Mock Draft Report Card: The Early-Round Draft Position

Navigating a mock draft from an early draft position

June, July and August of the annual fantasy football calendar signal mock and real draft season. Mock drafts are an excellent exercise to work out strategies, get battle tested, and refine player versus player decision-making as a clock ticks down. My go-to site to quickly join a mock draft is


  • 12 Teams
  • PPR Scoring, 6pt Passing TDs
  • Start QB-2RB-2WR-TE-Flex
  • Draft Position: 1.02


My typical approach is to wait on quarterback and tight end until the late rounds unless overt value presents itself in the opening 8-10 rounds. I prefer to get at least one high-upside, high-floor/usage running back within the first two rounds. The only time I would potentially break the rule is in tight end or quarterback premium formats. With an early draft position (1.02 in this case), I was unsure of my running back options late in Round 2 if I passed on a bell cow at 1.02. However, building around top receivers in PPR leagues is a high-floor strategy.


In the top-2 spots, it is hard to go wrong with David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell. Both are cornerstone pieces of their offenses and are elite receiving options. With Johnson going at 1.01, I was perfectly happy to take Bell in the second spot. As I built my later-round target list in the draft room, the depth of quality upside running backs is outstanding this season. The next few rounds would be about building a strong receiver stable and potentially a top tight end if value dictates.


I was surprised to see the running back options at 2.11 so plentiful. With only Jay Ajayi, DeMarco Murray, and Leonard Fournette off the board in the first 10 selections of Round 2, I had Jordan Howard and Todd Gurley atop my board. While wide receiver was expected to be the pick here at the outset of the draft, I took Todd Gurley, one of my favorite rebound candidates for 2017, as my RB2 behind Le'Veon Bell. Howard, as expected, was the next pick to close the round.


The owner at the turn started the round by going Aaron Rodgers, the first quarterback drafted. With Rob Gronkowski off the board in the mid-second, Travis Kelce was a name in bright lights. Jeremy Maclin's release points to an even stronger hold for Travis Kelce in the Kansas City pass game pecking order. I would be shocked if Kelce finished outside the top-4 tight ends in points-per-game this season. If going the wide receiver route, Allen Robinson and Davante Adams were preferred options. I was skeptical either would approach my 4.11 pick.


It was a tough watch as wide receivers streamed off the board in the 20+ selections between my Round 3 and Round 4 picks. Davante Adams lasted until 4.08. I took my first legitimate upside swing of the draft with Sammy Watkins. For the fourth straight selection, I take a potential offensive centerpiece. Watkins, when healthy, is a full round (or more) more valuable than this 4.11 valuation. With taking Watkins, my first receiver, I would supplement him with more steady receivers on my depth chart in the coming rounds.


True to my word from Round 4, I nab Larry Fitzgerald at 5.02 - the perfect pairing with Sammy Watkins atop my receiver depth chart. Fitzgerald has been a late-career transition receiver with his move to the slot and Arizona has few target demands outside of Fitzgerald and David Johnson in their pass game. Fitzgerald is a high-floor option and a perfect fit after splurging on Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins the previous two rounds.


With a balanced start through five rounds, upside is the name of the game from this point forward. I select Derrick Henry as my RB3, a no-brainer RB1 any week DeMarco Murray is inactive and a flex consideration regardless. In the next few rounds, monitoring quarterback begins as the sweet spot is once 10-15 signal-callers are drafted based on my projections.


As with Larry Fitzgerald in Round 5, I add another sturdy wide receiver in terms of targets and fantasy floor in Willie Snead IV. Brandin Cooks' departure ensures a strong target volume for Snead as Ted Ginn Jr will be more of a deep threat than Cooks' more versatile game. As my second steady receiver behind Sammy Watkins, I can shift back to upside plays with receivers beyond Snead in this draft.


Cam Newton, Kirk Cousins, and Russell Wilson are drafted in Rounds 7-8 as I continue to monitor quarterback. Without pressure to take one at 8.11, I add DeVante Parker as my WR5, after Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder of note in Round 8.


I can already sense Matt Forte is going to be an auto-pick for me in the middle rounds this year. Forte slipped to 9.02 in this draft, but I would take him, if pressed, two rounds earlier. On a Jets offense with little weaponry on the outside (that's being kind), Forte is poised for another strong twilight season in PPR. He offers veteran depth behind my starters, where Derrick Henry is more untapped upside.


I was flexible in my Round 10 target as the picks progressed, but an upside receiver was likely the selection. Kevin White was the preference with a clear avenue to a strong target share - his health - on the Chicago offense. As my WR5, there is little pressure to start White early in the season and I would need just one of Watkins, Parker, and White to be consistently starting-caliber throughout the season for viability.


With a few teams having multiple quarterbacks by this point in the draft, the position was in my crosshairs for Round 12. However, I chanced going with one more upside play at receiver in Josh Doctson at 11.02. Like Kevin White, Doctson has a clear path to strong snaps pending his health status. 

ROUNDS 12-15

Fortunately, Matthew Stafford made it back to me at 12.11 after Marcus Mariota, Eli Manning, and Andy Dalton were selections in Rounds 11-12. Carson Wentz was my lone remaining quarterback of interest in these late rounds. The final three picks were upside backup running backs in James Conner (mandatory for Le'Veon Bell drafters), D'Onta Foreman, and Jonathan Williams. Alvin Kamara (as this was full PPR) and Darren McFadden were also consideration on my board late in the draft.



I lucked out Matthew Stafford lasted the one extra round. In retrospect, the sweet spot was Philip Rivers in Round 9 or Marcus Mariota in Round 10 to earn an 'A' grade.


Going RB-RB to open the draft *should* lead to a strong grade, but Todd Gurley (or Jordan Howard) late in Round 2 was an unexpected decision and value on my board. Derrick Henry and Matt Forte are the perfect RB3/4 pairing of upside and floor.


One valuable lesson I have learned over the years is when waiting on running back or wide receiver, blending steady options with upside plays is paramount. Larry Fitzgerald and Willie Snead IV are quintessential options to this strategy in Round 5 and Round 7, sandwiched by Sammy Watkins and DeVante Parker. Amari Cooper or Dez Bryant lasting to 2.11 would have added value to the receiver stable as they were 2.09 and 2.10 selections.


Historically, I am an early or late drafter at tight end. Rob Gronkowski is in play in Round 2, but did not survive past 2.06 in this draft. Travis Kelce is the only other tight end I would consider in the first four rounds. With a relative flat tier at receiver, I took the plunge at 3.02 on Kelce. If I had waited, tight end would have rivaled quarterback in my patience level, where Eric Ebron was a Round 15 selection in this draft as an example and Jason Witten went undrafted.

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