A Draft Day Primer For Dynasty Diehards
Everything, it seems, is relative when it comes to professional
football these days. The NFL season lasts a mere five months, criminally
short for those of us who find the six-day hiatus from Sunday to
Sunday painful enough. Making matters worse, baseball season lasts
seven months (it only seems longer), basketball season eight (it
really is longer), and hockey season nine (HOCKEY?
Nevertheless, no league enjoys a more active and high-profile offseason
than the NFL. There are mini-camps, pre-draft combines, the draft
itself (televised in its entirety, no less), spring meetings, MORE
minicamps, the free agency free-for-all, and finally, training camp,
the preseason, and
what exactly is so "off" about
the "offseason" again?
Unfortunately for most fantasy footballers, the seven-month period
from February to September usually isn't much more than a long hibernation
between league championship games and the annual draft. Or rather,
it wasn't. Enter the brave new world of dynasty leagues, an immediate
fix for jonesing football junkies everywhere. No longer must you
spend the offseason watching the grass grow, casually monitoring
league transactions, and preparing for the upcoming draft. Join
a dynasty league and soon you'll be actively and constantly monitoring
the progress of your players, analyzing the rookie pool for new
additions, attempting to downsize fading vets, and angling to land
that prized sleeper-on-the-verge to your existing stable of studs
Keeper leagues are by no means uncommon but a vast majority of
them limit the number of carryover players while preserving an annual
draft of free agents. Not so the dynasty leagues. Aside from a small,
annual rookie draft, there is only one, large, extremely important
initial draft. Fancy yourself a sharp fantasy GM? Try selecting
26-32 players and keeping them
all of them
Clearly, this is not for the faint-of-heart. Though nothing is truly
forever in the Not-For-Long League, as Jerry Glanville once labeled
it, an owner must definitely live with his or her mistakes for an
extended period of time. After all, the only thing worse than being
forced to drop fantasy studs each season is being forced to keep
fantasy duds every season, or until you can dish them to a desperate
league-mate in a moment of weakness. Forever, like most everything
in professional football, may be relative, but a crummy dynasty
draft is sure to haunt even the most fearless of fantasy GMs for
quite some time.
The following is a list of DOs and DON'Ts for first-time dynasty
drafters hoping to avoid this bleak future and constant ridicule:
Do Draft Your Running Backs Early
The golden rule of fantasy football definitely applies in dynasty
leagues, perhaps even more so. Like it or not, rock-toters are the
bread and butter of any good fantasy squad. Moreover, if you don't
get one early (while the gettin's good), you may be up you-know-what
creek for a couple of seasons. Why? There isn't much turnover at
the position and there aren't many great ones to begin with. By
my somewhat-scientific count, there will be only six new starting
backs this season, not including existing starters that switched
teams. In other words, get 'em while they're hot!
Don't Overvalue First-Year Players
The annual influx of college talent is refreshing and exciting.
However, it's too easy to get carried away with potential and hype
on draft day. This guy's the next so-and-so. That guy's the next
such-and-such. In reality, very few rookies make an immediate impact.
Indeed, out of 22 skill-position players drafted in the first two
rounds last year (2001), roughly half received a good chunk of playing
time. Of those 11 or so, only three (Tomlinson, A-Train, and Chambers)
made a significant enough fantasy contribution to merit starter
status. Don't get me wrong: rookies can be a valuable addition to
your squad and will be every single year once the initial dynasty
draft has been completed. It just doesn't pay to overrate them in
the initial draft when there are lower risk/higher reward veterans
available. Speaking of which
Do Focus on 3-5 Year Veterans
Simply put, these guys represent the best balance of risk and reward
over the long haul for your dynasty squad. They're established and
they're relatively (there's that word again) young. A good year
might be a fluke and two good years a pleasant surprise. Three or
four good years, though? You've got yourself a consistent fantasy
performer and, in some cases, a superstar. Better yet, he'll likely
remain consistent for many years to come which is exactly what you're
looking for in a perpetual dynasty league. Precious few of these
young, established vets are superstars (Faulk, Ah. Green, Moss,
Owens, Harrison, and Manning are some that qualify) so grabbing
one of them in the first two rounds is mandatory.
Don't Discard Free Agents and Players Returning
In today's "what have you done for me lately" NFL, free
agents and "injury-prone" players tend to fall out of
favor in a hurry. This is a good thing for dynasty drafters hoping
to add value in the mid to late rounds. Does anyone seriously think
Willie Jackson, Antonio Freeman, Marcus Robinson, and Germane Crowell
can't catch footballs anymore?
that Terrell Davis and Edgerrin
James can't carry them?
that Drew Bledsoe can't throw them?
Please. Most, if not all, of these players can be acquired for a
reasonable price. Many others (Sylvester Morris, Santana Moss, and
Michael Westbrook, to name a few) can be had for a song.
Do Draft with One Eye on Durability in the
No, this doesn't contradict the above paragraph. Most players coming
off injury or wallowing about in free agency are worth picking up
they aren't overvalued. Picking Terrell Davis in the 8th or 9th
round is a far cry from picking him in the 2nd round and anointing
him your feature back. The former move is wise, the latter foolish.
A simple rule of thumb might be to avoid injury-prone players (w/
the possible exception of Edge) when drafting your starters unless
more than one player is required at the position. This way, you're
not putting yourself completely behind the eight ball. While we're
on the subject of positions...
Don't Overrate the Importance of D/ST, TE's,
Again, these are standard guidelines that, for whatever reason,
go entirely overlooked by many come draft day. Defense, in particular,
seems especially susceptible to being overrated in a dynasty league.
"The Bears are so YOUNG and they're gonna be AWESOME forEVER!"
Sure, buddy. In reality, free agency and a constantly changing strength
of schedule make preserving a stellar defensive unit challenging.
If the team does well, other teams poach and the schedule gets tougher,
the ol' double-whammy. Go ahead and draft the Ravens' D if you don't
believe me. If you do, grab Dallas.
As for tight ends, nobody not named Gonzalez is worth drafting
in the first four rounds. The position is simply too vanilla and
offensive coordinators are to blame. Apply some of the same rules
listed above and you'll pick up a serviceable, relatively young
tight end. Don't forget that certain teams (West Coast offense,
anyone?) tend to utilize the TE much more than others.
Kickers are a necessary evil in all fantasy leagues and you must
draft one. Beyond that, you're on your own
with one major caveat.
Age doesn't matter, even in dynasty leagues. The difference between
Paul Edinger and Jason Hanson is the number of points they score
every year, not their respective years of experience.
Do Get a Good, Established Signal-Caller
You could probably count on two hands the number of difference-makers
at the quarterback position. In a 12 or 16-team league, that leaves
many on the outside looking in. Although the number of points a
QB receives for passing TDs should be a factor when weighing options,
don't miss the opportunity to snag an established field general
and a quality backup when the time comes. Good quarterbacks are
even more scarce than good running backs.
Finally, Don't Forget About Houston
Expansion teams have historically struggled in their formative years.
Nevertheless, most of them haven't had the advantages of the Texans.
A stellar expansion draft and a solid rookie draft (not to mention
a cupcake schedule) have left Houston in good position to win some
games this year. Moreover, last we checked, games are won by scoring
points. Bottom line: Somebody has to put up numbers for this squad
and most of the candidates can be landed for a bargain-basement
price. There's value in them thar' hills!
That's all we've got, folks. With the right mixture of established
studs, cagey veterans, and budding stars, you'll be well on your
way to building a dynasty and side-stepping the ignominy of your