Jeff Haverlack

Building a Dynasty

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Dynasty League 201

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The dynasty format continues to grow in both popularity and content coverage on a daily basis.  Hard-core fantasy football fans looking to take their experience to the next level have found this particular style of game strikes the perfect balance between the excitement of a redraft league but with the added allure of also assuming the General Manager role.  There’s just another level of depth through not only drafting players to your team, but then controlling the rights to them until such time that you wish to trade or drop them.  Once you go dynasty, you won’t go back!


But even given the increasing numbers finding their way to the dynasty format, I still encounter those who feel it’s too complex, detailed or will take too much time to learn.  While there are more variables, strategies and opportunities to be aware of, realize at the base-level, it’s still the game you’ve come to love, just with more depth and immersion.  Just like the redraft format, the more work and time you are willing to put in, the better your team is likely to perform, but there isn’t a single recipe for success.


If you’re relatively new to the dynasty format or, perhaps, even a complete rookie, you’ve probably already read a few Dynasty 101 articles that explain many of the basics such as roster size, off-season preparation, team-building and draft mechanics.  There are as many strategies and ways to build a team as there are words in this article.  However, let me assume you’ve graduated from the entry-level 101 class and you’re ready and eager to take that next step toward building your dynasty.  Let’s go a bit deeper and cover a few of the areas to give consideration to when building or managing your team.


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1.    Age vs. Longevity


This could also be called “win now vs. dynasty later.”  In redraft, we know every coach will be in “win now” mode, there’s simply no reason to build your team any other way.  It’s the drive-thru fast-food choice of fantasy.


In dynasty, this strategy comes at a cost.  The upside is easy to see in that productive players are easier to rank and select with roles easier to forecast.  The downside is also plainly visible given the fact Father Time is always working to limit your players’ productive longevity.  Most rookie coaches do not spend enough time determining what type of team they want to assemble.


The “Win now” approach focuses upon aging and productive veterans to anchor your team in most positions while adding youth only after being comfortable with the veteran production.   Going young with the hope of building a dynasty is fraught with risk in that younger players have less history, may not be fully established within their teams’ systems and are often highly variable in production.  Rookies, even those selected in the first round, bust at an extremely high rate and your risk building in this way will be significantly higher.  But choose well and you could build a dynasty team from which legends are born.  Or, split the difference and balance veteran production with youth for growth.


The take-away here is not that there is only a single way to build your team but in the absence of a pre-draft strategy, you will be selecting likely via average draft position (ADP) or, worse yet, hope and prayer.  Both aspects have their place in a new draft, but they should exist on their own as a strategy.


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2.    Point Disparity and Tiering


Fantasy point disparity is important in any style of fantasy football or, for that matter, any fantasy sport.  In brief, point disparity is the understanding of when there exists a notable advantage of fantasy point productivity from one player or position to the next.  Looking at kickers, you will find little disparity and far too much variability exists within the position to ever prioritize one based on his productivity.  The simple fact is that our ability to forecast kickers’ production such that we can gain any significant advantage from one kicker to the next is a fool’s folly.


When properly used within positional rankings, players can be separated into tiers using past or expected production toward answering value-based draft questions.  For example, should a team still require a tight end but those remaining all scored very similarly last year, whereas there exists two higher tiered receivers remaining before a large drop in fantasy production, this point disparity suggests a selection of one of the remaining receivers.  To the inexperienced dynasty coach, it may seem foolish to not fill the core starting requirements, but remember, the end goal is to generate the most points week-to-week, not be the first to assemble a legal starting lineup.


Point disparity can occur often with Individual Defensive Players (IDP) as much as it can within the offensive skill positions.  This is why it’s important to have intimate knowledge of your scoring system.  Are there certain scoring plays that elevate one player over his peers?  For example, in IDP leagues that reward points for special teams production, cornerbacks who also return kicks and/or punts may be significantly elevated over those who do not.  The same can be true for Point Per Reception (PPR) leagues for those running backs not active in the passing game or receivers who don’t often score touchdowns.


The point here is that within every scoring system, players will fall into particularly visible scoring tiers when looking at historical, or forecasted, production.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but understanding how to gain an edge by selecting that last remaining every-down back instead of that receiver who will score similarly to the other 20 around his current ADP can make for a big difference in overall team performance in a given year.


At no point is it more important to understand the tiers and available point disparity as it is during your inaugural dynasty draft.  You successful navigation of this step could be the most important of your dynasty coaching career.


3.    Roster Analysis


Roster analysis is an important coaching skill regardless of your preferred format.  But in dynasty, the long-term implications cannot be ignored.  For the purposes of trading, draft pick forecasting or simply for understanding the trends of your fellow coaches, roster analysis must be performed and the results acted upon.


Unlike redraft leagues, dynasty drafts are forever.  Some will perform well, others will try strategies that simply don’t work and most others will succeed and fail multiple times in each draft, the end result(s) for all to see at the conclusion.  This is where a good dynasty coach keeps the pedal to the metal.  Who is heavy in receiver? Who badly needs a running back?  Which coach failed to land a second quarterback when you have four?  Which coach went far too young and took too many chances but thinks their team is championship caliber (my personal favorite)?  Find the coach who believes he’s going to run away with the league and target his draft selection in next year’s draft.  After all, if he’s going to win it all, he’ll be choosing last next year anyway, right?


Like most leagues, trades and collaboration with your fellow coaches are pivotal points toward making a good team great or a great team a dynasty.  At all times assess your team and seek out opportunities to improve it via mindful additions through trades.


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