As we approach April’s NFL rookie draft, the hype around the 2023 rookie class continues to grow. Senior Bowl week is coming to a close, and many scouts’ eyes have been opened following this week of practice and the Senior Bowl game. As dynasty football players, we are already planning our offseason and, for many, the next step is the dynasty rookie draft which is typically done in the first week of May. To dominate the rookie draft and propel your team to the next level, here are a few steps you should heavily take into consideration.
Take The Best Player Available
Regardless as to what pick you own or the status of your team, it cannot be stressed enough that you need to ignore positional value and take whomever you believe is the best player. Some teams that own the 1.01 pick may not need a running back. You may have Javonte Williams, Breece Hall, and J.K. Dobbins who all had their seasons derailed by injury, causing you to have a high draft pick. Do not take a wide receiver with your pick simply because you don’t have a hole at running back. Take Bijan Robinson, who is currently the top choice in all one quarterback league drafts. There is no downside to having a running back heavy team, and you may be better off trading a running back for a wide receiver rather than passing on the elite talent.
If you need a running back, do not force yourself to draft one at the end of the first round. Again, take the best player available. Nine times out of 10 the back end of the first round is filled with huge talent at wide receiver because all the top backs were taken within the first seven picks. Imagine drafting players like Isaiah Spiller or James Cook and passing on Christian Watson, George Pickens, and Jahan Dotson. All were drafted in the same range last season, and it’s clear the receivers won this battle.
There Is No Such Thing As “Reaching”
In a rookie draft, all of the players are unproven and many will fail in the NFL. Fantasy experts as well as scouting experts can scream to the heavens that a certain player is talented, that doesn’t mean things will work out. Look at Corey Davis, Jalen Reagor, Henry Ruggs, John Ross, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Sony Michel, and Rashaad Penny. All of these players were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, all were presumed fantasy superstars, all have been complete failures from a fantasy perspective. Don’t allow outside influences to sway your opinions on these rookies. Listen to others, sure, but go watch film of every player you’re considering and see which players impress you the most. Your gut will be correct more times than you’d think.
Weigh Talent and Opportunity Together
Most of the time, talent will trump opportunity. When in doubt, draft the talented player. But opportunity plays a huge role in the production of a rookie and can heavily affect their value in the first few years of their careers. Oftentimes as fans we believe so dearly in certain players, we know how talented they truly are, and then our hearts get wrenched as they end up in possibly the worst landing spots imaginable. On the other hand, we may also see players who are less talented land on teams who will undoubtedly use them tremendously. It’s when the talent and landing spot align that really pique our interest. A player like Travis Etienne is incredibly talented but was drafted to play alongside James Robinson who had just had a monster year. Etienne’s value is much higher now going into his third season than it was when he was drafted as a rookie.
The opposite to Etienne is Dameon Pierce. A player who was a third-tier running back talent at best, but was drafted into a porous backfield and was relied on often during the 2022 season. Pierce’s value is as high now as it will probably ever be. His opportunity increased his value immediately. Kenneth Walker III is a player who was already very talented and also landed on a team that fit him well. The Seattle Seahawks were already proficient in running the ball and had an injury prone backfield. His talent and opportunity is what has made Walker the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, as I predicted in May 2022.
Talent will typically overcome all odds, but opportunity should be included in your analysis. Look for players who you like that have also landed on teams who are needy at their position. The lack of competition will lead to early usage and quicker development of the player.