By Brian Levine
I may have cursed the dynasty gods, but damn it will be worth it.
You see, I traded Arian Foster and Hakeem Nicks, two dynasty studs, in the same deal. What did I get back? Miles Austin, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Jon Beason, and the piece I needed to trade for Michael Turner. Guys that will help me succeed immediately.
Rebuild and wait a year or two to develop guys? Fuck that. I’m in the business of winning a championship. Now.
Today I’m going to discuss a couple draft strategies and player types that you want to target so that your team can be the best right away. I realize that the point of a dynasty is longevity, and I will address that. But let’s assume that you are in a money league, and well, you want to win money.
To make myself clear: The best combination for dynasty leagues is talent and the right setup for success. The players I recommend drafting or looking at are going to be guys you may not first think of because they may not possess the perfect package. But drafting players like these is key to winning your league this year.
Draft “the guys”: Workhorse backs, clear #1 WRs
We all know whom to draft at running back at the top of the order. But if you are looking to stockpile immediate success, the key is to grab guys who are going to be “high touch guys.” These are guys who are average close to 20 touches a game. Last year’s list is prestigious, with 10 guys making the cut:
Arian Foster Rashard Mendenhall
Steven Jackson Michael Turner
Ray Rice Maurice Jones-Drew
Chris Johnson Peyton Hillis
Cedric Benson Ahmad Bradshaw
Considering Adrian Peterson barely missed the cut, you would do well to land two of these guys. Let’s exclude Benson because no one knows what to expect out of the Bengals this year (except mediocrity); there are several guys here that will be available as late as your league’s 3rd round because they are not as sexy as their younger counterparts. Snatch up Turner, MJD, SJax to give yourself a nice RB2 and stack your runners. You can never have enough good ones, grab as many of these guys as you can.
Other recommendations: Frank Gore, Matt Forte, DeAngelo Williams, Fred Jackson
At the wide receiver position, the name of the game here is targets. Grab the guys who get the ball thrown to them constantly, and you can expect a relatively high level of success. Fourteen wideouts averaged eight or more targets per game (surprisingly, Welker and Amendola missed the cut). Guys like Brandon Marshall, Santana Moss and Marques Colston make that list but will fall some because guys like Mike Wallace, Calvin Johnson, Steve Johnson, and Hakeem Nicks project to have a better situation. For the most part, they do. But you can count on Marshall, Colston, and Moss to get their targets, their receptions, and points for you consistently.
Other recommendations: Anquan Boldin, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Thomas
Quarterbacks: Only the finest
With the signal callers, keep it simple. Get the guy(s) who is awesome. A great QB scares every opposing fantasy owners: if he pops off, he tips the scales significantly in your favor. Here’s your list:
Michael Vick Peyton Manning
Aaron Rodgers Tom Brady
Drew Brees Philip Rivers
If you have to use a 2nd round pick to nab one of these guys, do it. There’s no question these guys are going to be amazing this year.
But Brian, what if I can’t/won’t get one of these guys?
Then you want to wait and try and nab a sleeper QB. Solidify your team top to bottom before drafting your QB. Every year, there are 2-3 QBs who have the right chemistry for a 4000 yard, 20-30 TD season that no one expected. If you go this route, get 2 QBs that you could juggle as your starter.
Other recommendations: Eli Manning, Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan
IDPs: Tackle machines
Tackle machines are guys who absolutely rack up the tackles for usually one of two reasons: they are a beast of a linebacker, or they are a cornerback who plays opposite a really good corner (my personal favorite). For the most part, middle/inside linebackers are the way to go here. Of course Clay Matthews is a beast, but figuring out who is going to be a monster rush linebacker is a little trickier than figuring out who is going to be starting in the middle. For a 3-4 try for the outside linebackers (like Matthews), and the 4-3 get the MLBs. Pay attention to who wins the jobs, and who moves: Jon Beason is moving back to the Mike position, and you can guarantee he eclipses 115 solo tackles with ease. There will be some great guys who fall because of age or changes in their situation, scoop them out and lead yourself to victory
Other recommendations: London Fletcher, Ray Lewis, Johnathan Vilma, Paul Posluszny
If you play with DBs, then the name of the game here is safeties and opposite corners. Brent Grimes and Greg Toler were guys who seemingly came out of nowhere to fantasy success because they played opposite great corners (Dunta Robinson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, respectively). Grab the guys who make plays, consistently. Also read up on new defensive schemes being installed. Adrian Wilson is going to be used more like Troy Polamalu this year in their defense; this bodes well. There is a hidden gem to be found in the Dallas secondary; Rob Ryan’s defense calls for a big-time safety. You can really make up a lot of points with high tackle, playmaking DBs.
Other recommendations: Michael Griffin, Eric Berry, Kerry Rhodes, Antrel Rolle, Antonio Cromartie, Ronde Barber
Rookies: Immediate Impact
If you hold onto your rookie picks, use them to get players that are going to be starters for their teams and contribute very quickly. This is all about the situation a players finds himself in, and also the position. You do not want a rookie quarterback starting for you, but a rookie running back, tight end, or wide receiver could become very valuable quickly. Generally speaking, running back skillsets translate quickest, so you can think of rookie runners as the safest bets to step in and give you points right away (Daniel Thomas is the pick here). If you can land one of the three wideouts who are in the best position to be #1 or #2 guys, you can get some production out of them (AJ Green, Julio Jones, Vincent Brown). TEs can be sneaky if you can land this year’s Rob Gronkowski. This year, it’s Jared Cook.
For rookie IDPs, find starters or find guys who will be targeted a lot. The top two that come to mind are Jimmy Smith and Patrick Peterson, cornerbacks who will see a lot of action. Depending on the Titans situation, linebacker Colin McCarthy could be the next Pat Angerer (a great pickup and valuable dynasty player).
Other recommendations: Jon Baldwin, Mark Ingram, Mikel Leshoure, Von Miller, Mason Foster, Ryan Kerrigan
Trading: Stockpile, fill in the pieces
Young talent is always at a premium in dynasty leagues, so there will be a market for your rookie picks and your young guns. If you can get proper winning talent (a RB2 or WR2 at least), make the deal. The idea is to bring in as much talent as possible for a stable of running backs or a bunch of awesome wide receivers who will be great for your team. You have the rest of your dynasty to sit and wait for WRs to develop; on average it takes about three years. Running backs can blossom at anytime; for Arian Foster it took a couple years, for James Starks it was the playoffs—its all about opportunity there. Find the right opportunities to move your guys, or acquire someone on the cheap that is older and not as sexy. They will make the difference in the fantasy playoffs.
In your dynasty leagues, if you are willing to be the guy who wants the championship, go for it. You will be busy making deals and moves to get better. When you win the championship or make a splash in your league, the work will be well worth it.
Brian Levine is a multi-sport owner in the NJFFL and currently is attending Boston University. You can follow him on Twitter @Brian_Levine.