The first ten rounds are the most critical portion of a Campus2Canton draft. After the first four or five rounds, we’re out of the true devy range and into the part of the draft where strategy matters. Generally speaking, drafters have three different approaches, each we’ll detail below with what I identify as the optimal approach through the first 10-15 rounds.

Tweeners

First, they can elect to walk the rope of a potential NFL draft pick that produces in college. This strategy is more commonly deployed in drafts, evidenced by C2C ADP that still includes Jacob Cowing, Lew Nicholls III, Tavion Thomas, Frank Gore Jr., Dontayvion Wicks, and A.T. Perry in the next few rounds. The “bet” that an individual drafter is making at this juncture is that these players will produce high-end fantasy seasons on the college side. Despite questions about their profile, they may perform well enough to be drafted and continue some NFL production.

Top 36 Player by Position Based on C2C Draft Round

Based on the data above, we’re poor at projecting college fantasy production in general. For example, using 2021 C2C ADP, only 15 of the top 36 quarterbacks  (42%) went after Round 30 last season. There is clearly value late in drafts, and trying to project fantasy production is complex when using ADP as a proxy. For running backs, only 16 of 36 were after Round 16 (44%), with the majority being drafted before round 10. Receivers profile similarly to quarterbacks with 20 going after Round 16 (56%). The overlap between devy and college fantasy is significant for each category. The high-end devy assets produce well in school, but the CFF only assets are harder to predict.

This strategy isn’t “crazy” insofar that targeting high-end producers is a good thing. The more significant concern is that they are a poor value at their respective draft slot. Hundreds of picks later, similar production can be had for the most part, yet drafters think they can game the system by straddling the line between NFL and C2C production, largely failing to do so. I’ve dubbed this the “tweener” strategy, likely a good CFF producer but ultimately a player that drafters will regret picking considering other options on the board.

“Rick Astley”

The second strategy, which remains the most popular one, is the “Rick Astley” strategy, mostly because drafters approach these rounds thinking, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” These players have yet to prove their worth in an extended stretch. Yet they continue to be drafted highly for no other reason than either recruiting profile or a small glimpse of the production. In my opinion, this is the worst strategy to take because what it essentially boils down to is take-lock on a prospect. Rounds five through ten are littered with these players. For example, Jalen McMillan, MarShawn Lloyd, Jalen Beger, Julian Fleming, and Kamarro Edmonds all go in this range. These are players with great recruiting profiles or, at one point, were thought of as the next big thing due to a short stretch of above-average play.

The pitfall of this strategy is that, unlike the “tweener” selections, these players are low upside collegiate producers who have also done little to show they should have devy value. While there’s still a chance (I mean, there’s always a chance…right?) that these players produce at some point, the odds are low, and ultimately, I would consider these wasted picks.

Draft for Upside

The third approach, which I’ve adopted as the gold standard, is shooting for the moon and drafting upside. The expected value of this pick changes drastically depending on which of the routes you go but viewing these rounds through the frame of upside. You’ll be happy more often than not. As a format, Campus2Canton is relatively new, which means there isn’t formalized strategy widely adopted in the industry, meaning that very few people are approaching drafts in this way. This independently sets you apart from league mates. Still, it also ensures that the players you target in drafts are more likely to be there, changing your calculus away from needing to abide by ADP to being able to take calculated risks, ensuring your “guys” will make it back to you.

Quantifying upside is difficult, but it can be categorized into specific buckets. The first approach is players who haven’t had the opportunity to prove themselves in college but have four or five-star profiles. Generally, these are true freshmen who are yet to step onto a college football field. They’re mystery box players, except they represent the likeliest hit rates in these cases. By position, here are how 5-star players get drafted day one or two at their respective positions over the last decade and the last five years, respectively:

NFL Draft Rate (R1-R3) for 5-Star Players

Position

Last 10 YearsLast 5 Years

Quarterback

42.9%

60%

Running Back

25.9%

43.4%

Wide Receiver

35.0%

36.4%

Tight End20% 50%

It’s important to underscore how dramatic the draft rate for 5-stars is. Before stepping on the field, the historical odds give the average 5-star QB a 60% chance of being drafted R1-3 and a 50% chance of being drafted R1. Over the last five seasons, scouting has improved dramatically, raising QB hit rates 18% in that time frame. This year there are four quarterbacks in this bucket (and their ADP): Drew Allar (24.3), Cade Klubnik (63.7), Conner Weigman (117), and Ty Simpson (127). They are priority targets while deploying the upside strategy.

Outside of quarterback, there is only one 5-star running back, Penn State’s Nicholas Singleton, being drafted in round two of C2C leagues. For receiver, there are three five-stars (ADP) Luther Burden (46), Evan Stewart (63), and Chris Marshall (177). Burden and Stewart are underrated given the 36.4% draft rate but still within the first six rounds. However, Chris Marshall is currently going as WR72, making him the single best value in all C2C.

The takeaway here is simple—draft 5-stars before trying to pivot elsewhere. The hit rates over time at respective positions make them safe in value retention and provide ample opportunity to be drafted in the league. Even high four-stars make a difference as the average top 300 receivers are still being drafted close to a 30% rate, similar to the average running back in the same top 300 rankings.

Value Retention

A key piece of drafting for upside is year over year value retention. This matters in C2C leagues because the hit rate is already incredibly low. A player maintaining or increasing value is far from the worst-case scenario. This is also the draft area where value retention comes into play. As I discussed in the Pro-QB Strategy article, rounds five through eight where we should be drafting young quarterbacks who might sit a year to develop. Still, because they were high-end recruits who haven’t shown anything one way or another, they typically don’t lose value. The chart below shows the hit rate using 2021 C2C ADP, defined as maintaining value or hitting for production.

Other positions struggle more at this, especially running back, where the hit rate in the same rounds is under 30%, compared to 67% among quarterbacks. Last year, 33 quarterbacks were selected in the first 12 rounds. Seven of the seventeen who “hit” increased their value – all freshmen. Despite the popularized zero QB strategy, the data supports high-upside freshmen in the draft’s middle rounds.

Conclusion

Navigating the middle of C2C drafts can be difficult without much data or strategy around this new format. Targetting upside, given the risk associated with other strategies, leaves drafters in a good situation for the season.

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