Fantasy football is friggin’ awesome. You’re here reading this, so I don’t have to tell you that. You clearly already know it because you found your way to Fantasy Alarm - a place with likeminded people who are thinking and talking football 365 days a year. That was smart of you. And, while thinking and talking football with other smart fantasy gamers is great, there’s actually something that’s EVEN BETTER. Playing it all year.
That’s where dynasty fantasy football comes in my sweet little football cherubs. The way it works is that you draft players and then roster them forever which means the season doesn’t end in the winter - that’s just when you start doing offseason trades and researching incoming rookies. Playing dynasty fantasy football not only makes you a pseudo-general manager but being in tune with the NFL draft, offseason NFL moves, deeper players on depth charts, etc. makes you a better fantasy player in general. And how do you get started with that? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Setting Up A Dynasty League
Since you are here and part of the Fantasy Alarm #FAmily that means that you’re likely more plugged into football than your league-mates and you’re also probably smarter and more attractive too. That means that you are probably going to be the one that has to initiate the dynasty league and get things going. If you are reading this because you are joining a new dynasty league that someone else is commissioner of, you’ll still want to read this section so that you can use a bit of politics to make sure the league is set up properly. If you are joining an existing league and the rules are already set up, maybe then you can just skip to the “strategy” section. Anyway, here’s some advice.
There are a handful of things that are important but this one is the absolute biggest. In a redraft league, if one of your league-mates is whack, you can simply not invite them back the following year. In dynasty you can’t do that. These people are expected to own their teams and make decisions that might have ramifications FIVE years from now. It is absolutely CRITICAL that you choose people who are going to be engaged in the league and aren’t going to bail after things go poorly in the first season. The biggest thing that makes dynasty football fun is that you make moves and negotiate deals all year. There is nothing more boring than a dyno league that doesn’t trade or talk trash all year. That’s the whole reason you are setting the league up!
Voting would be the most important thing except having bad league-mates means bad voting. So that comes first. But voting on things is crucial. You have your vision for the league, so you are going to set up the basics the way YOU want them. But there will be some questions and putting them to a vote is your biggest tool. You want everyone to feel like it’s their league and you are working for them as commissioner, not that you rule with an iron fist and make all the rules. It turns people off. So, if you don’t care one way or another on certain issues like whether or not to have a spot for kickers, put it to a vote. It keeps everyone engaged and it allows them to have a say in the direction of the league. Then, if someone loses the championship because their kicker gets hurt or something, they can’t get mad at you over that; they chose kickers for themselves. Catch my drift? The easiest way to solve conflict is to say, “let’s put it to a vote”.
Dues are a little bit trickier in dynasty than a normal league. And I have two pieces of advice on that. First, keep them reasonable. I know we all want to win a lot of money, but if the buy-in is $300 and some kid has a terrible draft or makes a bad trade, he might look at his team and say, “I’m not paying $300 for this trash, I’m out.” In dynasty it’s more about the pride that comes with being able to tell the football future anyway so keep it light enough that people will still be willing to pony up with a bad team.
The second piece of advice depends on how well you know your league-mates or trust them, but I like to collect dues for the first two years in year one. So, if the buy-in is $25, you collect $50 in the first year. The extra year essentially serves as a deposit. If someone wants to quit the league after the first season, they need to help find someone to pony up the $25 for their team. It’s as simple as that. It helps prevent people from mortgaging the future of the team and quitting the league. If you trust that everyone is in it for the long haul you might not need to do that, but I advise you to go that route. I’ve seen teams that are so bad that the only way to entice someone to take them over is for the commissioner or league to eat the dues for a year. You don’t want that.
There are two ways to tank – a right way and a wrong way.
- Right Way – Trade all of your aging, good players for picks or young upside players so that you can naturally lose and get a better draft slot.
- Wrong Way – Purposefully bench all your good players to both come in last and keep your good players.
Personally, I hate the “wrong way.” The worst teams should get the best picks, not the team that benched all their players to weasel their way into a good pick. Some commissioners will rule with an iron fist and automatically set lineups; others use a “best ball” system where the draft order is based on your OPTIMAL points scored rather than the lineups you set (which hurts even worse). Others might do a lottery system like how the NBA has to discourage teams from flat out being bad. For me, it’s pretty simple. Invite people that you trust to play the game the right way, make sure they know the right way vs. the wrong way, and politely ask them to not be a jerk about it. That’s just another reason why “league-mates” are the number one most important thing for your dyno league.
Now is the perfect time to do start-up drafts because the NFL draft is already over, and the player pool is set. If you draft after the 2021 season but prior to the 2022 NFL draft, you have a decision to make about whether rookies will be in the draft or not. I personally find that it gets a little too dicey when you are drafting players that haven’t been drafted yet so, when I do a draft during that period, I put the PICKS in the draft. So, you basically will draft the to pick 1.01, 1.02, 1.03 and so on and then, after the NFL draft, you have a separate rookie-only draft. The only thing better than one fantasy football draft is two.
You know what else I hate? Vetoing. Vetoing trades is nonsense in regular leagues and it’s even crazier in dynasty. No one knows what is going to happen. At this time last year, if someone traded Derrius Guice for Mike Davis, I would have thought that the Guice owner was insane. But right now, that would have been the steal of the century. You should never have to veto trades because the people in your league aren’t children that need someone to hold their hand. Once again, this is why rule number one regarding choosing your league-mates is crucial. If people in your league are committing collusion (which is cheating) or are so criminally stupid that they can’t be trusted to run a team without messing up the whole league then you don’t have a veto issue on your hands, you have a “people need to be kicked out of the league” issue. That’s the harsh truth.
Use a Free Agent Auction Budget (FAAB) system. It’s light years better than the old revolving waiver system. Every decision in dynasty is one zillion times more important than a typical redraft league; you could have these players for DECADES. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick rostered behind Drew Bledsoe who was just given a ten-year, $100 million dollar contract. Safe to say, Tom Brady wasn’t being drafted in any dynasty leagues. So that means that at some point he was added by someone off waivers, which changed that person’s entire team for 20 years. Same goes for guys like Adam Thielen or Wes Welker who were undrafted free agents who didn’t break out until they were like 27. You don’t want those players to be randomly distributed by chance or getting lucky with timing. The people who know what they are doing should be able to allocate their resources to acquire the good players before they break out. Since you are a Fantasy Alarm member, you are practically a football genius, so you want a system that rewards smart players.
The format is entirely up to you and there are obviously a ton of options, but these are my recommendations. One thing I will universally recommend is having ample IR spots – two-to-four at least. Anyone that didn’t have that last year at the height of COVID definitely felt the pain. This game is about long-term assets so you should never have to drop a guy who tore his ACL or at dinner with another COVID positive player just to field a lineup. I also universally recommend half-point PPR or full-PPR over standard as standard leagues are outdated. But again, you are the commissioner so do what you want.
Small League (8-10 players) For this you can do either half-point or full-point. Given the high level of talent available at all positions due to the small number of teams, I would recommend making it either two-QB or Superflex meaning you can start QB’s at a flex spot. If possible, I would also do tight end premium so that high end tight ends have similar value to WR/RB. That way there aren’t a bunch of good tight ends on waivers at all times which often happens in small/shallow leagues. I’d have as many starting spots in the form of flexes as your league mates will allow since everyone should have pretty loaded rosters: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, Superflex, Flex, Flex, Flex is a good example. That keeps things interesting and helps separate the top teams from the bottom. Waivers should be plentiful regardless so it’s okay to have deeper benches as well.
Medium Leagues (12-14 players) This is the sweet spot in my opinion so you can be much more flexible. In a 14-man league especially, it can be difficult for teams to field viable starters so I would recommend not doing two-QB (since that would be 28 QB’s and there are only 32 NFL teams. I’d also go with full PPR which opens up the player pool. I prefer deep benches but, if you have beginners in your league, you might not want to make them too deep because that can create a large skill gap from players in the know from players who don’t know what they are doing. Fantasy gamers with a limited knowledge base benefit greatly from being able to find viable fill-ins on waivers. I know you want to win but it’s a difficult balance in dynasty because you also want to make sure people are having a good experience, so they don’t quit. Think of it like a house party. If you are just destroying everyone on the Beer Pong table and not making sure the party is fun for everyone, some people are just going to go home. In dynasty you need everyone engaged for the party to work.
Large Leagues (16+) – In this format I would recommend doing a PPR best ball league with taxi squads. It can be so hard to field a roster and make start/sit decisions once you are talking about an NFL teams’ WR4 or WR5 that this format just allows people to focus on what’s important - which is rostering the best long-term assets.
- Best Ball – You field a roster of players. The site you play on automatically takes the best players from your team each week and slots them into the starting spots, so you don’t need to set your lineup each week. This allows teams to focus on collecting the best possible overall group of players which makes things easier for large leagues. Lucky for you, the Fantasy Alarm Draft Guide also has an article specifically on Best Ball Leagues and Strategies. And I wrote that too, so you know it’s amazing.
- Taxi Squad- When “taxi squads” are in play, you have X number of players and Y number of those players are designated to your taxi squad and are not part of the pool that you can use in your lineup, so they are essentially inactive. So, say you have a 20-man active roster with four-man taxi squads. You can own 24 total players, but four of them will not be eligible for your lineup unless you promote or demote them. This allows teams to stash players (like handcuffs for instance) even though they may be putting up zeros. Nothing better than having a friend give up on a guy early then add him, stash him on the taxi squad, and he breaks out.
FINALLY - the fun part. You went through all the trouble of setting up this league and getting the perfect leagues-mates so now it’s time to destroy them. Let’s get into it.
This might feel like common sense, but the very beginning of the draft is going to be reserved for the best young players. For instance, not only is Patrick Mahomes the best quarterback in the league but he also happens to be 25 years old. You could draft him and get 15 more years out of him. It’s a no brainer. However, at a certain point these players are going to dry up and you will be left with either young unproven guys who are risky or older talents who may not have many years left in the take. So, you are going to have to make an absolutely critical decision.
Mid Round - AKA The Decision
This is a potentially controversial topic, but I think it’s a bad idea to try to spend the ENTIRE draft trying to balance youth and talent. In the first round or two the picks are obvious. After that, unless you hit the nail right on the head, trying too hard to balance young and old is how you end up with a mediocre team that comes in sixth. And that’s how you end up in “dynasty purgatory” because you aren’t winning now but you also aren’t doing poorly enough to get a good pick. You are just coasting along in mediocrity while your older players get too old and your young lottery tickets bust. My advice is this: depending how the first few rounds go, make a decision. If you start off going Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, then go all in and try to win now. RB’s have a short shelf life. Trade your future picks, draft guys like Adam Thielen and Aaron Rodgers. Put your name on the trophy right away. If you win the league, then your dues are paid in full for at least a few years so go get it. I personally skew this way on most occasions.
On the flip side, if you end up going like DK Metcalf, Kyler Murray, Ja’Marr Chase, you have a solid foundation that will be good for a long time but might not have the horses at RB to win right away. In that case, maybe YOU are the one that trades for future picks. Move your assets forward, go young. Maybe you come in last the first year but then you get the first pick, draft that stud rookie RB, and now you are poised to win multiple years. What I like to do is look around after the first round or two and see what other people are doing; if a lot of people are going young, I go all in on winning now because the value will be there. If multiple people are clearly playing to win now, I might go young. At some point, commit to a direction and go for it. It’s a lot of fun that way because it really facilitates trading. For instance, if you are going all in now and your buddy is going young then you can trade that guy a bunch of picks for players to help you win year one or two. You win now, your buddy wins later. Win-Win! Meanwhile the rest of your league is scratching their heads wondering why two teams just dominated the first five years of the league while THEY all sat in fantasy purgatory.
This is where you ABSOLUTELY need to know your format. If you are in a ten-man league that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, and 1 Flex then guys like Cole Beasley or Anthony Miller do literally nothing for you. Unless your team is absolutely atrocious, they are NEVER going to crack your lineup. So, you should only be shooting for upside plays. Don’t draft Amon-Ra St. Brown who is likely to be a slot guy playing 60% of the snaps and coming out for two-WR sets. Target guys who have a chance to actually play split end or flanker and a 90% snap share like Nico Collins or Josh Palmer. However, if your league is a 16-man league with seven flexes, you NEED guys who are just going to contribute so maybe you roster the Cole Beasley’s of the world there.
My biggest piece of advice is this: in the late rounds, uncertainty is your friend. In the early rounds you are using your high-end draft capital, so you only want sure things. But there are a lot of situations that aren’t sure things. Look at the Panthers last year, they brought in a new coach, a new coordinator, a new QB. Everyone thought DJ Moore was going to be far and away the best WR, so he was going literally ten rounds earlier than guys like Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel. In the new offense though, targets were distributed a little more evenly. If you stacked Anderson and Samuel with your later picks simply hoping that one of them would be the second WR, you kind of hit that jackpot because, not only did they play well, but now Anderson is the second WR on Carolina and Samuel is the second WR on Washington. There are a lot of teams with those same conditions of new coach/new QB - the Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Texans etc. In these later rounds you are primarily looking for upside and, when it comes to upside in the late rounds, uncertainty is your friend. The guys at the very end of your bench are going to be dropped during the season and, if they aren’t, you need to drop guys to make room for your new rookie picks next year anyway so you might as well swing for the fences.