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Tue May 16th 2023

Grading My "Diehards" Rookie Draft

Five years ago, I started a new dynasty league. I asked many of the most active managers in my other leagues to form a new league called the "Diehards." As expected, this has become my most active league, with trades and talks taking place year-round.

I made the playoffs the first four years but never advanced to the Super Bowl. Last season, however, I did not make the playoffs and finished with a 7-7 record. My team is getting older, and I have moved from a top-four team to a middle-four team. Unfortunately, I did not trade for picks last year, so I only had one pick per round in this draft. Still, I was pleased with the players I added, especially the first two.

For context, it's a 12-team, 1-QB, half-PPR league with nine starting positions (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 Flex). We have 30-man rosters after the rookie draft and cut to 25-man rosters before the season starts.


Here is how the draft played out.

Round One

1. Bijan Robinson

2. Jahmyr Gibbs

3. Anthony Richardson

4. Jaxon Smith-Njigba **My Pick

5. Jordan Addison

6. Quentin Johnston

7. Dalton Kincaid

8. C.J. Stroud

9. Zay Flowers

10. Kendre Miller

11. Zach Charbonnet

12. Devon Achane

  • This draft started with a massive trade for 1.1, Bijan Robinson. The night before the draft, the manager with the 1.1 posted in GroupMe that he was willing to trade the 1.1 for a package deal. I woke up the following day and saw he found a trading partner. He received Kenny Pickett, 1.3, and 1.7, which he turned into Anthony Richardson and Dalton Kincaid. In a one-quarterback league, I was shocked to see Bijan traded for what turned into two quarterbacks and a tight end. I would much rather have Bijan than Pickett, Richardson, and Kincaid. The manager who sold the 1.1 needed to improve at quarterback, with only Mac Jones and Desmond Ridder on his roster, so he picked up Pickett in the trade. I assumed he would be done at quarterback, but he surprisingly selected Richardson at 1.3 when I bet he could have waited and picked him at 1.7. I've completed three rookie drafts in one-quarterback leagues, and this is the highest Richardson and Kincaid have been drafted in any of the three.
  • The Richardson pick meant that JSN fell to me at 1.4. I assumed all along that I would draft Jordan Addison and 1.4, but I was able instead to draft my top-ranked rookie wide receiver, JSN. It will take time for JSN to become a top-tier wide receiver in the Dynasty because of the competition for targets in Seattle. Still, he could replace Lockett as the second most targeted player by 2024 and eventually become their top target. I was thrilled to get my top-ranked wide receiver at 1.4.
  • The C.J. Stroud pick at 1.8 was also a curious pick and the highest I have seen Stroud selected in a one-quarterback league. The team that selected him does have question marks at quarterback, with Geno Smith, Ryan Tannehill, and Trey Lance on his roster. Smith is the only one of those quarterbacks who will undoubtedly be their team's starter in 2024, so I understand his drafting for need, and his next pick was not until 2.8, one pick before Bryce Young was taken. He likely could have waited for Stroud or Young at 2.8, but it was not a risk he wanted to take, or he liked Stroud more than Young and wanted to be sure he got his guy.
  • This is the second time I have seen Miller drafted ahead of Charbonnet, and I don't get why. They are not even close in my rankings. I have Miller 14 spots behind Charbonnet at #23, but Miller has gone in the first round of all of my rookie drafts. Alvin Kamara will likely be suspended, and Miller may see immediate playing time at the start of the season. Still, Kamara and Jamaal Williams are both signed through 2025 and are far better running backs than Miller. I'm willing to be proven wrong and own it if so, but Miller is getting drafted too high in all my leagues.

Round Two

13. Marvin Mims

14. Jonathan Mingo

15. Tyjae Spears

16. Michael Mayer ** My Pick

17. Sam LaPorta

18. Rashee Rice

19. Josh Downs

20. Roschon Johnson

21. Bryce Young

22. Chase Brown

23. Tank Bigsby

24. Jaylin Hyatt

  • I drafted my top wide receiver in round one and my top tight end in round two. I was happy to have Mayer fall to me at 2.4. Jonathan Mingo was the only player I was tempted to take ahead of him in this round. Mayer fell further in the NFL draft than I expected after not testing well at the Combine, but I value college production over testing, and Mayer dominated from the day he stepped on campus at Notre Dame. He was the #2 ranked tight end recruit in his class and the 23rd ranked recruit in the country. His pedigree and production kept him atop my rankings ahead of Kincaid and LaPorta, who were drafted ahead of him. Tight ends usually take time to become fantasy relevant, but it took little time for him to produce in college. Even if it does in the NFL, I know I have a top-tier tight end for years to come.
  • The rest of this round was chalky, with a few minor surprises. I've yet to see Mims get drafted ahead of Mingo. Though I have them back to back in my rankings, Mims has gone 7, 10, and 15 spots after Mingo in my other rookie drafts.
  • I was surprised to see Chase Brown get drafted ahead of Tank Bigsby. I have them back to back in my rankings, though, so I don't have a big problem with it. Brown when three spots ahead of Bigsby in one of my drafts and 8 and 13 spots behind Bigsby in my other drafts. Clearly, there are some differences of opinion between the two players. In this league, a manager without a first, second, or third-round pick traded up to select Bigsby. He gave away Odell Beckham and James Robinson to get Bigsby.

Round Three

25. Jaylen Reed

26. Tank Dell

27. Cedric Tillman

28. Luke Musgrave

29. Israel Abanikanda ** My Pick

30. DeWayne McBride

31. Michael Wilson

32. Deuce Vaughn

33. Zach Evans

34. Will Levis

35. Luke Shoonmaker

36. Eric Gray

  • I was surprised to see Reed fall to the third round. He has the highest draft capital of any players drafted in the third round of this draft and was a bright and obvious pick. It's a crowded room of young pass catchers in Green Bay, but Reed has as good a chance as any at becoming Jordan Love's favorite target.
  • I was pleased to have Abanikanda fall to me at 3.5. I like filling my roster full of NFL RB-2s. He'll have to outperform Michael Carter to become Breece Hall's backup, but I believe he can. I had Abanikanda as a first-round draft pick in my rankings before the NFL draft. I love the player but hated his draft capital and landing spot, but he's the kind of player I like to take a chance on in the third round of rookie drafts.
  • Round three felt like a "pick your poison" kind of round for other running backs who managers hope can work their way into RB-2 roles on their teams. After my Abanikanda pick, McBride, Vaughn, Evans, and Gray were selected with the same thought. I would have drafted Evan Hull ahead of all these running backs, but he fell to round four. I currently have McBride ranked the lowest of these guys, but McBride needs to move up in my rankings while the rumors continue circulating about Dalvin Cook getting cut. McBride would still have to climb the depth chart ahead of Alexander Maddison and Ty Chandler, who both have higher draft capital than McBride.

Round Four

37. Puca Nacua

38. Sean Tucker

39. Hendon Hooker

40. Kayshon Boutte ** My Pick

41. Evan Hull

42. Charlie Jones

43. Darnell Washington

44. Xavier Hutchinson

45. Tyler Scott

46. Tucker Kraft

47. Parker Washington

48. A.T. Perry

  • Puka Nacua is a player I am sneakily trying to draft in every rookie draft, but he was taken earlier than I have yet seen in this draft. That was a good pick to start this round. He's an aggressive player who Sean McVay will know how to use, and he only has to beat out Ben Skowronek and Van Jefferson for playtime. I am sure he can do it.
  • I drafted for upside again by selecting Kayshon Boutte. He, too, was a first-round draft pick when I first released my rankings the first week in February. After performing poorly at the Combine and his pro day and as reports of character problems emerged, his NFL draft capital plummeted, as did his position in my rookie rankings. Even so, there was a point at which the Patriots and my dynasty team were willing to take a chance on him. I got him at pick 38 when he was 34th in my rankings. I am not holding my breath that the Patriots, who are terrible at drafting wide receivers, can turn him around, but I am willing to wait and see. The only other player I was considering with this pick was Tyler Scott, who I saw as the next-best upside player. Scott was drafted five spots later by another manager who always drafts late-round picks for upside.
  • I like Charlie Jones and Xavier Hutchinson in this round. They are players to stash for a year to let other wide receiver contracts expire on their teams, but if managers are patient with them or have taxi squads, they are two of my favorite players to target in the fourth round.

Round Five

49. Chris Rodriguez

50. Brenton Strange

51. Tre Tucker

52. Mohamed Ibrahim ** My Pick

53. Deveric Pierce

54. Elijah Higgins

55. Stetson Bennett

56. Zack Kuntz

57. Trey Palmer

58. Matt Landers

59. Randall Cobb

60. Kenny McIntosh

  • It's unfair to criticize any pick in the fifth round of a 12-team draft. Everyone took a shot on "their guy" in this round, including our first veteran player and a few players who were not in my rankings and whose names I did not know.
  • I selected Mohamed Ibrahim in hopes that Detroit will give him a chance to make the roster. If he does, he could rise to become the RB-2 behind David Mongomery, who is often injured. Jahmyr Gibb's role will be very specific, so if Montgomery ever gets hurt, another running back will come in to take his role. Craig Reynolds has had some productive games in that role, and Ibrahim is much better than Reynolds. Ibrahim was "my guy" in the fifth round.

My Roster

  • As I mentioned in the introduction to this piece, I'm a middle-of-the-pack roster in this league. I'm stuck in a difficult position because I have a few players who can singlehandedly win games for me, like Josh Allen and Nick Chubb, and my starting lineup is not terrible. My wide receivers are my weak point, though I have added young wide receivers in the last two drafts. My 7-7 record last year is about all I can hope for this year unless some of my many handcuff running backs fall into full-time roles due to injuries. Given that this league is very active in trading, I need to capitalize when players hit a peak in their value by boldly trading them away for future first and second-round picks. Even in a one-quarterback league, Josh Allen could get a haul of players and picks if I find the right partner at the right time. This team needs to get younger again, something I aim to make possible this season.
  • My starting lineup today would be as follows: Josh Allen, Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jahan Dotson, Zay Jones, Evan Engram, Robert Woods, and Adam Thielen.

Quarterbacks

  • Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones

Running Backs

  • Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, D'Onta Foreman, Jaylen Warren, Israel Abanikanda, Pierre Strong, Latavius Murray, Treyveon Williams, Kevin Harris, and Mohamed Ibrahim

Wide Receivers

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jahan Dotson, Zay Jones, Isaiah Hodgins, DeVante Parker, Robert Woods, Adam Thielen, Kyle Phillips, Kayshon Boutte, Tim Patrick, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Darius Slayton

Tight Ends

  • Evan Engram, Michael Mayer, Logan Thomas, O.J. Howard

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