How to Value Rookie Picks After the NFL Draft

Apr 28, 2021
How to Value Rookie Picks After the NFL Draft

Rookie pick value is one of the toughest things to peg in dynasty fantasy football. They are universal currency because they have the potential to fill any team need and are the mystery box that could be anything, even a boat! As we enter into the post-NFL Draft phase, we have heard about the inevitable rise in rookie draft pick value. For those who still have their draft picks and intend to trade them, it’s important to understand how much more they are worth and what level of return to expect for them. On the flip side, if you’re looking to trade for a rookie pick, what could it take to get that pick? For this, we will use Dynasty League Football’s (DLF’s) average startup draft position (ADP) data from 2014-2020, along with the pre-NFL Draft data collected for 2021.


MORE 2021 DYNASTY CONTENT: Player Profiles & Strategy | Rookie Rankings | Top 200 Overall Rankings: Superflex + Non-Superflex | NFL Mock Draft | NFL Draft Big Board | Rookie Mock Draft


How Much do Draft Picks Increase in Value After the NFL Draft?

While DLF does not do their mock drafts with rookie picks, we can leverage rookie player draft positions as a proxy for the pick each month and see how drafters select first-year players. So, even if the top rookie selected changes, we just want to know where the first, second, third, etc., rookie is picked. Here are the results for the two months prior and three months post-NFL Draft from 2014 to 2020:

Dynasty Rookie Pick Value (2014-2020)
Round 1 Pick
ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) ADP (Post-NFL Draft) Change (%) Round 2 Pick ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) ADP (Post-NFL Draft) Change (%)
1 23.6 18.2 22.9% 1 106.1 93.2 12.1%
2 30.8 27.0 12.4% 2 110.6 98.2 11.2%
3 43.9 35.1 20.1% 3 117.9 104.8 11.1%
4 47.7 39.2 17.9% 4 123.4 104.9 15.0%
5 55.5 46.6 16.1% 5 127.1 114.0 10.3%
6 58.3 54.3 6.9% 6 132.2 118.1 10.7%
7 68.8 62.2 9.5% 7 136.2 122.3 10.2%
8 74.0 68.7 7.2% 8 144.6 127.1 12.1%
9 82.4 72.1 12.5% 9 144.3 132.6 8.1%
10 86.8 77.4 10.8% 10 148.0 138.1 6.7%
11 92.0 81.5 11.4% 11 154.8 143.3 7.4%
12 98.7 87.2 11.7% 12 159.3 147.2 7.6%

In general, we see the top picks gaining the most value from an ADP perspective with the top six picks averaging over +16% in gains, while the bottom six picks in the second round are averaging roughly half that (+8%). And that tends to be pretty consistent by year as well with 94% of draft slots increasing in value after the NFL Draft takes place and just 1% of picks losing more than 10% of their pre-draft value. By comparison, 55% of draft picks over the past seven years have gained at least 10% of value after the NFL Draft.

What to Expect From 2021 NFL Draft picks?

This draft class, while strong, does not have a headliner to the level of Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley, who were both commanding top-12 interest, even before the NFL Draft took place. Instead, it typifies most other years and rivals the 2014 draft class that had the top 13 rookies flirting with top-100 value before the NFL Draft. Just one month before the NFL Draft, the 2021 class had 14 rookies go inside the top 100 startup picks. Here’s a comparison of the past two months for the 2021 class compared to the seven-year average prior to the NFL Draft:

2021 Rookie Picks vs. Rookie Pick Average
Round 1 Pick
2021 ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) 2014-2020 ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) Net Difference Round 2 Pick 2021 ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) 2014-2020 ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) Net Difference
1 26.6 23.6 3.0 1 96.2 106.1 -9.9
2 33.3 30.8 2.6 2 98.8 110.6 -11.9
3 33.7 43.9 -10.3 3 109.8 117.9 -8.1
4 44.3 47.7 -3.4 4 110.9 123.4 -12.5
5 47.3 55.5 -8.2 5 114.4 127.1 -12.7
6 55.3 58.3 -3.1 6 116.0 132.2 -16.2
7 60.3 68.8 -8.4 7 120.3 136.2 -15.9
8 64.7 74.0 -9.3 8 125.1 144.6 -19.5
9 73.5 82.4 -8.9 9 130.8 144.3 -13.5
10 80.0 86.8 -6.8 10 137.8 148.0 -10.2
11 85.7 92.0 -6.3 11 147.6 154.8 -7.2
12 90.3 98.7 -8.4 12 149.8 159.3 -9.6

On average, we are seeing picks outside the top six going 6-10 picks earlier than usual, so there is already a premium on this class heading into the NFL Draft. The natural next step would be to understand what that could mean for the post-draft value of these picks. If we assume a few scenarios, we might be looking at something like this:

2021 NFL Draft Rookie Pick Scenario Analysis
Round 1 Pick
2021 ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) Post Draft
(5% Increase)
Post Draft
(10% Increase)
Post Draft
(15% Increase)
Round 2 Pick 2021 ADP (Pre-NFL Draft) Post Draft
(5% Increase)
Post Draft
(10% Increase)
Post Draft
(15% Increase)
1 26.6 25.3 23.9 22.6 1 96.2 91.4 86.5 81.7
2 33.3 31.7 30.0 28.3 2 98.8 93.8 88.9 83.9
3 33.7 32.0 30.3 28.6 3 109.8 104.3 98.8 93.3
4 44.3 42.1 39.9 37.7 4 110.9 105.4 99.8 94.3
5 47.3 45.0 42.6 40.2 5 114.4 108.7 103.0 97.3
6 55.3 52.5 49.7 47.0 6 116.0 110.2 104.4 98.6
7 60.3 57.3 54.3 51.3 7 120.3 114.3 108.3 102.3
8 64.7 61.4 58.2 55.0 8 125.1 118.8 112.6 106.3
9 73.5 69.8 66.2 62.5 9 130.8 124.3 117.8 111.2
10 80.0 76.0 72.0 68.0 10 137.8 130.9 124.0 117.1
11 85.7 81.4 77.1 72.8 11 147.6 140.2 132.8 125.4
12 90.3 85.8 81.3 76.8 12 149.8 142.3 134.8 127.3

It’s hard to say if the pre-hype is going to tamp down the impact of landing spots and draft capital on rookie pick value but it’s possible we see upwards of 18 picks from this class worth a top-100 startup price. That would mean someone like Corey Davis, Jarvis Landry or Michael Gallup is the equivalent of a mid-second-round pick. It also means someone like Brandon Aiyuk might not even get you a mid-first-round pick next week.

Bottom Line

Now is a good time to get a little aggressive with a top-24 pick if you’re looking to add some rookie picks to your arsenal. If you’re holding and looking to trade, especially as a contender who wants to add a veteran, you should see a 10-15% increase on your return if you wait a week, but it’ll hold steady after that, so no rush.


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