Rookie Pick Craze

Updated: July 8th 2016

Most rookie drafts are now complete and owners are looking forward to the start of training camp in a month’s time. Throughout this process of drafting, I came to ask myself the question of whether rookie picks of all kinds are overvalued. With the hype-train that is the 2017 draft, I have seen many trades on both twitter and in my own leagues that would suggest that every player available is going to be the next Eric Dickerson, Randy Moss, and Tony Gonzalez. Even looking ahead to 2018, owners are reluctant to trade their picks based on the unknown of what the caliber of rookies will be in two years. While that is a fair argument, the last time I checked,  the whole point of playing fantasy football was to win championships, not assemble “the best” forward- looking team. Therefore, I wanted to take a look how successful rookie picks actually are. I should give credit to RotoViz writer Jacob Rickrode who looked at a similar topic last year. I will link his article here for those of you who have access to their articles.

Rookie Success

If we look back at the last six rookie drafts starting in 2010 below is a breakdown of how successful a rookie selected was. The chart looks at the average ADP of each year’s rookies. For 2012 Trent Richardson, Andrew Luck, and Doug Martin were the average top 3 drafted in that order. The Success Rate evaluates whether a pick had a top 12 (QB, TE) or top 24 (RB,WR) season at least once since being drafted. The Percentage of Top Seasons represents how often each pick was able to reach the top 12/24. The final two columns indicate the total round’s Bust Rate, whether they had at least one top season, and Top Season Rate, the percentage of having multiple top 12/24. I chose to only do individual picks for the first two rounds for two reasons: the fluctuation in ADP after 24 varied tremendously from site to site and the data showed that players drafted after the second round were mostly irrelevant.

Rookie Pick Chart

As you can see the first round selections have a slightly better than 50/50 chance to have at least one top 12/24 season while only a 20% chance of having more than one top seasons. From there it gets steadily worse. An interesting anomaly, the large value of success from the 2.12 is greatly inflated by Rob Gronkowski who’s five top 12 finishes are only second in that round to pick 2.02 (6). That’s one player versus six! As well, the 1.02 has seen some elite talent with names like Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, and Andrew Luck which is why it is the only pick that currently holds a perfect 100% success rate. The only individual players to have a perfect score (reaching the top 12/24 each season) having played in 2 or more seasons are Odell Beckham Jr. (2 years), Mike Evans (2), Jeremy Hill (2), Giovanni Bernard (3) and A.J. Green (5). This is the part of the article where you tip your cap to the Cincinnati Bengals scouting staff. Even if we look at the so-called “Best class in recent history” – 2014, in their first two seasons only 7 of 12 players have had a top 12/24 season thus far. Even looking ahead , with a couple more seasons under their belts, I do not see much more coming out of this round however due to names like Sankey and Manziel stinking up the average.

Move Up or Move Out

So knowing this information what can we do to come out ahead? If we look at my last article which helps layout the value of picks against one another and combine that with the stats presented here we can create a couple of trade strategies to maximize value. If you are a contending, bottom round team the likelihood of your rookie selection being a useful player is slim. Looking at the last 6 picks in the first round the success rate drops to only 40% and the multi-season success down to 10%. Consider also that if your team is contending and therefore full of top talent players, already the likelihood of incoming players being better than those players is even less likely. Therefore, you should be looking to move your picks to the top 3 where you have a robust 83% chance of picking a successful player as well as a 67% chance that they will have multiple top seasons.

Ryan Matthews

Forgotten veterans are a contender’s best friend

If you are unable to move into a position to secure a top 3 selection then the second option is to move out completely. The goal is to win championships, so if your pick isn’t going to help you win during your window then you should be getting value from it. Savvy veteran players are always undervalued and while they may not offer high returns like ODB or Allen Robinson, they definitely will have higher floors than shares of David Wilson, Cordarelle Patterson, and Johnny Manziel currently holds. Players like Matt Forte, Ryan Matthews, Greg Olsen, and Drew Brees are perfect candidates to target by casting out a late first round pick. I have said this in many articles before but the beautiful of RSO is that no player is locked in forever so the landscape of teams changes more than standard dynasties. For those of you who have been on the site for several years now you probably understand what I am saying since your first rookie class is coming due for their first free agency.

Hopefully, I have been able to open some eyes to what really happens with rookie picks and help you understand what to do with everyone going 2017 crazy! As always if you have questions or want to talk strategies you can find me on twitter @naandrews19.