About midway through the season in 2013, a losing team in my dynasty league traded Dez Bryant for two first round picks. That team, let’s call him “Rebuilder”, turned three first round rookie picks into Sammy Watkins, Carlos Hyde and Tre Mason. Needless to say, Rebuilder didn’t make the playoffs last year.
Two picks might not have been enough for a player like Dez. Was Rebuilder unlucky? Maybe. Time will tell if this trade will pay dividends. This begs the question though: What are the odds of hitting on rookie dynasty draft picks?
I researched the last five seasons to find out how much value rookie picks have provided.
360 rookie picks (six-round, 12-team draft)
60 (16.6%, or 1 out of 6) registered at least one top-12 QB/TE or top-24 RB/WR season.
22 did it during their rookie season.
Only 25 (8.6%)1 had two or more top seasons.
2010-2014 Rookie Draft PPR Finishes Top 12 QB/TE Top 24 RB/WR
|At least 1 season||18||17||13||8||4||60|
|2 or more seasons||10||7||5||3||25|
|First Round Hits||7||6||7||5||3||28|
|Second Round Hits||6||4||3||2||1||16|
|3rd Round or Later||5||6||3||1||0||15|
2014 seemed like a ridiculous year for rookies but it didn’t produce bigger rookie ranks than we’ve seen in the past four. The top fantasy spots are still largely dominated by veterans. The vast majority of the top spots in 2014 were filled by players over age 25.
First Round Odds are close to 50/50
The first round picks hit almost 50% going back to 2010. This number goes down significantly if you take out one year wonders like Javid Best, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin etc. There are already five first round rookie picks that are no longer in the NFL and one that just worked out at the veteran combine.
The second round produced an expected worse return than the first round. Only 26.6% of picks in the second round posted a qualifying season. Golden Tate, Brandon LaFell and Emmanuel Sanders needed five seasons to hit.
The 3rd round or later was an absolute crap shoot with only 15 panning out of 240 players. Late round picks should be classified as very low percentage shots.
I was recently offered two third round picks for Brandon Marshall. You can see from the data why I declined. I’ll take my chances on Marshall. Elite players have a way of getting back into the top 24 as my research last off season suggests.
The following is the rookie draft ADP going back five seasons and how first and second round picks finished yearly. If there’s blank space following a player’s name it means they never finished in the top 12 QB/TE TE or top 24 RB/WR. The true difference makers made the list.
2010 Rookie Draft ADP
2011 Rookie Draft ADP
2012 Rookie Draft ADP
|1.04||Robert Griffin III||9|
2013 Rookie Draft ADP
2014 Rookie Draft ADP
|1.08||Odell Beckham Jr.||7|
What does this mean for Rebuilding?
The probability of hitting on picks by round should be noted when evaluating player value.
I’m a little hesitant to trade a stud for picks for several reasons.
1. Players like Dez Bryant are not in every draft class
2. Most players won’t develop into top fantasy producers until several years into their careers
3. Early round picks are better but there are no guarantees a player will ever hit
If you are rebuilding, it may take a season or two or three to see your dynasty rookie picks turn the corner. Ideally, you never get yourself in a place where you have to trade away your best assets.
The real value seems to be in players in year two or three that you can get at a much bigger discount than first or second rookie picks. That should be the biggest takeaway from this information.
What do you think?
- Excludes 2014. (back)