Dynasty Fantasy Football Startup Strategy | Austin R. Martin’s Guide to Dynasty Startups

by Austin Martin · Draft Strategy

Austin Martin is one of the best Dynasty fantasy managers in the country with the receipts to back it up. Year in year out, he is one of the highest Dynasty money winners in the FFPC. He has won multiple $2500, $1250 and $750 entry FFPC leagues. Austin is also an accomplished High Stakes redraft player with a top 10 FFPC Main Event Finish, and two top 10 NFFC Online Championship finishes. If that was not impressive enough, in 2020, Austin took down the largest prize of his time playing fantasy. He won the 2020 FFPC Post Season Contest, winning $500,000 in the process. In this article, he provides his knowledge when it comes to the Dynasty Fantasy Football Startup Draft. PlayerProfiler is thrilled to have Austin as the first entry to our Expert Series.

Dynasty Fantasy Football Startup Strategy | Austin R. Martin’s Guide to Dynasty Startups

Know Your League Rules/Format!

This is where it all begins.  The league format/scoring should be the driving force behind much of your strategy.  Most of my dynasty volume is on FFPC where you start 10 players each week, roster 20 players during the season, and cut down to 16 players in March.  Scoring is PPR (point-per reception) with TE Premium (1.5 PPR), six points for rushing/receiving touchdowns, and four points for passing touchdowns. Even within FFPC there are various formats which I will get in to shortly.

Outside of the FFPC world, deeper formats exist with expanded starting lineups, benches, and even taxi squads. Your strategy in those formats should be prioritizing depth. You will need it when starting 12 – 13 or more players each week with the ability to carry 30 or more players. However, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the following FFPC Dynasty formats:

Standard 1-QB Dynasty

20-man rosters.  Starting lineup consists of 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 2-Flex, Kicker and Defense.  General strategy here is to load up on RB/WR depth.

Superflex Dynasty

20-man rosters.  Starting lineup consists of 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 1-Superflex, 1-Flex, Kicker and Defense.  This format is going to be more RB than WR heavy.  This is because we only have two WR spots and 1 Flex spot (plus the Superflex). Fantasy gamers are rarely going to want more than three WR’s in their starting lineup.  This is nuanced but WR tends to get over valued by players new to this format.

RotoViz TriFlex Superflex

20-man rosters.  Starting lineup consists of 1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, 1-Superflex, and 2-Flex.  Neither kickers nor defenses are used in this format.  This is a newer format with influence from Curtis and the RotoViz team. To no one’s surprise, here is where we can absolutely load up on wide receivers. This is because we can start up to five each week (or six if you don’t have a QB in your Superflex).

Best Ball Dynasty

22-man rosters. There is a best-ball version of each of the above formats with the same “starting lineups” but rosters expand to 22 spots. Additionally, fantasy gamers have the benefit of taking the optimal scoring lineup each week. This format lends itself to rostering fewer speculative depth pieces (RB handcuffs, Rookie TE, etc.) with more emphasis on weekly contributors to help you increase your weekly score.

Know Your League/Competition

If you are in a home-league with friends, you may already have a good feel for your league tendencies.  Do they prioritize a certain position or certain players?  Who is the hometown team?  This is valuable information that you can exploit throughout the draft.

Most dynasty startups are slow drafts with 8-hour clocks allowing for trading throughout.  When I join a startup, I am looking for familiar names.  Some players are notorious for trading back and accumulating future first round picks. Others will always “go for it” in Year 1.  Often, as a league is being formed, a league member will start a “GroupMe” private chat for league communications. You can generally gauge how active the league might be based on the level of engagement in these private chats.

Each League Is Its Own Market

You should be well prepared. Check out recent draft boards and ADP (average draft position) on @FantasyMojo to help you get a better feel for where players are being drafted.  Mojo has the max pick, min pick, and ADP for each player broken down by each format. With knowledge of how recent start-ups are playing out and your league intel, paired with your own personal (or PlayerProfiler) rankings/tiers, you should be in a great spot to adjust to what the draft is giving you on-the-fly.

Remember, ADP is just a Tool

Try not to let average draft position dictate which players are on your roster. The best way to use ADP is to help you determine where you need to select the players you want.  We are only trying to beat 11 other teams. This is not a national contest where we must beat out thousands other entries. It’s best to have some conviction in your player selections.

Once You Receive Your Draft Position

This is our first opportunity to put our rankings/tiers and ADP knowledge to use. It is also our first chance to “set the market” as it pertains to trading away or trading for future picks. In most FFPC start-ups a random future first is going to be worth somewhere between a mid-fifth and mid-sixth round pick.  If I’m trying to acquire an additional future first, I’d like to do so by offering up my seventh round start up pick or perhaps a ninth round startup pick and a future second – something along those lines.

If I’m not first to market but I see a deal got done that is either over-valuing or under-valuing a particular range of picks, then I am going to try and mirror that offer and send to the rest of my league mates. Another way to do that would be to try and make a different deal with the same owner that undervalued the pick(s) in the original deal.

What is Your Strategy? 

My general strategy is to stay fluid and take what the draft gives me.  If everyone wants to trade back and early start up picks are being discounted, I am happy to move up.  If everyone wants to trade up, I am happy to move back.

Win-Now Versus “Productive Struggle.”

Generally, the higher the stakes, the more likely that managers are going to take a win-now approach.  The productive struggle, or punt Year 1, strategy has gained a lot of popularity in recent years and it is very viable.  The idea is that you are trading back and accumulating future picks. You are aware that you are sacrificing Year 1 (and sometimes Year 2) to assemble a squad loaded with young ascending players that will take off in Year 2 and beyond.

Many highly successful players use this as their go-to for every new start up.  I tend to think this is more effective in deeper formats. Therefore, I’m more likely to lean in to this strategy in the TriFlex Superflex format.  It’s important to make sure your bankroll can support punting one or two entry fees.  If you cannot, this is probably a good indicator you are playing beyond your means and should simply drop down a level or two.

Personally, I Enter Each Draft With a Loose Plan

The first few rounds we are looking to add the best combination of youth + production that we can.  We do not have to plant our flag on a particular strategy in the first couple of rounds, we are simply looking for the best value based on where we are positioned in the draft.  I believe that the top dynasty players are willing to trade up or trade back based on what the rest of the league is giving them.

For Round 1

I am going to let my draft position dictate my first move. In a recent 1-QB start-up we landed the 1.03 which I consider to be the optimal draft position in this format.  From the 1.03 you are guaranteed one of Jefferson, Chase, or Robinson.  From this position we have no real motivation to move up or back. Therefore, we sit back and see what falls to us and to our surprise we land Jefferson at the 1.03. This is a player that is frequently going 1.01.

I generally want to be positioned at the end of a tier, just before the tier break.  If I am reasonably confident in how the draft is going to play out, I will target these picks in advance.  The price usually goes up when a pick is “on the clock” and there is an obvious selection on the board before a tier break and other owners are seeing what you’re seeing.

Early Positional Leans

In a Standard 1-QB start-up, assuming I am making picks in each round, I want to leave Round 3 with at least 1 WR and 1 RB.  In a Superflex or Triflex, I want to have a solid QB1 in the first couple of rounds. If I miss out on the top 12 QB’s, then I’d really like to have two guys from that next tier (Daniel Jones, Tua, Young, Stroud, Cousins, Geno) and if that isn’t possible then I absolutely need three starters. This is preferred regardless.

This should be very feasible since FFPC only allows you to draft 3 QB’s in a start-up draft. I’ve adjusted my QB strategy some over the years for a couple of reasons.  First, the positional advantage with the top QB’s continues to increase.  Second, I think you can pay up at QB and still fill out a formidable roster. Finally, the cost of whiffing on QB is just much harder to come back from. In Superflex/Triflex – generally – QB’s will never be cheaper than they are in the startup draft.

How Does the Current Pick Impact Your Next Pick? 

This should always be a consideration but especially in the early rounds of a Superflex or Triflex draft as it relates to your QB strategy. We always need to have board-awareness. That ois where are our picks positioned, who picks in front of us, and how might that impact our on-the-clock decision.

Veteran Production

We need to be strategic about when to invest draft capital on veterans with a limited window of production. There are certain players I’m probably going to be out on based on where they’re going.  In 1-QB leagues, second round Travis Kelce (ADP 2.07) is a little too rich for me.  Davante Adams in Round 4 or DeAndre Hopkins in Round 8 is a little more my flavor. I’m more willing to make these picks if I feel confident about the base I’ve built in the first few rounds, and I believe these players can put me over the top.  On the contrary, if I’ve built a “productive struggle” team, then I am avoiding these guys at just about any cost.

The exception would be if I’m trying to speculate on a trade and expected value spike. In this case, I may make a pick that doesn’t fit my build with the idea that I can flip him later to a contender. Worst-case, you have the fallback of knowing that at least in the FFPC you have to win the consolation bracket to secure the 1.01. Therefore, late season productivity is always going to matter as long as you hold your own future first round pick.

Injury/Suspension Discounts

Players coming off a serious injury or entering the season with a suspension are going to come with a discount.   These types are especially appealing for a productive struggle build where we aren’t even necessarily trying to win this season.

Rounding Out the Roster

Once we are in to the double-digit rounds, we want to focus on building depth, addressing team needs while taking players that best fit our roster.  For a productive struggle build we are going to continue to take shots on rookies and other speculative types including bounce-back candidates or younger players that are coming back from an injury. For a contender, we can continue mixing in both productive veterans and youth.  We want to keep some balance and leave ourselves future outs, so the bulk of our roster isn’t getting old all at once while also hedging against the possibility of things going wrong early in the season requiring us to shift gears and re-tool for the following season.

A few rules I try to follow as it pertains to trading picks

  • Never trade your future first for assets that don’t have a chance to increase in value.
  • If you’re going to trade your future first during the start-up, try to make that move as early as possible before it becomes obvious you are a serious contender and your future first can be projected as a late first.
  • For a productive struggle – I think ~four future firsts is about optimal. Any more than this and you’re going to have a hard time competing for the 1.01 at seasons end.  You also want to embrace a bit of volatility by drafting some rookies and second year players that have a chance to increase in value rather than taking all stable assets (future picks).