Why running backs are a must-have in dynasty league rookie drafts

by Drew Osinchuk ·

In the never-ending quest of winning more dynasty fantasy football championships I am always looking for ways to find an edge. My latest attempt revolves around looking at ways to maximize my dynasty rookie pick value beyond the strategy of “draft the right players” based on advanced stats, metrics, and analytics profiles. The common rhetoric among analysts and fans alike are that wide receivers take 3 years to develop. I began questioning if dynasty enthusiasts actually exercise this principle. If they do, I would expect wide receiver ADP to remain relatively consistent despite their expected struggles over their first two years.  This line of thinking led me to look at the ADP change among each position group after their first year in the NFL. For simplicity and relevance, I was only looking at the rookies with first round rookie draft ADP.


First, I looked at the startup ADP of the top 12 rookies in May of their draft year and compared it to their ADP in May of the following year to determine if they had gained, lost, or maintained their value. I went back to the 2014 class as this seemed to spark a wide receiver uprising in dynasty leagues. Then I counted each player as an increase, decrease, or consistent. They were scored as consistent if their ADP changed by 12 spots or less in either direction.

This indicates that taking a WR in round 1 of your rookie drafts will produce the greatest chance of increasing your team’s overall value. However, this is heavily skewed by the historic 2014 WR class. If we remove 2014’s rookies from the sample we get:

This paints a much different picture. What’s even more interesting, is the WR class of 2015 benefited from the recent history of the 2014 class as the following 2015 rookie WR’s saw an increase in their value despite posting relatively uninspiring rookie seasons; DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Breshad Perriman. There were no players in the following years that had an ADP increase with so little production.


The main lesson here is that first round WR’s are volatile while first round RB’s are safe. Excluding the 2014 super class, WR’s have a 53-percent chance of accruing or maintaining value and a 47-percent chance of losing value. RB’s have a 79-percent chance of accruing or maintaining value and a 21-percent of losing value.


When you draft a running back in the first round of your rookie draft, you get to see them in NFL action for a year, then you can decide if they are worth a long term investment. If you deem them unworthy of being a building block for your team, you have a 79-percent chance of recouping or even gaining value over the pick you originally invested in them. This falls in line with traditional thinking in that wide receivers take 3 years to develop while running backs have the opportunity and ability to produce right away. While patience is a virtue that is preached throughout the dynasty community in regards to wide receiver development, this illustrates that there are far fewer people exercising it. This is your opportunity for profit.

If you are playing dynasty to win championships, your goal should be to increase your team’s value every chance you get. Drafting RB’s in the first round is your safest bet.