Welcome to the April edition of Commissioner Calendar, a monthly off-season series breaking down the activities and responsibilities of a commissioner during each month of the off-season. But in dynasty, especially for commissioners, “There is no off-season”. If there are other April dynasty events that I missed, put them in the comments!
Dynasty Startup Drafts
People often ask when the best month to have a startup is, and there is no right or wrong answer, but each month you choose will have its own intricacies and potential obstacles.
For any startup draft in April or earlier, the question for startups is often whether or not to have rookies involved in the startup. Personally, no matter the month on the calendar, I prefer rookies to be separate from the startup because more drafts equal more action and more fun.
In terms of skill level, some claim that having rookies in the startup requires more skill from the dynasty managers. My opinion on that is that it can vary, I think for higher-end rookies, drafting the “right” ones can be a skill, differentiating between the 6th and 7th rookie on the board and them having a wider gap after the NFL draft does denote some skill, but I do think a lot of luck is factored into late-round rookies when a relative unknown goes on day two of the NFL draft or a 4th round NFL rookie gets the perfect landing spot.
If you decide not to have rookies in the startup, there are unlimited possibilities for how to handle the distribution of rookie picks. Ryan McDowell and I debated whether rookies should be in a startup over 8 years ago and I discussed some of my favorite ways to handle rookie picks in the startup. My preferred method of deciding rookie picks in a startup is rookie slots, which will keep managers involved all off-season long because each team will exit the startup with a set of rookie draft picks. What rookie slots means is each manager drafts one rookie slot, so at a given pick, you can make the choice between the 1.01 rookie slot(giving you 1.01, 2.01, 3.01, etc) or Justin Fields, for example.
With each team guaranteed a slot, you are debating with each pick if you want the current slot available and a last round startup pick, or the current best player available and the guaranteed 1.12 rookie slot in the last round. I prefer rookie slots over drafting individual rookie picks because oftentimes with rookie picks in the startup, 2-3 teams often hoard most of the picks, which while it is a legitimate strategy, creates less action in the league due to some teams being inactive due to not having picks.
For startup auctions, a similar approach to the rookie slot is giving every team an allotted amount of rookie money for the startup. This is an avenue that Ryan McDowell went to in the Kitchen Sink startup auctions, giving each team $200 rookie to begin the startup and allowing them to trade that money at any time including for startup or devy money during or after the auction. The other popular choice is to auction off rookie “picks”, so the 1.01 would be available just like a player would, noted as 1.01 / $320, so when you win the 1.01, that would give you $320 in the rookie auction.
The timing of your April startup is very important as there is an event that vastly impacts the dynasty value of many NFL players called the NFL Draft at the end of April each year. If you are doing a slow April startup, personally, I would recommend doing it in a manner where you are able to finish by the NFL Draft. But even if you can’t, that isn’t necessarily “wrong”, it just creates the possibility for some “luck” based on who is on the clock during the NFL Draft. As a commissioner, if your startup is going to be occurring during the NFL Draft, I would make it explicitly clear to managers that there will be shifts in value that occur that may put people at various advantages or disadvantages due to the timing of the startup.
Free Agent Auctions
April is a popular time for free agent auctions in leagues that have those. Whether it be a contract league or some other type of format that auctions off veterans in existing leagues, April is often the time for that because many of those leagues have some form of rookie compensation for losing free agents. So, if you are going to have your rookie auction in May, any auctions that involve rookie compensation will need to occur before that, most likely in May.
Some leagues have a conversion chart explaining that $600 FA equals $100 Rookie, while others simply use one currency for all auctions and whatever the player goes for, the losing team receives in return that compensation(or some percentage of that compensation). Another reason why free agent auctions are popular in April is to avoid the flurry of free agency in mid-March as an auction ongoing during the opening weeks of NFL free agency could wreak havoc on a league, but some may consider that a fun form of havoc.
Pre-NFL Draft Rookie Drafts/Auctions
Similar to the rookies in the startup versus not discussion, a popular April discussion among commissioners is Pre-NFL Draft drafts and auctions. This decision is one that is typically made before the league begins as not every dynasty manager is going to be comfortable with a pre-NFL Draft rookie draft every year.
Once again, this format does reward the skill of differentiating top prospects and potentially allows for some luck to be involved with players going in unexpected rounds or teams in the NFL Draft. For example, Jordan Love was a first-round rookie pick in superflex pre-NFL Draft rookie drafts, but once he was selected to sit behind Aaron Rodgers for several years, his value dropped to mid-late 2nd of many post-NFL Draft rookie drafts.
As a commissioner, the main differentiators between a pre-Draft and post-Draft rookie draft are scheduling and being aware that pre-NFL Drafts will likely create a higher variance in your league year to year. Additionally, as the commissioner, you may have to create custom players on your league software if a manager wants to select a player that hasn’t been added to the league software yet, while most league hosting sites have all players available after they are drafted.
In 2019, Diontae Johnson wasn’t available on MyFantasyLeague as late as late April and he ended up being the 66th pick in the NFL draft, definitely someone that should have been available in your rookie drafts. In 2023, as of mid-April, Bryce Ford-Wheaton out of West Virginia still has not been added to the MyFantasyLeague platform despite being projected to be a day two NFL draft pick on some sites.
During NFL Draft Rookie Auctions
I haven’t found a fair way to do rookie drafts during the NFL Draft as the order of players selected in the NFL Draft does not always correlate with dynasty value and it provides little incentive to draft quickly in a slow rookie draft format. If you get on the clock at 1.06 at 5 PM EST on Friday of the NFL Draft with a 9 hour draft clock, you’re definitely waiting until at least the 2nd round is over to decipher whether you want the wide receiver who went in the middle of the 1st or the running back who went at pick 42 of the NFL Draft.
While I haven’t found a way to do rookie drafts, I have found a way to do a rookie auction during the NFL Draft. While I wouldn’t recommend a dynasty manager being in several leagues with this format, I will recommend everyone at least try one league that does a rookie auction during the NFL Draft. For me, what this looks like is each player becomes eligible to be nominated once they have been selected by an NFL team.
So in 2023, the moment the Panthers select a quarterback, anyone can nominate and subsequently bid on that player and that player can be on their roster before day 2 of the NFL Draft even begins. If you will be doing your rookie auction during the NFL Draft, I recommend shorter “slow” auction clocks than you would typically use. If you typically use an 18-24 hour auction clock, switch that up to 9-12 hours, creating a higher sense of urgency and not allowing teams to just wait and delay players on the board as much as possible so that the awareness of all player values can look closer to a normal rookie draft. If people are able to keep day one players on the board through the end of day two of the NFL Draft, that would nearly be identical to the same thing as starting the auction in the middle of the week following the NFL Draft.
Catch the next article in this series in May!
- Dynasty Commish Calendar: May - May 3, 2023
- Dynasty Commish Calendar: April - April 18, 2023
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Championship Solutions - January 6, 2023