Start up drafts are a ton of fun because you get to shape the team in your image. Do you want to go young and build your team over time? Do you want to grab all of the productive veterans and win now? Maybe a little of both? Any strategy you take can be a winner if you have the right mindset. No matter what kind of team you want to build, here are some strategies to keep in mind;
Consider the prime years of each position
You probably don’t want to start a dynasty team with a 38 year old QB. That said, it might not be so bad to grab a top 10 33 year old QB with a track record. If he is a solid starter he should be in the league for at least 3-5 more years and that is plenty of time to develop some younger QBs and win some championships. I wouldn’t shy away from Aaron Rodgers (32), Eli Manning (35), Philip Rivers (34) or Ben Roethlisberger (34) just because they are in their mid-30’s. That is prime time for NFL QBs and while getting Cam Newton (26) or Russell Wilson (27) is better, getting a solid WR or RB or two even before picking up one of the aforementioned 30 year olds is a great strategy. The same goes with 28-30 year old WRs, 26 year old RBs and so on. Don’t (always) grab a young guy with potential over a mid-career guy who has produced. What you’ll find is you can be very powerful with prime year guys early in your team’s life cycle and then use them as depth as they get older and you bring in rookies.
Dynasty Zero RB Theory
One great strategy is to buy all of your WR, TE and QBs at the top of your startup draft to build your depth in those areas and then pick up lesser RBs in the startup draft and draft RB heavy in future years. On any team you are going to have weaknesses. The glory of making the RB position your weakness on purpose is that RBs turnover quickly and get injured more often. Some of those lesser RBs you pick up later in the draft could pop for you later in the year and even if not you can supplement with some free agents and with future rookie picks. I did this as an experiment last year in a dynasty startup and I really like my team. RB is definitely my weakness with Carlos Hyde being the only RB on the team even remotely close to starting, but with a solid WR corp of Allen, Green, Edelman, Cobb & Decker as well as Kelce and Gates at TE and Cousins, Tannehill, Bridgewater at QB, I can focus on picking RBs strategically and letting the depth on my team carry me in other spots.
Trading top 2 round picks for 3-6 rounders
If you’re startup draft allows trades, one strategy to consider is to load up on mid-round picks by trading out of the first two rounds. This can be a very effective strategy to create a solid team right off the bat. While it seems crazy to give up your first two picks, consider that they are only two players and just because you pick them high doesn’t mean they will do well for you. Considering you will pick starters in the first 7-9 rounds at the offensive positions, trading your top two picks for several picks in the mid-rounds provides you the opportunity to A)grab great players that are falling way below their value and B) pick up a solid group of starting RBs and WRs rather than grabbing one or two great guys and a bunch that won’t be on your team next year. Now, the strategy does call for some maneuvering as in order to give up two picks in the top rounds to get 3-4 in the mid-rounds you’ll have to trade several picks with several teams and give up some lower round picks as well, but if you do it well you can get 5-7 spots in the mid-rounds and enjoy a deeper team that will most likely stick around longer too.
Late Round Gems
The late rounds of a startup rookie draft is going to look like a who’s who of middle of the road veterans and no-name rookies. How do you find value in this place in the draft? By having the courage to pick up older veterans that can be very productive for a year or two only or by grabbing a young guy who may be close to the top of the depth chart and only one injury gets him on the field. For the veterans, if you’ve already gotten your starters in place, my view is to always pick up the guy that is going to help you this season first. I’d rather have a Nate Washington who is 35 but produces just about everywhere he goes than a Aaron Dobson who has potential and was picked in the 2nd round of the NFL draft but has not produced and is not guaranteed to do so anytime soon. For the rookie and young part of this strategy, you’re looking for guys who may have played well in short stints or performs well during the pre-season but has yet to see the field. If they are 2nd on the depth chart then pick them up. If they are 4th on the depth chart it’s a whole lot farther to climb.