Some eager folk may have already completed their actual fantasy drafts ahead of the upcoming 2014 NFL season, but for me and many alike, we are in the midst of mock draft madness. This, however, is only my first mock draft – not of the season, but ever. Having never felt the need to participate in one before, I feel that it is a necessity if I am going to take this fantasy football thing seriously. Seriously.
To keep it true to the league I created, I joined a ten-team mock draft, again using ESPN’s service, and joining the first available ten-team draft with a full lobby. After five minutes of waiting, we were all set to begin the standard snake draft. Here are the results, along with some observations.
Pick #1 – Matt Prater, K, DEN
Not exactly what I was expecting to see with the first pick of a mock draft. I’m not sure whether this was a legitimate attempt to sabotage this particular draft, or whether it was merely an accidental pick. I’ll give the player the benefit of the doubt though, considering the rest of his picks were actually sane.
Pick #2 – Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
This is more like it. With what I’m classing as the first official pick of the mock draft, Minnesota Vikings running back and future Hall of Fame player Adrian Peterson is selected. He didn’t validate his average draft position (ADP) of first overall last season, following his 2,097 yard rushing season the year before, but he was still one of the top players at the running back position and surely will continue to be.
Pick #3 – Jamaal Charles, RB, KC
I think that Jamaal Charles has a case for being drafted first in any redraft league, because of his performance on the ground as well as in the air last year. But I envisage Adrian Peterson having a higher ADP due to reputation. No shame in grabbing Charles with the third overall pick though.
Pick #4 – LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI
The running back who joins Peterson and Charles in the elite bracket is LeSean McCoy, so it would make sense that he is the next player taken after them. He racked up 1,607 rushing yards, 537 receiving yards, and 11 total touchdowns in 2013, and this year’s stats could be just as impressive. A top-five lock.
Pick #5 – Matt Forte, RB, CHI
After Peterson, Charles, and McCoy, Forte, Lynch, and Lacy headline the best of the rest when it comes to running back. The first off the board in this bracket is Chicago’s Matt Forte. He posted career highs for rushing and receiving yards and rushing touchdowns in 2013, but there is the risk that they remain career high statistics. Personally, I wouldn’t take Forte in the first round. I would rather take one of the top two QBs or WRs available. If he’s taken before my draft pick, then I’ll be happy.
Pick #6 – Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
The best wide receiver in this draft is the sixth player off the board. Probably not a bad pick at this position because, barring something major, Calvin Johnson will be a top-three fantasy wideout. Although he’ll have competition for targets from Golden Tate, Brandon Pettigrew, and perhaps Eric Ebron, Megatron will still have plenty of opportunity to score some serious points.
Pick #7 – Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
I was somewhat surprised to see Aaron Rodgers taken seventh overall. Whilst this may not happen in the majority of drafts, the possibility of Rodgers being taken early on is very real. I would place him in the elite quarterback category, but behind Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. However, if Rodgers can stay healthy this season, there is reason to believe he can provide value as the seventh overall pick, with a strong receiving corps including Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.
Pick #8 – Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA
Next drafted from that secondary bracket of running backs is Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Lynch, who was an integral part of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl winning season has rushed for at least 1,200 yards each of the past three seasons, scoring an impressive average of 0.83 touchdowns per game. It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see him put up some similar numbers this time around, especially with him playing in an offense who ranked second-to-last in passing attempts last year. However, wear and tear is a slight concern with Lynch. Over the last three seasons he has the most rushing attempts with 901, which rises to over 1,000 when you include playoff games. At age 28, this could factor into Lynch’s fantasy value. But while ‘Beast Mode’ is still running wild, his fantasy value is cemented in the first round.
Pick #9 – Eddie Lacy, RB, GB (My Pick)
Finally, I was able to make my first selection of this mock draft with the ninth pick, and I chose Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy. If this was my first round pick in the real draft, I’d be pretty darn happy. Lacy should get plenty of carries, even in a pass-orientated offense with Aaron Rodgers under center. Now, with the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year alongside Rodgers in the backfield, the Packers will be able to hand the ball off with confidence. Lacy should also see most of the goal-line opportunities, which would be good for his owners.
Pick #10 – Peyton Manning, QB, DEN
It wasn’t surprising to see last year’s highest-scoring quarterback taken in the first round, because he should still post elite numbers this year. Peyton Manning will once again take snaps behind one of the best offensive lines in football, whose best player will return in left tackle Ryan Clady. Even though the Broncos lost Erick Decker and Knowshon Moreno in free agency, they signed Emmanuel Sanders, drafted Cody Latimer, and have Montee Ball to step into that void. Manning is a first round selection, but this year it may not be wise taking him with such a high pick – which is something that became apparent as this draft went on.
Pick #11 – Jimmy Graham, TE, NO
To open up the second round, we had the selection of Jimmy Graham by the person who just drafted Peyton Manning. Graham provides a considerable advantage to his owner at tight end, due to the lack of competition for top spot. Last season, Graham averaged a touchdown per game and had 1,215 yards to boot. Unless Rob Gronkowski stays healthy for the whole season and recaptures his old form, Jimmy Graham will stand alone as the top fantasy tight end.
Pick #12 – Drew Brees, QB, NO (My Pick)
So because I picked second-to-last in the first round, I picked second in the second. With that pick I took the man who will be supplying Jimmy Graham with those touchdown passes – Saints quarterback Drew Brees. It’s worth noting that I rate Peyton Manning as QB1 this season and Brees as QB2, ahead of Aaron Rodgers who I have as QB3. But the reason I chose Brees here is because he has consistently posted great numbers for the past few years, and 2014 should be no exception. Manning, Brees and Rodgers are three quarterbacks in a league of their own, and it is likely that in each league they will be drafted early on.
Pick #13 – Doug Martin, RB, TB
The Muscle Hamster enjoyed a big rookie season, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, whilst adding on 472 yards and one touchdown receiving. But 2013 was a different story, as Martin went down with a torn labrum in October, and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. Whether or not he will receive as many carries as he did before his injury remains to be seen, with newly drafted Charles Sims joining fellow running backs Mike James and Bobby Rainey as players who may take on some of the load. I think that taking Doug Martin with the thirteenth overall pick is a sizable risk. But if he plays like he did in 2012, then he could be a fantastic investment in the second round.
Pick #14 – Arian Foster, RB, HOU
Like Martin, the next pick in the draft – Arian Foster – also represents some risk due to health issues. Last year, he missed half the season with a back injury and he ended up on IR, having to have surgery in the offseason. The surgery was a success, and Foster should be ready and raring to go Week 1. The big question is if he can return to form as well as stay healthy. If he can, then Foster is a top-five back. If not, then drafting him this high is a big mistake. Personally, I would draft Foster over Martin, because if both players are healthy then I’d expect Foster to perform better at this moment in time; especially with the Texans having an inferior pass game to the Buccaneers. However, I would probably wait until at least the third round to take either of them.
Pick #15 – Zac Stacy, RB, STL
Zac Stacy was one of the surprises of 2013, and as a fifth round pick he rushed for 973 yards and scored eight touchdowns in 14 games. Now although they aren’t sparkling numbers, they are strong statistics for a rookie who missed two games, and probably would have gone for over 1,000 yards if he had featured in all 16. Having said that, Zac Stacy is no lock to smash his totals from last season, and establish himself as a top back in fantasy football. Taking him as high as fifteenth overall seems very risky to me, especially when some of the top WRs remain, as well as running backs who appear to have a higher ceiling than Stacy himself. I’m saying this one is a reach.
Pick #16 – A.J. Green, WR, CIN
Probably the second best receiver in the league behind Calvin Johnson is Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. If this was a genuine draft, then the person who made this pick, also nabbed Johnson in the round previous. Not a bad way to start off a draft. Can’t say there’s much negative to say about this pick. Andy Dalton’s top target should also be a top fantasy player, and represents good value in the middle of the second round.
Pick #17 – Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN
So this seems to be where the bulk of the top receivers are coming off the board. Next up is Demaryius Thomas, who should once more benefit from having Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. At this point, Thomas is a better prospect than any of the remaining running backs. Another good pick.
Pick #18 – Dez Bryant, WR, DAL
Another one bites the dust. Dez Bryant is the top receiver in Dallas, and as Tony Romo’s go-to receiver, he should see plenty of targets in 2014. This is a good pick for this player, who took Jamaal Charles in the first round. They should be a solid one-two combination.
Pick #19 – DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL
To break the chain of wide receivers we had going on was another Dallas player – running back DeMarco Murray. Murray has the chance to rack up plenty of yards and touchdowns, as he is the Cowboys’ lead back and will be there to take pressure of Romo and the running game. Whilst he isn’t one of the most risky picks, he could turn out to be too safe if other running backs drafted after him excel.
Pick #20 – Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIT
This is one of those risky picks I was talking about. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell could be seen as a slight reach here in round two. But with Zac Stacy drafted five picks ahead of him, Bell’s position doesn’t seem all that bad. His 860 yards and eight touchdowns rushing in just 13 games were impressive rookie numbers, and whether he is worth the twentieth overall pick will depend on whether he can step up this year and take his game to the next level. Whilst I do feel that Bell will enjoy a really good sophomore season, I would rather take the risk on someone who was drafted in round three – Montee Ball.
Check back for rounds three and beyond!