Fantasy Football: What is a Dynasty Draft Pick Actually Worth?

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Apr 5, 2018

LSU running back Derrius Guice is expected to come off the board as a top-three rookie pick in dynasty drafts

It’s the question that nobody seems to know the answer to, but one that everyone searches for… What is a dynasty draft pick actually worth? Don’t get me wrong, there are different types of dynasty owners who value dynasty picks differently, but this study is meant to show you what history tells us they’re worth.

When you’re giving up a proven fantasy commodity, what should you expect in return? It’s human nature to be optimistic with rookies coming into the league, but there has to be a limit as to how optimistic you should be. This study was used to find out the value of a draft pick inside of our dynasty trade value chart, which you can find right here.

It’s also important to remember that we often cannot predict where exactly a future draft pick will be, or how deep a future draft class will be. We can usually predict whether a team is rebuilding or if they’re contending for a championship, giving us an idea as to the range the pick will be. Because of that, I’ve separated the research into sections, with each pick/position having a different value.

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The research included here goes back as far as I could find in rookie ADP (average draft position), which is 2009, giving us nine years of data to go off. It’s a good enough sample size to have a solid foundation to find trends.

Top of the first round (Top-3 Pick)

Running Backs

We have a solid sample size for top-3 running backs, as they’ve been selected at the consensus No. 1 pick in eight of the last nine years, including each of the last three years. Knowing that running backs take much less time to make an impact, it’s not shocking to see them post rock-solid numbers. When a team invests a Day 1 or Day 2 pick on a running back, it’s likely they’re going to use them, as evidenced by the results over the last nine years.

Players RB1% RB2% RB3% Boom Bust
Top-3 RB Pick 25.4% 50.0% 68.2% 7.6% 32.2%

 

Of the 16 running backs who were drafted in the top three picks, they accounted for a total of 802 games played, with 204 of them netting RB1 performances. The chart above shows you over a span of their entire careers. Each and every year, there’s someone shouting out, “this player is a generational talent!” If we were to go back over the last four years, I’ve heard that said about Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, and now Saquon Barkley. They’ve been extremely good, right? So, now that we know their results, who compares to them so we can have something tangible?

Players RB1% RB2% RB3% Boom Bust
Top-3 RB Pick 25.4% 50.0% 68.2% 7.6% 32.2%
Latavius Murray 25.0% 48.2% 71.4% 3.6% 26.8%

 

Probably not what you would’ve expected, right? While Murray has been solid throughout his career, everyone is expecting more than just him in return for a top-3 pick. If we were to narrow the study down to just the No. 1 pick and look at their results, it would have amounted to a bit more, but when you’re trading for a draft pick the following season, there’s literally no guarantee that you’ll get No. 1 overall. But I’ll play along, for those who are curious. The performances out of No. 1 picks are equivalent to Devonta Freeman‘s career to this point. The running backs currently being drafted in this range include: Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, and Sony Michel.

Wide Receivers

While running backs have ruled the top of the draft board for the last decade, there’s been 10 wide receivers taken with top-3 picks over the last nine years. The sample size is a bit smaller than running backs, but 584 games is still a respectable size. It’s also important to note that wide receivers tend to take more time to develop, which could hurt the overall numbers of the study, though not much because the younger players don’t account for a significant part of the 584 games played.

Players WR1% WR2% WR3% Boom Bust
Top-3 WR Pick 26.0% 43.3% 56.2% 13.5% 30.7%

 

It’s rare for a wide receiver to be as consistent as a running back, as game-script hurts them a lot more than it does running backs. There’s also up to four other wide receivers on the field at the same time, while there’s a maximum of just one other running back alongside the starter. But interestingly enough, their boom percentage was nearly twice the number of running backs, while the bust number is extremely similar. To qualify for a boom performance, the player must have scored at least 25 PPR points, while bust performances for wide receivers are anything below 8 PPR points. So, whose career do these stats resemble?

Players WR1% WR2% WR3% Boom Bust
Top-3 WR Pick 26.0% 43.3% 56.2% 13.5% 30.7%
Steve Smith 25.9% 44.3% 56.1% 12.7% 26.9%

 

Pretty crazy how close these numbers are to Smith, who is considered to be a potential Hall of Fame candidate. It’s pretty remarkable their cumulative numbers are still so high, considering how bad some of the recent early dynasty wide receiver picks have been. Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell, and Josh Doctson to name a few. So, while many dynasty league owners are going running back-heavy in this year’s draft, don’t ignore wide receivers.

Other top half of the first round (Picks 4-6)

Running Backs

This is an area of the draft where you traded with a team you expected to be out of the playoffs, but maybe not finish at the bottom of the league. Even if they were to finish in the bottom-three, it’d be an added bonus for you, though according to the numbers, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

Players RB1% RB2% RB3% Boom Bust
4-6 RB Pick 29.7% 50.1% 65.3% 10.0% 33.9%
Eddie Lacy 30.0% 51.7% 66.7% 11.7% 33.3%

 

There are still some big names coming off the board at this point in the draft, so it shouldn’t be a shock to see solid results here. It’s a slightly smaller sample size (501 games), but it goes to show that you can find yourself a franchise running back in this range. While some will laugh off Lacy being the comparison, but his career totals are eerily similar to Mark Ingram‘s. If you need a running back, this is a good range to draft. The running backs currently being drafted in this range include Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones, and Rashaad Penny.

Wide Receivers

With running backs starting to go earlier and earlier every single year, you’re going to start to see a lot of first- and second-round wide receivers in this range. Running backs net a return right away, but if you’re looking to build a long-term dynasty squad, wide receiver talent will fade severely after this.

Players WR1% WR2% WR3% Boom Bust
4-6 WR Pick 18.4% 37.4% 50.9% 7.6% 32.2%
Kelvin Benjamin 17.4% 37.0% 56.5% 6.5% 30.4%

 

As you can see, wide receivers drafted outside the top-3 aren’t as fortunate as the running backs drafted in the same range. The drop-off from Smith to Benjamin is pretty hefty, and the No. 4-6 wide receiver pick was actually slightly below Benjamin’s consistency as a top-36 wide receiver. But knowing that young wide receivers have struggled lately, I’d expect these numbers to rise in the future. Some dynasty league owners don’t expect the first wide receiver to come off the board in 2018 rookie drafts until the seventh pick, so there’s likely to be value in this range.

Back half of the first round (Picks 7-12)

Running Backs

When trading for a pick in this range, you are expecting the opposing owner to be a contender, or at the very least, make the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, we play a single elimination game, so it’s somewhat pointless to separate this part into two sections. By using every pick in the back half of the round, it also gives us a larger sample size.

Players RB1% RB2% RB3% Boom Bust
7-12 RB Pick 16.5% 35.2% 53.7% 6.4% 45.7%
Isaiah Crowell 11.1% 34.9% 55.6% 1.6% 41.3%

 

There will be a lot of people who tell you that they found Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara in this range, but they likely already forgot about C.J. Prosise, Christine Michael, Samaje Perine, and company. This sample size includes Hunt and Kamara, so to see these picks amount to Crowell is concerning. These picks tend to offer slightly more upside than Crowell, but in the end, they’re going to amount to serviceable fantasy options. The running backs who are currently projected to go in this range are Royce Freeman and Kerryon Johnson.

Wide Receivers

Knowing that there are a lot of dynasty league owners hoping to snag a wide receiver in this range of 2018 drafts, most are probably intrigued to see what the historical comps are. As mentioned in the pick 4-6 range, wide receivers are slipping due to recent struggles, so you should expect a slightly better result than the historical comparison.

Players WR1% WR2% WR3% Boom Bust
7-12 WR Pick 13.7% 28.8% 41.1% 6.3% 43.5%
Torrey Smith 12.3% 28.3% 36.8% 4.7% 50.9%

 

Recent struggles for Smith are going to create bad press around this pick, but he was solid with the Ravens earlier in his career. Another player who can be considered as a comp in this range is Jordan Matthews, who had slightly higher WR1 numbers, though. Some of the wide receivers expected to go in this range (according to current ADP) include: Courtland Sutton, Calvin Ridley, James Washington, and D.J. Moore.

Top of the Second Round (Picks 13-18)

Running Backs

We’re back to the teams who aren’t projected to make the playoffs and they’ll likely try to sell you this pick as “essentially” a first-round pick, but here’s the spoiler… it’s not. We started to see the dip in the second half of the first-round, but it only gets more dramatic here.

Players RB1% RB2% RB3% Boom Bust
13-18 RB Pick 13.2% 30.1% 48.3% 5.0% 50.0%
Mike Gillislee 10.0% 30.0% 46.7% 0.0% 50.0%

 

As you can see, we have a backup running back who posted a few solid starts during his career. Sure, you may get a spot-start here and there (as evidenced by the RB1 and boom percentages), but when a running back is performing as an RB2 30 percent of the time, it’s hardly worth trading a proven veteran who can contribute to your dynasty team. When drafting a running back in this territory, do so with a running back who’s behind a weak starter. Think about Jordan Howard a few years back, as Jeremy Langford was the only one ahead of him on the depth chart.

Wide Receivers

I’m not going to lie; the odds don’t look good for finding a wide receiver who can contribute to your dynasty team on a consistent basis in this range. There were 20 wide receivers drafted in this range who combined to play a massive 856 games, making it the largest sample size among wide receivers in this study. So, no matter how good of a talent scout you think you might be, understand that the odds are stacked against you.

Players WR1% WR2% WR3% Boom Bust
13-18 WR Pick 8.1% 17.6% 29.7% 3.7% 55.6%
Danny Amendola 8.3% 19.4% 32.4% 0.9% 54.6%

 

It’s clear that Amendola has made a solid career for himself in the NFL, but he’s never been someone who you wanted on your dynasty squad. Maybe because he was only considered “startable” 32 percent of the time? Remember that you’d be lucky to predict half of those startable performances. Another player whose career falls into this range is Terrance Williams. Again, not a player you want on your dynasty roster.

Bottom of the Second Round (Picks 19-24)

Running Backs

Knowing what you do about running backs drafted inside the top-18, it’s hardly a surprise to know that when drafting down here, it’s a lottery pick. The 19 running backs drafted in this range have accounted for 708 games, turning in an RB1 performance 61 times, or just 8.6 percent of the time. When trading for a pick in this range, don’t come looking for a workhorse running back who presents upside. Instead, you’re just looking to add some depth to your team who may get a few starts if the starter goes down.

Players RB1% RB2% RB3% Boom Bust
19-24 RB Pick 8.6% 21.8% 38.0% 1.8% 61.4%
Orleans Darkwa 6.5% 22.6% 38.7% 0.0% 58.1%

 

Wide Receivers

Because of a few standout players, the wide receivers drafted in this range actually outperformed those who have been drafted in the top of the second-round. It goes to show that if you want a wide receiver, trading for a second-round pick might not be a bad option, no matter where in the round the pick is. Something that can also come into play is that we’re back in the area where playoff teams are drafting, which means they create the ADP in this range. If they’re consistently winning, it’s likely that they are just better talent evaluators than those who consistently get the early picks in the draft.

Players WR1% WR2% WR3% Boom Bust
19-24 WR Pick 10.2% 20.5% 31.4% 4.3% 55.7%
Mohamed Sanu 10.7% 20.2% 36.9% 1.2% 53.6%

 

Takeaways

As we’ve talked about throughout the analysis, there are outliers in productivity here and there. But in the end, these are the historical results. Again, every year someone is going to tell you that it’s a generational class and that “it’s different,” but history doesn’t lie. It doesn’t mean you can’t find value outside the top 10 picks, but what it does mean is that dynasty draft picks are often overvalued. Judging by some of the questions I receive, a first-round pick is worth a lot more to owners than someone like Isaiah Crowell or Latavius Murray. If you’re able to get proven studs who have multiple years of production left in exchange for a mid-to-late first-rounder, I’d suggest making that move before they read this article.

In case you’ve missed them, we’ve been publishing a scouting profile every day on some of the biggest names in the 2018 NFL Draft, with current player comparisons. You can find all of them right here.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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