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Thoughts and Comments from a midseason Startup Draft

Most dynasty startup drafts take place in the duller months of the NFL offseason, but some of us just can’t stop ourselves when an opportunity arises midseason. About a month ago, some fantasy football playing friends of mine announced they were looking to start a dynasty league. It was their first ever dynasty league so they were excited and wanted to get the ball rolling ASAP.

As somebody who is seemingly incapable of saying no to a new league, I jumped in head first to my first ever mid-season dynasty draft. With it came some new perspectives on players, strategies, and things to keep in mind in your own dynasty leagues regardless of experience level.

Know Your League Rules
and be comfortable with them

This should be obvious, but I think it can often be overlooked in the excitement to join a new league. Before you join or start any leagues you should be sure to learn the rules inside and out. Hopefully, your leagues will have a thorough written constitution in order to avoid any confusion or disputes down the road. If your league does have one, you may be surprised by some of your rules.

I’ve played in leagues where owners asked halfway through drafts whether the league was ppr or not. I’ve played in leagues where owners didn’t realize draft order was determined by possible points instead of season record (potentially costing them the #1 overall pick). I even play in a league that’s 1 PPR for receivers and tight ends but only 0.5 PPR for running backs – A quirky rule for sure, but one that could easily be overlooked by an overanxious owner.

Not knowing these rules may make you look like the owner people can pull things over on, but more importantly, it might just mean you ARE the owner people can pull things over on. An owner who doesn’t realize a league is PPR may overvalue running backs. Not understanding how draft picks are determined may cause you to miscalculate the value of your own 1st round pick. Regardless of what the quirky rule may be in your league, not knowing it will likely be costly.

Furthermore, if you find a league with a rule you don’t like – don’t join. I have unfortunately made the mistake in the past of not being thorough enough in researching a potential league only to find out a year or two later that I just didn’t enjoy some of the rules and would ultimately need to leave the league. Joining a league that you aren’t comfortable with will likely lead to a waste of your own time and money as well as potentially damaging the league for the remaining owners.

While it can be extremely exciting to join a new league, being patient and finding the right fit is the best decision you can make. There are league’s out there for everybody’s play style.

Know Your Fellow Owners

Similar to not knowing the rules of your league, not knowing the owners of your league may put you at an unnecessary disadvantage. Of course, if you’re just starting out in a new league it may be hard to know the tendencies of your fellow owners, but a lot can be learned from the startup itself, from comments made during the draft, and from trades and waiver wire acquisitions during the year. Already in my startup, one owner is hoarding veterans, another is almost exclusively drafting rookies, while a third drafted multiple QBs before some teams even had one. All of this is helping me too key in on the mindsets of the other owners.

A common example in many of the leagues I play in are owners who prefer to build their rosters around running backs. Knowing this, I prefer to build around wide receivers in an attempt to capture value rather than chasing everybody else for the same position. There’s certainly nothing wrong with building around running backs, but if everybody else is doing it too you may be better served with another strategy.

Additionally, you can likely learn over time which owners are going to be willing trade partners. Every league I’ve played in has

  • The Guy Who Refuses to Trade
  • The Guy Who Sends You Terrible Offers
  • The Guy Who Loves Rookies”, “The Guy Who Hates Rookies

and so on. Knowing things like this about owners can make your life a lot easier when you’re looking to make a move. In my leagues, I know which owners to avoid and which I can work with in trade talks. I know who will trade for my running backs and who will trade for my picks. Using this information can help you minimize the effort required to get a deal done and maximize the return on your trades.

Running Backs are King

Running backs have been considered the most valuable fantasy football position for a long time. Recently, wide receivers have seen an uptick in value as the league becomes more pass friendly and strategies like “Zero-RB” become popular. But in almost every dynasty league I’ve ever played in the running backs are still the top dog. This startup was no different. 8 of the 12 teams used their first round pick on a back (I opted for Todd Gurley at #8).

The success of the 2017 RB draft class likely has factored into running back values as well as Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, and Kareem Hunt were all off the board by the end of the 3rd round. Even less proven rookies such as Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, and D’Onta Foreman flew off the board by the 6th round.

So what should the takeaway be? Running backs are hard to find in most leagues simply because everybody wants them. Ultimately, however, the position is volatile from year to year as teams cycle through backs and players get injured.

I’m more than happy to pay up with an early pick for a stud like Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, Todd Gurley or Le’Veon Bell who I know will last me several years as a workhorse. But if I’ve grabbed one of them early, I’ll usually focus on grabbing all the value at other positions while my league mates target backs who may not even be starting in a year or two.

I’ll take players like Keenan Allen and Brandin Cooks in the 2nd round over Jordan Howard and Melvin Gordon even if running backs will be hard to find. At some point, value is simply more important than position.

Steals and Reaches from the Startup
Just to give you an idea of where guys may go

Before I list any picks from the draft I do want to caution that overreacting to the decisions of just 12 owners from 1 league may be a poor decision. Leagues and owners vary wildly, and a startup started tomorrow may look quite different from the one I started last month.

That having been said, there are a few takeaways that I have noticed in this league that also seemed to fit with what I see in my other leagues. With that in mind, lets take a look at some of the most interesting picks from the draft. Note that this league is 0.5 PPR, 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, and 2 FLEX which should lead to a decent balance in value between WR and RB. You may have to adjust accordingly for your own individual league settings.

  • Chris Thompson, 4th round

Thompson is a good RB who isn’t too old and he’s certainly been performing well this season, but his production simply isn’t sustainable. The Redskins don’t want to make him a workhorse back, and that offense will bring in competition for carries and targets next season. This year was likely Thompson’s peak even before a broken leg ended his season prematurely.

It’s important to recognize what players have roles that will likely decrease in the future so factor it into their value.

  • Doug Baldwin, 5th round
  • Adam Thielen, 6th round
  • Michael Crabtree 7th round

I lumped all three of these players together as steals because I think they all fell for the same reason. They’re all unexciting middle-aged (for football) wide receivers. This seems to be another trend I’ve noticed in my dynasty leagues. Players like these can be critical parts of a league winning starting lineup but are often overlooked due to their position and age.

Don’t be afraid to build around players like this. All three likely have a handful more years of quality production.

  • Juju Smith-Schuster 5th round
  • Aaron Jones, 5th round

I post this here mainly to show the risks of a midseason dynasty draft. At the time of the choices, both were rookies breaking onto the scene in explosive offenses. A couple of weeks later and Smith-Schuster looks like a steal while Jones has seen his value take a hit due to injury. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t ever draft during the year, but rather to say that value can change quickly.

I was the owner who took Jones over Smith-Schuster, but today, I’d happily pay up to swap them. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong or you may be left out in the cold.

*****

A lot of these edges and takeaways may seem slim, but they’re things that can, over time (and this is dynasty after all), give you a notable advantage over your league mates. Likewise, knowing the exact round Adam Thielen was drafted may be of minimal value to you, but knowing that 28-year-old productive wide receivers are often overlooked may be something you can act upon.

Regardless of how your league is designed, always look for an edge, study your rules and your fellow owners, and be sure to focus on value rather than any set strategy.

 

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Eric Braun
I grew up a die hard Washington Redskins and Penn State football fan and began playing fantasy football in 2007. I've been addicted and learning as much as I can about my favorite hobby ever since.

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