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    What Is a Dynasty Rookie Draft? How It Works, Tips, and More

    A key part of dynasty fantasy football leagues is the rookie draft. What is the dynasty rookie draft and how does it work?

    The fantasy football community gets larger every season. As the player base grows, so does the percentage of it that plays dynasty. Many managers have just completed their first year and are now approaching their first-ever dynasty rookie draft.

    While we continue the series on explaining how different aspects of dynasty fantasy football work, let’s dive into dynasty rookie drafts. What are they? How do they work? And what do you need to know to prepare?

    Explaining Dynasty Rookie Drafts and How They Work

    The best part of fantasy football is the draft season. For redraft leagues, that’s late August/early September. In dynasty fantasy football, it can really come at any point but typically occurs sometime not too far after the NFL Draft.

    Drafting the incoming prospects is one of the biggest appeals of dynasty leagues. After the initial startup draft, rookie drafts are how teams add much-needed youth and upside to their current rosters.

    Whether it is the first, second, or 10th year of your dynasty league, the rookie draft is incredibly important for your long-term success. After all, it is the only means managers have to add players to their roster without having to agree on a trade or win a waiver bid. Nailing your rookie picks can position your team to dominate for a half-decade.

    What Dictates the Order of a Dynasty Rookie Draft?

    Most dynasty leagues operate like the NFL. That is, the draft order is determined by the reverse order of the previous season’s standings. The last-place team picks first and the champion picks last.

    A common criticism of this method is it incentivizes tanking. There’s no benefit to coming in seventh place as opposed to last. In fact, if you can’t make the playoffs, you are better off finishing last.

    To combat this, some leagues use a lottery, similar to what you see in the NBA or NHL. This would give the bottom teams a higher chance at securing the No. 1 overall pick, but it wouldn’t be a guarantee.

    The problem with a lottery is it doesn’t really change anything. Unless it’s unweighted (meaning all non-playoff teams have the same number of proverbial balls in the machine), there will still be an advantage, albeit a lesser one, to finishing last.

    As a result, another system I’ve seen is having the last six picks be the reverse order of the standings (i.e., playoff results), but the first six picks are the order of the standings.

    That means the best team to miss the playoffs gets the top pick. In a 12-team league, the seventh-place team would pick first. This may come across as a bit oppressive, but it ensures that every team is trying to win every week.

    Rookie Draft Pick Trading

    This is one of the most alluring parts of a dynasty league. In redraft leagues, the only assets you have to trade are your current players (and potentially FAAB). In dynasty leagues, you can trade players and draft picks.

    What makes rookie draft pick trading so much fun is it’s not just about knowing what to trade — it’s knowing when to trade.

    Much like stocks or commodities, timing is everything. There is a calendar for the offseason. There are time periods when rookie picks are at their most valuable and instances when they are not that appealing. Making a deal at the right time can increase the value you get in return.

    MORE: FREE Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer

    The best examples to use are years where the No. 1 player is not in dispute. This year is perfect for that as, outside of Superflex, it’s very clearly Marvin Harrison Jr. In this case, the pick is worth more knowing who the player is.

    In other years, the pick may be worth less when the top pick is uncertain. If the top player isn’t clearly the best option, then the No. 1 pick’s value above the next couple of picks isn’t as significant, lowering its value.

    Dynasty rookie draft picks are crucial to improving your roster. It is how managers add both youth and upside, hoping to secure the next Puka Nacua: a third- or fourth-round rookie pick that is now a top-15 overall dynasty asset. Play your cards right, and suddenly you’ve reshaped your roster with one pick.

    As a general rule of thumb, if I am not competing for a championship, I try to avoid trading any first-round rookie picks. With the focus already on the future, I want to acquire picks not trade them away.

    On a win-now team, the theory changes, though. It doesn’t benefit you to sit on young players and wait for them to emerge. Of course, every year some rookies can contribute immediately. You want those players. But if you can turn the uncertainty of rookies into the certainty of established stars, that’s your best path to securing that championship.

    Winning a championship in dynasty is not easy. It is quite different from redraft where one strong draft can put you in contention for a championship. If you have a depleted dynasty roster, whether your own or a team you took over, it can take years of work to turn it into a competitive roster.

    I am a redraft player at heart, though. That’s how I learned this game. I don’t say that to diminish dynasty but rather to explain why I operate the way I do. If I have a chance to win, even if my team isn’t a juggernaut, I’m going to try to win.

    A key part of that is using rookie picks to acquire players. Whether that comes in the form of drafting players or trading them away for players, I’m going to get players for my picks. After all, you can always trade for more rookie picks in-season if you want.

    Tips for Your First Dynasty Rookie Draft

    Many factors go into how you should approach your first dynasty rookie draft. The first step is knowing who is in your league. Is this a new league where everyone is a novice and still learning? Is it a league with 12 seasoned fantasy managers with years of experience? Or perhaps a mix of both? This can dictate how sharp the draft is and the level of strategy that you need to deploy.

    Regardless, the most important thing is to be informed. It sounds obvious, but you’ve all played redraft before. How often have you experienced someone just not knowing who a player is? And that’s with mostly current NFL players.

    In a rookie draft, these are all young athletes coming out of college. Chances are every member of your dynasty league doesn’t watch college football with the same fervor as the NFL. They may not know who some of the second- or third-round rookies are. Even though those guys are less likely to pan out, make sure you know who they are.

    The next tip is to know your roster. Where is your team strong? Where is it weak? Are you drafting a player to finish out a position? Or are you starting to build something up with your pick?

    When it comes to redraft leagues, I am not a big tier-based drafter. In dynasty, though, tiers are essential.

    Of course, opinions on prospects vary. A guy I may view as a high-upside WR2 could be viewed as a bust by someone else. Just go back and read all the opinions on Quentin Johnston from before the 2023 NFL Draft.

    Ehh … maybe he’s not the best example since many analysts were projecting that he would fail to live up to expectations. Jayden Reed is probably a more interesting one.

    MORE: Which Dynasty Fantasy Platform Is Right for You?

    Better yet, take in all the information on guys like Keon Coleman and Adonai Mitchell right now. Someone is going to be very, very wrong come January.

    In general, though, there will be a group of players who are closer to “can’t miss.” This year, those are the big three WRs: Harrison, Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze.

    Then, there will be the guys with a wider range of outcomes. That’s pretty much the rest of the top 10 or so WRs, plus Jonathon Brooks.

    Finally, there will be the dart throws, the guys that are probably not going to amount to anything overall but one or two will break through into productive fantasy assets. Those are the guys that typically get drafted in the third round or later of dynasty rookie drafts.

    Knowing the caliber of player you are likely to get at each of your rookie picks provides you with information as to whether you should trade up, down, or stand pat.

    As a bonus, make sure you don’t draft too many players. Far too frequently, a rebuilding team amasses draft picks and then drafts more players than it can use. If you have 10 picks but only 6-7 realistic open spots on your roster, make trades. There’s nothing worse you can do with a rookie pick than to waste it.

    Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

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