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Rookie Draft Strategy Tips: Execute

Rookie drafts are one of the most exciting parts of a dynasty league season. Trading up for “your guy” or passing on someone you are sure is a bust makes your team more your own.  These drafts allow you to add hand-picked players to your roster every year, and they give EVERY team hope for a better result in season.

After building your draft board by including the draft order and rookie rankings separated into tiers, let’s talk about how to use the board on draft day.  If you’re going to do the work, you should make sure you’re using it!

The first major rule of rookie drafts is never draft for need.  Dynasty is a long term play.  Once you have built your board, you have decided on the order that you feel comfortable selecting players.  When you get on the clock, the choice should almost always be the top available player on your board.

The most common ‘hurdle’ to drafting Best Player Available is when your team has a need at a position.  This is a very shortsighted strategy.  Remember that dynasty is a long term game.  Your ranks have been created in a manner where you are listing the players in order that you think have the best chance to succeed.  Most rookies do not even contribute meaningful fantasy points in their first year.

2014 is a great example.  I know several teams that desperately needed running backs entering the rookie draft. This led to Bishop Sankey being drafted above players like Odell Beckham, Jordan Matthews, Brandin Cooks, and many others.  2015 had the same results when teams needing running backs took Melvin Gordon over Amari Cooper.

Another pitfall I see often is planning out the first few picks before the draft starts.  For example; ‘I have pick 4 and 12, if I take Mixon at 4, and Njoku is gone before 12, who should I take?”  The question and issue may be different, but the answer is the same.  Draft the best player on your board when you’re on the clock at 4, and then when you’re on the clock at 12 again, draft the best player available again!  other people rank the next tier so differently.

Rookie drafts can be very unpredictable. While you may expect drafts to go a certain way, it is important to remember that you are the only person drafting off of your specific draft board.  Other teams may have extremely different opinions of other players and every rogue pick allows you to gain more value with your picks.  If there are 2 rogue picks between your pick at 1.04 and 1.12, you’re getting your 10th best player at 1.12.

Taking Best Available Player sometimes means that you take a ton of players at one position.  This is NOT A PROBLEM.  Remember that the ideal result is that you hit on all the players you draft, regardless of position.  If you end up with a lot of depth, you have more flexibility in the trade market to either move one of the hot rookies, or to sell a stud from your roster because the rookies can take their spot.

It is easy to sit back in rookie drafts and watch the picks come in until you are on the clock.  A savvy dynasty owner will be actively tracking the draft and keeping an eye on their board.  This will allow you to see if a play you like is slipping.

Let’s say you have O.J. Howard as your 7th overall player in the draft class and you have the 2.02 pick in the rookie draft.  Trading from 2.02 up to 1.07 will cost you a lot of capital either in draft picks or in veteran players.  When draft day comes and Howard starts to slip to 1.09, then 1.10, it may be easy to think he could fall all the way to your 2.02 pick.  The better play is to start aggressively sending offers to the team on the clock to move up from 2.02 to make that pick.  That way you would be paying a smaller price for a player that you value at a much higher draft pick.  This is how to collect your best draft class.

The final strategy for rookie drafts is to pay attention to your tiers.  Do not get emotionally attached to any one player with a pick.  If you’re on the clock and you have 2-3 guys available in your top tier, explore trading back.  Even if all you get is a future draft pick, as long as you’re still going to get a guy from that top tier, that’s free capital for you.

Simply put, to win your rookie drafts you need to be active and to take the best player on the board.

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