From Underdog to Superpower: The Extreme Fake Punt in Dynasty

In dynasty fantasy football, strength begets success, and success begets strength. If you’re better than your league mates, you’re likely to have a good startup draft. Then you can exploit your advantage by improving your already strong team through trades with weaker, needier opponents. The cycle continues until you hit a string of bad luck or your league mates improve. That’s one of my favorite features of the game — except when I’m the weakest owner in the league. 

I recently joined a dynasty startup where I am completely outgunned. See if you recognize any of these names: Jonathan Bales, Graham Barfield, Denny Carter, Ben Gretch, Matt Harmon, Rich Hribar, Ryan McDowell, Shawn Siegele, Evan Silva, Pat Thorman, and JJ Zachariason. More than half of these guys make a living playing and writing about fantasy football, and most of the others probably could if they wanted to. So it’s not false humility when I say I’m out of my depth here.

What’s your best fantasy football strategy when playing with folks like this? Embrace variance.I don’t just mean show up and hope to get lucky. I mean use variance to your advantage. And that’s precisely what I tried to do in this startup draft.

Top dynasty players share two characteristics (among others):

  1. They’re used to winning
  2. They’re used to being right about players

Each of these characteristics has a corollary:

  1. They expect their future rookie picks to be late
  2. They’re not afraid to “get their guys”

That’s where variance is your friend. First, in a 12-team league full of sharks, any given owner’s odds of winning the title is little more than 10 percent, especially in year one. So you can get a windfall by trading for future picks. Second, even the best fantasy football players are wrong nearly as often as they’re right. So you can scoop up value by being patient and grabbing disfavored players.

Fortunately, my favorite startup strategies — Fake Punt and ZeroDrafting — are well suited to this dynamic.1 Before I even learned my draft position, I decided to trade back to acquire as many future firsts as I could. I also planned to focus on youth in the early rounds and immediate production later.

First, the trades:

Evan Silva1.10 (Michael Thomas)3.01 + 2018 1st
Rich Hribar2.03 (DeAndre Hopkins) + 4.103.04 + 5.04 + 2018 1st
Graham Barfield3.014.08 + 2018 1st
Matt Harmon3.03 + 9.034.06 (Willie Snead) + 10.06 + 2018 1st
Shawn Siegele5.0422.01 + 2018 1st
Shawn Siegele14.10 (Jonathan Williams)20.01 (Ryan Tannehill) + 2018 2nd
Shawn Siegele22.0127.12 (Ryan Grant) + 2018 3rd

On net, the major trades amount to Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins for Willie SneadRyan Grant, and five 2018 1sts. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t feel optimistic about, say, Rich Hribar’s rookie first being an early one. But with these owners, some of those picks are going to be in the top half of the draft. I would bet that in six months, the picks alone will be worth more than Thomas and Hopkins combined.

Next, the draft picks:

3.04Freeman, Devonta ATL RB
4.06Snead, Willie NOS WR
4.08Moncrief, Donte IND WR
5.03Benjamin, Kelvin CAR WR
6.06Williams, Mike LAC WR (R)
7.07Wilson, Russell SEA QB
8.10Shepard, Sterling NYG WR
10.06Jones, Marvin DET WR
11.03Anderson, C.J. DEN RB
11.07Martin, Doug TBB RB
12.10Thomas, Julius MIA TE
13.03Williams, Jamaal GBP RB (R)
15.03Beasley, Cole DAL WR
16.10Cutler, Jay MIA QB
17.03Forte, Matt NYJ RB
18.10Boldin, Anquan BUF WR
19.03Charles, Jamaal DEN RB
20.01Tannehill, Ryan MIA QB
20.10Allen, Dwayne NEP TE
21.03Brown, Jaron ARI WR
22.10Watson, Ben BAL TE
23.03Darkwa, Orleans NYG RB
24.10Enunwa, Quincy NYJ WR
25.03Roberts, Seth OAK WR
26.10Langford, Jeremy CHI RB
27.03Derby, A.J. DEN TE
27.12Grant, Ryan WAS WR
28.10Mays, Devante GBP RB (R)
29.03Osweiler, Brock CLE QB
30.10Malcolm Brown, LAR RB

Nary a sexy name in the group, but plenty of guys who should produce in 2017. I don’t expect to win the league. I don’t even expect to make the playoffs. But I can post a respectable lineup each week, and that gives me a chance. And regardless of my 2017, I’ll be sitting on a boatload of picks next offseason. Hopefully that’ll be enough to let me keep fighting above my weight class.


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  1. The setup of this particular league also works in my favor. It’s a best ball league with deep starting lineups, which means depth matters more than studs. And standings are based on pure head to head results (one matchup per week), which means variance will play an oversized role in the final standings.  (back)
By Brian Malone | @BrianMaloneFF | Archive

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