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Which Rookies are High-Stakes Drafters Targeting?

 

Having the top pick in a high-stakes dynasty league is typically a double-edged sword: According to recent history, the consensus pick at the 1.01 has at times in their careers been valued as among the most coveted assets in fantasy. But, unless you traded for that pick, having it means you likely spent hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of dollars to buy into a league in which you finished last, thus “earning” you the top pick.

In previous seasons, that pick (used correctly) could have given you Todd Gurley in 2015, Ezekiel Elliott in 2016, Leonard Fournette in 2017 or Saquon Barkley in 2018, all of whom were elite starters their rookie years.1 In high-stakes dynasty leagues, such as the FFPC and its 20-man rosters, unearthing a rookie who becomes an every-week starter that same season is immensely valuable. It’s also why draft picks after the first round, in general, just aren’t worth as much in these leagues, because bye weeks or an unlucky run of injuries can force owners to jettison underperforming roster-cloggers in favor of someone who can produce more immediately.2

This year, according to the RotoViz Dynasty ADP App, Oakland rookie running back Josh Jacobs is the runaway consensus top pick among FFPC drafters, going first overall in the vast majority of more than 200 rookie drafts and never going later than second. New England receiver N’Keal Harry, Chicago RB David Montgomery and Philadelphia RB Miles Sanders are lumped together at second, third and fourth, respectively, and each are the only other rookies to have been picked first overall at least once in FFPC drafts.

So, if you don’t happen to play in high-stakes leagues, how is this useful? Well, most importantly, because these leagues are hyper-focused on finding players who can provide near-term production, it’s helpful to know which players are being targeted. Of course, it doesn’t take the fantasy football equivalent of a rocket scientist to deduce that Jacobs has the clearest path to immediate relevance, having been drafted in the first round by a coach, Jon Gruden, with a history of giving his lead back huge workloads. Furthermore, the rookie finds himself atop an unremarkable depth chart that recently lost free-agent signee Isaiah Crowell to a potentially career-ending torn Achilles’ injury.

The question, then, is whether Jacobs deserves to be first. Looking at the Dynasty ADP App, Jacobs still holds the top spot over Harry in 12-team rookie drafts hosted on MyFantasyLeague.com, but the gap is closer than in the FFPC. In RotoViz Rookie Rankings, Harry is an across-the-board consensus top pick, and Hasan Rahim recommends fading Jacobs. Finally, looking at the Dynasty ADP App and limiting the settings to FFPC start-up classic and best-ball drafts that started in the past two weeks, Jacobs slots in at the mid-third round, just behind Kerryon Johnson and Adam Thielen but ahead of Sony Michel and Fournette. Just a year ago, Johnson and Michel were first-round picks whose values have only increased, and yet they’re now roughly the same value as Jacobs, according to ADP.

Other takeaways from the FFPC ADP:

  • Harry is the consensus top WR, with Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf coming in at sixth overall, the Colts’ Parris Campbell at ninth, Tennessee’s A.J. Brown 10th and Kansas City’s Mecole Hardman 11th. The Hardman pick is interesting because, even though the Chiefs traded up for him, his path to relevance depends on the suspension or outright release of Tyreek Hill plus the ability to do the same things Hill could do, which would be no small feat.
  • In FFPC scoring, tight ends get 1.5 points per reception, making the position more valuable than in other leagues. High-stakes drafters prefer Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson to Denver’s Noah Fant, selecting them at fifth and seventh, respectively, versus their respective MyFantasyLeague.com ADP of eighth and 12th. Even though both are rock-solid prospects, tight ends often can take two or more seasons to mature in the NFL, making rostering rookies in FFPC leagues a tricky proposition if they don’t produce right away. But that premium scoring makes them oh-so-tempting to draft.
  • Arizona’s Kyler Murray is far and away the top rookie quarterback among FFPC drafters, sneaking in as the last pick of the first round, on average. However, because the FFPC draft pool includes all players not on any team’s roster (including veterans), first-round picks aren’t often used on QBs, because there are almost always numerous reliable options available later. It’s worth noting, though, that Murray went as high as second and as late as 24th, suggesting that high-stakes drafters have confidence he can be productive in Arizona’s new Air Raid offense. In superflex/2 QB leagues, Murray was easily the top choice in rookie drafts, never falling later than second, while Washington rookie Dwayne Haskins was seventh in rookie ADP.

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  1. We’re not going to talk about Bishop Sankey in 2014.  (back)
  2. In my $500 FFPC dynasty league, I drafted Keke Coutee last year but was forced to cut him early in the season, which I later regretted.  (back)
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