By Steven Van Tassell
Rookie drafts are new and coming to Dynasty Owner soon! June 4th at Noon is the starting date for all rookie drafts for existing Dynasty Owner leagues. If you’re in a league that played in 2020, whether you played last year or bought the team from another Dynasty Owner or the Orphan store, your rookie draft is coming up and it’s time to start getting prepared. Besides researching rookie prospects, reading all of the articles from our Dynasty Owner writers about rookies and how they performed in college and what teams drafted or signed them, Dynasty Owners also need to know rookie contracts.
Fortunately, all rookie salary information has been taken from Spotrac (https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/draft/) and loaded into Dynasty Owner already. Dynasty Owners don’t need to do anything other than search for rookies in the Free Agent Auction on the mobile app or do a rookie mock draft. When you go to the Mock Draft Lobby, be sure to select “Rookie Mock Draft” before joining a room.
The rookie mock drafts are great, but they aren’t yet allowing you to simulate a rookie draft with your current team. You can draft any rookie, regardless of salary and if he’ll fit under your team’s $127.75 million salary cap for 2021. As you’ve probably read plenty of times before, unlike a “regular” dynasty fantasy football league, Dynasty Owners need to account for salaries. Trevor Lawrence isn’t the automatic first rookie draft pick because the Dynasty Owner with the first pick needs to have enough salary cap room to fit him on their roster.
One great question that came up in 2020 and should be in the back of all Dynasty Owners’ minds now is – “How much salary cap room do I need to have for my rookie draft?” The short answer is: “It depends”. That answer isn’t very helpful so it’s time to dive into rookie salaries and give a (somewhat) better answer to that question for all of our Dynasty Owners.
All salary information listed are based on the salaries available on Dynasty Owner as of May 21st.
Rookie Salaries Are Set in Stone
That’s right. For some of you who haven’t paid attention to salaries much before playing Dynasty Owner, there’s any wiggle room for what the players taken in the NFL draft will get paid from their first contract. That wasn’t always the case. The NFL rookie salary system in effect now that provides set value 4-year contracts for drafted players with a fifth year option for first round draft picks was implemented in the 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. Undrafted rookie free agent contracts are 3-year contracts.
The rookie salary scale was created to limit rookie salaries which had reached its high point in 2010 when the St. Louis Rams (remember back when the Rams used to be in St. Louis) drafted Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford with the first pick and gave him a six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million guaranteed. Bradford’s average salary of a little over $13 million made him the 12th highest paid player in the NFL (https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/rankings/2011/average/) before he had even played a snap in the league.
Flash forward to 2021 and players, GMs, the media, Dynasty Owners and everyone else knows the contract value for each draft position even before the players are drafted. Those are the dollar figures on the contracts being signed since the draft ended and the salaries that are loaded into the Dynasty Owner platform.
The true minimum amount is $0. It’s possible for a Dynasty Owner to have no rookie draft picks and not need to have set aside any salary cap room for their rookie draft. All teams start with three rookie draft picks every year and some teams earn a bonus fourth pick at the end of the first round (pick 1.13) for winning the Loser’s Bracket tournament from the previous season. Some teams will trade away draft picks and end up with only one or two, while others will stockpile them and have a lot more (16 rookie picks is the highest that I can remember hearing, but can’t recall what team has that many).
For Dynasty Owners with a team that has only one draft pick, they will need a minimum of $808,333 to draft one of the many undrafted rookie free agents who have signed with NFL teams. If you want someone who was at least drafted by a NFL team, you’ll need a minimum of $889,317 to take Dax Milne (WR – WAS) who was the second to last player drafted in the seventh round. If you want a first round NFL draft pick, then the amount is $3.15 million to acquire the services of Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL) who was chosen with the 27th pick.
If you’ve looked at the rookie mock drafts in Dynasty Owner, you might be saying to yourself “Hey Steve! There’s a couple of guys listed with salaries of less than $808,333. What gives?” That is correct, there are six rookies who had their college eligibility run out in 2019, didn’t get signed by a NFL team in 2020, but then worked out and signed a contract before the NFL draft in late April. Taylor Russolino (K – Free Agent) is also listed at a salary of $695,000 and his situation is even more unique (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Russolino).
The player with the lowest salary ($583,333 for three years) of this group is Micah Simon (WR – CAR). For more information about Simon and his signing, check out this article (https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/report-micah-simon-signs-with-carolina-panthers-after-showing-at-byu-s-pro-day/ar-BB1f7YsQ). So, yes it is true that you could have only $583,333 in salary cap room and draft Micah Simon with your only rookie draft pick. However, if that’s all the salary cap room you have, then you’re probably better off trading the pick and getting something more for it.
Disregarding these exceptions, it appears that Dynasty Owners with all three of their draft picks will need at least $2.425 million in salary cap room in order to draft three minimum salary undrafted rookie free agents. If the Dynasty Owner team won the 1.13 bonus pick, then they will need $3,233,332. If you have more than four draft picks and want to spend the minimum then do the math ($808,333 * # of picks = minimum salary $). This is regardless of what rounds or picks your Dynasty Owner team has since draft position doesn’t matter.
There is apparently one Dynasty Owner out there sitting on 16 draft picks in their 2021 rookie draft. Do they even have enough salary cap room to fit that many rookies on their roster? The answer is Yes!
In fact, they have plenty of space to fit 16 draft picks and 9-14 holdover players from their 2020 team. If this team were to draft the top 16 salaried players in the rookie player pool, it would cost them a total of $82.115 million, meaning that they’d have $45.635 million left for the rest of their roster. For that rookie haul, they’d get every first round NFL draft position player pick and the top three position players drafted in the second round. That would work out to 5 QBs, 3 RBs, 7 WRs and 1 TE. So, the maximum any Dynasty Owner needs in salary cap room is $82.115 million. Unless someone has more than 16 draft picks.
Most Dynasty Owner teams aren’t going to have that many rookie draft picks, they are going to have three or four of them. In order to draft the top three picks in the NFL draft – Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC), Zach Wilson (QB – NYJ) and Trey Lance (QB – SF), a Dynasty Owner would need a little over $26.5 million in salary cap room. If you had four picks due to winning the 1.13 pick or via trade, then your Dynasty Owner team would need $34.74 million to fit those three QBs plus Kyle Pitts (TE – ATL). If you only have one draft pick and are able to draft the number one overall NFL draft pick in Trevor Lawrence, you’ll need $9.2 million since Lawrence’s annual salary is $9,198,372. Here’s a handy chart for the maximum amount you need if you have up to five rookie draft picks.
No. of Picks
Maximum Salary Needed
If you have more than five rookie draft picks and want to know the maximum that you can spend, you obviously are obsessed with rookies and probably have already done the calculations yourself.
Stuck in the Middle with You
Most Dynasty Owners don’t need as much as the $82.115 million maximum, but will need more than the absolute $0 minimum or even the $808,333 one undrafted rookie free agent minimum. As Stealers Wheel sang and the movie Reservoir Dogs made into an iconic scene, most of us are stuck in the middle.
For a typical Dynasty Owner with three or four rookie draft picks distributed throughout the three round rookie draft, it’s unlikely that they will be able to draft all three top QBs or even three first round NFL draft picks. It’s more likely that they will get three or four players from the 77 rookie position players taken in the NFL draft – from Trevor Lawrence to Dax Milne – and likely take players from different positions as well. For these Dynasty Owners, the range of salary cap that they will need to have on hand for the rookie draft is between $5.7 million and $26.4 million.
At the $5.7 million amount, a Dynasty Owner would get the cheapest of the five first round QBs drafted – Mac Jones (QB – NE) – as well as Dax Milne as a WR/TE and the lowest drafted RB in Jermar Jefferson (RB – DET). At the upper end, the Dynasty Owner would have four draft picks and get the most expensive QB (Trevor Lawrence), the most expensive RB in Najee Harris (RB – PIT) and the two top receivers drafted – Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN).
Rookie Drafts by the Numbers
There’s a lot of rookie draft information to digest and enough numbers to make a Dynasty Owner’s head spin. This probably isn’t going to simplify matters, but here are some additional numbers:
- There are a total of 161 rookies currently in the Dynasty Owner player pool
- Out of those 161 rookies, 77 were drafted by a NFL team, 77 signed after the NFL draft as an undrafted rookie free agent and 7 are the exceptions who had their college eligibility run out in 2019 (or before) and didn’t play in the NFL in 2020
- There will be a total of 37 rookies drafted out of a rookie player pool of 161 players (23%)
- Lowest rookie salary – Micah Simon (WR – CAR) – $583,333 per year for 3 years
- Highest rookie salary – Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC) – $9,198,372 per year for 4 years
- Most common drafted rookie salary – $902,677 for four years for the four players taken with sixth round compensatory picks – Khalil Herbert (RB – CHI), Sam Ehlinger (QB – IND), Seth Williams (WR – DEN) and Dazz Newsome (WR – CHI)
- Most common undrafted rookie free agent salary – $808,333 for 3 years for 53 players
- Highest undrafted rookie free agent salary – $823,333 for 3 years for Deon Jackson (RB – IND)
The short answer “It depends” is actually the correct answer here. Everything depends on your current roster and the number of draft picks your Dynasty Owner team has available. As we’ve seen, a Dynasty Owner with at least one draft pick could need as little as $808,333 to select an undrafted rookie free agent with their one pick or as much as $82.115 million if you’re the Dynasty Owner with 16 draft picks and want all of the highest paid rookies out there.
For most Dynasty Owners with a “normal” number of draft picks, it appears that the range of salary cap room that you should be targeting is between $5.7 million and $26.4 million. You can go lower than that if you don’t want, or can’t draft, any of the top five QBs taken and don’t have to go that high if you don’t have four draft picks and need all of the most expensive rookies at each position.
We’ll keep going on the rookie draft theme for the next two weeks as there’s plenty more to look at to get Dynasty Owners ready for their rookie draft. We can look at rookie ADP from both rookie mock drafts and actual Dynasty Owner start-up drafts, as well as see how much good “rookie” drafts from 2019 and 2020 would have cost their Dynasty Owners. Those two topics should give Dynasty Owners a better sense of what to expect in their rookie drafts.
Regardless of your league, Dynasty Owner has great content coming to help you win your league and a new publication schedule for the weekly articles and videos that will provide the information you need. A few new videos to accompany the weekly articles have been posted and more are coming every week from now on. All of the articles and videos will be released at 1 PM (Eastern). My articles and videos to get you ready for your 2021 Dynasty Owner start-up league team will be released on Saturdays throughout the off-season. Keep an eye out for new articles from the rest of our team of Dynasty Owner writers as well. Nate Christian (@NateNFL) will talk about rookies on Tuesdays. Matt Morrison – The Jerk (@Dynastyjerk) is doing a deep dive on individual teams that you can check out on Wednesdays. Jay Poundsee (@jaypoundsnfl) looks at how to rebuild your Dynasty Owner roster and everyone will get his insights on Fridays.
Please read all of their articles and follow the four of us plus Dynasty Owner (@Dynasty_Owner) on Twitter. Hopefully this article is helpful as you prepare for the first-ever Dynasty Owner rookie drafts. Thanks, and have a great day!
Steven Van Tassell is the Head of Content for Dynasty Owner
Follow us on Twitter: @SteveVT33 and @Dynasty_Owner