We’ve done a ton of diving into the dynasty fantasy football format over the first three installments of this Dynasty Fantasy Football series, from choosing the right dynasty league format to taking over an orphaned team in an already-running dynasty league. The latest installment featured a comprehensive guide on trading and acquiring draft picks. Now here, in the fourth installment, we’ll be putting a lot of what we’ve talked about into motion. This article will talk about winning now in dynasty versus rebuilding.
Rebuilding Your Roster
We’ve talked about some aspects of rebuilding your roster already in previous installments, but the typical way to reconstruct your dynasty roster to give yourself the best chance for a long competitive window for championships and success is building through young players, draft picks, and maximizing “buy-low” and “sell-high” windows.
When looking at your roster compared to the rest of your league, you want to either be one of the best teams or one of the worst. The middle ground where you don’t really know whether you’re good or bad isn’t a fun spot to be in, but with trading, you can easily find yourself on either end of the spectrum. As I said in the second piece of this series, “even if you’re losing, you’re still winning.”
While quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends have a much longer shelf life than running backs do, NFL franchises rarely find a single bell-cow running back to shoulder the entire workload. That’s just not the way teams value the position. Very few running backs get second contracts after their rookie deal, and though some do, the running back position is not very stable to project too far into the future. With running backs, you want the young and immediately productive backs.
This chart from Apex Fantasy Leagues illustrates the amount of 250 PPR point seasons from running backs by age from 2010 to 2020. By looking at this chart, you’ll see that the ages to target running backs in dynasty are between ages 23 and 25. The lone age-30 season on this chart was from Adrian Peterson, who has repeatedly defied Father Time in his career en route to a first-ballot Hall of Fame bust in Canton down when he does decide to hang up his cleats.
Quarterbacks that establish themselves are incredibly stable and play at a high level for a long time, of course, until they don’t. Same with wide receivers - quite a few of them play into their age-30 season or later.
So how do we attack a dynasty rebuild knowing all of this? If you’re rebuilding with youth, draft picks, and the like, I love collecting talent at every position BUT running back. Thinking about what we just talked about with running backs, it’s not a hard and fast rule or anything to never draft them. If you’re in a position to take a potentially “generational” running back (think Jonathan Taylor), absolutely take them if you have a firm conviction. But if you’re trying to build up a dynasty roster from the ground up, it’s going to take a season or two to get some direction and identity with what you want to do and accomplish. By the time you draft a running back, you may have already gotten their peak seasons without any benefit to your roster that isn’t ready to compete.
When you get to a point where you’re ready to contend and you have a quality roster, I’ll look to acquire a young running back or two either via trade or with draft picks to maximize the contention window. While dynasty is a “long-term” format, most dynasty managers do typically think in terms of a maximum three-year window. There’s way too much chaos in the NFL to think in more extended periods, even in a dynasty league.
Think back to five years ago, in 2017. Cam Newton, Alex Smith, and Carson Wentz were top-five quarterbacks. Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell were the top-two running backs. Antonio Brown and Marvin Jones were top-five wide receivers. The league turns over so fast and usually on a dime that it’s foolish to try and project what’s going to happen in 2027 in 2022.
Rebuilding with a “win-now” mindset
We know everybody loves the newest, shiniest toy. That definitely applies to rookies and young players in dynasty. The unfortunate byproduct of having these young players is that not every player pans out. For every A.J. Brown, there’s a N’Keal Harry. For every Nick Chubb, there’s a Derrius Guice. Dynasty rookie drafts are littered with players that seem so sure to be the next superstar (and they will let you know on Twitter too!), and then for one reason or another, don’t end up that way. The reverse is also true.
Have you ever bought clothes, and while they look great, they’re just not as comfortable? You lose a bit of confidence and then revert to that old, broken-in pair of jeans because they don’t let you down.
THOSE are the types of players we look at, the productive veterans in dynasty leagues that you can absolutely win a championship with. The best part about them is that for the most part, they’re almost universally undervalued by your league.
This time last season, nobody in dynasty wanted Mike Evans. Every season of Evans’ career, he’s put up at least 1000 yards receiving and in every season but two, he has eight or more touchdown receptions. He continues to produce, but he’s not the new shiny toy like Justin Jefferson or CeeDee Lamb. Veteran values like Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Adam Thielen, Melvin Gordon, and Rob Gronkowski are valued lower because of their age and become perfect targets for those looking to win now. With players like these, you’ve got a host of productive veterans that are still incredibly relevant in fantasy. If you mix and match some of these players with some youth and the youth ascends and hits? You’re in a prime position to win right now.
Making a considerable push to “win now” will disrupt the longevity of your roster, but it will maximize the shorter window of contention. Adding some productive veterans to a winning squad by using draft picks to trade skims a little from your future assets, but as we said in the last article, those draft picks aren’t using a roster spot or scoring points for you until you select players using them. Spending a 2023 second-round pick to trade for Adam Thielen isn’t going to kill your roster. Trading youth on your team won’t either in most instances, but I’d rather trade the unknown in the draft pick for a known veteran commodity.
The final note about acquiring veterans: look at their contracts and their team situations. It makes sense to go on NFL contract sites like Spotrac or OverTheCap to see how many years a veteran has left, what their dead cap hit is, any outs in their contract, etc. Let’s take a player like Robert Woods, for example
While the Rams can certainly get out of Woods’ long contract extension that he signed in 2020 with (relatively) minimal cap hits, the fact that the Rams have little depth at wide receiver and little in the way of premium draft picks lend to the fact that Woods will likely be around in 2022. Depending on if the Rams bring back Odell Beckham Jr., Woods could stick around to 2023 to keep weapons in the fold for Matthew Stafford and company in the Rams’ win-now phase.
For instances such as Woods, it’s always beneficial for you and for your dynasty roster to keep your ears to the ground. Transactions may pop up out of nowhere, but if there’s one piece of advice when it comes to valuing players and getting the most back in return: “it’s better to be a year early than a year late.”
There’s no wrong way to build a roster, whether it be the long-term way through rookie drafts, player acquisition and then opening up a longer window to compete, or with a core of older players mixed in with youth for a shorter window. Choosing your way to compete in dynasty fantasy football can be summed up in an adage: “a dollar today or two dollars tomorrow.”
Looking for more Dynasty Fantasy Football content? Check out our 2022 Fantasy Football Dynasty Series throughout the NFL offseason!