A Beginner's Guide to Dynasty Fantasy Football
Written by: Andrew Quinn
A glance at one of the most popular formats in all of fantasy football, with a list of players to target if you are playing for the first time!
With the NFL season beginning to wind down, fantasy football might be the last thing on your mind…unless you’re a dynasty player like myself. If this is a format you’ve heard of, but never have tried it yet, I highly recommend it! Dynasty is not for just the casual observer, however. Dynasty requires staying on top of league news throughout the year, following storylines about players, making moves in the offseason, and scouting out rookies in the NFL Draft. So, if you love the NFL and enjoy following it all season long, this is a format you should check out.
I’ll start by covering the basics: most people play in a traditional redraft league, where you pick a new team each year in a fantasy draft. Some people might play in a redraft league that includes keepers, or players that can be kept on your roster from the previous year. In these keeper formats, the number of players you keep depends on the league, but it still requires a draft each year, just like the redraft format. Dynasty is like a keeper league, but you can keep all the players on your roster each year. So, you have an initial start-up draft, then your team is locked in! It makes things exciting because you have to take a longer-term view than a redraft or keeper league, where you might only be looking at how a player is going to produce for you in the current season.
Something most fantasy players agree on is that the most exciting part of playing fantasy sports is the draft. I agree that it is always fun to see your team being built, brick by brick. Even though dynasty leagues involve holding players on your roster, there is still a draft each year. During the offseason, dynasty leagues have a rookie draft, where fantasy managers are thrust into the NFL GM’s seat for a moment.
These rookie drafts present opportunities for fantasy teams, just like they would for an NFL team: you can trade up or trade down, swap picks for players, or take a shot on a player with league-winning upside. Rookie picks are normally assigned like they are in the NFL (worst to first), and they are assets that can be traded just like a player on your fantasy team.\Written These rookie drafts present opportunities for fantasy teams, just like they would for an NFL team: you can trade up or trade down, swap picks for players, or take a shot on a player with league-winning upside. Rookie picks are normally assigned like they are in the NFL (worst to first), and they are assets that can be traded just like a player on your fantasy team.
As far as scoring goes, most Dynasty leagues are typically similar to most redraft and keeper leagues. Where dynasty leagues differ from the traditional models involves some fantasy managers preferring to have deeper benches, or more starting players. In a redraft league, you might start 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2-3 WRs, 1 TE, and 1 Flex. In a dynasty league, you can have 1-2 QBs, 2-4 RBs, 3-6 WRs, and 1-3 TEs, along with as many Flex or SuperFlex spots that you would like. Instead of having bench spots for 6 or 7 players, you may have 15+ players on your bench. Many more players are valuable in dynasty versus redraft, so having a larger bench allows you to hold on to players that you think have long-term upside.
Take a look at a player like Travis Etienne, for example. Etienne was a 1st round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021, but he injured his foot in training camp and has not played a snap in an NFL game yet. In a redraft league, Etienne was probably not even on a roster because he was out all of last season. In dynasty leagues, however, you will not find Etienne on many (if any) free agent wavier wires. That is because dynasty managers recognize that he still has tremendous long-term value, whereas redraft managers are only concerned with him scoring fantasy points for the current season.
I could spend much more time explaining more intricacies of the dynasty landscape, but I’d like to switch gears and talk about some players that you can target if you start a dynasty league this offseason. If you’re still interested at this point, reach out to your other leaguemates and see if they want to create a new dynasty league, or even transition your redraft league over to dynasty. You can also try connecting with others on social media to start dynasty leagues, or join a random one to get a taste of what it is like.
As I am writing this, I am in the midst of a slow-clock dynasty start-up draft, so I will now go through some of my favorite targets in dynasty drafts based on where they are being taken. I believe there are two methods of drafting players in fantasy drafts; either get your guy who gives you strong convictions from a production standpoint, or take value when it is given to you. Here are some players that are a great value based on dynasty start-up ADP. I will be using data from the Sleeper fantasy app, which is where my start-up draft is taking place. My start-up is also a SuperFlex league, so teams will start 2 QBs most weeks. That means that QBs are valued slightly higher in the draft, so that will affect ADP numbers for most of those players.
Trevor Lawrence: QB 13 in my start-up; Average Draft Position 40
The number 1 pick in the NFL draft last season, Lawrence was an underwhelming rookie for the Jaguars in 2021. However, his first-round companion in RB Travis Etienne missed the whole season, Urban Meyer happened in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars lost DJ Chark very early into the season. Lawrence is one of the best QB prospects in recent football memory, he is still only 22 years young, and he has dual-threat ability that is valuable in fantasy football. Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and other mobile QBs give managers a higher weekly score because of their rushing and passing yardage. Lawrence had at least 5 rushing attempts in 8 of his 17 games this season, so he will get you points both on the ground and in the air for years to come.
Cam Akers: RB 14 in my start-up; Average Draft Position 41.5
Akers suffered an achilles injury before training camp started, but was back for the Rams in their playoff matchup against the Cardinals this past Monday night. Akers recently turned 22, so fantasy managers can rely on him for at least 2-3 more productive seasons at the RB position. Plus, he is in a great offense with one of the best QBs in football, which means he will get positive game scripts for that time frame. Akers is currently being under-valued in dynasty leagues because of how recent his injury occurred, but he has the upside to be a top 5 RB in fantasy for the foreseeable future.
Dawson Knox: TE 9 in my start-up; Average Draft Position of 96
Knox was a breakout TE this season, scoring 9 TDs on passes from Josh Allen. One of the easiest position groups to target in fantasy are good pass-catchers on a pass-heavy offense with a talented QB. The Bills are a team with all of those things! Knox is still just 25 years young, has typical TE size at 6’4 and 250+ lbs, but he also has clear rapport with Josh Allen. I expect Knox to continue contributing in the Bills’ offense for the next few seasons, and he could very well be a top 5 TE for as long as he is catching passes from Josh Allen.
Brandon Aiyuk: WR 27 in my start-up; Average Draft Position of 77
Aiyuk was one of the breakout rookie WRs of the 2020 draft class, but he started off in the “dog-house” this season. Apparently, he and Kyle Shannahan were not on the same page regarding attitude, work ethic, and expectations. That all seemed to change in the second half of the season, when Aiyuk finished with at least 10 fantasy points in all but 3 games from weeks 8 to 18. He has also shown rapport with Trey Lance, who will likely be leading the 49ers offense for the foreseeable future. Aiyuk will also benefit from Deebo Samuel soaking up extra coverage, which means he should continue to get a fair amount of targets each game. With a three-headed monster in San Francisco between George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, this will be a fun team for fantasy for the next few years. Get a piece of this offense at a good value this offseason.
Jonnu Smith: TE 23 in my start-up; Average Draft Position of 183
People are giving up hope on one of the most athletic TEs in the league way too early! Jonnu did not perform to the level fantasy gamers may have expected in 2021, but let’s look at some of the positive part of his long-term value: he is only 26 years old; he is one of the highest paid TEs in the league with multiple years left on his contract; he led all TEs last season in YAC (yards after catch); he is tethered to pocket-passer and dump-off specialist Mac Jones. Smith very well needed a full season to adjust to Bill Bellicheck’s offense, but I expect that his dynasty value is at a potential floor - meaning it can’t really get any lower than it already is. I think he is a great value as a back-up TE in your dynasty drafts, and he could even be an asset in redraft leagues as soon as the 2022 season.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: RB 26 in my start-up; Average Draft Position of 62
CEH has had a very interesting trajectory so far in his NFL career. From a dynasty stand-point, he was the 1st overall rookie pick in many rookie drafts. He was even a 1st round pick in a lot of start-up drafts, as well as redraft leagues, in 2020. Thpast year, his value fell considerably because of his injuries, as well as other Chiefs’ running backs having success in the offense in his absence. I am not telling you to draft CEH because of his previous value, or his track record of success in the league; I’m telling you to draft him because he is a great value right now, and he could be tethered to Patrick Mahomes for his entire career. CEH is, at worst, an RB2 candidate when he stays healthy. You can draft him as an RB3 or RB4 based on start-up ADP. Smash the draft button, because it can’t get much worse for him than it already is.
These players are great values at ADP currently, but savvy dynasty managers will treat them like stocks in the market: when the value pops, sell for a profit if you can! Cordarelle Patterson is a great example of how this can help your dynasty team. He had a great stretch in 2021 as an RB for the Falcons. If you traded him away during his peak this year, you might have been able to get back a 2nd round rookie pick. Or, an underwhelming young player like Terrace Marshall, Rondale Moore, etc.
I hope those of you who have not tried dynasty yet are ready to give it a shot! It’s a great format for football fans, and has extra levels of strategy that makes it more enjoyable than redraft leagues. The more you play, the better you will become, so get yourself in a league today! Follow me at @AQuinnFF on Twitter and I just might invite you to start a league with me...if you're lucky.