Fantasy owners want plenty of practice leading up to draft day, which is why mock drafts are such an important part of the process. With that in mind, here are some trends I’m noticing in the mocks I’m participating in as we head towards the return of football.
The Quarterback Gap
Though in actual drafts most owners aren’t as successful in holding off on quarterbacks, in mocks there is a definite continuation of the trend towards waiting on the position. Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers are going off the board late in Round 2 or early in Round 3 despite ADPs that peg them a round earlier.
And then, a lull.
Generally the next quarterbacks off the board are Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in mid- to late Round 5—likely because the typical fantasy owner is thinking, “Holy crap, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees is falling to me in Round 5! I can’t pass on that!”.
If you’re able fight off that sentiment, unless there’s a Russell Wilson fan in your draft, it’s another couple of rounds until the next half-dozen or so quarterbacks go off the board. This is where your patience pays off, as you could even double-dip into a group that includes Romo, Eli, Brady and Philip Rivers—all in Round 8 and beyond.
In a recent industry mock I participated in (12 teams, 16 rounds), completely undrafted quarterbacks included Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick and Derek Carr. That should give streamers some idea of what they’ll be working with—and also reinforce the belief that waiting on quarterbacks works if you can employ enough patience.
Run on Running Backs
On the other hand, the trend towards waiting on running backs—call it what you will, it’s been around for 20 years—remains the George Costanza of draft strategies.
Even in a recent PPR mock, where you might expect a few more wide receivers to gain a foothold in the early going, running backs dominated the top tiers of the draft board—eight of the 12 first-round picks were running backs.
Which backs go where, however, is all over the board. Jamaal Charles seems to be the most frequent top pick, but after that plenty of questions. Now that Adrian Peterson has mended fences with the Vikings—and picked up some guaranteed money in the process—he’s climbing back into contention for the top overall spot as well. The usual cast of characters—Lynch, Lacy, Bell—tend to be next, with the relocated duo of LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray holding value as well.
Rookie running backs are also drawing plenty of love, though in many of the industry mocks I participate in the goal is not necessarily to draft the best team but to look good while doing so; it’s a feather in your cap to be on record as being the guy (or gal) who was first to the party. So while Melvin Gordon in the second round is hardly a stretch, guys like Ameer Abdullah, T.J. Yeldon and Tevin Coleman are going off the board as fantasy RB2s.
And when you’re throwing darts in the later rounds, why not try the unknown guy with some upside when the alternative is a stiff who’s already demonstrated they couldn’t lay claim to a feature back job? Matt Jones, Jay Ajayi and Cameron Artis-Payne are all sneaking into the bottom of mock drafts—and not just as handcuffs to Alfred Morris, Lamar Miller and Jonathan Stewart, respectively.
Wide Variation on Wideouts
Now that Dez and Demaryius have resolved their contract issues, the first five wide receivers off the board are consistently Bryant, Thomas, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.—though not necessarily in that order. While OBJ tops most wide receiver ADP lists I’ve seen, it’s far more common for Bryant or Brown—or both—to go off the board ahead of him.
Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green usually head up the next tier of receivers, but it’s not necessarily a given. That said, if you’re sitting in the middle of Round 2 you have a pretty good shot at landing Megatron—which has to leave you feeling pretty good about the foundation of your team.
After that, however, chaos reigns supreme. There’s a group of as many as a dozen receivers who are largely interchangeable over the next two to three rounds, depending on individual preference. The poster child for this group is TY Hilton. While Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, the top targets of the consensus fantasy QB2, consistently go off the board with in the first 10 wideouts, Hilton—the go-to guy for the consensus fantasy QB1—often falls into the fourth round. Is Hilton falling victim to Saints syndrome—so many targets in a prodigious passing game that none stand out?
In a recent mock Hilton went behind both De’Andre Hopkins and Kelvin Benjamin, which isn’t necessarily that far off from ADP but a head-scratcher nonetheless.
Hindsight is always 20/20 as you wrap up a mock and point to picks you woulda/coulda/shoulda made. The key is to learn from them so that when the camera is rolling for real you nail the scene in one take.