Considering it is the middle of June and the Texans are still a month or so away from the start of training camp, we here at BRB are starting to run out of things to talk about in the world of football. What we can talk about, however, is the world of fantasy football. Mock draft lobbies have been in full swing for weeks now, and with news slowing to a trickle, I have decided to pass the time by putting together an endless procession of fake teams before creating my actual fake team later this August.
Because alliteration is fun, I’m going to call this little ritual "Fantasy Football Friday". Each Friday, I will draft one team from a random spot in a standard ESPN 12-man mock draft lobby and then break it down - pick by pick - for all of you. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
League size: 12 players
Draft position: 8
Draft style: Snake
PICK 1.8 (8 Overall): Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the running back position this year. Jamaal Charles is the closest thing we have to a "sure bet", but beyond that everyone else has question marks. Will Adrian Peterson be the same? Can you survive the first few weeks of the season without Le’Veon Bell due to his suspension? Is Eddie Lacy seriously being considered for a top three pick? Will Matt Forte continue to put up insane receiving numbers despite the departure of Marc Trestman? Can Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster stay healthy? How will LeSean McCoy operate in Greg Roman’s gap run scheme after spending his whole career in a zone system? All of those questions worry me, and by the eighth pick I was left with a choice between Brown, Foster, McCoy, and Calvin Johnson.
Foster and McCoy would at least let me have one of two names that could be a highly valued RB1, but I was in no mood to accidentally "waste" my first round pick on someone who is either injury prone or unproven in a completely new system. Give me the strong, consistent performer who has never, ever let any fantasy owners down over the course of the last three seasons. I know what I am getting in Antonio Brown, and that level of comfort is more than worth a first round pick to me.
PICK 2.5 (17 Overall): Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
I got Gronk at a bit of a discount because of Tom Brady’s suspension, though I expect he will climb back into the first round if Brady’s appeal is successful. Either way, Gronk is the best TE in the game and gives me a huge advantage at a relatively thin position group. I’ll take it.
PICK 3.8 (32 Overall): Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
You didn’t expect me to not take my guy, did you? I loved Gordon during the pre-draft process, and I still love him now. San Diego got itself a stud, and I want to reap the benefits of that selection. I think he will be an extremely solid RB1 by year’s end.
PICK 4.5 (41 Overall): Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
Another running back that I was very high on in the pre-draft process two years ago, Hyde should be in line to take over where Frank Gore left off as the feature back in San Francisco. Based on some light offseason film study of Hyde’s limited carries last year, it seemed to me that he had some issues with decision-making while he adjusted to the speed of the pro game. There were multiple instances where he read a fill and bounced early, thinking he could easily get the edge, only to be brought down in space by safeties who were exponentially faster and smarter than anyone he faced in college. To be blunt, you could see his first game against the Rams last season was just one long "Oh, Sh**" moment that kept getting worse and worse.
However, with a full offseason under his belt and time to gel with the starting offensive line, I think he should improve in his area. It also helps that he was very, very good in pass protection for a rookie, which is key to continuing to earn play time in his second season. You could definitely do worse for an RB2 in the fourth round.
PICK 5.8 (56 Overall): Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders
Cooper is an exceptional talent that I thought, ironically, was a bigger version of Antonio Brown when I scouted him before the draft. I think he will immediately step in as Derek Carr’s go-to possession receiver who will convert a ton of first downs and rack up points in PPR leagues. If any rookie receiver this year has a shot at putting up Pro Bowl numbers, it is Cooper.
PICK 6.5 (65 Overall): Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs
I know, I know…Chiefs wide receivers are the bane of everyone’s fantasy existence. However, Jeremy Maclin is a fundamentally different player than Dwayne Bowe. Alex Smith refuses to throw to anyone who isn’t wide open, and Bowe was more of a big-bodied "throw me jump balls" kind of player who never got much separation at the top of his routes. Smith hates throwing those kinds of passes, so he simply checked it down to a routinely open Jamaal Charles instead. Maclin does get separation though, which means Smith should be more inclined to feed him the ball on third and long. Considering the numbers Maclin just put up in Philly with semi-competent quarterback play from Mark Sanchez, I am willing to bet he can repeat that performance in Kansas City with semi-competent quarterback play from Alex Smith.
PICK 7.8 (80 Overall): Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Matt Ryan might not put up insane numbers with a run-focused coordinator like Kyle Shanahan now at the helm, but you know what…I don’t need insane numbers. I need consistency and an ability to not bust just as much as he booms (I’m looking at you, Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler). Ryan can give me 20-25 points per game with the potential to hit 35+ on occasion, and I am okay with that.
PICK 8.5 (89 Overall): Davante Adams, WR, Packers
This pick will either be genius or stupid by season’s end. Adams is the third wide receiver on the depth chart in a loaded Green Bay offense, but he has already shown enormous talent in his young career; all he needs is an opportunity. This pick is me simply hedging my bets for a possible injury to either Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb, while also having a Hail Mary player to throw into lineups during bye weeks just on the off chance he turns into a red zone machine like James Jones did a few years back.
PICK 9.8 (104 Overall): Duke Johnson, RB, Browns
I was not a fan of Isaiah Crowell or Terrance West prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, and I remained somewhat unimpressed after the end of their rookie years. The selection of Duke Johnson by the Browns tells me that they have some doubts of their own about West and Crowell, which could create early opportunities for Johnson to contribute in his first year. If the Browns continue operating a primarily zone run scheme under new coordinator John DeFilippo next season, Johnson should be right at home as an every-down back for this team. He certainly has more natural talent than any other running back on the roster, and at the end of the day, that talent will usually win out.
PICK 10.5 (113 Overall): Rams Defense
This may seem a bit early for a defense to some people, but I am paying a premium price for peace of mind. The Texans and Jets were already off the board by this point, and I absolutely did not want to get stuck streaming defenses throughout the season and be forced into matchups that I did not want. The Rams will be an obvious defensive play every single week of the year with all of their firepower, and I am willing to pay to ensure that I have at least one position on my roster will never have to change.
PICK 11.8 (128 Overall): David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Arizona tried turning Andre Ellington into their "do everything" feature back last season, and it did not quite work out. Johnson was drafted relatively high to take over goal line, short yardage, and general "between the tackles" work while Ellington will be used more as a traditional change of pace back (as he should have been all along). As an RB4 or RB5, Johnson is a solid grab in the later rounds as a potential touchdown vulture and ancillary point producer.
PICK 12.5 (137 Overall): Alfred Blue, RB, Texans
If…or rather when, Arian Foster goes down to injury, I have an immediate flex play that might be able to contribute some solid point totals during Arian’s off weeks. At worst, Blue is good trade bait for the actual Foster owner that might allow me to pick up a good player at a different position.
PICK 13.8 (152 Overall): John Brown, WR, Cardinals
I really, really liked what John Brown was putting together during his rookie season before Carson Palmer got hurt, and I anticipate him continuing to build on that momentum in year two. He reminds me a lot of T.Y. Hilton, and his potential as both a deep threat and as a slot receiver is too great to ignore in the thirteenth round.
PICK 14.5 (161 Overall): Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
You can do a lot worse than Rudolph as a one week fill-in for Gronkowski during his bye week. On the off chance Rudolph starts playing up to his potential as Teddy Bridgewater develops, he could turn into nice trade bait as well.
PICK 15.8 (176 Overall): Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
I don’t know what it is, but I have a great feeling about Derek Carr this season. Despite relatively pedestrian numbers as a rookie, he passed the eye test in spades. I think with the addition of Amari Cooper and the (hopeful) ascension of Latavius Murray, Carr might be able to take another step forward and become a good week-to-week fantasy contributor. I still think it was the right move for the Texans to pass on Carr in the 2014 NFL Draft simply because of all of the familial baggage that came with him, but I’ll be damned if he hasn’t looked the part for the Raiders so far in his young career.
PICK 16.5 (185 Overall): Randy Bullock, PK, Texans
Yeah, this is a complete homer pick…sue me.
Here is how the team shook out by the end of the draft. What do you think, BRB? What did I take too early? Who was I lucky to get so late? Share your own mock drafts in the comments below and help this slow, slow summer pass us by.
QB: Matt Ryan (7), Derek Carr (15)
RB: Melvin Gordon (3), Carlos Hyde (4), Duke Johnson (9), David Johnson (11), Alfred Blue (12)
WR: Antonio Brown (1), Amari Cooper (5), Jeremy Maclin (6), Davante Adams (8), John Brown (13)
TE: Rob Gronkowski (2), Kyle Rudolph (14)
DEF: Rams (10)
PK: Randy Bullock (16)