Tips for a Successful Dynasty Startup Draft
Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire Pictured: Aaron Rodgers


There are a lot of ways to win in dynasty. Some dynasty owners will plan on losing the first few years while building “dream team” rosters. Others tend to overly focus on youth and/or highly touted rookies. There’s also the “get your guy” owner who will undoubtedly reach for a player often rounds ahead of ADP. You can almost bank on there being at least one of these owners in your start up draft, maybe more. These strategies can work but also create a vulnerability that is exploitable.

Here are some principles to follow that have been proven to be successful starting in Year 1.

1. Don’t gamble early

Talent and age can be instrumental to long-term dynasty success. Drafting too many rookie or unproven players is a recipe for disaster especially when the potential is never fulfilled. I’ve seen dynasty owners who burned early picks on rookie busts spend years of rebuilding to recover. An average of only four rookies per year with finish PPR top-12 QBs/TEs or top-24 RBs/WRs.

Focus on established players in the first several rounds. Go Zero Rookie. Draft rookies, just not early. This means you’ll miss on the next Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey. You’ll also avoid Trent Richardson, Montee Ball, Kevin White, and Laquon Treadwell. If you absolutely believe one of these rookies will live up to expectations, have a backup plan in place when they don’t. Expecting a rookie to perform immediately has been a bad bet historically.

2. Target players who will dominate their position

Players that dominate give you a distinct advantage in Dynasty. Don’t just fill roster spots. You can always trade later. Lock up positions and forget about them. The onesie QBs and TEs have long been dominated by the same players. The TE trend looks to be continuing.

The grid that follows is the top-12 PPR scoring Non-QBs of the last 10 years. Notice how many of the same player names repeat. Your goal should be to roster as many of these top performers as possible regardless of age.

This gets even more interesting with TE premium 1.5 point scoring. Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz would have both made the grid in 2018 with 348 and 338 points scored. Rob Gronkowski was No. 1 with 376 points scored in 2011 and No. 7 in 2014 with 307. Jimmy Graham was the No. 4 scorer in 2013 with 346 pts and No. 2 in 2013 with 345. George Kittle wouldn’t have made the list but did hit 300 points in 2018 in TE premium scoring format.

Drafting one of Kelce, Ertz or Kittle holds significant value in PPR and even more in TE premium.

Here’s a look at QB career finishes.

Some QBs have an uncanny knack for consistently finishing in the “yellow”. I drafted a 34 year old Drew Brees in the third round of a start up in 2013. I have zero regret with that pick especially since most of the players selected in that round are no longer relevant. This doesn’t mean you need to spend an early pick on a QB. Having a top-five QB is underrated though. You’ll win more weeks with one and can save a roster spot by not carrying a backup. QB might be the deepest it’s ever been though with all the rushing QBs boosting scoring. That may push an older QB like Aaron Rodgers down in ADP. Cam Newton could be a steal with his health concerns the same way Andrew Luck was last year.

Don’t fear QB age the same way you would other positions. A lot of QBs are like fine wines — they get better with age. Thirty-seven year old Peyton Manning holds all the single-season records for a QB. Ben Roethlisberger just had his best season of his career at age 36. Brett Favre had a top 5 season at age 40.

If you plan on waiting, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, and Roethlisberger look like values. I’m partial to Kirk Cousins at his current ADP.

3. Chase offenses with Elite QBs and/or Coaching schemes

Try not to overvalue “talent.” Talent will often fall short without a quality QB and/or coaching scheme. Landing spot and opportunity is more often than not, more important than talent. RB success is easily correlated to play calling just as receiving is to QB play. Average QBs typically won’t support a team’s WR2 to significant consistency or scoring. Certain coaches or schemes produce more fantasy studs than others. Andy Reid’s players are all over this list. So are Bill Belichick’s, Sean Payton’s, Kyle Shanahan’s and most recently Sean McVay’s. This isn’t likely a coincidence. The same can be said aboutRoethlisberger, Brees, Tom Brady, Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning. There is a pattern here. When targeting a team WR2, these are places to look. Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson and possibly Jimmy Garappolo with their play calling could be the future elite QBs. Russell Wilson could go bonkers if actually unleashed.

4. Build a team with a mix of old and young WRs

Most wide receivers will have their best years between ages 24-29. Some will perform earlier and some will play well into their 30s. “Old WRs” are generally less expensive to acquire in start ups. If you’re going to bet on an old WR, bet on a previously elite one. Here’s a list of the WRs with three or more PPR Top 24 seasons since 2000 and how they finished starting at age 30. They don’t always pan out but there should are a lot of top-12 finishes for 30 something WRs below.

An asterisk next to a WR’s name signifies 3 or more top-12 finishes.

Structure your receiving corps with an escalating age range. You know you’ll have to replace the oldest players eventually. Expect rookie WRs to take several years to break out. Have the depth to allow leaving them on the bench until they do (if ever).

5. Zero RB or One RB is still a viable strategy

Draft a stud RB if you get a chance. See rule No. 2. Keep in mind though, WRs have longer careers than RBs. Top-30 PPR WRs will score more points on average than RBs who finish in the 20 to 30 range. Stockpiling WRs is more advantageous for the long haul. Some of the highest scoring RBs during the fantasy playoffs in 2018 were waiver wire picks. Damien Williams, Jaylen Samuels, and Elijah McGuire each outscored Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliot in weeks 15 and 16 last year.

That said, you still want players who finish in the top-12 grid above.

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