The Dynasty Rookie Draft Manifesto & How to Not Screw It Up (Fantasy Football)
It’s that time folks. The NFL Draft is coming but perhaps more importantly, that rookie draft your dynasty league has on its calendar is approaching. Your 1.04 you acquired in a trade is going to have a face and a landing spot.
I recently wrote a couple of dynasty articles combing through every single pick over the last seven years and what fantasy managers might’ve been considering at the time. Here were some of the main takeaways:
Apart from the blunders and shame you might feel (hello Jalen Reagor), we have the benefit of hindsight analysis to say what we shoulda, coulda done. I want to give five helpful tips for dynasty managers to consider in terms of long-term strategy and how to approach rookie drafts.
Understand Positional Allocation
Depending on what spot you have in a dynasty draft, it’s valuable to see that RBs & WRs are going to box out everyone else. Everyone is going to have their opinions about whether Najee Harris or Javonte Williams is a more valuable piece. I won’t pound that drum any longer. We get it. I’m talking about how to move forward beyond the obvious.
When you get to the second round, the temptation is to continue to pound away at RB & WR just like you would in a normal draft. Over the seven years, here is how the four main positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) were allocated based on ADP:
|Position||% of Top-24 Picks||Avg Per Year||Most in a Year||Fewest in a Year|
|QB||10.7%||2.6||5 (2021)||0 (2016)|
|RB||39.9%||9.6||12 (2017)||6 (2021)|
|WR||41.7%||10.0||13 (2020)||8 (2018)|
|TE||7.7%||1.9||4 (2017)||0 (2020)|
As expected, 80+ percent of your drafts are taken up by these positions. On average, two QBs and two TEs are taken. That’s it. They often fall further than you think as fringe WRs and RBs with a glimpse of opportunity are taken over them. While immediate production is not a guarantee, longevity can be such a gift in the middle of the second or early third round. One of the beauties of trading in a dynasty is that you are forecasting over a much broader scope of time making the values of players much more ambiguous.
Situations Change, Draft Capital Doesn’t
Let’s keep talking about RBs and WRs because they are everyone’s favorite… to overdraft.
Opportunity is golden in fantasy football but the windows of opportunity are often much smaller than we realize. A WR with no one else on the depth chart or an RB who could emerge as the clear lead back both is tempting reasons to draft players. But their draft capital is not changing anytime soon.
Let’s stroll back to 2018 before social distancing was part of your lingo and before you had any idea how interested you might be in NFTs.
The Denver Broncos backfield was relatively empty with the previous starter C.J. Anderson cut before the NFL Draft. Devontae Booker was clearly not the preferred option by this regime and there were many rumors the Broncos would take an RB in the first two rounds. The need was clearly there and while the offense ranked 27th in points scored, Denver was bent on establishing the run with the eighth-most rushing attempts in the league. The opportunity was brimming and when they took Oregon do-it-all RB Royce Freeman in the early third round, fantasy Twitter went bananas.
The draft capital wasn’t a mark of approval but the landing spot was everything we wanted. Beyond being boosted to being the 1.02 in rookie drafts, Freeman’s hype (before ever taking a snap in the NFL) drove him all the way to being a late 3rd/early 4th round pick in redraft. Instead, a little-known UDFA named Phillip Lindsay stole the show and became an RB1 for fantasy that year. Yes, the opportunity was there. Yes, a rookie RB for the Broncos was going to take over. It just wasn’t the one we all thought would do it.
While this anecdotal evidence is more amusing (and maybe painful for those who drafted Royce), it leads us to my next big point…
Reaching On RBs Doesn’t Pay Off
Remember that RBs are an enigma in dynasty leagues. You need elite RBs but you also understand they don’t last forever. Take your shot in the 1st round on players that were taken in the first two rounds. Period.
Here was the rookie RBs drafted in the 3rd round or later of the NFL draft since 2015 and where managers took them in dynasty:
Some names you haven’t thought about in a while? Paul “Smash Jackson” Perkins anyone? Did you forget he was the 2.02?
Of the 35 RBs selected, here is how they worked out.
- 5 were RB1s in their 1st year (Antonio Gibson, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, David Johnson, & Jordan Howard) which sounds amazing to find. But this is the exception, not what we assume will happen with these picks.
- 12 were selected in the 1st round of rookie drafts including three inside the top-5. While we have the benefit of hindsight analysis, Darrell Henderson Jr., David Montgomery, and the aforementioned Royce Freeman all look like their opportunity was the shiny carrot dangled in front of fantasy managers.
- Anything beyond 3rd round draft capital is honestly less than a dart throw. You’ll see names like Jordan Howard and Jay Ajayi that might get you a bit excited. At the end of the day, these players might have a brief moment in the sun but they are not worth 2nd round draft capital. Save them for the 3rd or let someone else reach.
QBs Slide so Take Advantage
In 1 QB dynasty leagues, it is quite normal to see QBs slide in drafts. Looking at the data since 2015, here are the ADPs of QBs taken within the 1st 24 picks:
In 1QB leagues, it makes sense to let QBs slide a bit. But in the early-to-mid 2nd round, you can pounce on players that can be building blocks for the next decade for your dynasty team. Justin Herbert (2.08), Lamar Jackson (2.08), Patrick Mahomes (2.06), Deshaun Watson (3.02), and Josh Allen (3.06) are all in the conversation of being top-5 dynasty QBs.
Take the discount. Reap the benefits for years as the body count doubles and triples of fringe WRs everyone else thought had a sliver of a chance.
Trade Your 3rds
This sounds a bit dogmatic. Normally, I would like to give caveats where I claim that you can trade your thirds unless you hit on them.
As you inch closer to your rookie draft, your 3rd round pick gets more and more valuable solely on the merit of NFL Draft hype. But the hit rate of these players is downright abysmal, especially at the WR position. Here are the WRs taken in the third round of rookie drafts since 2015:
- 2015: Chris Conley, Justin Hardy, DeAndre Smelter, Ty Montgomery
- 2016: Tajae Sharpe, Jordan Payton, Stefon Diggs, Demarcus Robinson
- 2017: Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Isaiah Ford, Ardarius Stewart, Dede Westbrook
- 2018: Antonio Callaway, D.J. Chark, Tre’Quan Smith, Equanimeous St. Brown, Keke Coutee, Daesean Hamilton
- 2019: Hakeem Butler, Diontae Johnson, Riley Ridley, Terry McLaurin, Jalen Hurd, Kelvin Harmon
- 2020: Chase Claypool, Devin Duvernay, Van Jefferson
- 2021: Nico Collins, D’Wayne Eskridge, Seth Williams, Tutu Atwell
I highlighted the standout names which at first glance, can be a vote for taking the opposite action. But six WRs in this group would be deemed “direct hits” in a rookie dynasty draft. That’s six out of the 32 I listed here is an 18.8 percent hit rate. Yikes. Some of these names faded so fast from a dynasty roster that you would’ve done yourself a better service by emptying out the spot at the beginning of the year rather than waiting.