Since it is the offseason, I thought I would offer some high-level theory for dynasty owners. This is the first in the series. We are getting into the full offseason where rookie drafts and roster building is the focus.
First, every position, and every player within a position has a unique value curve due value of the position and average length of career. The value of each player will vacillate over his career. The best dynasty owners know this and are able to capitalize on buying low and selling high. Let’s explore this thought. Consider the following facts:
- Few rookie quarterbacks are viable for fantasy purposes
- Even fewer tight ends are fantasy relevant as rookies
- A few wide receivers make an impact year one. Of these, there is not a strong correlation to draft pick
- Many running backs are startable in week one of their respective rookie seasons
- Running backs have a far shorter average career length than the other positions
- Both rookie picks and veteran players are worth different values depending the time of year
Next, when we look at positional value, very few quarterbacks are worth a first-round rookie pick. So, we have a position with a long career, but only the top 2-4 players at the position are valued equal to a high rookie pick. Given the poor “hit rate” of NFL quarterbacks drafted, there is little reason to select a quarterback in the first round of rookie drafts in one-quarterback leagues. If you want to invest a pick in the position, why not just trade the first-round rookie pick for a top quarterback like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton? Given the length of career, investing in a 20-something quarterback is not a poor idea. It is much better than hoping you can hit on the incoming rookie quarterback. Even a second-round rookie pick can garner an aging Top 10 quarterback.
With the expected short careers, drafting a running back is risky. Yes, the top ones are well worth the draft pick. Just ask the Ezekiel Elliot owners. But, with the average career span of under four years, a running back has to produce early in his career to be worth the pick. Few running backs break out to elite status in year two or year three. NFL teams have devalued the running back position to the point that few backs touch the ball 300 times in a season. This means that the elite players at the position are worth their weight in gold.
Even NFL evaluators have struggled with the wide receiver position. Look at all the receivers selected in the first two rounds the last two years, and most have struggled. With a much longer expected career than running backs, fantasy owners – like NFL teams – can afford to wait on the receiver to develop. But, the harsh reality is that most will never be worth the rookie pick used. Given the uncertainty of rookie receivers, a dynasty owner can trade the same pick on a top young veteran that would be used on WR1 or WR2 of a rookie class. Think about this scenario. Would you prefer Corey Davis/Mike Williams or DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, or even Amari Cooper? The 1.02 or 1.03 rookie pick might be able to get one of these young receivers in PPR leagues. This is an arbitrage situation for savvy dynasty owners.
The tight end position sees turnover at the top of the rankings each and every season. The interesting point is that few top-drafted players at the position end up being fantasy elite. Names like Vernon Davis and Eric Ebron were first-round rookie picks while Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski were selected in the second round – or later – of rookie drafts. In addition, the tight end position sees good starting options pop up off the waiver wire. Just this past year, Cameron Brate (TE7), Dennis Pitta (TE8), and Jack Doyle (TE13) were all available on many waiver wires this past offseason. Most top tight ends are the product of either being the top option in their respective team’s passing offense or in a very pass-heavy offense.
The interesting dynamic in dynasty rookie drafts is that 95% of the players drafted in the first round of rookie drafts are worth less than the pick used to select said player. Simply, the day before the rookie draft, the pick is worth more than the player acquired with the pick a day later. The offset of the rookie pick value curve is that proven veterans at all positions are worth most during the season and less in the offseason while owners are focused on draft picks. The picks are worth the least during the season and gain in value every day until the rookie draft.
In conclusion, dynasty owners are advised not to invest first-round rookie picks on either the quarterback or tight end position. Every player now worthy of trading for a first rounder was once worth less than a first. There are times to buy lower and sell higher. Pay attention to the value curve for every player. The offseason is the best time to trade first-round picks for veteran starters, whether young or old. The picks will never be worth more and the veteran players will rarely be worth less.
Feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with feedback. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), LinkedIn, and Google+, so you can ask me questions on one of these as well.