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: 1.06
After testing out the Zero Running Back and Zero Wide Receiver tactics, plus mock drafting from Early and Late draft positions, it was time for the final exam - the optimal results from the middle of the draft order. In the early rounds, I would be flexible with best player available. For tight end, I planned to take my starter in the mid-rounds by previous testing data. At quarterback, I was likely to wait until the double-digit rounds to address my first option outside of overt earlier value.
I was looking for one of three players at 1.06 - Todd Gurley, David Johnson, or A.J. Green. Gurley was taken at 1.05, so I took David Johnson, a player with 20+ PPG upside in full PPR. Through previous mock drafts, I really like the middle rounds at wide receiver, so securing a top back in Round 1 from my slim target list blends well with projected later picks. After Adrian Peterson at 1.07, the back-half of Round 1 was all wide receivers including Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson and Allen Robinson.
Wide Receiver was my target player focus in this round. Best case in PPR might have been Keenan Allen, who was drafted at 2.04. However, I was perfectly happy with Mike Evans (my selection) or one of Amari Cooper, Alshon Jeffery or Brandin Cooks. Running backs are a bit of a dead zone in the 20 overall range, with Mark Ingram II being my next consideration. Ingram typically lasts into Round 3, so I would lock up Evans and see if Ingram survives to 3.06.
Ingram made it after all, with Devonta Freeman (2.08) and Eddie Lacy (3.02) off the board between my selections. I do not see much of a difference between wide receivers available in Round 3 (beyond the Brandin Cooks level) and even Round 6-7, making Ingram ideal here. Through three rounds no quarterbacks, even in 6-point passing touchdown format, were drafted.
I was flexible for Round 4, with a target list of Carlos Hyde, Golden Tate, and maybe Jordan Matthews. Tate was gone at 4.03, but Carlos Hyde made it to 4.07 for my selection. Recently I watched every touch of Carlos Hyde in 2015, he looked the high-upside part and I see top-5 upside with Chip Kelly. Health will be key, but Hyde should have every opportunity to be a true lead back and fantasy difference-maker. More good news is his backup (my estimate is Shaun Draughn as of publication) is dirt-cheap.
With three running backs on Team Parsons through Round 4, my focus shifted to wide receiver for the next few rounds. I missed out on Jordan Matthews (taken at 5.05 right in front of me), but Donte Moncrief is a quality consolation prize as my WR2. Matthews, Moncrief, DeVante Parker, Kevin White, and Tyler Lockett are beacons of light on my target list in these middle rounds.
After getting sniped on Jordan Matthews in Round 5, the back-half of the order helped my cause as non-target players Eric Decker, Allen Hurns and DeSean Jackson were the only receivers off the board before 6.07. I happily scooped up DeVante Parker as my WR3. Jay Ajay, Jonathan Stewart, Duke Johnson Jr and Carson Palmer were notable picks to close out Round 6.
Cleaning up my receiver targets, I take Kevin White at 7.06 - allowing Tyler Lockett to float to Round 8. Lockett would not make it, drafted at 7.12. Three tight ends would go in Round 7 - Delanie Walker, Travis Kelce and Cody Fleener. Fleener was a target player in Round 8-9.
While Fleener did not survive the Round 7/8 turn, one of my favorite targets in this range made it to 8.06, Charles Sims. While I stacked three running backs in the first four rounds, Sims is a quality combination of floor and ceiling in PPR scoring, giving me the best top-4 backs in this league where up to three can start weekly.
After Coby Fleener was drafted in Round 7, my next (and typically last target tight end) is Zach Ertz. It was a nail-biting wait as Ladarius Green and Gary Barnidge were drafted late in Round 8, but Ertz survived as the 1.01 owner passed on a tight end (yet to draft one) for T.J. Yeldon and C.J. Prosise.
Like Ertz, the last true target wide receiver is Devin Funchess - who lasted to my 10.07 selection. Corey Coleman and Tavon Austin were receiver selections of note around the Round 9/10 turn. I still did not see value at quarterback, my lone ignored position thus far. Tom Brady was in Round 7, Eli Manning in Round 8 and Philip Rivers in Round 9. With Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill available, I would continue to address other positional depth.
Jordan Howard is one of my preferred upside plays in the later rounds. I have no faith in Jeremy Langford as Chicago's lead back. Howard fell to after LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles in this range as my 11.06 pick. A big quarterback run (mostly as other owners' backups) occurred between my Round 11 and 12 selections, including Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Tyrod Taylor. With my target quarterbacks still available, I pivot instead of chasing the run with Kenneth Dixon, another upside backup running back.
I round out my wide receiver core with Vincent Jackson in Round 13 with little pressure to take a quarterback (all but two other teams had two quarterbacks already). The final two rounds, I took Ryan Tannehill and Devontae Booker. Booker, like Howard or Dixon, is an injury away in the preseason from a strong uptick in value. Tannehill is my default, line in the sand, quarterback late with more control of the Miami offense at the line of scrimmage, his best collection of weapons to-date and a weak projected running game.
I could have had Jameis Winston in Round 12 (over Kenneth Dixon), but Ryan Tannehill is a solid choice available in the final rounds. The key is being flexible in the early weeks of the season to pivot to waiver wire upticks if needed.
RUNNING BACKS: A
This was my ideal draft haul at running back. Mark Ingram II in Round 3 and Charles Sims in Round 8 were key selections. If knowing Ingram, Carlos Hyde and Sims were future selections, going receiver over David Johnson in Round 1 (A.J. Green) would be another team-building option.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B+
Overall, getting a Brandin Cooks in Round 3 or Tyler Lockett in Round 8 would have helped my cause. The pivot outlined in the running back section above was another way to balance out the positions. Donte Moncrief, DeVante Parker and Kevin White stacked in the Round 5-7 range need to produce one weekly starter and another weekly upside option to blend well with Mike Evans and the rest of my roster.
TIGHT ENDS: B
Getting Coby Fleener in Round 8 would have been ideal for my haul, but Zach Ertz in Round 9 as TE11 is a solid return. If I missed on Ertz, I would have waited a la quarterback until later for an option like Antonio Gates or Eric Ebron.