Rookie picks are assets for your dynasty team. Whether you trade them or use them for picks, it’s all about maximizing value. Reaching for a player in the rookie draft is one of the quickest ways to ensure their value isn’t realized. There are two basic debates when it comes to rookie drafting. In this article, we try to sort through those debates to ensure we get the most bang for our rookie pick buck.
Question One: Talent vs. Situation
We can all agree we want to draft talented players, that’s obvious. So the debate really comes down to how much weight do you (or should you) put on situation.
There’s a school of thought that you shouldn’t take situation in to account whatsoever. That’s extreme. By that logic you would have used a high draft pick on Toby Gerhart in 2010. He was drafted by the Vikings in the middle of the second round (about the same place Le’Veon Bell was selected). However, let’s be honest – we all knew Adrian Peterson was a stud and Gerhart wasn’t going to get playing time.
The risk we run by overweighting situation is missing out on the next AJ Green. I don’t recall anyone arguing that Green wasn’t an amazing talent. However, it was a common belief his situation was extremely bad (no other receiving threats to draw coverage, a mediocre rookie quarterback and a run first team/Head Coach). In theory, his situation was going to cap his potential and thus some owners elected to go another direction with the 1.01.
We are seeing situation dictate drafts significantly this year. For example, in the late April pre-draft DLF writer’s mock draft, Bell and Montee Ball were both second round picks. A few weeks later, they had vaulted up a full round with some arguing Ball is a contender for the 1.01. On the other hand, Johnathan Franklin fell nearly a round after being drafted behind Eddie Lacy.
Normally, I would make the case that our experts are overreacting. However, this is a strange draft class for dynasty. There wasn’t consensus about the pre-draft rankings in the first place. The only things generally agreed on were the facts this class was weak at the top, has a lot of similarly talented players and was fairly deep. Couple that with one of the studs (Lacy) having a previously undisclosed injury that dropped him down draft boards. There isn’t a transcendent player like Green in this class, so situation will naturally have more of an effect on the post-draft rankings.
Generally speaking, I think situation is being factored appropriately in most of the rankings I’ve seen. I have some issues with how early Bell (and to a lesser extend, Ball) is being taken. I don’t see Bell as anything more than a mediocre player and I’m concerned the Steelers still intend to sign Ahmad Bradshaw. If that happens, much of the benefit Bell is currently receiving from the situation will evaporate.
Question Two: Best Player Available vs. Team Need
Another difficult trade-off to balance is how much to factor your team needs in to your rookie draft selections. On this one, I’m more dogmatic. I’m going to lay out why under all circumstances I take the best player (BPA) rather than draft on team need.
Rather than rank players, I put my rookies into tiers both before and after the NFL Draft. My pre-draft tiers are based purely on talent, then I adjust them based on situation and anything new I learn from the draft. I then select players based on those tiers breaking ties based on my team needs. What I will not do is drop down a tier to select a specific position. For example, if all the players in my top tier are wide receivers, I’m taking one if a receiver from that tier is available. Period. End of story.
The number one reason not to draft on team need is you will leave value on the board for your opponents. Don’t let them get that stud talent simply because you let him pass you by drafting on need. This is a real example from my main league:
- I held the 1.02/1.05 in the 2011 draft
- I wanted AJ Green so much I probably lost sleep over it
- I finally broke down and contacted the owner of the 1.01 who I knew need running backs
- Before the NFL Draft, he refused to trade, but after the Bengals took Green my phone rang
- His offer: 1.01/CJ Spiller for my 1.02/1.05, but I had to promise to take Green (he wanted Mark Ingram)
- With the 1.05, he took Daniel Thomas
- The trade was AJ Green/CJ Spiller for Mark Ingram/Daniel Thomas
He drafted on team need, taking two running backs and overweighted situation with respect to Spiller, Green and Thomas. Now in fairness, this is a non-PPR salary cap league which therefore pushes running backs up the board both due to the scoring and need for immediate production.
The second reason not to draft on team need is there’s a healthy amount of trading in most leagues. Again from my league – I recently found myself with the 1.01 pick via trade (I’d won the league, actually). I was weak at receiver, but I forced myself to remain true to my own advice and took Gio Bernard at 1.01. I view him as the most valuable player in a non-PPR and even though I needed Tavon Austin more, I took Bernard. Now I’m able to trade one of my running backs, wait for Gio to develop and flip him if I choose. If I’d really wanted a wide receiver with the 1.01, I would have traded it for a known commodity. There’s no guarantee Austin will fill my need. The only way to guarantee a good wideout with the 1.01 (or any pick) is to trade it for proven one.
The final reason I go BPA is the fact that team needs change quickly. We have this sense that dynasty is about keeping your players for a long time. In truth, we don’t. Go back and look at where your team was a year or two ago. I’d estimate on average I change out 25% of my players per year on my most active team. The NFL Draft, free agency, age, injuries, etc. all change the value of players and owners have to react to this. Right now, Bernard is my RB6 (we start two), but I bet he starts for me this year or next.
The most important take away is this draft class requires some flexibility on the traditional “rules” of rookie drafting. Situation is going to dictate your draft more than usual and people are going to likely appear to be reaching at times. My advice – build your talent tiers factoring in a modest amount of situation and stay true to them. This will fail you from time-to-time, but over the long haul, you will maximize the value. Oh, and if you can trade Mark Ingram and Daniel Thomas for CJ Spiller and AJ Green, I’d highly recommend it.
Editor’s Note: Tim Stafford can be found @dynastytim on twitter and in the forums as dlf_tims.