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How to Prepare for your Rookie Draft: April Edition (2021)

Apr 10, 2021

Every offseason, dynasty fantasy football managers get to look forward to the yearly rookie draft in their league(s). For some leagues, the rookie draft is the highlight of the entire year. If your league does not trade too much during the season, it might be the most active time of year as well. But before the draft, you will want to do some prep work to give yourself the best chance at winning the championship. Here are some tips that I’ve learned doing dynasty for a few years to help you out.

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Evaluate your team after free agency settles down

The first thing you want to do once the big names of free agency have signed their contracts is to evaluate your own team. Even if you made the playoffs last year, you’re not guaranteed to have the same outcome with the same team this year. Players that carried you to the postseason may have changed teams or situations and now have a very different outlook heading into the new season. Before you do anything else, take stock of your team and decide if it’s good enough to contend for the title again or not. Most importantly, be honest with yourself. Otherwise, this is all a waste of time.

What exactly is a “contender”?

Before we get too far, let’s define what “contending” means. To me, a contending team has a well-balanced roster with enough “studs” to make the playoffs in the coming year. That’s it. It’s intentionally vague so that you can look at your own leagues and decide what you think your own chances are.

You don’t need to have the best team in the league, and you don’t have to have the best team built for future dominance either. But take an honest look at your chances to make the playoffs for this next year and establish what kind of team you are. If you honestly think your team is one of the top 3 or 4 in the league, then you’re a contender. Congrats! On the other hand, if your team has many holes that need to be addressed, it might be time for a rebuild instead.

Read all of our 2021 NFL Draft coverage here >>

Strategies based on roster status

Once you know what kind of team you have, then it’s time to look at what you need to do heading into the draft itself.

Contending Strategies

If you’re contending, then it might be worthwhile to trade your rookie picks for known studs if you haven’t already. Generally speaking, rookie picks go up in value until they are eventually used in the rookie draft, so the sooner you can trade for them, the better. On the other hand, players tend to go down in value as they get older and as more players get added to the player pool. On top of that, there’s the yearly optimism surrounding rookie players that will inherently reduce the value of known stud players as they get overlooked.

If you’re contending, look to acquire known assets with high floors whenever possible. This doesn’t mean you should be giving away your picks for peanuts or that you need to trade them all right now. On the contrary. Look to trade younger assets in more uncertain positions for slightly older players who may just be hitting their prime. I also recommend that you hold your rookie picks until you’re on the clock in your draft and trade them at that time for studs to a rebuilding team for the highest trade value. Remember, the best time to trade away a rookie pick is when it’s about to be used at the draft, so patience is key here.

As a contender, it’s best to focus on adding sure things and depth where you can, especially in April. Now is the time that older players will be ignored, and those are the players that can easily help you win titles in your flex spot down the stretch, so try targeting them for cheaper bench assets, or later round rookie picks to start with and go up from there.

Rebuilding Options

If you’re not a contender, then your team needs rebuilding. I generally take two trains of thought with this mentality: add picks to help make your team more valuable in general or add recent rookie players that have yet to truly break out.

Like I said earlier, rookie picks tend to increase in value the closer to the draft you get, so the sooner you can acquire them, the cheaper they should be. Obviously, no two leagues are alike, and in some cases, rookie picks are always expensive. That’s not to say they’re not worth trading for, but in April, you might be a little late to the party if you’re looking for a discount. On the other hand, if you’ve acquired many rookie picks and are rebuilding, look to pivot at the draft for players with lots of talent who might be undervalued in your league.

Whether you have a lot of picks or not, trading for recent rookie duds is a great way to add some variance to your roster for a relatively low price. Look at who struggled last year, whether it was due to injuries or a bad situation. See if those same conditions exist this year or if the team has already addressed them. Injuries are a common part of this game, and if you’re rebuilding, buying players who missed time due to injury can be a quick and easy way to get you right back in the hunt. Be careful with this option, though, as sometimes players returning from injury aren’t returning to the situation they had when they left, which can tank their value. Just do your homework before accepting anything.

Take stock of your current rookie picks.

Once you’ve found your targets, either picks or players, look at your own rookie pick assets. In most leagues, there will be four rounds in the rookie draft. Some leagues do more. Some do fewer. Regardless, now is a great time to see what picks you already have and start evaluating the draft’s talent to see what kind of value those picks might have.

One quick and easy way to do this is to use the FantasyPros Fantasy Football Mock Draft Simulator. You can quickly run through many mock drafts based on your own league settings in just a few minutes and start to see how you feel about the players going in those middle rounds. If you’re not a fan, then those are now available to trade away, potentially in a package for a better player or pick in the draft.

For instance, if you have the 1.09, but you think that after the sixth pick, there’s a big talent gap, then you may want to start thinking of ways you can trade up to get into that top tier. Doing so earlier rather than later may give you a leg up on the competition and get you the best price possible. Picks rise in value every day leading up to the draft, so trading for that earlier pick today will be cheaper than trading for it tomorrow. Ultimately, this is one way to see if you like what you have or if you need to do more work ahead of the draft.

Draft for talent, trade for need, and stay flexible

The best piece of advice I ever heard when I first got into dynasty was “draft for talent, trade for need.” This means that you shouldn’t be worrying about your starting roster at all at your rookie draft. If you have a huge need at RB, but the top RB options are all taken, don’t reach for the next best RB just because your team needs one. It’s April, and your team doesn’t need a starting lineup for five months. Be patient. When in doubt just take the best player available with your pick. And don’t forget, you can also try to trade back in the draft if this is the case, potentially adding future picks or other bench players that can help you out.

Above all else, stay flexible leading up to your rookie draft. There’s no need to plan out exactly who you’re targeting at each pick until you’re on the clock to make that pick. Being open to trades and looking for values is always a good idea, and leading up to the draft is no different. The best thing you can do for your dynasty team in April is to add value any way that you can, but be patient, be flexible, and be sure to visit FantasyPros often for all of your research and analysis needs in the offseason.

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Andrew Hall is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew,  follow him @AndrewHallFF