6 Steps to Building a Perennial Dynasty Contender
High-stakes player and RotoViz Radio host Jacob Rickrode shares his blueprint for building a consistent playoff team. He recently updated his famous article on Rookie Hit Rates for Rotoworld.
I’ve found this process to be very successful in building dynasty teams that compete every year. I don’t believe there’s a need to “rebuild” if you have a strong start-up draft and follow these principles.
1. Don’t gamble early
Talent and age can be instrumental to long-term dynasty success. Overpaying for it is a bad strategy, especially when the potential is never fulfilled. Focus on established players in the first several rounds. The odds of rookie picks hitting are much worse than we intuitively believe because our minds latch onto the successes. I know it’s tempting to draft Corey Davis, Leonard Fournette, and Christian McCaffrey, but it’s best to avoid the risk of the unknown with those first several start-up picks.
Ask anyone who drafted Kevin White in the second round of a start-up in 2015. Monte Ball was a third-round pick in my 2013 draft. Cordarrelle Patterson went early too. Be risk averse and let someone else draft those unproven players. If you absolutely believe one of these rookies will live up to expectations, have a backup plan in place when they don’t. Expecting a rookie to perform immediately has been a bad bet historically.
2. Target players who will dominate their position
If it sounds obvious, it is. Don’t get too caught up in filling roster spots. Focus on drafting the highest-scoring proven players regardless of position. You can always trade later.
The grid that follows is the top-12 PPR scoring Non-QBs of the last 10 years. Notice how many of the same player names repeat. Your goal should be to roster as many of these top performers as possible regardless of age.
I prefer to roster a top tier QB. Be willing to reach on Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers in the third or fourth round.
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have owned the position for the last decade as this grid reveals. Luck looks to join this group and is not as rushing dependent as Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.
Having a top-five QB is underrated. You’ll win more weeks with one and can save a roster spot by not carrying a backup. If you can’t get Luck or Rodgers, just wait on the position altogether. “Older” QBs like Phillip Rivers and Matthew Stafford can be acquired cheaply or taken very late in drafts while the rest of your league chases young QBs like Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, and Marcus Mariota. All are fine but none are proven to be long-term field-tilters like Luck and Rodgers.
3. Chase offenses with Elite QBs and/or Coaching schemes
“Talent” doesn’t always translate into fantasy points. The same offenses and players are dominating the top fantasy scoring spots year over year. See grid above. Running back success is correlated to play-calling and opportunity, WR success to quarterback play. There is a positive correlation when talent is combined with creative play calling (targets are the lifeblood).
4. Zero RB is still a viable strategy
I see no issue with taking David Johnson or Ezekiel Elliott early in your start up. See rule No. 2. Keep in mind though, WRs have longer careers than RBs and are much better flex options. Top-30 PPR WRs will score more points on average than RBs who finish in the 20 to 30 range. Stockpiling WRs is more advantageous for the long haul. That said, you still want players who finish in the top-12 grid above. Danny Woodhead and Theo Riddick-type backs can usually be acquired late in the start-up draft or off the waiver wire to fill those RB spots.
5. Build a team with a core mix of old and young WRs
Most wide receivers will have their best years between ages 24-29. Some will perform earlier and some will play well into their 30s. Structure your receiving corps with an escalating age range. You know you’ll have to replace the oldest players eventually. Expect rookie WRs to take several years to break out. Have the depth to allow leaving them on the bench until they do (if ever). The same WRs continue to finish in the top 24 nearly every year.
Age, production, and size/athleticism measures like the Freak Score continue to help us find the best receiving prospects. You can use the Ultimate WR Draft Guide and the Phenom Index to find future starters.
6. Trade down and up if you can
People will often trade the moon to get the player they want. Use this to your advantage. The more players you can obtain in the top 75 of a start-up draft the better. I’ve watched teams trade down or out of the first round to obtain multiple picks in rounds 2-5 with great success.
My first four picks in the 2013 FFPC dynasty start-up were Jimmy Graham, Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees and Jordy Nelson. Graham was 27 years old, Fitzgerald was 29, Brees 35, and Nelson was 28. Amazingly, (not really) they are all still relevant going into the league’s fifth year. No team in the league has placed more often, has a better W/L record, or scored more points since the start of the league.
The average dynasty team owner overpays for youth and potential. “Dream Teams” made up of players that have “value” are sought after. They’re constantly swinging for the fences with sexy young players while unsexy “old” players like Emmanuel Sanders, Julian Edelman, Michael Crabtree and Golden Tate are winning leagues. The ultimate goal should be to make the playoffs every year. Any team can win a two or three-week playoff schedule, and I’ve seen stacked teams not place at all.
Play to win every year, not to build a roster that the dynasty community is impressed with.