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The Rookie Pick Roller Coaster: When to Buy and When to Sell

It’s common knowledge among the dynasty community that rookie picks reach their maximum value during the actual rookie draft. This bit of information has been preached so often that it has become widely accepted, and dynasty owners everywhere have used this fact to help guide them through trades in all their leagues. But what if I told you that this “fact” is actually fiction?

Rookie picks fluctuate in value quite often, so if a dynasty owner is able to successfully buy when their price is at its lowest and sell when their value spikes upward, a monumental profit can be made. I’ve decided to examine these up-and-down trends in a one-year window, so in this piece, I’ll be observing the value fluctuation of 2020 rookie picks from the time of your 2019 rookie draft to your 2020 rookie draft. This article is purely strategy-based, so the information presented below will be forever applicable in dynasty.

You may be thinking, “Why should I continue reading when I could just look at ADP on a dynasty website?”. These sites do a fantastic job of gathering ADP data, but it’s usually only collected monthly; I plan on breaking down this data on a much more precise level. Therefore, the following information simply consists of personal experiences and observations I’ve made throughout my years of playing dynasty. All it takes is a bit of proper timing, and you’ll find that adding value to your roster can be done at any point in the year. However, it’s not as simple as you may think. Let’s dive right into it!

Period of Observation:

  • During your 2019 rookie draft

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Steady

As alluded to above, your 2019 rookie draft will be the baseline point for my data study. The main focus at this time is on 2019 picks, making it the perfect window to begin examining the violent fluctuation of 2020 rookie pick values. Since we’re beginning here, I’ll label the value of 2020 picks as “steady”. Don’t get too comfortable though; a major shift in perceived value is on the horizon.

Period of Observation:

  • After your 2019 rookie draft, in the weeks following the 2019 NFL Draft

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Sharp upward spike

Your 2019 rookie draft just ended, and your league mates are thirsting for more fantasy action. It just so happens that one thing, in particular, tends to circulate the internet directly following the NFL Draft: mock drafts for the following year’s NFL Draft. What are you left with when you combine desperate dynasty owners with future mock drafts? Overreaction. Your league mates are reading up on all the studs in the upcoming 2020 class, and they can’t help but notice all the skill position players mocked in the first round. The excitement hits a new level as they’ve officially “fallen in love” with the 2020 rookie class.

If you’re looking to sell 2020 picks in an attempt to acquire a few win-now assets for the upcoming fantasy season, now’s your time to pounce. As crazy as it sounds, this is the most valuable the picks will ever be up until the 2020 offseason rolls around and the actual 2020 rookie draft is right around the corner.

Period of Observation:

  • Week 1 of NFL Preseason

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Dip in value

NFL players have finally hit the field and the hype train for the start of the season has officially left the station. The other owners in your league are beginning to worry about their sub-par starting lineups, as they become increasingly willing to part with 2020 picks in order to bolster their roster. If you plan on selling 2020 picks, your window is closing. However, if you’re looking to buy, the time to do so is coming soon.

Period of Observation:

  • Week 1 of the NFL season

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Continued dip in value

When the NFL Preseason kicks off, your league mates begin to worry about their roster’s inability to put up points during the season. When Week 1 finally rolls around, the panic sets in. Opposing teams in your league will attempt to sell their picks for win-now assets around this time, but they’ll soon find that it will be more difficult than originally thought. Now is certainly not the time to sell picks for the reasons explained above, but if you’re attempting to buy low on these 2020 picks, try to fight the urge for just a few more weeks.

Period of Observation:

  • Week 10 of the NFL season

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Value plummets drastically

Playoffs?! Yes, playoffs. If you thought your league mates were in full panic mode when Week 1 rolled around, just wait until the fantasy playoffs are only a few weeks away. The owners in your league are realizing that they’re “only one piece away” from making a playoff push, meaning they’ll be more than willing to throw any picks your way in an attempt to gain that highly-coveted final piece. If your roster is a contender, it may not be overly beneficial to accumulate picks at this time, simply because you’d be required to give up win-now assets to do so. However, if you’re rebuilding, there is no better time to be aggressively gathering 2020 rookie picks. Within the one-year time frame of this study, 2020 picks will never be cheaper than they are right now.

Period of Observation:

  • Beginning of NFL offseason

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Moderate increase in value

Now that the fantasy season has come to an end, the ongoing pressure to win a title has dissolved. The other owners in your league no longer have the win-now mentality, so they’re subconsciously beginning to value picks highly again. This is one of the rare instances where 2020 rookie picks are actually valued properly. There are no fantasy playoffs that may tempt the owners in your league to trade away picks, but the 2020 NFL Draft is also months away, meaning that your league mates have yet to begin overvaluing the picks. As a result, we’ve finally hit a happy medium. Now’s the time to buy or sell picks as you please!

Period of Observation:

  • NFL Combine begins

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Fairly sharp increase in value

The underwear Olympics are officially underway, but in regards to your league mates’ ever-changing valuation of rookie picks, the only thing that matters here is the fact that the event is televised. In all honesty, the combine participants could all get together and bake a cake; as long as the owners in your league are able to watch these prospects flash any form of ability on live TV, they’ll begin to immediately covet 2020 picks as they can feel the draft right around the corner.

Buying these picks becomes significantly more difficult with something as simple as a televised event taking place. If you’re looking to sell, however, you’ll find that you can get a significantly better return than you would have been able to a few weeks ago. But if you can manage to hold off on trading away your 2020 picks for just a bit longer, that’s where the real profit can be made.

Period of Observation:

  • The days before the 2020 NFL Draft

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Peak value

As I alluded to in the introductory paragraphs, a common misconception among the dynasty community is that rookie picks maximize in value when they’re on the clock; this is simply not true. Let’s think about it for a second. Before the NFL Draft takes place, every one envisions their favorite rookie being selected to an ideal landing spot with high draft capital. This optimism stems from excitement for the draft. There’s no such thing as poor landing spots and there’s no such thing as low draft capital. During this time of year, the rose-colored glasses are put on by your league mates.

When the draft finally takes place, this optimism is crushed and sub-par landing spots transform from an afterthought to reality. But until the NFL Draft occurs, take advantage of this brief window and sell rookie picks at their peak, because the dip in value is coming soon!

Period of Observation:

  • Directly after the 2020 NFL Draft

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Dip in value

This phenomenon is explained in detail above, so I’ll keep this relatively short. Clearly, not every top rookie will be selected to a favorable landing spot with high draft capital (see Harmon, Kelvin). As a result, the post-draft perception of the rookie class will become more pessimistic, creating a small buy window if you’re looking to add a few more 2020 rookie picks to your arsenal before the rookie draft.

Period of Observation:

  • When the 2020 rookie pick is on the clock

Value of 2020 rookie picks:

  • Immediate rise in value

Right now is the period of time when the majority of dynasty owners feel as if 2020 rookie picks are at their highest value. However, if your 2019 rookie draft has already taken place and you attempted to trade back at any point, you were probably underwhelmed with the offers you were receiving. This trend is explained in the previous paragraphs, but there’s something to be said about the excitement of actually drafting a player onto your dynasty roster. For this reason, your league mates may get the itch and attempt to overpay for your 2020 rookie picks while you’re on the clock. If they do, this is a fantastic sell high opportunity.

If there’s anything to be taken away from the previous paragraph, it’s that your league mates are likely under the wrong impression regarding the period of time in which the value of 2020 picks will actually be at its highest. Take advantage of this! If you’re hoarding picks in your league and plan on selling them, do not wait until you’re on the clock. Put these picks on the trade block a day or two before the 2020 NFL Draft and watch your league mates buy with the expectation that they’re receiving these picks at a discount, when in actuality, they’re paying peak prices!

Every second of the year, whether it’s football season or not, a potential profit can be made through the wheeling and dealing of rookie picks. By buying and selling picks at the proper time, it’s relatively simple to add value to your dynasty roster without even losing any assets. It’s simply a process of flipping at the proper time. If you’re able to trade for a few 2020 rookie picks around Week 10 and then proceed to flip them directly before the 2020 NFL Draft, an absolutely enormous profit can be made.

Let this information serve as an outline for dealing rookie picks, even if this article is only something you glance at a few times per year to ensure that you’re buying and selling picks at the proper time. Play your cards correctly, and you’ll consistently find yourself a step ahead of your league mates throughout the entire year. The added value that you’ll be able to obtain through these properly-timed trades could prove to be enough to push your team over the top, whether it be in an attempt to make the playoffs or secure a championship. Happy trading!

Thanks for reading, and as always, follow me on Twitter @DynastyFF_KyleM for more dynasty content!

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