This Productive Struggle Approach Is the Best Dynasty Draft Strategy Out There

This article will show you yet another take on the productive struggle draft strategy. Essentially, the productive struggle strategy is an attempt to draft for the best future value. This includes prioritizing drafting assets that have a high likelihood of maintaining or increasing their value, such as young players and draft picks. It is also important to fade assets that are likely to lose value, such as older players. Phrases and strategies that are often linked to the productive struggle startup draft strategy are: ‘punting year 1’, ‘drafting for value’, ‘tanking’, and even the ‘zero RB strategy.’

The problem with the productive struggle and other similar strategies is that they either never turn a team into a win-now team or they take too long. It is possible to spend years having the most valuable team and not have a top four finish. This is because managers are unable to transition from the mindset of having the most valuable team and having the best team.

9 Steps to Building a High-Value Team

The strategy outlined below will give you a step-by-step process for a dynasty league startup. I believe this to be the best dynasty startup strategy of 2023. This is a strategy that I have been able to successfully implement in new startups over the past 4 seasons.

  • Steps to Becoming a Perennial Champion by Year 2 to be Expanded upon in this Article:
  1. Choose a League
  2. Prepare for the Draft
  3. Observe how other Managers are Drafting
  4. Open up Talks with other Managers and Trade for Future Picks (Rounds 1-8)
  5. Draft High Upside Players (Rounds 9-the end of the draft)
  6. Look for Opportunities throughout the Season to Buy Players with the Picks you have Accrued
  7. Look for Opportunities at the Trade Deadline to Pick up Additional Future Picks
  8. Draft Low-Risk Players and Sell Draft Picks at the Rookie Draft
  9. Profit

Step 1: Choose a League

It is very important to choose a league that is conducive to both your startup draft strategy and to your mental health.

To implement the strategy outlined in this article, you should join a league that is planning to do a slow draft. This is because you will need time to negotiate trades during draft time.

I also recommend that you join a pay league, preferably 50 dollars per year or more, and a league that requires you to pay at least one year (or preferably two years) in advance. This is simply because pay leagues are less likely to fail in the first few years. When there is no money on the line, managers tend to make high risk/reward picks to build a win-now team, and if/when the team underperforms, they leave the league.

Ensure that other managers in your league plan on being active. You can do this by gauging their personalities in the group chat and asking questions to find out whether they have dynasty league experience. It is recommended that you play in leagues where most managers have experience. This is because this strategy requires a lot of trading and experienced managers tend to understand the value of trading.

Step 2: Prepare for the Draft

There are many tools available for free that you should be familiarizing yourself with before your draft:

  • Become acquainted with KTC is a crowd-sourced, up-to-date player valuation and ranking resource that can help you determine the dynasty community’s opinion of a player and their trade value.
  • Research dynasty rankings: Familiarize yourself with dynasty rankings from reputable sources. YouTube can be a great resource for this. Try to find an analyst that you trust. In case of TE premium rankings, this site offers resources for TE rankings relative to other positional players. A common mistake managers make is taking into account the change in value of tight ends in TE premium leagues. These are some resources to help you evaluate the TE position: 2.0 TE premium leagues, 1.5 TE premium leagues, TE rankings and tiers.
  • Do some mock drafts. Participate in mock drafts or dynasty startup draft simulations to practice your strategy. This can also help you to get a feel for how the draft might unfold. This will help you identify potential values and to practice what you will do in a variety of draft scenarios.

Step 3: Observe How Other Managers are Drafting

This is where things start to really speed up. I usually feel a sense of panic right from the first round, even in a slow draft. What you should be looking for here is signs that teams are trying to win now. You will not see many signs of this in the first round since most high-end young players are also great win-now pieces for your team. In the second round and maybe at the end of the first, you may see a team pick up a player like Christian McCaffrey, Stefon Diggs, Kelce (in TE premium), etc. This is a clear indication that a team wants to win in year 1.

Conversely, if mostly young players go in the first two rounds, it is a sign that a productive struggle strategy will not work well. In this case, the ADP you are using will likely be indicating that older players are being underdrafted. In this case, you should go ahead and draft these players and win the championship in year one.

Step 4: Open up Talks with Other Managers and Trade for Future Picks (Rounds 1-8)

If you have decided to “punt” year 1, it is time to start trading. I usually draft a QB in the first round and start trying to trade my picks from the second round. Until around the 5th round, you should be looking to get picks for the following year and more. I start off by putting in the group chat “is anyone interested in this next pick?” You are likely to get several offers. Take the best one if you think it is a good offer.

In order to decide whether an offer is good, go to to the trade calculator page. Check that it is on startup mode. For example, a good trade for my 2.06 might be their 2024 1st and their 6th round startup pick. Or my 2.06 for their 2024 1st and 2025 1st.

The trade calculator has both of these trades as slightly unfair to my benefit. Slightly unfair is what you should be looking to get. You have to endure a year of having a bad team, the risk of the league folding before you can turn your team around, and the work and risk it takes to rebuild a team. You deserve to be getting good value for your startup picks.

Step 5: Draft High Upside Players (Round 9 – the end of the draft)

A mid-second round pick is not that valuable and rarely turns into a high impact player in fantasy. Rather than trying to continue to accumulate draft capital, this is a good time to start drafting some players to fill out your roster. For me, this is usually around round 9. If you can get 3 or more of the players after round 9 to turn into a regular starter on your team, that will be a huge advantage moving forward.

Remember to try to pick players that have the highest chances of increasing or maintaining value until you enter win-now mode. Of course, you can not predict which players will maintain their value. However, you can often predict which players are likely to lose value over the course of the year. Do not draft these players unless you get them for a great value.

Step 6: Look for Opportunities throughout the Season to Buy Players with the Picks you have Accrued

About halfway through the dynasty season, you are going to have a good idea of the range of outcomes for the first-round picks that you are holding for the following year. If you have an opportunity, use these picks to buy players that have become available. In order to do this, you will have to consider team manager psychology.

You will see two types of managers emerge around halfway through the season: 1) the manager trying to go all in to win the championship this year. You may be able to get an injured Kyler Murray for Kirk Cousins and a first that you believe will be late. If you believe in Kyler Murray, this could be a great trade that helps both teams, and 2) the team trying to do a quick rebuild for the following season.

This kind of manager is starting to accumulate hype for college players that are soon to be drafted. They are likely, at this point in the season, to be overvaluing future firsts. Try sending a late projected first for a player that could help you win the following year. A first for Stefon Diggs or Saquon Barkley would be a great deal, even if you have to throw in a little bit extra to get the deal done.

Step 7: Look for Opportunities at the Trade Deadline to Pick up Additional Future Picks

The trade deadline can sometimes be an opportunity to trade players for picks or prospects. Take a look at the contending teams and see if there is any way that your players can help them. The players that you should be looking to trade are players that have a possibility to lose value over the offseason. Keep in mind, however, that you are aiming to compete the following year. For that reason, you should be looking to get good value in your trades.

Step 8: Draft Low-Risk Players and Sell Draft Picks at the Rookie Draft

When building/rebuilding, it is usually in your best interest to be risk averse. Save your risking fantasy moves for when you are going for a championship. For this reason, it is best to only draft players that have a very low bust possibility in relation to their fantasy rookie draft ADP. Your draft picks should have very few or no red flags on their profile. For this reason, I only really wanted to draft Bijan and Gibbs at their ADP this year. Of course, I was open to drafting other players if they fell lower than their ADP in rookie dynasty drafts.

The most risk averse thing you can do during rookie draft time is to trade away the picks that you have been holding, capitalizing on rookie hype, for players that have already hit. If you want Justin Jefferson on your team, this is the time to make an offer for Justin Jefferson. Rookie picks are usually very valuable during the rookie draft and this is also the time of year when veteran players are least valuable. Simply, you are looking for players here that will help you to contend the following year. Justin Jefferson is quite expensive. You should also be looking for older players that managers are getting ready to cash out on before their value plummets.

Step 9: Profit

You will now have a chance to sit back and see what you have created. If your team is doing well the following season, the trade deadline is a good time to evaluate your team’s chances of winning and to consider trading future picks to further round out your team. This is also around the time to decide what you will do with your winnings. Just finance more fantasy teams.

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