Rookie Draft Study: Part Five, Conclusions

Jeff Miller


This is the final part in a series covering dynasty rookie drafts, pick value and historical ADP. If you missed parts one through four, we’d strongly recommend you check them out before continuing on with this article – they help set the stage for what we will be discussing today.

For all the talk of hit rate and value of rookies, one thing we haven’t really discussed is how these rates compare to those of veterans. I did stage a valiant attempt at figuring out how to do this in a way that would work for this series. But because of the massive amount of players I’d have to track from year-to-year, it wasn’t meant to be.

As a direct result of my abandonment of that plan, the focus of this series shifted from coming to conclusions to presenting data and allowing the reader to make conclusions on their own. As I update this study next year and in seasons after, I may revisit the veteran conundrum, but for now, we will let things lay as they are.

Well, almost. Just one more point on this, I promise.

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Even though I can’t quantify in numbers what value a vet has versus a rookie, when looking at players and ADP and production and rankings, I feel as though I have a good idea of what I’m getting. Perhaps because I’m not a draftnik or scout, that isn’t something I have with most rookies. My strong hunch is I’m not the only one. Heck, even NFL teams get it wrong. And when they do get it right, it’s mostly because they have more picks than others.

OK, now I’m done. So let’s bring this baby home.

My best guess is if you are into young players, I probably haven’t said much to change your mind. I’m also fairly sure if you are the type to sell off picks for vets, you aren’t turning over a new leaf based on anything I said. All that is OK with me.

When I set out on this path, I thought I’d find out how overpriced rookies were. I was sure I’d help reverse the youth movement. But the more I got into it, the more I realized these things I had in my head were wrong, but also right. I mentioned this in part one, but the thing this series has really taught me is that there is no best path, only different paths.

None of this is to say there aren’t bad options. Specifically, dumping off players at a discount when they turn 27, missing out on two to four years of prime production in order to take shots at rookies is foolish at best. There is literally no roster with which I’d advise you to do this. Conversely, continually moving all your high picks for veterans with only a couple years of good to great production isn’t a sustainable model.

Balance is key.

So is being flexible with your strategies.

If you just took over an awful team with no hope of winning any time soon, accumulate as many picks as you can by selling off vets during the season. Then either do your best to hammer the draft, sell the picks when their value is at its best or a mixture of both.

Maybe your savvy ownership built a very good roster over the years. Better still, you are sitting on multiple picks in the late first and early second. Everything we’ve talked about tells me you should be moving up to the top of the draft. Having a volume of picks is great, but odds are good that because your roster is already so good you’ll end up with depth players, or worse. Instead, raise the variance and go all-in on one player. They may end up being the guy who keeps you on top for the next half a decade. And if not, you are still in great shape.

But what if you are stuck in the middle with a tweener roster? Don’t make a plan. Just take it as it comes. Float offers all over all year round, being careful to sell vets and acquire picks in-season and sell picks to acquire vets once Mr. Irrelevant has gone off the board. In general, take the best deals regardless of if you are getting picks or selling them.

My point here is that nothing matters as much as your roster. It should shape every decision you make. If you are inundated with uninspiring, solid players, chase some upside. If you have a roster full of Martavis Bryant’s and Donte Moncrief’s, look for some stability.

I could go on all day, but I digress.

The most important things about rookie picks, the thing that makes them worth what they are, is that when you hit big, you win games. When you turn the 1.03 into Le’Veon Bell, the 2.01 into Randall Cobb, the 1.07 into DeAndre Hopkins, or the 1.02 into Dez Bryant, good things happen. All the math, all the charts and tables and graphs can’t put a value on turning a pick with an ADP in the 50’s into a top-five asset.

You are going to miss (a lot) along the way. You will draft Beanie Wells and Tavon Austin. But if you are smart about how many picks you make, what you pay for them, and how you spend them, they can be an essential part of a winning strategy.

I would like to thank George Kritikos and Scott Peak for their invaluable help with and advice on this project. I also want to recognize Dan Meylor and Eric Dickens for being sounding boards when I got stuck. And finally, a big thanks goes out to my college statistics professor, Dr. Mare Miller, who also happens to be my mother, and Adam Eppinger for helping me with the probability math in part four.


jeff miller