Building Your Dynasty
You’re a diehard football fan. You watch your favorite team every week, living and dying with the result. You’re in a fantasy league with a bunch of your friends, and like me, you really just do it for the beer and pizza on draft day ([Homer Simpson voice] Mmmmmm, pizza….beer…”). You’re out of the house, pounding beer, eating meat-only pizza, talking football with your buddies. Not sure it gets any better than that. Yet you’re favorite team is struggling, and you wish they had made different selections on draft day. After all, couldn’t you do a better job? Voila, you now have all the seeds for owning a dynasty franchise.
I use the term franchise instead of team, because that’s what it truly is, a franchise. You own it, it’s yours, and it will continue to be yours as long as the league is in existence. About three years ago, Tony and I were offered and accepted teams in a couple of different dynasty leagues. For whatever reason, the previous owner was no longer able to keep the franchise so the other league owners were looking for someone to take over the team. We’d been intrigued by the idea, as every year when we would discuss rules for our re-draft league, someone would always nominate some kind of “keeper” rule, which would generate a lot of discussion, but in the end wouldn’t make it into the by-laws.
So we were in. We agreed to do both as a team, since we weren’t quite sure we could dedicate an adequate amount of time to it on our own. We were, after all, both new parents, had demanding jobs, and we valued our family time away from work/fantasy sports. Not to mention Tony was the Commish of our redraft league, and was involved in many other projects in the business. At the time we were working for the same company and shared many of the same beliefs/strategies about fantasy football so it wouldn’t be a problem reaching agreement on players. And besides, the team was already drafted, all we’d need to do is the daily operation of the team (lineup submission, free agency, etc).
While the teams we picked up were crap, it was a fun experience, and since we were already on top of things (ie. following weekly player performances) for our re-draft league, it turned out that the extra teams really didn’t increase the amount of time on a weekly basis that we had to spend running things. So then we got to thinking, there has been so much grumbling in our re-draft league about “keepers”, why not start up our own dynasty league with these guys, and anyone else we can find that might be interested? We’d go with the same scoring system in both, a couple of tweaks to add individual defensive players, and we were off. The response to that initial message was incredible, and we filled the 16 teams in a matter of hours. The people that jumped on board could not wait to get the draft going. It was the beginning of April.
Briefly, here are the basics that you’ll need to get something like this off the ground (at least this is how we did things):
1) Find 16 fanatical owners that you know will be in it for the long haul.
You don’t want fair weather people that are going to bow out of the league. These owners need to be in it essentially forever. Additionally, you should have people that are flexible since starting a new league can have a few snags after it gets off the ground.
2) A scoring system that takes into account individual defensive players.
Any scoring system and starting lineup can really suffice here. All you need to do is give some points to individual defensive players for things like sacks, tackles, assists, and turnovers. Best to limit what defensive guys can get as you still want the focus to be offensive players. Generally, it should be so that defensive guys really cap out at 10 points per week, and that’s an unbelievable week.
3) An initial draft where you will select 22 players.
This seems to be a good number for each team’s roster. Yes, it seems like a lot of players and yes, you will be digging extremely deep to find players, but it will be worth it. The initial draft is probably best done over a period of time (a couple weeks) thru e-mail (I’m trying to imagine what I’d look like after eating pizza and drinking beer thru 22 rounds of a 16 team fantasy draft, probably wouldn’t be a pretty sight). If your other owners are as psyched about the league as you are, it can be done fairly quickly.
4) A place or system for free agency.
Free agency for the most part is probably going to run year round. Each owner can be given a certain amount of fake money that they will receive every year to be used to bid on players. It’s easy enough to set up a bulletin board somewhere that is accessible at all times to everyone for this. Set time limits on bids so that if a bid isn’t upped in a certain amount of time (72 hours off season, 24 hours in season) the player is acquired. Cut off free agency after NFL week 12 (or so) and keep it off until a couple months after the Super Bowl.
5) Rookie draft.
After the initial season, you’ll need a way for rookies to get into your league. Each year, a couple weeks after the NFL rookie draft, set up a 4 round rookie draft where the worst team in the league gets first pick, second worst team gets second pick, etc. Like the NFL, you probably want this to be a straight draft where the worst team has the first pick in each round (ie. not serpentine like most other drafts). And yes, make it so that future draft picks are tradable!!
So that’s about it…you’re off and running, now what? Let me tell you, you better be prepared for this draft like no other. You will be drafting guys that have no chance of seeing the playing field for 3-4 years, even longer, even ever. You’ll be reaching for that guy buried down at #7 on an NFL team’s depth chart, just hoping that he will be productive years down the road. And there won’t be another chance to start over, every player that you select is yours and yours alone until you trade them, drop them, or they are no longer in the game. This is “forever”, baby.
Our dynasty draft took place in the spring of 2002 so I’ll try to tie in what I did there to a quick analysis of each position (so you can clearly see where I went wrong and perhaps where I did something right):
Quarterback: You’ll need to make sure you have at least one quarterback that can play in your starting lineup every week. Choose wisely as this may be the only quarterback on your roster worthy of being in the starting lineup. You won’t be alone in not having 2 options at QB, but you don’t want to be the guy without any options at QB. The suggestion here is to get someone young. Either use that late first round/early second round pick on guys like McNabb or Culpepper, or use your fourth/fifth round selections to get guys like Vick or Brees. Sure, you might suffer early on if you go with the second option above, but a year or two down the road you will be happy that you got one of those guys. And if you are a team that has only one option, you better make sure you have that guy’s backup on your roster in case your top guy goes down.
In our draft, I grabbed Donovan McNabb in the sixth round. Obviously he was young and I think it may have been the first year he was to be the starting QB for the Eagles. I was hoping to get some numbers out of him, but mainly I was looking to nail down my long term solution at the position. I didn’t draft any other QBs until extremely late, where I picked two forgettable guys that are no longer in the league. Just goes to show how important is it to, as they say on the O & A show, “Get a good one!”
Runningback: I’ll spare the “this position is thin” rhetoric. However, this is another position you want to use your early draft picks on. You could make a strong argument that in this dynasty setting, guys like Alexander, Tomlinson, and Anthony Thomas would be selected before guys like Faulk and Green. The key at this position is, you need to back fill whoever your starters are with some youth. Meaning, in the early/mid rounds of your draft, you need to be drafting the likes of William Green, TJ Duckett, and DeShaun Foster. Sure they may not be productive this year, but these are the running back stars of the future.
As you might imagine, I went to this position early and often. It started with Curtis Martin, a stalwart at the position who continues to be steady. Next I went to a rookie, Thomas Jones, who even yet hasn’t produced a lick for my team….but this could be his year, that’s why I got him, future star (?). Next pick was a complete bust, Curtis Enis. Hey, at the time he was young and had the football world at his feet. We all make mistakes, right? Next it was back into the rookie pool for Shaun Alexander, a guy that I knew wouldn’t see the light of day for years, but that didn’t concern me at the time. This selection clearly makes up for the Enis gaffe. It was not a pretty bunch early on, but three years after the fact, I’m extremely happy with what I’ve got in Martin, Alexander, and Jones.
Wide Receiver: While some may disagree with me, this is a position that you can wait until the later rounds to fill. Basic point being, that it is easier to find a starting receiver in your subsequent rookie drafts, than it will be to get another starting running back in those drafts. There are generally only three or four viable rookies, which means you’d have to be one of the worst team’s in your league to get a shot at those guys – not fun.
In my draft, it wasn’t until round seven that I took my first receiver, Ike Hilliard. Not a great guy, but relatively young, ended up being ok, I guess. Later I followed that up in the tenth by grabbing Joe Horn. He was new to the Saints, and he immediately made an impact on my team and continues to do so. Digging deep, I took the rookie Darrell Jackson in the 13th. Another guy that has paid dividends in the long term for my team right now.
Tight End: If your league requires it, the tight end can be a place to separate your team from the rest. A little like running backs, these will be hard to come by in subsequent rookie drafts. My strategy going in was to use a fairly early pick to nail down a young guy, if possible. So it was in the fifth round that I took the rookie Bubba Franks. I just didn’t want to have to deal with the position (ever), so I was hoping that by getting a guy like that, I wouldn’t have to worry much about the position after that. So far, Franks hasn’t been great, but has been a serviceable starter over the years.
Kicker: This is the tricky part. You’ve read everything that says you should never draft a kicker until the last couple rounds in your redraft leagues, a stance that I somewhat agree with. In a dynasty setting, what to do? You’re not going to wait until the 20th round to get a kicker, surely they will all be gone by then. My strategy was to get two of the top kickers. While I wasn’t the first, I was the second to grab one, taking Olindo Mare in the 8th round. I followed that up in the 10th by selecting Jeff Wilkins. While kickers can come and go, and a few would probably become available in free agency, I didn’t want to have to bother. I wanted two guys I could count on for many years.
Defense: This is a position that you can completely disregard at your initial draft, it’s just not worth it. Unless your league rewards a lot of points for these players (which I would hope it doesn’t), stay away. In fact, it might even be prudent to wait until the season starts, see who’s making all the tackles and sacks, then pick up some guys on the cheap in free agency.
So that’s that. While it may take a couple of years for your team to become dominant, isn’t that the name of the game? Being dominant? I’d much rather build up things slowly…out of the playoffs the first year, in the playoffs the second year losing in the conference finals, then winning the championship in the next three years…hey, it could happen! Watch out guys!!