Editors note: For the second straight year the team here at DLF created a Dynasty Draft Guide to help you dominate your leagues, no matter what format. The Dynasty Draft Guide provides you with breakdowns of specific players you should target or avoid in 2022, but more importantly, it also contains evergreen strategy articles that you can refer to even after the 2022 season concludes. Check out one of those articles below, and remember as a DLF subscriber you have access to the entire guide here.
Nothing raises the temperature of discussion more than future rookie draft classes and how to value draft picks in that given year. As we approach 2022 rookie drafts and we begin to see 2024 rookie draft picks now available to trade in leagues, the 2023 class and pick values need their own section in the guide. Here we discuss how to navigate the current market, how it stacks up to a previous highly-touted class, and strategies to take after you find the value pulse in your specific dynasty league.
The 2023 Class – An Overview
Let’s start by discussing why so many are so excited about this class. To start, running backs always tend to drive the value of rookie classes. Look no further than the latest 2023 mock draft from Shane Hallam at Draft Countdown which projects four running backs in the first round, including Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs in the top fifteen picks. The last NFL Draft that produced multiple top fifteen selections at the position was 2017 and the NFL has not selected four or more running backs in the first round since 2008. There are others at the position in the class who can move up the board including the likes of Sean Tucker, Jase McClellan, Trey Sanders, Kendall Milton, Devon Achane, MarShawn Lloyd, Jalen Berger, and others as part of the vaunted 2020 high school recruiting class. The consensus top ten standouts eligible for the 2022 class, Zach Charbonnet, and Eric Gray, opted to return to school and both will look to cement themselves in the mix next season. The total count in the mock draft is nine ball carriers in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft and with ten of the top 24 running backs by current ADP over the age of 26 on opening day 2022, the timing is perfect for reinforcements on your dynasty rosters.
If you don’t like chasing running backs (as the current mainstream strategy tends to be), quarterbacks may be the primary driver of why you would consider a rookie class to be strong. Look no further than the current superflex startup ADP where as many as 12 quarterbacks are coming off the board before the end of the second round, and this may not even include the polarizing Deshaun Watson, who checked in at QB2 in ADP the last time he played an NFL game. While you may be asking how we can find room at the top, teams are reeling after the retirements of Ben Roethlisberger, and the constant turnover at the position and many are looking to get their hands on the next Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow. We saw the dynasty community react with conviction to Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance in 2021 and the 2023 class will be much of the same. According to NFL Mock Draft Database, early returns have both CJ Stroud and Bryce Young as the top three selections in the 2023 NFL Draft along with two other first-round picks at the position.
Former devy QB2 by ADP DJ Uiagalelei also becomes eligible for the draft along with many such as Will Levis, Kedon Slovis, Hendon Hooker, and Phil Jurkovic, who could have been selected in the 2022 class. We haven’t even mentioned Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson as massive upside candidates who could round out the class. Although this class may be top-heavy, it offers multiple shots at high-end players at the position, with the potential of four or five selections in the first round at a minimum.
One of many common sayings over the last few seasons is that “wide receivers” do not matter. This often gets confused with thinking some just do not value the position. Not true. The reality is the NFL is developing wide receivers at a faster pace than ever before. Dynasty managers are valuing wide receivers earlier in their careers and expecting them to produce right away. The value of players who do not return on their ADP after one or two seasons of disappointment and unfortunately for them, a new crop seems to enter every season ready to jump into a coveted spot in our ADP. Over the past five seasons, 46 wide receivers have been drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, an average of 9.1 per season. 2022 likely exceeds that number and for 2023, the quantity is looking right on par with the current trend. In addition, the 2023 WR class does not look to take a back seat to the strong running backs and quarterbacks as we currently have seven who have posted at least one season (in their first two) above the predictive threshold to become an NFL wide receiver with at least one top 24 seasonal finish.
This list doesn’t even include both Jermaine Burton and Parker Washington, who barely missed this mark as freshmen, and seniors Zay Flowers and Dontay Demus, who chose to return to school. Consider this to be another wide receiver class offering numerous high-end options and plenty of depth in the first two rounds of your drafts.
Not much more needs to be said about Michael Mayer. A projected top fifteen pick in the class from a factory school like Notre Dame could be the cherry on top of any dynasty rookie draft with a heavy focus on tight end. Any league with at least 1.75 points per reception or with a start two requirement can pencil Mayer as another placeholder and rock-solid profile in the first round. He posted a breakout as a sophomore and should cement his draft capital with size and athletic testing next spring.
The 2023 Class – Market Values
The toughest part for individuals to wrap their heads around is the market price of the 2023 draft picks. After all, we just illustrated a class that could potentially go 4-5 deep at quarterback (round one NFL draft picks), 5-6 deep at running back (round one and two NFL draft picks), and 7-9 deep at wide receiver (round 1/2 NFL Draft Picks), along with a first-round tight end. Conservatively, this pushes the depth of this class out to nearly the end of the second round of superflex drafts and includes some extremely highly-touted and hyped devy prospects. Although much of this is speculation and yet to be determined, the market has been excited about this class for two years and the train is not going to slow down any time soon. The question becomes, have we jumped the value shark?
The 2023 Class – Actionable Advice
Ultimately, the question you must ask yourself today is have the 2023 rookie picks just become too expensive? We haven’t seen many classes as anticipated as this one and combined with the heavy fading of the 2022 class, draft picks one year out seem impossible to obtain. In many seasons, the team acquiring the current class pick will be charged a tax to acquire a player sooner, but that’s not necessarily the case in 2022. As noted above, the threshold has crept up into the 1.05 to 1.06 range already, before the NFL Draft results come in. This figure continues to rise and could ultimately end up in the 1.04 range.
However, compare this trend to a stock that will continue to hold steady for another year and at any moment, in a specific economy or individual transaction could be liquidated at an even higher profit. Here is a view of the current 2023 pick market. In short, there are still creative ways to acquire picks and here we highlight a few:
The WR Pivot
The wide receiver position is deeper than ever – this has created a logjam of talent at the WR2/3/4 level where the production flattens off at a much faster rate than the player value. This thread discusses historical production data and why making this type of deal is simply a bet against the higher-valued receiver you are trading away not becoming elite. In the trade above, the value absorbed in the downgrade at wide receiver is insured by moving off of an undesirable pick (2022 2.02) and coloring the asset up to a random 2023 first-round pick.
The 80/40 (Player and Pick)
These are great trades to make when attempting to secure future draft picks. Trade away a player in a certain tier (represents 100 percent) for another player in a lower tier who you feel can get close to matching the one you are trading away (represents 80 percent). Add a future draft pick (represents 40 percent) to the lesser asset and bet that your side can close the gap. The draft pick acts as insurance on a swing and a miss but a winning bet pays off at a much higher rate. You just have to be comfortable with the risk.
The Pick Package
This trade assumes all your 2022 picks are outside of the range where a direct swap for a 2023 pick can take place. Combining the 1.10 and the 2.04 for any random 2023 first allows you to get to a place that was unattainable with a single pick. Furthermore, this move saves a roster spot down the road which represents intrinsic value not present in the trade calculation.
Being creative is the name of the game with the 2023 class since the cat is out of the bag. The majority of dynasty managers are aware of the clout the class holds, even if they are not up to speed on all of the names found within. Ultimately, the perception of the class matters even more than the actual players who end up in it. Playing the day-trading game with the picks means you have to have them in your portfolio to move them at the most advantageous times. You certainly don’t want to make every 2023 pick on the clock next spring but using time to your benefit allows you to stockpile them, evaluate their projection during the season and combine that with your own team needs to determine when to cash in for points to make a run in 2022. Like it or not, these picks will be the most desired currency over the next twelve months and much of your off-season should focus on how to continually add them as creatively as you possibly can.