Shawn Siegele provides five different methods for attacking 2019 rookie drafts, including a look at the areas to prioritize, the positions to target, and how to orchestrate trades.
If you’ve read Jacob Rickrode’s fantastic series on Rookie Hit Rates, then you know just how much risk your rookie draft entails. The best way to manage that risk is through understanding player profiles. Michael Dubner has provided extensive player comps by using the Box Score Scout to look at every player drafted in Round 1 and Round 2 of the reality event. Dave Caban gives you a primer on using the Combine Explorer to understand prospect athleticism. Travis May has your a deep dive into WR performance with the Adjusted Production Index.
You also want to know more than just a player’s scouting report and draft slot when you set your baseline for expected value. This is where Blair Andrews and The Wrong Read come into play. He takes you behind the scenes with the Backfield Dominator Rating, the WR production metrics you need to know, the importance of breakout age, and one weird but remarkably important cheat for drafting successful receivers.
Once you’ve done the research and put your board together, you can double check it against our rookie rankings. Then it’s time to head into your draft. But even when you enter with a superior understanding of player values, you want to do more than just select your top-rated player when on the clock. In fact, the better your board, the more you can use advanced tactics to attack your draft.
After four stacked rookie drafts in the last five years, it can be hard to dump your rookie selections. But this draft should reverse the trend. It’s much more similar to the 2012, 2013, and 2016 drafts that fueled rookie skepticism. And unlike 2016, this draft doesn’t have an all-world talent like Ezekiel Elliott anchoring it at the top.
Recent rookie affairs have completely re-stacked the RB position, but this class doesn’t have a single RB with a score above 60 in the RB Prospect Lab. To put that in context, over the last two years we saw 12 backs with scores above 65.
The 2019 class did sport three very intriguing WR prospects in N’Keal Harry, A.J. Brown, and Hakeem Butler, but Brown landed next to Corey Davis on one of the lowest-volume passing offenses. Meanwhile, Butler shockingly plummeted out of the first 100 selections.
Who Should Trade Out: Anyone who’s offered a young stud should leap at the offer, but this move is also very good for rebuilding teams. If you’ve taken on an orphan team, it can be difficult to delay gratification into the future, but that’s exactly what you should do. It never makes sense to start “building around foundation players,” and that’s doubly truly in a draft that lacks them. The whole point in stockpiling rookie picks is to create a roster with the most total value while losing in the short term to make sure your own rookie picks are high in subsequent drafts. 2020 promises to be a bonanza by comparison.
Some of the worst values you’ll ever see in a rookie draft occur between 1.02 and 1.10 in 2019. Desperation picks at RB litter the first round, and non-producers at WR are sprinkled in liberally. Meanwhile, solid bargains like Andy Isabella, J.J. Arecega-Whiteside, and Marquise Brown are available in the late first and early second.
Much later in the second round you find your RB arbitrage opportunities. Justice Hill possesses the best package of translatable athleticism. Benny Snell was the best producer, and Bryce Love was the biggest talent before injuries clouded his 2019 outlook. Make a note to go through Rickrode’s series draft-by-draft when you have the time. The absolute worst value comes in paying for immediate RB volume. Show some patience and trade back.
Who Should Trade Back: Anyone who can find an offer. It can be difficult to trade back in a flat draft like this one. Your fellow owners will suspect that you prefer a player with a lesser ADP and force you to trade back for peanuts. This is still the right path. In a recent draft of mine, Rich Hribar was forced to select Isabella ahead of ADP, but he was later able to move Isabella for picks that he turned into Deebo Samuel and Jace Sternberger.
It may seem contradictory to recommend trading out and trading in, but there’s a natural exploitable opportunity in the perceived gap between picks in the early first and early second. While trading back can be complicated, trading out should net a superior long-term package and trading in avoids some of the problems with trading back.1 While trading back requires someone who both wants to move up and is willing to pay to do it, trading in just requires you to find an owner who doesn’t like any of the options on the board.
Who Should Trade In: Anyone with a strong dynasty team should be aggressively selling their future picks to get into position for the players recommended in the trade back section. Your future picks are likely to be in the less valuable 1.08 to 1.12 range. And with a good team, you have even more incentive to move all of your roster value into the present. Rookies do contribute in the fantasy playoffs, and rookies are the only class of player that increase in trade value. By trading in, you maximize your value in both the present and future.
Target 2019’s Value Position
In any given draft, owners tend to draft for need, balancing the distribution of positions. And when they don’t, it’s often an overreaction to the recent events. We saw that last year when RBs were wildly overdrafted due to the renaissance at the position. That overreaction led to ridiculous values for top prospects like D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley.
This year the position to target is tight end. Because tight ends score fewer points and take longer to develop, it’s very difficult to invest in them in rookie drafts, especially when most leagues require only a single starter.
On the other hand, we have only to look back to last season to see the way in which Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle influenced leagues. In many leagues, limited supply makes it more difficult to trade for a stud TE than a stud RB.2
This year we have a single star WR and no stud RBs, but Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson are first-round TEs with impressive production, special traits, and elite comps. Their ADPs put them late in rookie R1, but you can make a good case for them as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in this draft.
In addition to the stars, two sleeper TEs should be on your must-draft list in Round 3.
Who Should Draft TEs: Everyone. If you have a hole, target the stars. If you have a stud, add to your depth with a premium sleeper. Don’t leave this draft without one.
Grab Kyler Murray
This is just your reminder that you’re allowed to select a QB even though you don’t really want to. While QBs have been reduced to irrelevance in traditional redraft formats, they have slightly more value in dynasty for several reasons. The elite QBs have disproportionately long careers, and most dynasty leagues don’t feature starters on waivers.
This second element can be key. It’s easier than you’d think to end up without a viable starter in dynasty, either through injury or inattention. Stockpiling QBs protects you from the having to significantly overpay before the fantasy playoffs and allows you to be a seller instead. In rookie drafts QBs are heavily discounted in relation to their reality draft positions, which means an otherwise worthless third-round rookie pick can be used to add a Josh Allen.
Kyler Murray won’t be that cheap, but he really is that good. Above-average fantasty scoring has value at QB, just like any other position. Patrick Mahomes owners certainly aren’t selling what they bought for pennies two years ago, and the same can be said for owners of Baker Mayfield.
Who Should Grab QBs: Realists and rookie skeptics, plus anyone with even the slightest need at the position.
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- This is one of the reasons you shouldn’t hesitate to trade all of your future picks with the idea that you’ll simply pay what is necessary to grab values in future drafts when they arise. (back)
- The top RBs may still cost more, but the TE owners will request a larger trade premium, essentially freezing the market. (back)