Listen, we all know it’s better to be lucky than good. All fantasy teams come with great players, and that’s why it’s called fantasy. But are owners who consistently win year in and year out just lucky? I don’t think so, Tim! And if you run your team like Tim the “Toolman” Taylor would, then I’ll be waving down at you from the top. So like good old Terrell Owens would say, “Grab your popcorn” and let me show you the way to the promised land! This is my guide to the success of every dynasty owner.
Due Diligence:If you’re going to suit up with the big boys, make sure you’re prepared to do the work. If you don’t watch college football, then plain and simple, you’re losing. If you’re rolling the dice come draft time because you have no clue who these rookie players are, just throw in the towel. You may as well just give me your money, write it off as a charitable donation, and be on your way. Like I said before, this is a year-round game. Watch the combine footage. Watch the draft and take notes on specialty position players, where they’re playing, who they have to beat out to become a starter, or are they coming in as a starter. You’re not only the general manager for your team, you’re also the scout. Now if you’re just starting a new dynasty league for the first time, my recommendation is to draft young, but draft talent first and foremost, but I’ll talk more about drafting later. Do your homework!
Sleeper Alert: Lestar Jean – 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, 37 1/2 inch vertical. Now he only ran a 4.6 at the combine in 2011, but you don’t have to have DeSean Jackson speed to be a productive wide receiver in the NFL. Right now this kid is running with the first team while Andre Johnson is recovering from his injury. And is Kevin Walter really the answer on the other side of Johnson? I don’t think so. Yes, I know the Houston Texans drafted some rookie wide receivers, but in the offseason, Jean learned all three positions and has been doing nothing but making plays in organized team activities! The team has already given him the nickname “Big Play” and he could be a big time sleeper like Victor Cruz. I’m not saying draft this guy high. I’m saying keep him on your radar and take a chance when you can!
Draft Smart and Draft Well: Easier said than done, right? Wrong, if you follow the first virtue you’ll be in the best position to draft well. Now dynasty drafts are different in the sense that we are drafting mainly rookies who we hope turn into stars unless you are just starting your league. Whether you’re just starting a dynasty or you’re preparing for your rookie feast draft, my recommendation is to take the best player available and figure it out later. Don’t just fill your positions to be filling positions, take who you feel is the most talented player with the most longevity available at any given time in the draft. Trades will be made and heroes will be found on the waiver wire, so don’t panic.
Draft talent! In my eyes the first round of any dynasty draft should be spent on your quarterback. Arian Foster is on the top of most every preseason ranking right now. And Aaron Rodgers has climbed his way into the Top 5 on most boards because of his consistent fantasy production over the last few years. My point is that you’re not going to find an Aaron Rodgers on the waiver wire like I found Arian Foster a couple years ago. A running back’s longevity in the NFL is determined by their health, and in this game that may not be long. So if you start at the most important position and stockpile talent after that, you will be headed in the right direction.
Side Note: I had the eighth overall pick in my 2011 dynasty draft with a really big need at the running back position. With Peyton Manning, Matt Hasslebeck and Rex Grossman, I had three starting quarterbacks and at the time I really believed that Manning was going to play. I also thought that there was no way that Cam Newton would fall to eighth in my draft. Well he did and he helped win me a championship in the absence of some guy named Peyton Manning. Draft the best player available!
Trades and Trade Bait – This virtue is directly tied to my theory of “draft the best player available” which I just talked about. If you find yourself in need of players in a certain position, hopefully you’ve stockpiled enough talent to make a trade. This can be very tricky in a dynasty format because future draft picks can be included. Now I see owners all the time giving up drafts picks in upcoming drafts, basically throwing away a draft class to get a player of need now. I hate these guys, but these are also the guys with whom you want to trade.
I believe you need at least one first-round draft pick in every dynasty draft that you have. Not that you can’t find guys in the later rounds, but don’t put yourself in a position where you never have a first-round draft pick, unless your team is just that good, and in that case, can I get in your league? I just recently made a trade that I think was well worth the risk. I traded Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams, and my 2015 first-round draft pick for Jamaal Charles and his 2015 fourth-round pick. You’re probably saying wait, you traded your first-round pick after you just told us not to? Yes, but I got first-round talent in return with Peyton Hillis (handcuff) already on my team. I’m stacked at wide receiver and will not miss Williams, who is a clear WR2 with Vincent Jackson on the other side. And I have three years to make a trade to get that first-round pick back in 2015. All and all, I’m happy with that trade.
Patience – As a fantasy owner in a regular format or a dynasty, this is one of the most important and difficult virtues to master. In fact, I’m sure just about everyone can say they haven’t dropped someone they wish they hadn’t. I picked up Jamaal Charles a few years ago when I saw some flashes, but yet I didn’t have the patience and the next year he busted out onto the scene. Shoulda coulda woulda, right? Listen, Running backs are going to burst onto to the scene and makes splashes more than any other position because they get hurt the most. But I think the position that warrants the most patience is at the wide receiver. If you draft a rookie wide receiver this year in your dynasty draft and he doesn’t produce, harness your chi, count to 10, I don’t care what you have to do, but have some patience.
Years ago I was watching Hard Knocks when they were covering the Dallas Cowboys. That’s when I discovered a kid by the name of Miles Austin. The coaches were raving about this guy. He was a virtually unknown guy with plenty of physical talent. Miles ended up getting hurt that year but I kept him on my roster rolling into the next year. Well, that next year is when he broke out. My point, when you know a guy is talented, if he doesn’t produce right away, especially at the wide receiver position, have some patience and see where he may take you.
Turnaround time on a Wide Receiver: They say the light bulb doesn’t truly turn on for a wide receiver in the NFL until his third season. Not everyone is going to be A.J Green of last year!
Handcuff Your Running Backs: We all know that the running back position is the most volatile position of them all. So if you can, handcuff when you know there is talent behind the starting running back. And in most cases, there’s plenty. If you have Arian Foster, you should have Ben Tate. And if you don’t, find a way to get him. Don’t leverage your future to do so, but be crafty (see above). If you have Reggie Bush on your team, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are guys you should have on your squad waiting in the wings to take over when Bush decides to run up the middle and gets squashed like a bug. And once again, be patient with these guys. They are your safety valve, but could possibly turn into stars overnight. Look at what DeMarco Murray did last season for the handful of games he got to start!
Waiver Wire Hawk – Be one! This is how every good fantasy owner makes it to the top. In my eyes this is the most important virtue of them all. It does take a little luck in a dynasty format, but every year, in every league, there are always guys that break out onto the scene and you could have them first. Last year alone I was able to pick up Victor Cruz (2011 Top 3 wide receiver right into my starting lineup), Eric Decker (last year, his third year, broke out but then he had Tim Tebow slowing his progression, now he’s quickly becoming best friends with Peyton Manning).
So if you miss in the draft, don’t worry, because there are owners in your league that lack the know-how to be a fantasy champion and will dismiss talent and allow you to be there to pick up the pieces. When the draft ends is when the season begins and the next Arian Foster is waiting in the wings, but can you be the first to claim?
Have Fun – Don’t be the guy pulling your hair out every week because you should have started this guy over that guy. Take a step back and breathe, because no one is going to get it right all of the time. Just make it to the playoffs, pray to the Fantasy Gods and hopefully some good fortune will come your way.