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What do a polar bear, a venus fly trap, and a pair of headphones have in common? None of them will be the topic of this article. However, I will cover research-based analysis on how to value rookie picks in dynasty. At long last, I may have insight into how valuable current-year picks are, and how to value future picks as well. Let’s start with values of current-year picks.

Looking at historical 2-round data

In order to better understand how to place value on current-year draft picks, I went back and collected some historical data. First, I picked a sample size of 5 years (2010-2014) figuring 3 years was the minimum amount of time I should give a player to start making judgments about whether that player is a hit or a bust. 2014 rookies have had 3 NFL seasons now.

Next, I calculated fantasy points per game (FP/G) for each player’s rookie year, 2nd year, and career average. I opted for FP/G because it factors out things like suspensions, injuries, and retirements. If you are drafting based on talent, you technically made excellent talent-based selections by taking Josh Gordon at 2.08 or Aaron Hernandez at 2.05. 

There was no way to predict the outcomes of those players off-field actions, so for the purpose of this study, I felt it important to use a measuring stick that excludes factors that took players off the football field. Allowing those off-field factors opens up a can of worms that defeats the purpose of looking at pick value. I’m projecting talent, not conducting a social experiment, so those are the parameters I chose.

Using My Fantasy League (MFL) ADP, I gathered and calculated this data for every player who’s ADP fell in the first 24 picks of rookie drafts from my selected sample.

In order to give this data some context, I calculated the average FP/G for each position. Those averages for my sample are below:

Positional averages

What I did next was set up a chart in which I subtracted the average from each player in the sample. This made it easy to see which players performed above/below the average of the sample for their respective positions. That table is below:

wdt_ID Pick Player - 2014 Rookie Year 2 Career Player - 2013 Rookie 2 Year Career Player - 2012 Rookie Year 2 Career Player - 2011 Rookie Year 2 Career Player - 2010 Rookie Year 2 Career
1 1.01 Sammy Watkins 3.60 6.85 3.14 Eddie Lacy 8.84 6.93 3.21 Trent Richardson 9.25 -1.39 3.06 Mark Ingram 1.77 -3.79 3.38 Ryan Mathews 4.36 6.92 4.31
2 1.02 Mike Evans 7.56 4.06 6.06 Tavon Austin 1.29 -3.61 -0.68 Doug Martin 12.15 1.39 5.69 A.J. Green 5.75 8.76 6.95 Dez Bryant 3.48 3.91 5.41
3 1.03 Bishop Sankey -1.32 -3.58 -2.47 Montee Ball -0.56 -2.70 -0.98 Andrew Luck 5.66 5.27 7.17 Julio Jones 6.72 6.38 8.61 Jahvid Best 5.56 8.80 6.07
4 1.04 Brandin Cooks 5.15 5.87 4.75 Giovani Bernard 6.60 5.24 2.58 Robert Griffin III 9.15 3.09 3.62 Daniel Thomas -1.08 -3.06 -1.93 CJ Spiller -1.76 -0.11 1.22
5 1.05 Carlos Hyde -2.04 3.63 2.07 Le'Veon Bell 9.35 13.18 11.08 Justin Blackmom 3.94 9.12 3.58 Greg Little 0.31 -1.03 -2.94 Demaryius Thomas -2.94 0.17 5.58
6 1.06 Eric Ebron -2.20 -1.90 -1.25 DeAndre Hopkins 0.11 4.33 3.63 David Wilson -2.51 -6.10 -3.37 Roy Helu 3.66 -3.26 -0.29 Sam Bradford -0.20 -4.00 0.74
7 1.07 Jordan Matthews 3.86 4.56 2.42 Cordarrelle Patterson 1.33 -4.16 -4.32 Michael Floyd -1.83 2.46 -0.57 Cam Newton 11.28 7.66 8.10 Montario Hardesty -2.05 -7.16 -4.08
8 1.08 Odell Beckham Jr. 15.97 11.04 10.81 *Tyler Eifert -0.12 3.49 1.08 Coby Fleener -0.98 -2.69 -1.21 Jon Baldwin -4.02 -6.08 -6.83 Golden Tate -4.77 -4.19 0.70
9 1.09 *Kelvin Benjamin 5.46 2.46 2.97 Christine Michael -5.36 -8.21 0.44 Kendall Wright 1.15 3.39 0.50 Delone Carter -4.17 -6.93 -4.90 Mike Williams (TB) 5.18 -0.21 0.44
10 1.10 Devonta Freeman -1.75 13.41 6.84 Marcus Lattimore -7.33 -9.98 -7.97 Ronnie Hillman -3.53 -5.01 -0.90 DeMarco Murray 3.90 4.67 8.46 Jermaine Gresham 1.58 -0.55 -1.72

Please note that all stats are measured in fantasy points per game with normal PPR scoring rules, 4 point passing touchdowns, and -2 points per turnover.

*Players that missed 1st or 2nd year, I counted the next year with 4+ games

*Counted years of <4 games as not a full season

**Only played rookie year

This table is useful as a heat chart to see where players who performed above/below average were drafted. Here is how I colored this chart:

  • > 1.5 FP/G = Green (above average)
  • between -1.5 and 1.5 FP/G = Yellow (average)
  • < -1.5 FP/G = Red (below average)

By using positional averages, it allowed me to compare apples to apples. I then added up all the scores for each of the following tiers:

  • Early 1st round picks
  • Mid 1st round picks
  • Late 1st round picks
  • Early 2nd round picks
  • Mid 2nd round picks
  • Late 2nd round picks

I was able to draw some very useful conclusions from this study:

  1. Early first round picks as a whole score on average 3.46 FP/G more than the average at their respective positions. Looking at the players in that tier, it’s not surprising. The tier includes studs such as AJ Green, Julio Jones, and Mike Evans. 15/20 players in this tier have a career FP/G of that is in the above average tier. The players who don’t make that list: Bishop Sankey, Montee Ball, Tavon Austin, Daniel Thomas, and C.J. Spiller. No other tier averaged more than 1.5 FP/G above average, so this tier should be valued well above the rest.

  2. Late 2nd round picks, conversely, score an average of 2.39 FP/G less than their positional counterparts. This isn’t surprising, but there is a real lack of fantasy contributors in this tier. The only players to have a career FP/G more than 1.5 FP/G above the average are Andy Dalton, Eric Decker, and Jimmy Graham. That’s just 3/20, or 15%.

  3. Every other tier of picks fell within average (yellow group) per position. To me, this says that once you get out of the first 4 or 5 picks, you are essentially throwing darts. Of the 80 players in the middle pick tiers, (1.05-2.08) just 23 players had a career FP/G in the above average tier. (marked green) That’s a measly 29% chance of picking a solid fantasy contributor after the first few picks. In fairness, 28 players (35%) fall within the average (marked yellow) range. Combine those percentages, and you get a 64% chance of landing a player who is at least marginal production-wise. A percentage in that range tells me that there is some skill to picking the middle rounds. Where the first few picks give you a fairly high percentage of landing a stud, the middle 4 tiers is where savvy owners can really improve their teams. If you don’t trust your own player evaluations, it may be a good idea to trade any and all picks after the first 4 or 5 for safer veterans. You can set your team back a few years with some bad selections in these rounds.

  4. Wide Receivers and Quarterbacks performed particularly well in the early first (1.01-1.04) range. Granted there were only 2 QBs in that range. (Luck & RGIII) The only receiver in this tier to not perform 3.14 points or more above average was Tavon Austin. I’m not an advocate for drafting gadget players high, so if this says anything, it says don’t take Curtis Samuel that high this year, and feel confident about drafting Corey Davis at the top of the rookie draft.

  5. For Running backs, there is a steep drop-off after the early 1st round pick tier. 64% of backs in the early 1st range had career averages greater than 1.5 FP/G above the average. For the rest of the 1st round, only 31% fall into that category. For round 2, that percentage drops to 18%.

  6. On the running back topic, there was a large number drafted in the middle tiers that were drafted by their NFL teams to be backups. Names like Toby Gerhart, Jonathan Dwyer, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, and Ka’Deem Carey were all drafted as backups to established veterans and selected by dynasty owners before the 3rd round. None of them amounted to anything special in the NFL, and it begs the question of why anyone would waste a draft pick on this type of player. Just don’t draft these guys this high no matter how strongly you feel about them. It should really be that simple.

  7. Tight ends are all over the board. The top tight ends in this group statistically (Gronk, Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez) were all drafted after pick 2.04. This not only speaks to the unpredictability of tight ends but also the lack of talent at the position to come out over that span. 2017 will see as many as 3 tight ends drafted in the first round of rookie drafts. There is not a large enough sample to definitively advise against taking tight ends that early especially when they are viewed as some of the best prospects at the position to come out in such a long time.

  8. Wide receivers were the only positional group that actually improved their average from year 2 to their career average. The sample size was very small for QB’s and TE’s, but for running backs, it speaks to the fact that many backs have their best seasons early in their careers. Eric Dickerson set the NFL single-season rushing record as a rookie. RB is the position with the most shallow learning curve of any of the incoming positions from college to the pros, and that is how I would explain that. Summed up: get your running backs early in their careers, and sell them off before the bottom falls out from under them.

  9. Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t a human being. He and Le’Veon Bell are the only players in this group to average more than 10 FP/G above their positional averages for their careers.

Future Dynasty Rookie Picks

My first attempt to figure out how to value future rookie picks started with the Dynasty Trade Calculator. (DTC) I looked at the values of all the picks in their system. They have listed five 2018 picks. These are:

  • Early 1st round
  • Mid 1st round
  • Late 1st round
  • 2nd round
  • 3rd round

By using the values of 2017 picks, I calculated the depreciation values for all of these picks based on 2017 value.

I figured this out using the Time Value of Money equation. Investopedia calculates the TVM equation like this:

Future value = Present value x {(1+ (interest rate / number of compounding periods per year)}^(number of compounding periods per year / number of years)

Simplified: FV = PV x (1+(I/N))^(N x T)

Where:

FV = Future value

PV = Present value

I = interest rate

N = number of compounding periods per year

T = number of years

I chose to use the TVM equation to illustrate the fact that current dynasty rookie picks are more valuable than future dynasty rookie picks. The link above to Investopedia’s explanation of TVM does a better justice of explaining this, but all things equal: would you rather have a pick in this year’s rookie draft, or have to wait a whole year to get that pick do affect your fantasy team? The TVM equation is perfect for this experiment of calculating the value of rookie picks in the future.

 

Hypothesis and goals of this experiment

I decided to use this equation to test a hypothesis that draft picks depreciate over time, and grow in value the closer you get to the rookie draft. If the interest rate is negative, it will show that picks depreciate in value. (Or appreciate closer to the current year)

My goal is to find a consistent rate of depreciation that I can use to quickly figure out the value of future picks for not only next year, but multiple years in the future.

 

Compounding periods and years

To discover the interest rate, I assumed that the N and T variables would be valued at 1. The number of years would be 1 year for every year in the future. So for 2018 T=1, for 2019 T=2.

I decided it would be easiest to assume that the number of compounding periods per year should stay at 1. When you make it more than this, that’s when you introduce everything but the kitchen sink in terms of variables. If for instance, you wanted to take into account that the NCAA season is part of the puzzle, then the combine is another, and the draft and so on. These would make the compounding periods go up, but would also assume that I value all of those variables I just listed as equal. For those who value game tape over combine numbers or the landing spot, this would cause inaccuracy in the interest rate based on unequal compounding periods. For all of those reasons, I left N=1 for every equation I did.

 

Calculating Interest rate for Dynasty Trade Calculator

How did I calculate the interest rate in the time value of money equation? When you solve for I in the TVM equation, you get the equation: I = -1*(N(1-(FV/PV))^(1/N*T)).

DTC values and early 2018 1st rounder as 16 points. The values of 1.01-1.04 (2017 early 1sts) averaged equal out to 25.75. When you plug those values into the equation as FV=16 and PV=25.75, N=1, T=1, you come out with roughly -37.86% interest rate. (A 37.86% depreciation in value from 2017 to 2018 if you will) I did this same equation for all of the future picks listed on DTC using the average of 1.05-1.08 for the mid-2018 1st rounder, 1.09-1.12 for the late 1st, and all of the 2nd and 3rds for their respective rounds. Here are the results for the interest rate on DTC:

  • Early 1st:          -37.86% interest
  • Mid 1st:            -41.18% interest
  • Late 1st:           -42.86% interest
  • 2nd rounder:   -0.02% interest
  • 3rd rounder      0.03% interest

You read that correctly. According to DTC, a 2018 3rd is a slightly better value than the average 2017 3rd rounder. So in a vacuum, if you have a league mate that swears by the calculator, I would highly advise flipping all of your 3.07-3.12’s for 2018 3rds. The problem with this is that every owner bases trading future picks on the quality of the team of the original owner of the pick, so the 2017 record will determine if the pick is early or late in the round.

When you think about it, having 1st round picks depreciate almost 40% is a huge rate of depreciation. If most people follow this rate, it would mean that you could get a player of similar value a year later for 60% of the cost of getting him this year. You could almost sell a 2017 1st for two 2018 1sts and come up with similar value and get two chances at a stud player as opposed to 1 if you were just willing to wait a year. It’s not a surprise that many dynasty owners adopt the “productive struggle” strategy and stock up on rookie picks because the value for rookie picks, especially future rookie picks, is significantly devalued by the community as a whole evidenced by DTC’s 40% depreciation rate.

This is what one might call a market inequality. The perceived value is less than the actual value of these future rookie picks. I will attempt to explain this in the next section. When there is a market inequality, it is easy to take advantage. If you don’t think your team can compete this year, buy up all the future picks worth a hoot now, and let them appreciate in value. If you can buy a potential stud like Saquon Barkley or Derrius Guice at 60% of the future asking price just for waiting a year, you have little excuse to not take advantage of that.

One factor that isn’t considered in these calculations is team situation. For a team on the brink of championship contention, a 2019 rookie pick isn’t of much value. To a team that is completely rebuilding, they can probably use all the picks they can get as picks are usually the cheapest way to acquire players before they appreciate in value. Sure, plenty will bust, but that’s why the picks are generally cheaper than proven players.

To sum up my findings of how DTC values future picks: 1st rounders are discounted by around 40% year over year while 2nd and 3rd rounders basically hold the same value. This is a market inefficiency as I will explain in the next section, and until the market corrects itself, it should be exploited.

 

Proposed depreciation rate

My proposed depreciation rate is 15% across the board for all future rookie picks. When I looked back at the historical data from earlier in this article, I discovered that players (on average) increase their FP/G by roughly 15% from year 1 to year 2. Players also increase their year 1 to career average by about 15% as well.

To help visualize what this means, take a look at these tables:

2017 and 2018 values

The left table is the values that DTC gives all the picks in their calculator. We actually asked DTC how they came up with the current rookie pick values and they responded with that it is a modified version of the Walter Football NFL Draft Chart that NFL teams use to help them value NFL draft pick trades. The right table represents all of those values depreciated 15% in the TVM equation. This right table represents what 2018 picks would look like today depreciated in value because they are a year from being useful to your fantasy team. To understand this table better, here is an example:

2017 1.06 is worth 20 points in DTC value. When depreciated 15%, 2018 1.03 is worth roughly the same. (20.40 points) This means if you wanted to trade out of your 1.06 slot because maybe you didn’t like your options, you could probably ask for a likely early first in 2018 in return due to the time value of money. You are essentially waiting an additional year to get that extra expected 15% production on your fantasy team, and that is why you can ask for a higher pick in return for your current pick.


If you can afford to wait (basically you don’t think your team has a shot at the championship) then this may be a risk worth looking into. If you can’t afford to wait, then you may want to adopt the reverse strategy.

Using the TVM equation, I can easily calculate the value of 2019 picks as well by changing T from 1 year to 2. With the 15% depreciation rate over 2 years, here is the expected value chart of 2019 picks:

2019 picks

Because you rarely know what exact pick you are getting, I created a more useful trade value chart for picks 1 and 2 years in the future based on the tiers I used for the first experiment. (early first, mid first, etc…) To calculate those values, you simply add up the four picks in that tier and divide by four. Here is that table:

UFTVC

What I like about this is it makes it incredibly easy to just add those values to your trade calculations if you wanted to continue to use DTC.

 

How to take advantage of the market inequality

DTC values future picks differently than I do in the Ultimate Future Trade Value Chart (which I am now calling the UFTVC) with my proposed 15% depreciation rate. Here is how they value 2018 picks:

DTC FVC

1st round picks are significantly cheaper according to DTC, which makes them worth buying if that is how your league-mates value them. The value of a 2018 rookie pick without a tier prediction (adding up all values 2.01-2.12 and dividing by 12) would be 3.47. This means without a tier prediction, DTC values a 2018 2nd round pick higher than the UFTVC. If your future pick isn’t likely to be an early 2nd, I would recommend selling those picks based on DTC’s valuation. I would also recommend selling all future 3rds at DTC’s valuation of them.

 

Conclusion

The purpose of this article was to help you as a dynasty owner better understand the value of rookie picks in dynasty. I used historical data to help you understand what value you can expect to get out of your incoming rookies. I also used that historical data to help calculate the value of future rookie picks. The historical data tells us that there is a 15% increase in average fantasy value after player’s rookie seasons. We can use that value to calculate the value of picks in the future, and I even created a value chart to allow you to easily plug into your DTC trade equations.

If you enjoyed this article, give that author, Zack Marmer, a follow:


If you are interested in trying your hand at writing about fantasy football, email us at thefantasyauthority1@gmail.com or shoot us a Twitter message @FF_Authority.

I currently reside in Denver, Colorado. I am from Philly so I am a diehard Eagles fan. When I am not writing about fantasy football, I am probably skiing, hiking, rock climbing, or playing hockey.

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