What’s in a Pick?

What’s in a pick?

The trend we see in the recent years indicated that rookies have elevated their status from upside depth to becoming a part of your championship team. Owners do not have to wait 3 years for their rookie WR to break out, but instead, we have Amari Cooper, Julio Jones, or Mike Evans who each has broken a 1000 receiving yards and/or scored above average total TDs in their rookie season. So, the dynasty market has placed an emphasis on drafting those rookies, because it is probably the cheapest price you’ll ever have to pay for a potential star player.

With that said, rookie picks have been somewhat of a mystery in terms of how they are valued. The simplest philosophy that the average owners apply is to keep and acquire the earliest picks as possible, namely 1st rounds. This philosophy bears out very well in my past research (https://www.fakepigskin.com/?p=19841) seeing that 1st rounds on average have anywhere between 40% – 66% of hitting on a good player for at least 3 years. However, just limiting yourself to this adage can limit trading; it creates an inflexibility. The best dynasty owners have a mastery of moving pieces around and capitalize on picks and players through creative movements. I do not claim to be such master, but rather I am learning to emulate this movement of assets to maximize the effectiveness of my team. In this article, I am not telling you how you should value picks or what you should be doing. Instead, I am giving you some of the basic guidelines that you formulate your own way of valuing picks that are right for you and for your specific league.

Are all picks created equal?

Definitely not. Picks are based on a lot of factors, with the #1 being dependent on how other owners in your league views them. In my experience:

75% of owners in any given league put a lot of emphasis on 1st round picks regardless of class. Of those owners, ¾ of them have little to no clue which players exist outside the 1st
5% of owners will sell high on picks and capitalize on the other 5% owners who overvalue rookie picks
5% of owners show prudence in trading and acquiring picks.
Moreover, based on my twitter interaction, many owners do not take into account how the number of teams affects the value of the pick. What I mean by this is, a 2nd round pick in a 10 team league is not the same as a 2nd round pick in a 16 team league. It is more helpful to me if you can either tell me the number of teams are in your league or describe your draft pick in terms of what overall pick it is (e.g., 13th overall pick, 45th overall pick, etc.). For a simple breakdown, I’ll provide you a cheat sheet, but you can extrapolate it to cater to your specific team need:


10 team Picks Overall 12 team Picks Overall 16 team Picks Overall
1.01 1st 1.01 1st 1.01 1st
1.02 2nd 1.02 2nd 1.02 2nd
1.03 3rd 1.03 3rd 1.03 3rd
1.04 4th 1.04 4th 1.04 4th
1.05 5th 1.05 5th 1.05 5th
1.06 6th 1.06 6th 1.06 6th
1.07 7th 1.07 7th 1.07 7th
1.08 8th 1.08 8th 1.08 8th
1.09 9th 1.09 9th 1.09 9th
1.10 10th 1.10 10th 1.10 10th
2.01 11th 1.11 11th 1.11 11th
2.02 12th 1.12 12th 1.12 12th
2.03 13th 2.01 13th 1.13 13th
2.04 14th 2.02 14th 1.14 14th
2.05 15th 2.03 15th 1.15 15th
2.06 16th 2.04 16th 1.16 16th
2.07 17th 2.05 17th 2.01 17th
2.08 18th 2.06 18th 2.02 18th
2.09 19th 2.07 19th 2.03 19th
2.10 20th 2.08 20th 2.04 20th
3.01 21st 2.09 21st 2.05 21st
3.02 22nd 2.10 22nd 2.06 22nd
3.03 23rd 2.11 23rd 2.07 23rd
3.04 24th 2.12 24th 2.08 24th
3.05 25th 3.01 25th 2.09 25th
3.06 26th 3.02 26th 2.10 26th
3.07 27th 3.03 27th 2.11 27th
3.08 28th 3.04 28th 2.12 28th
3.09 29th 3.05 29th 2.13 29th
3.10 30th 3.06 30th 2.14 30th
4.01 31st 3.07 31st 2.15 31st
4.02 32nd 3.08 32nd 2.16 32nd
4.03 33rd 3.09 33rd 3.01 33rd
4.04 34th 3.10 34th 3.02 34th
4.05 35th 3.11 35th 3.03 35th
4.06 36th 3.12 36th 3.04 36th
4.07 37th 4.01 37th 3.05 37th
4.08 38th 4.02 38th 3.06 38th
4.09 39th 4.03 39th 3.07 39th
4.10 40th 4.04 40th 3.08 40th
4.05 41st 3.09 41st
4.06 42nd 3.10 42nd
4.07 43rd 3.11 43rd
4.08 44th 3.12 44th
4.09 45th 3.13 45th
4.10 46th 3.14 46th
4.11 47th 3.15 47th
4.12 48th 3.16 48th
4.01 49th
4.02 50th
4.03 51st
4.04 52nd
4.05 53rd
4.06 54th
4.07 55th
4.08 56th
4.09 57th
4.10 58th
4.11 59th
4.12 60th
4.13 61st
4.14 62nd
4.15 63rd
4.16 64th


As you can see from this list, the larger your league, the wider the range your pick values become. Noticed that a 1.14th pick you’re already in consideration for 2nd round rookie talents, and this continues on. Understandably, the majority of people play in 12 team size leagues, but the dynasty is more fun when it’s larger than 12-team in my opinion. If you’re playing in a 10-team dynasty, the top of the 2nd round is still 1st round talent territory, which makes the league even more shallow. Moreover, your waiver wire is probably even more shallow, making it almost not worth it to value the mid round picks. Either package up to get the top 5 pick, or trade away your picks for starters.

How does the rookie class affect draft picks?

No rookie class is the same as the previous, so we should not expect any rookie class going to be the same as the next. In a simple manner, you break down each class in 1. The top talents; 2. The good tier; 3. Guys in consideration. How you place a player in which of these 3 categories is determined mostly by your personal research. For those who do not have the luxury to break down the minute difference, it’s okay to just rely on resources to help you formulate. Let’s be honest, nobody is 100% correct, but they are willing to spend more time than you and I on breaking down each prospect.

This year is a great example of contrasting talents of 2016 vs. 2017. The 2016 class consists of a lot of good not excellent talent. While there is no guarantee that all of the prospects that are eligible will all declare, but just based on the probability and the carry-overs from those who did not declare this year, I can be very confident that I prefer the 2017 class over 2016s across the whole top 12 talents.

With that said, if your league doesn’t allow for future picks to be traded, there is a lot of creativity you can do with the 2016 picks. Some of your league mates will definitely fall in love with the middling talent, others will be interested only in the top 4 or 5 and sell the rest. This would make for a fun year of flipping picks for talents and talents for picks. For example, personally I think Travis Benjamin is better than most of the middle tier WRs, and Benji should not cost me a lot.

My league allows for future draft picks to be traded, but I’m not sure how to value them

This is understandable, as only the hardcore fantasy owners really play in dynasty leagues. An even smaller number of dynasty owners have crossed over to devy leagues. This may place you in a bit of a disadvantage when you, the hard working 9 – 5 guy, full-time parent, and loving partner cannot afford to spend more time on college players. The college landscape is more than 10x the size of NFL players.

You are not without resources. First, if you are a college football fan, you may be at a slight advantage already. Most notably, just watching the ESPN final scoreboard and highlights will help you file some names away that you might be interested in. Even if you don’t intently breakdown each player, just knowing some names help you. Second, BUY @_NickWhalen $5 Devy Report. Nick has done the hard work for you to give you an outlook and quick break down of names you should be following with a 3-year outlook. This can also be paired with your ESPN highlights and stats box scouting to see if things are lining up for you. While you may not be interested in devy dynasty, the knowledge is written for those types of leagues are extremely helpful in thinking about draft picks in regular dynasty.

What’s wrong with not investing time in doing research in all of this, sounds like to much work?

Much like trying to play dynasty with a redraft mentality, you’ll find that your success is akin to Brandon LaFell’s “awesomeness”. Would you like to be called the LaFell of the fantasy? What tends to happen is owners can adopt one of the two mindsets:

“A 1st is a 1st regardless of year, so I will value them as such”. As previously mentioned, this type of mindset can limit your trading as you will hold on dearly to your pick, and you risk overreacting in anger when a trade partner even remotely inquiries about your 1st. While it’s generally a good idea to retain a 1st for every draft, I would highly recommend against treating them like they are untradable assets. Always make an informed decision by scouring the incoming rookie class. Another issue with this line of thinking is overpaying for higher end picks. A common tendency for owners is to project their own values onto other owners. They may tend to believe that other owners are valuing the picks the same way they do. In response to that, they either overpay for a pick or they avoid trading for picks because they believe the pick is overpriced. When that pick is traded to someone else for less than what this person thought, he/she may become indignant or regretful for not trying to pay a similar price.
“Next year’s pick should be worth a full round less than current pick”. This is another type of approach that some owners have taken. There is some merit to it, as a year of your life (it’s 365 days you’ll never get back) should be considered embedded into the pick value. With that said, it’s not an approach to be used in a straightforward manner. For example, treating the 2018 1st as a 2016 3rd as equal value. In contrast to the 1st mindset, this approach devalues the future picks. The person runs the risk of selling future picks for current “good tier” players if this approach is applied in a linear fashion.
In reality, most owners show a differing degree between these two (or others not identified) dimensions. The prudent practice is always to do a little bit of homework when you’re being approached in a trade that involves picks and future picks. Twitter is a good place to bounce ideas, but 140 characters don’t capture the complexity of your league. All advice by twitter folks should be treated as a guideline more so than truths.

What I ultimately find helpful is to play a game of placing a range of names in the picks. It may not always be possible, but it’s a helpful way to concretize the value of the pick. For example, last year owning the 1.10 pick, my range of realistic options were DGB, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, or, Phillip Dorsett. This has already helped me narrow down what I could ask for my 1.10. Similarly, I can start thinking about what are some names I would give up for picks 1.08 – 1.12. For example, between those rookies in consideration, I would’ve offered up Codi Latimer + 3rd or late 2nd or JMatt for any of those picks. Does it guarantee that I get good value? Not at all, but at the least I can be involved in the trading process for players that I like and sell of players that I’m lukewarm on.

In the near future, I hope to release an annual article that helps owner start thinking about draft picks in 3-year chunks.

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