Dynasty Construction: Identifying Cornerstone Players

Even with wooden blocks early on in life, we learn building big begins with a sturdy base. A dynasty roster is no different, building around cornerstone players is crucial to longevity!

Regardless of whether your league is headed into year five or you are doing a new start-up, it is ESSENTIAL to identify cornerstone players. These guys can be a strong base or foundation for you to build on as you fill out the rest of your roster.

The mindset I want you to enter here is “who possesses elite talent AND should perform as such for the foreseeable future?” My number one piece of advice on this step: DO NOT consider RBs cornerstone players.

Running backs

Don’t get me wrong — I am not advocating that you go “Zero RB” as some analysts will advise. Running backs can — and should — be taken early on in a draft or traded for if you get them at a good value.

That being said, my main focus in analyzing a dynasty roster and a start-up draft is making sure there are a few guys who will stay valuable for a long time. Plain and simple, the running back position is not privy to that mindset.

Running backs are BY FAR the lowest average career length and are hard to predict longevity at the top for.

Short of Hall of Fame level — or close to it — you are likely getting a relatively short window of difference-maker seasons in most cases. Though the below data is dated, the premise remains the same — the decline for a running back comes QUICK!

If I am going to draft a running back — or two — early, it’s going to be a young RB on their rookie deal, staying away from that 26/27/28 age apex.

Wide Receivers

In the tweet above, you can see why elite wide receivers should ABSOLUTELY be considered cornerstones! We know they can score high — near the likes of running backs — but they do so for MUCH longer!

Should you find yourself rostering a wide receiver who can produce at a high level in their early 20’s, THAT my friend is a cornerstone player. Guys I am targeting right now as cornerstones at wide receiver:

  1. Ja’Marr Chase
  2. Justin Jefferson
  3. A.J. Brown
  4. D.K. Metcalf

These guys went out and produced WR1 numbers during their age 21/22/23 seasons!!!! That is bonkers, and to think they could produce seasons like this into their early 30s makes them MUST HAVE assets to build around.


Elite quarterbacks are the ABSOLUTE BEST cornerstones in dynasty superflex/2QB leagues. In 1QB leagues, many of the same points apply, however, the scarcity value is far less.

One major advantage to building around cornerstone QBs is they have the longest window for top fantasy seasons. They become a positional advantage for your team for what can be a very long period of time. You can see below pretty much any age QB can give you that QB1 season:

Given that long production window, they insulate their value very well. For instance, when an age 27/28 RB is approaching their cliff, an age-based discount becomes baked into their price. Whereas with QBs, a similarly-aged elite quarterback is still easily a first-round dynasty start-up pick.

Another huge value driver is due to positional scarcity — any given week there are only 32 starting QBs in the NFL. The average league has 12 players, and everyone needs to start two quarterbacks to truly be competitive. Then, if you also take into account bye weeks and injuries, there aren’t many options to replace with.

On top of scarcity, I don’t just want any QB. There are a ton of subpar QB performances week in and week out. So I narrow that list down, we must look for QBs who have week-winning potential. Then we need them around for a while so we need guys with a lot of career runway left, and ones who have seemingly high job security as an NFL starter.

This leaves us with a small chunk of guys who are worth locking down and building around. Currently, there are seven — maybe eight — quarterbacks in the NFL that I consider true cornerstones:

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Josh Allen
  3. Kyler Murray
  4. Justin Herbert
  5. Joe Burrow
  6. Lamar Jackson
  7. Dak Prescott
  8. Deshaun Watson*** (pending resolution of legal troubles)

When I am constructing a dynasty roster, I do everything in my power to roster at least one of these quarterbacks. My favorite rosters have TWO!

Tight Ends

In a TE premium league, I consider a tight end the second most important cornerstone. Regardless of TE premium or not, this position is SCARCE when it comes to true week-changing performance. Usually, the top five or so guys are head and shoulders above the rest

If you have one of the game-changers, you have an almost guaranteed weekly positional advantage in your head-to-head matchup. HOWEVER, that goes both ways. If you do not have one of these folks, you will start each week against opponents at a positional disadvantage that is hard to hit on.

Right now, I see just three tight ends who have the talent/age combination to be cornerstones:

  1. Kyle Pitts
  2. Mark Andrews
  3. T.J. Hockenson

Kyle Pitts is the emphasis player here. I will be taking him in the first round of dynasty start-ups this off-season, he is THAT good!

Pitts’ rookie season was THE BEST EVER for a TE. In the last two wildly talented classes, he also outgained every rookie WR not named Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase.

YOU GET TO START HIM AS A TIGHT END! That can not be under-emphasized. Though he will be just 22 in October, Pitts is quickly approaching untouchable status even in single TE leagues. If you can get him, DO IT.



To put a bow on this, players who are young AND perform at an elite level are who you should be targeting to build your dynasty rosters around. Get yourself a handful of these guys and your dynasty roster is in the hunt year after year after year. That my friends, is what we are all trying to do, right? Build a dynasty.

Stay tuned for “Dynasty Construction Theory: Part Two – Setting a Timeline.”

Thank you for the read! You can read all of my articles on my IDP Guys author page. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @DynastyBison and follow @IDPGuys to keep up to date.

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