winner was head to head winner with the second place so I won with a 10-7 because the second place also had 10-7 and I was 3-2 vs that owner. I also lost with a 12-5 season to a manager that had the same record but had beat me head to head. In my league, losing 1 game for bad reasons (as bye problems) is usually a reason you finish second place.

Since it is a Dynasty league, there are rarely supertstars (top 5) to draft but sometimes yes when a young player that gets off in the second half of the year and finish top 5 like Odell Beckham did. You either win the League and brag about it 1 full year or finish last and pick first the next draft. It was tough to go from last to first so we changed the draft order so the league winner can’t stack up players he won’t even use. Our league is a small league, only 4 owners, so we all have tremendous roster but you have to start the ones that will make you win that particular week. There is an owner who has Mahomes and Josh Allen at QB, he starts Mahomes most of the time but he misses half the time. The draft order is

1-Last Place
2-Third Place
3- Last Place
4- Second Place
5- Third Place
6- Last place
7- Third place
8- Second place
9- League Winner
10-League Winner
11- Second place
12-Third place
13- Last place

the rest of the draft is serpentine. I am the beneficiary of last place so I pick 1, 3, 6, 13, 14, 21, 22, 29, 30. I don’t think that I will really pick 9 times for a 20 player roster. Don’t let yourself think that I don’t have a good roster, I am last place with a 8-9 standing and the league winner had a 9-7-1 standing. The year before, I was the league winner with a 10-7 standing. Last year, I was plague with injuries to my superstars (Prescott QB, Barkley RB, Beckham WR and Kittle TE) so I could not keep up against superstars. The only other superstar injured last year was McCaffrey.

My first pick will be Jonathan Taylor RB, Indianapolis. After that, I plan to take Trevor Lawrence (so it is part of rebuild mode) but the owner picking after my first pick might also think rebuild on that pick but he really doesn’t need Lawrence. He is the manager having Mahomes and Josh Allen (his 2 other QBs are no good Carr and Big Ben). The main roster problem with that owner is the TE position; he has no superstar (maybe Gronk but OG Howard is coming back from injury). His other TEs are Hurst in Atlanta (but Atl drafted Pitts 4th overall) and Ebron with Big Ben fading. By contrast, I have Kittle, Andrews and Jonnu Smith. I will drop Jonnu Smith of course as my obligatory drop at the position.

So, if he is wise, he takes Pitts second and I take Lawrence with pick 3. My other QBs are Prescott (back from injury), Deshaun Watson (possibly suspended) and Tom Brady. The 4th QB that I have to drop is Wentz. I should be set with superstars at RBs with Barkley (back from injury), Derrick Henry and Taylor. My 2 other RBs are Sanders in Phil and Jacobs in Vegas. My drop is Robinson from Jax. Robinson is good but if the coach picked Travis Etienne in the first round it is to play him, a lot. I am ok at Kicker with Tucker and Lutz, my drop is Mcmanus.

My big problem is at WR, I am more than poor. The league winner had 474 pts for his WRs starters last year and I had 321 pts so an average advantage of 10 points for him versus me every game. His weekly average for all his starters was 115 and I had 108 but head to head I was 3-2 vs him.

Don’t laugh, my WRs are Jefferson Minn, Golladay Nyg, Claypool Pitt, Fuller Mia, Fulgham Phil. Yeah, looks like a roster for a 12 team league and Jefferson was a 9th round pick at midseason last year. I need to restock on WR and there is not much available. Top ten available are

Thielen (but I have already Jefferson)
Cooks hou (but no QB)
Crowder (with Rookie QB)
Beckham (back from ACL injury)
AIyuk (but Lance or Garappolo at QB)
Moore DJ (new QB)
Robinson (with Dalton at QB or a rookie!)
Marvin Jones (Rookie QB)

Since there are no superstar available; I must gamble. I can take a rookie a la Jamarr Chase or a drop from my fellow owners. One owner will drop Antonio Brown but no use to me, I can pick Godwin. The league winner has to choose between Keenan Allen, McLaurin or Thomas from New Orleans if he doesn’t trust Taysom Hill/Winston combo. The second place owner will drop Woods from LA or Julio Jones if he is traded to a bad place like Baltimore. My plan is to go rebuild on that position because I don’t have a choice. My 3rd pick or 6th of the draft will be CeeDee Lamb (nice combo with Dak), Fulgham is evidently my drop. My 4 pick would be Chase from Cincinnati (it was HIggins before the Nfl Draft of april) and my drop for that pick would be Fuller because I don’t trust any WR from Miami.

So I get Lamb and I doubt that my opponents will pick him in the 3 picks that are not mine in the first 6. They have problems at TE and RB; they have to unload RBs Lindsay Hou, Johnson Hou, Conner ariz, Gurley FA and available are Akers, Ekeler, Dobbins, Mixon, Montgomery and Harris rookie. I should have Lamb, which is great but then I will have 3 WRs with a week 7 bye. Lamb & Jefferson & Claypool.

Jefferson is my only top 10 WR, Lamb is my 3rd pick of the draft so Claypool must go. I can fathom to take the risk of having only Chase and Golladay on my roster for week 7 and maybe less if one of the 2 is injured. I must pick a third WR that is not a week 7 bye. That is eliminating Keenan Allen and Fuller that I just dropped for Chase and Marvin Jones. Robinson from Chicago would not be a good option because I would have 3 WRs on a week 10 bye (Golladay, Chase, Robinson).

I am then planning on DJ Moore if he is still there but might be doubtful. Godwin could be there but with so much catching mouths to feed (Evans, Godwin, Brown, Gronk, Howard) in TB, I don’t know if Brady can go for 50 TDs. A WR drop by my fellow competitor will probably be it. Woods in LA looks good with Stafford (Kupp I trust less beause he has not enough target and is TD dependent). Julio Jones on a good team I would like, let’s say SF or Indianapolis but not with Baltimore or New England. Then probably McLaurin in Wash or Thomas in New Orl if his actual owner doesn’t trust Hill/Winston.

As you can see, even though I am always a proponent of WIN NOW but you must combine it with rebuild if your roster needs it.

Addendum: If the second pick is not Pitts or a RB and the Manager steals Lawrence from me, I am in deep shit. It throws a wrench in my predictions, I can’t justify picking CeeDee Lamb with the third pick of the draft. I could change Jacobs with Akers or Ekeler but that is not a need at all for me. I can go to my next choice for QB which is Jalen Hurst, safer for this year than Lawrence but long term … Or, I take the next Shannon Sharpe with Pitts in Atlanta even if I have Kittle and Andrews (it also means that I must drop probably Andrews at the midseason draft).

I hope you had fun reading, I did writing it. The answer to the Lohmiller question is the Washington Redskins (that was a non controversial name in 1991)


Shawn Enos says:

Thanks for the read

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