When I first started out as a dynasty owner, one of the most confusing aspects was figuring out the value of rookie draft picks. I didn’t know if the picks were worth hanging onto, or trading for vets, or should be consolidated to trade up, or maybe to trade down and acquire as many picks as possible.
I was clueless and there wasn’t much help anywhere to be found on the internet. Trading calculators all seemed to have no rhyme or reason for their calculations, and dynasty writers would give me feedback that would contradict one another. I had to find a better way.
First of all, I want to say that I hate all draft pick charts I’ve ever encountered. Too many people live by them without knowing the math behind creating them. This motivated me to make my own. I was a double major in college (statistics and mathematics) and the research behind finding the correlation between successful NFL fantasy players and rookie-draft placement interested me.
This article is going to cover four topics. The first is that of accurately assessing rookie pick value. The second is for using that value when trading for other rookie picks. The third is for assessing rookie pick value when trading for veteran players. The last looks at future rookie pick trading.
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ROOKIE PICK VALUE
In order to accurately assess draft picks, you must first need to know what makes a winning dynasty team and then find out where to get those players in the draft. I analyzed all fantasy football playoff teams I could find that were a part of 12, 14, or 16-team leagues and standard starting requirements.
I found out that the majority of these teams had on average 2.07 ‘Studs’ (players worth multiple first rounders), 2.84 ‘Starters’ (players worth about one first rounder), and the rest are ‘Role Players’ (players worth a second or third-rounder). You had to have at least one stud on your roster, and most likely you had to have two. No studs on your rosters meant that you probably didn’t make the playoffs.
Next, I needed to find out who the studs were and where they could be found in the rookie draft. I researched every draft pick from 2004-2015 using MyFantasyLeague‘s own ADP data from actual rookie drafts (I purposely didn’t do 2016, 2017 and 2018 since those players are still changing in value).
I then determined which of those players, on average, evolved to become studs (Odell Beckham, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, etc) starters (Frank Gore, Jonathan Stewart, Emmanuel Sanders) or role players (Vernon Davis, Latavius Murray). Anyone less than a role player status was ignored, as they had little-to-no value in the long run.
I also had to research the range that these players were taken in the draft. For example, Mike Evans was most-commonly a 1.01 and 1.02 pick, so that was his range. Carlos Hyde was a 1.03 to 1.07 player, so that was his range. Standard deviation was played with but ultimately dropped, since nearly every player in the middle of the first round had an SD of about one slot.
The result of where studs can be found in the draft was a little surprising. For example, there was barely any difference in success rate from the 1.01 to the 1.03 selections. Success rate for these picks resulted in the same ~42% stud rate. The 1.04-1.06 selections dropped to about a 21% stud rate.
The fail rate, which is where you do not draft one of the three kinds of players mentioned above, went from a 50% average in round one, to an 80% in round two, 84% in round three, and a 94% fail rate in round four. Also worth noting, talent significantly dropped off after the 1.06 selection.
The next thing I had to do is give the three types of players a numerical value. It all starts with role players and works up. I gave all role players a value of one. Then, I had to determine how many role players it would take to equal a starter assuming trade value.
Given feedback on various forums, I assumed three role players = one starter. Last, I deemed studs to be greater value than three starters, and since starters were three points apiece, I made studs = ten points. These became the default values for my trade chart.
Next, I needed to find the expected outcome of each draft pick in order to determine trade value. For example, the 1.01 pick yielded a stud rate of ~41%, a starter rate of ~20%, and a role player rate ~5%. 41% of ten, plus 20% of three, plus 5% of one = the ‘Expected Outcome’ for this draft pick.
Since the numbers got small, I multiplied each one by 1,000 to make each draft pick more tangible so you can better use them when determining trade value. Using expected outcome based on previous draft data is the best predictor of future results.
Lastly, I needed to create a model that could be used by all dynasty owners from all types of leagues. I created a spreadsheet that could accurately evaluate each draft pick based on the data above.
I added an adjustment factor to the spreadsheet so each owner can tailor their valuations based on the type of league they are a part of (superflex, eight-team, TE-premium, etc). The The following is what was created from several weeks of research:
LINK HERE ←- To own this chart, download it to your computer or google drive.
The reason I like this chart is simple: It follows the exponential decay model associated with player value, and gives each user a personalized value based on their perception of player value. It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” model.
Best of all, if you disagree with my assessment on player value, that’s just fine. You can make your own by adjusting the stud, starter, and role player values all on your own. This gives each owner their unique evaluation on rookie draft picks without having to compromise their own personal feelings on player value.
Here’s how you use the calculator. First, you adjust the player rankings in the top middle where it says “Stud, Starter and Role Player”. The default is ten, three, and one respectively. If you are in a superflex league, you want to put a little less value in studs.
If you are in a TE-premium league, you want to put more value in starters and role players. The left side of the sheet will give you individual draft pick values based on the values you gave in the first step. The right side of the sheet will give you the historical draft pick data that will be useful when you are determining when or when not to make a trade.
The middle of this trade chart might be the most useful on a daily basis. When considering a trade between multiple draft picks, there is a handy trade calculator in gray to help you mathematically compute each side. This is where we will begin the second part of our topic.
Rookie Pick vs Rookie Pick Trading
Assume you own the 1.02 rookie pick. Someone else has offered you the 1.06, 1.10, and 1.12 rookie picks for your 1.02 pick. Do you make the trade? Well, when you input the values of into the calculator provided, you will notice that the value lies in the direction of the three draft picks by 352 points.
This might sound like a lot, but that’s when you look to the right side and analyze what 352 points mean in the grand scheme of things. 352 points is roughly equal to the 3.08 selection in a rookie draft. And looking on the far right side, the 3.08 pick can help your team 15% of the time, mostly as a starter or role player.
Is this enough to sway you to make the trade? I can’t answer that for you, but you should also take into consideration the stud rate for each pick. The 1.02 has a stud rate of 42%. The 1.06, 1.10, and 1.12 have stud rates of 21%, 4%, and 4%, respectively. Studs can make or break a dynasty team over the long haul.
The trade offer in our example does not match the stud rate for the 1.02 pick, and if your team is in desperate need for studs which are hard to come by, you may want to think about rejecting this deal. However, if you have three studs on your team and you need more starters and role players to help you compete, the trade might make mathematical sense for you.
Another way to use this chart is to assess the value of specific picks you already own for the purpose of trading back. Let’s say you own the 1.03 selection and the rookie player you want to select will still be around by pick 1.06. The difference between 1.03 and 1.06 is 1,795 points.
You can figure out any combination of picks that add up to 1,795. In our example, the 12th and 17th overall picks would help close this gap. If you make this deal, you’ve successfully acquired more value without compromising the player you want to draft.
Rookie Pick vs Veteran Player Trading
Let’s assume you own Alshon Jeffery, and because he’s 29 and not helping your team anymore, you want to trade him away for rookie picks. Where do you start? The best thing to do would be to assess his value using ADP data, and then compare that value to rookie picks of similar ADPs.
There are two great free resources to use. The first one is the Mizelle ADP utility. It’s a monthly compilation of ADP data categorized by one single dedicated dynasty owner. It’s color-coded and easy to read, and quick to load since it’s a very basic website.
The other is MFLs own ADP page. This page is great because you can customize and sort ADP data based on your own league settings. You can also weed out mock drafts from startups, making your data even more accurate.
Because Mizelle is quicker to load and easier to use, let’s look there to continue our example. According to Mizelle, Jeffery has an ADP of 77. This is one spot earlier than Darrell Henderson, who is the eighth rookie being drafted on average, denoted by the (R8).
This gives you a good indication of Jeffery’s true value on the market. You can now search to see who owns the 1.08 selection, and start making that very offer. It doesn’t hurt to ask the 1.07 owner as well, since valuations are different from owner to owner.
Let’s assume you get some rejections, what do you do now? Go back to the trade chart I showed you earlier and make some calculations. The 1.08 pick is worth 1,666 points, so any combination of draft picks that totals that value would also be appropriate.
What if you own a draft pick and you’re wondering what types of players you could be making offers for? If this is the case, simply do the reverse.
Suppose you own the 2.10 and you are not impressed with the selection of tight ends available at the time of this pick. Simply open up the Mizelle page and scroll until you see (R22), which would equate to be the 2.10 selection in a standard twelve team league.
Tight ends are color-coded red in the Mizelle page. Some tight ends in the R22 range are Ian Thomas, Trey Burton, Greg Olsen, and Jack Doyle. This method gives you a general idea of the kinds of players affordable to you for all draft picks you own.
Future Draft Pick Trading
This is going to be an inexact science. There are two scenarios when trading future draft picks. Below is a rough idea of what one might encounter when trading such selections.
Scenario One: You are looking at trading away a future draft pick. Your roster is great, but you don’t yet have the depth needed to make a run, so you’re looking at trading away a future draft pick for a win-now run.
I have zero issue at all for anyone who chooses to do this. I think “going for it” is the primo thought process when making trades. The issue is that this is a dynasty league, and a decision made today can affect you forever.
When trading away a future pick, you can never be one hundred percent certain that your team will be a winning team. Last year, Kareem Hunt was kicked off the Kansas City Chiefs, Josh Gordon sought treatment, and Jimmy Garoppolo was lost for the season. These are just some examples of what could go wrong.
Never trade away your pick assuming it will be the last pick in the first round. Doing so not only minimizes the value of that pick but also puts you in a bad spot mentally if that pick turns out to be a top six selection.
Scenario Two: You’re about to acquire a future first-round draft pick. If this is the case, just like in scenario two, do not assume it’ll be an early pick. Sure, you can use a teams roster for a rough estimation of final team standings, but unless the team you’re acquiring from already has a bad record, nothing is impossible.
A few years ago, I had a terrible roster and made a trade offer of my future first rounder for a veteran stud still in his prime. It was snap accepted by the other owner because my roster was so bad, therefore my rookie pick had to be a top three pick. He was ecstatic.
I then made another series of trades that transformed my roster from complete garbage to one that many considered to be the best in the league. Had the other owner I was working with simply assumed my pick would be average at best, he wouldn’t have lost his best player for what ended up being the 1.11 pick.
In conclusion, rookie picks are valued differently by different owners. The ones who do research and find the true value of their draft picks are going to be the ones coming out on top when making deals.
Being confident about your knowledge of draft picks will also help you feel better about making trades that will benefit you in the long run. Knowing to be more cautious when dealing with future draft picks will help prevent any irreversible long term damage.
And finally, the top six selections produce more most fantasy football studs than all other spots in the rookie draft combined. It’s imperative that you treat these picks with higher regard when making trades, so as to not lose prime value in the long run.
You can follow his opinions on Twitter @MikeEHavens
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