Dynasty Fantasy Football Start-Up Strategies

by Emerson Beery · NFL

There is no off-season in dynasty fantasy football leagues and we’re approaching the best time of year to do start-up drafts. Right after the NFL Draft is perfect as people have all the information they need and managers are dying for some action in April. This far out from the season though there are still plenty of unknowns. As a result, dynasty managers can make plenty of mistakes.

Keeping that in mind here are my favorite strategies to keep in mind throughout a start-up dynasty fantasy football draft. Building a foundation through the wide receiver and quarterback (Superflex) positions and avoiding more volatile assets early is essential in creating a competitive dynasty team now and in the future.

Draft the Best Player Available

While some leagues do unfortunately fold over time, fantasy managers should always approach the draft looking at a three year window. Dynasty football never sleeps, and there is always an opportunity to execute a trade or make a timely waiver wire pickup. This is where fantasy managers should be focused on filling their starting lineups, not in the start-up draft. The player pool isn’t deep enough to make picks for positional needs.

Instead, dynasty managers should draft the best player available and focus on accumulating the most assets. Great fantasy players are constantly making moves and in-season play, or “points season,” is only 20 weeks out of the year. For the other 30 weeks, the value of these players is simply what the fantasy market dictates it is.

Focus on building the most capital will build managers the best dynasty fantasy football rosters. Making trades and even slightly overpaying for a positional need becomes easier over time as a result. This is particularly important in startups where other managers will be focused on filling out their starting lineups.

*Here are some players you should be buying in dynasty fantasy football leagues too

Draft to Win Now AND in the Future

One of the biggest differences among dynasty fantasy football managers is their approach in the start-up draft. Some choose to select veterans who can immediately help them push for a championship, while others choose to build for the future. Why not have your cake and eat it too?

Selecting young and productive wide receivers in their second through fifth year in the league is a fantastic way to draft a team ready to do both. Receivers are much safer assets in dynasty fantasy football leagues than running backs. They have much shorter career windows and young productive running backs have fallen off quickly in the past. Drafting wide receivers in the early rounds ensures a base level of production in the first year, and these same players are starters three years down the line as well.

In Superflex formats, the same principle applies to quarterbacks. They too have much longer career windows, and those selected in the first and second round can be starters for a dynasty team for a long time. For example, even though Dak Prescott is entering his eighth season in the league, he still has a longer fantasy window than someone like Kenneth Walker. Quarterbacks are vital in this format, and ensuring that you have productive players there will put you in a position to win now and later.

As a result, I avoid running backs and tight ends early on in start-ups because they are highly volatile assets. Players at these positions can set managers up to win now. However, that is a risky approach. An injury or another running back joining the team can throw a wrench in a fantasy manager’s plans quickly. Instead, draft players who can be strong contributors through a three year window.

Draft Late Round Running Backs

This fits perfectly if a dynasty manager drafted wide receivers and quarterbacks (Superflex) through the early rounds of a start-up. Wide receivers are safe dynasty assets. Because of this, the market is very saturated. Productive players like Jakobi Meyers are barely selected as WR4s in most start-up drafts this off-season.

Dynasty managers can find 10 to 12 PPR fantasy points anywhere from a wide receiver. Many of the top receivers aren’t going anywhere either, which means one has to be very talented to be a true difference maker. Late round targets are simply depth pieces that will only start during bye weeks or when injuries arise.

Running backs on the other hand are more subject to injuries and depth chart shake ups. There are players every year who are massive surprises when they are thrust into a lead role. A running back with little to no value can all of the sudden be a top 24 running back with simply a higher snap share.

These players have lower floors of production than wide receivers drafted in the same range, but the ceiling is well worth it. After the top 50 receivers or so are off the board a smart strategy is to begin hoarding those backup running backs. Most may not work out, however, these are players who could turn into strong starters down the line for a playoff run.

Tight Ends in Dynasty Fantasy Football Start-Up Drafts

The tight end position is by far and away the most frustrating one in fantasy football. Other than Travis Kelce in recent years, the top tight ends have struggled with consistency. Darren Waller, George Kittle, Zach Ertz, and even Mark Andrews have yielded mixed results as a result of injuries and/or target volume issues.

Each of these players has had wonderful moments, nonetheless, they haven’t paid off at their early ADPs. With Kelce aging as well, fantasy managers would be wise to completely avoid tight ends early in dynasty drafts. Similar to running backs, these players are injury prone and most struggle to maintain a consistent presence in the offense.

With so many tight ends being touchdown dependent, it’s wise to wait until the double-digit rounds to begin accumulating them. This may put you at a slight disadvantage early on in the season, but it won’t take long to find a productive player. Even in deep dynasty leagues surprises can be found on the waiver wire. Trading is always an option as well once a manager assess which players are garnering higher target shares.

Throw ADP Out the Window

There is nothing that puts less experienced dynasty managers at a bigger disadvantage than the preloaded ADP on drafting platforms. Obviously, these lists may provide some insight. However, they often aren’t up to date and shouldn’t be followed. Nonetheless, many drafters will follow these preloaded ADPs which result in players being chosen in vastly different spots depending on the website.

Instead, dynasty managers should create their own rankings or have one handy from a trusted website or analyst. Veteran drafters use these platforms’ poor rankings to gain an edge. Many players will be much lower in these ADP lists than they rightfully should be and savvy managers can draft them early.

Trading Future Draft Picks

I have mixed feelings about trading future picks in a dynasty fantasy football start-up draft. While it can be advantageous for those looking to win right away, a lot can go wrong. A couple of injuries and a few players not meeting expectations can cause a championship contender to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In other words, don’t sell your future first round pick assuming it’s going to be late. Trading future draft capital should require significant capital in the start-up as managers never know where it will end up. A lot can happen in two years, and I rarely ever trade a draft pick more than one year away.

Moving Up and Down in a Start-Up Draft

There are very few occasions I would be willing to move up in a start-up dynasty fantasy football draft either. A pick will always have more value than one expects. There are always players that fall farther than expected when one is on the clock. This results in fantasy managers paying too much a lot of the time in order to move up in the draft. The only time I employ this strategy is if I have a specific target or a strong tier break is approaching.

*This is a great piece highlighting dynasty trading from Player Profiler

Moving down can be effective as well, however, it is becoming a commonly deployed maneuver. Collecting a haul of draft picks for a first round draft pick is optimal, but dynasty managers won’t find many willing league mates. In Superflex formats, it’s extremely hard to get proper value for the elite quarterbacks as well. Particularly if a manager has an elite quarterback available they should hold onto it unless they receive an offer they can’t refuse.