Premature Acquisitions

Ryan McDowell


The long, tortuous wait is nearly over. The annual NFL Draft takes place soon and dynasty players absolutely can’t wait. There are several reasons for our anticipation. As NFL fans, we love action of any kind, including trades and free agency. So, NFL Draft weekend, when every NFL teams adds multiple players to their team all in one spot, trades are arranged and NFL veterans are bumped out of a job is a dream come true.

Possibly the main reason dynasty players are so eager for the NFL Draft is it signals the beginning of dynasty rookie draft season. Even more exciting than NFL transactions are our own dynasty transactions and as soon as the NFL Draft is complete, dynasty rookie drafts kick into high gear.

In recent days, I’ve found a pair of leagues that aren’t quite as patient as most of us, and who can really blame them? Who wouldn’t want to open their Christmas presents a few days early? I’ve been following a pair of leagues who each started their rookie draft last week. As I began to share some of the results I was observing with my Twitter followers, the backlash was immediate and often harsh. “Why would a league draft before the NFL Draft?” “We don’t even know where these guys will be playing!” The draft will alter the value too much!” “I would never play in a league that does that!”

There were clearly some strong feelings against this idea, but that is a common response to what’s considered a radical idea in dynasty leagues. For the record, I did once belong to one of these leagues and never had any problem with the early draft, though I understand it’s not for everyone.

Before we look at some of the early draft results, let’s consider some of the pros and cons of drafting before the NFL Draft takes center stage. I had a chance to exchange messages with the commissioners of each of these leagues to get some insight on their thinking and the reasoning for holding an early draft. Interestingly, one of the leagues began with an early draft as one of their core rules, while the other kind of happened into the early draft due to enthusiastic dynasty owners.


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A common theme I’ve heard from participants in these leagues and others who have been following along is how an early draft requires owners to draft based on talent, rather than factoring in team situation. I could see this being viewed as either a good or bad thing depending on how situation affects the value you place on players and positions. This could be a huge benefit for owners who consider themselves amateur draftniks, but could obviously be very intimidating for others. Like any other league setting, I am sure the participants in this league have adapted to match their competition.

I’ve seen a lot of conversation about how rookie drafts could play out if the Dallas Cowboys select a second or third tier running back. Would Mike Davis become a first round pick? How far up the board would David Cobb climb? These are situations that can be ignored during early drafts, yet could greatly affect some picks. There is potential for some drafters to load up on the running backs on that level in hopes of landing the next Cowboys’ starter, while others could draft completely based on talent.

As the NFL Draft nears, I am very excited for my dynasty rookie drafts to kick off, but also stressing over how to fit over a dozen drafts and the trade talks, roster cuts and other league business that comes along with it into a two-week window. Getting one draft out of the way early could be another benefit of drafting early. Not only can the participants focus on this draft now and their other drafts later, but it also spreads out the “fun” a little longer.

One final positive aspect of drafting prior to the NFL Draft is one that is similar to devy leagues – it makes NFL Draft weekend even more suspenseful. Not only are the dynasty players watching closely to learn the landing spots of their players, they’re actually rooting for certain outcomes that will help their newly drafted players. This could end up being a negative if they receive bad new though, but at least there is that added rooting interest.


The main concern and complaint I mentioned earlier is very valid and that is that drafting prior to the NFL Draft obviously means the team situation of each player is unknown. Each year, the draft brings us surprises and the dynasty value of rookies can swing wildly in either direction. Some recent examples of this are wide receivers like Cody Latimer and AJ Jenkins have risen in rookie drafts based on their earlier than expected NFL Draft position.

On the other hand, every year, NFL fans are left asking themselves, “is he still available?” There are players that tumble every year and are drafted much later than we expected and sometimes those big names aren’t even drafted. Just last season, we had running backs like Ka’Deem Carey, Isaiah Crowell and Lache Seastrunk lose a huge amount of dynasty capital after they lasted much longer than any fantasy player would’ve projected. In one of the leagues I’ve been following, both Carey and Seastrunk were top 20 picks, which was not the case in most drafts following the NFL Draft.

When this happens and you’ve already selected that player in the first round of your rookie draft, it immediately feels like a wasted pick. Granted, the majority of players being drafted in the first round of these rookie drafts, along with Scott Fish’s rookie mock drafts, will maintain their first round value even after the NFL Draft, but you don’t want to be the owner left holding the bag with a bad pick.

Another negative aspect of drafting early is the comfort level of the owners in your league. With very unique rules like this, I would hope all owners are on board with the timing prior to agreeing to join the league, so the owners that currently makeup the league likely have no complaints. However, trouble could come when a team becomes an orphan and a replacement owner needs to be found. A league setting like this one could eliminate a huge portion of a league’s options to take over a team. If you’ve formed a good league, you should be able to find a new owner, but there are at least some who would not consider accepting a spot due to the early draft.

Finally, I know many dynasty players are not fans of college football and therefore, much of their valuation they place on incoming rookies is tied to the draft capital NFL teams are willing to spend to acquire the player. Clearly, when drafting prior to the NFL Draft, this is not possible.


We’ll take a look at the results of these two drafts, but unless you’re actually one of the owners in these leagues, it will have no more value than one of the rookie mock drafts we’ve hosted here at DLF. Nonetheless, here’s a peek at where the rookies are being drafted in actual drafts.


Based on the feedback I’ve seen, this is a league rule that is not for everyone, but certainly adds some intrigue and excitement to an already enjoyable weekend.


ryan mcdowell