THE PREMISE: 

While the flu season is finally dying down, that hasn’t stopped another unstoppable illness from consuming the football ardents that are dynasty players. And that illness, of course, is ROOKIE FEVER. I have it. You have it. We all have it. Bad. But besides clinically defined obsession, there's good reasons we’ve all been pouring through whatever information we can get on these prospects. One, because we live in the greatest time ever and the void in our hearts and minds for relevant prospect information has been filled by a new wave of really great writers, analysts, scouts, and prognosticators on Twitter—a veritable cornucopia of film grinders and stats quants. And two, because every little nugget of seemingly clandestine data is part of the puzzle in our own weird, little personal scouting reports. But let’s be honest, as much fun as it’s been digging into athletic measurables, the part of this puzzle that matters the most is the NFL Draft. With that magnificent April weekend now rapidly approaching, I was very interested in how a player’s round selection affects their ability to produce right away. Because that’s what we want, right? I know this is dynasty, and the idea of a deep roster stash finally paying off down the road is enough to send a thirty-year-old plus man into a waking nocturnal emission, but I think a player’s ability to produce in his first year is fairly important. But how do you measure production? 

Well, I drew a line in the sand and charted what I believe to be a solid representation for a rookie’s NFL success. It’s called the ROOKIE 100 CLUB. To be a member of this exclusive club, you need to have scored 100 or more .5 PPR points in your rookie season. I went with .5 PPR scoring along with 25 yards for a point and 4 point passing touchdowns for QB because I believe it to be the overwhelmingly most common scoring format for leagues. Also, I believe in a broader definition of NFL success, especially for a large roster dynasty team. If a player is scoring in the triple digits, they’ve helped you win weeks with a fair amount of production. For instance, in 2017, Jaguars WR Keelan Cole was the last member of this club. He wasn’t a fantasy starter from day one, but by the end of the season he had 42 catches, 748 yards, 3 touchdowns, and lost 2 fumbles for a total of 109.8. That’s some solid production for both the Jaguars and your dynasty team. So, while there will always be the obvious picks for the first few draft spots in a Rookie Draft, how many viable players with first year returns are there selected annually? I went through the last 5 seasons of the Rookie 100 Club to get an answer to that question. In doing so, I learned there’s a few solid points of takeaway. I’ll get to those in a minute. But first, behold:

ROOKIE 100 CLUBS 2013-2017 

2017: 

TOTAL: 14 / QB: 3 RB: 7 WR: 3 TE: 1

RB NOS Alvin Kamara: 271.9 NFL Draft Rd: 3

RB KCC Kareem Hunt 268.7 NFL Draft Rd: 3

RB JAX Leonard Fournette 208.2 NFL Draft Rd: 1

RB CAR Christian McCaffrey 188.6 NFL Draft Rd: 1

QB CLE DeShone Kizer 181.66 NFL Draft Rd: 2

QB HOU Deshaun Watson 164.86 NFL Draft Rd: 1

WR PIT Juju Smith-Schuster 162.7 NFL Draft Rd: 2

WR LAR Cooper Kupp 145.9 NFL Draft Rd: 3

QB CHI Mitch Trubisky 142.52 NFL Draft Rd: 1

TE NYG Evan Engram 141.6 NFL Draft Rd: 1

RB GBP Jamaal Williams 130.3 NFL Draft Rd: 4

RB CIN Joe Mixon 124.3 NFL Draft Rd: 2

RB CHI Tarik Cohen 112.8 NFL Draft Rd: 4

WR JAX Keelan Cole 109.8 Undrafted

First Out:

RB WASH Samaje Perine 97.5 NFL Rd: 4

RB LAC Austin Ekeler 93.4 Undrafted

RB IND Marlon Mack 92.8 NFL Rd: 4

RB SFF Matt Breida 91 Undrafted

RB PHI Corey Clement 85.4 Undrafted 

RB NYG Wayne Gallman 83.9 NFL Rd: 4

TE SFF George Kittle 85 NFL Rd: 5

TE TBB OJ Howard: 86.2 NFL Rd: 1

WR DET Kenny Galloway 80.6 NFL Rd: 3

RB GBB Aaron Jones 75.5 NFL Rd: 5


2016: 

TOTAL: 10 / QB: 2 RB: 4 WR: 3 TE: 1

RB DAL Ezekiel Elliott: 301.4 NFL Rd: 1

QB DAL Dak Prescott: 288.88 NFL Rd: 4

RB CHI Jordan Howard 213.6 NFL Rd: 5

WR NOS Michael Thomas: 209.7 NFL Rd: 2

QB PHI Carson Wentz 206.88 NFL Rd: 1

WR KCC Tyreek Hill 168.5 NFL Rd: 5

WR NYG Sterling Shepard 151.9 NFL Rd: 2

RB DEN Devontae Booker 125.2 NFL Rd: 4

RB WASH Rob Kelley: 120.6 Undrafted

TE SDC Hunter Henry 111.8 NFL Rd: 2

First Out:

RB TEN Derrick Henry 99.2 NFL Rd: 2

WR HOU Will Fuller 99 NFL Rd: 1

WR CIN Tyler Boyd 97.1 NFL Rd: 2

WR NYJ Robby Anderson 95.9 Undrafted


2015: 

TOTAL: 13 / QB: 2 RB: 8 WR: 3

QB TBB James Winston 277 NFL Rd: 1

QB TEN Marcus Mariota 205.9 NFL Rd: 1

RB STL Todd Gurley 193.9 NFL Rd: 1

RB ARZ David Johnson 185. 9 NFL Rd: 3

WR OAK Amari Cooper: 176.9 NFL Rd: 1

RB  JAX TJ Yeldon 137.9 NFL Rd: 2

RB CLE Duke Johnson 131.8 NFL Rd: 3

WR SEA Tyler Lockett 129.9 NFL Rd: 3

RB BAL Buck Allen 127.2 NFL Rd: 4

WR MIN Stefon Diggs: 119.3 NFL Rd: 5

RB SEA Thomas Rawls 117.1 Undrafted

RB BUF Karlos Williams 113.3 NFL Rd: 5

RB DET Amber Abdullah 100.5 NFL Rd: 2 

First Out:

WR WASH Jamison Crowder 98.1 NFL Rd: 4 

RB SD Melvin Gordon 89.7 NFL Rd: 1


2014: 

TOTAL: 18 / QB: 3 RB: 6 WR: 9

WR NYG OBJ: 251.5 NFL Rd: 1

WR TBB Mike Evans: 211.1 NFL Rd: 1

QB OAK Derek Carr: 200 NFL Rd: 2

RB CIN Jeremy Hill: 193.4 NFL Rd: 2

WR CAR Kelvin Benjamin: 189.3 NFL Rd: 1

QB MIN Teddy Bridgewater 175.6 NFL Rd: 1

WR PHI Jordan Matthews: 168.7 NFL Rd: 2

WR BUF Sammy Watkins: 165.5 NFL Rd: 1

QB JAX Blake Bortles:162.2 NFL Rd: 1

WR MIA Jarvis Landry 145.8 NFL Rd: 2

RB NYG Andre Williams 134.1 NFL Rd: 4

WR JAX Allen Hurns: 129.2 Undrafted

RB SDC Brandon Oliver 127.3 Undrafted 

RB STL Tre Mason 125.3 NFL Rd: 3

WR ARZ John Brown 123.6 NFL Rd: 3 

RB CLE Isaiah Crowell 115.9 Undrafted 

WR NOS Brandin Cooks 112.8 NFL Rd: 1

RB CLE Terrence West 107.2 NFL Rd: 3

First Out:

WR JAX Allen Robinson: 90.8 NFL Rd: 2

WR GBP Davante Adams: 81.6 NFL Rd: 2 

RB TEN Bishop Sankey 87.2 NFL Rd: 2

RB MIN Jerick McKinnon 80.8 NFL Rd: 3


2013: 

TOTAL 17 / QB: 3 RB: 5 WR: 7 TE: 1

RB GBP Eddie Lacy: 203 NFL Rd: 2

RB CIN Gio Bernard 194.9 NFL Rd: 2

RB PIT Le’Veon Bell: 194.4 NFL Rd: 2

QB NYJ Geno Smith: 194.4 NFL Rd: 2

WR SDC Keenan Allen 170.1 NFL Rd: 3

RB STL Zac Stacy: 169.9 NFL Rd: 5

QB TBB Mike Glennon: 158.02 NFL Rd: 3

RB ARZ Andre Ellington: 143.8 NFL Rd: 6

QB BUF EJ Manuel: 129.5 NFL Rd: 1

WR MIN Cordarrelle Patterson: 120.4 NFL Rd: 1 

WR BAL Marlon Brown: 118.7 Undrafted

WR HOU Deandre Hopkins: 116.2 NFL Rd: 1

TE TBB Tim Wright: 114.3 NFL Rd: Undrafted

WR DAL Terrance Williams: 113.6 NFL Rd: 3

WR MIA Kenny Stills: 111.1 NFL Rd: 5

WR STL Tavon Austin: 104.8 NFL Rd: 1

RB DEN Montee Ball: 102.3 NFL Rd: 2

First Out:

WR BUF Robert Woods: 98.3 NFL Rd: 2

TE WASH Jordan Reed: 92.2 NFL Rd: 3

TE PHI Zach Ertz: 88.9 NFL Rd: 2


THE TAKEAWAYS: 

1. DOUBLE DIGIT ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP RATE: Over the last five seasons, the annual membership rate of the Rookie 100 Club is 14.4, with a top end of 18 in 2014 and a bottom end of 10 in 2016. This puts us in a glass half full/empty situation. Because whether you’re in a 10, 12, or 14 team league, a full round or more of draftees will contribute to fantasy teams in their first year. That seems like a healthy amount. But if you consider that a lot of Rookie Drafts are four rounds, the fact that only around one fourth of the guys selected will be valid starting lineup options this year is a little disheartening. 

2. NFL DRAFT CAPITAL MATTERS...BUT ALSO IT DOESN’T: The overwhelming majority of the names this club features were drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. It breaks down like this: 

NFL Round 1: 23 of 72 for 31.9%

NFL Round 2: 17 of 72 for 23.6%

At a combined 55.5% of the club, first two round draftees are statistically safer bets to produce in their first year of NFL action. This tracks in logic, but I’m surprised with the fact that it’s not MORE of a safer bet. They’re barely over half of the Rookie 100 Club members over the last 5 years. So, you’re actually taking on a fair amount of risk in terms of getting first year production with a pick in the first two rounds. It’s not a lock by any stretch. Still, if you’re in the back end of the first round or early second round of your Rookie Draft and unsure who to grab, you could do worse than letting NFL Draft capital be your guide. Even if it’s a guy you don’t particularly believe in, chances are you’re getting a producer. Also, it matters when it comes to QB. In the last five years, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and current Cardinals, former Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon are the only two QBs taken outside of the first two rounds to make a splash in their first year. Where it gets really interesting is the later rounds. Here’s a breakdown: 

NFL Round 3: 12 of 72 for 16.7% 

NFL Round 4: 6 of 72 for 8.3%,

NFL Round 5: 5 of 72 for 6.9%

NFL Round 6: 1 of 72 for 1.4%

NFL Round 7: 0 of 72 for 0%

Undrafted: 8 of 72 for 11.1%

The third round of the NFL draft is still fairly fertile ground for the Rookie 100 Club, especially considering the recent success of guys like Saints RB Alvin Kamara, Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt, and Cardinals RB David Johnson. But after NFL Draft Round 3, the next highest club membership actually belongs to undrafted rookies. In fact, an undrafted rookie has crashed the Rookie 100 Club every year since 2013. What’s even crazier is that NFL Draft Rounds 6 and 7 have produced 1 member of the Rookie 100 Club in the last five years! (Shout out former Cardinals RB, current free agent RB Andre Ellington.) I read this fact as so: if you’re in those later rounds of your Rookie Draft and looking for a dart throw on a first year producer, it’s statistically safer to take a guy who has signed onto a team after the NFL Draft with a short/average depth chart ahead of him than someone who was actually drafted in the waning rounds. This is where all that data intake I mentioned earlier can bare its value because it's proof there's still plenty of opportunity for these prospects after NFL Draft day. 

3. THE WR CLASS OF 2014’S INFLUENCE IS REAL: In dynasty football, a widely held belief is wide receivers are the best asset to have. Mostly due to their longevity and reduced injury risk compared to running back. It’s what makes them sexy first round Rookie Draft picks. But it’s hard not to look at the fact that 2014 produced nine Rookie 100 Club wide receivers and think it hasn’t helped influence that narrative as well. The hit rate and the big name brands attached to it is undeniably a Rookie Draft influencer. But should it be? Considering the fact that in the three years since there’s only been nine wide receivers combined to make the Rookie 100 Club, I’m not sure. Because nineteen (!) running backs have initiated themselves into the club in those three years. Many of whom are buoyed by high reception totals as well. So, my feeling is this: even if this year’s crop of wide receivers didn’t have the label of “underwhelming” as much of Twitter has given them, in today’s NFL, running back provides a greater shot at an immediate impact to fantasy rosters. That’s not to say that no wide receivers should be taken in the first round, but you’ll need to evaluate your roster needs and how you want to spend your draft capital. If you’re in “win now” mode, target RB. If you’re willing to risk waiting out a player’s first year for the long term upside, then WR is for you. If you need WR help now, I’d suggest trading instead of solving that situation through the draft. It should also be noted that only 3 tight ends over the last 5 years have made it into the club. Further evidence of the NFL tight end development process. 

4. THE ROOKIE 100 CLUB IS NOT NECESSARILY AN INDICATOR OF LONGEVITY: Pouring over the names on this list, it’s riddled with guys who cratered almost immediately after rocketing to relevance. To name a few: RB Andre Williams, WR Tavon Austin, RB Montee Ball, RB Tre Mason, RB Karlos Williams, and RB Ameer Abdullah have all failed to build off first year success. Perhaps the most unique case is former Ravens WR Marlon Brown.  In 2013, the undrafted rookie found the end zone seven times with Ravens QB Joe Flacco. Then, the next year the Ravens signed WR Steve Smith and Brown only managed 24 catches and had zero touchdowns. Today, he’s fighting to even make a roster. Brutal. I think this is more of a lesson for offseason trades than the Rookie Draft, though. Because that seemingly solid producer could fall off the map very quickly. In fact, it's probably safe to say there's a 2017 rookie on your team right now that has peaked in value and should be traded IMMEDIATELY. Because he might not just lose some value, but become completely irrelevant. A dead asset. This year, QB Deshone Kizer has already been regulated into a backup role on Green Bay and unlikely to produce next year with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. There’s bound to be more that regress as well. 

5. FIRST OUT IS UP NEXT: On the list above, I’ve included some of the names that just missed the Rookie 100 Club. And boy, oh, boy are there some big names. WR Allen Robinson, WR Davante Adams, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Robby Anderson, WR Robert Woods, TE Jordan Reed, WR Jamison Crowder, and TE Zach Ertz are all guys who have gone on to become solid fantasy producers in the years after. I look at this a couple ways. One, don’t freak out and trade away guys who are high Rookie Draft picks like a Melvin Gordon or Allen Robinson if they don’t splash in their rookie season Their time could be coming. In the 2017 class, Titans WR Corey Davis comes to mind as a significant hold. Also, low NFL Draft capital guys like Crowder (4th round pick) or Anderson (undrafted) who showed some production flash their rookie season proved to be great holds or valuable low end buys. In the 2017 class, Eagles RB Corey Clement, 49ers TE George Kittle, and Packer RB Aaron Jones all come to mind as potential examples of this. 


THANK YOU!

This was a bit of a deep dive read, but I hope along the way you’ve been rewarded with another piece of valuable insight for your own scouting report puzzle. If you’ve made it here, I thank you. Give yourself a pat on the back and a cold beer!