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Examining the Rookie Hit Rate: 2018-2022
Bobby dives deep into the last 5 rookie drafts in his main league to determine which positions and rounds had the highest hit rate.
For many dynasty managers, rookie draft season is the most exciting time of year. But it’s also a little stressful because of the pressure to hit on your picks. After all, if you took N’Keal Harry at the 1.01 in the 2019 rookie draft, you still might be reeling.
But how do we definite a hit? I must admit, I scrutinize my hits pretty rigorously. Going back to 2018, there are some obvious hits like Justin Jefferson, Jonathan Taylor, Shaquille Leonard, Devin White, and Brian Burns. While it’s difficult to set a standard across the board—especially when dealing with players drafted in 2022—most of the players I counted as hits either finished a season as a top 30 player at their position or they have shown enough potential early on to inspire optimism.
Conversely, if we’re defining a hit, we also have to define a miss. Calling someone a “miss” at this point doesn’t mean their careers are over. It just means they’re either trending down or aren’t trustworthy in our lineups (or on our rosters) right now. We already mentioned Harry, but think about Johnathan Abram, Jalen Reagor, Jerry Jeudy, Isaiah Simmons, and Tua Tagovailoa. We haven’t lost all hope for these players, but we’re not as excited now as we were when we first took these guys.
This is not an exact science. I might call someone a hit now which we later see as a miss and vice versa. But I think this is a helpful exercise as we approach draft season, one that I’ve always wanted to do. So that’s what we’re going to do! Below, I’ll go through the history of our main league’s rookie draft dating back to 2018. We’ll see how many players were selected, in which rounds, and how many were hits.
Without further ado, let’s dive into it.
19/69, hit rate of 27.5%
14/19 were 1st-round draft picks
Our league loves to take running backs in the 1st round. Maybe yours does, too. Guys like Jonathan Taylor, Josh Jacobs, and D’Andre Swift are fun to see on your team. But seeing Clyde Edwards-Helaire or James Cook on your roster? Not as much fun. I was also surprised that just 26% of hits in the last 5 years came after the 1st round. That makes me think twice before throwing a dart on a late-round RB.
26/81, hit rate of 32%
13/26 were 1st-round draft picks
Wide receivers… the apples of our eye in dynasty leagues. It’s easy to understand why, too. Having a 1-in-3 shot to land a hit is pretty good odds, and compared to RBs, their hit rate is 4.5% higher, with 7 more hits since 2018. Then you factor in the longevity of their careers and it makes drafting a WR early even more tempting. But you don’t have to draft them early! For every Jaylen Waddle and D.K. Metcalf, we’ve seen Terry McLaurin and Micheal Pittman return tremendous value.
6/16, hit rate of 37.5%
1/6 were 1st-round picks
Now, the league I examined was a 1 QB league, so these results would look different in a superflex league. Quarterback success, though, likely has more to do with NFL franchise development than it does where we take them in a draft. For every Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson, there’s Josh Rosen and Zach Wilson to ruin the fun.
5/17, hit rate of 29%
1/5 were 1st-round picks
Rostering tight ends outside of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews has been a maddening exercise over the last few years. But, it doesn’t mean that we quit trying. We all have continued hope for Jalani Woods, Pat Friermuth, Trey McBride, and the like, but the odds are against them. Even the slam dunk choice in 2021, Kyle Pitts, is debatable as a hit (I ended up labeling him as one). With TE, the best bet is if the #1 or #2 prospects from that draft are off the board, look elsewhere.
14/44, hit rate of 31.8%
0/14 were 1st-round picks
4/14 were 3rd-round picks
We all love linebackers and we all love the rookie draft. But is it safe to mix those two loves? Well, at least not in the first round. If I’m going to grab an LB in the rookie draft, I’m going to wait. We’ve seen guys like Leonard and White get snatched up in the middle rounds and return massive value. The same can’t be said for guys like Devin Bush. But at least if you take a later swing, it doesn’t hurt you as much if it doesn’t work out. And while the hit rate is similar to WR, the LB landscape changes so much year to year that I’m tempted to source my LBs off waivers instead.
10/29, hit rate of 34%
3/10 were 1st-round picks
Just 10 good defensive ends drafted in the last 5 years—that’s crazy! Yes, the hit percentage is high but that’s in part because so few DEs were selected. One reason for the low total is that RSO (our league provider) labels a lot of edge rushers as LBs coming out of college. But it also shows that we’re not as willing to take swings on guys like Drake Jackson and George Karlaftis. This position is hard to play and it takes time for young guys to develop, so I’m sure if we revisited this article in 5 years, the hit rate would be different. But early on, good luck finding the next Maxx Crosby.
2/8, hit rate of 25%
0/2 were 1st-round picks
The only two defensive tackles I deemed as hits were Quinnen Williams (a 3rd-round pick) and Jeffery Simmons (a 5th-round pick), both in the 2019 rookie draft. I view DT the same way I view TE: outside of the top few options, it’s a frustrating position.
8/18, hit rate of 44%
0/8 were 1st-round picks
Is there some safety in drafting safeties? I would lean yes. With only 18 safeties being drafted in the last 5 years, that means that 3.6 safeties are drafted in each draft. So why are these safeties working for us? I believe it’s because we are drafting the best safeties from the NFL Draft, the ones GMs spent high picks on. Also, we’re not spending high picks on these players. In our league, 3 of the 8 safeties that hit were drafted in the 3rd round. Two of those safeties were Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick, taken in the 2019 rookie draft. So you don’t have to spend a top pick on a guy that has a high likelihood of hitting. That should entice us to draft safeties.
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Now that we’ve looked at each position, let’s examine the hits by round:
1st Round: 34/60, hit rate of 56%
2nd Round: 20/60, hit rate of 33.3%
3rd Round: 12/60, hit rate of 20%
4th Round: 17/60, hit rate of 28.3%
5th Round: 9/60, hit rate of 15%
By my math, a little more than half of our 1st-round selections have worked out. It’s no surprise to see the hit rate drop in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, but look what happens in the 4th round: an 8.3% increase in the hit rate! I’m not sure what to make of this. Perhaps people are circling back around to grab safeties or a tight end. Some of the notable hits included Antonio Gibson, Justin Herbert, and Jeremy Chinn.
Anyways, I hope this article was helpful. I enjoyed this exercise and I’d be curious if you applied the same critical eye to your league’s rookie draft, what the results would be. If you end up doing it, hit me up on Twitter @idpbob with the results. Thanks for reading and stay tuned to the site—I’ll have more rookie content coming soon!
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