As dynasty fantasy football continues to surge in popularity, new managers to the format could be heading into their first rookie draft with a minimal idea of how these function or their purpose. While we continue the series on explaining how different aspects of dynasty fantasy football work, let’s dive into what a dynasty rookie draft is and how they work so you can get your season off on the right foot.
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Explaining dynasty rookie drafts and how they work
In the eyes of many, this is the best time of year if you play dynasty fantasy football. After free agency reshapes the landscape and the incoming prospects hear their names called during the NFL draft, dynasty managers hold rookie drafts.
These drafts are how teams add much-needed youth and upside to their current rosters. Whether it is the first year or the seventh for your league, the dynasty rookie draft is one of the most important moments of the season. After the initial startup draft, dynasty rookie drafts are the only time to add players (not including waivers or trades).
What dictates the order of a dynasty rookie draft?
This can vary from league to league. I have seen some leagues get rather creative with how they determine the draft order. In the majority of leagues, establishing the order for a rookie draft is based on the previous year’s results. The managers who finished last would have the first pick and so on until the previous champion drafts last.
Another interesting wrinkle is to take an NBA approach by instituting a lottery. Tanking happens. And depending on the dynasty league or how well you know the managers, it can be a problem. Some willingly tank one season to get a good draft pick in the upcoming rookie drafts. Using a lottery approach to determine the draft order can help mitigate some of this.
The managers who finished last have a certain percentage chance of landing the first draft slot, with all the teams who missed the playoffs all receiving a lesser percentage chance of the coveted 1.01. Now, as we have seen with the NBA, this can help avoid tanking. There is also the chance, based on the odds, that a “better” team could end up with the first pick rather than the worst teams in the league. But that is the gamble as it’s just as easy to drop as it is to rise in a rookie draft this way.
Rookie draft pick trading
Mastering this is where dynasty fantasy football managers can separate themselves from the pack. Knowing how to wheel and deal rookie draft picks and when to do it is everything. Much like stocks or commodities, timing is everything. You need to know when to strike when the iron is hot and when to hold out. As an example, would you rather acquire the 2022 1.01 pick midseason or on the day of the rookie draft? While the result is the same, the cost could be significantly different.
Dynasty rookie draft picks are the lifeblood of a roster. It is how managers add both youth and upside, hoping to secure the next Justin Jefferson, a top-three pick in a startup that was going in the back-end of the first round of rookie drafts two years ago. Play your cards right, and all of a sudden, you reshaped your roster with one pick.
As a general rule of thumb, if I am not competing for a championship, I stay away from trading any first-round rookie picks. I already have my eyes on the future and am looking to the rookie draft to add more talent, so it all comes together in the same window.
Now, if this is a “win-now” roster, one filled with veterans who likely bring more to my team than they do on the open market due to age, I’m willing to sell a first-round rookie pick or more to secure the best chance of a title. Winning a championship in dynasty is not easy and takes years of work to build and maintain a competitive roster. If I have a chance to win, I am going all in, using the rookie picks as ammo to swing a trade for a player who puts my roster over the top and my name on the trophy.
Tips for your dynasty rookie draft
My first one is to be informed. This might sound simple, and it is. But far too often managers walk into a rookie draft having checked out since they were knocked out last season with little to no idea of the incoming class aside from what was said and retained from the NFL draft broadcast. Don’t be this person.
Study your roster and know your needs. Learn the rookies. I don’t mean you need to personally comb over the film and create film grades and analysis — that’s what I’m here for. But get a feel for who these players are and the skill set they bring to the NFL and their new team. Were they drafted to be a top option at their position or for depth? Is a specific running back capable of being a workhorse? Are they a more specialized rusher, likely coming into a platoon role? Perhaps they’re a pass-catching weapon or someone unlikely to bring PPR upside?
Navigate your dynasty fantasy football rookie draft using tiers. If there are four guys who you feel all bring similar upside and there isn’t much separating them in terms of the landing spot, draft the last one of that tier. It allows you to select the same upside but at a better value.
Also, one final thing. If you came into the draft with 12 picks, if you select 12 players, you likely messed up. Having a ton of picks allows you to move up in the draft. It also allows you to move out and into the next year’s class, where there might be a far better group of players waiting. Using a dynasty rookie draft pick correctly doesn’t always mean drafting a player.