News & Analysis

Dynasty Fantasy Football League Tips and Strategies

One of the topics I'm asked most often about is dynasty league strategy. In my 10 years competing in dynasty leagues I've found that there's more than one way to build a successful dynasty team.

Here are some of my favorite strategies to build a consistent winning team year after year. I will use a dynasty team I drafted in May 2012 to illustrate these strategies. Listening to someone talk about their own fantasy team is the worst – so this is only to show that I practice what I preach.

This is not meant to be an all-encompassing how-to guide by any means, but it's a great starting point for owners getting their feet wet in dynasty leagues.

Build for the Future

You keep your roster of players from year-to-year in dynasty leagues. So, one of the best ways to have a team that can compete annually is to build for the future. That does not mean that you draft a team to win a championship in five years, but you want to at least look toward next season.

Oftentimes I see owners draft a team that would be a powerhouse in a one-year redraft league. They take older established players with little regard for the future. This strategy can work if you're comfortable finding younger breakout candidates in the later rounds. The problem is in competitive leagues most owners won’t allow the younger sleeper candidates to fall that far in drafts. So you end up having a roster of older players with declining value and very few building blocks in the later rounds. If you don’t win a championship in the first season, you almost always have to rebuild the team from the bottom up and sell players for less than market value.

A better strategy is to build the core of your team for the next two to three years with younger players on the rise. Then, when other teams are looking for younger players that are unlikely to pan out, you can scoop up the veterans that can be a temporary bridge to some of your younger players who may not be ready to become weekly starters in your lineup.

In an ideal world, you want to maximize value by taking players in the early rounds who will likely be worth more next season. None of us have a crystal ball or Gray's Sports Almanac from “Back to the Future,” so there is some element of luck here. Asking yourself at each selection where you would take Player X in a draft next season gives you an idea whether the player is ascending, holding steady or on the decline.

Here is how my roster looks in the second year of a highly competitive 12-team points-per-reception (PPR) league. There are several industry experts in this league including Sigmund Bloom, Andy Miley, Shane P. Hallam, Ryan Forbes, Ryan McDowell, Eric Dickens, and our own Mike Clay. There weren’t many values to be had in this league.

Pos Player 2012 Draft
2012 ADP 2013 ADP 2013 Rk
QB Wilson, Russell SEA QB35 33 8 6
QB Manning, Peyton DEN QB13 13 11 11
QB Locker, Jake TEN QB14 15 27 26
QB Ponder, Christian MIN QB25 24 35 33
RB Martin, Doug TBB RB11 14 2 2
RB Spiller, C.J. BUF RB17 17 5 4
RB Lattimore, Marcus SFO R R 37 33
RB Gillislee, Mike MIA R R 52 52
RB Ellington, Andre ARI R R 56 57
RB Goodson, Mike NYJ RB60 56 58 58
RB Powell, Bilal NYJ RB69 67 76 72
RB Green, Alex GBP RB59 55 84 73
RB Gerhart, Toby MIN RB55 52 124 78
RB Reece, Marcel OAK UD NA 72 80
RB Thompson, Chris WAS R R 79 UR
TE Rudolph, Kyle MIN TE11 12 6 6
TE Davis, Vernon SFO TE4 11 5 7
TE Housler, Robert ARI TE28 29 15 25
WR Bryant, Dez DAL WR6 6 4 3
WR Harvin, Percy SEA WR9 11 7 7
WR Smith, Torrey BAL WR27 25 19 13
WR Maclin, Jeremy PHI WR14 17 31 31
WR Quick, Brian STL WR42 43 59 48
WR Bess, Davone CLE WR67 70 92 84
WR Robinson, Aldrick WAS UD NA 102 88
WR McCluster, Dexter KCC WR107 NA 103 92

2013 Dynasty ADP courtesy of Dynasty League Football

My team made the playoffs last year despite being one of the youngest teams in the league. The only player well over the age of 30 is Peyton Manning. When I took him last year, he was supposed to be my bridge to Jake Locker. Little did I know that Russell Wilson would end up as the best value pick I made in the entire draft.

I want to bring attention to some of the ADP differences. Most of my core players have a higher ADP in 2013 than last year. And finally, most of my starters are worth more based on my 2013 ranking of them versus where I selected them in the startup draft. The fact that I have several top-10 options at each position is a huge advantage going forward.

Build for the future – your team will thank you later.

Trade Down in a Start-up Draft

I'm a huge advocate for trading down, if possible. Ranking and projecting players on an annual basis is an inexact science, so I want to give my team as many chances to land young core players in the early rounds. No one is ever going to get all of their picks correct. Spreading out your risk helps produce a greater payoff in the end.

Based on my experience, around the 10th round of a 12-team league is where you usually start to see a dropoff in available talent. So I want to maximize the number of picks I have in that range, even if it means dealing my first-round pick. There's no established trading chart for dynasty draft pick selections, so it can be tough to find a trading partner where you feel that you are getting fair value.

In the same league as above, here is how I traded down three separate times after I was awarded the first overall pick in the draft.

Send Receive
1.01 1 1.10 10
25.01 289 3.10 34
26.12 312 15.10 178
Send Receive
1.10 10 2.03 15
8.12 96 8.03 87
10.12 120 10.03 111
20.12 240 20.03 231
Send Receive
2.03 15 2.05 17
4.12 48 4.05 41
6.12 72 6.05 65

After making those deals, I upgraded seven of my draft picks. Most importantly, I ended up with 11 picks in the top 100 and six picks in the top 50 overall.

Begin End Final
Picks Picks Pick Ovr
1 17 2.05 17
48 34 2.12 24
72 41 3.01 25
96 65 3.10 34
120 87 4.05 41
240 111 5.01 49
289 178 6.05 65
312 231 7.01 73
8.03 87
9.01 97
9.03 99

This advice comes with a disclaimer. Trading down is not for the faint of heart. I gave up the chance to select Calvin Johnson, but picked up a player (Dez Bryant) that is almost his equal and plenty of other capital for the core of my team.

Learn from your Mistakes

First off, no one is perfect – especially in fantasy football. Knowing what you know and don’t know is vital to long-term success. We all have blind spots and biases that impact our decision making. The only way to learn and grow is to study your triumphs and mistakes. Be honest with yourself.

We’ve all looked back at drafts we’ve done and wondered what we were thinking at the time. How could I have passed on Player B for Player A? Why was I so high on Player X when there wasn’t much of a breakout possibility? How could I have traded away Player C for nothing?

To illustrate this, here are several picks I made in this draft and a player I could have selected instead several picks later:

Pick Ovr Franchise Selection Pos
7.01 73 Bryan Fontaine Jackson, Steven STL RB RB22
7.10 82 Bucketheads Cobb, Randall GBP WR WR38
9.03 99 Bryan Fontaine Locker, Jake TEN QB QB14
10.07 115 Hog's Breath Bradford, Sam STL QB QB17
11.01 121 Bryan Fontaine Collie, Austin IND WR WR47
11.05 125 Rancho Cucamonga Ghosts Amendola, Danny STL WR WR49
12.12 144 Bryan Fontaine Hillis, Peyton KCC RB RB48
13.01 145 Bloom Leshoure, Mikel DET RB RB49
17.01 193 Bryan Fontaine Nelson, David BUF WR WR76
18.04 208 Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Hilton, T.Y. IND WR (R) WR81
23.01 265 Bryan Fontaine McNutt, Marvin PHI WR (R) WR108
23.09 273 Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Pitta, Dennis BAL TE TE30

Some of these are extreme cases with the benefit of hindsight, but they highlight the need to have clarity about your convictions. Instead of taking a running back approaching 30 years old (Steven Jackson), I could have had one of the premier slot receivers (Randall Cobb) in the game. Instead of taking a slot receiver on a poor offense (David Nelson), I could have taken a slot receiver (T.Y. Hilton) on an ascending offense.

Most importantly, to learn from your experiences, you have to formulate your own opinions. Continue to challenge yourself to get better.

Trading

Trading is one of the best parts of being a dynasty league owner. It gives us one of the closest experiences to being an actual NFL general manager. However, I sometimes see owners needlessly make trades just to keep things interesting. While I can't advocate this practice, it's important to remain active in your league in order to capitalize on opportunities as they present themselves.

I tend to be fairly reserved with my trade activity throughout the year. I trust my evaluations and only look to make moves if I feel like I have an edge to extract value. Most of my trading is done in February and March after I have identified some potential breakout candidates before the masses have. I try to avoid paying market price if possible.

Sometimes there aren’t any moves to make. Not for a lack of trying to seek potential deals, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your team is to stand pat. In the league I have referenced so far, I've only made two trades since the conclusion of the initial draft last May. I dealt Justin Blackmon and a 2014 second-round pick for Torrey Smith last June after Blackmon's driving under the influence incident. At the trade deadline last year, I dealt Steven Jackson for Brian Quick and a second-round pick to replace the one I had traded away months before. That’s it.

Use trades to your advantage. Sell players before a decline or buy players before a breakout. However, do it with a purpose in mind. And stay one step ahead of your league mates.

Conclusion

A lot of trial and error goes into becoming a successful dynasty owner. There are plenty of other ways to build a championship team. However, these are strategies that have worked well for me.

How do you build your teams? Tell us in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.

join the conversation

Bryan Fontaine is a Senior Editor for PFF Fantasy. You can follow him on Twitter at @Bryan_Fontaine.

All Featured Tools

  • 250+ three-page scouting profiles - advanced stats, 3-year grades, player comps, combine data and Senior Bowl grades - for the 2021 draft class.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF's Big Board for the 2021 NFL Draft offers three-year player grades, combine measurables, position rankings, and in-depth player analysis for all of the top draft prospects.

    Available with

    Edge
  • NFL free agent rankings with analysis, projected salaries, PFF grades and PFF WAR.

    Available with

    Edge
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr
College Subscriptions

Unlock College Player Grades and Preview Magazine

$7.99 / mo
$27.99 / yr

Unlock NCAA Premium Stats & PFF Greenline NCAA

$29.99 / mo
$119.99 / yr