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Real Draft: Rookie Draft Strategy

Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL) takes a look at one of his recent rookie drafts to give you a breakdown of his strategy of attack.

Rookie draft season is upon us. Pick values have never been higher. Some players have skyrocketed in their rankings, while others have seen their value hit the tank. Just like the NFL draft, rookie drafts are impossible to predict. For my first rookie draft of the year, I watched a guy fully commit to taking Joe Burrow with the 1.01. In a Superflex format, it made sense to all of us. He told everyone in trade conversations, along with the general chat, that was his game plan. Then, when it came time to pick, he went with Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

The bottom line is that you have to have a strategy when you go into the draft. That’s what we’re here to discuss today. I want to give you some insight as to how I attacked this specific rookie draft to help better prepare you for your drafts. Unless you’re playing with people that you’ve been in a long-running league, you’re going to have to be ready for curveballs. Everyone evaluates players differently.

Heading into your draft, you have to focus on a few basic things. First, know your league rules. Superflex and two-quarterback leagues will have quarterbacks go sooner. TE premium will have tight ends drafted, despite this weak class. Second, know the rough roster construction of the people around you. If the guys directly around you need help at one position that you don’t, you can have a better idea of who will be on the board for you.

League Specifications: 10 Teams, Superflex, Full PPR, Six-point passing touchdowns

Team Construction

I don’t value quarterbacks the same way as most people in Superflex leagues. I think you can get elite players at other positions while everyone is scrambling to pick up every quarterback on the market. That’s how I was able to come out of my startup draft with Joe Mixon and DeAndre Hopkins. I prefer to lean on WRs in dynasty while cycling through RBs.

My weakest position was RB, and that even wasn’t terrible. I had Mixon, David Montgomery, and David Johnson as my top three with Adrian Peterson and James White as backup options. I had five guys who were going to get snaps every single week, but I needed to get an upgrade or two, especially in the long run.

Credit: Cincy Jungle

My WR room was outstanding. Hopkins, Deebo Samuel, Robert Woods, and Mike Williams were my headliners with multiple depth options. At tight end, I had my starter locked in with Mark Andrews, and I had Ian Thomas as my backup, who is a starter on his team. My primary goal was that I had to come out of my rookie draft with at least one starting running back that can contribute starting in the 2020-21 seasons.

Strategy

I had my strategy going in that my goal was to get one of the big five running backs in the first round, and I wanted to go best-player available with my remaining picks. I originally had the 1.02, and I had multiple discussions with the guy at 1.01, who said he was taking Burrow. With that in mind, I wanted to trade back. I have Baker Mayfield and Matt Ryan as my main quarterbacks. I wanted more swings at the bat because the rookie draft is all about having tickets that can pay off.

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

In case that guy was lying, which he obviously ended up doing, I didn’t want to go back further than 1.05. 1.04 was my primary target because it put me in a range of my top three running backs in Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor, and J.K. Dobbins. After some discussions, the trade ended up being 1.02 and 3.02 for 1.04 & 2.07. I got some value here for two spots of movement, and I was still in range to get one of my guys.

I had already picked up some extra second-round picks through other trades, and that was where I could make even more moves happen. That’s precisely what I did. I was looking for value to fall down the board and grab it where I could. I was never afraid to trade back. Being willing to move back if I was satisfied with what my options were going to be allowed me to have faith in my strategy.

Execution

The Early Rounds

I traded back in the first round, and picked up J.K. Dobbins along with an extra pick in the second round. Sticking at 1.02 and taking Taylor was an option. In rookie drafts, I always want to focus on getting as many picks as possible. It is easy to say that one prospect is a can’t miss, but you genuinely don’t know until they suit up in the NFL. For that reason, I’m always looking to trade back, depending on how the board looks.

Credit: Washington Post

At the start of the second round, I have three picks. I have 2.01, 2.07, and 2.09. After seeing CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy get sniped right before me, I’m pretty disheartened. I do see one specific player that I’m surprised has fallen this far. Justin Herbert, who was picked sixth overall in the actual draft, is still on the board. The big five running backs, the top two quarterbacks, Lamb, Jeudy, and Justin Jefferson, went in the first. In a Superflex, I’ll take Herbert at the start of the second all day.

On the clock at 2.07, I have a few options. Bryan Edwards, Tee Higgins, and Brandon Aiyuk are my top options on the board. Seeing as A.J. Green is likely gone after this year, I went with Higgins. He gives me an alpha wide receiver that will develop throughout his rookie year to become a starter next season. At 2.09, I took a look at the board, and I was ready to move back.

The Late Rounds

I made a move into the early part of the third, and I grabbed a pick for later in the third round. A late two for two threes is easy money for me. I picked up Laviska Shenault Jr. with that first pick, and I got Van Jefferson later on. If the stories are true that Cooper Kupp isn’t being re-signed after this year, I have two guys that will be starting wide receivers by their second season. I rounded out my draft with Deejay Dallas as a potential sleeper running back late in the fourth round. 

Credit: FloridaGators.com

That’s a Wrap

I went into this draft with four picks, and I came out with six players.

  • 1.04 – J.K. Dobbins
  • 2.01 – Justin Herbert
  • 2.07 – Tee Higgins
  • 3.02 – Laviska Shenault Jr.
  • 3.07 – Van Jefferson
  • 4.09 – DeeJay Dallas

Other than Dallas, all of these players were potential targets of mine entering the draft. The most important part for me was to come out of this draft without overpaying for any of my targets. There is something to be said for going after your guys. I did that, and I didn’t have to pay a premium for any of them. Always be willing to move around. You don’t have to trade back, but you always need to be open to it.

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