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The Value Of The Throw-In Dynasty Rookie Pick

In most dynasty leagues, the months leading up to the NFL draft are spent posturing for the incoming season. Owners are weighing their options as they evaluate rosters and contemplate if they are a true contender or whether they need to burn the whole damn thing down.

As dynasty owners, we know draft picks are the lifeblood of every team, no matter a team’s status within the league. The more first- and second-round picks the better, but what about those third- and fourth-round picks? While your leaguemates are fantasizing over who they are going to take in the first round, they may slowly become less attached to those cheap, crappy (sarcasm font) late picks.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the average statistical difference between first- and second-round picks versus third- and fourth-round picks, and determine if a later pick is worth targeting as a throw-in when completing a deal.

To begin, do not expect me to tell you first-round picks aren’t the prime tokens to hold, because they are.1 Rookies taken in the first two rounds are more likely to get immediate playing time which offers a higher probability of producing fantasy points.

Players taken in the mid- to later-rounds have a hard time shaking a stigma attached to them, typically caused by a variety of reasons such as poor combine numbers, below-par film, or a stock slide in the NFL draft. But occasionally, scouts and draftniks simply miss on prospect evaluation. Chalk it up to human error. That said, late-round picks can quickly morph into fantasy relevant players.

In 2015, it seemed as though quite a few players taken later in rookie drafts became hot commodities and produced far beyond what the majority of people expected. We all know how bad last season seemed for injuries and it made me wonder if that was the main culprit for the spike in value among these castoffs, so I went back to the 2014 season and examined how those rookies compared to the 2015 class. Then I reviewed how the 2014 class’ sophomore season played out using the same draft stock difference.

The Process

I used Average Draft Position (ADP) information from 2014 and 2015 to break the players into two groups: First/second-round picks (Group 1) and third/fourth-round picks (Group 2). Once partitioned, I averaged out fantasy points scored, along with offensive snap percentages. By breaking the 2014 class into rookie and sophomore seasons, I was able to increase the sample size, theoretically making this exercise more accurate.

2014 Group 1

2014 1st & 2nd Rd2014 FPTSOffensive Snap %2015 FPtsOffensive Snap %
Sammy Watkins18896.70%19466.40%
Mike Evans22977.30%19778.30%
Carlos Hyde7427.60%8129.10%
Jordan Matthews17865%20679.50%
Allen Robinson11649.80%28892.90%
Marqise Lee8347.40%3822.70%
Odell Beckham Jr25968.40%30989.60%
Austin Seferian-Jenkins5345%7119.90%
Cody Latimer23.30%1817.20%
Kelvin Benjamin22483.80%0 (IR)0%
Bishop Sankey9636.60%5617.30%
Ka'Deem Carey279.30%367.10%
Brandin Cooks13946.80%24682.70%
Tre Mason12736.70%4119.10%
Davante Adams10170.30%9766.50%
Eric Ebron6240.70%13856.80%
Devanta Freeman8421.60%30167.40%
Donte Moncrief9235.60%17375.70%
Johnny Manziel127.10%9539.60%
Martavis Bryant13826.60%21647.50%
Teddy Bridgewater16877.60%19897.30%
Jeremy Hill19847.20%15143.40%
Terrance West9438.20%2211%
Jace Amaro9634.40%0 (IR)0%
Total Avg: 118.25Total Avg: 44.1%Total Avg: 131.8Total Avg: 46.9%

2014 Group 2

2014 3rd & 4th RdRookie Season FPtsOffensive Snap %Soph Season FPtsOffensive Snap %
Derek Carr18495.70%26096%
Isaiah Crowell11936.40%13243%
Charles Sims4623.30%16241.70%
Blake Bortles15786.40%312100%
Jarvis Landry17162.40%26284%
Jerick McKinnon9432.40%8015.70%
Storm Johnson216.30%0 (FA)0.00%
Lache Seastrunk0 (FA)0.00%0 (FA)0.00%
Andre Williams13046.10%3314.10%
Paul Richardson5147.00%5 (IR)0.06%
Brandon Coleman0 (DNP)0.00%7437.10%
Jeremy Gallon00.00%0 (FA)0.00%
Troy Niklas88.40%1916.20%
Josh Huff1517.90%7646.50%
Jeff Janis41.40%1011.40%
Jimmy Garoppolo76.10%-0.51.20%
Colt Lyerla0 (FA)0.00%0 (FA)0.00%
Lorenzo Taliaferro7112.60%194.60%
John Brown14559.80%21674.90%
CJ Fiedorowicz1542.50%4254.80%
James White82.70%13125.90%
Marion Grice178.90%0 (FA)0.00%
James Wilder0 (FA)0.00%0 (FA)0.00%
Bruce Ellington7830.30%11031%
Total Avg: 55.8Total Avg: 26.1%Total Avg: 80.9Total Avg: 29.1%

The 2014 Class Results

In their rookie season, Group 1 and Group 2 had an average difference of 62.5 fantasy points (FPts), and an 18 percent difference in offensive snaps played. While 29 percent of Group 2 scored over 90 fantasy points in 2014, 66 percent of Group 1 exceeded the same point marker. Something else to notice is 58 percent of Group 2 didn’t break 50 fantasy points, for a few different reasons, but mainly because they weren’t on the field.

C.J. Fiedorowicz was the only player in that allotment to have played over 25 percent of offensive snaps, and five players registered goose eggs. In their sophomore year, the fantasy point difference between Group 1 and Group 2 dropped to 50.9, while the offensive snap percentage basically held steady at 17.8. There are a couple big reasons the fantasy point gap lessened, but it was primarily because Blake Bortles and Derek Carr doubled their rookie numbers, and Group 1 lost Kelvin Benjamin for the year.

An interesting nugget I noticed was approximately 51 percent of the entire 2014 class improved their fantasy point totals from rookie season to sophomore season. Thirteen of the total 28 players who improved came from Group 2.

2015 Group 1

2015 1st & 2nd RdFPtsOffensive Snap %
Todd Gurley20848%
Amari Cooper20985.20%
Melvin Gordon10834%
Kevin White00%
Devante Parker7245.30%
TJ Yeldon15659%
Nelson Agholor5158%
Tevin Coleman4320%
Ameer Abdullah11133%
Brashad Perriman00%
Dorial Green-Beckham10356%
Jameis Winston259100%
Duke Johnson15651%
Jay Ajayi4315%
Jaelen Strong3724%
Devin Funchess8345%
Phillip Dorsett3819%
David Johnson20137%
Maxx Williams6742%
David Cobb811%
Matt Jones11432.00%
Marcus Mariota21171%
Chris Conley5937.00%
Javorius Allen13235.00%
Total Avg: 102.9Total Avg: 39.9%

2015 Group 2

2015 3rd & 4th RdFPtsOffensive Snap %
Tyler Lockett18161.50%
Mike Davis1012.30%
Stefon Diggs15264%
Clive Walford8242.00%
Jeremy Langford14636.00%
Karlos Williams11223.00%
Thomas Rawls12727.00%
Josh Robinson115%
Justin Hardy3329.60%
Tre McBride95.30%
DeAndre Smelter0 (IR)0%
Cameron Artis-Payne2110%
Duron Carter0 (FA)0%
Kenny Bell0 (IR)0%
Zach Zenner94%
Rashad Greene3915.90%
Davante Davis0 (FA)55%
Brett Hundley0 (DNP)0%
Ty Montgomery4221.10%
Vince Mayle00%
Jesse James2617%
Devin Smith2528.10%
Sammie Coates23.20%
Jamison Crowder11268.50%
Total Avg: 47.5Total Avg: 22%

The 2015 Class Results

When we dig into the 2015 rookie class, we find parallels to the 2014 class averages. The average fantasy point difference was 55.4 between Group 1 and Group 2, and the snap percentage difference was 17.9. This falls right in line with what we found with the 2014 class, which was a little surprising to me. We hear the 2014 class was off the charts good, and they did finish with a higher overall fantasy point average than the 2015 class. But comparatively speaking, the differences between Group 1 and Group 2 are nearly identical across the board.

Focusing on the 2015 bunch, we see 25 percent of Group 2 produced over 90 fantasy points, whereas Group 1 had 50 percent meet or exceed that point. Group 2 was hindered by six players who ended up with zero fantasy points, half of which were due to being cut by their drafting team. In Group 1, there were only two nil spots, and that was caused by injury.

The main separation found in these two groups was, as alluded to previously, playing time. Seventeen of 24 players taken in the first two rounds logged over 25 percent of their teams’ offensive snaps. Nine of 24 players drafted in the third or fourth round managed the same 25 percent marker.

Decision Time

The decision you’ll be forced to make when attempting to acquire a throw-in pick is if the player that you already roster is worth dropping for a lottery ticket. I say lottery ticket because you statistically have a 25 percent chance of getting a player that is a borderline starter. In other words, someone at the bottom of your roster could potentially be worth more than the late rookie you draft.

But for what the perception is on those picks, you should be able to acquire several of them, increasing your odds of landing a legitimate player without paying much at all. Sure, you may waste a selection on someone like Lache Seastrunk, but what if the throw-in pick you get in a deal turns out to be someone such as Karlos Williams, Stefon Diggs or Thomas Rawls? Hell, even Jamison Crowder!

I’m more apt to flush out some roster cloggers for the potential of landing one of these players that will change your fantasy fortune. When accumulating late picks, think low risk, high reward.

Another aspect of gathering these castoff picks is you can always package them up and try to get back into an earlier round. One of the thrills of dynasty football is landing a player who’s value explodes exponentially while on your roster. It’s always great to flip a late-round pick for a top-five pick, just one year later. Jarvis Landry is the perfect example from the 2014 class. Thomas Rawls is the 2015 example. Take chances and enjoy the ride.

  1. Jacob Rickrode wrote a nice piece on first-round hit rates.  (back)

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