Dynasty Rookie Drafts: Strategy & Tips to Consider

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On the most recent Fantasy Footballers Dynasty Podcast, we discussed dynasty rookie draft tips and strategy to help you get prepared.

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Here are the six tips we discussed on the podcast and how you can adjust your strategy each year for rookie drafts.

We Overvalue Immediate Opportunity versus Talent

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. Situations change but draft capital doesn’t. In my research, reaching on RBs doesn’t usually pay off. When you survey the list of the rookie RBs drafted in the 3rd round or later of the NFL draft and where managers took them in dynasty, it might cause you to rethink your life.

  • Of the 40 RBs selected since 2015 in dynasty rookie drafts, only five became RB1s in their 1st year. 
  • Yet, 13 of those RBs with that type of NFL draft capital (3rd round or worse) ended up as top-5 rookie picks!

If you want a follow-up on this subject, one of our writers Matt DiSorbo wrote an article: What Matters More for Rookies: Skill or Landing Spot? He wanted to take this idea a step further than just including draft capital. It’s hard to quantify “skill” or “landing spot” but in his methodology, he tries to get as close as possible using fantasy points as a metric. His findings for the two major positions were thus:

  • Skill and landing spot effects are equal and opposite for RBs
  • Skill is much more important for WRs.

2nd Round Rookie Picks Are Fool’s Gold

In dynasty rookie drafts, it feels incredible to be the manager in your league who found the diamond in the rough in round two, or heck, even round three! Don’t get me wrong, there are valuable dynasty assets that fall into the second-round rookie drafts (see below). The reality, however, is that the vast majority of rookie picks in the second round end up being worthless a year later with the hit rate sitting at around 30%.

I outlined below notable players who went in the second round of rookie drafts going back to 2018. For every hit, there are six or seven misses in this range. For every Christian Kirk or Amon-Ra, there’s a Preston Williams or a Dante Pettis ready to tank your dynasty squad.

Trade these picks for a player who’s flashed as a rookie, a proven aging veteran, or package them together to move up in your draft. Will you miss out on a hidden gem every now and then? Sure, but in a game of probability, the truth about these picks is that they’re not that helpful.

2022 – TBD

2021

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2020

2019

2018

Veterans Are More Valuable than Rookie Picks

Following up this previous point, Jason gave some interesting scenarios of Trade once the draft starts

Here were some of the veteran targets in dynasty in 1QB leagues:

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Strike While the Iron’s Hot

There’s more to being a good dynasty manager than just drafting the best players or making the best start/sit decisions. In dynasty fantasy football, average draft position (ADP) is an ever-changing market. Understanding that market, specifically when it comes to rookie picks is crucial to staying one step ahead of your league mates.

Timing is everything when it comes to rookie pick trade value. Right now, everyone wants 2023 first-round picks and over the next few weeks, their value will never be higher. We tend to see a cycle for these picks. In January, as soon as the NFL regular season ends, dynasty managers start to turn their attention to the incoming rookie class. Before you know it, the NFL Combine is here, we start to formulate dynasty rookie rankings and, it’s time for the NFL Draft.

Rookie fever hits and this class, yes this one has the guys we all want to be our next big stars. Skyy Moore is in KC – I gotta have him! Did you guys know San Francisco traded up for Trey Sermon?! He’s a sure-fire RB1 for years.

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Of course, those are two specific examples, but it happens every year. Dynasty rookie picks gain value from January to April. Using that knowledge, we can trade away rookie picks for max value in April (or whenever your league holds rookie draft). At the same time, forward-thinking dynasty managers can acquire future rookie picks for far cheaper a year early. No one is thinking about 2024 1st round picks right now. The price to acquire one in April of 2023 is much, much cheaper than it will be in March of 2024.

Probabilities & Positional Drafting

When you are drafting, don’t think about “I like this player,” or “I have this team need.” Think about “what is the probability or percentage that this player matters for Fantasy Football”? 

The first half of the first round should be 75% hit rate. The second half should be 50% hit rate. 2nd round is going to be not so great… like a 30% hit rate and your 3rd round picks will be mostly garbage at like 10% hit rate. 

In general, Jason allocates his rookie drafts in 1QB as follows:

  • RBs/WRs in Round 1 and 2
  • QBs / TEs in Round 3+ – Go HARD on UDFA after the draft

SuperFlex Lessons Learned

Are we good at taking QBs early in SuperFlex leagues? This was a question I genuinely didn’t know the answer to when I asked the question in a recent Superflex article.

  • Among these 24 QBs listed above, only five started every single game for their respective NFL franchises as a rookie. Since 2012, every 1st round rookie QB (except Jordan Love) has had at least one start in Year 1 and the average start time was Week 4.  
  • If we focus on Kenny Pickett (pick 20) or anyone else taken later in the 1st round, the start time was pushed back to Week 8 on average.  SIX games is the bar. Based upon the 29 1st-round QBs taken the NFL Draft since 2014, only ONE of them started fewer than six games as a rookie and ended up putting up a QB1 season: some guy named Patrick Mahomes.
  • There was a clear break from QBs averaging 17+ fantasy points per game as a rookie… and everyone else. I zeroed in on that figure to give you a relative top-12 QB benchmark. All of the QBs who put up that number in their rookie year maintained that number or improved upon it in Year 2... except Baker Mayfield. Among the 16 QBs who didn’t hit that mark, only five made the jump in Year 2 to that 17 fppg threshold.

That 50 percent hit rate of finding one QB1 season from 1st round QBs made me pause on giving straightforward “you should take a QB before the other positions in SuperFlex leagues”.

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