Last week, we looked at forecasting the careers of generic rookie draft picks based on probabilistic modeling. (If you haven’t read that article, it might be worth checking out before you continue here.) This week, we’ll take that same forecasting data and apply it to this year’s top 24 rookie dynasty prospects.
Many rookie profiles and projections focus on the player’s ceiling: what they could be if things go right. For this exercise, we’ll opt for a dose of realism instead and look at the average result for any given pick.
For each pick, we’ll forecast their expected years of reserve, starter, or elite-level production. Furthermore, we’ll highlight a comparable player from our dataset (2000-2010 rookies) whose career was similar to the forecast. These comps represent an over/under projection for each associated rookie, with the incoming player a 50/50 shot to produce more or less than their veteran counterpart.
1.01 – Josh Jacobs, RB OAK
Marion Barber makes for a prototypical 1.01 running back selection: a noteworthy career, but well short of Hall of Fame status. This is somebody who would make a solid building block of your roster, but probably won’t meet your high hopes for a first overall pick.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
1.02 – N’Keal Harry, WR NE
As we highlighted in our previous article, early first-round wide receivers are some of the most reliable picks on the board. The average wide receiver chosen at 1.02 should have a career equivalent to Dez Bryant. That’s an absolutely incredible place to start from, making N’Keal Harry the best fantasy asset available in the draft.
1.03 – Miles Sanders, RB PHI
1.04 – David Montgomery, RB CHI
Early first-round running backs will generally return a year or two of elite value. That’s not bad, but the wide receivers at this stage of the draft are more appealing.
1.05 – DK Metcalf, WR SEA
1.06 – AJ Brown, WR TEN
1.07 – Marquise Brown, WR BAL
1.08 – Parris Campbell, WR IND
1.09 – Deebo Samuel, WR SF
These mid-first round wide receivers share pretty similar comps: players who had a few starter-quality seasons and briefly reached elite status; not studs, but quality assets nonetheless.
1.10 – TJ Hockenson, TE DET
1.11 – Noah Fant, TE DEN
If you’re looking to get the best value for your picks, look no further than TJ Hockenson or Noah Fant. Their comps, Kellen Winslow and Randy McMichael, were extremely solid contributors for a long time. That’s a great basis for targeting either of these guys here.
1.12 – Mecole Hardman, WR KC
2.01 – Hakeem Butler, WR ARI
2.02 – JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR PHI
The mid-first round wide receiver comps were guys who had some legitimate success, if only for short periods of time. These are a little tougher to get excited about.
2.03 – Kyler Murray, QB ARI
Now remember, Matt Schaub was a legitimate starting NFL quarterback for seven seasons or so, and he was even the overall fantasy QB3 in 2009. That’s not enough to make Kyler Murray an attractive choice at this stage of the draft. The correlation between dynasty rookie draft status and career success for QBs is pretty weak, so don’t put too much stock here.
2.04 – Darrell Henderson, RB LAR
2.05 – Andy Isabella, WR ARI
Here’s a good opportunity to look at how the RB and WR positions fare side-by-side in the second round of the draft. Both players have similar over/under comps: guys who enjoyed a brief moment in the sun but were mostly peripheral fantasy figures. Both players are equally (un)likely to provide elite value in their careers, but in the long run, you’ll get more from the WR than the RB.
2.06 – Justice Hill, RB BAL
2.07 – Damien Harris, RB NE
Kevin Smith and Tatum Bell both had their turns as feature backs with uninspiring results. It’s reasonable to expect the same here.
2.08 – Irv Smith Jr., TE MIN
Again, if you want good value for your pick, draft a tight end. Alge Crumpler might be a slightly optimistic comparison — there wasn’t a perfect match in the dataset — but it’s fair to expect meaningful production from a tight end here, or even later, in the draft.
2.09 – Devin Singletary, RB BUF
Jerome Harrison was only sporadically relevant in fantasy football. Devin Singletary will have drastically outperform his veteran counterpart to make a dent in the fantasy landscape.
2.10 – Kelvin Harmon, WR WAS
2.11 – Miles Boykin, WR BAL
2.12 – Jalen Hurd, WR SF
The average late-second round WR might be worth starting for a season or two during their careers, but that’s about it.
Looking to veteran players for context should give us a more grounded perspective with which to assess rookie picks. Instead of asking what is possible for each player, we start by asking what is likely. From there, decide how you want to use your picks or whether you’d be better off trading them to someone who has loftier expectations.
If these comparisons seem unreasonably pessimistic, bear in mind that applying the same forecasting method to active veteran players doesn’t necessarily yield better results. In some cases, these rookie forecasts look quite favorable. We’ll delve further into how veteran players stack up in upcoming articles.