Everyone wants to feel like they are getting a deal when trading draft picks and no one wants to feel like they have been taken advantage of in a trade. That is why Jimmy Johnson created a draft pick trade value chart in the early 1990s. Over the following decades, there have been other iterations of the draft pick trade value charts. The most notable by Rich Hill after studying the New England Patriots. However, there isn’t much in terms of Dynasty Draft Pick values that match together research with the value of picks and fantasy points scored...until now!
The following charts are created by analyzing the past five years of rookie Average Draft Position (ADP) and a player’s rookie year fantasy points, an average of fantasy points over a player’s first three years and an average of fantasy points over a player’s career. In a world where rookies are labeled as busts after a few weeks, see Jonathan Taylor’s start in 2020, it is important to look at the immediate impact of a rookie pick. Common dynasty advice also directs people to look at their team in three-year increments. This notion is further expounded by authors Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner in their book Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (a highly recommended read!), whose research in forecasting suggests the further out a forecast is made the more impossible accuracy becomes.
After compiling all these numbers a very clear and expectable trend is visible. The earliest of picks hold the most value for all three time-frames. The value rapidly declines through the first 10 picks before the decrease in value becomes less steep. Eventually, the change in value between picks is almost negligible. Please note that the chart below removes quarterbacks from the draft picks as they greatly skew scoring numbers.
The logarithmic trendlines created from the three measures are almost identical which allows us to synthesize them into a useful draft pick value chart, see below. By assigning draft picks value based on this trendline we can see the immense value of the first overall pick and then a rapid decline in value throughout the first 10-15 picks before the value slows to the point where the difference between picks is almost negligible as seen in the chart above.
So what does this mean for you as a Dynasty player looking to make moves this offseason? It means you now have a research-based tool to help analyze the value of your draft picks. This information can be used to justify trading up into the top few picks, or for trading down for more picks at roughly the same value, in order to earn additional attempts at picking that late-round gem. For example, if you were to convince the manager with the fifth pick to trade for the 13th, 21st, and 25th picks, you would be able to gain a significant advantage on rookie year and first three years of production. However, if you have an early third-round pick trading back to earn three, or four later picks, would earn you more attempts at getting lucky.
It is important to pause here and reiterate that just because a chart, calculator, article, tweet, etc. says that something is a deal or not, does not make it so for your team or in your league. First, these values were created based on 1QB leagues, Superflex leagues would need these numbers adjusted significantly to reflect the increased dependence on quarterback scoring. Second, the construction of your team will help guide you to what you need. Trading up or down depends on what and who you already have and how you plan to shape your roster over the next three years. Lastly, each year of prospects is different and will slightly adjust a pick’s value. For reference, the 2020 draft has a chock-full of top-level running back talent with four of the first five picks typically taking a running back and each one producing over 150 PPR points on the season. Compare that to the 2015 draft, where Todd Gurley was far-and-away the best RB prospect and outscored all the other first-round ADP RBs significantly. In 2015, that first overall pick would have been even more valuable, whereas in 2020, the top five picks would have been closer in value and then decreased more significantly from there.
This analysis also provided data on how positions fared by the round in which they were drafted in Dynasty Rookie drafts. There is a very clear advantage of taking running backs in the first round through the mid-second round of your rookie drafts. They not only outproduce the other positions in their rookie year but also throughout the first three years of their career. However, wide receivers gain a significant advantage over running backs come the second-through-third rounds of rookie drafts.
These two charts can help you plan for what you need in the upcoming draft. If you are in win-now mode, trading up to be able to draft a first-round running back should be a goal. If you are still assembling pieces for a championship run over the next two to three years, trading down from the first round to grab multiple second-round wide receivers might be a good plan. This of course is subject to who the prospects are and how much you like or dislike their evaluations and profiles as prospects.
Finally a note about future picks. Similarly to the NFL, a future year draft pick is worth a pick in the round ahead of what is being traded. So a fourth this year is worth a third next year. This is because of the rapid changes that can take place in a season. To highlight this hypothetically, you trade the 31st pick for a third next year. There is a 50% chance that the future pick gains value but also a 50% chance that it loses value and in the worst-case scenario, it loses 80% of its value! The numbers will always be in your favor if you trade current picks for next year’s picks. However, you won’t have the players needed to actually score points for your team if you are continuously trading out of the current year. At some point, the potential value of picks will need to be made “real” and hopefully meet or exceed its potential value.
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