Steph's Dynasty Startup Draft Guide

Steph's Dynasty Startup Draft Guide

Dynasty remains one of the most strategic and challenging forms of fantasy football. Many consider it the most intense form of the game, allowing year-round involvement and closely mimicking what it is like to be a general manager. And, of course, it is a lot of fun to play.

When you choose to participate in a new dynasty league, you are making a long-term commitment. The startup draft is a foundation that sets you up for years of success or into an immediate rebuilding mode due to strategy failures and mistakes. A mode that takes years to recover from.

This long-view aspect of dynasty forces you to weigh the strategic pros and cons during the startup draft. Going all in to win now versus the cost of punting off the first season (or more) to set up future wins. While these are the two extreme ends of the spectrum, it is possible to have a more middle-ground approach. Still, I caution that you want a clear vision and defined goals to avoid being middling and ending up in purgatory–stuck where you are never a strong competitor or in an obvious rebuild.

As we walk through the startup draft guide for how I approach dynasty, I will review some fundamental aspects of startup drafts while delving into data that can inform an optimal strategic approach to ensure you are able to build a powerhouse team from the start.

A Couple of Things to Consider Before Your Startup Draft

In any fantasy league, it's essential to understand the scoring settings and starting roster requirements. League depth, which refers to the total number of players rostered in the league, is even easier to overlook but crucial to consider. Generally, the more players drafted, the more valuable it is to have a deep roster. Positional scarcity also has a greater impact as leagues get deeper, especially in superflex and tight end premium leagues.

In best ball leagues where you do not have to choose who to start each week, the appeal and value of usable roster depth has greatly increased. This isn't to say I don't value consistent and elite players, but more mid-range players become appealing because using quantity to find usable starting lineup points is a viable strategy. In more shallow leagues, there should be more of an emphasis on elite studs, while the value of roster depth is less important.

My Dynasty Startup Draft Guide

Let me begin by saying no two dynasty leagues are the same, and every league is its own market. The startup draft gives you an opportunity to not only build your dream team but also assess how your league mates value certain positions, future rookie assets, and veteran players. It also provides you the opportunity to assess the trade tendencies and personalities of each. This information can prove vital when assessing how easy trading may be in the future and what assets appeal to different managers.

If you know your draft pick ahead of time, put it on the trade block. I always do to see what kind of offers I receive. Even if I have little interest in trading my pick I can gain information for later.

  • Which managers wanted to move up? 
  • Which league mates offered reasonable deals and seemed sincere in wanting to get a trade done? 
  • Which league mates were obviously looking to fleece me? 
  • Did no one want to move up or back in the draft?

Answers to all these questions can help me pinpoint which managers I want to target for future trade negotiations, assess whose future picks might be the most valuable, and offer some clues as to how liquid my league is overall.

Now, I will use a hypothetical example based on this year's drafting landscape to walk you through my approach, incorporating dynasty startup draft guidelines and concepts to keep you on track. 

Tier-Based Drafting

Let’s assume we are participating in a SF/TEP dynasty startup draft with 12 teams and a 10 player starting lineup: 1QB-2RB-3WR-1TE-1SF-2Flex.

One of the first things I do when preparing for a startup draft is to break my rankings into player tiers within their positions. This helps me visualize where there is a drop off at the position, so I can use ADP to determine where these players are likely to be drafted.

Using tiers helps me have a blueprint to determine when I should trade up and trade back. I can also make notes of any discrepancies between my rankings and ADP to determine where I may find some of the largest values and exploit the market to draft more of my top-rated players. 

Here is an example of how I use the Legendary Upside Dynasty Rankings to break down players into my top three tiers, and a snapshot of where players are currently being drafted rounds 1-10 in a 12-team SF/TEP league (according to Dynasty Data Lab).

Steph's Top 3 Dynasty Tiers
Dynasty Data Lab Startup ADP April 2- May 2

Let's take a moment to walk through some of the early parts of a startup draft using the information from above. If we look at round 1, we can see that 10 of the 12 picks are Tier 1 players for me. There are only two positions being drafted in the first-round, quarterback and wide receiver. We are ahead of ADP on all three Tier 1 wide receivers (especially Ja'Marr Chase) and a couple of picks ahead of ADP on Caleb Williams. 

Given this dynamic, I don't anticipate a situation where I feel compelled to trade up, even outside the top 10 picks. And if I have a pick outside the top three I would consider trading back. Anytime there is an opportunity to move back and take a player in the same tier and position that you were considering, take advantage. 

Your future first-round and second-round rookie picks are very valuable. And when you trade down and take young players, your future rookie picks become increasingly valuable. You can then use this to your advantage in trades or target the 1.01 in the future for yourself. 

You can also look to trade back up into the first couple of rounds if the price is not exorbitant. If you trade your first and/or second-round pick here and select a win-now player, your pick immediately drops in value and puts the other manager at a disadvantage.

If you do trade your future rookie picks, you need to aggressively target and stockpile young players who will increase in value. 

This runs counter to a traditional win-now approach. And that's because we're not trying to win now. We're trying to win... always.


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