NFL Draft by the Numbers

Thankfully, it is now time for the NFL Draft and we can put an end to the mock drafts and pre-draft juggling of player value in Dynasty Fantasy Football. My unofficial count since Tom Brady threw the Lombardi Trophy across the Bay in celebration, is that we have seen 4,375,302 mock drafts and among the leading 100 Fantasy analysts we have seen a mere 12,589,201 changes to pre-draft player cheat sheets for the 2021 Dynasty Fantasy Draft season. I will spare you my player analysis for 2021 until we get a bit closer to the season but let’s look at the NFL Draft by the numbers. 

Draft Capital Does Matter

There are several reasons that I do not put out pre-draft rookie player lists for Fantasy Football. First, everyone else is doing it so why bother until you can bring additional value to the mix. Second, I am NOT an expert at analyzing player tape and college statistics only tell us so much. But the biggest reason is that DRAFT CAPITAL matters. The Fantasy community often overreacts to where a player lands, like they did for CEH in Kansas City last year and while I am a big believer that it matters, but it doesn’t matter as much as draft capital. Let’s take a look at the numbers. 

Quarterback Draft Round Matters

The good starting quarterbacks tend to hold their jobs for a long time. Some bad teams that draft early have been terrible at picking quarterbacks in the past and often go back to the well on more than one occasion. Let’s look at the hit rate for quarterbacks over the past six drafts. This does NOT analyze how well they did, simply if they were able to hold on to a starting position in the NFL to the present day. 20 QBs were selected in the first round over the last six drafts and 14 of them are starters heading into the draft. (Excluding QBs likely to be replaced by the first 2 draft picks this year), four were chosen in the second round and two of them are starters. Only one QB of the 45 selected from the 3rd round or later is a starter right now heading to camp. 

Running Back Draft Round Matters 

Running backs come and go so often in the NFL nowadays that we only see a select few that are still starting after four or five years. Let’s take a look at the hit rate for running backs over the past six drafts. Again, this does NOT analyze how well they did, simply if they are listed as a starter before this year’s NFL draft. 10 running backs have been selected in the first round and six of them are starters right now, with three more as the backup for their team. Fifteen RBs have been selected in the second round, with 10 of them listed as starters and two more as backups for their team. 21 RBs were chosen in the 3rd round and seven of them are current starters for their team and eleven more are backups. The percentage of hits falls off dramatically after the 3rd round, with only 2 of 28 and 1 of 20 listed as starters in the 4th and 5th rounds respectively. 

Wide Receiver Draft Round Matters

Wide receivers in the NFL have a longer shelf life compared to running backs, but of course nowhere near as long of a career as a starter as quarterbacks. 16 of the 23 WRs taken in the first round over the last six drafts are listed as current starters for their team before the NFL draft. 16 more of the current starters were drafted among the 29 players taken in the second round. Only seven of the 23 WRs selected in the third round are listed as their team’s starter. The percentage of hits falls off fast after the 3rd round with only six starters from the 2i players drafted at WR in the 4th through six rounds. 

TE draft Round Matters Less

The elite Tight Ends in the NFL have a long career but there is a lot of turnover among the rest at the position. Draft round still matters, but there are more lower round success stories at the TE position. Four of six TE taken in the first round over the last six drafts combined are listed as starters for their team before the NFL draft. An additional eight TE of the nine taken in the second round are also starters. 6 of the 16 TE taken in the third round are listed as their team’s current starter which is still an impressive hit rate. Two more starters were picked in the fourth round and one in the 5th round out of the 29 TE taken in those two rounds. 

Impact Players Go Early at All Positions

Fantasy Football players fall in love with the players that rewarded them with good results more than NFL coaches do. The NFL is a cruel place, where the mantra is more, “What might you do in the future,” rather than, “What have you done for me last year.” How often do we see Fantasy players astonished when a UDFA that had a solid Fantasy season for us is given competition at the top of the NFL draft the following year? How many times do we see the steady Fantasy player replaced by the new coach who wants “His Guy” in there instead? Impact players that can make a difference on offense go very early in the NFL, while more defensive gems are mined from the 3rd through sixth round every draft. 

Fearless Forecasts

I won’t bore you with ordinary predictions on every team, but I will point out a few situations that are likely to affect Fantasy Football value more than other situations. Let’s take a look at three team’s offenses that will be changing dramatically with this crop of new players in the NFL Draft. 

Jacksonville Jaguars – New coach might want to add some new playmakers to go with his shiny new quarterback. Fantasy players love Laviska Shenault Jr and DJ Chark, but will Urban Meyer? After seeing the study above and knowing that coaches like Meyer are looking to add as many impact players as they can, look for the Jaguars to select a speed WR and a RB in the first two rounds. 

Miami Dolphins – This is another team with a wealth of early picks in the draft this year and a 2nd year quarterback that might be ready to make a huge improvement. Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed have already been joined by Malcom Brown, but look for them to add a top RB in the second round. They will also add a speedy WR or the big play potential of Kyle Pitts in the first round. 

New York Jets – We know they are adding quarterback Zach Wilson, with their first pick but that will just be the start of the rebuild for one of last year’s most woeful offenses. Fantasy players were excited with the move to add Corey Davis, but imagine how upset they will be when the Jets add not one but two of the top WRs in the first two rounds? They might also double up at RB making sure they restock the bare cupboards before handing the keys over to Wilson. 

Thankfully, we can end the speculation and start changing our opinion on player’s values in Fantasy Football based on some new data! While I am mentioning “Value,” you better make sure that it is “Weekly Value.” You can read more about weekly value in my previous articles breaking down the results at each position. Sometime before training camp starts I will make my fearless forecast based on changes in opportunity heading into 2021. Enjoy the NFL Draft! 

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