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 fantasyfootballcalculator.com.
- 12 Teams
- PPR Scoring, 6pt Passing TDs
- Start QB-2RB-2WR-TE-Flex
- Draft Position: 1.10
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 a late draft position, flexibility is key to take the best players available in the early rounds independent of position.
The running back landscape was not appealing at No.10. LeSean McCoy I would have considered, but he was gone at 1.08. At wide receiver A.J. Green was my projected pick at the outset of the draft, but was sniped at 1.09. I settled on Jordy Nelson. While on the old side, Nelson is locked in with Aaron Rodgers and a better bet than T.Y. Hilton or Michael Thomas in this 10-15 overall zone. Without a strong play at running back, I expected to go receiver again in Round 2.
Jay Ajayi was the running back in consideration at 2.03, but I decided to pair Amari Cooper with Jordy Nelson in this PPR format. The common theme is strong quarterback play and a hearty floor. Jordan Howard and Todd Gurley were other notable running backs, but neither was expected to make it anywhere close to my 3.10 selection.
As expected, the running back squeeze continued with Todd Gurley gone at 3.01. Carlos Hyde and Joe Mixon were in the conversation for my Round 4 pick potentially, but I nabbed Allen Robinson at 3.10 as my WR3. I expect Jacksonville to shift to more of a run-heavy approach, but Robinson is a regression candidate efficiency-wise, plus was among the leader leaders in drawing defensive pass interference yardage in 2016.
Sammy Watkins fell far enough as I land him as a high-upside WR4. Davante Adams would have been the pick, but was drafted at 4.02. By loading up on receivers early (first four rounds), the middle-round focus can be firmly on running backs. Two other owners took three receivers in the opening four rounds as a point of reference.
Running back was a must after four straight receivers. Danny Woodhead is one of my favorite mid-round backs. With Kenneth Dixon suspended to start the season, Terrance West exclusively an early-down back last season, plus Baltimore logging a whopping 119 running back receptions in 2016 (second in NFL), the formula is ideal for Woodhead to thrive.
Back to the running back position with Mike Gillislee. While I had concerns over Patriots backs in general, Gillislee is the most likely interior and goal line back of the bunch. As I planned to draft a steady veteran in the next few rounds, Gillislee was a worthwhile shot at striking upside. Eddie Lacy, Ameer Abdullah, and Tevin Coleman were other backs drafted in this range.
With Frank Gore and Matt Forte still available, Derrick Henry presented a high-leverage shot here. Henry is a flex option consideration even without a DeMarco Murray injury and a weekly mid-RB1 or better if Murray is out of the lineup. Willie Snead IV was the lone wide receiver worth consideration in this round, going at 7.03.
As projected, Frank Gore made it back to 8.03 as my RB4. Logistically, Gore is likely my Week 1 starter alongside Danny Woodhead as depth charts settle early in the season. This was the zone where I started to monitor quarterback and tight end. All but one other team already had their QB1 and eight teams had their starting tight end. With little demand at either position, waiting can pay big dividends.
As I did from my early draft position mock draft exercise, Matt Forte was a mid-round pick, this time at 9.10 - my fifth straight running back. Just one quarterback went off the board between my Round 8 and Round 9 selections (Kirk Cousins), but the time was near to address the position with Marcus Mariota and Philip Rivers the most notable preferred targets.
I opted for Marcus Mariota at 10.03, my first (and likely only) quarterback. The watch shifted to tight end in the final rounds. Zach Ertz was still available plus Eric Ebron and Jason Witten of note. With just one other team needing a tight end by this juncture, demand is low for the final few drafted tight ends.
With a run of running backs and my quarterback on board, Kevin White was a splurge wide receiver at 11.10, my WR5. White, Breshad Perriman, and Josh Doctson all reside in this zone. Of the three, White has the clearest path to substantial snaps and targets, pending his balky health to-date.
I doubled up on late-round tight ends, pairing Eric Ebron in Round 13 with Jason Witten in Round 15. Ebron is competing with a lower-level wide receiver corps in Detroit, entering a critical year to produce a peak season. Witten is the steady option, likely in the high-TE2 zone in PPR scoring. Mixing in with the tight ends were high-variance primary backup running backs James Conner and Darren McFadden. Both have RB1 projections if their respective starters are out of the lineup.
Finding the middle ground between not waiting long enough for maximum efficiency and waiting too long is key this year. Marcus Mariota has been a QB1 in his career despite one of the worst collections of pass-catchers in the NFL to-date. Mariota's rushing upside rivals all non-Cam Newton options (and may rival Newton if Carolina begins protecting their franchise quarterback from excessive hits).
RUNNING BACKS: B+
Considering I waited until Round 5 to begin taking running backs, the haul was near ideal. Mike Gillislee is not one of my favorite selections of the draft, but a fifth receiver so early in the draft would have been redundant. James Conner and Darren McFadden are easy targets in the late rounds considering their upside if a single action occurs (starter injury).
WIDE RECEIVERS: A
A.J. Green was my preferred choice in Round 1, but Jordy Nelson is a nice consolation option. Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson, and Sammy Watkins all offer WR1 potential from Rounds 2-4, creating sledge hammer upside at WR3 and flex spots. Kevin White was a surprising addition in Round 11 to polish off the position.
TIGHT ENDS: C
I waited too long at tight end to optimize the draft. However, I have a tough time stepping up for any of the mid-round options this year through a few mock drafts. Rob Gronkowski in Round 2 or Travis Kelce in Round 3 is in play on my target board, but at 2.03 I could not pull the trigger on Gronkowski and Kelce was gone by the mid-third. The strategy of stacking the upside of Eric Ebron and the floor of Jason Witten is sound, but considering I landed quality receivers in Rounds 3-4, Gronkowski on this roster would be been the optimal team-building play in retrospect.