It’s that time of year again when your coworker’s brother-in-law needs to fill the last spot in his fantasy football league and you have to decide if you’re in or out. Not only do you have your solid league with all your good buddies, but you also have your secondary league with your so-so acquaintances. As if having two to three or maybe even four leagues wasn’t satisfactory to scratch your fantasy itch, you’re even dorky enough to practice your mock drafts so you’re ready for draft day. A pretend draft for your pretend league. Let that sink in. I performed 12 mock drafts from each draft position 1-12 and here are some of my findings.
Practice Makes Perfect; Make the Most Out of Your Mock Drafts
First, these mocks were performed on Yahoo! and they email you the results for future reference. Also, these were 15-player drafts with positions consisting of (1) Quarterback, (2) Running Backs, (3) Wide Receivers, (1) Tight End, (1) Kicker, (1) Team Defense and (6) Bench Players. Also worthy to note most mock draft participants lose interest about half way through and go to default picks. The default settings want to fill in Kicker and Team Defense immediately, so keep that in mind.
You’ll find below I’ve done a breakdown of each pick in the first round, the second round pick that followed, a good value pick, a reach, and the grade according to Yahoo. Also, the picks are presented by player, position, team, and high/low (meaning how the player went out of the 12 drafts and how low).
1st Overall: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
If you have either of the first two picks, worry not my friend because there are two slam dunks atop the draft board. There would be three if Ezekiel Elliott had not been suspended (more on him later). I like Le’Veon Bell over David Johnson based on experience ( the fifth year for Bell versus third for Johnson). Bell has not yet reported to camp, but it has been reported that the team expects him to do so before the season opener. Also, concern over the Cardinals offensive production may be at issue. Carson Palmer is 37-years old and Larry Fitzgerald is 33. Arizona’s window of contending for the division may be closing.
2nd Round: Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
The last pick of the second round of the standard snake draft so you’ve got to make it count. Going running back in the first round, I always try to go receiver in the second to keep my team balanced. Amari Cooper hauled in 83 passes for 1,153 yards and five scores a season ago. The ceiling could not be higher for the third-year pro. Coupled with emerging rock star quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders are favorites to win the division.
Reach: Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints, 6th Round
Value: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders, 10th Round
Naturally, I paired my top pass catcher with his quarterback. I’m not big on taking quarterbacks early and getting Carr (28 TDs/6 INTs in 2016) in the 10th could be a huge steal.
Yahoo! Grade: B. Off to a solid start.
2nd Overall: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
If you’re in a point per reception league, then I would flip-flop the first two picks here. Johnson proved to be a terrific safety net for Palmer as he caught 80 passes and scored four touchdowns. Not to mention the 16 times he took it to pay dirt on the ground. The more I look at his stats from last year, the more I like him. Hard to go wrong with Johnson or Bell at picks one and two.
2nd Round: Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
You know why.
Reach: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams, 3rd Round
Todd Gurley was a hands-down first round pick a season ago after his Rookie of the Year effort in 2015. He then proceeded to put up a dud of all duds type season in 2016. Just 885 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. It wasn’t all his fault as the Rams touted the worst offense in the NFL last season. Much of Gurley’s success or failure will fall on second-year quarterback Jared Goff‘s development. Opposing defenses will stack the box to stop Gurley and force Goff to demonstrate he can throw the ball downfield consistently.
Value: Paul Perkins, RB, New York Giants, 9th Round
Paul Perkins is expected to get the majority of the carries at least early on for the G-Men. Hard to argue with running back volume as you fill out the rest of your roster.
Yahoo! Grade: A+. Now we’re cooking with peanut oil! Easy to do with early picks, but you know it’s not going to last.
3rd Overall: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown is money in the bank and one could argue taking Brown number one overall in PPR leagues. He has four consecutive seasons with over 100 receptions and has three straight years with double-digit touchdown grabs. If you have the chance to take Brown at any point, draft confidently!
2nd Round: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns
Ouch! I think this could serve as my reach pick as well. Isaiah Crowell is entering his fourth season and is just 24. He should get the bulk of the carries for a Cleveland offense that is bound to improve. I got caught up in the hype of Crowell being touted on ESPN’s fantasy football marathon. Lamar Miller and Christian McCaffrey went shortly after this pick and may be better suited at this spot. I did follow this pick with Marshawn Lynch in the third round for depth at running back, but I think I’d like to use my breakfast ball here.
Reach: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns, 2nd Round
See Crowell above.
Value: Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings, 12th Round
Even after signing a 3 year/$15 million deal, Latavius Murray is currently trailing rookie Dalvin Cook on the depth chart. That being said, camp isn’t over yet and there’s still a chance Murray could get the nod to start the season. Or maybe Cook hits a few growing pains and the Vikings look to an experienced veteran for comfort. Murray is no slouch either after scoring 12 touchdowns last season and in the 12th round why not roll the dice.
Yahoo! grade: D+. Had to see that one coming.
4th Overall LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
I certainly forgave LeSean McCoy after I took him first overall in his last season in Philadelphia in 2014. Just five touchdowns that year and I made a prompt exit from the playoffs. Shady has found new life in Buffalo and is coming off a 1,267-yard campaign with 13 trips to the end zone. He also caught 50 passes, but just one for a score. I tend to value running backs over wide receivers in the first round based on availability.
2nd Round: Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots
Cooks has hovered in the 80 reception range and has nine and eight touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. Cooks also gives Tom Brady his first true deep threat since the Randy Moss days. However, Brady has a number of mouths to feed with Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman among others, so it will be interesting to see how many targets Cooks will see.
Reach: Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 13th Round
Yikes! Did you see Blake Bortles in that preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Bortles is not worth drafting, even as a late round backup. According to Head Coach Doug Marrone, the job is open for competition with backup Chad Henne now getting some consideration. Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin better start kicking the tires on Colin Kaepernick.
Value: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers, 4th Round
I think this guy can be really special and not just as a passing-down back. He ran between the tackles in Stanford’s pro-style offense and has seemed to bulk up in the off-season. McCaffrey will also be a major asset in PPR leagues with his pass-catching ability out of the backfield and I could even see him being lined up in the slot as well. It remains to be seen how often Carolina will rely on Jonathan Stewart as a starter and in goal line situations to vulture touchdowns.
Yahoo! grade: D+. A little low I think, but that’s why they play the games right?
5th Overall: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. has had 90-plus catches and double-digit touchdown totals in each of his first three seasons. He should go down as one of the all-time greats at the position. Either with a Beckham, Brown or Julio Jones pick in the middle of the first round, you’ve done well.
2nd round: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Fournette was a king among men at LSU and has immediately forced his way to the top of Jags depth chart. As always with rookies, we don’t know how good (or bad) he might be yet. With the recent struggles at the quarterbacking position, maybe you could wait on Fournette for another round.
Reach: Adrian Peterson, RB, New Orleans Saints, 6th Round
Coming off a serious injury last season and with a new team, Adrian Peterson is big time boom or bust. It will be curious to see how the Saints plan to use the 32-year old back and the rotation between Peterson and incumbent starter Mark Ingram.
Value: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, 13th Round
Not bad for a late round backup signal caller. Carson Wentz, in just his second season, could challenge just about any mid-range starter in my opinion and work his way into your regular starting lineup.
Yahoo Draft Grade: D. Middle round picks are tough to please the default projections. Press on!
6th Overall: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Jones had 136(!) catches for 1,871 yards in 2015 so he was bound to come down off that mark in 2016. Yet it was still a solid effort last year with 83 grabs for just over 1,400 yards and 6 TDs. Jones easily remains Matt Ryan‘s most viable pass-catching option and should see loads of targets this season.
2nd round: DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
DeMarco Murray brought his career from off the mat after a poor showing in Philly in 2015. Last year’s 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns are plenty of production and he also added 53 receptions and three more TDs through the air. Not sure how ready Derrick Henry is to make a real dent in Murray’s volume.
Reach: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers, 4th Round
Keenan Allen‘s most receptions (77 in 2014) and touchdowns (8 in 2013) are three and four years removed from the current season. He’s coming off a season-ending knee injury and now has to compete with tight end Hunter Henry for red zone targets. He has yet to show he can be a consistent number one receiver and the drafting of Mike Williams out of Clemson is indicative of that as well.
Value: Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers, 5th round
Martavis Bryant has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two seasons with 14 total touchdowns, including two of 94 and 88 yards. He has been listed as the starter opposite Brown, despite missing all of last season due to suspension.
Yahoo! grade: C+. That’s better.
7th Overall Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Devonta Freeman has posted 1,000 yard rushing seasons the last two years and has also proven to be a weapon catching the football as well. He caught 73 passes in 2015 and followed that up with 54 more last season. Freeman also has to prove that he is worth the five-year, $41.25 million extension he signed in August. The drawback with Freeman is he has a very capable secondary back behind him in Tevin Coleman, who figures to take a chunk of Freeman’s fantasy production. Additionally, Freeman is in the NFL’s concussion protocol making him a risky pick in the opening round.
2nd round: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant‘s fantasy value has dropped immensely and his average draft position represents that. During his best years (2012-2014), he hovered around the 90 catch, 1,300-yard marks. However, injury problems paced him the past two seasons to just a total 81 receptions for 1,197 yards. For me, he’s the best receiver on a top five NFL offense last season. As long as he’s healthy, Bryant can still be a force.
Reach: Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins, 5th Round
There is no doubting Jordan Reed‘s athleticism and capabilities as a player in the league. His best season in 2015 he grabbed 87 passes, 11 for touchdowns. His injury history, however, is a mile long. In 2015 he battled a concussion, a sprained MCL, and a balky hamstring. Last year another concussion and a dislocated shoulder. He’s presently on the Physically Unable to Perform list with an injured foot (toe) but is expected to suit up Week 1.
Value: John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals, 10th Round
John Brown is a burner and was poised for a breakout year in 2016 after hauling in 65 catches for just over 1,000 yards and seven scores. He was slowed down last season with a complication with the sickle-cell trait that he carries and a cyst on his back. Presently he’s missed practice time with a bum quadriceps injury. If healthy by the start of the season, I can see Brown putting pressure on Larry Fitzgerald as the number one target in the desert.
Yahoo! grade: D+. Apparently Yahoo! disagrees.
8th Overall: Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you’ve watched any part of this season’s Hard Knocks (of course you have), you have to be excited about what’s going on in Tampa. Mike Evans has improved his reception and yardage numbers in each of his first three seasons. With the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard on offense I think it opens things up even more for Evans as opposing defenses won’t be able to double team him as much.
2nd round: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
We talked about him earlier.
Reach: Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers, 3rd Round
Maybe I’m too optimistic that the changes at Head Coach with Shanahan and General Manager with John Lynch will have an immediate impact on the team’s fortune. Still, on the league’s second-worst offense last season, Carlos Hyde tallied a respectable 988 yards on the ground with six touchdowns. After a 2-win season, the Niners have nowhere to go but up and Hyde still has to prove that he can be an every-down back in the NFL.
Value: Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans 12th Round
We have yet to see Corey Davis yet in the preseason as he’s been hampered with a nagging hamstring injury. However, a chance to take the first receiver taken in last year’s NFL draft in the 12th round? Done.
Yahoo! grade: B. Getting back to form.
9th Overall: Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
After an awful rookie season, Melvin Gordon had a bounce back year in 2016. He rushed for just under 1,000 yards and crossed the goal line 10 times. He doesn’t have much competition behind him in the backfield so I expect Gordon’s volume of carries and targets to be high.
2nd round: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Still like Dez here.
Reach: Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots, 5th Round
Pretty tough “reaching” for a guy who caught the ball 98 times last year, but he did only have three scores. Compare that to 2015 when he totaled just 61 grabs for 692 yards but got in the end zone seven times. Still need to know how Cooks, a healthy Gronk, and a myriad of pass-catching backs will figure into the Pats offense. Which Julian Edelman do we see in 2017?
Value: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers 10th Round
If you like Brown, Bryant, and Bell, you’ve got to like Ben Roethlisberger. Somebody’s got to feed those guys the pig.
Yahoo! grade: B+. Very nice.
10th Overall: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Just 66 catches and 964 yards in an injury shortened 2016, I expect A.J. Green to bounce back this season. Green is arguably a top five receiver in the NFL and offers huge value late in the first round.
2nd round: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott would be a top three pick in fantasy drafts this season had it not been for the six-game suspension. The circumstances surrounding the suspension are a topic for another article. Keep tabs on Elliott’s appeal as I think there’s a good chance his suspension gets reduced to four or maybe even three games. If you’re picking at the end of the first round, you have to be bold. Make sure to back it up with Elliott’s handcuff Darren McFadden to fill in while you wait for Elliott’s return.
Reach: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Philadelphia Eagles 6th Round
LeGarrette Blount has mostly been a touchdown-dependent back for his career for fantasy purposes. He scored 18 times last year, which is ridiculous. His previous touchdown high for a season was seven in 2013. Cracking double-digits again now with a new team will prove to be a difficult task. Also, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood will chip away at Blount’s volume.
Value: Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington Redskins, 3rd Round
The former quarterback turned receiver was a breakout star with Cleveland last season and a shrewd waiver-wire pickup in your fantasy league last year. Terrelle Pryor hauled in 77 passes for over a thousand yards and four touchdowns. Now imagine what he might do with Kirk Cousins firing him the rock instead of Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin III or Josh McCown.
Yahoo! grade: B-. Respectable.
11th Overall: Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
Jay Ajayi sneaked up on us last season after losing the starting job to Arian Foster. After Foster proved ineffective and suddenly retired, Ajayi took advantage. With just 12 starts, Ajayi still tallied 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns. Assuming good health, think about what Ajayi can do with 16 starts.
2nd round: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
This guy could put himself in the conversation about who the top pass catchers in the league are with a successful 2017 campaign. Michael Thomas had 92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine scores. No more Cooks to worry about and he still has Drew Brees getting him the ball.
Reach: Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers, 3rd Round
The former wide out turned ball carrier rushed for just 457 yards last season and 3 TDs. Pretty small sample size so far, but the Packers were confident enough in Ty Montgomery to let Eddie Lacy walk.
Value pick: Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts, 10th round
Getting a potential every week starter this late in the draft is big. Doyle put up 59 receptions, 584 yards, and five TDs, which are formidable numbers from the tight end spot. Should Andrew Luck return to good health, I could see his relationship with Doyle growing this season.
Yahoo! grade: B+.
12th Overall: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
With the last pick of the first round you’ve got to do something big and I think this is a good spot to gamble.
2nd round: Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
Usually, I would go RB-WR or WR-RB, but with Elliott missing playing time, I wanted to back it up with another quality RB1.
Reach: Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, 5th Round
Spencer Ware was a breath of fresh air for the Chiefs (and fantasy owners) with Jamaal Charles missing practically the whole season in 2016. Ware really slowed down late in games and as the season went on though. The Chiefs are also very excited about rookie Kareem Hunt and Hunt could take over the starting role from Ware at some point this season.
Value: DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8th Round
His best season came in his last year with Philadelphia (82 rec, 1,332 yards, 9 TDs) in 2013, but he never regained that form in three seasons in Washington. Jackson now has a fresh start and has to prove he was worth the three-year $35 million the Bucs shelled out to bring him in. Jameis Winston now has a real deep threat to take the lid off opposing defenses.
Yahoo! grade: A+. Going out on a high note.
As you can see, not every mock draft is perfect. I certainly made a fair share of mistakes, but now I have that knowledge to take into the real deal. Do a mock or two and get a feel for what players you want to target and where. Good luck this season and happy mocking!