A Complete Guide to Rebuilding in Dynasty Fantasy Football
III. Know Your League/Leaguemates
IV. Age Limitations
V. Positional Strategy
VI. Projectable Future Talent
VII. Trading Away Players
VIII. Trading For Picks
IX. Waiver Wire
X. The Draft
XI. Create Your Game Plan (Outline)
XII. Transitioning Out of a Rebuild
It’s not easy being a bottom feeder in your dynasty fantasy football league, especially in a money league. You’re losing cash, getting beaten around, and typically not having as much fun during the football season as the contenders in your league. However, there’s always a game plan no matter your current situation. At the lowest of lows, this game plan is called “a rebuild”. Like the NFL, there’s a lot of strategies that go into this game plan but when done successfully, you can be on top in only a few seasons and make back all that money you watched go down the drain.
Overall, rebuilding is about making a series of positive decisions in many different fashions and getting some luck along the way.
When your team’s in a dire situation, you will need to be patient and willing to “throw away” 2-3 years to build a lasting foundation for your dynasty squad. The main concept is to create a winning window and build a strong, young core that gives you plenty of chances to win. Then, insulate that core at a later point, either with veterans or a constant stream of blue chip prospects to give you lasting success.
One of my most important pieces of advice: don't rush it. Don't trick yourself into thinking you can compete sooner than you are, or you'll end up back where you started. Take time and enjoy the process of it, it's a completely different element of fantasy football. If you’ve never experienced it before I promise it can be a lot of fun watching your team grow.
To expand on that point, don’t feel like your rebuild has to start right away or be “finished” (as in having a bunch of future draft picks) as soon as possible. Rushing into a rebuild will seem obvious and you’ll get lowballed. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until the draft or start of the season to start making the plans you’ve set.
Oh and of course be mentally prepared to suck more than you’ve ever experienced before in the first year of your rebuild.
III. KNOW YOUR LEAGUE/LEAGUEMATES
When you decide to enter a full on rebuild, don't let your league know just yet. As soon as people know you're rebuilding they can really squeeze the value there. You can make it too obvious just by sending a bunch of trades or spamming players on your trade block.
Before sending any trades, evaluate all the other teams' rosters. Knowing the positional needs of every team is extremely useful for deciding which trades could be the most beneficial to you.
It definitely helps to know your league mate and what their tendencies and needs are. Understand the dynamics of your league and how they value positions and players/picks. Some owners are really stingy on trading future picks, some do so really willingly. Know who is what type of owner and don't be afraid to strike up conversations on where they might see their team relative to being a contender or not. Figure out who you can get the best value from for different players and draft stock.
IV. AGE LIMITATIONS
The typical age limitation to focus on when starting a rebuild is don’t buy RBs over 23 or WRs over 26. The inverse of those ages are who to sell.
Obviously this has many exceptions (i.e. how long you expect the rebuild to take) but use these numbers as a starting point for your plan.
Other than that all I’ll say is to constantly have the age of players in mind, as is necessary for all dynasty sports. If you don’t see a player being able to produce the same or better at their age in a few years, ship them off.
V. POSITIONAL STRATEGY
Get your RBs last, since they have the shortest shelf life. A good order to target positions is QB → TE → WR → RB.
With that said, don't be afraid to take a RB that can be flipped for a younger piece at a TE or WR position. No matter the time or position, if there’s a great deal on the table, take it.
VI. PROJECTABLE FUTURE TALENT (Buy-lows)
An absolute must for a rebuilding squad is to constantly add buy-low players. These are guys who aren’t currently putting up great numbers and may be seen as having little value because of their poor production. However, their situation or underlying statistics may show that they’re due for a statistical explosion in the coming years. These are the players you need to target in trades.
Currently, players like AJ Dillon and Alexander Mattison are perfect early in a rebuild; projectable talent in the future that won’t be winning you games this year and preventing you from a top draft spot.
Trade your late draft picks (3rd round+) on high-upside, swing-for-the-fences players. They will likely end up not working out but who cares, you spent nothing of real worth. Even just one of these players breaking out for you will make all the trades worth it.
As you near the end of your rebuild, focus mainly on buy-low WRs (i.e. Chark, Ruggs, and Reagor). Players with obvious talent but haven’t yet put up the numbers that most owners expected of them.
VII. TRADING AWAY PLAYERS
Trading away your players is the first and arguably most important step throughout the rebuilding process.
When rebuilding, decentralize talent. If you have one or two studs, they won't go very far in helping you win and usually will be past their peak by the time you're ready to contend. Trade them for several pieces that you can use to build a competent roster; pieces that have room to improve in value. Give yourself a lot of chances to strike gold by trading your great players for several good players who may become great.
The strategy part of this comes with who you're acquiring. The most skilled owners are acquiring ascending players and then flipping them for more value (Calvin Ridley was a popular example of this in 2020).
If you have good RBs now (Dalvin Cook, Kamara) sell them for as many young pieces and high draft picks as you can. I will say again and again that running backs don’t last as long as other positions and holding on to them at the beginning of a rebuild will only hurt your team.
Sell players that can help contenders but aren’t going to gain value either because of the role they play or age. This can be the most valuable at the trade deadline in mid-season as teams in the playoff hunt want to add any producing players they can.
Sell overhyped youth prospects, which will garner multiple pieces or picks.
Sell all players (especially RBs) who are going for peak value, no matter the age. If they have nowhere to go but down, sell them for picks or young QBs, WRs, or TEs. Right now you want to tank responsibly and good RBs are not going to help you do that. Only hold RBs who you think will still rise in value. A good current example of this is David Montgomery, who finished as the RB4 in 2020.
VIII. TRADING FOR PICKS
A strong rebuild revolves heavily around acquiring draft picks. Getting a load of picks and hitting on many of them is vital for growing a team from the bottom.
My first piece of advice about acquiring picks is to NOT chase late picks. You want first rounders, seconds at worst. If you’re starting your rebuild now (in 2021), aim mainly for 2023 firsts.
Always keep in mind that most players decrease their perceived value of draft picks the further in the future they are. Knowing that a rebuild will take 2-3 years, aiming for your leaguemates picks in 2-3 years could prove to be extraordinarily advantageous.
One of the biggest reasons you want picks is because their value will go up over time. Start selling players once the season starts while everyone else thinks they're a competitor. They'll devalue future picks and be willing to part with them. One key here: you want to accrue picks but you don't want to actually make every single one of them. When it comes time to your next offseason and before your draft, those picks will be at their peak value and you can flip some of them for strong player prospects.
One way to bring up your lower round picks is by trading low end players that aren’t of value to you while throwing in a pick (say, a 3rd rounder) and then getting back their 2nd or 1st (depending on the player you’re sending). Your trade partner may see that as moving back a miniscule amount of spots and, if you can do a few of those deals a year, you will move up significantly.
As I mentioned before, the closer you get to draft day, the more picks will cost. Get as many firsts and seconds as you can. If acquired far enough in advance, you could possibly get back double the value you sent for them.
IX. WAIVER WIRE
Scour the waiver wire and churn the bottom of your roster with waiver pickups. Quickly grab the players on an unexpected tear that you know isn’t sustainable and immediately flip them for future assets before their production takes a dive. Avoid convincing yourself that they’re going to continue to produce, it’s far too great a risk.
Examples of these kinds of players recently are Travis Fulgham and Demarcus Robinson.
X. THE DRAFT
Don't draft RB's early in the rebuilding process unless a good one falls to you late, and even then you may only be drafting him as a trade piece later. During your first draft in your rebuilding stage, your team is not ready for starting running backs.
Focus on grabbing the top WR with your first pick and then snagging a talented QB or TE after. Establishing youth with a high ceiling is a necessity in the beginning stages of a rebuild.
XI. CREATE YOUR GAME PLAN
Below is a step by step strategy that you should use and personalize to your unique situation. Follow the guidelines and figure out everything you need to do in order to have a successful rebuild. Fully commit to it, do NOT skip out on any step or you could be stuck in a stage of below-average for longer than necessary.
Use the rest of this guide to answer any questions you have regarding the game plan strategy.
Step 1: Assess your league and determine when your window to compete will be. (2, 3 years?) Set up your own timeline to stick to.
Step 2: Assess other teams in your league and determine who is the most likely to decline in the next 1-3 years. These are your top targets to get future draft picks from in trades.
Step 3: Out of these selected teams, scan the owner’s positional needs and their trade tendencies. Find out who/what they over/under value and exploit it.
Step 4: Evaluate your squad and decide which players to keep for your future and which to sell.
Step 5: Begin selling your players. Gain future draft picks and young players who haven’t reached their potential value.
Step 6: Tank. You should have shipped off most, if not all, of your current high-production players, leaving you as the worst team in the league and able to garner the top spot in next year’s draft.
Step 7: Use players' mid-season situations to your advantage. Grab guys off the waivers and sell them, or buy injured players from contenders.
Step 8: As you near the draft, trade some picks as their value peaks and acquire some young players that have a solid chance of improving your starting roster.
Step 9: The draft. Get your QB/TE of the future or a couple stud WRs. Next, snag some high potential players in the later rounds. Wait to grab a stud RB until your rebuild is nearing its end.
Repeat this process and adjust depending on your team’s outlook.
Commit to the game plan you set up for yourself, know your projected timeline from day 1 and stick to it as best as you can.
Actively search for deals with your leaguemates and do your research throughout the year. You will be on top of your league in no time.
XII. TRANSITIONING OUT OF A REBUILD
As you transition out of the rebuild, start by acquiring high-end talent when it is the cheapest - in the rookie draft. This is when you should be trying to snag the top RB prospect for your future.
Then, when contending, try to centralize talent. Use the value/investments that have grown, provided you rebuilt well, and turn them into A-level talent that will help you win.