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Two Questions for Your Rookie Draft

Cordarrelle_Patterson4

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Editor’s Note:  Tim Stafford can be found @dynastytim on twitter and in the forums as dlf_tims.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Trey

    May 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Excellent work as always, Tim. I have been going back and forth on who I like most between Gio and Ball and this definitely helps add some clarity.

    • Eric

      May 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      I have the 1.01 and 1.03 picks. The owner I acquired the 1.01 also has the 1.02 and he has openly said he likes Ball and hinted at Austin. I want Gio badly.

      Do I just take Gio at 1.01 and let him get Ball at 1.02 and pick Bell, Lacy, Hopkins at 1.03 or do I grab Ball and play the odds that he doesn’t take Gio at 1.02? I’m probably overthinking this a lot, but wanted to hear some feedback from other dynasty owners.

      • Eric

        May 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm

        following that post, my gut is thinking this scenario…

        1.01 Gio Bernard
        1.02 Montee Ball or Tavon Austin
        1.03a If he takes Austin, I’ll take Ball
        1.03b If he takes Ball, I’ll take DeAndre Hopkins

        thoughts?

        • Wesley Wood

          May 24, 2013 at 5:09 am

          Way too early for Ball.

        • Cyrus

          May 24, 2013 at 7:24 am

          I like your plan. If you believe in Bernard, take him and don’t worry about it.

          If I were in your shoes, I would gamble– I would take Ball and then hope he takes Austin.

          That said, I gambled in my league and “lost.” (I’m happy with losing in this case, though) I had the 1.04/1.05/1.06, and wanted to draft Bernard and BPA/BPA. The 1.01/1.07 owner offered me the 1.01/1.07 for the 1.04/1.06/2.05. I thought that was too much to give up, so I stood pat.

          He took Ball #1, so I tried to trade up to #2. Guy at #2 said no and took Bell, he was worried Bell wouldn’t last until #4. Guy at #3 said no and took Bernard. I ended up with Austin.

          I would love to have a RB, whether Bernard or Bell, but I really can’t complain. And in this draft, it is never too early for Ball or Bernard– Bell is the only one I think is being overdrafted.

  2. Cannon

    May 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    “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…I will never forget this! Thank you

  3. John Tillis II

    May 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    I’m in that predictament myself with the 1.02 pick this year (the 1.01 is committed to Lacy). I “need” Austin but I have Gio Bernard as my #1 player on the board. I’m taking Gio but I’m going to hate losing out on Austin.

    • Jason Moses

      May 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      Why do you have Gio as your number one player? I’m struggling seeing the love that the vast more majority have for him. He’s not overly fast and based on every highlight reel I’ve seen no one has ever touched him. I think it is as much to do with bad defense as it does with Gio’s skills. My belief is every year the FF community picks one of the RBs and labels them as the best player that year. I’ll take Austin & Patterson before I take any RB this year.

      • Eric

        May 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        Patterson is such a project…he’s too risky for me.

        I too love Gio, but I liked him before the draft. My opinion of Lacy is probably tainted by Ingram’s hype and subsequent failure.

        In terms of rookie WR I’d rank Hopkins, Austin, Hunter, Woods, Dobson before I considered Patterson.

        • Coach

          May 24, 2013 at 6:52 am

          Wow i really disagree here. Patterson is going to be the best WR in this class when all the smoke clears.

        • Cyrus

          May 24, 2013 at 7:27 am

          I think Patterson has a lot of risk, but he will end up being a lot better than the doubters believe.

          He is raw, but he has everything else going for him. He can develop.

          • TTT

            May 24, 2013 at 7:43 am

            Even I’m not on the Patterson train, but I only have him behind Hopkins and Austin.

            Hopkins is absolutely polished and shredded LSU, one of the upper-echelon defenses.

            Austin is one of the most electric players I’ve ever seen.

            Patterson is too. There’s no denying his talent. I don’t think there’s any way someone can not have Patterson in their top 3.

      • Zach Bahner

        May 23, 2013 at 7:44 pm

        I didn’t love Bernard at first, either. Then I took a look at some cut ups. That really changed my opinion of him. After looking at the cut ups, I saw how much more of a complete back he is than what I first thought. He does everything as good, nearly as good or better than the other top tier backs in this draft.

        Some of the key points in my notes after watching him: deflects hits (should lengthen his career), catches the ball well, leads defenders into blockers, is patient behind blockers before exploding into open areas, cuts and accelerates quickly, has good upper body strength.

        None of those things screams top rookie pick until you actually see what he does over the coarse of a few games. I’d recommend checking him out. Highlight reels typically seem to make a player look amazing or terrible, it’s the full games that show more of what he truly can do.

        • Willy P

          May 24, 2013 at 8:15 am

          Regarding Patterson, he will always be drafted before I would take him, because I don’t see how a guy is going to be an impact player any time soon when in 8 out of 12 games last year he caught 3 or fewer balls. He should have been dominant if indeed his talent IS dominant, but instead he disappeared at the college level, where he supposedly had a big talent advantage. He’ll have an uphill battle to put it all together: to use his talent better than he did in college, to refine his craft,and to adjust to ever-changing offensive playbooks and defensive schemes. Too many IFs for me.

  4. Brandon Standifer

    May 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I’ll give my own head slapping example how I learned the hard way to do BPA:

    Needing a RB in the worst way and having a ton of WRs I selected Mike Tolbert thinking he could get some goalline carries (the league is non-ppr) away from Ryan Mathews and then watched the best available WR, Julio Jones go with the next pick. Still to this day makes me sick to think about. So I couldn’t agree with Tim more, ALWAYS go BPA.

    • Craig Gerein

      May 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      Was this a dynasty start up or a re-draft league?

      • Brandon Standifer

        May 24, 2013 at 7:06 am

        It was a dynasty rookie/Fa draft

  5. Matt Caldwell

    May 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I can give you 2 examples of BPA in one draft. Last year I had 1.01/1.07 and 1.08. I watched in disbelief as Martin kept falling because 6 of 7 players ahead of me drafted for need and not BPA…at 1.01 I grabbed Trich. I was also able to grab Martin at 1.07! But then I broke my own rule and drafted Kendall Wright instead of Wilson who I had higher on my board, but I was so happy with the 2 RB’s that I already had I thought it was silly to draft another….but as soon as I did it I regretted it. The jury is still out on both but if I had Wilson right now I could probably trade him for a decent WR2 or more. People are really high on him.

    • Cyrus

      May 24, 2013 at 7:29 am

      That is insane for your leaguemates, and if I were you, I would really regret not drafting Wilson too.

      Sometimes it feels “wrong” to overdraft a position, but if it is BPA, you do it. I took Austin/Hopkins/Patterson/Wheaton this year in one league. I’m going to need to make some trades, but I have a 2 year taxi so I have time.

  6. Von Romig

    May 23, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    And if Ingram and Thomas had exploded while Spiller and Green fell apart he’d be the one laughing about the trade… everything looks great in the rear view mirror and if you’re on the winning side.

    Unless the rankings are 100% accurate taking “best player available” is still guess work… and just as likely to be wrong.

    Dan Meylor (Drafting the Best Player Available) already used the 2007 draft class and Peterson as his example, and now you use 2011’s class with AJ Green. Well great for you both, but how about going a little deeper both of you and explain the rest of the draft class, and not just the top few spots. Or the years where the top ranked players did not pan out. Hmmmm….

    Because as I have always said, including with Mr. Meyor’s article, the “best player available” only works with the top guys at best. After that’s a total crapshoot. So you might as well fill a need and not just roll the dice on an unknown and not need him… and can’t trade him for a need.

    Take the best player on your board that fills your most pressing need.

    • SD Guys

      May 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Thanks Von, I totally agree.

      I hate when the experts use hindsight for all their great moves. They hardly ever talk about the bust draft pick they made. Hell I can say why waste your high draft pick on WR, they take years to develop and you can always find plenty of good WR on most waiver wires.

      Last year I picked up three 190+ PPR WR off the waiver wire. Does this make me a great owner? nope just lucky. Just like we are all lucky when our first round picks pan out. more often then not they don’t.

      Just once I would like this site or any of the other FF sites to write an article after the NFL season and point out where they were wrong in there rookie talent predictions.

      • Tim Stafford

        May 24, 2013 at 10:28 am

        I guess that wouldn’t make for a very interesting article, but I can tell you my worst two calls:

        Arrelious Benn – I felt he was a potential stud in the making. I traded up to take him and advised others to do so.

        Donald Brown – I thought he was a surefire winner. Great situation and solid college tape. Nope.

        • Cyrus

          May 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm

          Interesting. I never liked Benn and loved that others drafted him high. I took Mike Williams and counted on him developing nicely. I was happy his rookie year but he has let me down since.

          Donald Brown was another guy that I wanted to like but didn’t. My brother and I co-manage a team and he drafted Brown over my objections at 1.03. I wanted McCoy.

          Flip side is I have had horrible luck drafting BPA RB. When I end up with a premium pick, the guy fails me (Stewart at 1.03, Moreno at 1.01). When I end up with a #4-6 pick, the top tier ends just before I draft (Ryan Williams 1.04, Ben Tate 1.06).

          Aside from overdrafting RB’s, I really haven’t had many bad calls with rookies. WR especially are easy to scout, IMO.

          In July of their rookie year, I did trade Graham straight up for Bradford. Bradford went #10 so I thought it was crazy that he was offering him for Graham, who I took at 3.12. I wish I could have that back now.

  7. Eric Kassor

    May 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Heh, thought I was the last guy thinking Bradshaw to the Steelers still makes sense.

  8. Craig Gerein

    May 23, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I really need a RB3 on my dynasty roster. I traded for the 1.01 at a point in time when Lacy was everyone’s consensus 1.01. Based on league scoring I now have Tavon Austin number 1 on my board and Gio second. It’s so close I may side with Bernard, but with our return scoring structure Randall Cobb was the WR4 in 2012. Austin could be a WR1 at some point and might even be a WR2 as a rookie. It’s a tough decision.

  9. Ariakis

    May 23, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Ok how about taking this a step further? Who is the next Spiller being moved as a throw-in with the potential to blow up? For now I’m banking on Franklin but perhaps the answer is in 2nd or 3rd year players?

    • Craig Gerein

      May 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      It’s probably Pead who I just traded.

    • Cyrus

      May 24, 2013 at 7:32 am

      Vereen. I think he could explode in the passing game this year and be a solid RB2.

      What makes him a “Spiller” type talent is if Ridley gets hurt or if Vereen shows that he can run as well as Ridley. When Ridley is in the game, the Patriots typically play a certain way. When Vereen is in the game, the Patriots can do anything– he adds flexibility.

      I’ve been high on him since he was drafted, so I am bound to be wrong again. But I really think the Patriots offense will improve if they use Vereen as an every down RB, as defenses can’t adjust.

  10. Karl Safchick

    May 23, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Great article Tim. Great points followed by great supporting arguments.

  11. Rob

    May 23, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Sound advice. How about an article on the art of creating tiers? Also, have I missed it or has DLF not had a rookie “tier” cheat sheet?

  12. JBlake

    May 24, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Great article. Good point about LBell’s value; after all the Coachspeak about him being a three-down back Godsend, I hadn’t thought about them possibly signing Bradshaw. But Bradshaw will certainly sign somewhere, sure to screw up a lot of dynasty team’s RB situations. I have Ivory on several teams, so please not the Jets…

  13. Ryan Hess

    May 24, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I just posted something in the forum about this yesterday. my first pick in this years draft is at 2.03 so I was pretty much prepared to go on BPA. Excellent article.

  14. Chris Nelson

    May 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Awesome article.

    I have 1.01, 1.02, 1.05

    Taking Austin & Bernard 1 & 2 as of now.(draft is not until July)

    I am not 100% sold on Gio @ #2, but the kid has a full compliment of skills that can make him effective for a whole 60 minutes in the future, not just a situational runner. He is not the fastest kid on the block but his patience and ability to pass catch should turn into some solid points IMO.

    BPA to me applies more to established players in the league, not rookies. At this point it seems to be one big opinion to each his own. Looking in hindsight is the only way to tell you if you are right or wrong. So draft with confidence now and hope for the best! That guy who you want to reach for could turn out to be a stud… but then again maybe not. HA

  15. Bob Ray

    May 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    You insinuate that Ball and Bell moved up a round because of situation. It seems to me they moved up because, in the eyes of at least some NFL GMs, they were better talents.

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