Building a Champion

Ryan McDowell


From time-to-time, when engaging in general dynasty football discussions, the topic will lead me to talk about my HyperActive 2 dynasty team. I’ve been fortunate enough to build a very deep and competitive team in the eight-year-old league. The responses I see and hear upon sharing my roster are often the same.

“Is that a two team league?”

“You must be playing against morons!”

“Is this a real team?”

And finally, “How did you build that team?”

In this article, I’ll address each of those questions, but will heavily focus on the last one. Exactly how did I build such a strong (on paper) roster, especially in a competitive league?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen better rosters than this one and if you play dynasty fantasy football long enough, you’ll each build your own just as good or better, though it does take some work and a few strokes of luck.

I also expect to see some “#humblebrag?” responses, and I accept that. I have worked hard to build this team and I am proud of the results, so far. I’m also willing to share the journey that has gotten me to this point and how my thinking and strategies have changed along the way.

First, let me share some background information about the league. The original HyperActive leagues are composed of two 12 team leagues in which the conference champions meet in the title game. Essentially, these are two completely separate leagues for the majority of the season. This league is entering its’ ninth season in 2015. Among my opponents are writers from FootballGuys, FFToolbox, Under the Helmet and, of course, DLF, along with many other very active dynasty players.

The league uses a fairly standard full PPR scoring system and requires the following starting lineup:

1 QB
1 RB
1 WR
1 TE
1 Team Defense

I’m going to detail all of the major moves I made over the past eight years to build the team, but let’s finally take a look at my current roster.


Let’s go back to the beginning and the startup draft…

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I traded up the first pick in the draft and made a few other deals along the way. My roster at the conclusion of the startup draft looked like this:

QB- Vince Young, Matt Schaub, Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper
RB- Ladainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, Jerious Norwood, Lamont Jordan, Chester Taylor, Kolby Smith, Chris Perry, Maurice Morris, TJ Duckett
WR- Andre Johnson, Jerricho Cotchery, Brandon Marshall, Craig Davis, Jason Hill, Eddie Kennison, Aundrae Allison, James Jones, Courtney Taylor, Jeff Webb
TE- Ben Watson, Zach Miller, Bo Scaife

You might notice my strategy then was much different than it is today. I opted to build around running backs, grabbing three of them with my first four picks. I would say I was lucky to get Andre Johnson in the third round, but even though I waited until the 27th overall pick, he was still only the sixth receiver taken, which is a stark contrast from drafts of today.

I also did not have a heavy focus on acquiring rookies. While I did select seven first year players, they were all in the back half of the draft. Former Packer James Jones is the only one that panned out.

While I was very active on the waiver wire, there were no significant acquisitions that year, outside of grabbing former Chargers’ back Darren Sproles.

I made three trades that first season, which landed me Donald Driver, who would go on to produce two more 1,000 yard seasons. I sold high on running back Chester Taylor, which was good news, but I received LenDale White in exchange for the former Viking.

All of these moves, especially hitting on a mid-round pick like Brandon Marshall, helped me win my conference title and advance to the league title game, which I lost. I felt like I was so close to a league championship and knew it would come soon.

End of season roster:

QB- Vince Young, Matt Schaub, Brett Favre, Duante Culpepper, JP Losman
RB- Ladainian Tomlinson, Lamont Jordan, Darren Sproles, Jerious Norwood, LenDale White, Sammy Morris, Darius Walker, Selvin Young
WR- Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jerricho Cotchery, Donald Driver, James Jones, Mike Walker, Craig Davis, Justin Gage, Bryant Johnson, Ben Obomanu
TE- Ben Watson, Zach Miller


In a stacked rookie draft, I held the twelfth pick following my conference title and among a huge collection of roses, I managed to find a thorn, Steelers wide receiver Limas Sweed. I did grab quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Mario Manningham among others, later in the draft.
This league season included many more trades as I completed nine deals. Key players I acquired though trade were Ryan (via the 2.01 rookie pick), Sidney Rice, Vincent Jackson, Ronnie Brown and Eddie Royal. I traded away Ladainian Tomlinson and Jerricho Cotchery, as well as cashing out on busts White and Sweed before it was too late.

There were two key deals I made that began my transformation to my current dynasty philosophy. I gave Cotchery and my future first round pick for Brown and another team’s future first rounder. This type of deal can be a gamble, but I targeted a team I expected to finish with a high pick and it worked out. Brown also went on to be a better producer than Cotchery, so that was what I call a double upgrade. The other key deal was selling Tomlinson. The Chargers’ great was coming off eight consecutive seasons of over 1,000 rushing yards and was my top overall pick just a year before. He would never meet that mark again though and I sold before he turned 30.

The waiver wire was kind to me during this second season as I added Darren Sproles (again), Miles Austin, Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Jermichael Finley to my team. Smith and Austin didn’t make the cut, but the others would prove useful.

I again won my conference title and was defeated in the league title game. You might notice a theme here, unfortunately.

End of season roster:

QB- Michael Vick, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Vince Young, Matt Cassel, Sage Rosenfels
RB- Ronnie Brown, Duece McAllister, JJ Arrington, Jerious Norwood, Derrick Ward, Selvin Young
WR- Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, Eddie Royal, Donald Driver, Davone Bess, James Jones, Mario Manningham, Keenan Burton, Bobby Engram
TE- Jermichael Finley, Zach Miller, John Carlson


I had positioned myself with multiple first round draft picks for the 2009 rookie draft, which would prove to be a key theme to how I built this team. With these specific picks, I grabbed Beanie Wells, LeSean McCoy and Kenny Britt. Again, you’ll still notice a preference for running backs as opposed to wide receivers. I only had one draft pick outside of the first round and grabbed former Colts’ slot receiver Austin Collie.

In the 2009 season, I was up to 11 trades and brought Britt (via the 1.09 rookie pick), Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Mason and Aaron Rodgers, along with an extra future first round pick onto my squad. To acquire these players, I moved Matt Schaub, Mario Manningham, Jerious Norwood, Finley, Vince Young, Rice, along with some second and third round picks.

There are a couple of points I want to make regarding some trades I made and the thought process behind them. I made a pair of deals as the annual rookie draft approached, selling veterans for rookie picks. One of these was a simple deal, acquiring the 2.11 rookie pick for quarterback Sage Rosenfels. In this deal, I targeted a quarterback needy team with a player I was likely to drop once the draft began anyway, meaning I was able to acquire a free second round pick.

Another deal I made mid-season was acquiring Mason and Bradshaw, a pair of players I thought could help me make a playoff push. Although Mason was already nearing the end of his career and I was just turning towards my ageist ways, I still saw the potential impact a starting veteran receiver could have on my team and pulled the trigger.

Finally, I dealt Schaub, Manningham and Jason Snelling for Rodgers. This obviously looks like a huge win for my team now, and it was then as well but Schaub had been a solid QB2 with QB1 upside and Manningham blossomed his sophomore season before injuries shortened his career. This deal showed me the value of a consolidation deal. Not only did I acquire a top quarterback, but I cleared some valuable roster space, which is always important as rookie draft season nears.

2009 was also the first time the waiver wire had some long-term impact on my team. I was able to grab Pierre Garcon and Arian Foster, both of who were quickly dropped. I also won the Favre sweepstakes when we learned he’d yet again be returning to the field. The Garcon and Foster moves obviously hurt and show me this team could’ve had more success over the years if I’d been more patient. As NFL training camps begin to open in the coming days, this is an important lesson to learn. If you read or see something that causes you to stash a player on your roster, don’t just arbitrarily give up on that same player a few days later.

My team fell on hard times in the third season as I began my youth movement, but I did win the conference Toilet Bowl, earning me an extra first round pick in the coming season. You’ll notice in the roster below, the slow trend towards a wide receiver dominated roster, as well as the general quality of the team starting to improve.

End of season roster:

QB- Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick
RB- LeSean McCoy, Beanie Wells, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Brown, Derrick Ward, Larry Johnson
WR- Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Austin Collie, Donald Driver, Kenny Britt, Eddie Royal, James Jones, Davone Bess, Plaxico Burress, Torry Holt, Devery Henderson, Matt Jones, Andre Caldwell
TE- Zach Miller, John Carlson, Evan Moore


I yet again had multiple first round picks in the 2010 rookie draft and selected CJ Spiller and Sam Bradford. I remember not liking the Bradford pick in the late first round. Not only is that generally higher than I like to take any rookie quarterback, but the position was already a strength. There are few players later in the draft that would’ve made sense at that spot at the time, but I should’ve pursued a trade. Later in the draft, I also selected Emmanuel Sanders, Jimmy Graham and Tim Tebow.

Another year and another 11 deals for my team. Among them, I acquired Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Maclin, Santonio Holmes, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, among others. The key players I traded away were Vincent Jackson, Driver, James Jones, a mid first round pick and Tebow.

There were more examples of selling end of bench veterans for draft picks as I sold Devery Henderson and Michael Vick for future third round picks, Holt for a fourth and used a washed up Larry Johnson to move up in the third round.

I also went back to the consolidation trade well as I packaged Driver, Jones and a future third rounder for Holmes.

The biggest deal for my team was moving Tebow along with pre-season wonder Kareem Huggins for Fred Jackson and Lynch. This was around the time the Bills basically gave up on Lynch and dumped him on the Seahawks, which worked out pretty well. You might not recall Huggins, but he was an undrafted free agent who took the pre-season by storm. I was able to cash in on the hype and buy low on the superstar Lynch.

I was also guilty of buying into the hype when it comes to Stewart, who I acquired essentially for Vincent Jackson. It’s not a trade I regret immensely, but it certainly didn’t go my way and I am reminded of this deal when I am tempted to overspend on unproven running backs.

I did make my way back to the playoffs for the third time in four years, but was dispatched in the second round. With Rodgers and Graham, along with a loaded group of backs and receivers, my team was well on its’ way tot a league title, I hoped.

End of season roster:

QB- Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, Matt Flynn, Colt McCoy
RB- LeSean McCoy, CJ Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, Beanie Wells, Jonathan Stewart, Ronnie Brown, Fred Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw
WR- Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin, Emmanuel Sanders, Santonio Holmes, Kenny Britt, Austin Collie, Eddie Royal, Andre Caldwell
TE- Jimmy Graham, Zach Miller, John Carlson, Tony Moeaki


The 2011 rookie draft was a big one for my team as I’d nearly completed the mindset change from running back based to a focus on wide receivers. With multiple first round picks again, I added Greg Little and my personal favorite Randall Cobb. Others I added to my team in the rookie draft included Kendall Hunter, Titus Young and Blaine Gabbert. In a draft that featured several late round talents, these are all big misses for my team.

I made an all-time personal high of 12 trades in the 2011 season, but the key deals were not in my favor. While I was able to again sell veterans for picks and pick upgrades, I also dealt Lynch for the 1.07, which I used to select Little. Oops!

In my quest to load up on rookie picks, I also used unproven at the time Antonio Brown to upgrade some mid-round draft picks. I was able to complete one consolidation deal where I acquired a future first round pick for Collie and Royal, who were buried on my bench.

One deal that did benefit my team was moving running back Marion Barber for Broncos’ tight end Julius Thomas.

The only two players of note I found on the waiver wire were Brown, who I later traded, and Jordan Cameron, who I subsequently dropped.

My team performed well enough to earn the top seed entering the playoffs, but lost the first matchup in an upset. 

End of season roster:

QB- Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, Kyle Orton, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Flynn
RB- LeSean McCoy, CJ Spiller, Jonathan Stewart, Beanie Wells, Ahmad Bradshaw, Kendall Hunter, Bernard Scott, Taiwan Jones
WR- Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb, Kenny Britt, Santonio Holmes, Emmanuel Sanders, Greg Little, Mario Manningham
TE- Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Zach Miller


With my transition to a wide receiver slant complete, I used all three of my first round picks on pass catchers, adding Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and Rueben Randle to my team, along with late rounders LaMichael James and Ladarius Green.

Considering some of the talents available in this draft, namely Andrew Luck, Alshon Jeffery and TY Hilton, this has to be considered a disappointing draft for me.

This is the time I identify when I really began to flourish as a dynasty player and it shows in the 15 trades I made that year.

Among the trades I made were:

  • A consolidation deal in which I finally took advantage of my quarterback depth, selling Bradford, Manningham and the 2.09 pick for Victor Cruz.
  • Another package deal, moving Ahmad Bradshaw, Wells, Holmes and the 2.10 for Jamaal Charles and Torrey Smith.
  • In a pair of deals, I sold low on unproven tight ends Martellus Bennett and Thomas, upgrading draft picks in each deal.
  • I again cashed out at the right time, dealing Andre Johnson, along with Gabbert and a future second rounder for Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown (pre-breakout). This was considered a risky deal at the time, but I liked both receivers I got back in the deal and it worked out.
  • I packaged Spiller and Marshall, another long-time member of my team, for Julio Jones. Again, most thought I overpaid at the time, but I was comfortable with the deal.
  • In need of roster spots, I moved Sanders, Little, Ladarius Green and a future third rounder for Steve Smith and a future first. Smith was icing on the cake as I acquired another top pick for players who had yet to do much on the NFL level.
  • That icing proved very valuable as I flipped Smith for another future first and a pair of later picks just a couple weeks later.
  • The dealing wasn’t done as I then packaged Ryan, Brown and Wright for AJ Green and a pair of disappointments, Jon Baldwin and Jermaine Gresham. Another deal that I was criticized for, and may not look good now with the play of Brown the past two years, but I was happy to pay up for the stud receiver. Also, since I already had Rodgers, Ryan was expendable.
  • One more major trade in which I bought in hook, line and sinker to the RGIII hype. Soon after Robert Griffin III’s dominating late-season performance, I traded Torrey Smith, Maclin and Jake Locker for Griffin and Sanders. This one didn’t end up stinging too bad, but yet another example where buying into the hype is a bad decision.

The only waiver wire addition of note was the tight end Bennett, who I later dealt away. I was back atop the regular season standings, but yet again took a crushing loss in my first playoff game. That’s now six seasons of building a dominating roster without a league title.

You’ll also notice the strength of my wide receivers and poor running back depth. This has been a characteristic of my team for the past four to five years.

End of season roster:

QB- Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Dennis Dixon, Tim Tebow
RB- LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Jonathan Stewart, DuJuan Harris, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James
WR- AJ Green, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, Kenny Britt, Emmanuel Sanders, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Michael Floyd, Jon Baldwin, Rod Streater, Keshawn Martin, Jarrett Boykin
TE- Jimmy Graham, Jermaine Gresham


The 2013 rookie draft was a first for me. Not only did I not have multiple first round picks, I didn’t have any. Nor did I have a second round pick as I made my first selection, Travis Kelce, at 3.01. I made the most of a group of third rounders, adding Jordan Reed, Kenny Stills, Knile Davis and Joseph Randle all in the back half of my draft.

I was back to the familiar number of 11 trades, but they lacked the overall fireworks and success of the previous year. I again bought into the hype and traded Charles, Sanders and the 1.09 rookie pick for Trent Richardson. I immediately received Tweets and emails of congratulations for what might go down as my worst trade ever.

After missing out on my top rookie of the 2013 season, DeAndre Hopkins, I flipped Floyd and Streater for the Texans’ wideout. I thought I was buying low on players like David Wilson, Darren McFadden and Ryan Mathews, but I was really just giving away valuable picks and prospects, namely Kelce, for players who would never see my lineup. In retrospect, after my banner season of 2012, this was a major disappointment.

Yet again, I was the top seed and while I did win one playoff game, I again fell short of a title. That’s now 0 for 7 in my quest for a HyperActive title.

End of season roster:

QB- Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III
RB- LeSean McCoy, Trent Richardson, Ryan Mathews, Knile Davis, Jonathan Stewart, David Wilson, Khiry Robinson, Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson, Kendall Hunter
WR- AJ Green, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, Victor Cruz, Kenny Britt, Rueben Randle, DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts, Kenny Stills
TE- Jimmy Graham, Jordan Reed, Rob Housler, Jermaine Gresham


As the 2014 season began, I had only one goal….finally win a HyperActive championship. I was back to my norm with three first round picks and used them to select Mike Evans, Davante Adams and Marqise Lee. I later added my hometown favorite, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, along with running back Tre Mason.

2014 saw me make my fewest trades in any year of the history of the league, only six. The six deals were separated into three sections.

In the early off-season, I was dealing with a very deep roster and I knew I would be challenged come rookie draft time, so I was seeking consolidation deals and upgrades to my starting lineup.

I began my packaging Khiry Robinson, coming off the post Sproles release hype, along with Cruz and Cecil Shorts for Le’Veon Bell. Of course, Bell became the top fantasy running back in the game and this trade worked perfectly for me.

Just the next day, I used Ryan Mathews, David Wilson and Jordan Reed to get Rob Gronkowski, who overcame his injury history to reclaim the TE1 crown and another huge boon for my team.

During draft season, I used my excess collection of picks to move around and acquire my targets. Finally, during the regular season, I sold low on Stewart, taking “anything I could get” in the form of a third round pick. I later bought low on Cruz after he suffered his season ending injury, again using a third round pick.

Unlike many of the past seasons, I struggled during the regular season, sneaking into the playoffs as the fourth seed. Fortunately though, my team put up major points in the first two weeks of the playoffs. I squeaked out a win in the conference championship and finally….finally…finally brought home the league title! 

End of season roster:

QB- Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater, Robert Griffin III
RB- LeSean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell, Tre Mason, Trent Richardson, Knile Davis, Darren McFadden
WR- AJ Green, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb, DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Marqise Lee, Kenny Stills, Rueben Randle, Kenny Britt, Victor Cruz, Seantavious Jones, Chris Matthews
TE- Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski


Coming off my first league title, I was still looking to improve my team entering this season. You won’t be surprised to learn that I had a pair of first round picks, which I used to select Dorial Green-Beckham and Breshad Perriman. Later in the draft, I picked Matt Jones to round out my draft.

I’ve written about the excitement of dispersal drafts before and the dispersal draft held in my league earlier this off-season brought a boost to my team. With the new owners in our league focusing on youth, I flipped Marqise Lee for a pair of dispersal picks that were on the clock back in February. I selected running backs Devonta Freeman and Adrian Peterson, both having their share of risks at the time. Once draft time arrived, I used McFadden and Britt to upgrade my draft picks and currently sport the team you saw earlier in the article.


Obviously, I’ve thrown a lot of information at you and it could be easy to get lost in the eight seasons of my team’s history, so let me narrow down some of the key things I’ve learned through building this team.

  • The quality and success of my team began to change once I moved my focus towards collecting wide receivers.
  • Building quality depth has been key. Not only does that depth allow me to start good players during byes or in case of injuries, but it also opens up the trade market.
  • I have employed a long-time focus on acquiring additional draft picks, especially first round selections.
  • I’ve successfully used end of bench players to help move up the draft board and acquire players I was specifically targeting.
  • I’ve not been afraid to package quality players for improvements to my starting lineup.
  • When I do have a contending team, I’ve ignored my ageism and bought low on veterans who can help me in the short-term playoff push.
  • I traded highly drafted players quickly after they showed signs of busting. This allowed me to still garner some value from relatively meaningless players.
  • For many of my key players, I was able to sell at the right time and still collect a premium return. Cashing out on Andre Johnson, Tomlinson and even a lower level player like Chester Taylor had a big impact.
  • It wasn’t all good news though. I bought in on hyped players and it hurt my team nearly every time. Buying high rarely works.
  • I also lost some valuable players I’d added via the waiver wire due to lack of patience. Next time you like a prospect enough to find a roster spot for them, don’t take that away without cause.
  • Even once I built up a solid contending team, I still didn’t stop building and making moves.

I hope you found some strategy nuggets that help you as you build your own dominant championship team.


ryan mcdowell
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