#### ZWK

##### Footballguy

When you're making picks in your dynasty rookie draft, obviously you should be paying attention to the particular player, his situation, and your league's rules and customs. But it helps to have some sense of the baseline for what you can typically expect from a player at that position taken in that round of the NFL draft. So I looked at every RB, WR, TE, and QB drafted from 1993 to 2006, and measured the success of their fantasy career based on their cumulative fantasy points over baseline for their career (VBD, taken from PFR - it's the number that's 642 for Tiki Barber at the bottom of his player page).

The full results are in this google spreadsheet, but I'll save the detailed explanation for the end of this post. Here's the quick version, a ranking of position/round combos based on the percentage of players who had at least a decent fantasy career (50+ cumulative VBD). 1st round RBs come first, since 58% of RBs drafted in the first round of the NFL draft from 1993-2006 ended up with at least 50 career fantasy points over baseline. Here's the ranking:

rd 1 RB (58%)

rd 1 WR (46%)

rd 1 TE (44%)

rd 1 QB (36%)

rd 2 RB (29%)

rd 2 QB (27%)

rd 2 WR (22%)

rd 3 RB (20%)

rd 6 QB (14%) [this is a fluke]

rd 3 WR (14%)

rd 4 RB (13%)

rd 2 TE (11%)

rd 5 RB (10%)

rd 3 TE (8%)

rd 4 WR (8%)

rd 5 QB (6%)

rd 6 RB (6%)

rd 3 QB (6%)

rd 4 QB (5%)

rd 4 TE (4%)

and that's enough

RBs do have an advantage over other positions, but not as big as I expected - not even a full round. Round 2 RBs are less likely to be valuable than round 1 players at any position, round 3 RBs are less likely to have value than round 2 WRs or QBs, and round 4 RBs pan out less often than round 3 WRs. Value drops off gradually for RBs and WRs, but at QB there's a huge dropoff in value after round 2 and at TE after round 1. Although I wouldn't trust those TE results too much, since there have been big changes at the position since 1993 (also, blocking TEs are mixed in with receiving TEs, and there's a small sample size with only 15 guys meeting the 50+ VBD threshhold).

One complaint you might have about this ranking: fantasy is about hitting homeruns, not just finding decent contributors. It's about getting studs like Tomlinson, Moss, Manning, or Gonzalez. And, relatedly, not all first round picks are the same - players taken early in the first round (like Manning 1st overall, Tomlinson 5th, and even Gonzalez 13th) could have a much better chance to be studs than guys taken at the end of the round.

Here's another ranking that takes that into account. First, I based the ranking of each position/round combos on the average VBD of the players taken in that round. For instance, second round RBs averaged 82 career VBD - that's averaging together the 642 from Tiki Barber, the 43 from Anthony Thomas, a bunch of 0's from guys who never panned out, and so on. And I also split up the first round into smaller segments. At RB & TE I split it in half - top 16 picks I'll call round 1a and picks 17+ I'll call round 1b. At QB the biggest gap seems to be between QBs taken 1st overall and the rest, so I split the first round into pick 1 vs. picks 2+. For WRs I left the 1st round all together, since late first round WRs actually have a slightly better track record than early first rounders. Here's that ranking:

rd 1a RB (303 vbd)

pk 1 QB (233 vbd)

rd 1a TE (193 vbd)

rd 1b RB (143 vbd)

rd 1 WR (119 vbd)

rd 2 RB (82 vbd)

pk 2+ QB (73 vbd)

rd 2 QB (63 vbd)

rd 3 RB (60 vbd)

rd 2 WR (47 vbd)

rd 3 WR (46 vbd)

rd 1b TE (40 vbd)

rd 6 QB (30 vbd)

rd 6 RB (23 vbd)

rd 4 RB (23 vbd)

rd 3 TE (19 vbd)

rd 5 RB (18 vbd)

rd 2 TE (16 vbd)

rd 4 WR (14 vbd)

and we'll stop there

One stud can have a big impact on these rankings, like Manning for the 1st pick QBs and Gonzalez for the early 1st round TEs, which could be seen as a disadvantage of this ranking method (if it's just random variation with a small number of players skewing the numbers) or an advantage if it actually reflects where you're most likely to find a stud. An elite QB or TE is very valuable, and it makes sense that the very best prospects go 1st overall at QB and in the early first at TE. If you buy these numbers, it suggests that the best QB and TE prospects should be considered up there with everyone besides the very best RB prospects (and if you can distinguish the Peyton Mannings from the Alex Smiths, that's even better). The numbers show a big dropoff at QB after the #1 overall pick, then other first rounders are similar to second rounders, and then there's another big dropoff. At TE there's a big dropoff during the first round, and another drop at the end of the round.

RBs have a bigger advantage here than in the other ranking, and you can see why the top RBs are generally the top fantasy rookie picks. Round 3 RBs are close to round 2 QBs and ahead of rd 2 WRs, although there's a big dropoff after round 3 for RBs.

**Methodology**(and explanation of the data spreadsheet):

I used PFR's database to look at all RBs, WRs, QBs, and TEs taken in the 14 drafts from 1993 to 2006. I started in 1993 since the draft was much longer before then (I left out the 1993 8th rounders), and went up to 2006 since 5 years is enough to have a pretty good measure of a player. Using PFR's season fantasy stats on the player pages, I kept track of 3 things for each player. First, whether the player was ever a fantasy starter in his career (meaning a top 24 RB, top 36 WR, top 12 QB, or top 12 TE). Second, whether the player was a fantasy starter in the first 3 years of his career. And third, the player's total VBD for his career (through 2010), as calculated by PFR, relative to RB 24, WR 30, QB 12, or TE 12.

The spreadsheet compares players by position and round - the first row looks at all RBs taken in round 1, and so on. One column of the spreadsheet contains the average VBD for players at that position in that round. The next column contains the proportion of the players who were ever a fantasy starter. The next contains the proportion of players who were a fantasy starter in the first 3 years of their career. The next two columns contain the proportion of players who had 50 VBD or more for their career and who had 100 VBD or more. The final column gives the number of players who were included in that row's data. The last several rows of the spreadsheet divide up the first round into smaller chunks.