Dynasty League Football

Cade Klubnik

Campus to Canton Leagues: Don’t Draft Freshmen

C2C managers should beware when trying to draft the next big thing before they take a college snap.

Cade Klubnik

Here at DLF, we strive to evolve and grow with the game of dynasty fantasy football. In that spirit, we have started a new article series, introducing the latest dynasty craze – campus-to-canton leagues. My goal is to start off focusing on the basics while establishing an understanding of how everything works. As we progress through the series, I aim to dive into strategies, player values, buys and sells, and more! If you’re new to C2C and missed the earlier parts of the series, make sure to go back and check them out, starting with part one.

Welcome back! I hope you were able to make some moves to acquire the supplemental gems from the last article. If your supplemental drafts haven’t happened yet, make sure to get them in your queue. It’s so important to hit on players in those drafts, and that’s what we are going to focus on today. As I research, write, and talk about C2C leagues, it becomes more and more clear that supplemental drafts quickly become the most important aspect. As your campus studs move on to the NFL, the desire, and even more so, the need to replace them, weighs heavily on C2C managers. We already discussed supplemental strategy in part three of the series, so you may be asking why we’re diving back in, but this time I wanted to focus even more on the freshmen.

Just like rookie fever affects dynasty leagues, freshman fever infects C2C nation each season as managers dream of drafting the next Trevor Lawrence, Garrett Wilson, or Bijan Robinson. Listening to a podcast, you’ll hear the story of the guy who got Caleb Williams in the mid-first round and another that drafted Drake Maye even later. Hearing that makes you want to go after even more early-round picks, but just like anything else, there’s always another side to the story. What’s failed to be mentioned, time and time again, is all of the players they whiffed on in those same early rounds. The hit rate on freshman players doesn’t ever seem to get talked about, and it may be alarming for people that have never looked into it. Focusing on that, I wanted to look at the last four draft classes that have officially made it to the NFL, 2017-2020.

Draft Classes



The 2017 freshmen class starts off strong, with some well-known names, and may just be the best of the four that we’re diving into today. Najee Harris was considered the best skill-position player in college football and now is considered a decent option in dynasty leagues. Cam Akers was a rising star before an Achilles injury changed everything for him, but so far, so good for the ranks. Starting at number three is where we start to see some issues with Donovan Peoples-Jones. DPJ never surpassed 650 yards in any season and has yet to be much of a factor in the NFL. Davis Mills kind of lucked his way into starting for the Texans for one season but was quickly replaced this year. Tee Higgins, Jerry Jeudy, Tua Tagovailoa, D’Andre Swift, and J.K. Dobbins are well-known names who you’re happy to have on your canton squad, but you’ve probably never even heard of Khalan Laborn, Hunter Johnson, Joseph Lewis, Jeff Thomas, Trevon Grimes, Tyjon Lindsey, D.J. Matthews Jr., and Tate Martell!

Ultimately, the top 20 players of the 2017 freshmen class have combined for nine top-24 fantasy seasons at their respective positions. Those nine seasons are from only four players; Swift, Najee, Higgins, and Tagovailoa. Of the entire list, only Najee Harris has finished top 12 at his position in a season. That leaves us with a hit rate of 20% for a top-24 season and 5% for a top-12.


The 2018 season starts off similarly to the previous class, with the top two players being relevant. Following the same path as before, the third-ranked player never hit 650 yards receiving. Beyond the top two players, we only see a few other relevant players, with only Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jaylen Waddle standing out. Most of the players in this top 20 ranking were either drafted on day three of the NFL draft or didn’t perform well enough in college to even make it to the NFL. This group of players has a combined six top-24 seasons. Those six seasons came from four different players, once again with a 20% hit rate. We do see a boost in the top 12 seasons, with four total seasons from those same four players. Are you noticing a pattern yet?


Unfortunately, that’s where our pattern ends. We don’t see the top two ranked players being valuable or having a 20% hit rate in this class. Jadon Haselwood and Trey Sanders had quite a bit of hype, especially early on, but neither turned into much. Bru McCoy is still receiving some hype going into year five but has yet to break out. Spencer Rattler has fallen down devy and C2C rankings more each season after starting off as an early first-round pick in supplemental drafts. Only Garrett Wilson, George Pickens, and Zach Charbonnet have made it to the NFL so far, and anyone else that does will likely be a day-three pick at best. Garrett Wilson is the only player that has had a top-24 season in the NFL, and the argument could be made that he and Charbonnet were the only two players that were valuable on the campus side. After one season in the NFL, the 2019 class has a hit rate of 5% for a top 24 season and 0% for a top 12.


The 2020 class hasn’t had a chance to play an NFL game yet, so we won’t hold the zero top-24 seasons against them just yet. For this class, we are focusing on their ability to get to the NFL and be drafted early. Bryce Young was the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so the class starts off on the right foot, but Julian Fleming has yet to hit 600 yards receiving after three seasons of playing. Arik Gilbert has barely even touched the field, even after transferring schools. DJ Uiagalelei tricked everyone into thinking he was the next big thing, only to completely fall apart once he was handed the reigns from Trevor Lawrence. While there are some more standout players in Bijan Robinson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Michael Mayer, and C.J. Stroud, at best, we can say there are five players that we can expect to see top seasons from.

The focus of the early rounds of supplemental drafts is generally devy viable players, or players we expect to contribute to our canton squads in future seasons. If you were drafting solely based on these composite rankings, it would seem you have a 15-20% chance of that player being a success in the NFL. Beyond the low odds of success, the odds of that player even scoring substantial points for your campus team aren’t all that much better. Clearly, C2C managers don’t have to draft straight from the rankings, so there may be ways to increase our odds, but we can’t even say to just draft the players from top programs because we’ve seen just as many transfers out and miss as we’ve seen hit, recently.

All of that isn’t to say that you should skip freshmen players in your supplemental drafts or trade away all of your picks, but I do think there is a way for us to gain at least a slight advantage. Trading futures supplemental picks for players that are being undervalued but have already shown they have NFL-level talent is one way. A lot of C2C and Devy players were quick to dismiss Josh Downs, Zay Flowers, Jayden Reed, and Marvin Mims last season, whether for size concerns or a belief in a lack of talent. While we don’t have any guarantees of NFL success for any of those four players, they already have higher odds after being selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. From my research, all four of those players fall into a category that gives them a 40% or better chance of success in the NFL. Moving future picks for any of those players last season would have increased your odds of a “hit,” and there were signs pointing to them being undervalued last year. The great part is while Downs would have cost quite a bit, the others were fairly cheap.

Being quicker than others to move off of players that haven’t hit yet is another great way of accruing better odds. After sending some future draft capital for undervalued players, you may not love the idea of missing out on the next big thing. One way to replenish those picks is to be willing to move quickly, selling players while others still value them highly. Getting out early can be risky, and there is no guarantee that a given player won’t break out later, but at least you get another opportunity to re-roll and try again. Perfect examples of this strategy are players like Luther Burden (ha, I brought him up as a sell again!), Cade Klubnik, and Branson Robinson. These players could easily break out in their second season, but the odds of them being a major success have already gone down based on their inefficient play in year one. What’s nice is all three players are still being ranked in the top 12 of their respective positions, with one in the top 5. Selling players like that for a more proven player or another pick or two in a supplemental draft can increase your odds, as well.

As I’ve said before, C2C leagues are not for the faint of heart. You have to go into drafts expecting to miss on picks, but there are ways to increase our odds. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to stick to a one-in-five chance of hitting on a player, and will do whatever I can to help find that one. It’s important to use every bit of information we have to make the most educated guesses. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Campus to Canton Leagues: Don’t Draft Freshmen
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