The Window Was Open When I Got Here: Drafting to Win Now in a Fantasy Football Dynasty Startup

I’m assuming if you’re here that you’re already a pretty decent fantasy football manager. You care enough to do your homework, and that’s great. That said, we’re all bound to outkick our coverage sometimes… that was me when I was invited to be part of Football Absurdity’s dynasty league. Y’all are some pros and I felt like a real amateur.

With that said, let’s not turn this into a recipe blog. I’m not going to give you 300 words on some trip to Tuscany before telling you how to make your own ricotta or whatever. You’re here to read about dynasty fantasy football, so let’s get after it.

FIrst, Let’s Set the Scene

I’m in over my head, everyone in this league is brilliant. It’s early in the first round and it’s immediately clear that everyone I’m drafting against is aiming to build superteams, ones that will ideally be at their most competitive in 2 to 3 years. There’s a good chance if you’re in a dynasty startup that will be everyone’s strategy.

Reader, what do you do if it’s clear everyone in your league is doing the same thing? You pivot harder than Joe Biden pivoted from forgiving everyone’s student loan debt. I honestly believe drafting a team to win this year in a dynasty startup is not just smart now, but smart for the long haul.

When I say drafting to win now, there are limits. There’s a sweet spot that exists where you can find value. I see people in dynasty startup drafts overvaluing guys in their first three seasons. This works to our advantage: rookies are (no matter what) an uncertain commodity. You’ll start to see them go in rounds where that sweet spot of NFL experience is. Corey Spala, writing for Fantasy Intervention, crunches the numbers and says that peak fantasy running back production is around 25 years old. In dynasty startups, you see a lot of value in players either around 25 or who are perceived to be a bit older because of their experience. Related, did you know Joe Mixon is only 24?

The win-now approach is even more valuable with wideouts, where production numbers are less tied to a specific age. Your startup league mates all want Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, and CeeDee Lamb. Not only can you win now with Adam Thielen, Deebo Samuel, and Amari Cooper, but knowing they’ll be there gives you the flexibility to pay a premium at WR1, running back, or Superflex quarterback.

Find Your Sweet Spot

I’m not saying to go draft Tom Brady and have no long-term plan behind him. But, there’s value in starting Matt Stafford for (at least) two more years. Three years is a long time in dynasty, and if you draft to win now in a startup, you’re looking at a two- or three-year championship window. Some of the people in that sweet spot are going to be appealing prospects for your league mates right around that two-year mark. Maybe Mac Jones couldn’t hack it, and you could feed off their desperation.

My point is, if you find that sweet spot and have players that are going to be between 27-28 in three years, they will be the missing pieces your league mates need for that final push (this is also why I’m against any sort of trade deadline in dynasty, if someone gets competitive earlier than they expected, I’ll gladly rob them blind to give them that championship if I’m out of it).

Make no mistake, it’s a major gamble, but so is pivoting in general. There’s safety in numbers and if there’s a run on tight ends in round 4 or whatever, it makes sense to take one that round and avoid having to roster Evan Engram again. But the board sets the value and every board is different. I pivoted, and I have a team I really like.

So, this is my plea: if everyone in your dynasty startup is playing the long game, draft to win now. Draft players with between 3-7 years of pro experience, because they’re most likely going to give you 2-3 more years of solid production relative to the round you got them in; that hopefully not only buys you a championship but also buys you 2-3 drafts where you try to either find a diamond at the end of the first round or trade some dudes away and bet on the next year’s rookie draft.

I’d like to end this with a hot take and a homer take, just for fun.
Hot Take: Derrick Henry has one more year of top 5 RB production and then he hits the wall all at once.
Homer Take: Darnell Mooney ends this season as a WR2

Want more 2021 fantasy football draft discussion? Check out these links!


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[Statistics are sourced from,, and]

Header Image Source: Pope Leo III, crowning Charlemagne from Chroniques de France ou de Saint Denis, vol. 1; France, second quarter of 14th century., Public Domain, Sourced from Flickr.