Folks, the 2023-2024 NFL season is right around the corner! If you are anything like me, you have been drafting in various league formats (e.g., best ball, dynasty startups and rookie drafts) ever since the 2022-2023 NFL season came to a close. While we are still in rookie draft season, I wanted to share my perspective on how I approached my most recent dynasty rookie draft.

Now, I was told that Ja’Marr Chase was totally off the table to trade. But, the power of the live draft and another manager’s positional needs made the impossible a reality. So, I landed the best wide receiver in all of dynasty fantasy football, Ja’Marr Chase, the Unicorn.

Setting the Stage: League Format & Roster Construction

For context, here are some league basics. The league is 12 teams, SuperFlex (SF), half-PPR, heavy, tight end (TE) premium (1.5 PPR), start 11, with a 40-man roster that includes five taxi spots and three injured reserve slots. There is no official starting tight end designation, but you can start up to four TEs in the flex spots. This allows you to lean into the premium scoring as much or as little as you choose. Our startup was last year, and I drafted a relatively competitive, productive struggle build.

My roster is super young and built around star quarterbacks (QBs) and wide receivers (WRs). With this foundation, I could kick the can into next year’s draft class, trade for proven players or take a more balanced approach. I entered the rookie draft with a very flexible mindset and had picks 1.06, 2.06, 3.06, 4.10, 4.12 and 5.06 at my disposal. My QBs consisted of Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Geno Smith. With my current roster construction, my initial targets for the 1.06 were Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Jahmyr Gibbs.

Let the Games Begin: Working the Phones

Drafting a QB is not really on my radar in this draft with my current trio of QBs; however, in a SF format, I am always open to upgrading at the most crucial position on my roster and begin the draft trying to put myself in a position to take advantage of falling values.

After Bijan Robison and Bryce Young are selected 1.01 and 1.02, I go to work sending offers to the guy with the 1.03 in hopes of drafting Anthony Richardson. Unfortunately, we are unable to get a deal done, but he trades the pick to another manager. Like any good dynasty diehard, I shift focus to the new owner of the 1.03 to broker a deal. He selects Richardson and claims he’ll “trade him to me later” and “[just] wanted to keep the draft moving.”

Boy, have I heard that one before? In my experience, I can attest that once that player’s name is on that roster, it is much harder to pry them from that manager. After failing to broker a trade with both of the owners of the 1.03, I have missed Richardson twice, and my tone for this draft is relatively disappointing thus far.

Persistence is Key

Alright, now I am fired up to make a deal happen, hoping I can swing deals for both the 1.04 and 1.05 so I can take both of my pre-draft targets (Gibbs and JSN) while not yet giving up on Richardson.

I began making calls to the owner of the 1.04 while still sending offers to the Richardson manager for him:

  1. I put Chris Olave in both offers for each manager.
  2. I offered Geno Smith and Olave for Richardson and Darren Waller, which was under much deliberation from the Richardson manager.
  3. About 30 minutes into negotiations, I got verbal approval to receive the 1.04 for Olave.

I circled back to the Richardson manager to let him know Olave was about to be sent. At this, my buddy responds, “Uuggghhh; I’m in.” Boom! Anthony Richardson is on the team, and I strengthened my TE position. Waller is a solid veteran pickup, and if he produces, the goal is to flip Waller in-season for some future draft capital or a younger asset. 

The Suspense Builds

Jahmyr Gibbs is selected at the 1.04. This pick surprises many people in this SF format and creates more of a buying window for the 1.05. C.J. Stroud is the prime candidate everyone is after in trades, but not for me. I have created a need at WR since sending Olave away. Securing Jaxon Smith-Njigba is my top priority, but I must trade up one spot to ensure it happens.

The draft is buzzing, and the Sleeper chat is going off with tagged owners and offers. Everyone is jockeying for positioning, and it is so entertaining! After a flurry of offers, I trade away my 1.06 and my 2.06 for the 1.05 and a 2024 3rd-round pick. At this point, I’ve been on Sleeper all day, and I let the league know I am going to the gym for a bit. This break was intentional as I aimed to slow the draft down a bit, listen to offers, and take a break from the action—that restraint in not just selecting “my guy” right away when I was “OTC” paid off massively.

An Unexpected Blockbuster

A few offers came in, but I needed more to move me off of Smith-Njigba. One manager tossed out veteran wide receivers like Cooper Kupp and Terry McLaurin. “Too old for my build,” I replied. Instead, I suggested adding another first-round pick in 2024 on top of my 1.05 as a baseline offer for Ja’Marr Chase. As I suspected, I was immediately told Chase was off the table. Now, I know this guy needs a quarterback, and Stroud is his target. And I’m not one to give up so easily.

Understanding his roster needs gives me more leverage to work out a Chase package. Ten minutes later, he sent me a verbal proposal of giving the 2023 1.05, a 2024 1st and Kadarius Toney for Chase. Since I am thin at RB, I added a 2024 third-round pick and got Rashaad Penny thrown in. We accomplished the deal, and I acquired who I feel is the number one receiver in dynasty. Ja’Marr Chase is one of those unicorns that is not traded often, in my experience. I got such a young, elite player for two draft picks that need to hit, along with a relatively unproven player, which is a dynasty masterstroke.

Cruise Control

Now that I have pulled off two massive deals I coast and let the draft play out. I am eyeing my late-round picks and am not in love with what will be there that late. I want to package them all up and re-roll them into a higher round next year. So I sent 4.10, 4.12, and 5.06 for a 2024 third-round pick. Ultimately, my haul from this rookie draft is Anthony Richardson, Ja’Marr Chase, Rashaad Penny and a 2024 third-round pick. I had no idea my draft would have looked like this going into it.

Lessons Learned

It pays to stay flexible, open-minded, and plugged into the draft.

As I reflect back on the rookie draft, here are some other tips that helped me accomplish the deals I made that can help you as you navigate your upcoming rookie drafts:

  • First, know your league-mates’ rosters and team needs.
  • Understand how to leverage the live draft pick to your advantage: pinpoint who is the best asset available and be willing to sell to the highest bidder.
  • Be a good trade partner year-round, don’t send egregious offers. *Most important*
  • Don’t fish in “overfished” waters: if there is a team that has recently made a lot of trades, there’s a chance they are laying low. Or, if a team is thin at a certain position you specifically want to upgrade, it’s probably best to “fish” elsewhere. 
  • Know your build/process, and stick to it.
  • Do not trade to create a need unless you are confident you can address the need.

In the words of my friend BigCo from the FFDynasty podcast: “If you’re not trading in dynasty, you’re doing it wrong.” I confidently stand by my buddy’s sentiment as well.