I joined Bleacher Report in May of this year as a unique provider of fantasy football information specifically tailored to dynasty leagues. In that time, I've posted over 120 columns featuring just that perspecitve.
I've been receiving numerous questions about dynasty leagues in general, so I thought it may be a good time to review or inform those whom are unaware of their existence.
What is a Dynasty League?
A dynasty style fantasy football league is a league where you retain most, or all of your players, from year to year. This creates an environment that is very different from a redraft league. By enabling team owners to keep players and build a team over time, there can be a much stronger sense of team ownership, and success is achieved with a greater sense of satisfaction.
Mistakes or successes in a dynasty league can affect the fortunes of a franchise for years to come, just like in the NFL. A dynasty league also facilitates trades, including trading of rookie draft picks, and it encourages a deeper roster pool, so young 'project' players can be identified and groomed.
What's the difference between a Dynasty League and a Keeper League?
A keeper league is similar to a dynasty league, but involves keeping a smaller portion of your players. Basically, a keeper league allows for a few players to be retained. A dynasty league allows for most or all players to be retained.
If all this interests you and you are ready to give a dynasty league a try, you have several options available to you:
1. You can join a start-up or existing dynasty league. You're better off getting in on the ground floor of a dynasty league, as the initial draft in a dynasty or deep keeper league is critical to the future direction of a team. If you don't know anyone starting a league, and you have an opportunity to take over an existing team, then go for it. Just be aware that turning around a struggling dynasty franchise can often take several seasons.
2. If you don't have access to a new or existing league, then you can start your own dynasty league. Don't be intimidated if you've never played in a dynasty or keeper league before.
There are numerous outlets to find information. The DLF Forum is a terrific resource for finding a league in need of a player, or joining a start-up league, but that's just one of many resources out there.
Creating Your Own Dynasty League
Starting a dynasty league is much like any other league. Some decisions must be made regarding rules and format, and an initial draft is held with all of the available NFL players, just like a regular fantasy league. There are some things to think about which are specifically relevant to creating a dynasty or keeper league, though.
Rosters and Keepers
The most fundamental decision regarding a dynasty or keeper league is determining the size and starting position requirements for each team, and how many players a team can retain from season to season. While the numbers will vary depending upon league size, position starting requirements, and personal preference, a good starting point for your first dynasty league would be something like this;
12-team league: three divisions, 30 player rosters, fairly standard starting positions (1QB, 1HB, 2WR, 2OffFlex, 1TE, 1K, 3IDP), team may keep all players, annual rookie/free agent draft.
The basic idea is to allow each owner to keep most, if not all players. on their roster from season to season if they wish.
If this seems like too much of a commitment for your first dynasty league, then you could slide the number of keepers back down the spectrum a bit, more towards a keeper league, and let each team keep 50 to 75 percent of their roster. Just remember, the more players each team keeps from season to season, the greater the challenge and sense of ownership.
If you've never used Individual Defensive Players (IDP's) on your fantasy team before, I'd highly recommend you begin doing so. IDP's add a much greater degree of depth and interest to the game. Using a team defense, while not incompatible with a dynasty or keeper format, does somewhat go against the objective of creating a more challenging and dynamic league.
If you've never used IDP's before, you may want to start out with just a few starting positions on each team, maybe three to six per team. You could allow each team to start any three defensive players (defensive flex players), though this often leads to each team seeking out LB's. These guys tend to be very consistent tackle producers, and therefore offer more predictable production than other IDP positions.
Just remember, a dynasty or keeper league does not necessitate any type of defensive player requirement. Your league could use IDP's, team defenses, or no defense at all. If you're looking to move to a dynasty format to make your fantasy league more interesting and more challenging, then you should seriously consider using IDP's.
Just like with IDP's, a dynasty or keeper league neither requires nor excludes any specific system for handling free agents. If this is your first dynasty league and you have never used any system to manage free agent and waiver wire activity, then you will probably want to keep it simple and use a traditional method for handling free agency. Jumping into a dynasty format, especially with IDP's, will probably be enough of a change that you wouldn't want to introduce too many additional complications to your new league.
If you (and the rest of the league) are really up for the challenge, then you should consider using a blind bidding system for managing free agent acquisitions during the season. Basically, each team gets a certain number of dollars or points to spend each year during the regular season (100 or 1,000 are typical numbers).
During the free agent portion of the week, teams will bid on available free agents using the bidding dollars. Once all of a team's money is spent for the season, they cannot acquire any more free agents from the waiver wire. This system forces owners to be much more judicious in their free agent activities. Just be aware that not all league services support the use of a blind bidding system.
Use of a salary cap system for your league is entirely optional. If you've never run a dynasty or keeper league before and you are already feeling a little overwhelmed with this format, then you may want to hold off. If you're up for the challenge, or you're familiar with running a salary cap league, then by all means, go for it! Again, just be aware that not all league services support a salary cap system.
You'll want to clarify early on how future league drafts will be handled. Typically the subsequent drafts are rookie/free agents drafts which happen after the NFL draft is complete.
Teams can then select from the new rookies in the league, as well as from any free agents currently not rostered. Many leagues will lock down the waiver wire at the conclusion of the NFL regular season, so that by the time the draft rolls around, changes on teams will have created some opportunities for free agents who were not all that attractive just a few weeks before. Some leagues separate out the rookie draft and the free agents draft, handling them as two distinct events as well
Trading is, without question, one of the best parts of playing in a dynasty or keeper league. Trades rarely occur in a redraft league simply because there is little impetus to trade in-season. Both teams are looking to win this year, so it's a lot harder to structure a deal which benefits both sides.
In a dynasty league, it's a whole different story. Some teams are rebuilding or building for the future, and are willing to trade away an older veteran who may only have a couple seasons left in exchange for a promising young rookie, or to acquire a draft pick or two in next year's draft. Other teams are looking to win this season, and will give up some future potential in order to solidify their chances now.
As with any league, you may set your league bylaws to require all trades be approved by a commissioner, or you can just let the trades fall where they may with little or no intervention. Either way, a dynasty or heavy keeper league will stimulate far more trading activity than a redraft league and the entire league will benefit from the added strategy and fun.
One final note regarding trading draft picks. Most leagues allow for teams to trade away future draft picks. It would be wise to start out limiting how many seasons in the future draft picks may be traded. If you allow a team to trade away picks for the next three or four seasons, they could easily trade those picks away foolishly and dig themselves into a hole from which it could be extremely difficult to recover.
If their team tanks and they have no more draft picks for the next three years, they may very well lose hope and abandon the team. If that happens, getting someone to take over that team could be a real challenge. For this reason many leagues choose to limit trading of future draft picks to just the next season or two.
It can't be overstated how important it is to ensure the league is composed of coaches who are dedicated to the league for the long haul. Being a dynasty league, teams can sometimes find themselves in positions which may take several seasons to overcome. Owners must be committed to seeing their teams through the good times and bad.
Make sure the coaches in the league are as reliable as possible.
Selecting a League Host
Where you will play your league is one of the most important decisions you will make. There are many good options which will accommodate both dynasty and keeper leagues. You'll want to identify one which is affordable, meets all your league needs, has good service and up-time, and provides good support. A few I could recommend can be found on our links page.
Options, always more options - This is by no means a definitive list of all the league options which are available to you. Each league can be run a little bit differently, and can posses unique rules and guidelines. It's all up to you, the league commissioner, and the participants in the league as to how they want a league to operate. These rules are simply general guidelines and suggestions: run with it as you see fit!