Similar to that of the NFL, a dynasty league holds an annual rookie draft that allows owners to select and develop talent on a roster. Typically, a rookie draft consists of five rounds. The order is usually determined by the previous season’s standings, with the worst records earning the highest picks in sequential order. Rookie draft picks can be traded for players or even higher draft picks, making their evaluation subjective in most cases. Still, those that are new to or simply want to learn more about dynasty leagues should understand the background behind a rookie draft, as the format differs from that of a redraft league.
Keep in mind, there is no set mathematical equation that can determine the future success of a rookie. The skill set, health and landing spot of an individual player all contribute to assessing their respective fantasy value. At the same time, a hit or a miss for a rookie draft pick can be quantified by statistical expectations. For instance, if a wide receiver is selected in the first round of a rookie dynasty draft in a twelve-team league, and finishes among the top-twelve in fantasy points scored at their position in that season, then it can be considered a successful pick. The same could be said for a running back that is drafted in the second round of a rookie draft, who manages to finish among the top twenty-four in fantasy points scored at their position.
Obviously, not all players will pan out or contribute as rookies in the NFL. At the same time, it does not mean that a player will fail to deliver on their rookie ADP in future seasons. As a result, it is crucial to remain patient in dynasty formats, as each rookie draft pick should be valued simultaneously for longevity and short-term impact.
The table compiled below contains data from five rookie mock drafts that were held in August 2016, and provides a visualization of an actual rookie draft. For more context, I also discuss a few notable rookie draft picks from recent seasons that have made a major impact in the fantasy landscape. The ADP found below assumes full-point PPR scoring and a ten-team league structure:
|First Round (ADP)||Second Round (ADP)||Third Round (ADP)||Fourth Round (ADP)||Fifth Round (ADP)|
|Ezekiel Elliott (1.1)||C.J. Prosise (11.6)||Tajae Sharpe (22.0)||Austin Hooper (30.6)||Demarcus Robinson (42.8)|
|Laquon Treadwell (2.8)||Leonte Carroo (11.8)||Rashard Higgins (22.2)||Tyler Higbee (31.2)||Daniel Braverman (43.2)|
|Corey Coleman (3.6)||Devontae Booker (14.2)||Jared Goff (22.4)||Josh Ferguson (31.8)||Ricardo Louis (43.2)|
|Josh Doctson (4.2)||Paul Perkins (14.4)||Kenyan Drake (23.4)||Alex Collins (33.6)||Charone Peake (43.6)|
|Sterling Shepard (5.6)||Jordan Howard (16.0)||Braxton Miller (23.6)||Keyarris Garrett (34.6)||Dwayne Washington (43.6)|
|Derrick Henry (6.6)||DeAndre Washington (17.8)||Wendell Smallwood (25.8)||Tyler Ervin (36.6)||Jordan Payton (45.2)|
|Kenneth Dixon (7.2)||Hunter Henry (18.2)||Keith Marshall (27.8)||Chris Moore (37.4)||Christian Hackenberg (46.0)|
|Michael Thomas (7.4)||Carson Wentz (20.2)||Mike Thomas (28.0)||Moritz Boehringer (40.2)||Kelvin Taylor (46.0)|
|Will Fuller (9.0)||Jonathan Williams (20.4)||Paxton Lynch (29.0)||Daniel Lasco (40.4)||Jerell Adams (46.6)|
|Tyler Boyd (9.8)||Malcolm Mitchell (21.0)||Pharoh Cooper (29.6)||Cardale Jones (40.8)||Peyton Barber (47.2)|
In 2016, two consensus first round picks finished as top-twelve options at their respective positions in PPR formats. That included Ezekiel Elliott (RB2) and Michael Thomas (WR7). Jordan Howard vastly outperformed his second round ADP, as he turned in a RB10 overall finish in PPR during his rookie season.
There were also a handful of players that failed to live up to their rookie draft price in 2016 like Laquon Treadwell (WR191), Corey Coleman (WR84) and Josh Doctson (WR173). All battled injuries during their rookie campaigns, which needs to be calculated into their long-term value. After all, it can take time for talent to acclimate to the NFL level from college. Hence, it is a good rule of thumb in dynasty to allow a player multiple seasons to return their rookie ADP before labeling them a bust.
As is often the case in rookie drafts, talented players end up on waiver wires in dynasty leagues. In 2016, those that invested a late pick in or acquired Tyreek Hill, Rob Kelley or Dak Prescott gained assets for next to no cost since each player went undrafted in a substantial amount of leagues.
In 2015, rookies such as Todd Gurley, Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon and DeVante Parker emerged onto the NFL scene. Each had a consensus ADP of the first round in rookie drafts.
David Johnson was an outlier in 2015, as his dynasty ADP often slid as far as the third round in rookie drafts. Johnson was also selected in the third round of the NFL Draft that season out of Northern Iowa. A player’s actual draft stock can be correlated to their dynasty ADP in some instances, but landing spot also serves as a primary value driver. Regardless, Johnson ranked as the RB8 in PPR scoring as a rookie. In a matter of two seasons, he now finds himself as an unquestioned first round talent in all fantasy formats.
In 2014, a stacked class of talent entered the NFL in Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks and Carlos Hyde. Each of these players were consensus first round selections in dynasty rookie drafts, in what was truly a loaded class at the wide receiver position.
Devonta Freeman and Kelvin Benjamin had a consistent ADP of the second round, while Donte Moncrief and Jarvis Landry were priced at a late-second or early-third round evaluations in 2014 dynasty rookie drafts. This proves that each and every rookie pick holds value, as third round talent has managed to return elite value over the past three seasons. It’s not common, but proves that investing in rookie picks while other owners write them off can be a worthwhile investment.
Clearly, the beginning rounds hold the most value in a dynasty rookie draft. First round draft picks should be treated as gold in such formats, as each will allow an owner to either select a possible elite talent or trade for a proven commodity. Second round talent is also ideal to collect, whereas the remaining rounds are often viewed as long-term stashes or lottery tickets for a roster. The value of a rookie pick can also depend on the depth of an incoming class, making it critical to conduct research on new rookies each and every year for a dynasty league.
It is also important to note that the value of each rookie pick tends to rise as the NFL Draft approaches each season. This presents a window to sell picks at a higher rate due to owners falling suspect to draft fever. The key is to stockpile as many rookie draft picks as possible during the fantasy season via trade, as it is then easier to sell them during the offseason if their value increases.
Of course, there are always players that can breakout in the later rounds of a rookie draft that prove to be formidable fantasy assets. Similar to preparing for a redraft league, the best way to become familiar with an incoming rookie class is to analyze ADP and research as much information as possible. In doing so, an owner can gain a competitive advantage over fellow league members come draft time.