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Monday, June 16, 2014

Creepers and Busts: Don't throw away your late round picks!

At first glance, draft picks selected beyond the 3rd round or so appear to be serviceable backups at best. It might be tempting to throw these picks away in a trade, or cut any players selected during the later rounds because they don't look like they'll be any kind of an impact with your team. With this post I hope to give you a few tools to find possible gems in these later rounds so that you can get more value out of them.

When you look at a player's attributes, you will see their current and future values.  The future values are not static, in fact they can vary considerably, until the current value catches up to it.  The further away the future value is from the current value, the less certain a player's future value is. So when you draft a player with a rating of 30/90, they most likely will not arrive at 90/90 in the peak of their career. This is no where near certain, however; built into each player is an average rate at which their future value will adjust.  For most, this value is very small, for others, this value may be very large in either direction.

The early round picks will obviously go to players with a high future value.  You're hedging your bets well by doing that, and while it's still possible that a first round player will completely bust, you're doing well to minimize the effects of that bust by giving him further to fall before his current value catches his future value. Later round picks are always cheaper, and as such are a much lower risk if they bust - many don't even have a signing bonus that you'll have to deal with if you end up cutting them. But if you don't pay attention, you may end up cutting a player that could boom into a great player.

Here's the strategy I use to decide what to do with my late round picks. First, unless I just have too many players on my roster, I bring everyone into training camp (you can bring up to 60 players into camp). The training camp stage is a very important stage to reveal how your new rookies will end up looking. After training camp, I go into each of my rookies pages and select the "Progress" tab. There, I look at the red bar and see what it did. If there was a significant jump, the odds are in your favor that this player will boom - I'll put a note on his page (select the "Notes" tab to write notes about any player) and will make a point to keep him around and see what happens. If the red bar has a sharp decline, then he's probably going to bust out - unless he's an early pick, he'll probably be a roster casualty.

This isn't a sure thing, because it is possible for a rookie to have a great camp but still have a downward trend. Over time, you'll be able to monitor his progress and see whether he maintains that upward trend. If he does, you may have just gotten a steal in a late round pick.

Here is an example of a player that I selected in MFN-2 in the 6th round. He landed to me at 33/46. At first glance, this rating wouldn't even be considered for the final roster. It was a simple "best player available" pick, nothing more. After training camp, his rating was 37/49. Not a huge jump, but enough of a positive movement that I decided to keep him around and see what happened over the season. By the end of the season he was rated 42/54.  At the end of his second season, his rating was 55/61 - clearly, his future rating is growing almost as fast as his current rating. At the time of this blog post (the end of his third season), he is at 59/66. Already he's 10 points higher than his predicted max when I drafted him - not bad for a 6th round pick - and it appears that he will continue to improve, because he gap between his current and future values hasn't hardly reduced at all. If you want to look at his page for yourself, here it is.

Is this typical? No, it's not. Most late round picks will be just what you thought they were. But even if your 6th or 7th round pick grows into the 60's and stops, you could have someone that could be in the second position in your depth chart if not a lower-value starter. And the more of these picks you have, the greater your chance of finding a hidden gem. So before you cut those low-rated rookies, check out their trending - you may just have a diamond in the rough.