Editors note: DLF writers Nick Whalen and Nathan Powell debate which is more valuable, draft picks this year, or next. First up, Nick Whalen makes the case for the future.
Fresh after the combine results for offensive skill players rolled in, I always want to analyze “What does this mean for my dynasty teams?” As a film guy, I don’t take grown men running around in spandex as a big part of my evaluation. However, I can’t ignore the numerous others who do care about those numbers and drills. Therefore, I need to look at the numbers and what they mean for the class.
What did the 2016 combine tell us about this rookie class?
I was already pretty down on this class based on tape. Leading up to the combine, the whispers said “This class isn’t as bad as many lead on.” Well the combine took the wind out of the sails of this rookie class. Not many players ran fast or tested well overall. Which zaps the quality and depth out of this class.
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The worst part of the 2016 class is the headliners didn’t test well at all.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB Ohio State) turned in an impressive 4.47 40-yard dash, which is very good for his size. However, he only got 9-foot-10 in the broad jump and 32.5 inches in the vertical jump. For comparison, Montee Ball produced only a 9-foot-10 broad jump and 32 inch vertical jump. Laquon Treadwell (WR Ole Miss) produced only a 9-foot-9 broad jump and 33 inch vertical are well below average. Many suspect his 40-yard dash time will be subpar at his Pro Day as well. Tyler Boyd (WR Pittsburgh) validated what I saw on film, he’s a subpar athlete. Michael Thomas (WR Ohio State) turned in a 4.57 40 yard dash and looked really bad through the gauntlet drills. I only saw three prospects of the somewhat highly regarded prospects produce good combine results: Josh Doctson (WR TCU), Derrick Henry (RB Alabama), and Sterling Shepard (WR Oklahoma).
The combine drained the last traces of excitement I had for the rookie class of 2016. Therefore, I’m moving onto the 2017 rookie class. Why? It’s going to be epic! Seriously, this isn’t a story about how the grass is greener on the other side. Instead, I’m telling you the grass you’re standing on is brown and dead. But the grass on the other side of the fence is the most vibrant green you’re ever seen. If you want to keep chewing your cud of brown grass, no need to keep reading. However, if you want to win your dynasty league, let’s do some fence hopping!
The 2017 rookie class is better than the 2016 class in every way.
QB: We don’t focus on the quarterback position much in dynasty football. However, DeShaun Watson (Clemson) is better than every QB in the 2016 draft class. If you watched the National Championship game, you saw a very talented player step up in the biggest game of his life without two of his top three targets.
RB: If you thought the 2015 class was amazing at RB, just wait until 2017. I would argue Nick Chubb (Georgia) is better than Todd Gurley and both had a knee injury in college. Leonard Fournette (LSU) and Dalvin Cook (Florida State) are on the same level, if not better than Ezekiel Elliott, who is the top RB in the 2016 class. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), Corey Clement (Wisconsin), Wayne Gallman (Clemson), Jalen Hurd (Tennessee), and Samaje Perine (Oklahoma), and James Conner (Pittsburgh) are all on the same level as Derrick Henry, the consensus RB2 in the 2016 class. The next set of 5-10 guys are all in the running with the rest of the RB’s in the 2016 class. The amount of top end talent and depth in the 2017 class is amazing. It will likely rival the 2008 RB class which had Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Matt Forte, and Jonathan Stewart.
WR: If you’re new to me than you don’t know my love for Corey Davis (Western Michigan). He decided to go back to college for his senior season, don’t worry I had a good shower cry or ten over his decision. But it meant he was added to the 2017 class. Davis was my No. 1 WR if he declared for the draft. I would argue that the next four WRs in the 2017 class are on the same level as Laquon Treadwell or Josh Doctson, whomever is the consensus WR1 in the 2016 class now. Juju Smith-Schuster (USC), Courtland Sutton (SMU) (my next man crush), Mike Williams (Clemson), and Malachi Dupre (LSU).
TE: If you play in a TE premium scoring league, I would stock up on picks in 2017. I see five players I would take over any TE in the 2016 class. The 2017 class has a great move TE in Evan Engram (Ole Miss) and some huge players in OJ Howard (Alabama), Mark Andrews (Oklahoma), Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech), and Jake Butt (Michigan). I haven’t seen this much talent at the TE position in a single class maybe ever.
If only one or two of the positions were better than the 2016 class, I could see the hesitation. However, every single position group is better and it’s not really close. I could easily see a 2017 second-round pick being worth close to a middle to late 2016 first-round pick this time next year, which sounds ridiculous. But when you start counting the number of talented players next year versus this year it’s tough to argue. I wouldn’t walk or run to trade 2016 draft picks for 2017 picks, I would be sprinting.
Could injuries or suspensions happen? Sure. Could players not develop? Sure. However, the 2017 class will have even more players develop out of nowhere like every class does. So the quality and depth will likely make it the best class ever! No I’m not exaggerating and have already moved 2016 1st round picks for 2017 1sts. I’m willing to wait one year because dynasty is a long-term game.
Next, Nathan Powell tells you why you should hang on to those 2016 picks.
About a year ago, Nick Whalen and I were discussing the concept of how to value draft classes based on the perception of strengths, weaknesses at positions and overall as a class. We were going to write this article a year ago but we forgot, Nathan apologizes from the bottom of his heart. Anyways, what jogged my memory of the idea was seeing Nick endorsing selling 2016 rookie draft picks for 2017 rookie draft picks. So, the two sides of this debate are should we value certain classes differently based on perception of how good or bad they will be. Nick went in-depth on the players involved the two classes, but I’m more focused on the overall strategy of trading picks between the two classes.
For me, I think that all draft picks should be relatively worth the same outside of a time/waiting discount. Many people think that the 2016 rookie draft class isn’t as deep as some recent years or even future years, so they are looking to deal those picks. I think that could end up being a mistake. Are there draft classes that are better than others? Yes, absolutely, but I don’t think that is as predictable as we might think. Injuries, arrests, suspensions, decline in play and players staying in school are all factors that can turn a class that looks loaded into a run-of-the-mill average class just 12 months later. At this point in the process, after combine and before the NFL draft, I would take the 2016 1.01 over the 2017 1.01 and the 2016 1.12 over the 2017 1.12. That doesn’t have much to do with my opinion on the players that will be selected at those spots, mostly because at this moment, they aren’t players, they are picks.
The only thing bigger than rookie fever every offseason is sophomore fever. Most rookies hold their value for at least the first 12 months of their career, and of course those who excel in their rookie season can have huge gains in value. This can create a very nice sell window for these players. In 2014, Gio Bernard and Eddie Lacy were vaulted into the top 5 of dynasty running backs after solid rookie seasons and Christine Michael was being drafted as a top 15 dynasty running back despite doing nothing in his rookie season. In 2015, Jeremy Hill, Isaiah Crowell and almost all of the 2014 wide receiver rookie class all saw huge gains in value. In 2016, Thomas Rawls, Matt Jones, Stefon Diggs, Karlos Williams, Jeremy Langford, Javorius Allen have all seen huge boosts in value and can be sold for much more than the capital that was spent on them. Essentially, by selling current year picks you are forfeiting the possibility of seeing a huge value gain in the next 12 months. Sure, 2017 picks will be more valuable on the trade market this time next year than they are right now, but a late 1st will still be worth a late 1st, a 2nd will be worth a 2nd and so on and so forth. A late 1st in this years draft could possibly become worth an early 1st or multiple 1sts, and a 2nd in this class could possibly be worth a 1st by the time 2017 rookie drafts roll around.
The 2017 class has reached a point of mythical proportions. The “next year is better” narrative is as old as time, but it seems that has become nearly the consensus this year. Am I excited about players like Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and JuJu Smith-Schuster? Absolutely. But with all of the things that can happen between now and the 2017 draft, I am going to fall short of valuing the class as some sort of “super class” and run to deal my 2016 picks which some people may be souring on now, but I am confident rookie fever will continue to heighten all the way up to the day of rookie drafts, and even then, I will not be trading back a year with a pick just because of the perception of the two classes. The players you will be taking with those 2016 picks are still likely to increase in value throughout their rookie season and could have a much higher value than what you’d get by waiting and chasing the 2017 class.
Nick can be found on Twitter at @_NickWhalen