With the NFL Draft a month away, let’s take a look at what a three-round rookies-only fantasy draft might look like. Obviously, destination is a key component in the fantasy value of these players, so to provide at least some basis to work with in that area we’ll lean on the seven-round mock draft featured in the USA Today Sports 2015 NFL Draft Preview magazine on newsstands now.
1.1 – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (Raiders)
The first or second pick in every rookie fantasy mock I’ve seen, Cooper has a high floor and plenty of potential. Would move right into the WR1 gig in Oakland, and Derek Carr has proven to be at least competent.
1.2 – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (Chargers)
Maybe a touch higher than where Gordon is going in other rookie mocks, but if he does end up with the Chargers he’s in line to be their RB1 for the duration of his rookie contract; that’s enough to give him a leg up here.
1.3 – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia (49ers)
Not crazy about the destination, but with Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson gone there are targets to be filled in San Francisco. White has the athleticism and upside to deliver the best of what we saw from Crabtree—maybe more, and at least more consistently.
1.4 – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville (Vikings)
Even with the Mike Wallace addition the Vikings could use receiver help, as they are transitioning from a run-first team into Teddy Bridgewater’s team. There is plenty of fantasy upside to this Louisville reunion.
1.5 – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (Colts)
In a long-term/dynasty approach you could make a case for Gurley as the top pick, the heir to Frank Gore in Andrew Luck’s offense. That you might not get much from him this year tempers his value a bit.
1.6 – Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana (Jaguars)
Feels like this is the stink hole of a rookie draft—not that there are no quality players available, just that each pick has big question marks. If Coleman actually does wind up with the Jaguars he could easily work his way into significant touches.
1.7 – Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State (Ravens)
Much to like about Ajayi’s skill set, and a potential gig as the complement to Justin Forsett holds all kinds of upside.
1.8 – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma (Jets)
Maybe the single most talented player in this draft, but DGB comes with a ton of off-the-field baggage. Mix in the fact he hasn’t played a game since 2013 and in this scenario he winds up log-jammed on the Jets and there’s too much risk to take him any earlier.
1.9 – Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State (Chiefs)
Strong falls outside the Cooper/White/Parker tier, but in this scenario he’d walk immediately into a starting gig opposite Jeremy Maclin. In theory it’s a nice spot, but… Alex Smith.
1.10 – TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama (Dolphins)
Is Yeldon the next Eddie Lacy, or Mark Ingram… or Trent Richardson? Opinions in the draft community are varied, but the upside of an opportunity in Miami to complement (or replace?) Lamar Miller boost his fantasy potential.
1.11 – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (Buccaneers)
Quarterback-needy dynasty teams have to be enamored with the likelihood that Winston will be throwing to Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. You have to assume the NFL has answered Winston’s off-the-field questions; his on-field game has Ben Roethlisberger upside.
1.12 – Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota (Falcons)
Maybe the best fit of any of the first round picks; Atlanta desperately needs a tight end to give the offense what Tony Gonzalez gave them a couple years ago, and Williams is the best pass-catching tight end in this draft class.
2.1 – Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Jets)
Explosive and productive, and potentially heading to a situation that lacks a true go-to back.
2.2 – Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (Vikings)
If the Vikings are selecting a running back early enough to grab Abdullah, it means Adrian Peterson is out of the picture. In that case, Abdullah has more than a fighting chance of beating out Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata for significant backfield touches.
2.3 – Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan (Browns)
There’s upside as a Kelvin Benjamin type, or if he winds up adding weight and moving to tight end—plus Josh Gordon’s and Jordan Cameron’s targets to replace should he wind up in Cleveland. Also doesn’t hurt that Josh McCown has experience throwing to big receivers.
2.4 – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (Jets)
The fantasy upside is good RG3 or Russell Wilson; the downside is that his game doesn’t transition quickly enough to Sundays.
An aside: should this USAT draft hold, how about the fantasy ramifications of the Jets adding their potential franchise QB (Mariota), RB (Duke Johnson) and WR (DGB) in the first three rounds?
2.5 – Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State (Ravens)
A speed receiver to potentially replace Torrey Smith makes sense. Question is, can Smith do more than go deep?
2.6 – Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn (Dolphins)
Coveted size and speed, but plenty of work to do with regards to route-running and actually catching the ball. He’d be pressed into duty sooner rather than later as a Dolphin, which may or may not be a good thing.
2.7 – Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida (Colts)
Perriman’s stock received a bump when he blazed his Pro Day 40 in the mid 4.2s. He may have run his way into the lower end of the first round, but this mock has him significantly lower—and to the Colts, who already have a logjam at the receiver position.
2.8 – Nelson Algholor, WR, USC (Packers)
Some view Algholor as the best slot receiver in this draft class; if he winds up in Green Bay as he does in this mock he’ll be less of an immediate fantasy value, but a different venue could bump him up to the top of this round.
2.9 – David Cobb, RB, Minnesota (Giants)
Cobb is kind of at the bottom end of the potential immediate impact running backs, but as he lacks elite size or speed he’ll need to lean heavily on situation to carve out fantasy value. This mock has him going to the crowded Giants backfield, which doesn’t help at all.
2.10 – David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa (Bills)
Good size and the best pass-catching back in this draft class, but there are concerns about his upright running style. Likely an immediate fantasy contributor in PPR leagues—unless, as this draft mocks, he winds up in an overcrowded Bills backfield.
2.11 – Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State (Panthers)
Greene appears to straddle the borderline between the solid receiver prospects and the next tier that have significantly larger question marks. At least there’s some upside to him landing in Carolina.
2.12 – Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State (Panthers)
Overshadowed by the bevy of quality backs in the Big 10 this year, Langford turned some heads with a faster-than-expected 40 time at the Combine. An intriguing prospect, helped immeasurably if he does in fact wind up in Carolina behind the fragile Jonathan Stewart.
3.1 – Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (Rams)
Has the size, the arm, and the athleticism to be a fantasy factor, but there are all kinds of questions about his accuracy and ability to read NFL defenses. Of course, Jeff Fisher has some experience with a similarly skilled quarterback…
3.2 – Javorius Allen, RB, USC (Raiders)
Built to be a between-the-tackles runner at the NFL level and could prove to be a Jeremy Hill-type of complementary back in the right situation. Caddying for Latavius Murray in Oakland wouldn’t be ideal, but it’s not like Murray is a bastion of good health.
3.3 – Vince Mayle, WR, Washington State (Eagles)
NFL size but hasn’t run a full NFL route tree. Still, plenty of coaches in the league—like, say, Chip Kelly—would love to mold an athletic 6-3 receiver.
3.4 – Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami (Chiefs)
Speed, speed and more speed; could be a younger Donnie Avery in an offense that doesn’t go deep. You have to think the Raiders won’t let the fastest guy at the Combine fall to a divisional foe.
3.5 – Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina (Seahawks)
Solid inside runner who could hold down a feature job but seems more destined to handle the between-the-tackles share of a committee. If he does land in Seattle, he’s the heir to the heir to Marshawn Lynch.
3.6 – Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary (Redskins)
If you’re throwing darts at rookies, receivers with size aren’t a bad place to aim. McBride has the size but is also a polished receiver with good hands; if he can handle the step up in competition he’ll be an immediate contributor.
3.7 – Tony Lippett, WR, Michigan State (Cowboys)
Another receiver with good size and hands, coming off a productive senior season at Michigan State. Wouldn’t be a shock to see him work his way into a complementary receiver role sooner rather than later—and opposite Dez Bryant in an offense that lost its bell cow back certainly has some upside.
3.8 – Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska (Patriots)
Talented but somewhat underrated receiver with all the tools to be a solid NFL contributor. And if he ends up with the Patriots… well, there are certainly worse situations for a receiver.
3.9 – Zach Zenner, RB, South Dakota State (Buccaneers)
Representative of a handful of intriguing smaller-school backs—Azusa Pacific’s Terrell Watson, Central Michigan’s Thomas Rawls, Stephen F. Austin’s Gus Johnson, Bowling Greene’s Travis Greene—who could be this year’s Terrance West or Isaiah Crowell. And it’s not as if the Buccaneers have much standing between any back and significant touches.
3.10 – Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma (Chiefs)
Former Sooner quarterback is still adjusting to the tight end position, but he has the athleticism to make a difference; what better place to do so than in an Andy Reid’s offense?
3.11 – Chris Conley, WR, Georgia (undrafted)
The star of the Combine is bound to land somewhere, and that athleticism is worth taking a late rookie draft flier on.
3.12 – MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois (Chargers)
Landing behind Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green would not be ideal for Pruitt, but the athleticism he flashed at the Combine suggest he’s a Charles Clay waiting to happen.