Jaylen Warren is a Sleeping Giant

Jaylen Warren is a Sleeping Giant


It's February. And we're drafting. As you would expect from those hardcore enough to draft before the Combine... the current best ball market is highly focused on breakout bets and talent-based upside swings.

While the landscape definitely feels different from where we left off in September, this dynamic is pretty typical of early offseason drafts. Even if you generally prefer to draft with an opportunity-based mindset, that's pretty difficult to achieve in the period before free agency, the draft, and the launch of most projection-driven rankings.

And this isn't a criticism of the current market. Sure, I think there are some small-hit veteran types who are so underpriced that they're clear targets. But these tend to be players I wouldn't be especially interested in if they were slightly more expensive. Like everyone else, I'd prefer to draft exciting breakout candidates. But it's a tough time to hunt for underpriced ascending talents.

The Big Board's Youth Movement

This year's early drafters are really leaning into youth and upside.

The Big Board's top two rounds include three fourth-year players, three third-year players, five second-year players, and one rookie.

Literally half of the top 24 picks will be playing 2024 on standard rookie contracts... not including CeeDee Lamb or Brandon Aiyuk, currently set to play on 5th-year options.

The youth chasing goes on like this well beyond the top 24.

I've been reduced to touting Christian Kirk.

A Rare Blind Spot

Veterans with projectable roles will eventually get more expensive, opening up better prices on breakout bets for the upside inclined.

But even as more casual fantasy players begin to mix into draft rooms, the market will continue to price up ascending young talent.

Maybe De'Von Achane's uncertain touch projection dings his ADP by late August. But his electric 2023 play will still have rocketed him up boards... even if he ultimately lands in the third round instead of the second.

But occasionally, even talent-conscious early drafters will overlook Achane's archetype—a running back who is flashing high-end talent but lacks an obvious path to a high-end workload.

This is fairly rational. RB production is highly dependent on opportunity. Therefore, an RB without an obvious path to a high-end workload is risky and harder to dream on as a week-in-week-out fantasy star.

But the market can overthink these spots.

If there's a backfield with two fantasy options in the single-digit rounds... our default preference should be the more talented player. And this is especially true when the more talented player is cheaper.

And the more confident we feel about the gap in talent, the more aggressively we should exploit these opportunities... because they don't come around that often.

Jaylen Warren's Early Flashes

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