You finally committed to a Devy startup, it's about time! Welcome to what will soon be one of your favorite leagues to manage. If you're thinking, "What the heck do I do now?", then keep reading. If not, keep reading anyway, the article isn't that long and you're probably at home and going bored out of your mind. The startup drafts for your devy league are crucial to your short and long term success. There are two basic strategies to consider, either win now or build a team that can be successful long-term. I'll break down the best way to go with each and then wrap up with my recommendation. Spoiler alert, this is devy. If you aren't thinking long-term, you may want to rethink your strategy.
Veteran draft: Focus on players who are in their prime, regardless of age. You'll want tier-one running backs (Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, or Ezekiel Elliott). These running backs can carry your team to a title, like Todd Gurley in 2017 and McCaffrey in 2019. Remember they'll typically lose their value quickly, so you should be willing to trade them at their peak if your team doesn't turn out to be as good as planned. If you're in a Superflex league, you can't fade quarterback. 2019 was an anomaly in regards to the number of starting quarterbacks who got injured. Betting on that to happen again is like betting on my Vikings to win a Super Bowl.
Winning now means you can find value with older veterans who will still be good for a couple seasons. You'll find production with grandpas like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and maybe even Ben Roethlisberger assuming he doesn't eat himself out of the league. The way I'm eating during this period of social distancing, I can only imagine how much weight Bigger Ben is gaining. Older guys at other positions include running backs like Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry. Both can be a RB1 for a couple more years, and if paired with an aforementioned tier-one running back, you'll be in good shape.
For pass-catchers, guys like Julio Jones, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz will produce better or equal to their draft capital for at least two more seasons. If you focused on top running backs and at least one top quarterback early, you're looking at receivers and tight ends later. There's a lot of value in the mid-tiers at wide receiver. so focus on guys like Tyler Boyd, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Robert Woods, Tyler Lockett, and Adam Thielen. Now that Stefon Diggs is in Buffalo, Thielen is the clear alpha receiver for one of the most accurate passers in the NFL and is going to be a stud for the next two seasons. Don't worry if you faded tight end, as there are a ton of guys in the middle tiers you can grab and you should get two. Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, Mike Gesicki, Jared Cook, Hunter Henry, Dallas Goedert, and Tyler Higbee will all be there in rounds six through nine. Grab one of them and then get a guy whose value will increase quickly, like Irv Smith, O.J. Howard, or Hayden Hurst. All three are set for breakout 2020 seasons as a result of offseason moves.
If your rookie draft is separate, you'll want to focus on players who have the best chance to make an immediate impact. This means running backs and quarterbacks in obvious starting roles. Regardless of strategy, there are two rules to rookie drafts. The first rule is that draft capital matters. They get the most opportunity to succeed and that makes all the difference. Rule number two is to first learn rule number one. In your devy draft, taking players who are NFL eligible as soon as possible is as close as you can get to a "win now" devy strategy. You could also use your devy draft capital to trade up in the veteran and rookie drafts to get your guy if you really want to go all in. Keep in mind going all-in doesn’t equate to winning titles. That’s the lesson Matt Damon learned in Rounders when Teddy KGB had pocket aces. He lost his bankroll, the fantasy equivalent to going into rebuild mode after one or two seasons.
Veteran draft: If you focus on players you think will increase in value, you'll set yourself up for long-term success. Young quarterbacks and wide receivers will set you up for years because they hold value longer. You can always trade for a running back later or focus on running backs in the rookie and devy drafts. Quarterbacks are crucial in Superflex leagues, so don't fade them or you'll regret it. Those who will retain or increase in value are Pat Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Daniel Jones, and Drew Lock. Try to get two from that list. Don't worry about Houston trading away DeAndre Hopkins; Watson is still the QB3 despite having an idiot for a head coach. He's 24, he'll be putting up top-five quarterback numbers long after Bill O'Brien has been put out of our misery.
Of the top 30 in Dynasty Happy Hour wide receiver rankings, only Julio, Thielen, and T.Y. Hilton are currently older than 27. If your first four picks are two wide receivers and two quarterbacks you'll be in great shape. Don't panic about running backs, you'll get them later. Remember the long list of tight ends that will be available after round five?. How would you feel if your draft started something similar to Watson, Chris Godwin, Courtland Sutton, Daniel Jones, and Allen Robinson? You'd be off to a great start and would still be able to get a tier two tight end in the next four rounds. I know what you're thinking, what about running backs? If you need to grab a good running back early, go ahead and insert a young runner like Nick Chubb or Joe Mixon instead of Godwin if it makes you sleep better at night.
The rookie and devy drafts are where you should focus on running backs, especially in 2020 when the rookie class is as deep as it has been in years. I love drafting rookie running backs and devy running backs because they are far more likely to produce quickly for your team, especially those taken on day one or day two of the NFL draft. You've already learned that draft capital matters, it's the reason guys who don't produce continue to get chances. Ronald Jones is a great example. Unless you're in a deep devy league, continue to target players who have already had breakout seasons in college. They're most likely to retain or increase their value and get drafted early in the NFL. My final thought is to fade tight ends in devy drafts because they typically take years to produce in the NFL. If you grabbed a couple of guys in your veteran draft like you should have, you can focus on the other positions that will provide production faster.
In case you haven't deduced by now, I'm a fan of thinking long-term in devy leagues. quarterbacks and wide receivers hold their value the longest once they've hit so I make sure those positions are the strength of my team. Grab a couple of solid, young tight ends who are likely to hit and contribute for years and you won't need to worry about that position for a long time, then hammer those running backs in rookie and devy drafts. Look for opportunities to trade down a few spots in drafts if you can stock up on extra devy picks. Devy picks are harder to predict for obvious reasons, the more picks you have, the greater your odds of hitting on a player.