You know fantasy football season is right around the corner when the NFL Draft passes us by, but it really hits you when you start doing mock drafts.
For many, doing mocks in May is a tad bit early, but I am one of the millions of fantasy owners who have embarked on this journey – whether I like it or not!
Fantasy football is becoming increasingly more popular – not to say it wasn’t a juggernaut already – but there are people playing it all around the globe and from all walks of life. While people used to draft a team or two a week or so before Opening Kickoff, you now have guys (and girls) with multiple teams (we’re talking dozens here), and they’re drafting all year round. Dynasty league gurus have affectionately coined the term: “In dynasty leagues, there is no offseason”. Such is the ADD/OCD culture we live in today.
I wasn’t planning on doing a mock so early, but I was invited by the esteemed website, Lindy’s Sports, to participate in a mock draft that would later be featured in their magazine’s 2014 Fantasy Football Preview Edition. When glancing at some of the names on draft order list, I was sure that this would be a challenge. Amongst my mock-mates were writers from some of the biggest fantasy football sites and publications out there. This was gonna be interesting.
The following is a recap of what went down for me on that warm, Southern California night. The settings for the mock are as follows: 14 teams, 14 roster spots (3 WR/2 RB/FLEX format), non-PPR, standard scoring settings. I had the 14th pick.
1st Round: DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys:
I don’t love Murray (partly cuz I’m a Giants fan and hate the Cowboys), but at this point, being that it was a non-PPR, most of the top backs were taken. My strategy was to go WR/WR coming in, but once it came around to me, I decided to nab a RB. With there being so much depth at WR, and knowing I would have the very next pick, I could afford to take him here. I’m a little worried about the Cowboys offensive line woes, but if healthy, Murray is a beast.
2nd Round: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys:
Dez is truly a massive talent and has a unique rapport with QB Tony Romo. Despite Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green’s talents, I could argue that Dez is the top receiver in the league. Romo will go to him and go to him often. Expect the Cowboys’ 32nd-ranked defense (415.3 yds/gm) to give up a ton of points – and quick points at that – allowing Romo and Dez plenty of time to play catch-up ball, which is always good for padding the fantasy stats.
3rd Round: Andre Johnson, WR, Texans:
There are lots of questions surrounding Johnson’s situation in Houston. He has voiced his displeasure with the franchise and it’s no secret he wants out. Whether he is traded or not remains to be seen, but once the season starts, he’ll be productive wherever he plays. Owners may be sour on him, but he had one of his best seasons in 2013, amassing 1,407 yards and 5 TD to go along with 109 catches and a career-high 181 targets. Those numbers were mainly put up with Case Keenum at the helm, so his production doesn’t seem like it will be affected by whomever the Texans decide to play at QB. Johnson is a steal in the third round.
4th Round: Victor Cruz, WR, Giants:
Cruz, like the rest of the Giants, had a poor 2013 season. His lack of production had a lot to do with Eli Manning being un-Eli Manning-like and the offensive line not pulling its weight. With new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo in charge now, the Giants’ should get back on track. Former OC Kevin Gilbride’s style and play calling stagnated and stopped many drives in their tracks. Cruz should have a bounce-back season and get back to putting up the numbers that earned him a Pro Bowl spot two years ago. I’m extremely happy with him as my WR3.
5th Round: Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots:
Not my favorite pick of the draft. I had my eye on new Dolphins’ RB Knowshon Moreno, but he was nabbed two spots before me. Zoinks! Ridley fell out of favor with Bill Belichick last season because he simply couldn’t hold on to the ball. He also lacks any sort of receiving game (19 career receptions), but since this is a non-PPR league, that is inconsequential. The Pats drafted Wisconsin’s James White, and while he has the makings of a feature back, Belichick is not one to put too much stock into rookies. Shane Vereen is more of a pass-catching back and Brandon Bolden has been inconsistent at best. Despite receiving just 27.8% of the snaps in the Patriots’ backfield last year, Ridley still went on to rumble for 773 yards and 7 TD. Ridley could be in for another time share, but if he can get me 800-900 yards and 8 TD, I’ll be thoroughly pleased.
6th Round: Fred Jackson, RB, Bills:
F-Jax is a safe pick here. He’s not gonna blow anyone away with his stats, and at his age he’s no guarantee to stay healthy, but when he’s on the field he’s proven he can make things happen. A timeshare exists with C.J. Spiller, but Spiller was highly ineffective for much of last season, opening the door for Jackson to receive more playing time. He has great pass-catching ability, and while this isn’t a PPR league, he’ll still likely contribute 300+ yards via the air, meaning he could total 1,000+ yards combined. As the Bills’ goal line back, he has a chance to vulture anywhere from 6-10 TD. He’ll be a great bye-week/matchup play for me.
7th Round: Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints:
This is probably by favorite pick of the draft. Injury-prone vets like Darren McFadden and DeAngelo Williams as well as rookies like Devonta Freeman and Terrance West were still on the board, but I felt Robinson had the biggest upside here. He led the Saints in carries in two of their last three games, and with Darren Sproles gone he’ll only have the underwhelming Mark Ingram and the aging Pierre Thomas to compete with for snaps. He has a good shot to be a solid RB2/3 with RB1/2 upside.
8th Round: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons:
I don’t like taking QBs this early. I should’ve waited for a guy like Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger, but I panicked a little. Ryan had a down year in 2013, which was easily the worst of his career, however, he’ll get a huge weapon back in WR Julio Jones (foot surgery), and with the Falcons’ run game in question, “Matty Ice” should be heaving the ball up to his receivers constantly on Sundays.
9th Round: Eric Ebron, TE, Lions:
A bit of a reach here. I don’t dislike Ebron, in fact I think he’ll be a deadly WR/hybrid-type, but first-year tight ends don’t traditionally have great rookie campaigns. If there’s an offense to succeed in, though, it’s with gunslinger Matthew Stafford and Co.
10th Round: Justin Hunter, WR, Titans:
Great value here on a guy I think is poised to break out. Having averaged 36.25 yards per touchdown reception last year, Hunter impressed everyone with his tremendous leaping skills and big-play ability. Kendall Wright is still the possession guy in Tennessee, but Hunter should be able to leapfrog 30-year-old Nate Washington on the depth chart at some point this season. I was ecstatic to have him fall to me here.
11th Round: Vick Ballard, RB, Colts:
It’s no secret the running attack (for lack of a better word) in Indy is terrible. Do I think Trent Richardson will be quite as bad as he was last year? Probably not. But there will be a lot of fans clamoring for change if he can’t get the job done in the early going. Ballard is no superstar, and he may not even be that great of a running back, but he proved to be serviceable during his rookie season in which he ran for 814 yards on 211 carries. Of course, Ballard, like fellow Colts’ RB Ahmad Bradshaw, is coming off surgery (ACL), so there’s no telling if he’ll be healthy enough to compete for the starting job. At this point in the draft there were very few RBs remaining, so I chose a guy I feel has a chance to be the starter for the Colts if things were to go sour with T-Rich.
12th Round: Stevie Johnson, WR, 49ers:
I’m not really sure how he dropped this far. The Niners do have depth at WR this year (not to mention Vernon Davis at TE), so Johnson isn’t going to be more than a 4th option by the Bay, but he has good hands, and that could lead to 5+ TD and 700+ yards. If either Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree were to get hurt, Johnson’s fantasy value would get a significant boost. Easily one of the strongest WR5s on anyone’s roster in this draft.
13th Round: Baltimore D/ST:
Not much to read into with this pick – it’s a defense. The big name Ds (Seattle, SF, Denver, StL, Cincy) were already taken, so I went with a proven commodity. The Ravens get to play the Browns twice and the AFC North matches up with the AFC South on the schedule this year, meaning they’ll face the Jaguars, Titans and Texans, too. There’s upside here.
14th Round: Steven Hauschka, K, Seahawks:
Hauschka finished fourth among all kickers in fantasy points last year. That’s good enough for me.
I was pretty happy with my first four rounds. I think I took the best RB I could with the 14th pick and then got the receivers I wanted with my next three. Having Dez Bryant, Andre Johnson and Victor Cruz in my lineup every week gives me a great shot to remain competitive at all times. I can’t really envision a single week where at least one of those three guys won’t record a 100-yard or multiple TD performance. Running back depth is not my strong suit. Boy, did that RB field thin out quickly! I wouldn’t expect to encounter quite the same issues in PPR leagues. Even so, I’m happy with Khiry Robinson as a high-upside guy. My QB, TE, D/ST and backup WRs are above-average to adequate.
Overall, I’d give myself a B- on my draft. It wasn’t the best draft, but my team should be able to win on a regular basis and is good enough to avoid getting blown out. This is why we mock.
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