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Blending BPA and Team Needs in Your Rookie Draft

The rookie draft is an exciting and unique part of the dynasty football experience.  At this time of year, the DLF Forum is filled with questions and advice about what various picks are worth and how to best use the rookie draft to improve our teams.  In this article, I’ll explore the rationale for using the Best Player Available (BPA) approach to drafting, but at the same time provide several ways to incorporate your team needs into your rookie draft strategy.

Players As Assets

More times than not, the best team on paper doesn’t win the league.  Because of this, my primary goal is to make the playoffs.  What I know is that once the playoffs start anything can happen and as long as I’m in, I can win.  I approach my players (and my picks) as assets for achieving that goal.  And like any good investment strategy, I want to maximize my return.

Simply stated, the BPA approach to drafting says that when picking in the rookie draft an owner should ignore team needs and take whoever is the highest ranked player on his board (or a player from his highest tier).  It’s roughly the rookie draft equivalent to the traditional value based drafting approach (VBD).

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the consensus point of view is that Justin Blackmon (WR) is higher ranked (and in a higher tier) than David Wilson (RB) at the time of your rookie draft.  BPA says you take Blackmon if he is on the board even if you desperately need a RB.  Even if Wilson would start for you day one and Blackmon is buried on your bench, you take him.  Why?  You want to have the collection of the most valuable assets in your league and Blackmon’s value is higher as determined by the consensus point of view.  What he’s worth to you isn’t really relevant because you aren’t going to ever trade with yourself.

Team Needs Change

It’s a myth that dynasty rosters are static.  If you play on a site like My Fantasy League that has the historical rosters, go back and compare.  Teams change constantly via trade, free agency and injury.  Elite rookie prospects will have value that endures long after your team needs have changed along with the team needs of all the other owners.

If you pick based on team need over BPA, you leave value on the table for people picking in the slots after you.  You’re taking a short-term approach to investing and we all know that’s a mistake.  Player value is determined by the league as a whole.  Maybe Wilson fits your team needs better right now, but that doesn’t make him more valuable than Blackmon.  He could be more USEFUL to you, but that doesn’t change his intrinsic value.  The intrinsic value is what determines the player’s trade value.  And since your team needs will surely change, you want to stockpile that value.

The Only Surefire Way is to Adopt

My wife and I have been on a journey to become pregnant.  And no matter how good the fertility specialist, the clinic, and the science – the only surefire way to fill our team need is to adopt!  The same is true with your dynasty team.

If you have a glaring team need that demands to be filled, do so via trade.  If you feel you need a RB and Blackmon is the most valuable player on the board, trade your pick for a RB.  We’ve been spoiled by the performance of Cam Newton, AJ Green and Julio Jones into thinking that rookies are immediate starters in fantasy – 99% of the time they are not.  So by picking a rookie RB to fill your team need, you probably haven’t accomplished your goal anyway.  And since we know that team composition changes constantly, by the time your rookie RB is ready to start for you, your needs will have changed.  All you’ve accomplished is giving up the extra value in Blackmon to a lucky owner picking behind you.

Breaking a Tie

I’m an advocate of tier based ranking for rookie drafts rather than forced rankings.  With all the uncertainty in the world of rookies, I think it’s best to group them by tier and pick based off your tiers.

The idea is to set the tiers where all the players in the tier have equivalent intrinsic value.  For example, I believe that Trent Richardson (RB) has the most overall value – he’s my first tier, then I believe Blackmon and QB Andrew Luck are very close to each other in value – they’re my second tier.  Under no circumstances would I ever take either Luck or Blackmon over Richardson because I follow BPA.

However, if I am picking at 1.02 and I have a glaring need at QB, I’d take Luck.  I’m not violating my BPA strategy; I’m using team need to break a virtual tie.  In my mind, Blackmon and Luck have equivalent long-term intrinsic value, so I’ve still maximized the value of my pick.

Net/net:  Your rookie picks are valuable assets and a key part of improving your team.  Don’t let short-term needs and thinking undermine your long-term plan.  The most successful teams are the ones that wring every last bit of value out of their picks either by shrewd drafting or effective trades.

Follow me @dynastytim to get my daily dynasty comment about this or that regarding the NFL draft.  Or hit me up on the forums here at DLF.  There’s nothing I like more than to talk about the draft process and dynasty in general. 

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Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

This is certainly the preferred way to draft and to build a solid roster.

I generally agree with this, however, hypothetically speaking if we go back to last year and I’m at pick #11 overall for example, my choices may be my BPA (Randall Cobb) and a RB in a solid situation (Roy Helu), which I need. This isn’t a fabricated situation, it’s one I faced last season.

Now, I don’t think anyone would question Cobb is the BPA as compared to Helu from a talent perspective. The difference here is situation. In this instance, taking Helu would have netted you a starting RB in the short-term and now the ability to deal for Cobb+ (or step up the RB talent). Sure, it was a risk but often things like that work for short-term value and a quick flip, you just need to time the market right and be an owner who’s able to get a deal done. For example, I was able to then deal Helu/future late mid-first for Forte after Helu started a few weeks.

Like I said, in general I agree with the BPA strategy, but there are certain situations where I think it makes sense to diverge from that strategy and go with a player in a solid situation.

After all, dynasty is all about taking advantage of value opportunities to further strengthen your team in the long-run.

Nicely done.

Josh G
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

Glad you traded Helu..because I dont think Shanahan’s RB situation is ever a “solid situation”.

I am quite concerned for Trent Richardson…that he may get dratfed into that same “solid situation”.

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  Josh G
10 years ago

It was a solid situation for a late pick in the NFL draft to be drafted to a Shanny team given his history of taking unheralded backs to glory.

A situation like that would be clearly detrimental to Richardson’s value given the cost of Richardson in a rookie/startup draft.

Meineymoe
10 years ago

BPA is the best approach at all times – the hangup some people have is sticking to the number – but as you pointed out, if you have your players on tiers, then it’s not such an issue. That was a great example that you gave with Blackmon and Luck being on the same tier, then using team need to break the tie.

In the Helu/Cobb example above – I can see that both of these players may have been on the same tier, at which point you go for need – but if you clearly had Cobb a tier above Helu (I think most of us did), then you take Cobb, no questions asked.

Thanks for the article! -oo-

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  Meineymoe
10 years ago

That’s exactly my point. Cobb and Helu were, in fact, in different tiers.

There are certain situations where you can take a risk and have it work out from a value perspective by going for the situation/need as long as you play it smart in the long-run. Yes, it’s a risk, but you can take calculated risks certain rare instances and fade from the BPA approach and still end in a better position.

If you ask me in a vacuum Helu vs. Cobb or say I can’t trade whoever I draft, I certainly go Cobb, but trading adds a whole different dimension.

With that said, I’m finding that most people are focused on talent as compared to 6-7 years ago when situation seems to have been a bigger driver. People almost always go BPA now (at least in my leagues) and don’t balance talent enough with using their rosters as assets that fluctuate in value creating trade opportunity.

dlf_ericd
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

Great conversation here. While I agree w/ Tim’s article whole-heartedly, at some point in a rookie draft there is some wisdom in drafting a player who’s perceived trade value will be higher immediately.

In the case of Helu vs Cobb, I can see drafting Helu over him, even if Cobb was in a different tier IF you thought you could flip him for more because of situation/playing time.

The balance of dynasty has always been talent vs situation and sometimes drafting a player w/ the plans to trade them quickly can give more weight to situational value.

Just my two cents.

Ken Haworth
10 years ago

Great article Tim! I have been preaching this approach and will need to use this in one of my drafts this spring! When you adopt an orphan team that has needs, you need to plan before you draft and execute moves.
This says it all to me…
>>>You want to have the collection of the most valuable assets in your league and Blackmon’s value is higher as determined by the consensus point of view. What he’s worth to you isn’t really relevant because you aren’t going to ever trade with yourself.<<<

Thanks

tebow
10 years ago

i have the 3rd,5th,6th and 11th picks in my draft(i traded marshall,turner for those picks during the season) and im going all backs no matter what even if blackmon is there at pick 3 ill take a back.i have a rep for hoarding backs and i dont plan on changing that for any reason

Josh G
Reply to  tebow
10 years ago

That may seem to be counter-productive if you ask me.

For one, in all likeliness, you start 2 RBs. Maybe a 3rd if there is Flex. So why take 4 RBs (unless you have none I suppose)..when after Richardson, Blackmon is clearly the BPA, especially when valued against some other backs such as Miller, Polk, Wilson and Martin.

I suppose if ytou clearly need a RB, you may want to pick up a second one…but I’d think you could take Blackmon and at worst, flip him right away from someone who may be a better talent at the RB position than the 4th or 5th rated rookie RB. I am not sure who that might be in your league, but undoubtedly theres someone who needs a young WR and likely has a RB to part with.

Steve
Reply to  tebow
10 years ago

I would like to be in your league.

Matt
10 years ago

Perfect article for me. I’m going through this exact situation!

10 years ago

Nice read, great advice, and a great conversation. I can tell you I have drafted for need and I have also drafted BPA. I can also tell you that it’s been quite a few years since I’ve drafted for need. In my experience, the times I’ve drafted for need, in most of those cases I’ve come to regret the decision to draft based on need. There are a few exceptions, but generally when I draft I live by one rule: LEAVE YOUR DEPTH CHART OUT OF THE DRAFT.

Nice job Tim.

Mark
10 years ago

Nice read Tim!

RP
10 years ago

My team is full of 1st & 2nd yr guys as I elected to clean house with the garbage roster I inherited.

Point is… I need it all.

Despite my infatuation with Trent Im in a 2 qb league… Not officially but we start 1flex of any position..1 qb, 2rbs , 3wrs, 1 te, 1 k, 1 defense…

I have flacco to get by with gabbert to pray for a trade partner and locker whom I love as much as Luck.

Rbs are no better… Jstew, Ridley , gerhart, hardesty. —

TStafford said he will in no way draft anyone ahead of Trent and meanwhile EVERYONE advises me to go Luck…qbs always dominate the scoring but it’s all relative…

In short is Trent still 1 overall in the 2qb / qb flex?

Ty 4 feedback crew

Josh G
Reply to  RP
10 years ago

You are in a tough situation, but as you said the bulk of your roster is 1st and 2nd year guys..which to me means you likely wont be winning it all next year (undoubtedly there are other teams more stacked than yours).
You also mentioned that QBs always dominate the scoring.
While I would love to grab Trent, every year theres always at least 1 or 2 RBs worthy of salivating over, but at least according to game film and hype, there hasnt been anyone along the lines of Andrew Luck for quite some time…so given those factors, I’d draft Luck and pray it works out in a couple years when you are ready to contend.

Boobam13
Reply to  Josh G
10 years ago

In your 2 QB league Luck is probably the better option. I think the article was written with the 1 QB league in mind.

Cyrus
Reply to  Josh G
10 years ago

I would still take Richardson, but trade him (or just trade the 1.01 pick) for an existing QB.

I agree that QB is the position of need for you… but I would rather have an elite QB than Luck. I would guess that one of the teams with an elite QB has a good backup and could use Richardson.

I value Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Stafford and Newton as the top guys, with others like Vick very close.

Steve
Reply to  Cyrus
10 years ago

In a league that can play 2 QBs, you would have to give up more than a rookie WR to get an elite QB.

10 years ago

dude, you are so right on.

two years ago i got knocked around my league like a wayward stepchild, then came the rookie draft.

i had my choice of a.j.green or julio jones! but…being hard up for running back help as i saw that group as weak, i took daniel thomas, because he would be starting in miami from day one.

as glaring as that mistake is now, i was VERY lucky in that i got Cam Newton in the 2nd, and Rob Gronkowski in the FA draft. heck, i didn’t even need Thomas and ended up missing the super bowl by one game!!! i just barely lost to the eventual champ. if i’d only taken green or jones!!!!

that mistake will never happen again.

Tony
10 years ago

Great subject and conversation. I needed this going into next rookie draft got alot of picks in round 1 & 2. Thanks

tebow
10 years ago

to josh g. im taking all backs because this class is really strong and in my league young rbs are like water in death valley so i want to carry the water bottle. i had knowshown,charles and turner to start last year and two of those guys got hurt so it ruined my year and i traded turner while he was hot for 2 picks. i need to fill the well with rbs my wrs and qb are top notch,i plan to trade some of my rookie backs when the hype is the highest for a more proven back

10 years ago

this is really the only way to draft. rookies are so unpredictable, that ranking them now is very difficult too. i always do a second tier evaluation after the nfl draft, based on where that rook was drafted (team and situation), then re-tier my rankings. i also like to look at my league members and see their weakness’ and what particular NFL team they follow and work out trades that may land me a young starter for some of the rookies i drafted. as the article states there are other ways of making use of the BPA even if it is not a team need, taking a BPA and turning him into a starting “trade” is a shrewd strategy.

Draho
10 years ago

This may be splitting hairs, but I think rather than BPA, you should draft BSA (Best Situation Available) based on the Cobb/Helu example (I may be doing nothing more than re-wording Steve W’s theory). BSA is like BPA in that you should not pick based on the needs of your fantasy team, but rather on just focusing on the player, the element of his situation is factored in. (Obviously this would only apply if your fantasy draft is after NFL draft.)

Just as an example, let’s say for whatever reason, Houston would draft Richardson while keeping Foster and Tate. Unlikely, yes, but you get the point. If, say, Chris Polk, is drafted by Baltimore because Ray Rice is not re-signed (again, bear with me for sake of example), I think you gotta draft Polk ahead of Richardson despite what I’d consider a large deficit in talent.

tim
Reply to  Draho
10 years ago

I don’t know about this. If I’m reading you correctly, this is what led to people taking Daniel Thomas relatively high. His situation looked spectacular and he has been just what I expected – mediocre. I think one has to be very careful about how much they factor situation into their rookie rankings. Clearly Gerhart behind AP rocketed him down the rankings, but at the end of the day regardless of how good the situation, the player has to have the raw capability to perform.

Jamey Eisenberg of CBS, who I think is good, recommended Thomas as the 1.01 for exactly this reason. Saying “he’s the clear cut number one for dynasty”. I challenged him on that in an e-mail and he stood his ground. He said he wants to win now and Thomas was positioned to be the top impact rookie at RB or WR. Told him I’d take AJ Green, told me (and all his listeners) to take Thomas. To each his own.

Draho
Reply to  tim
10 years ago

I see what you’re saying…but in my mind, the talent in the Daniel Thomas situation was not mis-evaluated…I think the situation was.

That’s the reason I fabricated a situation for my example (Baltimore—-a team who has proven an ability to run the ball with a need to replace Rice) rather than simply picking a current team who needs a RB, like Cleveland, whose offense will be questionable and generally unreliable.

So, to summarize my preference order…
1) Mediocre back in good offense/proven situation (Ryan Grant 2007-08).
2) Awesome back in a less than desirable situation (Richardson in hypo above.)
3) Mediocre back in what appears to be good, but unproven, situation. (Thomas-Miami).

Josh G
Reply to  Draho
10 years ago

Lets put it in NBA terms from the 80s and 90s.

You can be the Lakers..who draft BPA (at least Jerry West did)…or you can be the Clippers..who picked bust after bust after bust…

Dont know about you..but those Lakers banners are plentiful..and while the Clips may be solid this year..we all know which organization is better.

-sorry to use NBA terms..but..it worked for me-

tim
Reply to  Draho
10 years ago

Understood. I think the prime example for your second scenario is CJ Spiller in BUF.

But I want to be clear about something, the article was about drafting BPA rather than factoring in the needs of your dynasty team. We’re now discussing something somewhat different that probably warrants it’s own article. That being: Player Talent vs. Situation and how to use that when ranking rookies going in to your draft.

Draho
Reply to  tim
10 years ago

Agreed completely on that point. Fantasy team needs should not be considered at all (except perhaps as tiebreaker, as you mentioned.)

rkrazy
10 years ago

Good article Tim. Enjoyed reading it.

Camperhead
10 years ago

At this point, anyway, I’ll have the 1.04 in our draft, and I seriously hope I can count on the first three taking the BPA approach. I traded for A.J. Green late last season (added to my stable of WRs including Fitzgerald, Nicks and Bryant) specifically so I could pass on Blackmon with a clear conscience. If RGIII falls to me, I’m content. But, as Tim points out, reaching for Wilson or Miller with Blackmon still on the board (as I would be likely to do)would not be something I could do with complete confidence. On the other hand, I have lots of time to cobble together a deal for the 1.02.

10 years ago

you maybe looking at rg3 if i had to bet on it. richy, blackmon, luck, and then rg3 i predict in our league? thats based on what cam did this year.

10 years ago

i’m 9 in a 10 man league rookie draft…..any ideas on what i’ll get or where i should go with it.?

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  bigd
10 years ago

My vote would be Sanu and/or Doug Martin (assuming they don’t shoot up the charts). Vastly underrated and all of the other solid guys will likley be gone by then.

tebow
10 years ago

would you guys trade pick 5,6 and 11 for the top pick? thats what it is going to cost me to get t-rich

Reply to  tebow
10 years ago

no

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  tebow
10 years ago

I absolutely would do this. Richardson is in a class of his own. As yourself this, would you have traded Meachem/Brandon Jackson/Dewayne Bowe (at BEST and, if not, Dewayne Jarrett) for Peterson back in the 2007 rookie drafts? I think that’d be a resounding yes.

Richardson is that Peterson kind of player and there’s a nice drop-off in talent after the 4-5 pick (depending on if you care about the top notch QBs)

Paul
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

This totally depends on your depth to where you should do it or not. The draft is a slanted crapshoot. This isn’t 2007 where there is more depth this year. I actually like keeping 5,6, and 11 since I have a lot of faith in whoever takes RB 15-30 (Cincy?) in the real draft (Miller or Wilson). However, if your a championship team and don’t need much go for the better overall player vs more players.

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  Paul
10 years ago

I can see that, though, I’m always of the belief that you overpay to get a stud who’s around as opposed to risking mid-draft and going with depth. The old quality > quantity.

If I can get Richardson, lose depth, and don’t have to give up a stud. I’m all over it regardless of my depth. You can always find guys on the wire year after year (Foster, Cruz, Colston, etc. etc. etc.).

In fact, that’s one of the benefits to trading quantity for quality. You get the stud player and also open up roster spots to pick up guys who are the “next big thing” on the wire.

tebow
10 years ago

and i dont think martin will fall all the way to 9 in that other posters question,i plan on taking him 3rd overall if he is there. i love the bowling ball backs,they seem not to get hurt as much as the big backs

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  tebow
10 years ago

If you /anyone else takes him 3rd overall… here are the one of 9 guys that fall.

Martin was actually recently rated #10 in some dynasty consensus rookie rankings on other message boards. He’ll probably keep vaulting up the charts given what recent reports have been along with a building buzz.

If it’s not Martin, I’d take any of these others…
(Top 5 is pretty much the Blackmon, Richardson, RG3, Luck, Wright)
6 – Michael Floyd
7 – Doug Martin
8 – David Wilson
9 – Lamaar Miller
10 – Mohamed Sanu
11 – Alshon Jeffery

Martin will fall anywhere between 5-10 depending on combine performances/draft.

Paul
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

There’s nothing wrong with Martin but trading down to five is probably a better use of the pick.

10 years ago

i have my league mock as this 1 richardson 2 blackmon 3 luck 4 rg3 5 lamar 6 wilson 7 martin 8 floyd 9 jeffery 10 polk. talking to my compadres and knowing needs and tendencies???? my thoughts. yours?

10 years ago

i would take floyd at 9 if he’s there, but i do love jeffery’s size also. not sold on wright….i like the big tall wr. our league is rb heavy so i dont think i’ll have a shot at one, so BPA will be in effect.

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  bigd
10 years ago

I’d be shocked if Floyd makes it to 9. The dude is Fitzgerald-esque in talent with Dez Bryant maturity which will hurt his stock some, but he’s a plain nasty WR.

Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

i agree about floyd. i want him, but 9 seems out of reach. as i said our league is so predominated by rbs so it is possible for the wrs to fall, but again alot of that depends on where they find nfl homes.

Paul
10 years ago

Looking at the top players in fantasy overall right now does anyone else think if your a championship team you should trade up for the better player? On the contrary, if you’re picking 1-3 for a reason you should deal out of the pick for as many picks as you can get with the sheer depth in this years draft. Thoughts?

Steve Wyremski
Reply to  Paul
10 years ago

Regardless of depth, you always want the better player. Like I mentioned above, consolidating your roster allows you to pick up guys on the wire who can turn into something eventually (cruz, etc.).

Paul
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

True. But again if you’re picking one or two you probably need depth. Whereas a championship team probably has decent depth or got insanely lucky to avoid injuries throughout the year.

Dig Dug
10 years ago

I am going through a major rebuilding. Over the past two years I have made trades needed to land #1,2,3,5,7,10 and 12 picks in the first round. I have Reggie Bush (RFA) Jamaal Charles and Ben Tate on my roster with Delone Carter and Ryan Williams on my taxi squad. I also have Matthew Staford as my QB but not much for backup. My WRs are weak -Denarius Thomas and Danny Amandola are my best receivers. Considering I am rebuilding, should I draft for need, best available, or trade my picks for young established players? I’m also considering trading my late first picks for 2013 #1 picks. Suggestions? Also, I have 2:01, and 3:01. At what point should I start drafting defensive players? My LBs are thin. Thanks for the great articles.

Paul
Reply to  Dig Dug
10 years ago

Long story short you don’t have any established ‘old’ players so I’d consider using all of those picks with 7 and 10 reserved for WR’s. I’d try to pick up Lamar Miller or Blackmon at 5 also (yes, Lamar Miller coming from a Seminole fan).

Trading the picks might actually hurt your chances of having a top pick next year and hopefully you have enough quantity that 2-3 of those picks will explode for you.

This year has more depth at the skill positions than most (see 2011 rookie revisit article) so if you roll the dice enough you should roll some sixes.

Cyrus
Reply to  Dig Dug
10 years ago

Sounds like a lot of trades! Not a bad roster for a rebuilding team with that many picks.

#1: I would definitely go Richardson with the top pick.
#2: I would take Blackmon, you really need WR
#3: I would either trade it for an existing player (Luck is BPA, find a QB needy team) or take Wright
#5,#7: At #5, take Luck or Wright if they fall. RGIII, Wilson, Miller, Martin if they don’t.
#10: Take whoever falls of the above list. If none of the above are available, take Floyd. If none of those 9 are available, trade.

At this point, you will have:
QB: Potentially RGIII if he falls to #7
RB: #1 in Richardson, #5 or #7 for one of the RB.
WR: #2 in Blackmon, #3 or #5 in Wright or a veteran, #10 in Floyd

Potential draft:
#1 Richardson
#2 Blackmon
#3 Wright (Or traded)
(Luck) (Or Wright)
#5 Martin
(Miller)
#7 Wilson
(RGIII)
?
#10 Floyd

RGIII could go higher, and if you doubt Stafford’s health, you might be smart to take him at #5 or #7.

You can then trade the #12 into the future or take whoever you like of the next group. Polk or Jeffrey are the only two at this point I would be interested in.

Dig Dug
10 years ago

And I forgot, I also have Gronkowsi and Jared Cook as my TEs.

Road Warrior
10 years ago

Great read and valuable advice. Unfortunately (well, really fortunately), I almost always draft late in my Dynasty leagues so this becomes even more valuable.

SuhFEAR
10 years ago

I have the #2 pick. I was offered Manning and the 11th pick. Would you take it? My QBs are Flacco and McCoy. I declined and I’ll be picking Luck.

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