How to Prepare for Your Dynasty Rookie Draft (2019 Fantasy Football)
Preparing for your rookie draft is no small task. Depending on your league size, you could be tasked with learning about more than 80 rookies. While some choose to just stick with our invaluable dynasty league rookie expert consensus rankings, others choose to create their own cheat sheets and use ECR as a refinement tool.
The timing of your rookie draft will help determine what type of strategy or which steps you will want to follow. Rookie drafts can occur at all times during the offseason. Some occur before the actual NFL Draft, some in the days and weeks immediately following, and some occur the week before kickoff. With that in mind, I have endeavored to include information that will assist in your rookie draft prep, regardless of timing.
This is sometimes the most exciting time of the year for dynasty league managers. Adding fresh, potentially game-changing talent to your roster is always a welcomed exercise, regardless of where your team stands competitively. Here are some suggestions to help you gain a “preparation advantage” over your leaguemates.
Read FantasyPros’ dynasty coverage
Finding good dynasty content and coverage can sometimes be a challenging and cumbersome task. Luckily if you are reading this, you likely know about all the great dynasty coverage FantasyPros delivers. Dynasty enthusiasts often try to digest as much information as possible heading into their rookie drafts, so having dynasty mock drafts, mock rookie drafts, NFL mock drafts, NFL Draft big boards, and expert consensus dynasty rankings all in one place really helps those who value their time.
Draft as early as possible
Drafting early presents a huge competitive advantage. While some leagues wait until the end of preseason to draft, the most competitive leagues often draft immediately following the NFL Draft, with some even doing so prior. The closer to the season you get, the more information your rivals will have access to. Opinion is very often widely split on prospects heading into the NFL Draft, and even more so before the combine. These are the times when the prepared can exploit the unprepared.
Once the NFL Draft is completed, roles are more defined and the “preparation advantage” window starts to close. Once preseason is complete and starters are named, there is very little left in the way of gaining that competitive edge. Only rookie sleepers who didn’t win starting jobs still qualify. Draft as early as possible to take advantage of the prep you put into studying up on the current year’s rookie class.
Watch tape if you can or at least watch highlight packages
Getting a feel for which prospects stand out the most to you is an important step. As a football fan, you have watched enough plays to recognize good talent as opposed to just an average one, even if you cannot fully articulate why or how. Watching tape, or at least highlights, should be one of your first steps once you have compiled your initial list of prospects to monitor. This will give you a better feel of their strengths and weaknesses and how they project at the next level. It will also help you to separate prospects you have ranked similarly or cannot get a true consensus on.
Don’t fall victim to groupthink
Once you have reviewed film on your shortlist of prospects, it is important not to be overly influenced by outside forces. All rankings and evaluations are subjective and they often are not created equal. Use the extra information you acquire whether it be final stats, advanced analytics, or scouting reports as aids to refine your rankings, not lead them. In the end, your dynasty roster is your “baby,” and you do not want to have regret because you went against your gut.
Get a jumpstart by joining or even setting up a devy league
An underrated tool to help set you up for dynasty league success is to join a devy league. Devy leagues force you to familiarize yourself with college athletes before they even hit the pros. This will often lead to giving you a leg up on your rival owners in trade talks, as well as leading up to and during your draft. Consider joining a dynasty league with a devy component if you have time to add another league.
Create personal dynasty rookie rankings in November and tweak it throughout the offseason
Creating a personal incoming rookie shortlist is a critical step in ensuring you stick to your guns during your draft. Your league provider will have their default rankings and sometimes projections. These can occasionally throw managers off if they only have a limited time to make a pick. Once the offseason begins, more and more dynasty and NFL Draft content will be released, which can be utilized to fine tune your shortlist. Creating your rankings early also helps you in potential trade talks during the season as you will have a better grasp on what rookie draft picks may be worth as opposed to someone who only starts digging into the rookie class in the days prior to their draft. Creating a shortlist before the offseason is a critical step to avoid groupthink.
Follow the NFL Draft (or at least a draft tracker), read up on picks and project their roles
Digging in once the NFL Draft has been completed is a critical step for those who do not have the time or wherewithal to create a rookie shortlist prior. Once the draft is complete, a wealth of information regarding team fit and projected roles will hit the wire. At this time, if you have not already, it is a great time to update or create your rookie shortlist. If your draft occurs after the NFL Draft but before the preseason, this step is a must. Before the preseason reveals to the world which rookies have secured starting roles, projecting roles becomes a necessary step in rookie draft preparation.
Do dynasty mock drafts
As is the case with most things in life, practice makes perfect. Participating in mock drafts is the ideal way to gain the experiential knowledge that can help you gain an edge in your rookie drafts. Being able to identify where your targets may go can help to develop your draft strategy. Participate in mock drafts where possible before your own leagues draft to get a better indication of where others’ heads may be at, even if you go in with a vanilla strategy yourself. It is also advisable to do a personal mock draft where you take into account rival team needs and tendencies.
Identify your favorite analyst (or analysts) for pre- and post-draft information
Not all analysts and scouts are created equal and with Mike Mayock now with the Oakland Raiders, there is a big hole in NFL.com’s coverage expertise. This makes finding alternative sources critical. Once the offseason begins, draft coverage explodes, giving you plenty of options to choose from. Identifying which analysts’ perspectives are most in line with what you value in players is an important aspect of developing or fine-tuning your rankings. There is likely to be a lot of varied opinions on every prospect, and while it is good to take in as much as possible, you ideally want to identify the ones who think the most like you do.
To make an analogy, consider a movie reviewer. Joe loved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Avengers: Infinity War and, therefore, probably should not be following the reviews of someone who gave both movies a five out of 10. While it is wise to take in dissenting opinions, you do not want to allow those that are diametrically opposed to your values to color your own.
Read our draft pick trade approach guide
You should consider whether or not you want to hold on to your pick heading into rookie drafts. You can move up, move down, or even trade your pick(s). If you decide you do want to make a move involving a pick, consider checking our helpful dynasty league rookie draft pick approach guide.
Analytics vs. Tape debate
Wherever you stand on the great analytics versus tape debate, it is a good idea to take in both viewpoints. When tape and analytics identify the same player, you could use that opportunity to boost them up your rankings. One should remember that tape evaluation is always subjective. You and I could watch the same three games and come away with completely different impressions of the same player.
Analytics are meant to be more objective and are useful even for those who swear by tape. Numbers give context to the tape. Likewise, analytics without tape can often leave you without critical context. Utilize both where possible.
Raju Byfield is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Raju, follow him @FantasyContext.