Welcome, owners, to the inaugural season of the Dynasty Fantasy League! You have all agreed to participate in not just one of the most interesting forms of fantasy football there is — the dynasty format — but also in a subset of the dynasty format — a salary cap league with contracts. This is one of the most detailed and fun formats a fantasy owner can participate in!
You may be asking yourself: what the heck did I get myself into?! It’s true, dynasty leagues require a year-round commitment and they are more intricate than your standard redraft leagues. But they are also far more rewarding!
There are a lot of parts to the DFL, but once you get them down pat, it’ll become second nature and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to join such a format.
With that said, you may be wondering what are the best strategies for building a DFL franchise. You may have questions about procedures and whether there is a right or wrong way to go about doing things.
That’s what this article is for. Here are some helpful tips and advice for finding success in such a league. And if you have more questions, feel free to reach out to some of the other owners who have participated in a league like this.
Pay attention, communicate with other owners, pay attention, have fun, and pay attention
And did I mention to pay attention?
This first piece of advice might sound like the cheesy thing you say to a kid in youth sports. But there’s definitely a level of validity to that cheese in the case of this league.
Take it from us who have participated in dynasty leagues before: it is no fun if the participation level is low. If I want to shop around a player during the off-season and half the league has checked out, it’s no fun dealing with just five other owners. This goes doubly for in-season participation.
I’m not saying you need to be active on the Sleeper app every day, or that you just visit the website every day, either. But please check in semi-regularly to see if other owners have tried to reach out to you about trades so we can keep the business and communication of the league flowing.
Draft picks and rookie contracts are gold
Okay, not all of them. The truth is, third- and fourth-round picks are more like dart throws and lottery tickets.
Still, draft picks are the currency of the wealthy in dynasty leagues. If you have been around professional sports for any length of time, surely you’ve heard the expression that championship teams are “built through the draft.” This is really no different in dynasty fantasy football, either.
There’s one very specific reason for that: rookie contracts are cheap! If you select some good players, the return on your investment for four years is tremendous. Compare that to teams that have to pay big money for veteran players in the Auction, and your financial shape will be way better than theirs.
I’m not suggesting you never trade draft picks. Just be judicious about what you give them away for.
Rookie contracts provide great flexibility
This is a continuation of the previous tip because there is more to share on this front.
The other great thing about rookie contracts besides them being cheap is that they are non-guaranteed contracts. Meaning: if you draft a player and realize he just isn’t any good, you can cut him before his contract is over and you won’t be penalized. Contrast that with veteran contracts signed via the auction. If you sign a very expensive player and he winds up busting, if you cut him before his contract is up, you’ll wind up paying a hefty penalty.
So even when you have players on their rookie contracts who aren’t very good, the cheapness of their deals gives you financial flexibility to go sign replacement players. If you didn’t have that flexibility, you’d be stuck with your high-priced busts.
Don’t sign expensive players to multi-year deals
If you are unable or unwilling to build through the draft and you elect to throw cash around in the Auction, be wary of signing high-priced free agents to multi-year contracts.
The modern colloquial acronym for NFL is “Not For Long.” A player’s position on a team isn’t cemented in, especially if that player is on the wrong side of 30. Guys can fall off considerably in just one year’s time.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is overpaying a player. The absolute worst thing is compounding that mistake by giving him a multi-year deal.
Ask yourself these questions: is this player on his way up, or has he reached his peak? Has he shown continued success or is it possible he had a flash-in-the-pan season? And when this player’s contract is up, is it possible he’ll cost me more or less?
It’s better to err on the side of caution and give high-priced players one-year deals, and then take your chances with a franchise tag when their contracts are up.
Don’t be shortsighted; keep your eye on the horizon
If you’re a newbie to the world of dynasty fantasy football, one of the biggest challenges you will have to overcome is the conditioned shortsightedness that is cultivated in redraft leagues.
When you are assembling your team in a redraft league, you’re only concerned with who will be good in the upcoming season. When you’re drafting players or making trades, you’ll ask yourself: “does this help me win a championship this year?”
In dynasty leagues, however, you have to keep one eye toward the horizon. You can’t only be concerned about the current season, but also with what lies ahead in future years. You have to ask if a trade will benefit you both now and in the years to come.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course. If you plan to “go for it all” knowing that your team might have to rebuild the following year but you think you have a chance at winning the championship this year, just be prepared for that rebuild.
Likewise, if you feel your team is better off rebuilding for the future, you could make a trade that doesn’t benefit you at all in the current season, but it will bring you great assets for the future.
Don’t leave the Auction broke; save some money for the regular season
On June 1 each season, you get a $100 million budget to spend for the upcoming season. You’ll first pay the contracts in full of everyone on your Active Roster. Then, you’ll use what is left to sign free agents in the Auction. Lastly, whatever money you have remaining in that budget is what you can use to sign in-season free agents.
A lot of owners forget about that last step and leave the auction with little or no money. This prohibits them from signing any in-season free agents. The only way to acquire new talent would then be to make trades or to pick up another team’s scraps from the Waiver Wire.
Additionally, another good reason to leave the Auction with cash in hand is that you can restructure contracts at the end of the season. If you have cash leftover when the season ends, you can pay down future salaries of high-priced players on your roster.
Have a budget of price ranges for players and/or positions when you enter the Auction
If you’ve never done an auction before, you might not know how you will react when the bidding gets going and the drama unfolds.
You might get into a heated battle for a player you covet and wind up spending far more than you should on him. It’s a good idea to come prepared to the auction with projected player dollar values so that you can reference that sheet when the bidding gets going.
You can have a budget for specific players and/or for positions. In the DFL, running backs and receivers are the most valuable. The upper echelon of tight ends (like the top 2-3) are in a class of their own and particularly valuable. But all other tight ends and most quarterbacks are not going to have great variance in their prices.
There are websites that offer those values. Make sure you enter a $100 budget, though, so the values are accurate for the DFL.
Have a nomination strategy in place
Have you ever done an auction before? If not, you may be surprised that there is more to nominating a player for auction than just picking the next best player off the list.
In the DFL Auction, you do not have to bid on a player that you nominate. So you can nominate players that you have no intention of signing, let everybody else in the room bid on those players and drain their funds, and you sit back like a tiger in the weeds waiting to pounce on a player that you really want.
Note: nominating players off the very bottom of your list is not necessarily a great strategy, as sometimes your nomination will be met with crickets. Nobody will bid and the Auction will drag on. Your nominees should be players who offer at least some value and your desire is for them to go for more money than you think they are worth.
Pay attention to the direction of all teams and their potential strategies
It’s a good idea to evaluate every team’s roster and learn what they’re trying to do.
For instance, does a team have a lot of aging players on short, expensive contracts? Chances are that that team will try to contend for a title this season. Conversely, does another team have a lot of young players on cheap contracts plus a lot of draft picks? That team might be eyeing a rebuild.
Knowing this about these teams will help you prepare for this season and beyond. You can make an educated guess about who your biggest challengers for the players you want might be.
Know your league mates and their likes, preferences, habits
Know thy enemy! That’s the best way to conquer a foe.
In a brand new league with owners you might not know very well, this could take a little while to develop. But eventually you will start to pick up on habits and tendencies of all the owners.
Knowing your opponents’ tendencies can help you in the trade market as you identify who might be an interested trade partner for your assets. Knowing your opponents’ likes and preferences can help you guess who they might be saving their Auction budget for.
Don’t be afraid to sleep on a trade offer
There is no rush to complete a deal, so don’t feel pressured into making a trade. If somebody offers you a trade and then puts a time limit on the offer, chances are that they’re trying to swindle you anyway.
Everybody knows about buyer’s remorse. There’s a common feeling of regret after a big purchase that usually is more prevalent when you rush into a decision. If somebody offers you a trade, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know you’ll think about it and then respond to them the next day. The extra time gives you a chance to think it through and perhaps even shop it around.
Which leads me to the next piece of advice.
Reach out to other owners and shop around offers
If another team offers you a deal, don’t be afraid to bring that deal to another owner in your league.
We’re not dealing with state secrets here. We’re dealing with football players whom most owners know about. Even the “sleepers” out there cease to be secrets these days with the way they’re blabbed about all over fantasy football websites and podcasts.
When you share a trade offer with other owners, one of three things can happen:
- You’re given a stamp of approval and the green light to make the deal. It doesn’t guarantee the deal works out to your advantage, but it’s good to get that affirmation.
- The owner(s) tell you you’re nuts and you’re getting ripped off. Have you ever made a purchase that you regretted and wished somebody had been there to warn you?
- Another owner might realize that they can beat that offer and give you something better.
In any of these three cases, you’re doing yourself a good service in shopping around the deal.
Conclusion: Paying attention is often correlative to success
There is no guarantee that just by paying attention, you will instantly have success. But there often is a correlation between the two.
When you pay attention to the league, you visit the app and leave the notifications on, you check your texts, emails or Sleeper messages, and you visit our website and read the articles, you generally will have a good idea what’s going on in and around the league and can learn and grow from all that information.
Plus, it’s just way more fun with full participation!