Dynasty Rookie Pick Values

An in-depth look at dynasty rookie pick values

When building a draft board for your dynasty rookie draft, using NFL draft capital as a starting point to build out your tiers and then editing from there is the best method. In this article, we will look at recent history to provide some context as to what dynasty value we can expect to see from each positional tier. Looking at rookie values through this lens also provides real insight into how we should value each rookie pick in a given year compared to NFL veterans in dynasty trades.

For each positional tier, we will also make some predictions about how many 2020 rookies will land in that range. In the days immediately after the draft later this month, we can use these tiers to quickly put together a rookie draft board to use as a starting point for your rookie drafts.

To be clear, the advice here is not to just plug the NFL Draft results into these tiers and then view that order as gospel. It makes sense to move players up and down the board based upon how much you like the individual prospects. However, the idea is to understand the historical dynasty values of players in relation to their positional draft capital and the realistic range of outcomes for each positional tier. If you find yourself regularly drafting from lower tiers while players from higher tiers are still available, it might make sense to re-assess your process to make sure you are not making dynasty drafting more difficult for yourself than it should be.

Introduction

Why go through the trouble of figuring out pick value in terms of positional draft capital instead of just looking at past rookie draft ADP and using that as an average?

It does not make sense to value the 1.01 in a draft with Saquon Barkley the same as the 1.01 in a draft in which we do not have any running backs taken in the top-20 overall, like in 2019 when Josh Jacobs was the consensus 1.01. For the same reason, we are not going to get very accurate numbers if we value the rookie RB1 or WR1 the same each year. Common sense dictates we value Bishop Sankey (the first back off the board in 2014) drastically different than we did Ezekiel Elliott based upon where they were drafted.

Draft capital spent by NFL teams on each position also should greatly influence how we view the depth of each rookie class. For example, in the 2016 NFL Draft, there were a total of nine wide receivers taken in the first three rounds. Last season there were 13. In 2020, we should see 16 or more. The value of second and third-round rookie picks in a given year is going to be heavily influenced by these factors and should not be treated as the same from year to year.

What do the value numbers for past seasons mean?

I have written more in-depth in the past (like this article about a 2016 startup draft in hindsight) about the idea of points per game above replacement at each position. Those are the values you will see below for past seasons and represent a strong approximation of the fantasy value those players provided you if they were on your dynasty rosters in those seasons.

Why look at just the four most recent seasons?

Going further back increases our sample sizes for each tier but potentially biases the sample because the positional values have changed over time. It was not so long ago that we would see three to five running backs in the first round of almost every draft. That is no longer the case and thus a running back drafted say 20th overall is more valuable today than a running back taken with the same pick 10 years ago. There are also diminishing returns in terms of value-added versus complexity the further back we go.

2020 Tiers: Best Guess Pre-Draft

Tier 1
Tier 2
Tier 3
Tier 4
Top-20 RB
Top-50 RB
1st Round WR
Top-75 RB
Value Range: 40+
Value Range: 20-40
Value Range: 12-24
Value Range: 12-20
Tier 5
Tier 6
Tier 7
Tier 8
2nd Round WR
1st Round QB
1st Round TE
3rd Round WR
Devin Duvernay
Gabriel Daivs
Lynn Bowden
Van Jefferson
Value Range: 9-15
Value Range: 4-12
Value Range: 6-10
Value Range: 5-10

We will get into what the above tiers mean and look at recent historical values for the players in each tier below.

The nice thing about using this draft-capital based method as a starting point to building our own personal draft boards is that we can quickly update post-draft once we know actual landing spots. Does Clyde Edwards-Helaire drop out of the top-50? Does Denzel Mims get into the late first-round? Does someone like Zach Moss or Darrynton Evans get into the top-75? We will find out in a few weeks and can quickly slot players into their proper tier.

As you will notice in looking at the value ranges above, there is quite a bit of overlap. A top prospect from Tier 3 might rank above a player who falls into the bottom of Tier 2, for example. We can use these tiers as a guide while still leaving plenty of room to customize the final rankings as we see fit.

Tier 1: Top-20 Running Backs

Value Range: 40+

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
2
14
9.1
23.1
56
79.1
4
11
11.6
12.4
10.4
45.4
47
92.4
4
8.8
6.6
7.2
22.6
26
48.6
8
4.3
13.5
18
35.8
60
95.8
Average
31.7
47.3
79

The biggest reason we should not assume that the rookie 1.01 pick has the same value every year is the massive dynasty value of a very highly-drafted rookie running back. Over the past four years, we have had four running backs selected in the top-20 overall (one in 2016, two in 2017, one in 2018, and none in 2019).

Those four backs have played a combined 12 seasons so far and averaged over 10.5 PPG above replacement-level in those seasons. That is an absolutely massive number. Typically, only a handful of players produce 10+ PPG above replacement in any given season so the fact that these four backs as a group are averaging more than that in their average season is incredible. While we have a small sample size here, the numbers are still rather staggering. On average, the four backs have already returned almost 32 points of dynasty value already. All four also have serious trade value (and expected future production) currently.

If we expand our sample size to look at the last seven classes, it just confirms the tremendous value we should expect these highly-drafted rookie backs because the only two backs added to our sample from those previous three classes were Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon III. Both have already returned a massive amount of fantasy value in their careers to date. We have to go all the way back to Trent Richardson in 2012 to find a running back drafted in the top-20 overall who was a bust.

Tier 2: Top-21 to Top-50 Overall Running Backs

Value Range: 20-40

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
24
6.4
6.4
32
38.4
27
0
0
0
6
6
31
3.5
1.6
5.1
7
12.1
35
4.4
7.5
11.9
38
49.9
38
0
2
2
7
9
41
0
5.3
11.6
16.9
44
60.9
43
5.4
2.6
8
14
22
45
0
0.5
5.1
11.8
17.4
30
47.4
48
1.7
8.8
5.3
15.8
38
53.8
Average
9.3
24
33.3

In the last four years, dynasty drafters have often had to decide between first-round wide receivers and running backs selected in the 20th-50th overall range. With only a couple of exceptions, the running backs have been the better choice. We have arguably been running hotter than normal at the running back position of late. Even so, the value numbers are so strongly in favor of top-50 running backs that we should definitely place a premium value on players with this much draft capital behind them.

Over the last four drafts, we have had nine running backs selected between pick #24 and pick #48. Five of the nine are premium dynasty assets and producers. In terms of hit rates, that is tough to beat. When you see how huge a gap there has been between running backs in this tier and the wide receivers in the next tier, it makes sense to prioritize running backs at the top of our rookie drafts.

Tier 3: First-Round WRs

Value Range: 12-24

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
5
0
0
0
0
5
5
7
0
1.3
0.1
1.4
10
11.4
9
0
0
1.3
1.3
4
5.3
15
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
21
0
1.8
0
0.9
2.7
12
14.7
22
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
23
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
24
0
3.6
3.6
35
38.6
25
0
0
15
15
26
2.6
3.5
6.1
20
26.1
32
0
0
10
10
Average
1.4
10.1
11.5

The 2018 class (D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley) is a relative bright spot but things have been pretty ugly on the whole when it comes to the dynasty values of first-round wide receivers. There have been a number of busts, which is to be expected. However, the biggest issue in terms of dynasty value is that even the non-busts have made nearly no fantasy impact to date. Players like Mike Williams and Will Fuller V have been solid producers when healthy but the gap between their fantasy production and replacement-level wide receiver production has been minimal. The fantasy bar is higher for wide receivers since there is so much depth at the position.

While the recent numbers have been ugly, we do have to use some common sense here. It is very likely an anomaly that the group of first-round wide receivers have been outperformed by the group of second-round wide receivers, for example. There is no logical reason why we should expect that to continue. Thus, it makes sense to place a bit higher value on first-round wide receivers than recent results would suggest. Even with that caveat, unlike other positions, there has not been much difference between wide receivers drafted in the first round versus wide receivers drafted in the second or third round. We should not place too much of a premium on the most highly drafted wide receivers.

Tier 4: Top-75 Running Backs

Value Range: 12-20

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
53
4.4
4.4
30
34.4
59
0
0
0
10
10
67
9.5
13.4
7.3
30.2
47
77.2
70
0
0
14
14
71
0
0
0
4
4
73
0
1.6
4.2
5.8
11.6
21
32.6
73
2.4
2.4
18
20.4
74
3.6
3.6
18
21.6
Average
6.5
20.3
26.8

The value numbers for running backs in this tier (mid-2nd round to mid-3rd round) have been surprisingly strong in recent years. The averages are a little bit skewed by the presence of Alvin Kamara, who raises the average value of the group by over seven points. Overall, this group has been consistently productive, and each but Royce Freeman still carries solid dynasty trade value.

The high-value numbers for backs in this tier may be slightly fluky. Or it could be an indicator that given the way NFL teams currently value running backs, any top-75 pick on a running back is a relatively significant investment in the position. We can assume that a team spending a top-75 draft selection on a position like running back that has been devalued so severely indicates the team has a big role in mind for the player moving forward. There will be some tough calls to make while on the clock when comparing players drafted in this range to first-round wide receivers.

Tier 5: Second-Round Wide Receivers

Value Range: 9-15

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
36
1.7
1.7
22
23.7
37
0
0
0
0
0
0
40
2
2.3
0.7
2.1
7.1
8
15.1
40
0
0
0
0
7
7
40
0
2.5
2.5
27
29.5
44
0
0
0
2
2
47
6
4.8
7.6
9.7
27.1
50
77.1
47
0
1.1
1.1
9
10.1
51
0
0
0
5
5
51
2.9
2.9
30
32.9
55
0
0
4.6
2.3
6.9
18
24.9
56
0
0
9
9
57
0
0
3
3
59
0
0
7
7
60
0
0
0
4
4
61
0
3.4
3.4
19
22.4
62
3.5
6.6
0
10.1
30
40.1
62
0
0
3
3
DK Metcalf
64
1.1
1.1
25
26.1
Average
3.4
14.6
18

Second-round receivers on a whole have vastly exceeded expectations in recent years. In just the past four draft classes, we have eight second-round wide receivers who have a total dynasty value of over 20. Michael Thomas is a superstar and JuJu Smith-Schuster, A.J. Brown, Courtland Sutton, D.K. Metcalf and others from this group are also going off the board very high in dynasty startup drafts.

Many players from this tier fell to the second or third-round of dynasty rookie drafts. On the whole, it has been a wise bet to target these prospects in rookie drafts. Trading down to add extra picks to target Day 2 wide receivers has been a winning strategy.

Tier 6: First-Round Quarterbacks

Value Range: 4-12

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
1
0
1.1
1.8
0
2.9
5
7.9
1
0
0
0
6
6
1
1.1
1.1
13
14.1
2
0
5.9
0
0.2
6.1
7
13.1
2
0
1.3
0
1.3
1
2.3
3
0
0
0
4
4
6
0
0
6
6
7
0
1.1
1.1
9
10.1
10
0
8.5
3.4
11.9
32
43.9
10
0
0
0
0
0
12
0
2.9
4.7
7.6
13
20.6
15
0
0
3
3
26
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
32
0
10.7
10.7
30
40.7
Average
3.1
9.2
12.3

We have been on a hot streak of late when it comes to first-round quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes II and Lamar Jackson are superstars. Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson rank just behind them in terms of dynasty value at the position. While the depth at quarterback has depressed values across the board in single-quarterback formats, we have had enough big hits in recent years to support the idea that using relatively high picks on quarterbacks can be a smart bet.

The value range here is large and the prospect’s rushing upside should play a big role in whether we value them towards the top or bottom of the overall range. The six quarterbacks from the last four rookie classes with total dynasty values of 10 or more are each mobile quarterbacks who can rack up fantasy points on the ground to varying degrees.

Tier 7: First-Round Tight Ends

Value Range: 6-10

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
8
0
0
11
11
19
0
3.1
0
3.1
4
7.1
20
0
0
12
12
23
2.8
2
4.2
9
12
21
25
0
0
0
7
7
29
0
0
0
0
3
3
Average
2
8.2
10.2

Recent first-round tight ends have been a mixed bag at best when compared to the other skill positions. It takes extreme patience to draft and hold a tight end while waiting for that breakout season to finally happen. In leagues without tight end-premium scoring, it is hard to justify using a first-round pick on a tight end in most cases. When we get into the second round of rookie drafts, highly-drafted tight ends start to make more sense. That is especially true in the case of tight ends who are known more for their receiving prowess than blocking ability. We should value those prospects toward the higher end of the value range and more well-rounded prospects towards the lower end of the range.

Tier 8: Third-Round Wide Receivers

Value Range: 5-10

Player
Draft Pick
2016
2017
2018
2019
Value to Date
Trade Value
Total Dynasty Value
66
0
0
10
10
67
0
0
3
3
69
1.7
5.9
4.9
12.5
20
32.5
72
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
76
2.6
2.6
16
18.6
79
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
81
0
3.8
3.8
16
19.8
82
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
84
1.3
7.5
8.8
38
46.8
85
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
86
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
91
0
0
0
1
1
93
0
0
3
3
96
0
3
4.6
7.6
26
33.6
98
0
0
0
0
0
0
Average
2.4
8.9
11.2

Wide receivers drafted in the third round have been very much boom or bust in recent years. We have three who have vastly exceeded expectations (Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Cooper Kupp), a few others with solid total dynasty values, and then the majority of the group with little to no real dynasty value.

Kenny Golladay and Chad Williams are emblematic of prospects in this tier. Both came from smaller schools, possessed intriguing physical traits, and went off the board two picks apart in the same draft class. One has become a top dynasty asset and the other quickly faded from relevancy. Know that drafting players from this tier is a major roll of the dice but keep in mind the size of the potential rewards if you do get a hit when valuing these rookie picks.