Heading into the 2022 season, fantasy football has never been more popular, so it only makes sense that people are looking to chase that season-long feeling. Yearly redraft leagues just don’t cut it for some fantasy owners, which is why keeper and dynasty leagues have become so big recently. With dynasty, you get to manage your roster all year. From deciding whether to win now vs. rebuild to obsessing over potential trades — particularly those involving draft picks and rookies — dynasty requires a great deal of strategy. You’re still worried about sleepers, breakouts, and all that good stuff, but rankings, tiers, and draft cheat sheets, at least in the traditional sense, aren’t really that important anymore.
Simply put, there is no offseason in dynasty, folks.
With that in mind, let’s dish out some advice on how to balance your dynasty league goals while also getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to trading and acquiring draft picks. These things go hand in hand and are always top of mind for dynasty leagues owners, be it in-season or in the preseason.
Note: The following is a mash-up of Fantasy Alarm’s dynasty league advice series, which contains installments relating to different dynasty formats, taking over an orphaned team, trading picks, and winning now vs. rebuilding.
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Winning now vs. rebuilding in fantasy dynasty leagues
The typical way to construct your dynasty roster to give yourself the best chance for a long competitive window for 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 isn’t a fun spot to be in, but with trading, you can easily find yourself on either end of the spectrum. One of the best things about dynasty leagues is that “even if you’re losing, you’re still winning.”
Understanding age relative to positions
While quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends have a much longer shelf lives than running backs, 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 year’s crop of rookie RBs features several high-upside dynasty targets, including Buffalo’s James Cook, Seattle’s Kenneth Walker III, and the Jets’ Breece Hall, among others.
From 2010-’20, the majority of 250-PPR-point seasons by running backs come between the ages of 23 and 25. The lone 250-point, age-30 season 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. 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 and draft picks, it’s smart to collect talent at every position but running back. Thinking about what we just talked about with RBs. It’s not a hard and fast rule 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 might 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, then you should 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 owners 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 that it’s foolish to try and project what’s going to happen in ’27.
Finding value in veterans
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 who seem like locks to be superstars, and then for one reason or another, they 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 who 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 1,000 yards receiving, and in every season but two, he’s had 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 Zach Ertz are valued lower because of their ages. They’re perfect targets for those looking to win now. If you mix and match some of these players with some youth and the young players pan out? 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 trading draft picks skims a little from your future assets, but those draft picks aren’t using a roster spot or scoring points for you right now. 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 you’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. That can help you predict what will happen to those players in the future and if they’re worth investing in.
The best time for trading draft picks is right after the season, where the new crop of incoming rookies has seemingly unlimited value because we don’t know what teams they’ll be on. The most common time for trading picks is during the season when the good teams are trying to acquire veterans for the stretch run.
There isn’t as much to be done in the preseason, but if you’re always looking to wheel and deal (and have no problem throwing in the towel early), here’s a guide for how to value future draft picks, which generally should be viewed with a “step-down” approach:
- A 2023 first-round pick value is reasonably close to a 2022 second-round pick
- A 2023 second-round pick to a 2022 third-round pick
- A 2024 first-round pick to a late 2022 second-round or early third-round pick
Acquiring picks is much easier than trading them. If your team just stinks, you can unload your roster piece by piece for rookie draft picks to get either an infusion of young talent through the draft or pooling picks together for a player you want. Again, this is much easier to do during the season than in the offseason. There’s no wrong way to acquire picks, as having more choices will only help rebuild your team that much faster.
If you have some good young pieces but are hit by the variance bug and in line for a terrible season, trade some veterans to contending teams for draft picks. That’s a practical approach to acquiring draft picks. You’re thinking in the long-term while contending dynasty owners are not. That’s an advantageous position to be in.
There’s no wrong way to build a roster, whether it be the long-term way through rookie drafts and new player acquisition 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.”