How to Prepare for Your Dynasty Rookie Draft (2023 Fantasy Football)
Everyone loves winning their fantasy football league. However, the thing that makes dynasty leagues more fun than redraft leagues is the offseason. Between NFL free agency and the NFL Draft, fantasy teams could have their outlook drastically change overnight.
While free agency plays a significant role, the NFL Draft is the most important event in the offseason for dynasty fantasy football players. Fantasy teams could find themselves in an excellent or awful position, depending on what happens during the draft.
5 Dynasty Rookie Draft Tips
Furthermore, how you prepare for rookie drafts can make or break your team for the next several years. You don’t want to “wing it” or assume anything, so here are five helpful tips to help you ace your 2023 rookie drafts.
1. Know Your League’s Draft Rules
First and foremost, you need to know how the rookie draft works. If you don’t know the rules, check the league’s settings or ask the commissioner. It seems obvious, but every year there is at least one person in every league unaware of some rule. Don’t be that guy and give your league mates an advantage.
Make sure you’re aware of the timer. Is it a slow or fast draft? Most leagues are slow drafts with an eight-hour or longer clock for each pick. However, that’s not the case in all leagues. Also, make sure the picks are linear and not a snake. Rookie drafts should never be snake. Sometimes there will be a reversal after the third round, but that’s typically for startup drafts.
Do you know how many rounds are in your rookie draft? Most rookie drafts are four or five rounds. However, your draft could be as little as three rounds or up to 12, depending on the league size and roster construction. If your league has IDP players, your rookie draft will likely be six or more rounds. More importantly, make sure you can trade during the draft. The best time to make trades is during the rookie draft, as it gives you a chance to improve your roster in multiple ways.
2. Evaluate Your Team & Draft Capital
What kind of team do you have? Is it a contender or a rebuilding project? Hopefully, it’s not a team barely good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to win the championship. More importantly, what kind of draft capital do you have?
Contending teams with an early draft pick will want to consider trading away the selection for a win-now veteran. The rookie might take a year or so to make an impact. They could also be a complete bust and off your roster in three years. Instead, consider trading a top draft pick for a young veteran with some experience and production in the NFL.
Meanwhile, rebuilding teams should acquire as much draft capital as possible, even if you need to trade away veterans with something left in the tank. Unless the veterans have several high-end production years left in their careers, it’s time to trade them away. Remember the New England Patriots mindset. It’s better to trade away a player a year early than a year too late.
3. Do Your Homework
You don’t take the most important test of your life without studying. That also applies to your rookie drafts. Ideally, you would have the time to watch every game in every prospect’s college career. Yet, no one has that much time, especially when they aren’t getting paid to scout prospects. However, the more you can watch, the better.
Your own opinion on the prospects is the most important. While it’s ideal to do your own research, don’t just watch short highlight reels on YouTube. You need to see the good and bad moments with these players. If you only see the highlight plays, you won’t have a solid opinion of the prospect. Furthermore, don’t limit yourself to the top guys in the draft class. The players who will get drafted in the later rounds of your rookie draft could become league winners.
If you don’t have the time to watch the prospects yourself or only get to watch the top few players, find a group of experts you trust. However, don’t only pick fantasy football experts. You want a combination of fantasy football, NFL Draft, and college football experts. That way, you can get opinions from three different types of sources. The more opinions you can get, the better, but remember, no one is perfect. Even the best of the best will be wrong roughly half of the time.
Check out all of our 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports & Prospect Profiles >>
4. Explore the Trade Market
Trading during the rookie draft is always fun. Yet, trading before the draft starts is one of the best times to make a deal. Many fantasy players overvalue draft picks and undervalue veterans the closer we get to the NFL Draft. Contending teams should take advantage of that mindset and make trades to add players to help them win this upcoming season.
Even contending teams should have some draft picks every year. While you want to trade picks away to help you win now, having middle or later-round selections to take dart throw shots on players is critical. Had you spent a mid-round selection on Tyler Allgeier last year, that could have been the difference between winning the championship or coming in third place.
It’s never too early to start trade negotiations. Have trade talks about moving up or down during the draft and about potential blockbuster deals. The months and weeks leading up to the draft are an ideal time to make trades.
5. Prepare for the Rookie Draft
Practice makes perfect, right? The best way to prepare for your rookie draft is to do mock drafts. However, don’t just use a simulator. Instead, do it the old fashion way with pen and paper. Look at the teams picking ahead of you in the draft and determine their needs. Work your way through every potential scenario for the draft. If the team picking at 1.01 selects Bijan Robinson and the team picking at 1.02 takes Bryce Young, what will you do with the 1.03 pick? What will you do if Young and C.J. Stroud are the first two picks: do you take Robinson or the next quarterback in your rankings?
Your league mates are unlikely to tell you which players they plan on drafting or what trade talks they have had with other teams. However, you ideally want to have conversations with every other team in your league. You can get an idea of what positions they are targeting or what type of trades they are trying to put together. Furthermore, having trade talks with your league mates is an excellent way to get the ball moving on draft-day deals and moves centered around future rookie draft picks.
It is human nature to get excited about the here and now. Therefore, the best time to acquire future rookie picks is during the draft. If you offer your 2.01 pick to a team for their 2024 first-round pick today, it will likely get rejected. However, that offer might get accepted during the rookie draft when your league mate is desperate to trade up for a particular prospect. It’s also a good time to trade for veterans for the same reason. The rookie draft is about adding youth to your roster. However, don’t be shortsighted, and consider all options before you pick.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.
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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.