• Andrew Woodruff

Handling Freshmen In DEVY Drafts

Twitter: @_DEVYScout

When it comes to Devy fantasy football, an advantage is correctly determining which freshmen to grab in supplemental drafts before their value skyrockets with a year of production. However, is it easy to decide which freshmen to draft, and is it best to focus on particular positions? In this article, I discuss how I recommend handling freshmen in devy drafts.


Step 1: Getting Drafted

Getting relevant draft capital in the first three rounds is already a great return on investment with your devy picks. Starting with that, I looked at 2010 through 2018 recruiting classes and looked at our current hits as of today. Of course, this means my data is incomplete for the 2017 and 2018 classes as we have players from those classes hoping to get selected this year or next. 24/7 Sports positional rankings were used as the most reliable rankings for this article. Remember NFL-relevant guys who will fall outside the threshold of draft capital. Dak, Freeman, Diggs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and others who fell into this category may have done well in the NFL but had concerns because of draft capital.

With quarterbacks, our average sits at about 15.5% for the top 10. That means we are lucky to see just two quarterbacks taken in the first three rounds of drafts from each recruiting class. For the 2018 class, Matt Corral inside the top 10 is being considered a hit based on current information going into the 2022 NFL draft. Expanding to the top 20 or even top 30 will add one more guy for our NFL teams. Then we may get lucky enough to possibly add a 4th player to the group if we broaden our views out to the top 50. Some years see much lower percentages like the 2012 recruiting class with only one noteworthy quarterback (Jameis Winston). Others like the 2015 class having three top 10 guys and five out of the top 50 show our highs. While our last two classes may pull up our average some, it seems better to wait for rookie classes or trade for NFL talent at this particular position. Either that method or avoiding making the mistake I made last season of spending three 1st round picks in a devy Superflex on Spencer Rattler, DJ Uiagalelei, and Quin Ewers. The average odds for the top of each QB recruiting class are lower than the other positions early on in drafts.

The running backs group averages will look a little lower as the 2018 group currently waits to see if the NFL deems anyone worthy. However, it can bring some hope as it includes the following players: Zamir White, James Cook, Dameon Pierce, Master Teague, Jashaun Corbin, Jerome Ford, and Max Borghi may provide one hit. Roughly every class provides two to three guys worth it in their top 10. Some years look a little rougher than others such as 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018 groups. If you hit on any of the 2012, 2014, 2015, or 2017 groups then you start to set yourself up for success quickly on the NFL side. By the time we branch out to the rest of the top parts of each list, it brings in an extra running back of relevance on draft capital. The good thing is with these players is we know even late drafted guys like Devonta Freeman could end up hitting for fantasy purposes.

For receivers, it is interesting how the top 5 average was consistently showing one or two receivers from each group outside of the 2014 class being drafted in the first three rounds. The average was the same as the RB class but with less volatility. The bonus for this position is that it often could find a player outside the top 30 but in the top 50 that was relevant. While receivers fall behind running backs in identifying the NFL talent, they are far ahead of the tight end group and slightly ahead of the QBs for each grouping.

This last part should illustrate the point for us on why people say not to worry about as much in devy purposes and especially freshmen. Even the unreal prospects like Arik Gilbert carry a lot of risk of being a total dud. If lucky, we barely get two relevant tight ends in the top 50 and maybe one or two will be inside the top 10 in our better recruit years. When time is up in a supplemental draft, I focus my picks on older tight-end prospects with college experience and production to back it up with such low odds. If we focus on the top 5 for the group, it has equal or better odds only after picking all the top 10 QBs, top 20 RBs, and top 20 WRs. So fifty total players went before even considering a chance at a slightly higher opportunity than one of the other skill positions. And I still prefer trying to identify the relevant guys for other positions with more ease than tight ends.


Step 2: Will they have NFL fantasy relevance?

The second component I want to look at was how much of a fantasy impact they had once they got to the NFL with good draft capital. My threshold was top 16 for QBs and TEs and top 24 for RBs and WRs for being a hit. That is not a high mark for some but further shows the difficulty when looking at a freshman and projecting out three to five years ahead. Remember this includes the 2017 and 2018 classes so some numbers could go up as we see the new rookies and young NFL players develop further.

Now we must remember for EACH POSITION, that is 90 players total for top 10, 180 for top 20, 270 guys for top 30, 450 players for top 50. Running backs outpaces the other positions so if you select a running back getting draft capital, you looking good. Tight Ends came in second barely, but good luck picking the correct 10 out of the 90 for just the top 10 section. If you do, roughly half of those ten are relevant if you are okay with the top 16 standards. For the top group of quarterbacks and receivers, 5 QBs are coming out last year or this year, and the same number for receivers. That means those numbers could go up for each in the next few seasons if they develop. For the top 50, the numbers would be 7 QBs and 15 WRs to keep in mind could still hit. Overall this chart helps give a layout of how successful our guys can be once they enter the NFL draft or bring awareness to the risk too in case you get an offer you feel makes your team better by flipping any player in a trade while they sit on your devy squad or enter as rookies. Maybe it helps show the risk and potential upside to flipping a Caleb Williams or Quin Ewers for a haul with that hit rate in the future.


Closing Thoughts:

With supplemental devy drafts and freshmen, I recommend focusing on running backs early that meet my criteria from my devy RBs article. Depending on the receiver, I even understand that direction. Once the top of each of those groups starts to thin down, selecting a possible top 10 quarterback at a Power 5 school should still be an option if you need one in the pipeline. As for tight ends, leave the freshmen alone and only go after the guys like Mayer, Bowers, or Wydermyer in the draft after we see some production in tight end premium leagues. Any other tight ends leave for those that make it to the NFL and are available as rookies since most still take more time to develop.