2019: A Rookie Draft Odyssey

A look at wheeling and dealing while assessing current and future rookie pick values

Few events on the dynasty calendar are as exciting and potentially transformative as a rookie draft. Like NFL franchises, we focus an entire offseason of preparation on one unpredictable event and make big decisions in a very limited timeframe with incomplete information. It can be scintillating and nauseating all at once. I had a big rookie draft to look forward to in the Rotoworld Dynasty League. Industry luminaries abound and bragging rights are on the line.

Backstory

After I got giddy seeing the 70-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes II to Tyreek Hill in the preseason last year, I traded Julio Jones and my second in 2019 for Tyreek Hill and Ryan Forbes’ first in 2019. For a bit, I was pleased in the results, then I really wasn’t pleased this offseason. More on that later.

This league also allows trading through the playoffs with no deadline, so after I got eliminated, I traded Rob Gronkowski, Kirk Cousins and my 2020 third to Mike Clay for 2.03, TreQuan Smith and Jordan Wilkins. I also dealt Justin Jackson to Adam Levitan for 3.02 and his 2020 third before Week 15.

Then Tyreek Hill’s legal and public situation regarding child abuse charges became very volatile and I just wanted to get out. Again, Mike Clay and I engaged in talks and I dealt Hill to him for John Ross, 4.05, and his 2020 second. The rollercoaster ride was over.

Going in I had:

  • 1.03
  • 1.10
  • 2.03
  • 3.02
  • 3.10
  • 3.12
  • 4.05
  • 4.10
  • 5.10

  • My 2020 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th
  • Mike Clay 2020 2nd
  • Adam Levitan 2020 3rd

The Plan

After spending much of the spring on rookie evaluation, I had some strongly held convictions going into this draft.

  1. The value between anyone not named Josh Jacobs and around the 18th-22th player on the board wasn’t all that different this year. I was trying to trade down to the bottom of that range and recoup extra value where I could.
  2. The 2020 rookie draft is going to be a scorcher and I was already valuing 2020 rookie picks more than their corresponding 2019 picks, despite the typical strong bias in favor of current picks during an ongoing rookie draft. This was a down year for top end running back and wide receiver talents, next year is likely to be a bumper crop. Next year’s second tier will be as good as this year’s first tier. I wanted more ammo for 2020.
  3. I am irrationally in love with players at the tail end of my roster and I’m very slow to give up on them. Last year I was able to snag players like Philip Lindsay, Justin Jackson and Robert Foster (I later cut Foster before his breakout ugh) on the waiver wire, and if I used all of my picks I would be paralyzed when it came time to find roster spots to take chances on rising names. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to use all of the picks without making difficult cuts from some pet second-year players on my roster as it was, so it was clear I had to trade about half of these picks.

So the plan was simple:

  • Trade down from 1.03
  • Trade late picks
  • Add or Advance picks into the top 20-22
  • Add 2020 picks

How it went down

Link to Full Draft

Trading down from 1.03

I contacted all of the teams that seemed like possible trade partners with opening offers that had me moving down in the first and them giving up top 20-22 2018 picks or 2020 picks. I try to make opening offers that would thrill me if they were taken but are more designed to open the discussion and gauge interest, with the deal I am actually seeking now framed as a concession from my aggressive (but in the 5-10% probability of being accepted) opening offer.

I got one counter from Chris Burke sitting at 1.08 and 1.13, and let him know I was strongly considering taking it but wanted to wait and see how 1.01 and 1.02 fell before accepting with a probe whether he would leave it on the table through those picks. There was no reason to push back with a counter to get a little more at the margin. He was the only one showing interest and his offer aligned with my goals for the draft. He said no problem and Josh Jacobs and N’keal Harry went 1 and 2, making it easy to accept his offer of

1.08, 2.02, and his 2020 2nd

For

1.03 and 4.10

If I had found no takers for any trade (which was unlikely because I would have done it for any two top 20-22 picks or one and a 2020 second), I would have taken Miles Sanders. While he wasn’t the top remaining player left on my board (that would be Mecole Hardman), I felt confident Hardman would be there at 1.10. Chris took David Montgomery, which allowed Sanders to fall to Pat Daugherty. Pat mentioned to me that he was thinking about Kyler Murray at 1.04 and I told him we might revisit that with his next pick not until 2.04 and me holding 1.08 and 1.10.

Getting a WR1 or three

I have four wide receivers in my second tier of rookie values (Josh Jacobs is alone in the first tiers) along with Sanders Montgomery and Darrell Henderson. They are the aforementioned Hardman, D.K. Metcalf, Marquise Brown, and Hakeem Butler. Sitting at 1.08 and 1.10, I felt good about getting Hardman at 1.10 and one of Brown or Butler falling to the second but wanted to make a play to get Metcalf. T.J. Hockenson went 1.05 and Raymond Summerlin sent out a note that he was looking to trade down. Metcalf was usually gone in the top 6-8 in drafts I had seen or participated in to this point, so I made my move

1.08 and 3.12

For

1.06 (D.K. Metcalf)

I needed to shed later picks anyway and I’m getting excited about Metcalf even with limited targets by offensive design because they are Russell Wilson targets. Wilson is one of the best deep passers in the game.

Hardman fell to 1.10 as expected, but I was feeling good about “playing the draft” and exploiting the information I had plus what I perceived as a soft market for trade ups to ensure I got my targets. Pat is a very easy fantasy player to deal with. Since he had George Kittle, he was willing to deal Ebron. Even though I got TreQuan Smith from Mike Clay last year in my heart-breaking playoff Gronkowski dump, I’m skeptical about Smith long term and was fine with using him in this deal:

1.10 and TreQuan Smith

For

2.4 and Eric Ebron

I’m not the biggest Ebron fan, but he’s 26 and with Andrew Luck and coming off of a monster season. Some of that is Jack Doyle being hurt, but I have hopes that the team will retain Ebron over fellow free agent (and older) Doyle next year. I have Dallas Goedert as my long-term plan at tight end, but he may not completely arrive this year. Dropping from 1.10 to 2.04 was softened by holding 2.02 and 2.03, but I wanted to immediately trade up and get back on the clock to take Hardman.

I made an offer to Ryan Forbes, holding 1.11 at the time. He countered with something close to what Chris Burke paid me to move from 1.08 to 1.03, which felt too expensive. I rejected and countered, but he selected Hardman (smartly). My next target, Marquise Brown went at 1.13 to Chris. I should have been more aggressive trying to trade up for him, but was a bit dejected after missing out on Hardman and wanted to watch the picks go off the board leading up to my triplet and exercise my picks patiently.

Three on the clock

With only one pick left ahead of me as we went to sleep Monday night, I let the league know I was willing to trade one or more of the upcoming picks to get 2020 firsts. I would have also been willing to trade down, but only a few slots to stay in my top 20-22 players, so I didn't expect that to happen.

I didn’t get any nibbles and didn’t want to hold up the draft, so I selected my one slam dunk pick in Butler. Even though Diontae Johnson is often falling to the 20s in rookie drafts, I didn’t want to get too cute and miss on him, so I just took him at 2.03. My highest rated remaining rookie was J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. My top remaining rookies left were mostly guys I am lukewarm on talent-wise, but love their situation. I re-watched some of Arcega-Whiteside, Damien Harris, Devin Singletary, and Miles Boykin. None of them made me seriously reconsider my initial stance, so I took Arcega-Whiteside, knowing that he was clearly the top player left on the consensus board.

Josh Norris reached out to applaud the pick and I immediately started talks with him that would have recouped me Anthony Miller and a bump from the 4th to the 2nd next year. He rejected and countered with a bump from the 3rd to 2nd instead. At this point, I already had three 2020 seconds and I had opened talks with Evan Silva to bundle some of my later picks that I knew I preferred to kick down the road into a consolidated 2020 draft asset. He had only 4.02 in this draft and I knew he would be interested in such a deal. I offered 3.02, 3.10 and 5.10 for his 2020 second. He countered by swapping out 5.10 for 4.05 and I accepted.

3.02, 3.10, 4.05

For

2020 second

While I love Miller, adding a fifth 2020 second at this point seemed like overkill so I ended the talks with Josh once he smartly stated his 2020 first was not on the table.

Like a charm, Mike Clay showed up and stated his interest in Arcega-Whiteside. Mike has Evan Silva’s first in 2020 in addition to his own, so I asked for that first, just because Mike’s team is perennially in the top four teams and that doesn’t appear to be changing this year. He relented, so we focused on his first. We toyed with a bunch of toss-in players. I tried to get Mark Andrews since he has Hunter Henry and O.J. Howard (as I did in the Tyreek Hill negotiations), he wasn’t budging. We finally found a middle ground:

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Adam Levitan 2020 third, 5.10

For

2020 first

And just like that, I had no more picks. Nine (+ Adam’s 2020 third) had become three players (Metcalf, Butler, Johnson) and a 2020 first and two 2020 seconds.

I hope this helps anyone who still has a rookie draft left to think about roster spots and projecting how many cuts you will have to make to keep all of your rookies and have flexibility in the summer and early season to make speculative pickups. The ease of trading up, range of rewards for trading down, and ways to use information to accomplish your goals in for your dynasty team. Happy Drafting!

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