With the 2021 NFL Draft officially in the rearview mirror, rookie draft season is in full swing for fantasy managers in dynasty and devy leagues. Now that we know the landing spots of the incoming class of rookies, we are already seeing fluctuations in where certain players were valued coming into the NFL Draft. This begs the question - how should you approach your rookie draft for your league?
Know Your League Format and Leaguemates
More important than any other advice regarding rookie drafts is to be in tune with your league scoring settings and fellow league managers. Analysis in all shapes and sizes can be valuable. Listening to what respected names in the industry think about any particular player will undoubtedly leave you more prepared as your draft approaches. All of that could be for naught if you are not fully aware of your league scoring settings and the other fantasy managers’ tendencies in your league. Are you playing single quarterback or superflex? Standard scoring or PPR? Is it a home league where team biases come into play and you can count on someone reaching for the player their favorite team selected in the NFL Draft? To be mindful of all of those details is the foundation towards shaping a sound strategy in your rookie draft.
The Valuation of Rookie Draft Picks
Rookie draft picks tend to increase in value leading up to the rookie draft itself. Savvy league managers with an eye towards building through the rookie draft likely began acquiring mid-round draft capital months ago while the NFL season was still raging on. Once the offseason hits and the pre-draft process is underway, rookie fever has already begun to set in fully. Note that if you are looking to acquire picks for a rebuilding team, now will be one of the most expensive times to do so. For those teams contending for a championship in the immediate future, the rookie draft could be a great time to flip late first-round draft capital for a surefire contributor to a championship-caliber roster. Teams that are just entering a rebuilding cycle need to be judicious in spending their early draft picks. If your team is not a single player away, trading down is always an attractive option. Not only can you accumulate more picks this year, now is a great time to start acquiring picks for next year. You’ll find those contending teams will be willing to deal future picks away now. Remember, those picks are going to increase in value as the season wears on.
NFL Depth Charts
The Superflex Quarterback Run
You’d be hard-pressed to find a superflex league this offseason where Trevor Lawrence isn’t the first overall selection in rookie drafts. Sure, there will be some leagues where Justin Fields or Trey Lance go first overall for those craving a quarterback with rushing upside but the point remains the same. The cheapest you will likely ever acquire a young quarterback with the upside of being a top ten player at his position in the league is during the rookie draft. Since there is such a demand for elite quarterbacks in superflex, even if a player underperforms in their rookie season, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to trade for them at a steep discount. If you manage a roster that does not have the quarterback position shored up, it’s challenging to pass on one of the top four quarterbacks this year in rookie drafts. While the hype will surround the top four options at the position (Lawrence, Fields, Lance and Zach Wilson), Mac Jones is a name that you need to watch for on the day of your draft. While the top four are likely to be selected in the first six to seven picks, Jones can slide to later in round one or early round two. Despite not having the athleticism or rushing upside some of the other quarterbacks have, a passer of Jones caliber later in rookie drafts is a tremendous potential value for teams in superflex leagues.
Average Draft Position vs. Getting Your Guys
Sometimes in fantasy, we can get too caught up in playing “the ADP game.” In an ideal world, we’d all love to select players at their consensus value or lower than that, benefitting us in the long term. This can be a tricky proposition ultimately. Sometimes you’ll have a player you love, but current ADP data might suggest he’s going five to six picks later than where you select. It’s a balancing act you need to gauge correctly because no one wants to overpay for a player significantly. The flipside is if you wait too long and the player you wanted all along is selected before your turn comes back around again, you could be left disappointed if that player goes on to have an exceptional career. Always use the data you have to form your own opinions on players. You’ll end up having much more fun through your draft and fantasy football season.
2021 NFL Draft Picks per Conference
The Talent Cliff
Those who love to play draft board and continuously trade back during rookie drafts can be in for a dangerous game this season. Many players who were highly valued heading into the NFL Draft landed in situations that are highly unlikely to pay immediate dividends if you select them. That doesn’t mean players like Philadelphia’s Kenneth Gainwell aren’t worth drafting because all too often, we see players end up in roles that we did not initially expect. If you are looking to focus on players to help you for this season before focusing on draft and stash type players late on, that drop-off begins to occur halfway through the second round.
The rookie draft is the lifeblood to any successful dynasty roster. Take a hard look at the current construction of your roster and determine whether it’s time to go all-in or look towards a rebuild. Identify the players you think can take you to the championship, or look for the teams you believe provide you with the best trade opportunities. Whichever route you end up going, it can be a pivotal decision to shape your roster for seasons to come.