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Appraisal of Rookie Draft Picks

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Editor’s Note: This article is submitted by a new Member Corner writer, Rob Pisano.  We look forward to seeing much more of Rob’s work in the future.

The values of assets in fantasy football can fluctuate immensely throughout a season, but the values of rookies in the offseason change at a rate that can give dynasty fantasy owners whiplash. Much like attempting to shoot a moving target, pinning down the value of rookie draft picks is a skill that can take a lot of preparation and practice to master. However, if one does value these picks appropriately and takes advantage of others who value them too much or too little, it can drastically improve that player’s chances of building a great dynasty team. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how the ADP of last year’s rookies changed from rookie drafts held in the first week of August, to startup drafts in the middle of August, to post-season mock drafts held by DLF in January.

rookie

As a general rule of thumb, I tend to equate an asset’s value in terms of where said asset would be drafted if a startup draft were held that day. For example, DeAndre Hopkins’ ADP based on the dynasty leagues I used for this chart was the fourth pick in the rookie draft, and in startup drafts held in that same month his ADP was about the first or second pick in the fourth round. Therefore, I would value the fourth overall selection in a rookie draft to about an early fourth round selection in a startup draft. This makes trading picks for players or vice versa a much less arduous task.

The players taken in the first round of rookie drafts ranged from a value of an early fourth round pick to a late seventh round pick in a startup draft. The takeaway from this is that if someone is selling off assets that are greater than a fifth round startup pick in exchange for first round rookie draft picks, it would be fortuitous to take advantage of such a player. On the other hand, if someone offers you a rookie first round pick in exchange for an asset that is the equivalent of a seventh round startup pick or worse, it would be the right move to take the deal. However, the former situation is a much more common situation. What tends to happen in dynasty leagues is that players will only see the bright side of incoming rookies and ignore the possibility of a player being a bust, having a career ending injury, not being able to climb the depth chart, suffering from poor coaching, or any of the plethora of causes for star college prospects not translating to the big leagues.

Another common theme is that players incorrectly assume a rookie can only have an increase in value as a dynasty league progresses. While it is true that most rookies will experience an increase in ADP from their first season to their second, there are plenty of rookies who not only experience a drop in ADP from one year to the next, but completely fall of the fantasy radar. This volatility is ignored far too often when players trade for prospects in dynasty leagues.

Early mock drafts that include 2014 rookies show the top rookie, Sammy Watkins, drafted in the third round. Considering his value as a prospect is higher than any prospect in the 2013 class, this is not an unreasonable appraisal. However, value can be had at this stage of the off-season as rookie prospects can fluctuate immensely over the coming months with the combine and pro days. If someone in your league is drooling over Watkins, you may very well be able to get a second round startup player such as Antonio Brown or Brandon Marshall for this pick. The player trading for the rookie pick may think they’ve won in the deal as they are likely only viewing the positive side of Watkins, where he gets drafted into a good situation, stays healthy, and is coached well enough to become a locked-in WR1 for years to come. The savvy dynasty owner would be wise to realize that this is only one probability, and that another scenario would be that Watkins gets drafted by a bad team and is relegated to WR2 status for his entire career, or worse yet could be a monumental bust.

The rest of the 2014 rookie class is widely considered to be superior to the 2013 class as far as fantasy is concerned. In particular, the wide receiver crop is a much deeper and talented group than the previous years. What this means is that if dynasty owners are valuing their late first or early second round picks according to previous years, then there is value to be had in trading for such selections. According to the chart based on 2013 rookies, a late first or early second is equal in value to a seventh round startup selection. However, if the 13th best rookie in the 2014 class is on the same level of a prospect as Cordarelle Patterson, it would be advantageous to trade a seventh round asset for such a pick.

One last takeaway from the value of rookie picks is that of all of the rookies with an ADP of a fourth round pick or higher, all are still fantasy relevant after the first season. The lowest two rookies are Mike Gillislee and Denard Robinson by far, and they are arguably overdrafted in rookie drafts last year. Their value is still in the first eighteen rounds however. The takeaway from this is that fourth round picks actually have some value that others may not realize. If you are in the middle of trade talks and you can get someone to throw in a fourth round pick for free, it is potentially a big win as some of these can become valuable assets such as Terrance Williams.

Appraising rookie draft picks is not an exact science and there is a lot of room for interpretation, but having a general baseline of understanding can be extremely valuable in trade negotiations. Dynasty owners do not properly value these picks often enough such that if one were so inclined he could wheel and deal draft picks and gain substantial value for his team. Although it may be counterintuitive, resist the allure of the big name incoming rookies and do not undervalue the later rookie draft picks.

51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. spdinan

    February 12, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Man..I never comment on articles but this is awesome. Evaluating rookie picks is something I’ve always struggled with. Very very helpful. Nice work!

  2. 420allstars

    February 12, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Great job on this Rob! very intresting stuff..

  3. 420allstars

    February 12, 2014 at 5:45 am

    question for the group or the “experts”

    I have 1.04, 1.06 and 1.07 this year, looking to make a play for first overall selection. is the 6,7th enough?

    • Dan Meylor

      February 12, 2014 at 6:11 am

      If I held the 1.01, I wouldn’t move it for those two picks. I think I could do better by shopping it to the rest of the league. You might have some luck if the owner of the 1.01 isn’t infatuated with Watkins so it’s worth a shot. But don’t be shocked if he passes.

    • BradMartens

      February 12, 2014 at 6:34 am

      Don’t even think moving the 4th and 6th would get you there. For most teams holding the 1st overall their overall lack of talent on their teams “won” them the chance to take an elite prospect like Watkins. Think anyone with the 1st over all would be looking at a high pick or multiple pick in the 1st round plus a player or two that he can plug into his starting lineup. Players you have on your bench don’t help you win games. On a team that finishes dead last you should be able to plug Watkins into your line up day one and either “ride or die” with him.

    • Tim Stafford

      February 12, 2014 at 7:08 am

      It’s worth a try, but I wouldn’t give you the 1.01 for that. I had to cough up 1.05/1.10/Terrance Williams to get the 1.01/2.11 in my Salary Cap league. I think the perception right now is that Watkins is a decent bit above the other prospects in terms of talent/risk. Maybe that’s not right, but it seems that’s have people are viewing it.

    • Jacob Feldman

      February 12, 2014 at 10:11 am

      If you wait until right after the combine, when people can start to put names to the picks, you could probably get that done.

      Talk about how he could end up with two of a certain group in exchange for Watkins and you might be able to pull it off.

      Be prepared for him to come back and ask for 1.04 and 1.06 though. Honestly, at this point there isn’t much of a difference unless someone really separates from the pack after the top 3 guys.

    • Mull

      February 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      Just take your picks and go home. :)

      The Mullmaniacs run this league.

      Maniacs hoo!

  4. krcilr

    February 12, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I’m sorry, but what league(s) was Keenan Allen going at #18?! Sign me up for those leagues. He was the #9 pick in ours and a steal there.

    • BradMartens

      February 12, 2014 at 9:44 am

      And how do you have Stacy at 7.33 in Rookie ADP if his ADP was 157 in 2013 start ups? Something ain’t right here. In my leagues Stacy went very late in the 4-5th rounds or not at all in the 2 round rookie draft leagues.

      • Eric Olinger

        February 12, 2014 at 10:27 am

        I believe the data is pulled from “Rookie Only” drafts in the Rookie ADP and the 157 was from Dynasty start ups. Both seem accurate to me.

      • Chris in Chuck

        February 12, 2014 at 8:08 pm

        7.33 means he was, on average, just a little above the 7th pick.

      • sixshooter

        February 17, 2014 at 6:39 am

        Stacy and Allen both went early to mid second in our 12 team league so 18 for Allen isn’t a stretch. Stacy falling out of the second though……not so sure that happened in most leagues!

  5. Lab

    February 12, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Nice article, Rob. How do you feel about 3rd-5th round rookie picks as they related to roster & bench size? I often find that although I like some of the 4th and 5th round rookies, and think they have lots of potential, they are fighting for roster space on my teams. This had seemed even more pronounced in recent years, because it seems like the relative quantity and quality of mid-round players has increased, so there is a bigger group of similar quality.

    For example, according to your chart above, 3rd-4th round picks (players like Hunter, Kelce, Latavius Murray, Gillislee, and Terrance Williams) would be competing for roster space on an ADP scale with veteran players in the 150-200 ADP range. In 2014, that includes players like LaMichael James, Jarrett Boykin, Anquan Boldin, Tony Romo, Jernigan, Kelce, Marquise Goodwin, Housler, Helu, etc. I know the comparison is not perfect, but you see my point: To draft and hold one of those 4th-5th round rookies on a roster, you need to have either deep rosters, or be willing to drop some potentially valuable vets.

    I suppose a lot of this depends on roster construction, and whether a particular team needs to secure backups for key positions, or instead wants to bet on promising young players. But it’s something I struggle with.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

    • doktor

      February 12, 2014 at 9:04 am

      For starters, as you mentioned, roster/bench size will likely play the biggest role in these types of decisions. Otherwise, I try to group my teams into a set of categories. For example, just to take a single position and make up a team to demonstrate;

      Starter(s)
      McCoy, Stacy

      Backups (bye/injury)
      A.Brown, B.Tate

      Bench/Depth
      DWill, D.Thomas

      Upside/Prospects
      L.Murray, K.Barner

      If you categorize each position on your team like this; then it becomes a little clearer to weigh how you value an incoming rookie (or pick).

      I would be hesitant to let go of a quality backup, but Bench/Depth players are the general “roster filler” type guys and I generally don’t hesitate for long to drop those kind of guys in favor of a young player with more potential.

    • Slick

      February 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      good question and point. in my league we have a combo FA/Rookie draft and i often only draft 1 or 2 picks a year and wait on free agency due to a salary reset for undrafted players and roster size issues. every year there are players/prospects i draft or want to draft but have no space for. i am hoping to be more patient this year, but sometimes early injuries derail this plan, cause you often need to count on veterans to get you through.

  6. Josh

    February 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Gave up the 1.04 & 4.04 for AP. I feel I can gran good talent in rounds 2 & 3 since I wasn’t getting Watkins. I also feel AP has another 2-3 top 10 seasons in him at least. Dumb move?

  7. tom

    February 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    in a vaccumm would you take the 1.1 (watkins) or crabtree

    • Jordan Spires

      February 12, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      I would take Watkins easily. Or you could sell the 1.1 (Watkins) for way more than Crabtree post-combine or post-nfl draft.

    • sixshooter

      February 17, 2014 at 6:47 am

      Watkins easily…..I don’t care where he lands in the NFL!

  8. what2doeh

    February 12, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Good read. The take away for me is that following year ADP is much higher for most rookies, especially top RBs. The only RB exception above is Ball and his ADP is going to shoot up once Moreno is officially an ex-Bronco.

  9. SJ

    February 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I’m interested, has anyone recently traded for, or traded away a 2014 First Round pick?

    What did you get in return? I’m interested to hear.

    • SJ

      February 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      To start off:

      I traded the 1.10 to get V.Jackson. According to the chart above, either got just enough value, or fairly less. But I like it because in that league I need more of a sure thing.

      • Robert

        February 12, 2014 at 9:08 pm

        That seems about right. I sold VJax for the 1.10/DaRick not too long ago.

      • sixshooter

        February 17, 2014 at 7:03 am

        Two years ago, I traded the 1.11 for the 2.04 and 2.08. I took A Jefferey with the 2.04 (who I honestly would’ve taken at 1.11) and traded the 2.08 again for what turned out to be the 2.01 last year! The guy who got my 1.11……picked Isaiah Pead!!! He thought he was going to be able to buffalo the SJax owner who had the next pick and took Hillman who everyone thought I would take.

        That was a good draft for me with taking Luck with the second overall (and would have taken first ahead of TRich because of my need at QB) and Tannehill with the 2.12 followed by Sanu at 3.02.

        • jbarker

          February 18, 2014 at 9:50 am

          I traded the 1.01 for Torrey Smith (who I felt was equal to a 1.03), 1.12, 2.12, 3.12, and 5.12… also, my team was put together in a dispersal draft, so it is not a bottom-feeder type team… did I overvalue Torrey? lmk…

    • Bruce

      February 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Traded the 1.1 for Keenan Allen and then Allen for Sarah Marshall’s brother, Brandon.

    • Moishe

      February 12, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      In season last year, I traded my first-round pick (which was going to be in the bottom half) for Peyton.

      • Slick

        February 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm

        i traded the 1.10 for Robert Woods

    • Scott Peak

      February 12, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      Nice article Rob. I liked the correlation between drafts. Very helpful. Kelce, Murray and Wheaton look like good targets for a cheap price. I like Patterson a lot for 2014 but an ADP 19 is getting expensive. I’m not sure what to make of Justin Hunter. Love his talent, but a 5th round start-up valuation seems expensive.

      SJ, I recently traded 1.02+2.01 for Cordarrelle Patterson.

    • Kenny

      March 14, 2014 at 2:05 am

      Yesterday, I traded away Matt Stafford and Reuben Randle for the #1 overall pick this year and a second rounder next year.

  10. P Diddy

    February 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I gave up 1.6, B Tate, K Stills, Z Ertz for Megatron! Standard league, start 3 WR and a flex. Now gives me Calvin, Jordy, Alshon, Decker, K wright and I will be taking Sammy with #1overall as my WR. RB’s are M Ball, T Rich, R Mathews, l Miller and C Michael. Have an offer of Ball and 2.6 for M Forte! I’m trying to make a run at a title. I might miss Tate if he pans out and I believe Stills will be a beast in a few years. Did I overpay?

    • Moishe

      February 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Not if you’re going for it now, if you ask me! Worst case — if you have a disappointing year — Calvin will still have enough value that you can move him and recoup most of what you gave up. I think that this a great move.

    • spdinan

      February 13, 2014 at 4:08 am

      Overpay????? Not even close. Never seen him go that cheap.

    • sixshooter

      February 17, 2014 at 7:04 am

      Nope……I am not sure you can overpay for Calvin….LOL!

  11. Mike

    February 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Maybe I’m not reading this right, but shouldn’t there be a rough correlation between the 2013 Rookie ADP and 2013 Startup ADP numbers? Wouldn’t the relative rankings of these players be close to the same. For example, why was Stacy valued so much higher in Rookie drafts than Startup drafts? Is this just a case of these two data sets being relatively small?

    • Joe

      February 12, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Mike, I think the reason you’re seeing that difference is that most rookie drafts take place earlier in the offseason where you might see more start ups closer to preseason time. DRich was widely thought to be the guy closer to the beginning of the season, and some of those rookie drafts were pre NFL draft as well. Or I could just be way off.

    • sixshooter

      February 17, 2014 at 7:06 am

      Probably because you don’t have the LeSean McCoy’s, etc to compete with in a rookie draft if I am understanding your question correctly.

      • Mike

        February 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm

        My point was more that I expected rookies to be drafted roughly in the same order relative to each other in both Startup drafts and Rookie drafts (e.g. Bell is one of the first rookies taken in both Startup and Rookie drafts, Patterson is roughly the 6th-8th rookie taken, etc.). But there are some huge outliers, like Stacy who was taken pretty early in Rookie drafts but was taken after guys like Travis Kelce and Denard Robinson in Startup drafts. I think Joe’s answer above about the timing of the drafts best answers my question.

  12. Paul

    February 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Nobody’s going to give 1.1 for Marshall, especially a bad team that “earned” the 1.1 as the guy above alluded to.

    • Jules

      February 13, 2014 at 6:48 am

      Did you read the other comments before you posted?

      “Bruce Says:
      February 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm
      Traded the 1.1 for Keenan Allen and then Allen for Sarah Marshall’s brother, Brandon.”

      • Paul

        February 14, 2014 at 12:45 pm

        Allen for Marshall is worse than 1.1 for Marshall.

        • sixshooter

          February 17, 2014 at 7:10 am

          Huh? There was about 30 catches, 200 yds, 4 TD’s and 60 targets difference between the two! Maybe if you are a rebuilding team but Marshall for Allen is a pretty decent trade that could have meant the difference of a Championship for someone this year! Are ya kiddin’ me? Marshall is a beast!!!

  13. J2

    February 12, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I traded the 1.02/3.02/Tyler Eifert for Robert Quinn (DE STL)/Marvin Jones/5.03 and the 1.01 Free Agent pick.

    I mainly took the approach of a “known” quantity for the potential of Eifert/Watkins. I also think FA picks are gold if the draft is towards the end of the pre-season like ours. What do you guys think? Did I value the 1.02 pick too low?

  14. esquare

    February 12, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Recently traded the 1.02 and 2.08 for the 1.01.

  15. BAMNation

    February 14, 2014 at 2:21 am

    Interesting to see L Murray go so high in rookie ADP. Right after the NFL draft – I grabbed him as an FA or last round flier.

    By the time the drafts for the august drafts started he was going in the 3rd round.

    I had a lot of trade offers up until then so was asking a 2nd :) would probably get that this year.

  16. Charlie P

    February 17, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Great article! fairly new to the site but finding a lot of great info both in the well written articles as well as most of the reader feedback, there’s definitely many wise FF addicts here that I look forward to learning from!

    I’d like to get some input from the group relating to this. Im in a 14man dynasty, 1ppr, 1QB,2RB,3WR,1TE,1Flex,1QbFlex. I’ve got Gleannon, Locker, Bernard, Ball, Julio Jones, Gordon, A.Brown, Edleman, Clay, T.Wright, Turbin, C.Michael, M.Asiata, SJax, Randle, Royal. I also have the 1.10&1.12 picks coming up in the draft.

    I’d really like to get some feedback from the group, who would you look to move, where do you see weak points, would you go after 1.01? If so what would you be willing to give ? Thoughts on who you would hope to see with those draft picks?

    based on last years draft history
    1 Craven A’s Bernard, Giovani RB CIN
    2 Predators Miller, Lamar RB MIA
    3 Craven A’s Austin, Tavon WR STL
    4 joe bike Lacy, Eddie RB GB
    5 AZ Sasquatch Ball, Montee RB DEN
    6 AZ Sasquatch Thompkins, Kenbrell WR NE
    7 Bayside Tigers Davis, Knile RB KC
    8 AZ Sasquatch Manuel, EJ QB BUF
    9 Team Shyza Bell, Le’Veon RB PIT
    10 “H” *Cameron, Jordan TE CLE
    11 Rocket’s Destroyers *Dawson, Phil K SF
    12 Captain KoolAid *Hopkins, DeAndre WR HOU
    13 Dat Dude Patterson, Cordarrelle WR MIN
    14 Craven A’s Michael, Christine RB SEA

    Thanks fellas.

  17. Gary

    February 20, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    About week 10 last year I traded Ray Rice and a 3rd round pick for a 1st round and 3rd round pick rookie pick. I knew I would move up in the 3rd round looking at the teams and ended up with the 1.6 and 3.6 for Ray rice and the 3.12

    • Gary

      February 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      note i was stacked at with young talent at RB with Stacy and Gio and this was a salary cap league and i freed 17 milli in cap space.

  18. Steve

    March 24, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Hey,

    I’ve been offered Philip Rivers and the 5th round pick in the rookie/FA Dynasty draft this summer for Golden Tate. Thoughts?

    Thanks!

  19. Luke

    April 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I was just offered this …Give up my 1.11 ( I still would have 1.05) for 2.7, 3.6, 4.7, 5.7 and 6.7. Should I make this trade?

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