Brian Malone

Want to spoil your appetite? Explore dynasty ADP from 2014. Half of 2014’s first round has an ADP outside the top 60 just three years later. As it turns out, this dynasty thing is hard. But you can avoid saddling yourself with crippling early-round busts. Just don’t draft anyone—at least not until you have to.

Depending on league rules, you could simply time out every pick until the sixth round and then submit makeup picks to the commissioner. But if you know what you’re doing, you can squeeze a little extra value out of the situation. I’ll step you through it.

The League

This is a fairly vanilla 12-team league format: 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 2Flex, full PPR. The main wrinkle is a complete lack of waivers. We can acquire players only through trading and off-season drafting. That makes depth more important (which is why we have 30-player rosters).

My league mates—drawn from Twitter and the DLF forums—include mostly experienced dynasty players and at least one other fantasy football writer. They’re a fairly representative sample of the league mates you’ll find online.

The Strategy

My baseline strategy is Fake Punt, which is where you hoard young players early and then load up on (hopefully) productive veterans in the later rounds. The youngsters gain value for the future, while the geezers score points and win games now. For this draft, I planned to hoard future picks instead of young players. The picks are almost guaranteed to gain value, and they offer no immediate production. In other words, Xtreme Fake Punt.

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The Action

When you’re planning a trade-heavy startup, you can’t putz around. Before the 1.01 was off the board, I had traded my first-round pick. I wanted to establish myself as The Guy Trading All His Picks for 2018 firsts, so I spammed the league with offers. In the end, I sacrificed a little value to show the league that I was itching to deal:

Gave: 1.08 + 20.05

Got: 3.02 + 6.11 + 2018 1st

I waited until after the first round to trade my second-round pick. Once I saw that no bargains would be available, I spammed the league again. The result:

Gave: 2.05 + 13.08
Got: 4.09 + 8.09 + 2018 1st

When we got to 3.02, I hesitated. Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, Alshon Jeffery, and Stefon Diggs, and Jarvis Landry enticed me. I stuck to the plan, but I got strong value for the pick:

Gave: 3.02
Got: 5.02 + 2018 1st

That tier of players got scooped up quickly, so I positioned myself to grab the last of them (Landry), which allowed me to get a nice return on the pick:

Gave: 3.08 + 4.05
Got: 3.06 + 4.07

Gave: 3.06
Got: 4.12 + 6.12 + 2018 7th

At this point, I was sitting on three extra 2018 firsts, plus two extra fourths, an extra fifth, and two extra sixths in the startup. I hoped to convert some of those startup picks into 2018 firsts, but the low-hanging fruit had been plucked. Everyone left holding a 1st wanted to keep it. I had to convince them otherwise.

I got a gift at 4.07. The top names didn’t excite me, but someone liked Terrelle Pryor, so I got decent value for the pick:

Gave 4.07
Got: 8.04 + 2018 1st

The Grind

When I first started trading my startup picks, my league mates were curious. As things progressed, they got into the fun: people were guessing how far I would take the strategy and waiting to see what I would ask for. But by the end of the fourth round, I could hear a collective groan every time I updated my trade bait.

It was time to start drafting. I tried to stick with Fake Punt, but I knew I the extra 2018 firsts would give me enough cushion to grab some production if the value was right. My first three picks were

4.09: Donte Moncrief
4.12: Martavis Bryant
5.01: DeMarco Murray

When the draft reached 5.08, I suspected I had one more potential trade partner, so I made my last move:

Gave: 5.08
Got: 2018 1st

After that, I made trades to navigate the draft, not to acquire future picks.

The Haul

In pursuit of this strategy, I traded away each of my first five startup picks. Taking all the trades together—including some later maneuvering—those trades yielded (with the drafted player in parentheses):

Gave: 1.08 (Julio Jones) + 20.05 (Elijah McGuire)
Got: 5.01 (DeMarco Murray) + 6.11 (Randall Cobb) + 2018 1st + 2018 1st

Gave: 2.05 (DeAndre Hopkins) + 13.08 (Matt Forte)
Got: 4.09 (Donte Moncrief) + 9.07 (Theo Riddick) + 2018 1st

Gave: 3.06 (Jarvis Landry)
Got: 4.12 (Martavis Bryant) + 6.12 (Jordan Matthews) + 2018 7th

Gave: 4.07 (Terrelle Pryor)
Got: 8.04 (Eric Decker) + 2018 1st

Gave: 5.08 (Tevin Coleman)
Got: 2018 1st

I used my remaining (and acquired) picks mostly for 2017 production, resulting in this roster:

screen shot 2017 06 23 at 16.04.22

The Reflection

I didn’t walk away with a future juggernaut. Far from it. But I think I can compete in 2017, and I have the pieces to make for an exciting off-season again in 2018. More importantly, I enjoyed the process of building this team perhaps more than I’ve enjoyed any other startup draft.

If you plan to try it, remember that you want to be the only person acquiring future firsts. Once you have competition, you’re going to get fewer picks and pay more for them. To corner the market, use the three Fs: fast, fair, and fun.

  • Fast: Strike first by peppering the league with offers, ideally before the draft even begins. Try to make your next trade or two before your pick is even on the clock. In later rounds, don’t dither or haggle. If you can’t trade your pick quickly, draft someone who should be easy to trade later.   
  • Fair: Lead with reasonable offers, and quickly accept reasonable counter-offers. Getting great value takes too much time. Plus, you can’t afford to swindle anyone. That’ll turn the league against you and spoil the whole thing.
  • Fun: This is the only time I’ve been in a draft where it felt like everyone was rooting for me. They didn’t want me to do well, of course, but they wanted to see how long I could go without taking a player. You can’t create this feeling on your own, but you can facilitate it. Don’t hold up the draft. Be extra pleasant in your trade negotiations. And if someone comments on what you’re doing, use self-deprecating humor to confirm your plans without inspiring folks to raise their defenses.

With that, I issue a challenge. See how far you can get in a startup draft without making a pick. Hoard future picks; accumulate depth; do whatever it takes. When you’re done, tweet the results to @BrianMaloneFF.


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