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Different Ways to Attack the Rookie Draft

Different Ways to Attack the Rookie Draft

By: Jay Pounds (@JayPoundsNFL)

Dynasty Owners it is finally rookie draft time! By the time any of you read this article, you should be a few picks into your draft, possibly further depending on your league mates. Regardless of if you have made it through zero picks of your draft, or the entire first round, this article will still be useful for you. The draft is going to be a slow draft and I know personally I plan to be using quite a bit of my clock when up unless I am 100% sold on one of the players available. When you go into a slow draft one of the best ways to gain some leverage is not rushing through your selection. For instance, if the guy behind you is enamored with someone, making him/her sweat a little may end up beneficial in the long run.

Before we get into the meat of today’s article, I want to touch on the rookie draft just a bit more. Here in Dynasty Owner hitting on players in the rookie draft is the easiest way to stay as flexible as possible. When you have multiple young guys with cheap deals on your roster you will likely have cap room, or you will have stud veterans to show for the lack of cap space. As I have been doing more research on the best ways to rebuild with a salary cap, I have concluded the easiest way to close your team’s championship window is to continuously miss on your rookie draft picks. If you look around the NFL and somewhat try to base your roster in a way the actual NFL GMs do, you will come up with one obvious answer nine times out of ten, which is it is much easier to win with a stud quarterback still on rookie salary. Teams in the NFL have seemed to start struggling soon after they pay a quarterback top dollar. The best example I can give is Joe Flacco when he received a massive record breaking deal from the Ravens, who went downhill immediately after.

In Dynasty Owner, thankfully it is a little easier to maneuver around one high priced signal caller than it seems to be in the NFL. I have also taken notice of teams being ok with handing out big contracts to receivers and the same can apply as well here on Dynasty Owner, as Steve Van Tassell’s article showed us a few weeks back when he broke down the league champions spending per position (https://dynastyowner.com/2021/05/league-winners-salary-cap-usage-versus-average-teams/). To make a long story short if you follow similar patterns of some of the most successful NFL teams, you should end up doing well here on Dynasty Owner, as long as you do not whiff all your rookie picks of course. In the end, I think we should all be grateful we do not have to worry about paying lineman or defensive players.

In this week’s article I want to go over the different ways Dynasty Owners, but more specifically rebuilding owners can handle their rookie drafts. If you have not heard your rookie picks will be at peak value, the moment you are on the clock and is something owners should capitalize on more often. I am going to touch on topics that will help you make the right decisions during your draft like trading down, best player available, drafting because of need, trading up, and why you should or should not be trading your picks for veterans. If we all thought rookie drafts were important in regular dynasty leagues, we’re in for a pretty rude awakening.

Trading Down

In any draft whether it be the MLB, NBA, MLS, NFL, or our Dynasty Owner drafts, trading down is always a choice but may not always be a good option. What exactly do I mean by this you ask? I am a huge fan of trading down in rookie drafts when rebuilding, but it is also very dependent on the situation of the draft. If you look at what the Giants did in the NFL draft trading back from the 11 spot when there were still excellent players on the board who would have filled obvious needs for their team, yet they traded back and selected a luxury over a glaring need. The Giants wound up taking Kadarius Toney (4 years, $3,429,877) over players that could have contributed much bigger roles than a player like Toney will, especially with the depth the Giants have at receiver. I have seen this happen quite a bit in fantasy where owners trade back just a bit too far and wind up with a horrible draft that should have turned out great.

I wanted to supply a real life example for the article and happened to have made a recent trade involving my team moving back one spot in the upcoming draft. Before I break this trade down, I want to give a quick insight into my team which was rebuilding but should be a playoff team this coming season and a powerhouse come 2022. I have made numerous moves with this team which was featured in the Let’s Rebuild a Team Together article and held the number 1 pick until recently. In this draft, I had the 1.1, 1.4, 1.7, and 1.8 but wanted to try to get a bit more out of the 1.1 than just one player. My initial plan was to take Trevor Lawrence (4 years, $9,198,372) with the first pick, as I only have Dak Prescott (4 years, $40,000,000) on my roster at the quarterback position but also was strongly considering the Steeler Najee Harris (4 years, $3,261,861) as well. I did some research and realized the owner with the number 2 pick needed a running back horribly and it just so happened he messaged me shortly after asking who I planned to take 1st overall. I told him it was between Najee Harris, or Lawrence as I could use help at either spot. He responded wanting to find a way to get to number 1 overall and we started working on a deal. In my trade down I ended up sending him this year’s 1.1, Russell Gage (1 year, $654,049), and A.J. Dillon (3 years, $1,321,458) while I received this year’s 1.2, 2.12, and Tim’s best buddy D.J. Moore (2 years, $2,792,829) in return. As I mentioned before your picks are at their highest value when it comes time for you to be on the clock, do not be afraid to use that to your advantage. If you are going to try and trade down in your draft, I highly suggest you take a long look at the teams in between the two picks being swapped so you have a general idea who they will select. I also want to mention if you are in the initial stages of a rebuild, trading down can be a great idea to acquire more talent but can also make you miss out on a true stud at the top. The last thing you want to look at is how deep the talent pool is in the rookie draft, for example this year I would not trade back after pick 2.5 which is where things really get ugly.

Best Player Available or Trading Up

One of the safest ways to draft in any dynasty format is to go ahead and draft the best player available on your draft board. While this is a safe way to play, it can also take you quite a bit longer to come out of your rebuild as you tend to only have your own picks in these scenarios and when rebuilding most owners want more than one good pick each year. While there really is nothing wrong with this approach if you are patient, it can also sometimes hurt you. If you are an owner who is one receiver away from competing and you are on the clock with Ja’Marr Chase (4 years, $7,547,410) already taken while Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith (4 years, $5,035,347) are left to choose from what do you do? In this scenario you can either attempt to trade for Chase or you must take Harris and while yes you can always trade him after the draft, what happens if he gets hurt before you trade him? If you are planning to trade up for a player in the draft, I would only do so if you are toward the end of your rebuild. Anytime you take a player you truly do not need or does not fit on your roster it is definitely a risk but can also pay out huge if the selected player performs well. Rebuilding owners who have plenty of holes to fill on their roster will not have to worry about this anywhere near as much as an owner who is almost done rebuilding. On my newest roster acquired I am in a very weird rebuild where I have three expensive studs in Mahomes (11 years, $45,000,000), Michael Thomas (4 years, $19,250,000), and George Kittle (5 years, $15,000,000) rostered. I have the 1.1 pick in the rookie draft as well as D.J. Moore and should have no issue taking the best player available for my team. The issue here is I am unsure if I want to add my favorite first round player with the 1.1 or try to move back a few spots to pick up an extra first and add two quality players to my roster instead of just one. When I am rebuilding, I try to make sure I have 2-4 draft picks in the first round because it opens a ton of opportunities to move around the draft board and acquire veterans cheap.

Trading Draft Picks for Veterans

Trading draft picks for veterans is always a very risky proposition for rebuilding owners. I almost want to leave this strategy for contenders but in certain situations it can definitely be done when rebuilding your team. In a home league last year (super flex) another guy and myself were the clear front runners so I traded away this year’s 1st and 2nd, next year’s 1st, 2nd and Jared Goff to get Deshaun Watson, Miles Sanders, D.J. Moore, and Tyler Boyd. I bring this trade up because I went from a clear cut top 2 team to unknown in a matter of one offseason. Watson may not touch the field for a season or two (if ever again), and Boyd has huge question marks surrounding him with the addition of Ja’Marr Chase in Cincinnati. I mortgaged my future to go into win now mode and mainly because of the Watson situation, I am now stuck either being a middle of the road team with no picks this year or next, or blowing it up and starting a rebuild. If you are still what you would consider rebuilding, I would try to lean away from trading more than one of your 1st round picks unless you are receiving one in return. You will find there are multiple exceptions to this, but I still recommend treading carefully when trading any more than one high pick away. If you find a player that you really want to trade for my recommendation would be trying to trade one first and a player, you think can help the other owner’s roster right away. If the owner continues to deny a pick and player trade, then you may have to up the ante but always try to get at least a 2nd round pick back in those scenarios. Obviously, rookies have a ton of risk baked in as well but drafting one bad rookie will not hurt as bad as losing three or four over the next two years will.

Drafting by Need

The last thing I want to talk about on handling the draft when rebuilding is flat out drafting by need. I touched on this a little earlier when talking about the Najee Harris or DeVonta Smith situation but what if other owners just are not willing to trade. If you feel that owners in your league just do not like to trade or won’t trade with you for whatever reason you may find yourself in a tough spot. In my opinion drafting by need outside of competing for a championship is a terrible thing to do for future roster building. When any owner drafts specifically based on need, they are usually hurting themselves by taking a player they could have gotten a few spots later, meaning they got the player for terrible value. While I do hate this strategy, I can see ways it makes perfect sense in Dynasty Owner.

If you happen to be an owner who is strapped for cap space for whatever reason you may find yourself needing to draft the best cheap talent available, while I can easily justify that this scenario can be taken too far rather quickly. Let us say you have one 1st round pick and $4 million to spend in the draft while needing some help at receiver. When it comes time for you to pick you have Javonte Williams (4 years, $2,216,438), Jaylen Waddle (4 years, $6,771,498) and Rashod Bateman (4 years, $3,149,853) available, with Waddle being out of the available budget. I am perfectly ok with owners drafting Williams there as a need because of a salary cap space but the second you start drafting Bateman over Williams because you needed a cheap receiver you will have problems in the near future. While we are all still navigating our way through this incredible platform, we can take a combo of what NFL GMs do and what we do in regular dynasty to get through the learning process.

Conclusion

I have come to find that there are many right ways and a lot more wrong ways to build a competitive roster here on Dynasty Owner. The strategies I present you guys are things I have tried and seen success with on my personal teams. I have a few bizarre strategies I am going to try over the next season or two and cannot wait to share the ones that work well with you. If you have any strategies, you would like to have tried, feel free to message me on Twitter. Another quick reminder of the writer’s league I will be starting around the start of pre-season. If you would like to join a highly competitive league in a tough format this is for you. Good luck with the inaugural Dynasty Owner rookie drafts and as always good luck on your 2021 Chase for the Ring!

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