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Why You Should NOT be Trading for 2020 Rookie Picks…Yet

How economic trends show that you are missing out by sitting on those future picks

If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a thousand times this off-season: “The 2020 rookie draft is going to be stacked”…“2020 is going to change the league”…“We know not the limits of the glory that is the immaculate gift of the 2020 dynasty rookie class” (ok I haven’t heard the last one, but the hype is not far off).  

Because of this, I’ve seen owners rushing to trade for 2020 rookie picks quicker than Jalen Reagor runs a 40-yard dash. But I’m here to say it may be time to pump the breaks…for now. Quite frankly, I’ve spent this offseason adamantly avoiding 2020 first round picks (at the price they are selling for). 

Here’s why...

In economics there is a concept called “Time Value of Money.” In a nutshell, it means that money is more valuable to you now than the exact same amount of money would be in the future. This is because money now has more earning capacity (I’ll try not to get too technical, but this is an analytics article after all).  

Essentially, the money you have now, you can invest now, and those investments should increase the amount of money you have if they are made wisely.  

If you had the choice of getting $100 today or in two years, you would of course choose today. If you put that money into, say, a high-interest savings account, then boom, you’ve got more than $100 by the time that two years is over.  

But this is fantasy football, not economics, and there are a lot of factors at play. So as always, I wanted to find some numbers to back up my theory.  

Hypothesis: The value of a 2020 pick is better spent on investments this year, because if I make smart investments, then theoretically I can get equal or greater value at this time next year.  

Time for an example...  

**To assess the dynasty trade value of players, I used the FantasyPros dynasty trade value charts. They put out a couple every year that I highly recommend keeping an eye on. I know they’ve helped me in negotiating many quality trades.** 

In 2018, a first-round pick was valued between 24-42 points, depending on the placement of that pick. For conservatism, I tend to look at the value of a future first-round pick as the lowest value I can find for this year’s first-round picks. So theoretically, in 2018, a 2019 first would have been worth 24 points.  

Referencing the trade charts, those 24 points are well within the neighborhood of players like Aaron Jones (17) and Mike Williams (18), two players who were seen as good investments last year.

So if you had worked out a trade in 2018 to send your 2019 first away for Aaron Jones, where would you stand today? Currently, Aaron Jones’ value on the dynasty trade chart sits at 43, more than double the value of last year, a 26-point increase.  

With Williams, you would have seen a more modest 16-point increase but would have still almost doubled your value.

So to continue this thought exercise, let’s jump ahead to the early off-season between the 2018-2019 year. You’ve gotten an entire year’s worth of usage out of Jones/Williams; maybe you even contended for a title, but now you’re looking to buy back into the 2019 draft.  

According to the trade value chart, the highest value of a current-year rookie pick is 42 points, which is awfully close to the value of Aaron Jones, now sitting at 43.  

Theoretically then, you shouldn’t be too surprised to expect to trade Aaron Jones for even a TOP-THREE 2019 pick.  

If you had gone with Williams, you could still expect a first rounder, even if it’s not top three.

So to recap, you made the smart move to trade away a 2019 first before the 2018 season even started; you got a full year of use out of a rising asset, then could regain (at worst) that exact same asset or (at best) much more of a return.  

That’s good economics, and it’s great dynasty football.  

So while everyone else was sitting on their 2019 picks, not contending in 2018 with hopes of a future rebuild, you got the best of both worlds.  

Go you! Throw yourself a party. I’ll bring the confetti.  

“BUT WAIT,” you say, “THE 2020 DRAFT IS SO DIFFERENT!” 

You’re right, it is. I am 100% on board with the fact that the 2020 rookie draft class is going to be the best I’ve ever seen in my fantasy football career.  

But let’s look at some past years’ numbers to see just how likely it is that you would be able to get some big returns on sending those picks away. 

To test our luck, I evaluated the FantasyPros trade charts for 2017, 2018, and 2019 in both the running back and wide receiver positions. What I found was pretty comforting support for my theory.  

Of the 93 running backs listed in both the 2017 and 2018 trade charts, a whopping 58% (57 players) returned AT LEAST their same value (did not lose more than 5 points on the trade chart score) and 13% (13 players) actually increased their score significantly. Of those players that increased their score, the average trade chart score in 2018 was 36 points, while the average score of the player that returned at least equal value in 2018 was 18 points.  

Remember, our rookie draft pick scores (first round) range from 24-42 points.  

For the changes between running back scores from 2018-2019, only 50% (47/94) of players returned at least equal value, but 20% (19/94) of players improved their value by more than 5 points. The average scores here were 28 points for players retaining value and a huge 49 points for those 19 players who really blossomed.  

Wide receivers returned even more promising numbers, with 63% and 60% of players from 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 returning value, respectively. The 2017-2018 players who increased by more than 5 points accounted for 19% of the 134 players recorded, and they averaged 31 points in value. The 2018-2019 players who increased did so similarly to the running backs, with 21% of 134 players recording increases greater than 5 points, with an average value of 40 points. The average values of players who returned value were 22 and 26 points for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, respectively.  

So, what on Earth does all this mean? 

It means that as long as the data continues to remain within these trends, you are more likely than not to return at least equal value for your future rookie draft pick if you attempt to re-enter the draft using the exact same asset you traded the pick for the previous off-season.  

So why don’t we do this more often? Why are so many dynasty owners so eager to trade for 2020 first-round picks rather than trade them away? 

There are a lot of factors to consider. One of those factors is draft-class strength. Yes, owners are going to be stingier with 2020 picks because of how good that class is going to be. However, that just means you can sell 2020 firsts right now for even more than the conservative 24-point estimate I used earlier. Getting the most out of that 2020 pick means having more value to invest with, and potentially huge returns could follow.  

As a treat, I’m going to take you guys behind the paywall for a second and give you a sneak peak at the DynastyNerds dynasty rankings, because our rankers are awesome enough to have embedded “2020 1st Round Pick” (along with subsequent future picks) within the list of player rankings, giving us a good look at the level of player that could currently be acquired for sending that 2020 pick away. 

Currently, a 2020 first-round pick is ranked at the 59th best dynasty asset, so I’m going to show you guys who are in the neighborhood at ranks 55-65. 

  • 55 – Tyler Lockett,
  • 56 – Evan Engram,
  • 57 – Tyreek Hill,
  • 58 – OJ Howard,
  • 59 – 2020 First,
  • 60 – Hunter Henry,
  • 61 – Tarik Cohen,
  • 62 – Chris Godwin,
  • 63 – Phillip Lindsey,
  • 64 – Tyler Boyd,
  • 65 – Devonta Freeman

I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of value there. Remember, the key is that you’ll be able to regain this pick even by trading away the exact same player. Feeling risky? Maybe you go get Tyreek Hill, use him for a year (assuming no suspension), then trade out before he runs into more legal trouble. Do you like what you’ve seen out of up-and-coming receivers like Chris Godwin and Tyler Boyd? If they’re ever going to reach into that WR1 tier, now is the time to buy them, and next off-season might be the perfect time to sell them. 

Another stumbling block to consider with this strategy is the personality of your league. Some people are just particular and will gobble up as many 2020 firsts as they can get and reject even the most generous of offers for those picks. The one area of dynasty fantasy football that analytics cannot directly account for is the people factor.  

But I would argue that the numbers say your chances are good enough to take the shot anyway. Again, a huge part of this strategy is making SMART and EDUCATED investments. The average age of running backs that increased their score by 5 or more points in this study was 23 years old, and for wide receivers, it was 24. So if you send your 2020 first-round pick away for a 28-year-old running back and are surprised when he’s worth less next year than this year, don’t come to me saying the numbers lied.  

But what I think these numbers suggest is that there are more Aaron Joneses and Mike Williamses out there than we all realize. A lot of players increase, or at least retain, their value from one year to another; we just have to be willing to capitalize on it instead of sitting on draft picks we can’t use for more than 12 months.  

In conclusion, yes 2020 first-round rookie picks are valuable. No, you are not a bad dynasty player if you trade for them. But why limit yourself to only getting a draft pick from that draft pick? Make smart trades, and make educated investments (many of which are suggested often on the NerdHerd and DynastyNerds podcasts, mind you). Be better than a good fantasy player. Go fight for a championship this year, then trade right back in to the 2020 draft next spring and keep building. You really can have your dynasty cake and eat it too.  

Sources: 

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/timevalueofmoney.asp

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fantasypros.com/2018/04/fantasy-football-dynasty-trade-value-chart-april-2018-update/amp/

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