There is a reason dynasty fantasy football, like most forms of fantasy football, is growing in popularity. It helps extend the five or six months that are typically devoted to redraft leagues to nearly all year. But it is not for the casual fan.
Most of those who play dynasty fantasy football are fanatical. Only the most brazen novice players will begin their fantasy football experience with a dynasty league. However, if you have been playing fantasy football for a few years and have not tried a dynasty league, you should.
One of the first pieces of advice I will give to someone intimidated about making the leap is to start slow. Begin with one dynasty league at a time. Too often, fantasy football fans will dive right into the deep end, playing three dynasty leagues at once. Don’t do that. Find a current league and join that, or start one with 11 of your closest friends. But start slow. Dynasty teams require a lot of time and care.
In some ways, dynasty football is a slight misnomer. Because no league that I have ever heard of or been in has a true dynasty. NFL careers are just too short for any team to stay on top for long, and once-bad fantasy teams can reload quickly through rookie drafts. Back-to-back championships happen in dynasty leagues, but they are rare. Dynasty leagues are really about the opportunity to create a team that can win year after year after year rather than actually doing so.
Whether you start with a draft or auction, the decisions made in one year will have a ripple effect for future seasons. And unlike redraft leagues where everyone starts all over again each and every year, the great values you acquire are magnified across multiple seasons. And, therefore, one of the best things about dynasty football is that there is always something to play for, even if you are 10 games out of first place.
So whether you are starting anew or looking to have more continuing success in an existing league, here are some tips for building your dynasty team.
1. WRs have better long-term value than RBs
Running backs always go early in re-draft leagues, but they have short lifespans if you’re planning to be in a league for five or more years. Yes, there are some exceptions, but how many RBs have sustained success for even half a dozen years? Remember how dominant Todd Gurley II was early in his career? No one will be happy with Gurley as their primary RB now! To further the point, Melvin Gordon III was the only running back older than 26 last season to finish in the top 17 in scoring among RBs, and he finished 13th. Meanwhile, 11 of the top 17 wide receiver scorers of 2021 were older than 26. If you are looking for long-term stability — a must in dynasty leagues — invest in wide receivers.
2. Rookies vs. Vets
Rookies may not contribute right away, but they are your best investments. Look at the top players in dynasty rankings; they’re almost all first-round picks in the real-life NFL Draft. If you are able to get Najee Harris, Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Kyle Pitts in your inaugural dynasty draft or auction, you could have a loaded team in a season or two, even if it causes pain in Year 1.
On the flip side, veterans often have more proven production than rookies, and even if they are going to retire in three years, they still have three productive years. If you’re contending for a title now, a rookie may not contribute enough to help you win games. And winning titles should be your ultimate goal.
3. Know the value cycle of assets
You need to trade if you want to win your league, even if you hit the lottery in the inaugural draft. A big part of that is knowing when the best time is to trade players and picks. It’s very simple: Players are more valuable when they’re playing, and picks are more valuable the closer you are to the draft.
For example, if your team is rebuilding and you want to trade a player for draft picks, you want to do that in-season when that aging receiver can help another team and that owner doesn’t have their heart set on drafting a stud running back from their alma mater.
Other owners are probably thinking most about the draft in the offseason, but if you can get ahead of the curve and trade for a pick before they’re diving into scouting reports, you’ll probably get the pick more cheaply. There may be more people trying to trade picks in the spring, but it will come at a cost.
As an extension of that, teams are often likely to have a lower price for players in the offseason when they’re not in the heat of a playoff chase. Even a WR5 might be a necessary depth piece in a dynasty league when there is usually so little available in the free agency pool.
4. It's better to sell too soon than hold on too long
Fantasy football allows you to pretend to be a GM, so why not copy the best one in the league? Bill Belichick is known for trading players surprisingly early, but it usually works out. If, a couple of years into playing, you have a running back who hits 25, it may not be a bad idea to trade him before he turns into Gurley.
5. Know the strengths of upcoming draft classes
The 2020 draft had a generational class for skill position players, with 11 running backs in the top 100 picks and 11 wide receivers in the top 50. The 2021 draft looks much weaker after only having four such running backs and seven such receivers. It’s hard to project accurately too far into the future, but 2022 looks like it could be even more shallow for skill players.
Next year’s rookie draft won’t include a tight end like Pitts. If you need a quarterback, this might be the year to take one since Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson currently grade out higher than Sam Howell and Spencer Rattler. It will be difficult to find a running back like Harris. However, the wide receiver crop does look like it could be as strong as 2020.
If you have reason to believe next year’s class will be weaker, that can give you reason to “push in” your team and trade future picks for established players or draft picks in the current class. This brings us to our last piece of advice.
6. The current season has more certainty in it than any other season
I’ve seen plenty of fantasy players play in leagues like they knew exactly what was going to happen. Did anyone foresee Andrew Luck retiring? Or Antonio Brown melting down? You just never know. You need to keep an open mind and have a vision for the future. But just like the weather, the nearer you get, the more accurate the forecast. If you have a chance to win this year, that may be more important than a future opportunity that never comes.
2021 Top 40 Rookies
1. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
3 Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
4. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
5. Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
6. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
7. Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
8. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
9. Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
10. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears
11. Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals
12. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers
13. Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
14. Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
15. Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco 49ers
16. Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
17. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
18. Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
19. Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets
20. Dyami Brown, WR, Washington Football Team
21. Amari Rodgers, WR, Green Bay Packers
22. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
23. Tylan Wallace, WR, Baltimore Ravens
24. Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
25. Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
26. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers
27. Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans
28. D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Seattle Seahawks
29. Tutu Atwell, WR, Los Angeles Rams
30. Brevin Jordan, TE, Houston Texans
31. Kyle Trask, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
32. Jermar Jefferson, RB, Detroit Lions
33. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots
34. Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers
35. Javian Hawkins, RB, Atlanta Falcons
36. Seth Williams, WR, Denver Broncos
37. Khalil Herbert, RB, Chicago Bears
38. Anthony Schwartz, WR, Cleveland Browns
39. Shi Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
40. Joshua Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Finally, I am going to highlight three players to be sure to be on your fantasy radar. Sure, Harris, Lawrence, and Smith should be atop your list, but you hopefully already know the big names. Let me give you three players not taken early on Day 1 wo you might want to give heavy consideration to:
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers
Carolina absolutely crushed the draft this year. And that includes Hubbard. At 6’0" with 207 pounds of lean muscle, he is both strong and thick, capable of running right through and over smaller defensive players. Actually, make that most defensive players, period. But he is not just some huge body that is difficult to bring down. He also has 4.5 speed, giving him the ability to burst between the tackles and past linebackers at the second level.
Now, he is lacking home-run speed, but he can absolutely gain significant yards after contact. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule absolutely wanted him. He will likely be able to consistently spell Christian McCaffrey in the backfield and be a top-tier handcuff. But Rhule is all too familiar with Hubbard’s work as he absolutely destroyed one of Rhule’s Baylor teams in 2019. In fact, Hubbard wrecked Baylor so hard that Rhule’s wife remembered it and pressured him into drafting the Oklahoma State running back in the fourth round.
Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans
One of Collins' biggest criticisms is that he lacks the ability to create separation from his coverage. And that is part of the reason he dropped in the draft. But that is balanced by all he does right. He is big and has strong body control, which widens the catch space. He’s not afraid of contract through the catch. He is extremely competitive when it comes to jump-ball passes. He has great speed for a huge target, and the best part might be that he also has great hands. Despite the amount of talent ahead of him on the Texans' depth chart, he should absolutely make the team at least as a special teams player, given his impressive technique and strength as a blocker.
Kellen Mond, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Mond is a mobile QB who improved in pretty much every meaningful area in each of his four seasons at Texas A&M. And the good news is that he landed in nearly a perfect situation with Minnesota. He will be able to develop without immediate pressure to leapfrog an incumbent starter. Yet, I don’t see Kirk Cousins being in Minnesota by the end of Joe Biden’s term, and Mond would be the guy who gets to target Justin Jefferson. Not much more you can ask for…