The rookie draft in dynasty formats is one of the most important and fun parts of playing a season-long fantasy football format such as Dynasty! It can help you win a championship, be the stepping stone to an era of success, or it could leave your team hobbled and unable to retool for years to come. There are three key components to prepare for your rookie draft: 1) Understanding your team and league, 2) Understanding the value of your picks, and 3) Research.
Understanding your team and league:
As the ancient Greek inscription on the Temple of Delphi read, “know thyself.” It’s always a smart practice to take inventory of one’s strengths and weaknesses. This is sound advice for dynasty teams as well. It is important to take as close to an unbiased look at your team as possible. Are your running backs in their second or third contract and losing long-term value? Are your wide receivers young and full of potential but not producing fantasy points yet? Have you mortgaged your future for draft picks or are you in full-rebuild mode with picks-galore? These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself as you evaluate your team.
It is important to keep your roster construction in mind, as you are asking and answering these questions. Not just the limits mandated by your league and the required weekly starters but also how the players you’ve selected build your roster. Having three stud quarterbacks may add ‘value’ but if you are in a league where you can only start one quarterback, then you essentially only have one stud quarterback. Depending on league rules, you may need to cut some players, in order to draft some rookies or release one of those stud quarterbacks in exchange for a young up-and-comer who hasn’t reached their potential yet.
This leads to the second step, understand your league. This is much more than just knowing whether the league is a SuperFlex (meaning you can start two QBs) or a single quarterback league. It is also more than knowing the intricacies of how points are scored and roster limits. It is understanding the other teams and managers in your league.
If understanding your team can be summarized by the phrase “know thyself,” then understanding your league can be summarized by the phrase “know thy enemy.” Not to be overly confrontational (many leagues are played with friends or co-workers) but the ultimate goal is to beat the other teams in the league. After realizing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, you want to look for the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. You also want to get to know the people you are competing against within your league. Is one manager always love-struck by the incoming rookies? Who is the person in your league that is blinded by age and feels they must move everyone over the age of 25? There are many more types but understanding who you are playing against, will help you find trade partners and leverage opportunities by taking advantage of their tendencies.
The next point we are going to discuss is crucial to understand. No two dynasty leagues are ever the same. It is difficult to put player value “in a vacuum,” as each league will have their own ebb and flow about them. This doesn’t mean don’t use all of your resources to think through how to improve your team - but, it does mean that a calculator isn’t the solution. Neither is a chart, nor a Twitter poll. Your league is different and is subject to market movements that you and the other managers in your league have caused by having the teams currently intact. In other words, the waivers you’ve claimed and the trades you’ve processed (or vetoed), have all helped to mold the market for available players.
Knowing thy market is the next theme we’ll hit on here. Some leagues will trade constantly, others will have streaks of high activity, followed by lulls, while others may feel like it takes a herculean effort just to make a trade. However, you need to use the trades that have been executed, to help predict the market trends, the same way a day trader on Wall Street does. Are rookie wide receivers all going above “calculator” prices in your league? Then you shouldn’t settle for “calculator” prices - you should push for market price. Is your Twitter feed bashing second-contract running backs on solid teams and it results in your leaguemate selling cheap? Then hold or buy these running backs, if they fit into your roster construction.
Understanding the value of your picks
Now that you have a sense of your team and the teams you are competing against, plus the market your league has created, you can begin to value your picks for the upcoming draft. We get a clear view of how valuable each rookie draft pick is when we compare a rookie’s average draft position (ADP) to his fantasy production over his rookie year, first three years, and career-to-date. An extensive look at rookie draft pick value can be found in this article, Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Draft Pick Value. However, we are going to use the main chart of Rookie Draft Pick Value.
As the chart above shows, the first overall pick is worth a lot and there is a rapid decline through the first ten picks. After the first round of your rookie draft, the pick values decline at each pick but that rate of decline is slowed considerably. Frankly, for all the diamonds in the rough that can be found later in drafts, there is mostly just rough.
With this information, there are two typical paths, trade up into the first round or trade middle-round picks in exchange for multiple later round picks or picks in a future year. This is where you want to build off of that deep dive into your team. Are you primed for a run and only need that one superstar from the first round? Do you need to fill several roster spots or just more swings at gaining talent? Either method can be prosperous for your team, if you choose wisely. However, if you whiff completely, it could set you back another year before being truly competitive.
As you continue to prepare for your draft by looking at the value of your picks, keep in mind the rest of the first component; understand your league. This means more than knowing which team is picking next but also trying to predict what each team will do ahead of you in the draft. Does this particular manager always draft a running back in the first round? Will one owner be more inclined to trade down or trade up? As you begin to plan your picks, look at more than just who is slotted into your pick based on ADP. You should be thinking about what will happen leading up to and after your selection. This will help you get a true sense of what to expect in the draft and make you more adaptive when things don’t go as planned (because they most certainly will)!
Now that you are examining all the picks in your draft, you need to do your homework. The more you research, the more prepared you’ll be for unexpected twists of the draft. The trick to “smart research,” is finding just the right amount to digest, in order to help push your thinking. Most of us are not lucky enough to have fantasy football as our sole occupation. This means time is limited and how you spend your time is valuable. In a world of websites, podcasts, tv and social media, the information superhighway could look like a tangled mess of traffic. To make sense of it, find a few “go-tos” that you feel provide fair, accurate and unbiased information (might we suggest the full spectrum available at SI.com/NFL/Draft). Depending on your life and learning styles, you will gravitate towards one media outlet or blend several, which is perfectly fine.
Once you’ve established your “go-to” source and how you consume that information, you want to find something or someone that opposes it. It is very easy to get caught in the trap of only reading/listening to people that think the same way. Having an opposing thought pushes your thinking to weigh both sides of an argument. Having a contrarian point of view is a must in seeing the whole picture regardless if you agree. As another misquoted Greek saying goes, “the mark of an educated mind is being able to entertain an idea without accepting it.”
In parting, remember that your league is unique and special. The more time you invest in understanding your league, the better you will become and the more fun you will have. Lastly, use this time in the offseason to explore the full spectrum at NFL Draft Bible, from our articles, to our daily podcasts and deepen your love of the game!
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