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What Is A Dynasty Draft Pick Actually Worth? (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Apr 8, 2020

Jerry Jeudy is slated to be a top-five pick in 2020 rookie dynasty drafts

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve tried to make a trade in a dynasty league that involved a draft pick where I’ve heard the phrase, “I’m giving you a first-round draft pick. You need to be willing to let go of studs.” When I hear that, I can’t help but cringe.

It’s rare to find a stud in fantasy football who can give you results year over year, so why would you be trading a stud away for someone you’re hoping can become a stud?

I’ll be honest with you; when I started playing dynasty, I had zero idea how to value a first- or second-round rookie draft pick. There was no guide to help value them. All I’d heard was that first-round picks were gold. Like most things if life, I needed to see for myself.

When giving up a proven commodity who may have a year or two left, what should you expect in return? It’s only natural to be optimistic with the young rookies coming into the league, but what happens when you remove all emotion and look at what history says you actually get out of those draft picks?

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Another thing to note, as someone comments on it all the time in my Dynasty Trade Value Chart, is that when trading away or for future draft picks, you don’t know if that pick will be the first pick or the fifth pick, though we can usually look at rosters to see if a team is rebuilding and which will contend for championships, which, in turn, give you a worse draft pick. Because of that, I’ve separated the research into sections with each pick/position having a different value.

The research included here goes back as far as I could find in rookie ADP (average draft position), which is 2009, giving us 11 years of data to go off. It’s a good enough sample size to have a solid foundation to find trends. The ADP data used is post-NFL Draft, as it’s the most accurate source to what dynasty rookie drafts typically look like.

Top of the First Round (Top-3 Pick)

Running Backs

Over the last 11 years, there’ve been 33 top-three picks (duh), with 21 of them being running backs. That gives us a solid sample size to sort through, as those 21 running backs have played a combined 1,101 games. It’s important to note that running backs don’t often take time to develop, meaning the most recent rookies won’t negatively impact the results like the wide receivers do, as they take a bit more time to catch up with the speed of the NFL.

Players RB1 % RB2 % RB3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 1-3 29.2% 52.8% 70.5% 11.4% 29.3%

 

As mentioned, these results are based on the 1,101-game sample size from running backs drafted in the top three of rookie drafts. These are not year-end finishes, but rather game-by-game results. If you’ve never read the “Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between” series, I’d highly recommend checking it out, as these are numbers pulled directly from it (read that here).

This chart highlights that you’d get RB2 or better performances 52.8 percent of the time, which is a solid number, though I wouldn’t expect you to know how to value that (I didn’t before compiling all the results). The “boom” stands for 25-plus PPR points in a game, while the “bust” stands for fewer than 8.0 PPR points in a game. So, who do these numbers compare to over the course of a career?

Players RB1 % RB2 % RB3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 1-3 29.2% 52.8% 70.5% 11.4% 29.3%
Devonta Freeman 33.8% 51.9% 70.1% 15.6% 24.7%
Frank Gore 27.1% 56.9% 72.9% 6.7% 26.2%

 

I’ve included two players here, as the sample size is practically right in-between Devonta Freeman‘s and Frank Gore‘s career numbers. There aren’t going to be many running backs who enjoy a career as long as Gore’s but if you get this type of production out of a top-three pick, you won’t be left feeling empty from a trade. The running backs who are currently being drafted as top-three picks in 2020 are Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, and JK Dobbins, though that can change after the NFL Draft.

Wide Receivers

There’s a bit smaller sample size with the wide receivers, as there’ve been just 11 of them selected with top-three picks since the 2009 draft. The games played sample size is a bit smaller as well, as they’ve combined for a 767-game sample, an average of 69.7 games per player, though it is much higher than the running back number of 52.4 games per player. It’s widely known in the dynasty community that wide receivers have a much longer shelf life than running backs.

Players WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 1-3 24.6% 40.2% 52.3% 13.3% 34.3%

 

In order to crack a starting lineup on a consistent basis, you want your wide receiver to post WR3 or better numbers, so to see the 52.3 percent mark doesn’t inspire the most confidence, but the 40.2 percent mark of WR2 or better performances is a great mark. So, again, what player would this look like over the course of a career?

Players WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 1-3 24.6% 40.2% 52.3% 13.3% 34.3%
Eric Decker 21.6% 38.2% 53.9% 9.8% 31.4%
Amari Cooper 24.7% 36.4% 49.4% 13.0% 35.1%

 

Some may be shocked by these results, but Cooper’s career to this point is the equivalent of a top-three dynasty pick that’s used on a wide receiver. His numbers have spiked since going to the Cowboys, but 1,000 yards in 4-of-5 seasons is nothing to scoff at. This chart may also make you realize just how underrated Eric Decker was. As of right now, the only wide receivers being considered in that range this year are Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb.

Other Top-Half of the First Round (Picks 4-6)

Running Backs

This is an area of the draft where you trade with a team who’s expected to miss the playoffs, though they may not finish in the bottom of the standings. This is a good negotiation tactic to use, as you almost have to assume worst-case scenario with the draft picks you’re receiving. And then, if they finish bottom-three, you’ve just bumped up in historic production, though it’s not as big of a jump as you might expect.

Players RB1 % RB2 % RB3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 4-6 26.9% 47.6% 63.6% 9.3% 34.9%
Derrick Henry 26.2% 44.3% 52.5% 9.8% 44.3%
Darren McFadden 23.5% 47.1% 66.7% 4.9% 34.3%

 

While many have moved Derrick Henry into their top-20 dynasty players, this chart might tell you that he’s a bit overvalued based on what he’s accomplished to this point. Yes, he had a historical end to his 2020 season, but that doesn’t erase the rest of his career. Darren McFadden was someone dynasty leaguers had high hopes for but were ultimately let down by his career. Still, if you’re drafting a running backs in this range, you’re likely to get a long-time contributor. The average number of games played for running backs in this range was 52.8, which is a lot for the position.

Wide Receivers

Now that we know running backs don’t fall off much from the top-three to top-six, how about the wide receivers? Just like the running back section, when trading for a pick in this area of the draft, you’re trading with a team you’re assuming will miss the playoffs, though they may not finish in the bottom of the standings.

Players WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 4-6 17.6% 34.7% 48.9% 7.2% 33.4%
Randall Cobb 15.3% 35.6% 48.3% 5.1% 32.2%

 

Let’s just say the drop-off with wide receivers is much steeper than that of running backs, as you go from the career of Amari Cooper with a pick in the 1-3 range, to the career of Randall Cobb by dropping to the 4-6 range. Look, many may have forgotten how good Cobb was earlier in his career, but still, not many would’ve traded a high first-round rookie pick for Cobb’s career. This sample size is rather large, as there were 14 receivers who’ve played 890 total games. When drafting a wide receiver in this range, you essentially have a 50/50 chance to find one who’ll be a consistent producer on your fantasy team.

Back-Half of the First Round (Picks 7-12)

Running Backs

Instead of breaking this section into three picks, we’re going to do all six picks combined. Why? Well, as you know, the fantasy playoffs are impossible to predict and anything can happen. This is the area where when trading for future draft picks, you’re expecting the other team to be in the playoffs. If their team suffers a major injury after the trade, you might just find yourself with a top-six pick, but you’re not counting on it. When trading with a contending team, what should you expect to find at the running back position in the back-half of the first-round?

Players RB1 % RB2 % RB3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 7-12 16.3% 36.0% 54.0% 6.8% 44.9%
Kenyan Drake 19.3% 36.8% 56.1% 7.0% 40.4%
C.J. Anderson 23.1% 36.9% 53.8% 13.8% 44.6%

 

This sample size only gets bigger because there were more picks. There were 22 running backs included in this sample that spanned over 959 games. That amounts to just 43.6 games per player, which continues to dip, as finding a multi-contract player gets harder and harder at the running back position. While Kenyan Drake was a stud with the Cardinals last year, we can’t ignore the fact that 49-of-57 games were with the Dolphins where no one wanted to draft him as anything more than an RB3 because of the inconsistency. It’s extremely hard to find fantasy gold here at the running back position, though not impossible. Those being considered in this range pre-NFL Draft in 2020 include Cam Akers and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Wide Receivers

We continually see running backs fly off the board in rookie drafts, as drafters want instant gratification. That made me wonder just how good the wide receivers may be in this range. Again, when trading for a pick in this range, you are trading with a team that’s very likely to make the playoffs, which means they were already good.

Players WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 7-12 15.1% 30.4% 42.7% 6.9% 42.0%
Tyrell Williams 15.0% 26.7% 41.7% 1.7% 41.7%
Jamison Crowder 11.1% 30.6% 43.1% 4.2% 43.1%

 

Now stop yourself and ask, “Would I trade my first-round pick for Jamison Crowder‘s career?” No, right? Well, that’s the production that should be expected when you make that pick. If someone will give you more, you may want to consider it. There were 32 wide receivers as part of this sample that accounted for 1,897 games, or 59.3 games per player, which is much higher than the 43.6 games for running backs in this range. There are definitely some good receivers to be had in this area of rookie drafts, but again, there’s a better chance of you finding a dud than a stud who’ll be in your lineup every week. The receivers being taken in this range pre-NFL Draft are Jalen Reagor, Tee Higgins, Henry Ruggs, Justin Jefferson, and Laviska Shenault.

Top-Half of the Second Round (Picks 13-18)

Running Backs

I’ve decided to lump the top six picks together in this round because there wasn’t that much change in the results from 13-15 and 16-18, so we went with a bigger sample size at the top-half of the second-round. We’re now 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 %
Picks 13-18 13.6% 31.8% 50.6% 5.0% 47.4%
Isaiah Crowell 13.2% 34.2% 53.9% 2.6% 40.8%
Rashad Jennings 15.2% 33.7% 53.3% 3.3% 44.6%

 

How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s an early second-round pick, so it’s essentially a late-first.” Well, no, it’s not. If you’re looking for a running back that has startability as a back-end RB3/flex-type starter, this is the area for you. Going through this range, there were 24 running backs drafted, with the best ones being Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, Lamar Miller, David Johnson, and Kenyan Drake. The bottom-line here is that you’re not even close to guaranteed a long-time fantasy asset, as these running backs have averaged just 34.0 career games. Running backs being drafted in this range pre-NFL Draft are Zack Moss and A.J. Dillon.

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 26 wide receivers drafted in this range who combined to play a massive 1,128 games. So, no matter how good of a talent scout you think you might be, understand that the odds are stacked against you when finding a receiver in this range.

Players WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 13-18 8.9% 19.5% 32.1% 3.8% 53.9%
Danny Amendola 8.0% 18.8% 31.2% 0.7% 55.8%
Brandon LaFell 9.2% 20.2% 34.5% 3.4% 46.2%

 

Not only do we see declining results in performance, but receivers in this range also averaged just 43.4 games, so the longevity factor with receivers is starting to fade. Outside of times with injuries to other target hogs, could you ever start Danny Amendola or Brandon LaFell confidently? Don’t get me wrong, there are a few guys in this range who will pan out, as Keenan Allen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Michael Gallup were all drafted in this range, but for every one of them, there are six guys like Justin Hunter and Donte Moncrief. The wide receivers being drafted in this range in 2020 pre-NFL Draft are Denzel Mims and Bryan Edwards.

Bottom-Half of the Second Round (Picks 19-24)

Running Backs

This is the area of the draft where you’re selecting guys you know are going to be backups on the team they’re drafted to. The starter in front of them may be incompetent or get hurt, leaving them with an opportunity, but it’s not likely they’re going to make an impact on your fantasy team without some special circumstance. Of the 22 running backs selected in this range, they’ve averaged 38.2 games in their career, so actually more than the running backs drafted in the 13-18 range, but let’s be clear, they didn’t help your fantasy team judging by their numbers.

Players RB1 % RB2 % RB3 % Boom % Bust %
Picks 19-24 9.3% 22.9% 39.4% 2.3% 59.7%
Peyton Barber 9.6% 23.1% 34.6% 0.0% 50.0%
Elijah McGuire 8.7% 21.7% 34.8% 0.0% 65.2%

 

Are you interested in trading for the career of Peyton Barber/Elijah McGuire? That’s the question you should be asking yourself when offered a late second-round/early third-round pick. When drafting a running back in this range, you’re better off looking for a complementary third-down back than one who’ll become a fantasy superstar. Rookies going in this range pre-NFL Draft are Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Eno Benjamin.

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 %
Picks 19-24 10.6% 21.1% 32.9% 4.7% 53.2%
Zach Pascal 8.0% 24.0% 32.0% 4.0% 56.0%
Mohamed Sanu 10.4% 21.7% 36.5% 0.9% 52.2%

 

While Mohamed Sanu can be used from time-to-time in fantasy football, we won’t pretend he’s a stud. But here’s the thing about this sample size. There were 25 receivers drafted in this range over the last 11 years and they played a grand total of 1,033 games. That sample size includes some really good careers. For instance, the No. 22 pick has been fantasy gold for receivers, as Chris Godwin, Martavis Bryant, Josh Gordon, and Eric Decker were all drafted there. Despite all their careers, this sample size doesn’t show great results, which highlights just how hit/miss this area is. Wide receivers being drafted in this range pre-NFL Draft are Brandon Aiyuk, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tyler Johnson, and Antonio Gandy-Golden.

Takeaways

There are going to be outliers in every tier of rookie drafts and they’re going to impact the overall results, but even with them included, the results aren’t crazy. Every year, there will be some who tell you it’s a generational class and that it’s different, but we’ve legitimately gone through more than a decade of results and shown the actual value of rookie draft picks.

So, in short, most dynasty players overvalue rookie draft picks that aren’t in the top-six. If someone offers you a proven commodity who has multiple years of production for a late first-round pick, you should absolutely be willing to accept before they read this article and know what they’re likely to net with that pick.

If you’d like to know how I value the rookies in this year’s draft class, click here to see the latest edition of my Dynasty Trade Value Chart. If you’d like to read up in-depth on those rookies, click here to see all the rookie profiles that have gone up.


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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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