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.