Pre-Combine Dynasty Mock Draft

Jacob Feldman


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The Super Bowl just ended (and quite the finish it was), but for those of you who have been around DLF for a while now you know there is no resting on our laurels. The combine hasn’t even arrived, but we are already breaking down the 2015 draft class to provide you with all of the information you need to rise to the top of your dynasty leagues or to stay on top if you’re already there!

One of the many ways we do this is by giving you a detailed look at how a rookie draft might play out in your league. This is not meant to be a rookie ADP (Scott Fish has that covered for you) but rather a more detailed look at how our knowledgeable writers view each and every one of the picks. It is very important to keep in mind it is very, very early in the process. Players will see major changes in their draft stock from the combine, pro days, and of course the NFL draft. There will be players who will climb many rounds and others who will completely fall off draft boards. Because it is so early, there might be widely different views of a player since many of us are just beginning our rookie evaluations as well.

If you’re unfamiliar with how our mock drafts work, here is the quick rundown. Our rules for the mock draft are as follows:

  • Standard PPR scoring with normal lineup requirements
  • Draft order is randomly generated and no trades are allowed
  • Draft the best player available without any consideration for team need or previous players drafted

Once the mock is complete, each drafter was asked to provide some comments about the player they drafted. In order to provide a second perspective on each selection, I will also provide some comments on each of the choices. From time to time we will disagree on a player, and that’s perfectly okay. There is no group think here at DLF and sometimes we get widely different opinions on players. I’ll be the first to admit that we, and especially me, will get a few of these players wrong, especially at this early stage in the process.

Rounds two and three will be appearing in later articles, but here is round one! While this draft class isn’t quite as wide receiver heavy as last year, the vast majority of your first seven or eight picks are likely to come from the wide receiver position – they just carry more value in dynasty leagues right now due to what is happening to the running back position in the NFL. Even though there might be more receivers near the top, the running back class does seem to be pretty deep right now, providing solid value several players into it. On a side note, I find it interesting that the first round is half SEC and Big 10 players.

Let’s take a look at the first round.

1.01 – Todd Gurley, RB Georgia

Nick’s thoughts: It isn’t very often you find a prospect of Gurley’s caliber. He’s fast, powerful, has soft hands, is a playmaker and averaged 7.4 yards per carry his last year in the SEC. I have no questions about his game, which is rare. I do have questions about his health due to a high ankle sprain and ACL tear. But the last time we questioned a great running back prospect due to health it was Adrian Peterson and I won’t make that mistake again. Gurley is my hands down 1.01 in rookie drafts.

My thoughts: Well, that didn’t take very long. It seems the demise of Gurley’s stock has been vastly overestimated. Personally, I’m in the minority who had and continues to have Gurley as the second running back in this draft class. I’m not saying he isn’t a great prospect, because I think he is, I just think Melvin Gordon is a touch higher. My main concerns with Gurley are running style and his ability make defenders miss in a small hole. With his style, he is a downhill runner who runs very upright. He doesn’t get his pads low enough to actually run through people, instead he bounces off of many hits and stays up due to incredible balance. Taking those big hits from defenders in the NFL might open him up to more injuries. As for my other concern, he had a lot of huge holes at Georgia, as a lot of great college runners get. The problem is he was often rather stiff in the hips and not as sudden in the small holes as I would like from a running back at 1.01. He instead just tries to power through. With that said, I’m splitting hairs a bit here and I definitely can’t fault anyone for taking Gurley first overall over Gordon.

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 1.02 – Amari Cooper, WR Alabama

Rob’s thoughts: We’re at that time of the year when major prospects get picked apart. Amari Cooper is not the biggest guy, nor does he have freakish athleticism. But he has enough of both, and combines it with an intelligent game that centers around precise route-running and toughness. I’m sticking by him as my top receiver and feel he has a strong case to be the 1.01.

My thoughts: When I look at Cooper, I think of a slightly better Sammy Watkins. Much like Watkins, Cooper isn’t overly big nor fast. Instead it is the superior route running and ability to track the ball which separates him from the rest. He is more than willing to go over the middle or down the sidelines and can go up to high point the ball with the best of them. He seems to be the near consensus top receiver in this draft class, but it will be interesting to see how things change after the combine. Once people see how big and athletic some of the other receivers are, it could be a whole lot closer for a lot of people. Much like last year with Watkins and Mike Evans, I think Cooper is by far the safest option but there are others with a little higher upside.

1.03 – Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin

Russell’s thoughts: Gordon had the most prolific college career since Barry Sanders. His stats were obviously inflated because of Wisconsin’s O-line, but he would’ve been amazing anywhere. I love his height/weight combo and think his vision is underrated.

My thoughts: Living in the upper Midwest, I had an awful lot of time to watch Melvin Gordon over the last few years. He has all of the agility and speed of LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles in a larger frame. At 6’1” and around 215 pounds, he has the size to be an every down back in the NFL. He showed improved ability in the passing game this year, both as a blocker and a receiver even though he wasn’t used all that often as a receiver. As a rusher, he proved he can carry the load and do so effectively. He had 12 of his 14 games with over five yards per carry and five of them over eight yards per carry. People can talk about Wisconsin’s offensive line as the reason, but it was so much more than that. Gordon can create on his own and turn nothing into something great in the blink of an eye. He made Wisconsin’s line look better than they really are this year. If he wasn’t sitting down so much in the fourth quarter of games, he would still have the single game rushing record (he rushed for 408 yards on 25 carries in three quarters against Nebraska) and probably hold the single season rushing record as well. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m in the minority who did and still do have Gordon as the top running back in this class.

1.04 – Kevin White, WR West Virginia

Paul’s thoughts: This was a pretty easy pick as I believe there are five clear cut talents without question marks. With Gurley , Cooper and Gordon off the board, that left my choice between White and DeVante Parker. I have White rated as my number one rookie receiver right now, even ahead of Cooper, so there was little debate for me. I think White has the size, speed and athleticism to be a number one receiver at the next level. He has great hands, can win at the catch point, and can run the full route tree. He can beat you at many different levels of the field, which is why right now I give him the slight edge of Cooper. I think White will make an immediate impact in his rookie season at the next level.

My thoughts: White is an interesting player for me, and I’ll admit I haven’t had a ton of time to look into him. At first, I just viewed him as yet another highly productive wide receiver in the West Virginia system, much like Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin recently. He is more than that though. White has good size though I do wonder about him against bigger and stronger NFL corners. He does a great job of catching the ball no matter if it is high, low, or outside his frame. While he does run very nice routes and makes plays in the red zone, he isn’t someone I would consider dangerous running in the open field. He is a very hard worker, but I have some doubts about his overall athleticism. The combine will be huge for him and his draft stock, both in the NFL and fantasy leagues. He’s currently third on my receiver list behind Cooper and Parker.

 1.05 – DeVante Parker, WR Louisville

Jeff’s thoughts: DeVante Parker is closer to challenging for the title of best wide receiver in this class (Alabama’s Amari Cooper) than he is to being challenged by whomever number three is right now. He’s got NFL size (6’2″, 207), can run every route, and showed no ill-effects after recovering from a foot injury which kept him out in the first half of the 2014 season. Watching Parker play, he reminds me quite a bit of A.J. Green as he makes even the most acrobatic catches seem almost effortless in execution. The only real concern about his short-term prospects is where he gets drafted, which could very well be to an offensively inept team like the Browns or Jets.

My thoughts: Like Jeff, Parker is currently my number two receiver, just a small notch behind Cooper. Maybe it is the Cardinal on the side of his helmet, but when I watch Parker make some of his amazing catches with great hands and body control, it reminds me a bit of watching Larry Fitzgerald catch passes. I don’t think Parker is nearly the route runner Fitz is, nor is he quite the physical specimen (Fitz ran sub 4.5 at 225+ pounds), but he has a lot of time to grow into that role. From a fantasy standpoint, I would love to see him end up in Minnesota with his former quarterback. It would help the transition and make him an instant starter on your fantasy roster.

1.06 – Jaelen Strong, WR Arizona State

My thoughts: With the way things are currently sitting and at this point in the evaluation process, I’m pretty happy to be sitting anywhere in the top six picks. After Gordon, Gurley, Cooper, Parker, White and Strong there is a bit of a drop off in my eyes due to increased risk or a decrease in talent after this point. The first six taken here offer both talent and a relatively low level of risk, or at least as low level as a rookie can get.

At somewhere between 6’3” and 6’4” and between 205 to 215 pounds, Strong fits into the big receiver mold which is so popular in the NFL. Where he excelled in college is his body control and hands. He has great awareness not only for defenses but where he is on the field. His long arms and big hands allow him to catch passes well outside of his frame and win at the point of the catch more often than not, though at times he seemed tentative to fully extend. He is also very effective with the ball in his hands running after the catch, making his dangerous over the middle of the field and on the edges. Another big plus is his mentally maturity and determination. His father died when Jaelen was nine, forcing him to deal with much more than most other kids. This has resulted in him growing up a little bit faster than most.

It will be interesting to see how he runs at the combine, because he seems to be more of a build-up kind of runner, with a decent top end but taking some time to get there. His main drawback on the field is his route running. He is fairly raw in this regard, often rounding corners or coming slow out of breaks. In the NFL, he won’t be able to rely on being a superior athlete and will need to refine this part of his game to gain separation. The good news is route running can be taught. I’m excited to see where he goes, likely in the late first round. He has the skills to be the top receiver on an NFL team.

1.07 – Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Oklahoma

Aaron’s thoughts: Dorial Green-Beckham’s problems will never be his skills or his measurables, but his off the field concerns. Despite those issues, DGB is a 6’6″, 225 lb. wide receiver who is believed to be able to run a 4.4 40 yard dash. DGB not only has freak measurables but in his time playing, he was able to accumulate good production, although he did occasionally struggle against the better defensive backs. He has the size to beat press coverage with the long speed to challenge down field. DGB really is arguably the most daunting receiver in the class. What it comes down to is whether he can overcome his demons and the willingness to take that risk. DGB has the highest ceiling in this draft, and not many come close.

My thoughts: DGB should be sending Josh Gordon hate mail right now. Gordon’s recent issues are likely to hurt DGB’s stock, both in the NFL and in fantasy leagues. From a purely physical standpoint, he is without a doubt the top receiver in this year’s class. However, he is also without a doubt the biggest risk. With major maturity issues and more off the field baggage than the entire Cleveland Browns’ roster, he is going to scare a lot of people. If you feel like playing the lottery, he could turn into one of the NFL’s best receivers. There is an even greater chance he turns into Josh Gordon 2.0. He’ll likely be long gone before I would consider drafting him in any of my leagues, but I tend to stay away from major character risks.

1.08 – Devin Funchess, WR Michigan

George’s thoughts: Funchess is the last of the second tier of wide receivers along with White, Strong and Green-Beckham. The big question around Funchess is how will he adapt to the wide receiver position in the NFL? That is tough to answer based on one season of receiver play at Michigan, which featured one of the worst passing attacks in division one. His two prior years at tight end revealed a player capable of creating mismatches and stretching the field. He had over 15 yards per reception in both of his seasons at tight end. Funchess has the size (6’5”) and the build (230 pounds) to bully smaller cornerbacks along with the speed to go deep against slower defensive backs. He can high point the ball well and has flashed a large catch radius, although he seems to fight the ball on occasion. The route running will need work but that is likely a result of the wide receiver inexperience. He could rise into WR2 territory if he is drafted by a creative offensive team, but he might be more dependent on situation than any other top receiver.

My thoughts: For me, Funchess is the start of the next tier. He is a step below White and Strong in my book. I feel like Funchess is more of a tight end than he is a receiver. I think he could easily add 15-20 pounds of muscle and be a starting tight end in the NFL and fantasy leagues. However, as a receiver, I think his weaknesses are exposed. I don’t think he is going to run past cornerbacks like he could linebackers and I think his route running leaves an awful lot to be desired. He is trapped between two positions. He adds some bulk and plays tight end or he tries to play the big receiver role. I think his talents fit better at the tight end position. His eventual team will decide his position, so he could flip from the third tier of receivers to the first tier of tight ends for me, but I think he wants to be a receiver.

1.09 – Duke Johnson, RB Miami

Kyle’s thoughts: I had to make a tough decision between Johnson and Jay Ajayi, but I ultimately went with Johnson. He’s very explosive and is excellent catching passes out of the backfield. Ideally I’d like for him to put on a little more weight, but I think Johnson should be solid. At worst, he’ll be an excellent third down back for whatever team drafts him, but I can certainly see him becoming a feature back.

My thoughts: It seems very likely at this point in time that the back end of the first is going to be very running back dominated. What is far from certain is the order of this second tier of rushers. For me it is made up of four running backs and you can make an argument for just about any order. Situation will likely determine their exact fantasy draft order, but be careful to read too much into situation. Jeremy Hill was downgraded due to a poor situation while Bishop Sankey shot up boards due to a great one. Look at how that turned out! Anyway, on to Johnson. He has drawn some comparisons to CJ Spiller for being smaller, quick, shifty and a nice pass catcher. The comparisons also hold true when it comes to injuries. He can be dynamic with the ball in his hands, but I think he profile as more of a change of pace back than a lead back.

 1.10 – Jay Ajayi, RB Boise State

Nathan’s thoughts: Powerful downhill runner out of Boise State. Good chance to be the third running back taken in the NFL draft after Gurley/Gordon due to Ajayi’s versatility and hard-nosed running style. I think of all of the “second tier” running backs, Ajayi is the most “situation-proof” due to the fact that he has multiple strengths at the running back position, which is important for me at this stage of the process if I’m drafting today.

My thoughts: Ajayi brings nearly ideal size to the table for the position as well as a complete skill set. While he isn’t as natural at catching passes as some others in this draft class, he can do it. He has good vision and great balance, is quick enough given his size and can run people over. He is going to draw some comparisons to fellow Boise State running back Doug Martin, but I don’t think that is completely fair. Ajayi seems to run with a little more power to me. While I don’t think Ajayi excels at anything, he is a very complete running back and could be the guy in the right situation. I have him ahead of Johnson on my rankings and if he lands in a good situation he might move ahead of a few wide receivers as well.

1.11 – Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska

Doug’s thoughts: Ameer Abdullah has what you want in a running back. He’s fast, shifty, and catches the ball well out of the backfield, though his pass protection is definitely in need of work. He’s a powerful runner when he gets a full head of steam. Some are concerned about his size at 5’8 1/4” and 198 lbs, but he’s put together. He also won the Senior Bowl MVP and had an excellent week of practice in Mobile. Sitting at 11, I was more than happy to land him.

My thoughts: I mentioned earlier that I had four running backs in my second tier. Abdullah isn’t one of them. I was very excited about Abdullah coming into the 2014 college season, but the more I watched him the less excited I became. While he is great in space, he gets bottled up way too much for my tastes against stout defenses. He abused a lot of bad defenses though thanks to his explosiveness and a massive offensive line. He is a little bit smaller and doesn’t have the frame to get much bigger. This could lead to some issues between the tackles as well as in pass protection. He also has struggles with ball security. Overall, I’m not one of his biggest fans. I think he projects as a change of pace back at best, assuming he can work on his pass protection skills.

 1.12 – Sammie Coates, WR Aubrun

Aaron’s thoughts: Coates might be the biggest boom/bust wide receiver prospect from a pure on the field perspective. At about 6’2″ 213 lb. and with incredible speed, he has the potential to be a Combine star. Make sure you don’t double count his Combine production though, as that is all already visible on tape. Coates’ issues are related to his limited route tree at Auburn and his inconsistency at the catch point. He’ll go from making a ridiculous catch to dropping an easy one. His potential to bust is relative though, as he might end up as only a deep threat rather than a consistent starting receiver in the NFL.

My thoughts: When I look at Coates, I’m reminded a bit of Donte Moncrief from last year. He has good but not great size, is solidly built, very fast but is very raw. He doesn’t run many, if any routes. He also has some trouble catching the ball. I think it is mostly focus/concentration on his drops, but he does seem to fight the ball a lot on most of his catches making me wonder if it is a little more than that. He’s likely to start as a situational deep threat if he can fix the drops. If he ever becomes more than that will depend on how hard he is willing to work at his route running once he is on an NFL team. Much like Moncrief, he makes a nice upside though slightly risky pick late in the first or early in the second round for someone wanting to take a shot on a receiver. I have him and Funchess in my third tier of wide receivers with Devin Smith and Nelson Agholor right now. Of the four, Coates easily has the most upside as a receiver, but he needs a lot of work.

That concludes our look at the first round. We will be back with the later rounds very soon!


jacob feldman