By: Jonathan Margulis (Twitter: @jon_margulis)

2017 Dynasty Startup Draft

It’s a hot summer day in 2014 and me and a couple of my buddies were up in the Adirondacks in upstate New York on a four-day backpacking trip. One of the guys there, is what I like to call my fantasy football wife. (Or that’s how my real wife sees it) He and I were discussing our newly formed dynasty league. This was our first venture into this form of fantasy football, and so we were discussing all the nuances of this type of game. Suffice it to say we were mere novices. We knew nothing, to paraphrase Game of Thrones. I still look back on to that hike for many reasons but I want you to know that we all have to start from somewhere. Even if it’s from the bottom. The other thing that you have to know about fantasy football is your strengths and your weaknesses.

Well since that summer day at Indian Falls in New York, dynasty fantasy football has become my single favorite format for playing fantasy football. I love looking at a rookie’s college tape and ranking them. I love the fact that offseason hype leads to offseason pickups. I love offseason trading. I love the rookie draft. I love the fact that it makes football all season long. You have to think about the now and the future. It’s the most all-encompassing form of fantasy football out there.

So now you know why we are looking at a dynasty startup draft. It’s because somehow the amount of leagues I’m in every offseason grows higher and higher. This offseason I landed myself in a 12 team, 32 round, dynasty draft. Here are the unique features of this league and then we will get into every pick I made.

League Roster:
1 QB
2 RB
1 TE
1 RB/WR Flex
3 RB/WR/TE Flex
1 DP (Defensive Player)
1 D/ST
1 Head Coach
18 Bench

Ok so let’s begin. This league had an awesome draft set up. Rounds 1-16 you draft. After round 16, 17-32 you get a new random draft spot. This draft was a deep dive into every player imaginable. By far the deepest league I have ever been in. I was drafting for the first 16 rounds from the 11th spot.

1.11 – Michael Thomas, WR
The first few picks went as you would imagine, with David Johnson going first overall, Le’Veon Bell went second and Odell Beckham Jr. went third. By the time that we got around to my pick, we had hit a 6 pick run of wide receivers. The biggest surprises there were Amari cooper going 1.09 and DeAndre Hopkins going 1.10. I think it was that Hopkins pick that saved me. I still like to take an elite WR to build my team around, but I know I wasn’t getting one of the top guys coming into the 11th pick. I had a hard decision to make. Take a young stud like Melvin Gordon or take yet another WR off the board. Ultimately I took my chances at finding RBs later in the draft knowing the volatility in the position. So Michael Thomas it was. A stud last year as Drew Brees’ #2 option, he is young and getting the ball thrown by one of the most prolific passers of all time. I like him going forward as a stud WR1 as the number one option in a potent Saints offense.

2.02 – Devonta Freeman, RB

The turn was dicey for me. I was wondering if the guy a 1.12 and 2.01 would go two RBs or be even with a WR and an RB. Thankfully it was the latter, but I knew there was no way Gordon would fall to me. I had resigned to that fact with my last pick. But thankfully Devonta Freeman was still a young guy on the board. He just signed a new contract with the Falcons and he is the only back to put up 1,000 yard seasons over the last two years. I still think he is the most explosive player on that offense and his floor is still high even with a Matt Ryan regression. I’ll take this back who is one of the top backs who can both run and catch the ball.

3.11 – Demaryius Thomas, WR
As you enter the 3rd round on, this is where you make or break your team. The first rookie, Leonard Fournette got taken. I had started a 6 pick run of RBs. That was followed shortly by Joe Mixon at 2.09 and Christian McCaffrey at 3.02. Aaron Rodgers got taken at 3.01 and Jordy followed suit at 3.03. As my pick approach, I was nervous my guy wouldn’t come to me but he did. Demaryius Thomas was the guy I want in all formats at the end of the third round. This is a guy who epitomizes consistency. Since 2011 Thomas has not missed a single game and has never thrown for less than 1,083 yards in that time frame. A massive possession receiver who is still under 30 is just the experience I needed at WR to accompany the other Thomas.

4.02 – Corey Davis, WR
Like I said, if I know one thing well in dynasty, it’s rookies. At this point I wanted in on the top rookies, and I wanted the top WR prospect. He is 6’3” and 209 lbs. He is a physical specimen. If you have not watched his college tape, you should. We haven’t seen an NFL ready WR like this since the famed 2014 draft class. Davis will be a touchdown juggernaut who was a four-year starter out of Western Michigan. He was a model of production and consistency in college. His route running and ball skills are second to none in this class and his competitiveness and production in the red-zone that should make him top WR in years to come. This was a no brainer. If he produces this year great, if not, then I am set on a stud for the next several years. Don’t forget, Mariota has the best efficiency rating in the red zone over the last two years.

5.11 – Carlos Hyde, RB
Ecstatic isn’t quite enough to describe how I felt about getting Hyde late in the 5th round. This draft occurred over several weeks and this pick came in the middle of the Hyde Hate Train that rolled on through in July. I was not buying a ticket. I believe in his talent and abilities. I did not buy any of the noise surrounding Joe Williams taking over. I also happen to love Kyle Shanahan and what he has done to RBs where ever he has gone. So I know Hyde will outperform his 5th round value that I got here. He is still young, only going into his 4th season and in that time he has gotten only better. His yards per carry have only gone up from 4.01 YPC to 4.5 YPC in the last three years and he has the vision and the speed to work well in a Shanahan zone running scheme. This was a no brainer especially since I needed another running back at this point.

6.02 – DeVante Parker, WR
At this point people were starting to trade picks left and right. I felt that I needed to stay the course. I had a great team so far and didn’t need to reach for anyone in particular. I was trusting my knowledge and my rankings. As the 5|6 turn went by, I really thought about who I needed here. I had my starting RBs, but I felt uncomfortable with having Davis as my WR3. So I looked for a young guy who could really break out this season and be a high ceiling play. That guy was DeVante Parker. That hype train has been going each offseason since he came into the league. To this point he has yet to break out. Being prior to the Tannehill injury and the signing of Jay Cutler I thought this year would be the year he may actually pull it together. He has said he wasn’t putting in the effort before but now he was all in and more in sync with the offense. The possibility of the explosive WR3 was what I needed. Having guys like Edelman, Snead, and Crowder already gone, this guy was an easy choice at this pick.

7.11 – Josh Doctson, WR
By round 7 we have seen the meat of the draft, the juicy picks go already. In the rest of the sixth and seventh rounds, players like Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, John Brown, Jeremy Maclin, CJ Anderson, Hunter Henry had all gone. As it came back to me in the seventh, I thought about roster construction versus best available player. Josh Doctson somehow magically fell to me. This is a prospect that was injured in 2016. From a metrics standpoint, he is not so dissimilar from Corey Davis. 6’2” and 202 lbs., Doctson was a physical monster all over the field in TCU. He has an ability to go up and get the ball in the air. If he could be healthy he can be a rare talent. I like him going into this year. If he can be healthy and grow his connection with Kirk Cousins.

8.02 – Duke Johnson Jr., RB
The turn didn’t help with my need for RBs. Spencer Ware and Mike Gillislee both went and the potential pool startable RBs were slimming down. Here I looked at the league settings and the scoring and seeing as this was a PPR league, an RB who is being used as a WR could be a great play in the flex. At this point I had to pull the trigger on a Brown. With an improved offensive line and a struggling QB situation that will necessitate a check down back, Johnson fits the bill. He had 73 carries for 358 yards and on top of that 53 receptions for 514 yards. If they can get him more involved in red zone work and bring up his touchdown total, Johnson could be a sneaky good PPR play.

9.11 – Marcus Mariota, QB
Over the course of the next two rounds many TEs and a variety of RBs and WRs went, including, Kelvin Benjamin, Eric Decker, Mark Ingram and Jimmy Graham. I at this point had decided I was going to push off (punt) the TE position till a later pick, knowing there are great late round rookie TE steals I could build my team with. So I looked to another position I had yet to pick, the QB. On the board were still some big names like Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Here I looked at age and future opportunity. With Jameis Winston gone, I found my pick in Marcus Mariota. He is one of the best young players that has an organization that is building a true elite team around him. Besides drafting star RB Derrick Henry last season, they vastly improved their passing attack. Now if you ask my “football wife” about my love for Rishard Matthews he will laugh saying he is my guy. However, they added Corey Davis, Eric Decker, and Tywon Taylor to a great set of returning veterans in DeMarco Murray, Delanie Walker, and more. In the 9th round I’ll take the most efficient passer in the red zone, with best red zone receiver, please and thank you.

11.11, 11.12, 12.01, 12.02 – Coby Fleener, TE; Rishard Matthews, WR; Gerald Everett, TE; T.J. Yeldon, RB
Ok the guy at the 12th pick offered to save me from choosing in the 10.02 spot and I got a great trade. I give up 10.02 & 14.02 for 11.12 & 12.01. I had 4 picks in a row. I was going to grab a ton of capital and youth here.

It was time to take a TE. I took a player who I felt underperformed last season, on a new team, and had a hard season. Coby Fleener, now with a year under his belt in New Orleans, I believe in the talent and I believe in how much Drew Brees loves to throw to TEs. I mean those 5,000 yards have to go somewhere right?

Did I mention that I love Rishard Matthews? I loved him in college. I loved him in Miami. I love Rishard Matthews. He quietly finished WR11 in STD leagues and WR19 in PPR. He finished just south of 1,000 yards and had 9 TDs. He had an avg. depth of target of 14.3 and was easily Mariota’s deep weapon. Let’s just say I am buying into the Titans offense.

When I said I love the depth at TE in this year’s draft class, my 12.01 pick is exactly that. Gerald Everett has the potential to be as good as or better than any of the top TEs like OJ Howard, or David Njoku. He is a physical monster on a team with a young QB who will need a TE who can do it all. He has blocking ability and receiving ability. He is the TE I am aiming for in rookie drafts this season.

My pick with Yeldon, has to do with my slight lack of faith in Fournette’s pass catching abilities. In LSU he was only asked to run. I know the offense will move through him but Yeldon was a highly touted draft pick and he is decent as a passing down back. I like his abilities in PPR and hope that Jacksonville uses him.

13.11 – Adrian Peterson, RB
I get that age and situation played a huge factor in AP dropping to me in the 13th round. Let me tell you my philosophy with startup drafts. Draft balanced, both for the future and for the present. I have learned this the hard way. Picking only young rookies and coming out the draft saying “I will be so good in 3-5 years!” will not work out. Not now, and not in 3 – 5 years. Peterson fits the bill of a player who is old, who has just a few years left maybe. But we are talking about one of the greatest running backs of all time. If he has anything left in the tank, why not take a chance in the 13th round and reap the benefits while you can.

15.11 – J.J. Watt, DE
I’m not going to lie, I was stumped coming around to this pick. I didn’t quite know which direction my pick to take. I had the possibility to start the defensive player selection off as we neared the end of the first section of picks. Remember we switch spots in round 17. So I looked at the single best IDP player over the last who knows how long. Watt is a physical freak and an exception to the rule. League scoring had ½ point per tackle and 2 points per sack. Watt gets a lot of both. And the Texans defense is poised to be amazing this season. I figured why not? And I just had to make sure to draft a younger guy later on in the draft as a backup.

16.02 – Pete Carroll, HC
As I had said before this league employed the ESPN option for head coach as a roster spot. Th rules are simple. +2 points for a win, +1 point for a tie, and -2 points for a loss. At this point my head coach pick of Bill Belichick was taken in the 15th round. And then so was my backup in Mike McCarthy. So I went with the other guy in the NFC, Pete Carroll, who could put up a 10 win season. This has to do with the fact that year in and year out over the last 4 years, the Seahawks win games.

At this point we switched picks and I got the 9th pick. Moving towards the middle helped in terms of time in between picks but didn’t change my strategy. In the late stages of the draft, roster construction doesn’t matter. The reasoning is that by round 16 you have taken anyone who could be a starter. After that you are playing the lottery on players who may break out, may be given a starting role due to injury, or they just bust out onto the scene some how. (Who was Tyreek Hill last offseason?) Here I was looking at age, situation, and potential. Young players who could provide some future pay off or be a great bye week flex, or even great trade value. The key this far in the draft is where your deep knowledge comes in. This is where the countless hours following beat reporters, offseason camps, and watching tape comes into play. The following is the list of players I selected rounds 17 to 32. I want to highlight a couple of these guys.

17.09 – Malcolm Mitchell, WR
This is a young guy on an explosive offense who saw quality playing time as a rookie, even in the Super Bowl.
18.04 – Elijah Hood, RB
19.09 – Carson Palmer, QB
I waited too long to pick up a backup QB. My reasoning was that Palmer is still good. I had Mariota already, and next year’s draft class is chalk full of QBs.
20.04 – Jonnu Smith, TE
Another great TE in a great TE draft class. I took as many of these guys as possible to see them develop.
21.09 – DeAngelo Yancey, WR
22.04 – Ricardo Louis, WR
Drafted based on evidence of a great camp and Corey Coleman missing time again this offseason. He is the sleeper in that offense.
23.09 – Robert Turbin, RB
This was a steel I felt this late in the draft. He has been vulturing Frank Gore’s TDs for a couple years now and Gore isn’t getting any younger. I like the offense, and I like Turbing as the goal line back.
24.04 – Erik Swoope, TE
Andrew Luck loves his TEs. Last season Jack Doyle was fantasy relevant even behind Dwayne Allen. Allen is now gone. I’ll take a flier on the second TE in Indianapolis.
25.09 – Chad Hansen, WR
26.04 – Alec Ogletree, LB
This was a surprise to me that he fell this low, but Alec Ogletree is a star defensive player and one of the top rated guys out there as a linebacker. It’s a great back up to JJ Watt.
27.09 – Bucky Hodges, TE
28.04 – New York Giants, D/ST
29.09 – Bruce Arians, HC
30.04 – Josh Dobbs, QB
31.09 – Jeremy Sprinkle, TE
Jordan Reed is always injured. Everyone else is not that good. Nice little pick up in the 31st round.
32.04 – Adam Humphries, WR

So that was my 2017 Dynasty draft. It was a wild one that took several weeks to complete. I loved every second about it. I woke up, worked, dreamt, and breathed this draft while it was going on. And that’s the way it should be. You should love every second about it. Heck, that’s why you have reached the end of this article and its 6th page.

If you come away with only to things from my draft, they should be, draft based on your own perceptions of players, find your own conclusions and don’t only use someone’s rankings as the end-all be-all of how you draft. The second thing is, take opportunities that are given to you and take chances. Dynasty is about the long game. But you can’t be successful later if you are not successful now.