With the exciting parts of free agency in the books, we’ve been looking back on the reality moves but also our doubly fake version. As the culmination of our series of free agency previews, our writers participated in the Free Agent Mock Draft of Glory and a second round with our potential picks in the light of what was actually transpiring.
But enough about the real thing. Who won the mock?
What was the best pick in this exercise?
It might be a little obvious, but Allen Robinson to the 49ers was my favorite pick. They’re in desperate need of a top WR who can be a target hog and, coming off of an injury, this would have been, arguably, the best time to acquire Robinson. He was slightly less expensive than he would have been off of a 16-game season, but he still has the ceiling of a top-five WR. – Matt Wispe
With Jarvis Landry traded, Allen Robinson to the Niners was the best pick. Getting Jimmy Garoppolo a stud WR without having to give up anything but money when you have a ton of cap space makes a ton of sense. It would make all the other options on the team better.- Tod Burros
The 49ers have a competent trio in place if Trent Taylor emerges to be their Danny Amendola alongside Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, but nabbing Robinson would have provided the offense a bigger boost than the (admittedly awesome) signing of Jerick McKinnon. They could be looking at prospects like D.J. Moore and James Washington in the draft.
Signing Cameron Brate makes a whole heap of sense for the Jets. It gives Josh McCown/As Yet Unknown Rookie one of the top red zone receivers in the league, and bolsters a passing attack that can be described as “spotty” at best. – Neil Dutton
With so few solid TE options – Brate finished as TE10 a year ago – it was exceedingly frustrating for O.J. Howard owners to watch the Bucs re-sign Brate while numerous other franchises ignored their gaping holes at the position.
I was impressed with scoring a potential RB1 for the Giants deep in the second round of our free agency draft. Regardless of whether the Giants retain Orleans Darkwa, Rex Burkhead could provide significant value at an affordable price. Burkhead’s time in Foxborough should be considered a success – beating out Mike Gillislee for scoring plays and racking up over 500 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing six games due to injuries. Add his efficiency on special teams and the Giants could have a strong leading back, as long as he can stay healthy. – Giana Pacinelli
Burkhead returned to the Patriots, allowing his dynasty owners to breathe (although he could lose goal line touches to Jeremy Hill). Meanwhile, the Giants appear almost certain to nab one of the big name backs in the draft.
The Lions are in desperate need of a two-down grinder, and Isaiah Crowell fits the bill. Although the rookie RB class is deep, the Lions would likely need to spend a higher equity draft pick to ensure they end up with a quality player. Crowell allows the Lions to address this need at a likely depressed cost. Additionally, he won’t siphon away change of pace duties from either Theo Riddick or Ameer Abdullah. – Hasan Rahim
Isaiah Crowell seems like a great fit in Detroit. The Lions have long missed a running back who can get the difficult yards while carrying the ball 20-30 times a game. The Abdullah experiment simply hasn’t panned out like they had hoped. – The Ghost
Our writers liked Crowell to Detroit, but the Lions had a different idea in free agency. After bringing in a laundry list of washed-up backs – an obvious way to address the offensive line and play-calling issues that limit their running game – they settled on LeGarrette Blount and ended Blount’s chances of winning back-to-back-to-back Super Bowls.
What was the worst pick in this exercise?
I already praised Ghost for one pick but I will admit I find Jimmy Graham to the Rams puzzling considering Sammy Watkins is gone and they have two tight ends already that are young and cheap. I think Gerald Everett showed a good bit as a rookie and adding an expensive TE is just probably not in the cards.- Tod Burros
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I’m afraid I’m going to have to rain on Matt Wispe and the Browns signing of Orleans Darkwa. Despite being a constant contender in the “NFL Player Most Likely to Appear in a Star Wars Script” category, he has not been good at all for the Giants. He was their leading rusher in the red zone for the team last year and managed to be one of the least efficient red zone rushers in the whole league. It’s not all his fault, of course. – Neil Dutton
The Orleans Darkwa pick, while feeling like a very “Cleveland type of thing to do” was a bit of a head-scratcher given the other running back talent still out there at the time. –The Ghost
With the coming onslaught, Darkwa may now be slightly more likely to appear in Star Wars than a high-leverage NFL play in 2018.
Rather than praise or condemn others, I’m sticking with evaluating my own picks. My worst pick of this exercise was Shane Vereen to Washington. I’ve wanted to like Vereen since he left the Pats, but he hasn’t provided me any justification. Vereen was effectively non-existent during his short tenure with the Giants, and he had plenty of opportunity to shine. Though you can’t fault Vereen given the locker room chaos and upper management woes, it’s also not likely he can make a major comeback with a change in uniform. Though he’ll surely be an affordable option, the Redskins can probably do better. – Giana Pacinelli
I’m not a big fan of my own Albert Wilson pick. Although Wilson was a trendy free-agent, a case for Tyrell Williams (second-round tender) would have made for a superior story. Additionally, Williams would be able to pick up where he left off in 2016. With the big-armed Patrick Mahomes taking over under center, Williams would’ve given the Chiefs a viable second WR alongside Tyreek Hill. – Hasan Rahim
Wilson received a surprisingly hefty three-year, $24 million contract from the Dolphins, but the Chiefs had loftier ambitions, landing Sammy Watkins. Kansas City now has a top-three offense by personnel, if not by experience. Check out where our writers moved Watkins and Hill in the updated dynasty rankings.
My least favorite pick was Kirk Cousins to the Browns, but only because I (Vikings) got stuck with overpaying for Case Keenum. – Joe Paeno
The Browns had the money and the position in our mock to sign Cousins, but they were never a realistic choice with the former Washington signal-caller looking to go to a contender. Yellow flag for causing a QB quandary.
What’s an underrated or unexpected pick that you really like?
Trey Burton to the Jaguars is a nice pick. And I am partial to my own pick of Jerick McKinnon to the Bucs. – Tod Burros
Trey Burton doesn’t need a fantastic quarterback to deliver – he can do it all by himself. Burton will surely make an impact wherever he lands, but with a hungry Jags offense and the opportunity, Burton can truly thrive. It’s a sexy pick, especially for fantasy. – Giana Pacinelli
Burton’s true landing spot probably didn’t appeal to his owners or those of Adam Shaheen.
I loved the Bears snapping up Paul Richardson. Richardson would probably be one of the top wide receiver prospects if he were coming out this year and gives Mitchell Trubisky some much-needed help at the receiver spot. – Neil Dutton
Now Richardson to the Bears would have been much more exciting and provided a Tyreek-lite weapon for the strong-armed Trubisky. He’s less appealing with Alex Smith, although Smith’s deep passing numbers were fantastic last season.
Kendall Wright to the Dolphins is a pick that makes complete sense. After shipping Landry to the Browns, the Dolphins are currently in need of a slot WR. Wright provides them with a solid, albeit unspectacular slot option, who can run alongside DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills in 3-WR sets. – Hasan Rahim
The Dolphins agreed with the sentiment, but they got two for the price of three in adding Wilson and Danny Amendola.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins to Green Bay would be interesting given how he has performed in lackluster offenses in the past and how tight ends in the system tend to perform. He has always flirted with breaking through, and in Green Bay, he would finally take that final step.
If you could re-do one of your selections, what would you change?
I wouldn’t take Donte Moncrief for the Bengals. The TE market cleared out faster than I anticipated and while Moncrief is still young and could be a red zone option, Cameron Brate or Austin Seferian-Jenkins would have probably filled more of a need than Moncrief – Matt Wispe
I would probably go with Jerick McKinnon to the Colts ahead of Carlos Hyde. With the team set to run a faster no-huddle type offense, they will need pass-catching backs. Hyde was, on reflection, shoe horned into the bellcow role last season. – Kevin Zatloukal
The 49ers agreed, opting to make McKinnon their offensive centerpiece instead of re-signing the incumbent.
I would have found a better receiving option for the Cowboys then Dontrelle Inman. I’ve been a fan of his since his Charger days, but I’m not confident he can fill the need Dallas so desperately needs. – Giana Pacinelli
Lions beat reporters began reporting that Eric Ebron was being shopped around just after these selections. In light of that information, I would have rather taken Jimmy Graham or Trey Burton and then selected Jonathan Stewart in the second round. – Paeno
Ebron was dumped, but the Lions still came closer to signing Stewart than Graham or Burton. They settled for Luke Willson, who does become an intriguing deep sleeper with an open depth chart and Stafford slinging it around the yard.
I thought I could wait longer on a wide receiver for the Rams but that didn’t pan out. While I think the reasoning for taking Graham was sound, and I still like the move, grabbing someone like Moncrief might have been a better move. – The Ghost
The savvy Rams may prefer in-house option Josh Reynolds to an expensive NFL bust like Moncrief. They may also be in the market for a draft sleeper like Allen Lazard or Tre’Quan Smith.
Which free agents are you most bullish on? Why?
In the few opportunities Trey Burton had to shine, he glistened (like throwing a touchdown pass to his quarterback?). There is still so much potential for Burton to be a playmaker for a franchise and a fantasy team. – Giana Pacinelli
I’m most bullish on Jordan Matthews this season. He’s mentioned that ankle and knee injuries prevented him from returning to form and he underwent corrective surgery. Matthews will fly under the radar, given that there are several other big name WRs available. However, it’s likely he lands with a team and cracks their starting lineup. A once-promising WR prospect, I’m hopeful that Matthews bounces back. – Hasan Rahim
Jimmy Graham could reestablish himself as the top tight end in the league with Green Bay. His time in Seattle just hasn’t played effectively to his strengths, but in Green Bay only Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce even have a shot. –The Ghost
Which free agents are you most bearish on? Why?
All the cards aligned for Case Keenum last year, but paying him starter money when his head coach wasn’t sold on him is a red flag. But teams are often put in horrible situations with the QB position and the law of supply and demand could lead Keenum to a big deal similar to Mike Glennon last year. I put A.J. McCarron in this same boat. I was very happy that Cleveland traded for Tyrod Taylor rather than overpaying for a guy who really hasn’t shown enough in the league to deserve a big long-term contract – Tod Burros.
There are risks with Keenum, but he’s a much more accomplished QB than Glennon and McCarron. He was also far better than Taylor last year, a QB with three years of declining AYA numbers (not to mention a head coach who thought he was flat-out awful). With Minnesota looking to upgrade, Keenum wouldn’t have been exciting many places, but the fit in Denver is perfect.
A.J. McCarron is a player with minimal NFL experience,1 and yet he’s being considered as a starting caliber QB. McCarron failed to outplay Andy Dalton at Cincinnati, and I’m doubtful that a former fifth-round draft pick holds unlocked potential. – Hasan Rahim
Speaking of McCarron, the Bills and Browns are hellbent on proving they don’t understand this QB thing. McCarron’s modest contract combined with a lack of experience/talent suggests a rookie will be the starter by mid-season.
I think some team will overpay Sammy Watkins in a big way. I’m just not convinced he is a top 10 receiving option like so many people believe he is. He has had chances to prove he deserves a big contract but has little to show for it. I just don’t know when enough is enough for some of those constantly pushing him as an elite option. – The Ghost
We’ll get a chance to see in Kansas City. The long-term resumes for players like Watkins and Amari Cooper are very promising, but recent performance is definitely being discounted for these players.
- He impressed in a short end-of-season run in 2015 but wasn’t ready for the bright lights and cost the Bengals in an 18-16 playoff loss to the Steelers. (back)