Dynasty fantasy football startup drafts are in season, and that means it’s time to talk dynasty draft strategy. I’ll be covering a number of different topics to ensure you’re as prepared as is humanly possible, including roster construction techniques, snake draft versus auction draft strategy, players to target, and players to avoid.
Players I’m Avoiding in Dynasty Startup Drafts in 2019
Let’s begin with players to avoid – because navigating the landmines in a draft can be a difficult task. If you know which players could be problematic for your team build you can have a much less stressful experience and will be more likely avoid that sinking feeling of regret when examining your team at the end of the draft. With this in mind, I reviewed the most up-to-date data in our dynasty ADP tool and identified players you should avoid in each of the first eight rounds of dynasty startups this season. For this exercise, I used myfantasyleague.com (MFL) ADP for traditional 1-QB and PPR league settings over the past 30 days.
Round 1 – Todd Gurley, ADP 8.2
It became en vogue to draft running backs in the first round again in 2018, but selecting Gurley over any of the players directly after him in MFL ADP is bad process at this point. There is simply too much smoke surrounding him to ignore the downside.
Gurley’s ADP of 8.2 places him earlier than Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, and Juju Smith-Schuster. Given the shroud of mystery around Gurley’s knee, his 1,281 touches (including the playoffs) over the past four seasons, and the Rams big trade up for Darrell Henderson in the NFL Draft, there is no way I’d opt to roster him over any of the elite receivers with first round ADPs. I strongly prefer the relative safety of the wide receiver position once the consensus top-four running backs (Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Christian McCaffrey, and Alvin Kamara) are off the board.
Round 2 – Patrick Mahomes, ADP 20.9
Look – Mahomes was incredible in 2018. It was one of the all-time great fantasy seasons by a quarterback. But you can’t afford to make this Round 2 blunder in your startup draft. I understand the appeal of locking in a starter and not having to worry about it for the next decade, but this decision would hurt your roster, and it’s far from a guarantee that Mahomes will finish as the fantasy QB1 in 2019 or in any other season, for that matter. I did extensive research on this topic for Pro Football Focus last year. In an absolute best case scenario, you’ll have drafted the next Drew Brees, who has an amazing 15-year streak of finishing as a top-12 fantasy quarterback and is the only quarterback since 2010 to have repeat overall QB1 seasons. Even if that happens, still drafting Mahomes this high would have been a mistake. Mahomes is the only quarterback with a startup ADP in the top-50. Do you feel two-and-a-half rounds worth of confidence that Mahomes will outperform the current dynasty QB2, Andrew Luck (ADP 50.5) over the next five seasons? For point of reference, players being selected immediately after Mahomes include Keenan Allen, Travis Kelce, and Amari Cooper.
Round 3 – Leonard Fournette, ADP 30.4
Fournette is such an easy fade at this price. He’s only played in 21 out of 32 games through two seasons. He’s averaging 3.7 yards per carry on 401 career rushing attempts. He’s the face of the volume-dependent fantasy plodder. His fantasy points per opportunity ranks in each of his two seasons are vomit-inducing: 74th (2017), 82nd (2018). With the influx of rookie running backs landing in solid spots, I find it indefensible that anyone would write Fournette’s name down on the card this early in a dynasty draft, unless scoring settings in the league give a premium to Jacksonville Jaguars players. Fournette is being drafted over Brandin Cooks, a 25-year-old receiver who hasn’t missed a game since 2014, is tied to one of the best offenses in the league, and has posted four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Blasphemy.
Round 4 – Damien Williams, ADP 47.5
It’s pretty easy to avoid Williams here since his ADP is near the end of the round. However, he’s the 45th player off the board, so four owners in each startup draft are going to be faced with the option of selecting Williams in round four. The case for Williams is clear – Andy Reid is Midas when it comes to creating desirable fantasy football running backs. From a redraft perspective, it is possible Williams will have a great 2018 season and help win fantasy titles. However, when investing a top-48 pick in a dynasty asset, I’m looking for players who have had more than 50 carries in a single season through five career campaigns. I’m looking for a player whose team didn’t bring in three new running backs this offseason (Carlos Hyde, James Williams, Darwin Thompson).
I’m looking for a player who has had a track record of success that extends beyond six games despite being 27 years old. Calvin Ridley is much better investment at the end of the fourth. If you’re looking for running backs in the early to middle rounds of your startup, you can wait another round or more and grab Miles Sanders or David Montgomery.
Round 5 – Phillip Lindsay, ADP 56.7
To be fair, the fifth round of dynasty startups is really gross right now, by ADP, anyway. Lindsay had an astonishing rookie season, posting over 1,000 rushing yards after going undrafted. I’m afraid he’s in line for some negative regression, though. First, he scored three touchdowns above expectation. Second, NFL history is simply not on his side. Only five players in NFL history have posted multiple seasons of 1,000 or more rushing yards at a league-official reported weight of 190 pounds or less. All five of those players were drafted in the first or second round of the NFL Draft. Dynasty ADP is not typically friendly to undrafted players in general, so it’s honestly surprising to me that he’s risen as high as he has. Royce Freeman also looms. I think correction is coming. Don’t be caught with Lindsay on your roster when it happens. Young stud tight ends such as Evan Engram and O.J. Howard are available after the Broncos running back, as is young breakout wide receiver Tyler Boyd.
Round 6 – Chris Carson, ADP 63.3
I promise I’m not intentionally picking on running backs, it just so happens that the community is trusting their precious startup draft capital with this handful of players that gives me the shudders. Carson is a seventh-round pick on a team who just spent a first-round pick on the position in 2018 (Rashaad Penny). Pete Carroll has been telling anybody who will listen that Penny will have a larger role in 2019. Like Lindsay, history is not on Carson’s side either. Since the year 2000, only one running back drafted in the seventh round has posted multiple seasons with 200 carries: Ahmad Bradshaw.
You can have Tyler Lockett, David Montgomery, or Courtland Sutton instead of Carson based on ADP. Stay away.
Round 7 – Hakeem Butler, ADP 75.6
I know it will take some time to for his ADP to correct, but this is an outrageous place to select Butler after falling to the fourth round to a team who traded their franchise quarterback for Andy Isabella in the second round and already has Christian Kirk in hand as well. The pressure is off of Butler to be a volume solution at this point, and he may very well excel in a deep threat role (think Martavis Bryant), but we’re hunting for bigger upside and/or a more solid floor in the seventh round. This is the area I don’t mind grabbing a quarterback if you’re the type who likes to have an elite arm at the helm. Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson after Butler right now. As a produce-now pivot, you can also have Alshon Jeffery about nine spots later than Butler by ADP.
Round 8 – James Washington, ADP 87.5
I really liked Washington as a college prospect and thought he slid lower than he should have in the 2018 NFL Draft based on his profile. However, a year later, we’re staring at a player who should have had the team WR2 keys handed to him, but instead the Steelers signed Donte Moncrief to a show-me deal and drafted Diontae Johnson with the 66th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. I still like his potential, but Washington’s downside isn’t priced in here. He could legitimately be the team’s WR4 by the end of camp. I strongly prefer the value safety of Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson versus a wide receiver with such a wide range of possible outcomes.
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