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.
Explaining Dynasty Rookie Drafts and How They Work
If you ask most dynasty fantasy football managers what their favorite time of the year is, rookie draft season is probably the answer. After free agency reshapes the landscape and incoming prospects hear their names called during the NFL Draft, dynasty leagues hold their rookie draft.
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 or seventh for your league, the dynasty rookie draft is one of the most critical moments of the season. It will drastically impact the trajectory of your team as, after the initial startup, the dynasty rookie draft is 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 and will allow for some creativity with how leagues determine the draft order. For most leagues, establishing the order for a rookie draft is based on the previous year’s results. The manager who finished last goes first, and the champion will have the last pick.
Another interesting wrinkle is by instituting a lottery — something not too dissimilar to the NBA or NHL. Look, tanking happens, and depending on the dynasty league or how well you know the managers, it can be a problem. Using a lottery approach to determine the draft order can help mitigate the risk of someone throwing a season and messing with the competitive balance of the league in order to stack up rookie picks or a prime spot.
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. 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
Knowing how to wheel and deal rookie draft picks and when to do it is everything. Much like stocks or commodities, timing is everything, and there is a calendar for the offseason. 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 2023 1.01 (Bijan Robinson) pick midseason or on the day of the rookie draft? Sure, it’ll end up the same, but the cost to get there is massively different once names are associated with draft slots.
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 you ask me, taking a multi-year dynasty team, especially an orphan, and winning a title is the pinnacle of fantasy accomplishments.
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. After all, you can always trade for more rookie picks in-season if you want.
Tips for Your First 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 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 why I’m here, and all of us at PFN are. But, if possible, get a feel for the skill set they bring to the NFL and how they mesh with their new team.
Were they drafted to be a No. 1 at their position or for depth/special teams? Is a specific running back capable of being a workhorse or a chance-of-pace option? Perhaps they’re a pass-catching weapon or someone unlikely to bring PPR upside?
My biggest tip is to navigate your dynasty fantasy football rookie draft using tiers. If there are three to four guys who you feel all bring similar upside, and there isn’t much separating them in terms of the landing spot, move back and draft the last one of that tier. It allows you to select the same upside but at a better value. Plus, you know when a position is going to dry up and can maneuver in the draft to not miss out on a position of need.
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.
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