Dynasty Stock Market: Predicting Rookie Drafts

Ryan McDowell

As I conduct the monthly DLF dynasty mock drafts, one of the most frequently discussed topics among the participants and commenters is the incoming rookie class. In part, that is due to the annual rookie fever that overtakes many dynasty owners. We have all probably experienced it. The desire for the new shiny toy takes over and our roster full of “boring” veterans begins to look stale. Another reason for the popularity of the topic is simply owners attempting to get a leg up on their competition and discover how the new rookies are being valued in comparison to each other and current players.

When looking at the ADP data, there are many uses that have been discussed on multiple occasions. One of my favorite ways to use the data this time of year is as predictor of what upcoming rookie drafts might look like. Obviously rookie drafts and startup drafts, where this data was drawn, are two different beasts. You’ll often see players, specifically quarterbacks and tight ends, fall further in a startup draft than they would in a rookie draft, in comparison to other rookies. This is due to teams in a startup already selecting a quarterback or tight end they view as their starter and being willing to wait much longer for a backup at those two positions.

In looking back at the ADP data from one year ago, the pre-NFL draft data was actually a very good representation of how some of the rookies would perform. The first five rookies selected in March of 2013 ADP were Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard, Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins. So, while there is plenty of time for things to change over the next two or three months, looking at ADP data of the rookies now, when we rely heavily the player’s talents displayed during their college career, can be a good indicator of future dynasty success and value.

According to March ADP data, here’s what the first round of a twelve team rookie draft might look like.

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Like most dynasty rookie drafts, this first round is heavy at the running back and wide receiver positions. The wideouts especially are dominant at the top of the round with four of the top six players coming from the deep receiver position. Many experts have called this the deepest wide receiver class in memory and that is evident by this data. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been the favorite to be the top rookie for months now after he bounced back from a disappointing sophomore season to shine as a junior for the Tigers. While there is still more than a full round separating Watkins from the second rookie, Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans is gaining value and closing the gap. I’ve seen plenty of dynasty players I respect saying Evans would be their top choice in a rookie draft, so it could be a toss up between these two players.

After Evans, there is a large gap until the next player is selected in the sixth round, demonstrating the large difference in value between the top two picks and all others. While there are many candidates to eventually hold down the third spot, there is no clear favorite now. In fact, any one of nearly ten players could eventually become the consensus choice at 1.03. Or we may have no consensus at all. It’s that type of year and situation the players, especially running backs, are drafted into will play a larger role than normal in dictating the dynasty value of the rookie class.

For now though, the second tier is filled with two backs and two receivers and there is a significant gap between Marqise Lee, the potential 1.07 pick, and Eric Ebron, the top tight end off the board. Lee is trending downward, while Ebron is rising, but there is still over a round gap between the two.

Once we get to Ebron, the deep third tier is begun and it stretches all the way into and through the potential second round of rookies, with little gap in March ADP. This tells me that some of the players falling in the late first round of this exercise could easily fall to the late second round by May. Likewise, some of the second rounders we’ll see next could be risers.

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As I said, there is little gap found between any of the players potentially chosen as second round picks. As is often the case, the second round is where dynasty owners are more willing to take a chance on a highly talented, but high-risk player. That is the case with players like Kelvin Benjamin, Isaiah Crowell, Johnny Manziel, Jeremy Hill and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. These players have each proven themselves as talented players on the college level, but have some questions, often regarding their character, as they enter the NFL.

While dynasty owners are more willing to accept the risk of these types of players outside of the first round, they are also more likely to grab a quarterback or a tight end. Those positions rarely produce first round dynasty rookie picks, but become common in the second round. Here, we have Manziel, Seferian-Jenkins, along with Jace Amaro and Teddy Bridgewater.

Nearly half the round is also made up of running backs. As I mentioned earlier, the running back position is most heavily impacted by team situation and any of these backs chosen here could vault into the first round or plummet down a round or two based on the events of the next two months.

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We’re getting to the point in the draft where owners are taking shots, grabbing some of their personal sleepers and drafting with upside in mind. Though there are a few more quarterbacks and tight ends, the third round is again dominated by running backs and wide receivers and just like the second round, these backs could end up in the late first round if they go to just the right team. Specifically, Terrance West is a player who seems to be gaining some steam and could be moving up rookie draft boards. In fact, acclaimed scout Greg Cosell recently called him fascinating and a potential foundation runner. Cosell moves the needle for dynasty owners, so expect West to be a second rounder, at least, as real rookie drafts near.

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Though the potential fourth round of this rookie draft obviously lacks the star power of the earlier rounds, there are potential gems here, as there are every year. While I’m not sold on the future of quarterback Derek Carr, he is routinely being talked about as a first round NFL draft pick, making him well worth taking a shot on this late in the draft. A pair of receivers I like at this point, or maybe even earlier, are Brandon Coleman and Shaquelle Evans. Coleman flashed his talent early in his Rutgers career, but struggled last season. In fact, many were surprised that he still chose to declare for the draft. Meanwhile, Evans was lost in the shuffle and often overlooked at UCLA. Both could prove to be steals at this late point in the draft.

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