By Matt Williamson | ESPN Insider
Although not as common as standard fantasy football leagues, dynasty leagues are as close to owning an NFL franchise as most fans will usually come. Dynasty leagues differ from standard leagues in that once a draft is held, owners have the option to keep all of their roster. The key, of course, is about maximizing positional value.
Each subsequent year, a draft is held consisting only of incoming rookies. Owners must decide whether the rookies have more value than the players on their team -- much like a real NFL franchise. Being a dynasty owner is a year-round project -- even when games aren't being played, player values rise and fall and there are plenty of roster additions and trades in the offseason.
In terms of strategy, I tend to be more conservative with my first couple of picks and get riskier as the rounds progress. Owners want to balance winning in the short term with having a team built for the long haul.
Below is my ranking of the top 50 dynasty players if your league is holding a draft before the 2013 NFL season (with standard fantasy scoring).
1. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Go back and look at some of the production of Norv Turner running backs. Maybe you recall some of the fantasy production that Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson provided not so long ago? Turner believes in feeding a lead back over and over and Richardson's supporting cast in Cleveland is improving. He is young and an elite talent who also catches the ball very well. If you recall, I believe he will be the top running back in both 2015 and 2016, so picking him No. 1 overall was very easy for me.
2. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
McCoy just turned 25 years old and hasn't even approached his prime yet. There are many, many carries to go around in Chip Kelly's new offense and while McCoy might share the load, volume as a runner and receiver will not be a problem. The Eagles could have a very good offensive line for years to come and few players optimize their touches like McCoy.
3. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Charles' carry numbers could decrease with Andy Reid now in charge of the Chiefs' offense, but his reception totals could skyrocket and his overall usage should be more effective. Injuries are a concern for him, but he has elite speed and averaged 5.3 yards a carry last season coming off his ACL tear.
4. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
I'm not totally sold that Spiller is equipped to handle a massive workload like Richardson or Doug Martin, but I am sold that he can do an awful lot with very little. This new Bills offense -- with a running threat at quarterback in EJ Manuel -- also should help him a great deal. And, like McCoy and Charles, Spiller is going to catch a lot of passes. He broke out in the second half of last season.
5. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Most believe this is too far down the list for Martin, and I can certainly respect that. But I view Martin as a high-end talent, not an elite one. He will have a big workload, including short-yardage work, as well as many catches. He is the foundation of Tampa Bay's offense. Drafting Martin very high in your dynasty startup is a safe move.
6. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Johnson is an epic talent who has lived up to his ridiculous hype and is in an extremely pass-heavy offense with a supremely talented quarterback force-feeding him the football. It is the perfect storm for an elite WR. And in dynasty, this is the safest pick you can make.
7. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
I have Bryant just edging out A.J. Green for the receiver spot right behind Megatron. That was a tough call, but I have been extremely impressed with what I've seen from Bryant so far in the 2013 preseason and the second half of 2012.Tony Romo throwing to him was instrumental in his high ranking.
8. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Green is a superstar and could very well be an all-time great wideout. I think he will be great for another 10 years. Do cartwheels if you have this guy on your dynasty squad and never consider trading him. It's really that simple with Green.
9. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Watch the tape of the Falcons' offense. Opposing defenses are already more afraid of Jones than they are Roddy White, who obviously is still a great player in his own right. Jones' physical tools are elite, so just wait until he really learns how to the play the position …
10. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
While there are a lot of mouths to feed in Denver, Peyton Manning is fully capable of feeding all them -- and Thomas will be the Broncos' biggest eater. This ultra-talented wideout is only getting better and should be an elite fantasy player for years to come.
11. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
Graham entered the league with very little football experience. He has come a long way in a short time and obviously is in ideal conditions for success. What's scary is that he's almost uncoverable, but he still is at the tip of the iceberg in terms what he is capable of.
12. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Morris has much more value in a standard scoring system than in PPR. I don't worry that Mike Shanahan will inexplicably start using a committee backfield and I believe Morris is here to stay, while also benefiting a great deal from having Robert Griffin III's great run threat with him in the backfield.
13. Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
The Patriots have a great running game, and it is all about Ridley. New England has an outstanding offense and runs a ton of plays, meaning touchdowns for Ridley. He's also a much better pure talent than many seem to realize.
14. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Gronk's injury history, especially his back and current situation, has to give owners some pause, but he is still a very young player and produces like no other tight end. I will roll the dice on him early for dynasty. If you take Gronkowski high in a dynasty draft, back him up with a young, talented upside tight end (there are many of those to choose from). However -- and this is not an exaggeration -- Gronkowski has a chance to go down as the greatest tight end the NFL has ever known. I will gamble on his greatness.
15. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers is the only quarterback I have in my top 20, which tells you how good I think he is. More so in dynasty compared to redraft, I value this position. Rodgers is the best football player on the planet and should be for years to come.
16. Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler loves Marshall for obvious reasons. He feeds him relentlessly, although I do expect Marshall's targets to decrease in Marc Trestman's offense. Still, Marshall produces week after week and year after year. His production also isn't extremely reliant on a physical skill set that will diminish over the next few seasons. He's a stud and isn't going away soon.
17. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Some view Peterson as the very best player in dynasty. He is special and coming off a historic season. And frankly, I don't want to doubt him. But he is too old for what I want to accomplish in a startup dynasty draft. I do, however, think we will soon stop comparing Peterson to greats of this generation and instead compare him to players such as Walter Payton and Jim Brown when our grandkids ask us about the best ever to play the position.
18. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Rice has logged a ton of touches over the past few seasons, so there is some concern about him wearing down. But he also consistently puts up big numbers season after season and is very durable.
19. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Like Rice, Foster could be hitting his career wall in the very near future. What will you be able to trade for him one year from now if he shows more signs of aging in 2013? He is, though, still a highly productive player in a run-first offense.
20. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch runs so hard and is a true feature back, but the question is how long he can keep it up. Christine Michael -- who I love for dynasty, by the way -- was drafted early for a reason and it could be Michael's job as soon as next year at this time. Lynch should have a great deal of value this season, but it could diminish with Michael and Robert Turbin in the backfield.