Last week, I had the privilege of jumping in a mock draft with nine other RotoViz analysts and two fans.
I’ve only been writing for this site for about a month, so this was my first time drafting with other RV-ers. I went in knowing it was going to be difficult because most of us have a similar draft philosophy, but it was still the most tilting draft I’ve done this year.
Here was the draft order:
- Jack Miller (I promise it wasn’t rigged)
- Dave Caban
- Blair Andrews
- Ryan Collinsworth
- Frank (fan)
- Steffan (fan)
- Hasan Rahim
- Jeremy Marin
- Devin McIntyre
- Curtis Patrick
- Jeff Matson
- John Lapinski
It was a PPR draft with otherwise standard Yahoo! settings (start one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one defense, and one kicker). All teams were required to fill their quarterback, defense, and kicker spots.
The first four picks went as expected – Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara – but then wide receivers started flying off the board. DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams went with the next two picks, allowing Hasan Rahim to grab the best value of the first round in David Johnson at 1.07. Four of the last five picks were wide receivers, with Travis Kelce being the lone exception at 1.11.
I asked Frank to expand on why he went with Hopkins over Johnson, and he explained that he knew a group of RotoViz analysts would place a higher emphasis on wideouts:
Nuk is an easy, if unspectacular, pick. I have him at 115/[1,600]/10. I figured grabbing a WR over Bell or Johnson – who are both starting afresh in their own ways – was an optimal move to help anchor my team, knowing that this group would [place] a premium on WR. True to form, the RotoViz crew took a metric ton of receivers.
Frank was spot-on, as six wide receivers came off the board in the first round. Yahoo! has only four with a first-round ADP.
Jeremy Marin selected JuJu Smith-Schuster (Yahoo! ADP: 17.8) with the eighth overall pick, which was the greatest deviation from ADP in the first round. However, Smith-Schuster is ranked sixth overall in the RotoViz redraft rankings and finished his age-22 season as the WR8 in PPR despite being the WR2 on his own team, so this pick could easily end up looking like a value at the end of the year. I asked Jeremy to defend his pick, and he explained that he sees JuJu as the most likely candidate of the wide receivers available to lead the league in targets. He considered Julio Jones but went with Smith-Schuster because he believes the third-year wideout will take another leap following Antonio Brown’s departure.
John Lapinski kicked off the second round by selecting Tyreek Hill at 2.01, giving him a dynamite wide receiver duo in Hill and Julio Jones.
Five teams selected a running back in the second round, clearly aware that Rounds 3-6 have been full of RB landmines historically.
Ryan Collinsworth stayed on-brand and chose George Kittle at 2.09. He wrote about why he loves getting a Tier 1 tight end in Part 5 of his Passing Revolution series.
Dave Caban chose Melvin Gordon at 2.11, a risky pick because of the uncertainty about where (or whether) he will play this year. I asked Dave why he chose Gordon amidst his contract dispute, and he explained that he strongly believes Gordon will be active for Week 1:
My second-round pick of Gordon was driven by the prospect of a trade, and with Houston as a potential landing spot I was fine taking on the risk. Gordon is a good back and should produce low-end RB1 numbers regardless of the offense that he’s in. At this point in the summer, I expect Gordon’s situation to be resolved in advance of Week 1. He’ll be on the field come September and was the best running back available when my pick came up.
I knew that a group of RotoViz writers and fans would target wide receivers in Rounds 3 and 4.
I still underestimated the extent to which wide receivers were valued over running backs in this part of the draft.
I went with Damien Williams and Keenan Allen at 2.12 and 3.01. If I could do it again, I don’t think I’d change anything. It would be different if you had to start three wideouts, but I’m happy with the RB1 in the league’s best offense at the end of Round 2 in a two-wide-receiver league.
However, I was not happy when 16 of the next 24 picks were wide receivers. With six picks until my fourth-rounder, I had six wideouts in my queue. Can you guess what happened next?
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. All six, gone. Cue tilt.
Of course, with everyone picking wide receivers, there were a few running backs that slipped well past their ADP. Ryan chose Todd Gurley (Yahoo! ADP: 19.3) at 3.04. Jeremy was able to snag Nick Chubb (14.2) at 3.08 and Marlon Mack (30.7) at 4.05.
Hasan chose RotoViz darling Calvin Ridley at 4.06, a major reach if you look at his 70.3 ADP. However, our redraft rankings have him 42nd overall – exactly where he went in this mock – and Hasan explained why he went with the Alabama product as his WR3:
There’s lots to like about Ridley – he became only the 18th rookie since the year 2000 to crack 200 PPR points, and research from Blair Andrews has shown that WRs who break out early tend to go on to join the elite tier of NFL WRs more often than not. Additionally, Shawn Siegele has demonstrated that Year 2 breakout WRs are ostensibly undervalued relative to their upside despite what their draft cost reflects. Given that I’m quite bullish on the Falcons retaining their status as one of the [more] pass-happy teams, I was happy to snag Ridley at the 4.06 as my WR3/FLEX player.
Based on ADP, Devin McIntyre reached even harder on D.J. Moore, taking him well above his 73.3 ADP at 4.04. Like Ridley, Moore is ranked as a fourth-round pick in our rankings, and Curtis Patrick recently wrote about why he is all-in on Moore this year. Moore’s combination of age-adjusted production and athleticism makes him a prime breakout candidate, and I love Devin’s pick at this spot.
The wide receiver frenzy halted momentarily in Round 5 – only four of the 12 fifth-round picks were wideouts – but quickly resumed in Round 6. I kicked off Round 5 by reluctantly taking Josh Jacobs even though I needed a WR2; as I mentioned in the last section, I had six wideouts queued up and all six went before my pick. Taking Jacobs (Yahoo! ADP: 46.9) over Derrick Henry (30.0) is probably controversial, but I was scared off by Henry’s one-dimensional skillset. Jacobs has three-down upside if he can marginalize Jalen Richard – beat writers have already speculated that Richard could lose “a good chunk” of his receiving work to Jacobs – whereas Henry has been in the league for three years and never topped 18 targets in a single season.
Blair Andrews chose Christian Kirk at 5.03, four rounds ahead of his 100.9 ADP. Kirk ranks 55th in our redraft rankings, and I briefly considered taking him at 5.01 before opting for Jacobs. I asked Blair to elaborate on what made him go with Kirk over more proven options like Allen Robinson and Alshon Jeffery:
Kirk is perfectly positioned for a second-year breakout, and everything appears to be in place for Cardinals’ offense to produce fantasy points. I think he still might be undervalued at 5.03; it’s just that in other drafts it’s not necessary to take him that early.
Kirk was not the only trendy wideout selected in this part of the draft. Curtis Samuel (6.08), Dede Westbrook (6.11), and Dante Pettis (6.12) have also seen their ADPs rise sharply throughout the offseason.
Wide receivers dominated the first six rounds of this mock draft, so most teams had to pivot to running back in Rounds 7-10. John Lapinski made my favorite pick of this range when he selected Miles Sanders at 8.01. Sanders’ ADP torpedoed in July while he dealt with a hamstring injury, but I expect it to reverse course soon because beat writers have been raving about him during training camp. John also grabbed Darrell Henderson at 7.12, giving him two rookie runners with extreme upside. If either one of them hit, his team will be in great shape.
Seven second-year wideouts came off the board in this range – Courtland Sutton (7.01), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (8.04), Keke Coutee (8.05), Anthony Miller (8.11), Michael Gallup (10.01), James Washington (10.02), and Tre’Quan Smith (10.10) – not a coincidence considering they are the biggest edge in fantasy.
I mentioned in the introduction that every team was required to take a quarterback, defense, and kicker, and those three positions made up 27 of the final 60 picks. Because I’m an idiot, I accidentally took Duke Johnson in Round 13 when I still had all three of those slots open, so I ended up without a defense.
Blair took one of my favorite late-round running backs in Justice Hill at 11.03. Hill crushed the combine and beat out Chris Carson for the starting job at Oklahoma State – as a freshman. While I loved the pick, Blair was slightly less enthused:
The truth is I was drafting on my phone and misclicked his name when I was trying to draft the guy right below him in my queue, Andy Isabella. I still like the Justice pick though. He’s one of the more talented backs in the class and I don’t believe in Mark Ingram.
Devin made another sharp late-round running back pick when he chose Darwin Thompson at 12.04. Carlos Hyde isn’t even a lock to make the 53-man roster, meaning Thompson could open the year as the primary backup – behind Damien Williams, a career backup who is already dealing with a hamstring injury – in the league’s highest-octane offense. Even if Hyde survives August with his roster spot, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Thompson jump past him on the depth chart given his recent efficiency woes. Thompson doesn’t even have an ADP on Yahoo!, so I asked Devin what prompted him to take the Utah State product in Round 12:
Thompson finds himself on an uncertain Kansas City depth chart that should have a sizable number of RB receptions and red zone touches. We knew Thompson’s real-life draft capital would likely be low, because the NFL doesn’t place a high value on pass-catching RBs. But in fantasy, this is the most valuable role, and to get this player in Kansas City is a huge coup. The 12th round is cheap for a player with Thompson’s prospect profile on the NFL’s best offense and the least imposing depth chart for any rookie RB outside of Josh Jacobs.
Here is the full draft board:
Overall, this draft was unlike any other I’ve done this offseason because of how heavily everyone targeted wide receivers. This is just Part 1 of what will eventually be a four-part mock draft series, so stay tuned for the next three editions!