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Structural Drafting: Kalen Ballage is a Cheat Code

Rookie drafts are a key area to acquire RB depth in dynasty.  One of the findings as I go along writing The Analytics of Dynasty is finding clear target areas for players. For example, round 1 NFL QBs and day 2 NFL TEs in round 3 of rookie drafts are great ways to fill in players while fading the start one positions in startup drafts.

Another area is RB. RB should be clear targets in the first two rounds of rookie drafts outside a select few WRs.

This year, my rookie draft plan after the top 8 RBs (including RoJo), was Christian Kirk, Courtland Sutton, James Washington, and then Kalen Ballage. Ballage is a player to sit dead red on in the middle of the second round because of the athletic upside and receiving ability in a 228-pound frame.

In chatting with a book purchaser earlier this week, I noticed a historic trend. The historical hit rate of producing a starter  (top 24 finish) for RBs in the second round of rookie drafts is 35%.

Since 2013, there have been 10 RBs who weigh 215 pounds or more, drafted in rookie drafts between picks 13 and 24 in rookie drafts: Terrance West, Jeremy Hill, Zac Stacy, Christine Michael, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, David Johnson, David Cobb, Andre Williams and D’Onta Foreman.

Of those 10, 6 produced top 24 seasons, West, Hill, Stacy, Ajayi, Howard and Johnson. Cobb and Williams were athletic duds, Foreman is only in his second year, while Christine Michael rose to a sixth-round startup pick in 2014, a clear value upgrade over his rookie valuation.

This 60% hit is significantly better than the market, and if you exclude poor athletes in Williams and Cobb, your 75% top 24 rate is double the market success rate.

The upside is good as 5 of the RBs produced top 12 seasons, while David Johnson was a league winner in 2016.

That is a good success rate at any point in the draft, but especially so in the second round of rookie drafts.

Much of the narrative around dynasty drafts is focused on debating which two players to pick at a given spot in the draft. This approach is like a general drawing a battle plan: the general can make the best tactical plan imaginable, but if he is fighting the battle in Russia in the winter, he is going to lose the war.

Instead of debating specific players, take a step back, identify a strong strategy, and ask yourself which players best reflect that strategy.

This year Kalen Ballage is a later second-round draft pick, who fits the criteria of this highly successful type of players. At nearly all points of rookie drafts RBs are better bets than WRs, and with the historic success rates in the range, Kalen Ballage reflects a strong strategic approach in the second round of rookie drafts.


Pre-order The Analtyics of Dynasty before September 1st and you will get a one-on-one strategy session including an advance preview of the strategy and tips from the book.

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