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Dynasty Building: Early Season Strategy

Bill Walsh - Dynasty Building

Dynasty Building 101 w/ Frank Gruber

Welcome to Part 1 of Dynasty Building. Each part will discuss tactics you can use specific to the time of year the article is published. Here we discuss how to handle the first few weeks of the regular season.

The goal is to help you win dynasty championships.

Active dynasty fantasy football owners spent the last eight months evaluating, drafting and trading rookies and veterans in order to build their team into a dynasty.

The first weeks of the NFL season can challenge and contradict our offseason assumptions, evaluations and actions.

Our reaction to these chaotic weeks makes the difference between winning and losing; between building a talented roster with staying power or a perpetual rebuilder.

Here are six principles to follow during the first month of the regular season to build a lasting winner.

1. Trust Your Process

I was lukewarm on Alvin Kamara as a prospect. I recognized his speed and hands in college but also saw an unnatural runner who left yards on the table. Before the NFL Draft, I and many others slotted him as a late-second round or early-third round dynasty rookie pick. His ADP skyrocketed up to the first round of dynasty drafts after the 2017 NFL Draft. To me, the difference was based purely on landing spot so, therefore, I did not draft him anywhere.

Curtis Samuel has exceptional short area burst and straight-line speed but I see a raw receiver who too often fights the ball. His ADP was more reasonable than Kamara’s but I do not believe in his talent long term.

Neither is on any of my teams despite the fact that the analyst community gushed over them during at least one point of the evaluation process.

Both of these players could be fantasy winners for the next decade. They could be busts. I may miss on my evaluations but will trust my process.

In finance, the mosaic theory describes how an analyst gathers all available pieces of information to piece together a mosaic to calculate their value of a security or company.

Do the same in dynasty fantasy football but ultimately make your own decisions.

As information becomes available, add it to your mosaic and make updated and rational decisions.

At this point in the season, we are working with small sample sizes in a dynasty context. What resembles a hit today could be a medium or long-term miss.

Last year, Will Fuller was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. He was a second-round dynasty rookie pick.

Fuller posted 69.3 fantasy points in his first four games. His dynasty value skyrocketed based on this early season sample. Fuller then scored 53.5 more the rest of the year.

If you bought at the peak because you followed your process and believed in Fuller, fine. But do not get caught up in short-term, early season results.

Actionable Tactics:
– Stay familiar with ADP data leading up to Week 1 (it becomes muddier after kickoff when startup drafts cease but provides a baseline reference);
– Use online trade calculators and polls for reference and data points only; their data can be surprising, though, so keep it in context and use it as one piece of an evaluation.

2. Profit From Panic…

Many dynasty players slept on Kareem Hunt, but few anticipated this kind of production in Weeks 1 and 2.

Now dynasty owners are buying Hunt for players such as Le’Veon Bell, Leonard Fournette or Corey Davis.

Be on the side that profits from that transaction, not the side that overreacts.

Also, avoid panicking on the sell side. Last year I bought Keenan Allen for Malcolm Mitchell and a “Devy diluted” second-round rookie pick because the Allen owner panicked over Allen’s ACL injury.

In Redraft, I used to prohibit myself from trading until Week 4. The Dynasty format presents opportunities to create value at all times (see the Keenan Allen example above), so I do not follow this rule in dynasty building. However, I do refer to it and use it as a mental check to prevent getting caught up in an early season hype machine.

3. …And Profit From Perception

I own Zach Ertz and Charles Clay in the same league. After Week 1, my first inclination was to sell high on Clay. However, he is perceived as an oft-injured TE2 on a bad team. While the bad team part is likely true, I believe that Clay’s hot start is sustainable and that he could be a TE1 in 2017.

Until public perception catches up to the production I expect from Clay this year, I will not get adequate value by selling him. My move is therefore to shop Ertz.

Actionable Tactics:
– Use your Trade Block to shop high-value players and start conversations;
– Be active on your league chat or message board to grow relationships and learn owners’ tendencies. What positions do they value? Do they want to win now or chase youth? Do they want to stockpile picks or move those picks? What is their favorite NFL team (or college team/conference for Devy)?
– Be active on social media to learn and take advantage of the dynasty community’s views of specific players.

4. Pounce on Mistakes

Opportunities arise when hard roster decisions need to be made. This is especially true for roster cutdowns and the first few Waiver Wire or free agent runs of the season. For example, in a Week 1 waiver run, another owner dropped Josh Reynolds, whom he had selected at Rookie 5.07. Though I have some concerns about Reynolds, I immediately added him as a free agent. He has the type of profile I love as deep stash. He’s an athletic college producer with decent draft capital and an open depth chart.

In 2013, another owner dropped Sam Bradford after Bradford tore his ACL in Week 7. This is a QB premium league with 30 man rosters. 1 point per 10 passing yards makes QB as valuable as a 2QB league, and 30 man rosters enable deep stashes. Bradford is now a solid streaming option whom I’ll shop upon resolution of his bone bruise injury.

Actionable Tactics:
– Review your league’s weekly waiver report;
– Sign up for email notifications of all drop/adds to see players as they come available;
– Know your top three free agent adds in the event a roster spot opens (by placing a player on IR, making a 2:1 trade, etc);
– Rank your roster’s bottom three in the order you would drop them;

5. Compose Your Roster Intelligently

For example, if your league still uses kickers, do not roster more than one. In non-premium, start one QB leagues or non-TE premium leagues, only roster two each.

This point applies year round. As it relates to early season, use those valuable roster spots on high upside rookies or flyers with RB1 or WR1 upside.

Low ceiling guys clog your roster and prevent you from stashing lottery tickets.

At this stage of the season your roster should resemble an auction roster: your stud starters, then reliable veterans to fill Flex or Bye week roles, then it’s straight to high upside home run swings.

Actionable Tactics:
– If you’ve read this far, you’re so dedicated to Dynasty that you may be in multiple leagues. Review each league’s scoring, starting and roster requirements as well as the transaction rules (FAAB blind bid? Waiver order?);
– Stay up to date on practice squad moves and early season depth charts. For example, I am not high on Matthew Dayes but added him after seeing the Week 1 combination of his usage, Duke Johnson’s usage, and Isaiah Crowell’s inefficiency.

6. Work the Value Cycle

The pendulum of value swings in a predictable rhythm every year. Now is the time when dynasty owners switch to Redraft mode. Productive veteran players who were inexpensive in the offseason become valuable when fantasy points are real. Draft picks become more conceptual and inexpensive.

Work this cycle to your advantage. Know which league mates trade or hoard picks and deal accordingly. A draft pick now will only rise in value until it is on the clock.

Identify which league mates switch to a Redraft mentality. Send offers to 0-2 teams to see if they will bail on veterans. Use the 2:1 or 3:1 trade to your advantage to acquire studs in exchange for a “rebuild” while freeing roster spots for new stashes.

A side note regarding trading: it’s OK to not come out ahead on every trade. Some owners shy away from dealing with those who seem to “win” every trade. Do not hesitate to highlight those trades you’ve lost in order to show that you are not bulletproof.

Do you have any other strategic tips specific to this point of the NFL season? Disagree with any of the above or have additional comments or suggestions?

Find me on Twitter at @threedownhack and find my work on  I’ve been playing dynasty since 2003 and winning championships since 2007. I’m always eager to learn, to share ideas in Dynasty Building and to talk ball. Thanks for reading.


Frank Gruber is a Dynasty Fantasy Football Writer with TFA. He's been winning dynasty championships since 2007. He is always looking to talk Dynasty, Devy or just regular football, so hit him up on Twitter @threedownhack.

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