Best Dynasty Fantasy Football League Draft Strategy for 2023
Get ready for the fantasy football season that never ends
Do you feel a little bit depressed once the fantasy season ends?
You might be ready for Dynasty fantasy football.
That’s because there is no true end to the dynasty calendar – just phases.
From rookie drafts to the trade market and through the season, there’s a lot of strategy involved in a Dynasty fantasy football league.
Here’s how it works.
And how you can become an instant winner ...
Dynasty Strategy #1: Never Rebuild
Draft for early success you can sustain. Then be strategic year to year.
Some folks will tell you that you’re either a contender in your dynasty fantasy football league… or you’re rebuilding. But we think you should never be rebuilding.
Here’s the truth of it.
“Never rebuild” doesn’t mean you should ignore the long-term viability of your dynasty roster.
It’s about taking steps each season ensure sure you remain in the contender phase. That begins with how you approach your startup draft.
And it continues through how you handle the trade market and ensuing rookie drafts.
There are different ways to approach your startup draft -- and succeed.
You might see some competitors clearly building to try to win right away. Others might try to load up on young players and Year 2 rookie picks – purposely selling immediate value for long-term upside.
But it’s quite possible to build a team that can contend this season and remain in contention for years to come.
And you can supplement along the way with quality rookies and buy low/sell high trades to keep cycling that roster.
The goal should be: Don’t let your roster wither. Keep it perennially competitive.
Be Flexible in Your Startup Draft
Have a plan. But be willing to change it.
You don’t want to enter your Dynasty startup draft without a plan for building your team. This isn’t just a roster for the coming season.
It’s the foundation for a franchise where you’re trying to win multiple championships through the years.
You don’t want to build this squad on the fly, simply reacting every round to what’s happening around you.
Scoop value when you see it.
On the other hand, you also shouldn’t be following such a rigid approach that you can’t react when value presents itself.
Just like we discuss in our general fantasy football philosophies, value matters a lot.
And it matters in every format. So you might head into your draft planning to go WR-heavy early.
But what if the rest of your league is drafting the same way? Grabbing a stud RB and franchise QB earlier than planned is the way to go.
Don’t Waste Draft Picks … But Don’t Overrate Them
Be smart in holding – or selling – those picks.
The rookie draft is critical to building and maintaining your dynasty roster. That’s pretty obvious, right?
It’s the main venue for adding players each year. Every pick you hit on potentially gives you years of valuable fantasy production. So you don’t want to make like the Sean McVay Rams and just throw all your picks at veteran players in the trade market.
Every rookie draft pick also represents a big unknown until that player’s career starts.
We all know some of those NFL Draft arrivals will bust. Most rookie classes will even include a surprise disappointment or 2. (Trent Richardson and Corey Coleman come to mind.)
Although you shouldn’t fling rookie draft picks away like Frisbees, you also shouldn’t cling to them like they’re your children.
Sometimes you can get a bargain by selling hope for this year’s rookie draft to a panicking league mate whose early pick from last year failed to deliver right away.
And sometimes, your first-round pick is the key to a larger trade that will benefit you for the foreseeable future.
The valuations on these draft picks will also fluctuate throughout the year.
As NFL Draft time nears, Dynasty fantasy football league owners will collectively value rookie picks more. So that’s not a great time to buy them.
Instead, veteran players will often come cheaper on the trade market in spring.
On the other hand, more teams are looking to address immediate needs during the NFL season.
That’s when you can find a better price for rookie-draft selections.
And while you’re dealing, see if you can get league mates to throw mid-to-late-round rookie picks into larger trades. They often won’t see much value in these picks and thus won’t let them hold up trades.
Come rookie-draft time, you’re holding an extra selection – or a tradeable asset.
A rookie may drop a little in your rookie draft, and you want to target them. You now have the late-round draft fodder to trade up a few picks and snag that value! All because you spent the last couple of months accumulating throw-in value.
Don’t Lie to Yourself About Your Chances
It’s better to lean into a rebuild than accept mediocrity.
Although you should strive to contend every season, things don’t always work out that way.
Stubborn league mates have cut off your best trade attempts. Or a couple of players reached their cliffs earlier than expected.
If you’re suddenly sitting there with a 2-5 record, be honest about whether you’ve just been unlucky for a few weeks or need to make considerable changes.
And if it’s the latter, don’t be afraid to pivot hard.
What’s that mean? Well, it might be time to sell off some productive but aging veterans to stockpile upside youngsters and/or early draft picks.
Planning for your team’s future starts with this …
Going full speed in such a direction will give you more shots at selecting the key difference makers in your league’s future rookie draft – and polishing some hidden gems until they shine.
After every season, you should thoroughly take stock of your team. Are you in good shape? Are you a key move or two from winning the next trophy? Or does your roster need more work?
It’s not always easy to admit that you need to change paths. But being willing to do so can jumpstart your turnaround.
Dynasty Strategy #2: Tailor Your Strategy by Position
The career arcs look very different by position.
Get in Early on RBs
Their production windows are shorter. Skew younger at the position.
The Aging Performance Table that helps power our dynasty rankings shows that RBs are the quickest to reach their production peak, on average.
They tend to get there in Year 3, after almost reaching that level in Year 2. And then they fizzle out before the other positions as well.
The RB position wears down quicker than others.
And it makes sense. These guys get hit more often and by the biggest defenders. In general, you want to get in for that early production and then get out before the player reaches the cliff.
And sometimes that “sell” window opens even earlier.
Remember Steve Slaton? Alfred Morris? James Robinson? (Too soon?) All smashed rookie-year expectations and then declined from there. All delivered enormous profits for those who sold.
Of course, you’ll also come across individual situations in which holding an RB – or even buying a veteran in trade – makes sense.
But you’ll generally want to focus on early-career RBs.
Are you wondering how you’ll know who to draft, who to keep, who to sell, and who to avoid? That’s why we’re here to help.
Don’t Give Up on WRs Too Quickly
Some quiet rookies give you optimistic signals.
Call it the Justin Jefferson Effect. Or Ja’Marr Chase. Or even Odell Beckham Jr.
There have been enough monster WR debuts in recent seasons to make us impatient when early-round wideouts don’t deliver immediately.
But don’t compound the disappointment by giving up on that guy too early.
In all of NFL history, just 100 rookie WRs have ever reached 50 receptions.
Only 22 of them cracked 70 catches in that 1st campaign. Dez Bryant didn’t make either group. Neither did Calvin Johnson. Or Jerry Rice.
But you also shouldn’t ignore rookie-year production. It matters.
A wideout who posts even decent production right away is historically more likely to become a helpful fantasy asset. And a guy who barely makes an impact – despite being healthy – is more likely to bust.
This comes down primarily to expectations.
So if you see a league mate getting restless because his first-round wideout is just OK – go in for the steal.
Beyond the rookie question, our Aging Performance data points to WRs building up to a Year 5 production peak (on average), whereas RBs tend to get there two years earlier.
QB Matters More
You’re not likely to be able to stream the position.
You don’t need to get a QB early in your startup draft, but the position does gain importance in dynasty formats vs. traditional redraft leagues.
It’s not that the week-to-week scoring impact changes. And your need/desire to start a quality QB doesn’t change between formats.
The biggest change is that you probably won’t find streaming options on your dynasty waivers.
Most likely, every NFL starter will find a roster in your league. Some top backup QBs might even get drafted, depending on how deep your rosters go.
So there won’t be much playing the weekly matchups.
You’re pretty much stuck with what you drafted when it comes to QBs.
That could be a pair of platoon options. Or it could be a single top-shelf guy with lower-level insurance. But the reality adds value to targeting those true top-shelf options a little earlier.
And if you do still wait to address your QB needs, make sure you think accordingly about how to finish building that position.
If you’re among the last teams in your league to grab a QB1, then you should be among the earliest to draft that QB2.
Finding a potential long-term solution at QB would be excellent!
The Aging Performance Table that helps power our dynasty rankings shows that QBs stay closer to their production peak longer than other offensive skill players.
Superflex: Target a QB Early, But Don’t Force the Second
The position obviously gains importance but can still be overrated.
The superflex format – which allows you to play a second QB in a flex spot – has exploded in popularity in recent seasons, especially among Dynasty players.
Clearly, that boosts the value of QBs quite a bit. And they’ll go a lot earlier in your startup drafts.
You generally shouldn’t wait too long to secure your first. After that, though ...
Unless you play in a league of more than 12 teams, there will be enough QBs to go around.
Don’t feel pressed to draft a second QB too early, even if the rest of your league appears to be rushing to do so.
Frankly … especially if the rest of your league is rushing to do so.
You can gain value by drafting high-end options at other positions early. Then collect less attractive players at QB2 and QB3 (maybe even QB4).
There will also be annual rookie drafts to add long-term value at QB.
Don’t Ignore NFL Draft Capital
The NFL Draft tells you how teams feel about players.
Even NFL teams don’t always get players right in the NFL Draft. Heck, they often get it wrong – and do so in both directions. Some early picks will bust, and some stars will emerge from Day 3.
But what we know for sure is this:
A team will draft a player at the spot they think is appropriate value on NFL Draft weekend.
If they draft a WR in the mid-first round, they expect stardom.
Even if that doesn’t necessarily portend pro production. A Round 1 selection shows us that a player impressed at least one (and likely many) NFL teams with his talent.
And it shows us that at least one team expects that player to be a key building block. That translates to opportunity.
We certainly don’t just list our post-draft rookie rankings in the order the players were picked.
But you also shouldn’t ignore that draft capital. If you love a prospect before the NFL Draft, but then the league tells you he’s a 4th-round pick (Hakeem Butler), you need to adjust.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you scrap the guy. But drafting him in Round 1 (and maybe even Round 2) of your league’s rookie draft no longer makes sense.
And although we shouldn’t hold on to NFL Draft capital forever, it can undoubtedly matter beyond that first season.
Just because an early NFL Draft pick doesn’t deliver as a rookie …
… Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not good enough – or that he has wasted his opportunity.
Don’t quit on that early NFL Draft pick too early. And be ready to pounce on the opportunity with a trade offer when a league mate does.
Don’t Overrate the Current Situation
N-F-L stands for ‘Not For Long,’ right? Focus on talent.
Jonathan Taylor had everything going for him coming out of college.
But then the Chiefs drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the end of Round 1, and fantasy drafters everywhere changed their rookie rankings.
No dynasty player who lived through that rookie-draft season will ever forget that scenario – and for good reason.
It should serve as a reminder not to drop an excellent prospect behind a meh alternative just because Mr. Meh lands in a strong offense.
Target talent over situation.
This extends beyond rookies, too. Do you have a stud WR whose QB is about to retire? Don’t panic.
The successor could be a solid veteran off the trade market or a rookie ready to step in.
Or maybe you have a QB who just lost a key wideout. Hey, Kirk Cousins can commiserate. The Vikings traded away Stefon Diggs for a draft pick. And that became Justin Jefferson.
We could run through plenty more examples or what-if scenarios.
Bottom line: If your primary argument for or against a player centers on the upcoming season specifically, you’re probably overrating the now and overlooking the big picture.
In addition, good players commonly overcome surrounding issues.
Dynasty Strategy #3: Be Bold on the Trade Market
Keep overall strategy in mind, but look for opportunities and strike
Trades are essential for most full-season fantasy football formats. They’re vital in Dynasty leagues.
You won’t find nearly as many worthwhile options on the waiver wire in Dynasty. And unless you use an auction format, the annual rookie draft position limits the number of prospects you can get.
All that means you’ll need to look for opportunities to improve your roster via trade. Here are some key tenets:
Don’t Be Afraid to Sell a Year Early
Otherwise, that asset could become an anchor.
The trade market will help you fill holes, enhance weaknesses and cycle out players before they reach the cliff.
Father time always wins. And eventually, a player will be more of a detriment to your team than an asset. Too good to drop but not good enough to start. A roster clogger.
That last point draws the focus of this section. Ideally, you’ll keep a productive player through his prime years and sell him off just before the decline. The problem, of course:
None of us really knows just how close that player cliff is.
Peyton Manning set the NFL record for TD passes in 2013. At age 37!
He predictably regressed from that number the following season but still finished 2nd in the league with 39. And then he crashed hard (9 TDs in 2015).
Todd Gurley was just 24 when he led the NFL in rushing TDs (17) for the second consecutive year in 2018. A year later, he lost 1.1 yards per carry and 3.2 yards per catch.
Then came a season in Atlanta – and he was done.
There’s no specific formula… but here’s what you should know:
There are certain signs, and we’ll be watching for them throughout each player’s journey. But you’re bound to hit some spots where you’re unsure whether to sell a particular guy or try to hang on for one more productive year.
Don’t be afraid to move that player. You might not get it right all the time. But if you’re making a worthwhile deal, losing even one year of production shouldn’t hurt your squad.
However, wait a year too long, and suddenly you’re saddled with an untradeable asset.
There Can Be Value in Acquiring Veterans
Everyone wants young talent. Go after valuable veterans.
We’d all love a team full of 22- and 23-year-olds who are set to deliver big fantasy numbers for years.
But that’s just not realistic.
If everyone in the league is vying for younger players, you will find opportunities to trade for veterans with plenty of productive seasons left. And it can come in different forms.
Perhaps you find a trade partner who overvalues draft picks vs. proven NFL talent.
You might even find a trade partner who is ready to give up on recent high NFL Draft picks who have disappointed as rookies.
Perhaps you encounter a league mate who believes they need to rebuild and is selling off aging pieces that aren’t old yet.
And maybe you find the dynasty player who believes it’s time to sell an asset before the cliff … but is making the move too early.
All of those scenarios present opportunities. Be ready to seize on them.
Use our proprietary Dynasty Trade Value Charts to evaluate your next trade.
Keep Trade Etiquette in Mind
You’ll have to live (and deal) with these league mates year after year.
If you follow much fantasy football discussion on Twitter, then you’ll probably encounter plenty of talk about how you should handle trade negotiations. Feel free to ignore most of it.
However, trade etiquette gains some importance when we’re talking about Dynasty fantasy football leagues. You’ll continue playing with most of these same folks year to year, and you’ll sometimes have needs to fill.
So you don’t want to develop a reputation of being hard to deal with.
What’s that mean? First of all, be cordial. Try not to take too long to respond to offers. Some people expect you to counter any trade you reject. That’s unnecessary.
But it can be worthwhile at times to include a note with your rejection such as:
“Sorry, I don’t really want to trade _____.”
“Sorry, I just don’t see a fit here.”
If you do have a counter?... Great!
But you shouldn’t explain to the other manager why your offer makes sense for their team.
At best, it’s something they should be able to figure out on their own. At worst, it’s condescending (and often exaggerating).
You can read more about our philosophies for fantasy football trades here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What position should I draft first in dynasty fantasy football?
The position you draft first in dynasty fantasy football depends a lot on your scoring rules and league set up. If you're in a superflex dynasty league, it would make sense to go after a young QB. If you're in a PPR league, grabbing a stud rookie WR might make the most sense. Still other rules would lead you to draft a RB first.
How do you get good at dynasty fantasy football?
Adopting a flexible draft strategy is how you get good at dynasty fantasy football. The key is to know when you should draft to "win now" or when your dynasty strategy should take a more long-term approach. In other words, ask yourself "how many players am I away from winning a championship with my dynasty team?"
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Next-Level Dynasty Rankings
Award-winning projections produce 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year outlooks for every player.
You can find dynasty rankings anywhere. But what are you looking at?
Most likely, it’s the results of some dude moving younger players up and older players down.
They just stick each guy where it “feels” right.
Don’t you want something a little more scientific? More valuable?
We’ve put hundreds of hours of machine learning into the formula that powers these next-level dynasty rankings.
The process starts with our award-winning season-long projections.
Then come the player aging curves, specific to each position. We even break down each position by unique archetypes of players!
We also estimate yearly retirement rates for each player based on typical lifespan and unique indicators.
All these factors drive the algorithm that generates 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year fantasy outlooks for every player – all tailored to your league’s custom settings.
These are the most advanced dynasty projections on the market. And they get smarter every year!
What you get is not only a sharper view of that player’s future. You also get the why.
So if you’re interested in an aging player for just the coming season, sort by 1-year projections.
You can sort by any time span on the dynasty rankings page.
Doesn’t that sound like a better way to get your dynasty rankings?
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The annual rookie draft is pretty important to your dynasty league, right? You should arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible on that new class of fantasy factors.
We’ve been doing just that for Draft Sharks readers since 2017.
That’s when we debuted individual fantasy outlooks for every fantasy-relevant prospect in the NFL Draft class. And that’s continued every year since.
You’ll get …
- background on the player
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Actionable Advice All Year Long
You never stop managing your dynasty roster. We never stop thinking about how to help.
Your dynasty league goes year-round. That’s what makes it great, right?
Our Dynasty Trade Targets series runs throughout the year, including the offseason.
(Because there is no offseason in dynasty.)
You’ll find players to target in trade, guys to move before their value dips, and dudes worth waiting for.
You’ll also find Dynasty Movers every week during the regular season, highlighting players whose dynasty value has changed the most.
Regular player spotlight articles, dynasty podcasts, and other content will keep you up to date on the latest dynasty strategies.
See how it all comes together on the Dynasty Draft War Room