The off-season is in full swing, and that can only mean one thing: rookie fever is upon us. As we head into March and then the NFL Draft, there will be no hotter commodity than rookie picks. Whether it’s the 1.01 or 3.12, everyone is looking to acquire as many picks as possible in hopes of finding the next great fantasy star. But, with this type of demand, it’s easy to overpay in order to get the picks you want, and that’s why I’m writing this series.
Determining the value of rookie picks is difficult, and it’s easy to get fleeced if you don’t know what you’re doing. In this three-part series, I’m going to take a look at different picks in the first three rounds of the rookie draft and help establish fair value whether you’re trading away or acquiring rookie picks.
While I’ll be using the DLF Trade Calculator, it is worth noting that value is subjective, so trade partners may not agree with every screenshot you send them, but it does provide a phenomenal starting point for your next blockbuster deal.
It is the holy grail of rookie picks, and by far the most difficult pick to acquire in any league. This does not mean it’s impossible to get your hands on this draft slot, but if you’re determined to get the 1.01, then it’s going to cost you. Depending on your league settings, the 1.01 could be several players, from Trevor Lawrence in superflex to Najee Harris or Ja’Marr Chase in 1QB leagues.
The value of the 1.01 changes every year based on the talent coming out, and this year with Lawrence, who has been touted as the best quarterback to come out in a long, long time, the value is as high as ever. We all understand how vital a great quarterback is in superflex, and being able to grab Lawrence would, in theory, give you a top option for years to come. He won’t come cheap so let’s look at a one-for-one trade that could land you the 1.01.
Based on the trade calculator, if you want to go out and acquire the 1.01, it will cost you a perceived top-ten player in dynasty rankings. Others with similar value would be Joe Burrow (last year’s 1.01), Russell Wilson, or Davante Adams.
Looking at the 1.01 in a standard 1QB league, you need to adjust your expectations. While you can still get a top ten player in dynasty, that group of players varies from superflex leagues. In SF, Metcalf is a top-ten player, but in 1QB leagues, he’s a top-five asset, and you’ll need to add more to the 1.01 to grab a guy like him. You can still get a great return, though, and acquire multiple high-profile assets or even just a singular budding star.
You can go out and trade for several different high-profile players such as Swift, CeeDee Lamb, or Cam Akers in a one-for-one deal. This is an example of while it may look fair on a trade calculator, it’s not one that I’d personally accept (I’m incredibly high on Swift moving forward), but it gives you a great starting point for a trade.
As we move further into the draft, the value drops, but that drop is not linear by any means. There are tiers of talent in each draft, so it’s important to know where those breaks are. At 1.04, there is a tier break for 1QB leagues this season, so it’s worth looking at the type of talent you need to give up to jump into the top four this season.
At the 1.04, you could go several different ways based on the first three picks, but most likely, you’re looking at the QB3, the RB1, or the WR1. With the talent pool being deeper, due to the increased value at quarterback, you’ll still need to give up from high-profile players in order to move up to the 1.04
In superflex leagues, fair value sits somewhere between players ranked in the early to mid-20s, and that’s due to potential stars such as Harris or Chase being available at this slot.
If you’re looking to rebuild and have some aging vets such as Michael Thomas or Derrick Henry, then I’d be more than happy to swap them for the 1.04 and take the chance of acquiring a potential top ten skill player in the future. Younger options who are valued similarly include Miles Sanders and Calvin Ridley; while that may not be a clean swap, they are great players to target to at least start the conversation.
As I mentioned above, I have a tier break after 1.03 assuming that Harris, Travis Etienne, and Chase go, so what I’m personally willing to give up between 1.03 and 1.04 changes a fair amount. At 1.04, you’re looking at WR2, RB3, or Kyle Pitts, so trading up to this slot allows a lot of flexibility which some people may place a higher value on.
When trying to trade for the 1.04, you’ll need to give up players who are ranked in the 30s, most likely if you’re looking for an even swap. Joe Mixon, Terry McLaurin, and DJ Moore are great starting points in trade offers for the 1.04 or if you’re looking to trade away the pick. On a personal note, if it’s draft day and I can flip Mixon for 1.04, knowing I’d be able to draft Javonte Williams, that’s a trade I make every time.
The further from the top of the draft we get, the harder it is to contextualize value. There are so many variables that while you may have an idea of players who could be available, come draft day, you could be way off. When trading for picks this far back in the first, you need to have a list of guys you’d be comfortable selecting before acquiring the pick and then comparing those players against what you’re willing to give up.
At 1.08 in Superflex leagues, you’re looking at the second tier of skill players and potentially the QB4 in rookie drafts. When looking for fair value, I’m looking to give up/acquire reliable wide receivers who seem to have hit their ceiling or aging vets (28-29) that are still returning stable WR1/WR2 value during the season.
Players such as JuJu Smith-Schuster or David Montgomery are great starting points. You know what you have in them, and they are solid contributors, but they don’t seem to have the long-term upside that you could find at 1.08. You’re trading proven value for the potential of greatness. As I’ve said throughout this article, I’m not saying you need to go and flip Smith-Schuster for 1.08 right now; these are just ideas to help contextualize rookie pick value.
At 1.08, you’re looking at the end of the second tier of skill players for many people and another exponential drop in rookie draft pick value. That’s not to say that there is no talent left in the draft because there certainly is, but as I said above, it’s important to understand the tier breaks in each draft to maximize your rookie draft return.
Without the added value of quarterback, the price for 1.08 drop when compared to the players valued similarly. Players such as Kareem Hunt or Courtland Sutton are where I would start negotiations. While both players possess upside, there are still questions surrounding their long-term value. You’re far from guaranteed a long-term asset from the draft at this draft slot, so balancing that risk is critical.
Keep an eye out for the second edition of Value Index: Rookie Draft Picks. Next time we’ll be diving into the value of second-round picks in 12-team leagues.