It seems hard to believe, but the regular season opener between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos is just two weeks away. With week one fast approaching, drafts are scheduled and owners are scrambling as they put the finishing touches on their strategy. One of the best tools to see how your drafting strategy plays out are mock drafts. Not only do mock drafts give owners a sense of how all players are being drafted, but they also force you to make adjustments on the fly which is something extremely important when putting together your roster. FantasyPros has a fantastic mock draft simulator that allows you to draft against A.I. which cuts out people auto-drafting from the beginning and saves you an immense amount of time.
Here, I will be looking at the best and worst values in each of the first eight rounds according to average draft position (ADP) information taken from FantasyPros, as their ADP consensus rankings pull from eight sources. I will be trying to highlight one player that is being overlooked in each round along with one player who may be going a few picks or even rounds too soon. Our hypothetical draft will feature 12 teams and standard scoring. So without further ado…
Too Low: A.J. Green – WR – ADP: 11.6 (WR5)
A few years ago, any receiver who averaged 83 receptions, 1,234 yards, and 9 touchdowns over the past five seasons would be a pretty safe bet for the top WR spot. Well, not anymore. Green is the fifth wideout coming off of draft boards this year, falling around the end of the first round and even the early second.
While the top three receivers this year are pretty set, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones respectively, I would happily take Green over fellow first-rounders Deandre Hopkins, Ezekiel Elliot, and Adrian Peterson. Tyler Eifert’s progression from offseason ankle surgery and the departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu only add to Green’s fantasy stock. Right now, I would be comfortable taking Green with the sixth pick in the first round.
Too High: Ezekiel Elliot – RB – ADP: 7.6 (RB4)
I get the hype, I really do. The system is there, plus he averaged seven yards per carry with 43 touchdowns along with 58 receptions while at Ohio State. A staff note from FantasyPros even says Elliot could have the greatest rookie season of all time, but that’s a big “could”. I would love to draft Elliot, just not at the expense of a mid-first round pick.
Deandre Hopkins, Rob Gronkowski, and A.J. Green are all being taken after Elliot in drafts and to be completely honest I would prefer both Gronkowski and Green over Elliot. Running back is an extremely volatile position in the modern NFL, both at the expense of injuries and simple wear and tear. Despite Elliot just being 21, I would like to see how he holds up across the course of an entire season before I spend my first pick on him. I am a full believer in the upside here, just simply at the end of the first round rather than the middle of it.
Too Low: Alshon Jeffery – WR – ADP 23.3 (WR10)
Jeffery will be entering his fifth season in the NFL. However, he’s only played more than 10 games in a season twice. Both of those years he played in all 16 games, averaging 87 receptions, 1,277 yards, and 8.5 touchdowns. At just 26-years-old, I still don’t believe we have seen the best from Chicago’s number one wideout. When he was healthy last season, he handled about 33 percent of the Bears’ targets while finishing third in end zone targets across the entire NFL. Jeffery now carries the injury-risk tag, but if he can stay healthy he’s almost guaranteed to be a top-ten WR while possessing top-five upside.
I would be comfortable passing on Eddie Lacy, Doug Martin, and Cam Newton to take Jeffery in the middle of the second round. Despite his soft-tissue injury history, I’m willing to roll the dice on Jeffery’s upside.
Too High: Cam Newton – QB – ADP 20.0 (QB1)
Newton had a legendary fantasy season last year, throwing for 35 touchdowns while rushing for 10. He finished as fantasy’s top scorer on ESPN, and for good reason as he transformed his game. This year Newton will get Travis Benjamin back, and Devin Fuchness is expected to take another step forward. With all of that being said, the second round is just too soon to take a QB. I understand Newton was the best overall fantasy player last season, but those numbers will be extremely hard to top with his rushing touchdowns expected to regress this season. Newton is still the best fantasy QB option out there, I would just be taking him in the third round at the earliest.
Too Low: Demaryius Thomas – WR – ADP 32.9 (WR16)
How is Thomas making it to the middle of the third round? I really don’t understand it. Last season Thomas managed to post 105 receptions with 1,304 yards and six touchdowns, all while having a fairly awful Peyton Manning as his quarterback for nine weeks. While the current QB situation in Denver is shaky to say the least, Thomas should receive a pretty large chunk of the targets along with teammate Emmanuel Sanders. To put everything in perspective, last season was Thomas’ worst fantasy year since 2011, and he still finished 13th among receivers on ESPN. I tend to lean on players who carry high-floors, Thomas being one of them. I completely expect him to put up 1,300 yards for the fifth straight season which carries with it upper-tier WR2 value.
Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, and Sammy Watkins are being drafted higher than Thomas right now purely based on projections, and I think that’s a mistake.
Too High: Amari Cooper – WR – ADP 26.9 (WR13)
The second-year wideout does have a lot going for him this season, growing a year older with the Oakland offense and his quarterback Derek Carr. Let’s not forget just how volatile Cooper’s rookie campaign was. He got off to a ridiculous start, posting four double-digit scoring weeks in his first six, before dealing with a foot injury that caused him to fall off late. Overall, he finished with nine games under seven fantasy points according to FantasyPros. While Cooper is expected to make another leap this season, both him and Carr are still very young players. I think we’re just one year away from a true Cooper breakout, as third year receivers seem to put together special seasons.
Despite Cooper’s upside, I rank Demaryius Thomas, Brandin Cooks, and Sammy Watkins above him respectively. If he’s there middle to the end of the third round, snag him. Personally, I would be aggressive with LeSean McCoy and Keenan Allen at the start of the round.
Too Low: Latavius Murray – RB – ADP 40.4 (RB17)
Murray served at Oakland’s workhouse last season, and while his numbers weren’t particularly great, 1,066 yards while averaging four per carry and rushing for six touchdowns – he showed what staying healthy for 16 games does. The pure volume of carries going Murray’s way plus a strong offensive line make him one of the most undervalued players in all fantasy drafts right now. I mean, how often can you grab the NFL’s sixth leading rusher from last season as the 17th running back off the board? While Murray isn’t the flashiest of players being drafted, he is just 26-years old and is certainly a serviceable RB2 which seems to be harder and harder to find as the season continues.
I have actually been taking Murray late in the third round over other backs such as C.J. Anderson, Thomas Rawls, and Matt Forte. Mainly because his touchdown rate should increase with an improving offense around him. The hate on Murray has gone too far; don’t forget about him.
Too High: Julian Edelman – WR – ADP 41.4 (WR18)
Which of these players sounds more enticing to you, a 25-year old athletic freak by the name of Kelvin Benjamin coming off an ACL injury but slotting in as the WR1 in an already stacked Carolina offense, or a 30-year old product of New England’s system that has only played a single full season in his career by the name of Julian Edelman?
Now Edelman is the clear-cut WR1 for the Patriots, but I just can’t take him with Randall Cobb, Benjamin, and Jarvis Landry (who all being taken after Edelman according to ADP) still on the board. I’m willing to pass on Edelman this year, as he has never put together a 150 point season in his career and isn’t exactly expected to at his age 30 season. With all of that said, Edelman is an early fifth round pick at best in my opinion as the options around him offer so much more.
Too Low: Eric Decker – WR – ADP 51.7 (WR24)
Decker has been one of the most consistent fantasy performers over the past four seasons, posting three top-ten WR finishes. On top of that, he was one of the most consistent performers last season, posting at least nine points every week he played. I don’t know what you think, but that’s fantastic coming from someone who is going in the fifth round of drafts. He was targeted 20 times in the end zone last season, good for third in the NFL, while catching 12 touchdowns.
It will be tough for Decker to repeat this year, but the fact that he has the ability to justifies taking him late in the fourth or with the first couple picks in the fifth. I would be more comfortable taking Decker over Edelman (WR18) and Doug Baldwin (WR 22).
Too High: Travis Kelce – TE – ADP 59.3 (TE4)
Remember when Kansas City had this guy with Gronk-like upside? It seems like a long time ago now that Kelce has ranked 11th among tight ends in receptions, yards, and touchdowns for the second consecutive season. On top of that, the Chiefs run the ball the second most amongst other teams in the red zone which severely cuts down on his touchdown opportunities. With fewer touchdown chances going Kelce’s way, his ceiling is limited.
There are plenty of other TE options going later in drafts such as Coby Fleener (ADP 73) and Tyler Eifert (ADP 74) who provide much more upside than Kelce. The floor is just too low and the ceiling isn’t all that impressive. You can go ahead and pass on Kelce in the fifth round.
Too Low: Tom Brady – QB – ADP 66.7 (QB8)
Yes, he is suspended for the first four games of the regular season. But, he’s also Tom Brady. Last season, he put up ten weeks of top-ten performances which was tied for first among quarterbacks. Add the signing of Martellus Bennett and much better receiving depth and it may be possible for Brady to top his 2015 season where he threw for 36 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
While I almost always wait to draft a QB, it is extremely tempting to take a possible top-three QB after seven others have been taken. Forget the suspension and enjoy Tom Brady while he is still around; we saw what angry Brady looked like last season and I expect him to have quite the chip on his shoulder upon his return this season.
Too High: Jeremy Langford – RB – ADP 65.9 (RB24)
Last season, Langford caught everyone’s attention by having huge back-to-back weeks against the Chargers and the Rams where he rushed for a combined 145 yards along with 189 receiving yards with three touchdowns. After that, there wasn’t much to write home about. He does slot in as the Bears’ primary back, but with mostly underwhelming rookie numbers (3.6 yards per carry and a 54 percent catch rate for a back who is supposed to do a lot of receiving), it just doesn’t seem like a recipe I want to mess with.
I’ll take my chances on Melvin Gordon or Duke Johnson Jr. who are both on the board when Langford is drafted.
Too Low: Duke Johnson Jr. – RB – ADP 84.0 (RB30)
Johnson has huge upside if he is able to stay healthy. While his talents may be more suited for PPR leagues, what’s wrong with taking him as a possible FLEX or RB3? Johnson was somehow able to put together a decent rookie campaign despite playing in a horrid Browns offense where he had 61 receptions, but only ran the ball 104 times going for 379 yards. Cleveland had plans to make him a featured back last season, but Johnson suffered an ankle injury before that could happen.
While this isn’t a complete dart throw, Johnson has the ability to put together a breakout season with an increased workload in Cleveland’s offense. I prefer Johnson to Frank Gore, Gio Bernard, and Chris Ivory who are all going before him in the seventh round. While it isn’t guaranteed, Johnson’s path to become a solid RB2 is there.
Too High: Arian Foster – RB – ADP 74.3 (RB25)
When I first saw Foster sign with Miami, it screamed sleeper. But the more and more I exam his situation, the less optimistic I am. At 30-years-old and having missed 23 games the previous three seasons, Foster just does not have what it takes to handle the full load of an offense anymore. In Miami’s preseason game last Friday against the Cowboys, Jay Ajayi handled the first, third, and fourth offensive possessions with Foster only playing the second. Neither back played well, but head coach Adam Gase may have shown who has a leg up on the position battle by going to Ajayi on three out of four first string possessions.
Right now, I don’t trust Foster’s job security and have an even harder time trusting his health. I’ll be passing on Foster in the seventh round, and more than likely entirely in upcoming drafts.
Too Low: DeSean Jackson – WR – ADP 87.1 (WR34)
Ah, DeSean Jackson: the epitome of a boom-or-bust player. When he was healthy last season, Jackson had 30 receptions, 528 yards, and four touchdowns; that was good for a top-20 WR spot from weeks 9 through 17. When those numbers are stretched over a full season, Jackson essentially provides Jeremy Maclin type production but three rounds later. Health is the key here for Jackson, he has only played 16 games twice across his eight year career. He was one of Kirk Cousins’ top targets last season, and that certainly shouldn’t change going into this year.
I like Jackson more than any other receiver being taken in the seventh and eighth rounds, as his ADP just screams value.
Too High: DeAngelo Williams – RB- ADP 87.6 (RB32)
The main reason I don’t like Williams here: you’re practically spending a mid-round pick on a three-week starter with a whole lot of question marks and what-ifs after that. Now, Williams is definitely the top handcuff option available with Bell’s status seemingly always in question. With that being said, the reps simply aren’t there when Bell is on the field. Williams surprised just about every fantasy owner last season, but with Bell healthy he won’t see the 17.8 carries and 4.1 targets he averaged when starting in 2015. All in all, Williams is a safe bet for low-end RB1 production through the first three weeks of the season but has a huge question mark surrounding the remainder of the year.
I would rather take fellow handcuff Jay Ajayi (ADP 96.1) or Ameer Abdullah (ADP 90) simply because of the way each teams’ respective RB depth shakes out.
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