Rookie picks will they become a reliable starter?

At this time of year, one of the biggest questions people face is centred round rookie picks. I often speak to people who tell me they’ve got two 1st round picks. They are already pencilling them in as a reliable starter. That they are going to build their team around for the upcoming season.


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What are the chances this actually happens and your rookie picks turn into a fantasy-relevant starter for you?


I wanted to focus on 1st and 2nd round draft picks. After these rounds picks are essentially a lottery pick. Taking the players drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds as per ADP. I am looking only at 1QB leagues and I am going to focus on the Wide receiver and Running Back position. The sample sizes are far too small for Tight Ends and Quarterbacks to draw any sort of valuable conclusion.

Rookie Draft picks

So taking all rookie drafts since 2014 gives me a total of 141 players drafted in either the 1st or 2nd round of rookie drafts. This is comprised of the following volumes of players:

Taking the players within the sample and producing a simple count of the number of players to hit at least once. I define a hit rate as a player who finishes the season as either a top 24 players. This gives you the following results: 

As you can see the chance of hitting on picks are much higher in the 1st round than in the 2nd round. It’s not shocking to tell you that is what you’d expect! It usually around double the chance of hitting with a 1st rounder than a 2nd. However, using this data is probably a bit misrepresentative as the 2019 and 2020 classes have had such a small chance to hit given they’ve only been in the league for two and one years respectively.

Realistically you’re expecting your rookie picks to produce for you within a three-year timescale. So removing the 2019 and 2020 season gives:

It boosts the hit rates almost across the board which is what you’d expect however, it does reduce the hit rates for 1st round rookie RB’s to hit at a top 24 rate. This is due to seven of the nine running backs in 2019 and 2020 who were first-round rookie picks already producing a top 24 season. 

Looking at the data. The chances of you hitting on a 1st round pick are around 58%. Whilst hitting on a second-round pick are around 30% as shown below.

When comparing hit rates across the positions. It is difficult to directly compare a top 24 Running Back and Wide Receiver. It is easier to produce a top 24 season at the Running Back position. Mainly due to the smaller volume of players on the field at any one time.

If you look at average points per game across the last seven seasons. A more accurate straight comparison is a top 12 Running Back versus a top 24 Wide Receiver. This is a more reliable look at which players are above average fantasy players for your dynasty team.

 If you take this data. The hit rates across the positions are very similar. You are almost 4% more likely to hit on a 1st round Wide receiver and almost 4% more likely to hit on a 2nd round Running back but they are fairly similar.


As you see the chances of hitting on your first-round pick is almost a 50/50 proposition. Whereas the 2nd round picks are almost a 1 in 4 hit rate. 

Rookie picks are the holy grail and give you the potential of finding an absolute stud to help turn around your Dynasty team. However, you need to be realistic. When you’re looking at your collections of 2021 draft picks in April. Stop thinking you have a 1st and a 2nd and are therefore going to hit on at least two starters. Just remember the chances are actually much lower. Plan accordingly and don’t overvalue rookie picks.

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