As fantasy football has grown in popularity over the years, we have seen fantasy managers flock towards niche or expanded formats to keep the game interesting. For many fantasy managers, that format is dynasty football.
Dynasty League football is a wonderful blend of redraft meets Madden Franchise Mode. Draft your team and manage them from year to year to turn your team into a true winning dynasty. This can seem like loads of fun, and it is, but for many managers, the transition from standard redraft leagues to dynasty leagues can be overwhelming.
No two managers will employ the same strategy or approach to managing their dynasty teams, but the majority would agree on a handful of rules that should never be broken to have long-term sustained success.
So, with that in mind. Let’s look at my Ten Commandments for Dynasty Football.
1. Thou shalt trade carefully during the offseason
As we move through the dog days of the fantasy offseason, managers new to dynasty leagues will often feel like they should be doing something in the offseason. This will often lead them to trade for proven players who can help them get over the hump in the following season.
While I am not totally against trading during the offseason, I have parameters that I believe must be followed. For starters, the earlier in the offseason, the less likely I am to trade. The Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and NFL Draft are all events that tend to breed football excitement and are known to send dynasty leagues into a trading frenzy. They are difficult situations to navigate.
This early in the offseason, there are simply too many things that can change and turn a trade that looked like a huge win into one that’s a total bust. So, as a rule, the earlier in the offseason we are, the less aggressive you should be in trading.
To expand on this idea, the earlier we are in the offseason, the less you should be trading for veteran running backs. As they get older, running backs become disposable. Whether a rookie is drafted, cuts into their role, or suffers an injury, too many things can affect a veteran’s value. If you need to acquire a veteran running back, wait until right before the season to do so, it minimizes the risk.
2. Thou shalt target year two and year three wide receivers
This one is easy to understand and even easier to follow. Wide receivers will fly off the board early and often in rookie drafts, and while some of them hit, a good portion of them will underperform as rookies, even the high-end ones.
A year-one receiver that failed to live up to expectations as a rookie can come at a significant discount in their second and even third season. This is when you want to buy them. Many of them were slowed in year one due to injury or star players blocking them on the depth chart, but those situations can quickly resolve themselves, and an unexpected rise up a depth chart can send a receiver’s stock soaring through the roof.
Target year two and three receivers that will see a positive change in either health or role. These can lead to massive breakouts and massive values.
3. Thou shalt not draft for positional need in rookie drafts
We’ve all been in this situation. We have a high pick in a rookie draft and desperately need a particular position. The only problem is that the best player at that position has an ADP significantly lower than where you pick.
Many managers will be dead set on filling that position of need at all costs and will overdraft the position they need which is far less than an ideal strategy to employ. Instead, a manager in this position should take one of two approaches.
First, you should attempt to trade down in the draft if possible. This approach allows you to draft the player you wanted anyway at the position of need and will enable you to acquire additional valuable assets. The second approach is to simply not overthink it and draft the best player available. This is always the best approach. Fantasy football is far too unpredictable, and rookies are even harder to predict, so instead of reaching or maneuvering to target a position of need, simply take the best player on the board and backfill the position of need later from a position of strength.
4. Thou shalt not overvalue rookie landing spots
This is possibly the most straightforward commandment to follow, yet it is broken more than any other on the list. This commandment was on full display during the Clyde Edwards-Helaire saga. He was a rookie running back that was typically ranked between running back five and seven in big boards. Yet, when he was surprisingly drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs, he suddenly found himself as the consensus first running back off the board.
This ranking proved flawed and backfired almost instantly on all managers who selected him with early draft picks. Instead of following the talent and selecting a running back like Jonathan Taylor, managers chased the shiny toy going to the high-flying offense; in the end, though, talent always shows out, and Edwards-Helaire proved to be an epic bust.
This should serve as a cautionary tale as to why you shouldn’t be over-drafting Devon Achane this off-season. His landing spot in Miami is ideal, but do not make the mistake of taking him over the top three running backs in this class.
5. Thou shalt sell early and not hold a player too long
In dynasty leagues, an essential thing to learn is the age apex for each position. The age apex is the age at which most players in that position have seen their best fantasy seasons in the past and begin to taper off, failing to produce usable fantasy seasons.
This age can be different for each position and isn’t a set number. For running backs, the age apex is typically their age 26 season. Once a running back hits that age, they see their production rapidly decline and should be sold as soon as possible. For wide receivers, that age apex can be closer to their age 28-29 season, while quarterbacks and tight ends see the latest age apex of all. Tight ends typically don’t taper off until their age 30-31 season, while quarterbacks can play well into their late 30’s.
The key here is evaluating your players and determining which ones are approaching their age apex. As they approach those key age ranges, it’s time to look at their underlying metrics; if the player is showing a significant decrease in efficiency and explosiveness as well as a lengthening list of injuries, it is time to sell as quickly as possible.
The key is to sell the player a year too early while their value is still at its peak. It is better to sell a player at full price and lose out on one year of his production than to hold him for too long and must give him away.
6. Thou shalt be honest when evaluating thy roster
One underrated aspect of being a successful dynasty football manager is honest self-reflection. If you can’t look at your team and determine where your team realistically ranks among the teams in your league, you will make poor decisions in the long run.
If you choose to lie to yourself, it’s truly a situation where you are only punishing yourself. Sure, you could tell yourself that even though you are the lowest-seeded team projected to make the playoffs, you are a contender, and anything can happen if you just get into the playoffs, but that’s not a strategy for long-term success. Lying to yourself and selling off future assets to make that playoff push only to get steamrolled in the first round of the playoffs can set you back years.
If you are unsure of exactly how to evaluate your team honestly, I find an excellent way to get an idea of just how strong or weak your team would be to ignore the win-loss record instead of focusing on where you rank in points scored. A team with a losing record but the third most points scored could be a great team that has run into some bad luck, while a team that is towards the top of the league standings but ranks towards the bottom in points scored is living on unsustainable luck.
7. Thou shalt counter trade offers to get a sweetener
Trade negotiations can be a difficult thing to master. Finding a balance between sending a fair offer and asking for too much can be difficult at times and is very league specific. One strategy I like to employ when receiving an offer is to always counter with a little extra.
If someone in your league sends you an offer you think is fair, don’t accept the offer right away. Instead, counter the offer by adding an extra late-round pick for yourself. I like to ask for a third-round pick. Typically a third-round pick is just low enough that the other manager will accept it and just high enough to be valuable.
An extra third-round pick may not seem like much, but when you use this tip often, and can add up to a great haul. This haul gives you the option to either take multiple third-round darts throws on players you like or package a few of the third-rounders together to try and move up in an earlier round.
8. Thou shalt look at player values in three-year windows
One major mistake dynasty managers mistake is the “Player X can be a stud on my team for ten years.” It can be challenging not to overestimate the long-term value, and ultimately some of the players on your roster may end up being productive starters for ten years. On average, an NFL career is far shorter than ten years, and the window of fantasy-relevant productivity is even smaller.
Instead of thinking a year to year as you would in a redraft league or ten years down the road as some dynasty managers plan, you should look at a player in a three-year window. Look at their age, team, contract, and overall situation and try and use that as a guide for a player’s value in a dynasty.
Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson may put up very similar numbers in 2023; however, the far more asset in the dynasty is Jefferson because you can essentially multiply his 2023 projection by three as he is all but certain to have that many years left in his career at a minimum, while Kupp, on the other hand, has a more uncertain future due to his age and injury.
Very few, if any, of the players on your current roster will still be on your roster in ten years. Most dynasty leagues die off before the three-year mark, so stop thinking ten years down the road and focus on the immediate future; it’s a nice blend of redraft value and long-term career value.
9. Thou shalt treat players like stocks and leave emotions at the door
Remember, this isn’t your favorite team. It’s your fantasy team. You will often get attached to your favorite players on your favorite team. Do not get attached to the players on your fantasy team. Understandably you will be fonder of the players who have won you a championship and lower of the players who busted for you during a crucial week, but you must forget the past and look towards the future.
In dynasty football, the goal should be to buy low and sell high on all your assets, just like you would a stock. See them as assets that are traded freely. The second you start getting attached to them is when you turn down trade offers you should have taken or started a player with no business in your lineup. Put them in your lineup, cheer them on, and then let them go when they have run their course on your roster.
10. Thou shalt be wary of rushing quarterbacks
The new fad in fantasy football is the “cheat code quarterback.” The benefit a dual-threat quarterback gives you is undeniable; they are like having a quarterback and running back in one player and a premium asset in redraft or for teams contending for a title.
However, in a dynasty, their long-term outlook can be far shakier. While these dual-threat quarterbacks can give you a significant advantage on their rookie contracts, they can rapidly decline in value. A dual-threat quarterback who evolves into a more well-rounded pocket passer can become a long-term asset for your team, but as they approach the end of their rookie deal, if they haven’t begun to show signs of being a competent passer, it is time to sell high on them.
The quarterbacks who rely solely on their rushing ability due to accuracy or arm strength issues fall off a production cliff quickly. Once the rushing ability begins to go with age, they quickly become unusable in your fantasy lineup. Regarding dynasty leagues, treat rushing quarterbacks like you would a running back unless they begin to develop a more well-rounded skill set.
- 2023 Dynasty Rookie Post-Draft Update: Will Levis - May 22, 2023
- 2023 Dynasty Rookie Post-Draft Update: Darnell Washington - May 17, 2023
- The Ten Commandments of Dynasty Fantasy Football - May 15, 2023